Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: George M. Williamson to Walt Whitman, 17 July 1886

Date: July 17, 1886

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04492

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Editorial note: The annotation, "desires to purchase MSS—answer | July '86," is in the hand of Walt Whitman.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Stefan Schöberlein, and Nicole Gray

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Cor. Church St.
New York,
July 17 1886

Dear Sir

Your postal recd and I was glad that you had accepted my small offering, I was almost afraid to send it thinking it might offend you, and since receiving it, it has occurred to me that perhaps you might have some matter of published manuscript (say parts of Specimen Days) that you would be willing to dispose of and I would be glad to purchase. If so let me know what, and for how much1

By so doing you will oblige

G M Williamson
Mr Walt Whitman

George M. Williamson (b. 1850) was a New York book collector who contacted Whitman several times about purchasing manuscripts, and later published Catalogue of A Collection of Books, Letters, and Manuscripts written by Walt Whitman, in the Library of George M. Williamson, Grand View on Hudson (New York: The Marion Press, 1903). Other items in Williamson's collection, which was sold at auction in 1908, included George Washington's copy of Don Quixote, a presentation copy of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "Evangeline," Nathaniel Hawthorne's annotated copy of The Scarlet Letter, and "a very remarkable collection of Walt Whitman's works" (The George M. Williamson Collection [Anderson Galleries, Inc., 1908]).


1. After a later exchange with Williamson about purchasing manuscripts (see the letter from Williamson to Whitman of October 6, 1888), Whitman remarked to Horace Traubel: "I would like to humor Williamson but don't see how I can do it. He will have to content his 'happy owner' soul with patience: I can give him no hope. That whole mania for collecting things strikes me as an evidence of disease—sometimes of disease in an acute form: though I know Williamson for an exceptional man in a bad crowd. And indeed, that is what makes a remarkable matter more remarkable—that a man such as we know Williamson to be should care a damn whether he was the happy owner of a manuscript—any manuscript—or not. Well, give him my love: that is real: and if he is satisfied to be the happy owner of my love he owns it—tell him so—and welcome, welcome" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Saturday, October 6th, 1888, 442). In 1891, however, Whitman sent Williamson manuscript drafts of several poems, including "Old Age's Ship and Crafty Death's" and "A Twilight Song." [back]


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