Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: G. H. Whitaker to Walt Whitman, 10 June 1880

Date: June 10, 1880

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04619

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.

Contributors to digital file: Kirsten Clawson, Eder Jaramillo, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Nicole Gray, and Stefan Schöberlein

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Washington D.C.
June 10th 1880.
Walt Whitman,
Camden N.J.

Dear Sir:

I hope the name subscribed hereto is not altogether forgotten by you; although when you were here we met but rarely, and since your change of residence we have not met at all.

I remember as though it were yesterday the first time I met you and the audacity with which I stopped you on Pennsylvania Avenue and introduced myself to you. I realize now more than I did then that it was audacity. But in my little intellectual life "Leaves of Grass" had been so much to me that I could not meet and pass you without saying something to you.

It has long been a thought of mine that there ought to be a volume of selections from your works put before the public. I have often thought that many who know nothing of your writings and who have perhaps have been kept by popular criticism from reading your complete works, would, if they once caught a glimpse of the beauty and strength found there, read more extensively to their own pleasure and advancement and your profit.

Three or four years ago I spent an evening with two gentlemen friends of mine, and the conversation turning upon your works, a copy of which was upon the table beside me, I spoke somewhat at length in your favor reading extracts hastily selected from the volume at hand. The circumstance passed from my mind but a few days since one of the gentlemen referred to the occurrence saying he should never forget that evening as it was the beginning of his acquaintance with your writings from which he has since derived great pleasure This incident has suggested that perhaps I could prepare a volume of selections from your poems which would supply what I have felt to be a need and which would be acceptable to the public. I, therefore, have written this note to ask your permission to put such a volume of selections before the public in some graceful form to come out in time for the holy days.

A gentleman of literary tastes Mr. C. C. Adams, now of New York but formerly connected with the Treasury Department here will join me in this work. We propose that the entire proceeds from the sale of the book shall be yours as long as you live, stipulating only that in case of your death (which we pray may long be deferred) the profits thereafter arising shall come to us.

If you sanction our project it will be a work of love and gratitude and we shall labor to make you friends who shall so love you that they shall want to know more of you and to read you further.

We do not propose an extensive work, nothing like an emasculated or expurgated edition of your poems, but we intend to cull detached thoughts and pictures for others, and our object will be to do the work before us in such a manner as only to enhance a fuller reading.

I hope our proposition will meet with your approval. We know that there are many more competent to discharge the work we would like to accomplish but there are none who would labor more reverently and lovingly to win you friends and lovers than we.

Wishing you health, comfort and friends in your remaining years.

I am very truly your friend & admirer
G.H. Whitaker

US Patent Office
Washington D.C.


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