Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: John Phillips Street to Walt Whitman, 13 July 1891

Date: July 13, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04689

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, "circ sent," is in the hand of Walt Whitman.

Contributors to digital file: Ian Faith, Amanda J. Axley, Marie Ernster, and Stephanie Blalock

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John Phillips Street
New Brunswick, N.J.
July 13, 1891.

Walt Whitman, Esq.,
My dear Sir:—

At the suggestion of a friend some weeks ago I began to read your poems, and have become so much interested in them from my hasty perusal of them that I have decided to make them the object of my studies during the present summer. I have one difficulty, however, and it is the occasion of my writing this letter to you. From the various libraries of this city,—public and private,—to which I have access, I have been able to secure but two different editions, neither of which quite satisfied me. One was "Leaves of Grass," published in Boston by Thayer and Eldridge,1 in 1860–61; the other was "Leaves of Grass", published in Philadelphia by David McKay,2 in 1884. As I said above, neither of these quite satisfied me. The poems were classified in each one in an entirely different manner from the other, which at times proved very confusing.

I write to you, therefore, to ask if you will direct me where I can secure what you consider the best edition of your poems, so that when I secure it I may feel that I possess that which bears the author's mark of approval.

Before closing this letter I wish to express my appreciation of the many beauties of your verses, & to testify as to the pleasure, comfort, and instruction they have put at my service.

Believe me,
Very sincerely yours,
John Phillips Street.

John Phillips Street (1869–1938) earned a B.S. at Rutgers College in New Brunswick, New Jersey, in 1889 and worked at the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station; he wrote on agricultural science.


1. Thayer and Eldridge was a Boston publishing firm responsible for the third edition of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass (1860). For more on Whitman's relationship with Thayer and Eldridge see "Thayer, William Wilde [1829–1896] and Charles W. Eldridge [1837–1903]." [back]

2. David McKay (1860–1918) took over Philadelphia-based publisher Rees Welsh's bookselling and publishing businesses in 1881–82. McKay and Rees Welsh published the 1881 edition of Leaves of Grass after opposition from the Boston District Attorney prompted James R. Osgood & Company of Boston, the original publisher, to withdraw. McKay also went on to publish Specimen Days & Collect, November Boughs, Gems from Walt Whitman, Complete Prose Works, and the final Leaves of Grass, the so-called deathbed edition. For more information about McKay, see Joel Myerson, "McKay, David (1860–1918)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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