Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Samuel R. Wells to Walt Whitman, 7 June 1856

Date: June 7, 1856

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04850

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 notes: The annotations, " private. ," "Bookbinding & from Wells," and "Fowler & Wells," are in the hand of Walt Whitman.

Contributors to digital file: Lauren Claeys, Amanda J. Axley, Marie Ernster, Erel Michaelis, Kassie Jo Baron, Jeff Hill, and Stephanie Blalock

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Office of Life Illustrated,
A Journal of
Entertainment, Improvement, Progress.
Published Weekly, at $2.00 a year, in advance,
By Fowler And Wells,
308 Broadway, New York.
Science. Art. Literature.
New York
June 7 1856

Friend Whitman.

After "duly considering," we have have concluded that it is best for us to insist on the omission of certain objectionable passages in Leaves of Grass, or, decline publishing it. We could give twenty reasons for this, but the fact will be enough for you to know.

We are not in a position, at present, to experiment. We must not venture.

Again, it will be better for you to have the work published by clean hands. i.e. by a House, not now committed to unpopular notions. We are not in favor, with the conservatives, and a more orthodox House would do better for you. Try the Masons, Partons Publishers, (they publish Fanny Fern's1 works.2) They are rich & enterprizing , & I guess would publish Leaves of Grass on fair terms.

Truly Yours
S. R. Wells

Samuel Roberts Wells (1820–1875) was a phrenologist, author, and member of the New York publishing firm Fowler and Wells that distributed the 1856 edition of Leaves of Grass.


1. "Fanny Fern" was the pen name of the poet and novelist Sara Payson Willis Parton (1811–1872). Willis was a professional journalist who wrote a weekly column for the New York Ledger, where she published a favorable review of Leaves of Grass in 1856. She was married to James Parton (1822–1891), a journalist and biographer. Despite Sara Payson Willis Parton's early praise of Whitman's writing, the Partons had a falling out with the poet in 1857 over a two-hundred dollar loan James Parton gave Whitman for the purpose of pursuing a literary project—a debt that Whitman believed to be settled, but according to the Partons, was never repaid (Oral S. Coad, "Whitman vs. Parton," Journal of the Rutgers University Library, 4 (December 1940). For more on Sara Payson Willis Parton, see Susan Belasco Smith, "Parton, Sara Payson Willis (Fanny Fern) (1811–1872)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

2. The Mason Brothers, a New York firm with offices at 108 and 110 Duane Street, published Fanny Fern's novels Ruth Hall (1855) and Rose Clark (1856), as well as her collection of stories for children The Play-Day Book: New Stories for Little Folks (1857), among other titles. [back]


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