Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to David McKay, 11 December 1889

Date: December 11, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: med.00923

Source: The location of this manuscript is unknown. Edwin Haviland Miller derives his transcription from a transcription of the letter supplied by Mrs. Ward Greene. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 4:405. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Andrew David King and Stephanie Blalock




Camden New Jersey
Dec. 11 '89

Received $12 (twelve dollars) from David McKay for three copies Complete Works,1 (tally bill Nov. 6)—


Walt Whitman

the "Carol for Harvest 1867" is on page 278 under title of "the Return of the Heroes"—

I continue much the same, but palpably slowly declining—have just sold a little 8 line bit "Christmas Greeting" ie: (welcoming Brazil republic)2 to S S McClure3 N Y for his syndicate—will tell Horace4 to call—Love to the young ones—


Correspondent:
David McKay (1860–1918) took over Philadelphia-based publisher Rees Welsh's bookselling and publishing businesses in 1881–2. 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 publisher Whitman had originally contracted with for publication of the volume, to withdraw. McKay also went on to publish Specimen Days & Collect, November Boughs, Gems from Walt Whitman, and Complete Prose Works. 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).

Notes:

1. Whitman often referred to Complete Poems & Prose (1888) as his "big book." The volume was published by the poet himself in an arrangement with publisher David McKay, who allowed Whitman to use the plates for both Leaves of Grass and Specimen Days—in December 1888. With the help of Horace Traubel, Whitman made the presswork and binding decisions, and Frederick Oldach bound the volume, which included a profile photo of the poet on the title page. For more information on the book, see Ed Folsom, Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman: A Catalog and Commentary. [back]

2. Whitman is referring to the poem ultimately titled "A Christmas Greeting." In his December 3, 1889, letter to Richard Maurice Bucke the poet refers to the poem as "the little 'Northern Star-Group to a Southern' (welcome to Brazilian Republic)." This would become the poem's subtitle: "From a Northern Star-Group to a Southern. 1889–'90." See also "[A North Star]," a manuscript draft of this poem, in the Catalog of the Walt Whitman Literary Manuscripts in The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. [back]

3. Samuel Sidney McClure (1857–1949) was an investigative journalist who in 1884 established the first newspaper syndicate in the United States, which occasionally solicited and published work by Whitman; later, he co-founded McClure's Magazine, which published work by Whitman posthumously. [back]

4. Horace L. Traubel (1858–1919) was an American essayist, poet, and magazine publisher. He is best remembered as the literary executor, biographer, and self-fashioned "spirit child" of Walt Whitman. During the mid-1880s and until Whitman's death in 1892, Traubel visited the poet virtually every day and took thorough notes of their conversations, which he later transcribed and published in three large volumes entitled With Walt Whitman in Camden (1906, 1908, & 1914). After his death, Traubel left behind enough manuscripts for six more volumes of the series, the final two of which were published in 1996. For more on Traubel, see Ed Folsom, "Traubel, Horace L. [1858–1919],"Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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