Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William Michael Rossetti, 30 March 1876

Date: March 30, 1876

Whitman Archive ID: pri.00018

Source: Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library, Princeton, N.J. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1964), 3:34–36. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Kathryn Kruger, Zachary King, Eric Conrad, and Nicole Gray

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431 Stevens st
cor West
Camden N Jersey
U S America
March 30

Dear friend—

I have already acknowledged yours of 16th1—Mine of 17th will have advised you of the situation here, & the general character of my wishes, the way things have shaped themselves in London—Whatever I should do, if I had the planning of it de novo, the question is now (like a general making the best of the turn the battle has taken in its own hands, & compell'd to decide quickly & definitely,) what to direct & authorize under the circumstances—While I unhesitatingly accept such kind offerings as Chas W Reynell's2 (No 1. in your transcript) and J Leicester Warren3 (No 2)—& authorize you or any of my friends to continue to accept the like, in my name, where offer'd readily & properly, I'd rather you would, after receiving this, either, (to use nautical lingo,) take in sail, or at least don't crowd on any more sail at all. The whole business requires to be done with perfect candor to my generous friends—to you & the other mediums of that generosity—& to myself—& must & shall be so done. Of the cheque (No 1) or any other, or any thing of the kind sent by you or through you or any of my friends, the most convenient to me would be to have them remitted to me, to my address here, drawn on some well-known New York or Philadelphia banker, payable to my order—(if in Philadelphia, on Drexel & Co. bankers, 34 south 3d street.)4 Then the p.o. international money order is also a good & safe way to remit—I should like in all cases to have the full & explicit address of the friend & giver, to send him or her at least one special autograph copy, or set, of my books—

As told you in former letter,5 although I am indeed poor, with means exhausted, I am by no means in a condition of pinching want, nor likely to be. I am boarding here, under the usual, unavoidable expenses. I accept the kind gifts, first for my own help, then perhaps somewhat for the still graver needs of others, forever falling in my way. For the future I really think the income from my books, if it can be utilized, promises amply enough for my support—& that decidedly would be most satisfactory to me—

—Probably from the tinge of Quaker breed in me the inner convictions & silent dictates of the spirit settle these cases, & what I must do in them, more than reason, convention or even delicacy—& those inner dictates I have now obeyed in the decisions of this letter, as a higher reason & delicacy, & the final arbiter of the question.

Walt Whitman

If perfectly convenient I should like Buchanan to see this letter—also Dowden—Indeed you can make what use of it, in your discretion, you think best—

A line further about the publication copy, Two Volumes, I sent a couple of days since.6 I couldn't rest until I had sent that copy to provide for any thing that might happen (my affairs are in such a chaotic state here in America—my health, mentality, from week to week, even existence, uncertain)—Now you have it, I feel relieved, & shall consider that the thing is secured, & cannot be lost—But there is no haste about it—If you should hear of any proposed London reprint, then try & get my copy published at once, making any decent terms you can—But if there don't appear to be any danger, take your leisure, & hold on. See if you can get any one to pay me something down ahead—I revoke what I said about the shilling edition7—let the books, when printed, be at a price suitable to the trade & market—


There is a precious row here over your row in London—all the curs & kennels of literary New York and Boston are in full chorus after you fellows—after Buchanan especially—then you, Dowden, & the rest—(of course I catch it roundly)8


1. Probably a reference to his letter to Rossetti of March 29, 1876. Rossetti's letter is not known (see Whitman's letter to Rossetti of April 7). [back]

2. Whitman sent the Centennial Edition to Reynell on May 18, 1876, and Memoranda During the War on June 14 or 15, 1876 (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]

3. John Byrne Leicester Warren (1835–1895), third Baron de Tabley, was a poet. Whitman sent the 1876 edition on May 18, and Memoranda During the War on June 14 or 15 (Whitman's Commonplace Book). [back]

4. A segment of this paragraph is bracketed in red ink, and written next to the bracket in pencil, in what appears to be Rossetti's hand, are the words: "superseded by letter of 31 March." [back]

5. In his March 17, 1876, letter to Rossetti, Whitman wrote, "Though poor now even to penury I have not so far been deprived of any physical thing I need or wish whatever—& I feel confident I shall not, in the future." [back]

6. Whitman wrote about sending this volume in his March 29, 1876, letter to Rossetti. [back]

7. Whitman evidently alluded to this edition in a lost letter. [back]

8. See the letter from Whitman to John Burroughs of April 13, 1876[back]


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