Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to David McKay, [11 October 1888]

Date: [October 11, 1888]

Whitman Archive ID: syr.00033

Source: Walt Whitman Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Library, Syracuse, N.Y. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 4:221. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Ryan Furlong, Alex Ashland, Caterina Bernardini, and Stephanie Blalock


The plate2 is in Phila:—Horace3 knows where, but I do not—He will call & get it for you, or give you an order for it—If you know where H. is send now & get it—

Walt Whitman

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).


1. Edwin Haviland Miller, original editor of Whitman's correspondence, wrote of this letter: "I have accepted the authenticity of the note by the first owner (W.A.S.): David McKay gave this Autograph to me Oct. 11/88, the day on which it was written & recd" (Syracuse). W.A.S. also noted: "The 'plate' mentioned is Walt Whitman's portrait as printed in November Boughs. This order is to get the plate to use in the Xmas No. of Pubr Weekly of 1888." See Publisher's Weekly, xxxiv (November 17-24, 1888), 47. [back]

2. This letter is addressed to David McKay. [back]

3. 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 late 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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