Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Albert B. Otis, 16 December 1872

Date: December 16, 1872

Whitman Archive ID: uva.00358

Source: Papers of Walt Whitman (MSS 3829), Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature, Albert H. Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 2:190. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Elizabeth Lorang, Ashley Lawson, Zachary King, Eric Conrad, Stephanie Blalock, Marie Ernster, and Paige Wilkinson

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Dec. 16, '72.

My dear Mr. Otis,

I mail you, same mail with this, two copies of the little Volume, "As a Strong Bird" &c.—the only form in which I have the Dartmouth College poem.1

The price of the two is $1.50cts.

"Democratic Vistas"2 is printed in a little book by itself. price 75cts.

There is not, (& probably will not be) any later or different edition of "Leaves of Grass" than the one I forwarded you last spring.

Walt Whitman

Solicitors Office Treasury
D. C.

Albert Boyd Otis (1839–1897) was a Boston lawyer who practiced with John Albion Andrew (1818–1867) and later Andrew's son John Forester Andrew. On April 20, 1878, G. P. Lathrop wrote to Walt Whitman: "I think you have corresponded with Albert Otis, a lawyer of Boston, whom I know." Otis was also one of the subscribers to the 1887 fund (See Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Monday, September 10, 1888). A biographical sketch of Otis appeared in Memorial Biographies of the New England Historic Genealogical Society (Boston: The New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1908), 9:387–389.


1. Whitman recited "As a Strong Bird on Pinions Free" (later, "Thou Mother with Thy Equal Brood") at the Dartmouth commencement on June 26, 1872. Evidently a student organization hoped to annoy the faculty by inviting Whitman to Dartmouth, a seat of New England sobriety and conservatism; see Bliss Perry, Walt Whitman (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1906), 203–205. A dispatch to the New York Times on June 29, 1872, reported that Whitman "was cordially met by the venerable gentlemen sitting upon the platform. He then took his position at the desk and read, with clearness of enunciation, his poem, written for the occasion, 'As a Strong Bird on Pinions Free.' As Whitman himself said to the writer, 'There is no one expression that could stand as the subject of the poem.'" "As a Strong Bird on Pinions Free" was later printed as part of the volume As a Strong Bird on Pinions Free and Other Poems in 1872. [back]

2. Whitman's Democratic Vistas was first published in 1871 in New York by J.S. Redfield. The volume was an eighty-four-page pamphlet based on three essays, "Democracy," "Personalism," and "Orbic Literature," all of which Whitman intended to publish in the Galaxy magazine. Only "Democracy" and "Personalism" appeared in the magazine. For more information on Democratic Vistas, see Arthur Wrobel, "Democratic Vistas [1871]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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