Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: [Sara Stewart McGee Forsyth] to Walt Whitman, 14 August 1889

Date: August 14, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: uva.00563

Source: Papers of Walt Whitman (MSS 3829), Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature, Albert H. Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia . 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.

Related item: Whitman used the back of this partial letter to write draft lines for his poem "A Twilight Song."

Contributors to digital file: Andrew David King, Stephanie Blalock, and Brandon James O'Neil

page image
image 1
page image
image 2

Peak's Islan[d]
Aug 14th/89

Dear Sir:

Will you kindly send [to] the Adams Hotel, Washing[ton] St. Boston, Mass a copy [of] your latest special editio[n] [o]f "Leaves of Grass."1 I have seen the copy, which you [s]o kindly gave to my cousin Phillips Stewart,2 and should [li]ke one as it contains [t]he photographs. Thank [you] very much for your3

Sara Stewart McGee Forsyth (1861–1945) was the wife of Canadian composer Wesley Octavius Forsyth. In August 1889, Whitman records that McGee paid him five dollars for the "big book," which he sent to the Adams Hotel address (Daybooks and Notebooks, Volume 2: December 1881–1891, ed. William White [New York: New York University Press, 1978], 528. Whitman often referred to his Complete Poems & Prose (1888) as his "big book."


1. Although Whitman notes that he sent a copy of his "big book" or Complete Poems and Prose (1888), Forsyth seems to have been requesting the limited pocket-book edition of Leaves of Grass that was printed in honor of Whitman's 70th birthday, on May 31, 1889, through special arrangement with Frederick Oldach. Only 300 copies were printed, and Whitman signed the title page of each one. The volume also included the annex Sands at Seventy and his essay A Backward Glance O'er Traveled Roads. See Whitman's May 16, 1889, letter to Oldach. For more information on the book see Ed Folsom, Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman: A Catalog and Commentary (University of Iowa: Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, 2005). [back]

2. Thomas Brown Phillips Stewart (1864–1892) was a Canadian law student and poet. In May, 1889, Whitman sent Stewart a copy of the pocket-book edition of Leaves of Grass, and Stewart visited Whitman two months later (see Daybooks and Notebooks, Volume 2: December 1881–1891, ed. William White [New York: New York University Press, 1978], 513–514). Stewart published Poems in 1887 and his work was later included in The Oxford Book of Canadian Verse (ed. William Wilfred Campbell [London: Oxford University Press, 1913]). He attended Toronto's Osgoode Hall Law School but died before graduating, leaving his estate to the school for the founding of a library named in his honor. For more information, see John Honsberger, Osgoode Hall: An Illustrated History (Toronto: The Dundurn Group, 2004), 204. [back]

3. The rest of this letter has not been located. [back]


Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Matt Cohen, Ed Folsom, & Kenneth M. Price, editors.