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Walt Whitman to John T. Trowbridge, 24 September [1870]

My dear friend,1

I am here a while on leave—am in good health as usual—have been engaged in electrotyping a new edition of my book in better form—You sent me word a year or more ago of some Boston publisher, or bookseller, who was willing (or perhaps wished) to sell my book2—Who was it?—I should like to have some such man there—to sell the book on commission, & be agent, depositor, &c—He will be under no expense, of course & will only receive the books from me on sale—I wish to put his name in an advertisement list of agents—

Please answer forthwith—direct to me here.

Yours as ever Walt Whitman

No objection to a couple of such Boston bookselling places—as agencies. Love to the son, dear boy.3


  • 1. John Townsend Trowbridge (1827-1916) was a novelist, poet, author of juvenile stories, and antislavery reformer. Though Trowbridge became familiar with Whitman's poetry in 1855, he did not meet Whitman until 1860 when the poet was in Boston overseeing the Thayer and Eldridge edition of Leaves of Grass. He again met Whitman in Washington in 1863, when Trowbridge stayed with Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase in order to gather material for his biography, The Ferry Boy and the Financier (Boston: Walker and Wise, 1864); he described their meetings in My Own Story (Boston: Houghton and Mifflin, 1903), 360–401, with recollections of noted persons. On December 11, 1863, Trowbridge presented to Chase Emerson's letter recommending Whitman; see Emerson's letter from January 10, 1863. Though Trowbridge was not an idolator of Whitman, he wrote to William D. O'Connor in 1867: "Every year confirms my earliest impression, that no book has approached the power and greatness of this book, since the Lear and Hamlet of Shakespeare" (Rufus A. Coleman, "Trowbridge and O'Connor," American Literature, 23 [1951–52], 327). For Whitman's high opinion of Trowbridge, see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden (1906–1996), 3:506. See also Coleman, "Trowbridge and Whitman," PMLA, 63 (1948), 262–273. [back]
  • 2. On July 20, 1867, Trowbridge had suggested W. H. Piper as "a good man to retail the book." [back]
  • 3. Whitman refers to Windsor Warren Trowbridge (1864–1884); see Clarence Gohdes and Rollo G. Silver, ed., Faint Clews & Indirections (New York: AMS, 1949), 75n. [back]
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