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Walt Whitman to James R. Osgood, 8 May 1881

 hun.00047.001_large.jpg My dear Mr Osgood1

I write in answer to the note on the other side from my dear friend O'Reilly2—My plan is to have all my poems, down to date, comprised in one 12 mo: Volume, under the name "Leaves of Grass"—I think it will have to be in brevier (or bourgeois) solid—and I want as fine a (plain) specimen in type, paper, ink, binding, &c. as bookmaking can produce,—not for luxury however, but solid wear, use, reading, (to carry in the pocket, valise &c)—a book of about 400 pages to sell at $3—The text will be about the same as hitherto, occasional slight revisions, simplifications in punctuation &c—the main thing a more satisfactory consecutive order—a better ensemble, to suit me—some new pieces, perhaps 30 pages—

Fair warning on one point—the old pieces, the sexuality ones, about which the original row was started & kept up so long, are all retained, & must go in the same as ever3—Should you, upon this outline, wish to see the copy, I will place it in your hands with pleasure—

Walt Whitman
 hun.00047.002_large.jpg Dear W. Whitman

Hope you got safe home. James R. Osgood want to see the material for your complete book. Can you let him have a look at it, or write him & tell him about it?

Always faithfully yours John Boyle O'Reilly


  • 1. James R. Osgood (1836–1892) was the publisher of Browning, Arnold, Holmes, Henry James, and Howells; see Carl J. Weber, The Rise and Fall of James Ripley Osgood (1959). [back]
  • 2. John Boyle O'Reilly (1844–1890) was a fervent Irish patriot who joined the British Army in order to sabotage it. He was arrested and sentenced to be hanged in 1866. Later the decree was altered, and O'Reilly was sent to Australia, where he escaped on an American whaler in 1869. In 1876 he became the coeditor of the Boston Pilot, a position which he held until his death in 1890. See William G. Schofield, Seek for a Hero: The Story of John Boyle O'Reilly (New York: Kennedy, 1956). On April 26 O'Reilly informed Whitman that "James R Osgood wants to see the material for your complete book." Whitman's letter to Osgood was written, as he indicated, on the verso of O'Reilly's. [back]
  • 3. Osgood did not pay sufficient attention to Whitman's "warning," since he was not prepared to resist the censors who succeeded in protecting Boston's dubious morality by making it a national joke. [back]
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