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William Wilde Thayer to Walt Whitman, 5 June 1860

 loc_vm.00513.jpg Dear Walt.—

We sent you yesterday copy of Banner of Light cent'y critique on Leaves Grass written by Gen. Canning Hill,2—He appreciates the Poems & you too.3 Be assured he speaks truthfully and just as he believes & feels.—

By the bye, will you please write for our consideration terms of contract for publishing L of G.? We have been expecting said document, and now wish to have it adjusted as early as possible if agreeable to yourself. Inasmuch as our "writing" has been submitted to you, your "writing" submitted to us will accommodate us if sent early.—We have so many things to think of that we would like to dispose of this contract & "go on our way rejoicing".—Regards to Mr. Clapp4—& for yourself the "fraternals" of Thayer & Eldridge.  loc_vm.00514.jpg I think that Mrs. Beachs's criticism is just about the damndest piece of scolding ever written by a woman who does not know what she is talking about.5 My wife was indignant, and I should not wonder if she wrote a reply to it.

W. W. Thayer  loc_vm.00515.jpg Thayer & Eldridge | June 11 1860  loc_vm.00516.jpg


  • 1. William Wilde Thayer was one half of Thayer and Eldridge, the Boston publishing firm responsible for the third edition of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass (1860). For more on Whitman's relationship with Thayer and Eldridge see "Thayer, William Wilde [1829–1896] and Charles W. Eldridge [1837–1903]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings [New York: Garland Publishing, 1998]). [back]
  • 2. George Canning Hill had managed the Boston Daily Ledger from its founding in 1856 until its merger with the Boston Herald in 1859. Thayer & Eldridge had reprinted his novel Amy Lee early in 1860. [back]
  • 3. The review Thayer and Eldridge sent to Whitman appeared in the Boston Banner of Light (2 June 1860). See "Leaves Of Grass By Walt Whitman. Boston: Thayer And Eldridge." [back]
  • 4. Henry Clapp (1814–1875) Jr., was a journalist, editor and reformer. Whitman and Clapp most likely met in Charles Pfaff's beer cellar, located in lower Manhattan. Clapp, who founded the literary weekly the Saturday Press in 1858, was instrumental in promoting Whitman's poetry and celebrity; over twenty items on Whitman appeared in the Press before the periodical folded (for the first time) in 1860. Of Clapp Whitman told Horace Traubel, "You will have to know something about Henry Clapp if you want to know all about me." (For Whitman's thoughts on Clapp, see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, "Sunday, May 27, 1888.") [back]
  • 5. The review of Leaves of Grass that appeared in the New-York Saturday Press on June 2, 1860, was signed "Juliette H. Beach," but it had really been written by her husband, Calvin Beach. Expecting a favorable response, the editor of the Saturday Press, Henry Clapp, Jr., had forwarded a copy of Whitman's book to Juliette Beach for review. Her husband, however, angered that Clapp had sent the book to his wife, appropriated it and wrote a scathing review, which was published in his wife's name. In a letter to Clapp dated June 7, 1860, Juliette Beach explained the nature of the mistake and expressed her regret at not having had the opportunity to publish her own favorable opinion of Leaves of Grass. In an attempt to undo some of the damage, Clapp printed a notice titled "Correction" in the subsequent issue of his newspaper, alongside three positive commentaries on Leaves of Grass by women. For Calvin Beach's review of the 1860 Leaves of Grass see "Leaves of Grass." [back]
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