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Moncure D. Conway to Walt Whitman, 10 September 1867

 loc.01316.001_large.jpg My dear friend,

It gave me much pleasure to hear from you; and now I am quite full of gratitude for the photograph—a grand one—the present of all others desirable by me. The copy suitable for an edition here should we be able to reach to that I have and shall keep carefully. When it is achieved it will probably be the result and fruit of more reviewing and discussion. I shall keep my eyes wide open; and the volume with O'C's introduction shall come out just as it is.2 I am not sure but that it will in the end have to be done at our own expense,—which I believe would be repaid. It is the kind of book that if it can once get out here will sell. The English groan for something better than the perpetual réchauffé of their literature. I have not been in London for some little time and have not yet had time to consult others about the matter. I shall be able to write you more satisfactorily a little later. I hear that you have written something3 in the Galaxy.4 Pray tell O'Connor I shall look to him to send me such things: I can't take all American magazines; but if you intend to write for the Galaxy regularly I shall take that.

With much friendship for you and O'Connor5 and his wife,6 I am yours, M.D. Conway  loc.01316.002_large.jpg  loc.01316.003_large.jpg M.D. Conway Sept. 10, '67 See notes Dec 8 1888  loc.01316.004_large.jpg

Moncure Daniel Conway (1832–1907) was an American abolitionist, minister, and frequent correspondent with Walt Whitman. Conway often acted as Whitman's agent and occasional public relations man in England. For more on Conway, see Philip W. Leon, "Conway, Moncure Daniel (1832–1907)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


  • 1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman, Esq., | Attorney General's Office | Washington D.C. It is postmarked: [worn-away] | SEP | 2[illegible] | 1867 | MASS; CARRIER | SEP | 25 | 7 P.M. [back]
  • 2. During 1867, Whitman had been trying to secure a republication in England for his fourth, 1867 edition of Leaves of Grass. On April 30, 1867, Conway had informed William Douglas O'Connor of a conference, attended by Algernon Charles Swinburne, William Michael Rossetti, and John Camden Hotten, the publisher. At the meeting, it was decided that a complete edition of Leaves of Grass could not be published in England without "legal prosecution on any publisher" (Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection, New York Public Library; Bliss Perry, Walt Whitman [Boston: Houghton Mifflin and Company, 1906], 185). This statement was later denied; see Conway's letter to Burroughs (Clara Barrus, Whitman and Burroughs—Comrades [Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1931], 47). A volume of selections was eventually decided upon; see Whitman's November 1, 1867, letter to Moncure D. Conway. Since Whitman was determined to guide the London edition, he sent to Conway an "Introduction" that he had composed but had attributed to O'Connor, who was thus to introduce Whitman to English readers. A manuscript in Whitman's hand in the Pierpont Morgan Library, "Introduction to the London Edition," is dated August 1867, and was later corrected to read September, 1871; it is reprinted by Clifton Joseph Furness, Walt Whitman's Workshop (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1928), 150–154. [back]
  • 3. On August 1, 1867, William Conant Church, from the office of the Galaxy, wrote to William Douglas O'Connor: "It seems to me that this glorious harvest of 1867, sown & reaped by the returned soldiers, ought to be sung in verse . . . . Walt Whitman is the man to chaunt the song. Will you not ask him to do it for The Galaxy?" (Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). In response, Whitman submitted "A Carol of Harvest, for 1867" to William Conant and Francis Pharcellus Church on August 7, 1867. In their letter of August 8, 1867, the editors told Whitman that they considered "A Carol of Harvest, for 1867" (later titled "The Return of the Heroes") "to rank with the very best of [his] poems." Negotiating the publication of the poem, Whitman, in his letter of August 11, 1867, reserved the right to publish the poem in an edition of Leaves of Grass no sooner than six months after the poem's publication in the Galaxy. Whitman acknowledged receipt of $60 as compensation for "A Carol of Harvest, for 1867" in his September 7, 1867, letter to the editors. The poem was published in the September 1867, issue of the magazine. Whitman also submitted a second poem, "Ethiopia Commenting," which was never published in the magazine. [back]
  • 4. Francis Pharcellus Church (1839–1906) established the Galaxy in 1866 with his brother William Conant Church (1836–1917). Financial control of the Galaxy passed to Sheldon & Company in 1868, and the magazine was absorbed by the Atlantic Monthly in 1878. [back]
  • 5. William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the grand and grandiloquent Whitman pamphlet The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication, published in 1866. For more on Whitman's relationship with O'Connor, see Deshae E. Lott, "O'Connor, William Douglas (1832–1889)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 6. Ellen M. "Nelly" O'Connor (1830–1913) was the wife of William D. O'Connor (1832–1889), one of Whitman's staunchest defenders. Before marrying William, Ellen Tarr was active in the antislavery and women's rights movements as a contributor to the Liberator and to a women's rights newspaper Una. Whitman dined with the O'Connors frequently during his Washington years. Though Whitman and William O'Connor would temporarily break off their friendship in late 1872 over Reconstruction policies with regard to emancipated African Americans, Ellen would remain friendly with Whitman. The correspondence between Whitman and Ellen is almost as voluminous as the poet's correspondence with William. Three years after William O'Connor's death, Ellen married the Providence businessman Albert Calder. For more on Whitman's relationship with the O'Connors, see Dashae E. Lott, "O'Connor, William Douglas [1832–1889]" and Lott's "O'Connor (Calder), Ellen ('Nelly') M. Tarr (1830–1913)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
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