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Walt Whitman to John Camden Hotten, 18 February 1868

Dear Sir:2

In response to your letter of the 5th instant, which has just reached me, I have to say that I accept the proposal made in it respecting your English publication of my poems—& hereby agree that you have the privilege of selling that publication in the United States, on payment to me, or my agent, of a royalty of one shilling, (or 25 cents gold,) upon every copy sold in the U. S.3

Of course it is distinctly understood that this grant from me does not affect my copyright here, but that said copyright, in each of its particulars & in the whole, is absolutely fully & exclusively retained by me.

It is not improbable that a very handsome & steady sale of the English volume may be effected here, by the right business manipulation, a moderate, judicious advertising &c. My book has never been really published here at all & the market is in a sort vacant of supplies. I will probably suggest to you something more on these points, in a future letter.

I received yesterday a letter from Mr. Conway, conveying your proposition, to which I mailed an immediate answer, to the same effect as herewith.

Accept my thanks for the William Blake.4 It has not yet come from the post office, but I know it will prove to me a profoundly interesting study, and a handsome gift. It is, in fact, a book I was wanting.

After the reception of the copy you speak of—my own volume—(now probably on its way)—I shall doubtless have occasion to express genuine pleasure—with gratitude both to its editor & publisher.

And now, my dear sir, please accept with my trust in the success of the enterprise my kindest respects to yourself personally.


  • 1. This draft letter is endorsed, "To John Camden Hotten, | February 18, 1868, (went 19th | probably)." [back]
  • 2. John Camden Hotten (1832–1873) printed Swinburne's Poems and Ballads when another publisher withdrew after the book caused a furor. Perhaps because he had lived in the United States from 1848 to 1856, Hotten introduced to an English audience such writers as Robert Lowell, Artemus Ward, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Bret Harte. After his death, his business was purchased by Chatto and Windus. In his letter to Conway on December 5, 1866, O'Connor had suggested Hotten as the English publisher of Walt Whitman: "Seems to me the courage that prints Laus Veneris might dare this" (Yale). [back]
  • 3. Hotten's letter repeated the financial proposals related by Moncure D. Conway, to which Whitman responded in his February 17, 1868 letter to Conway. [back]
  • 4. Hotten was the publisher of this critical essay, which Whitman had expected in his February 17, 1868 letter to Moncure D. Conway. Swinburne at the conclusion of William Blake: A Critical Essay (1868), 300–303, pointed out similarities between Walt Whitman and Blake, and praised "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" and "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd," which he termed "the most sweet and sonorous nocturn ever chanted in the church of the world." Included in Songs before Sunrise (1871) was his famous lyric "To Walt Whitman in America." For the story of Swinburne's veneration of Walt Whitman and his later recantation, see Harold Blodgett, Walt Whitman in England (Cornell: Cornell University Press, 1934), 103–121. [back]
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