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Walt Whitman to John Camden Hotten, 24 April 1868

To Mr. Hotten,

I am glad to hear you are having Mr. Conways potograph​ engraved in place of the bad print now in the book.2 If a faithful presentation of that photograph can be given it will satisfy me well—of course it should be reproduced with all its shaggy, dappled, rough-skinned character & not attempted to be smoothed, or prettyfied—(if in time I send the following hints)—let the costume be kept very simple & broad, & rather kept down too, little as there is of it—preserve the effect of the sweeping lines making all that fine free angle below the chin—I would suggest not to bring in so fully the shoulders & bust as the photograph does—make only the neck,3 the collar with the immediately neighboring part of the shirt delineated. You will see that the spot at the left side of the hair, near the temple, is a white blur, & does not belong in the picture. The eyes part, and all around the eyes, try to re-produce fully & faithfully, exactly as in the photograph.

I hope you have a good artist at the work. It is perhaps worth your taking special pains about, both to achieve a successfull picture & likeness, something characteristic, & as certain to be a marked help to your edition of the book. Send me an early proof of the engraving

Thank you for the papers with notices in them4—& for your Academia5 criticism. Please continue to send any special notices. I receive them safely & promptly. The London Review notice is reprinted here in Littell's Living Age.6 I should like to know who wrote the piece in the Morning Star7—it flushed my friends & myself too, like a sun-dash, brief, hot, & dazzling.

I have several things more to say, & will write again soon8—Also to Mr. Rossetti9 to whom, meantime, please offer my friendliest, truest regards.10


  • 1. This draft letter is endorsed, "To Mr. Hotten | went April 25 '68." [back]
  • 2. Hotten wrote about the portrait on April 8, 1868. Whitman first expressed interest in switching the frontispiece in his March 9, 1868 letter to Hotten. [back]
  • 3. At this point in the draft Whitman crudely sketched a face, or "autoportraiture" (Horace Traubel, ed., With Walt Whitman in Camden [1906–1996], 1:210). [back]
  • 4. Hotten enclosed on April 8, 1868 a number of newspaper notices of the English edition of Whitman's poems. On April 12, 1868, William Michael Rossetti also sent clippings. [back]
  • 5. Rossetti informed Whitman that this review had been composed by a Mr. Robertson, "a Scotchman of acute intellectual sympathies." Rossetti had restored the passages "cut out by a less ardent Editor." [back]
  • 6. Littell's Living Age reprinted notices on April 25, 1868, from the London Review of Politics, Society, Literature, Art, and Science (16 [March 21, 1868], 288–289), on June 6, 1868, from the Saturday Review (25 [May 2, 1868], 589–590), and on June 12, 1868, from the Athenaeum (April 25, 1868: 585–586); see 9, 4th series (1868), 251–252, 637–640, and 702–703. The critic in The London Review observed: "Walt Whitman is, indeed, the Turner of poets. Sometimes you find a mere blurred mass of colour; then an incomprehensible blaze of light; then a piece of apparent commonplace; and then a picture which overawes the beholder." [back]
  • 7. Rossetti also noted that the Morning Star "had a very handsome notice…but like all literary reviews in that paper a brief one." [back]
  • 8. No other communications with Hotten are extant. [back]
  • 9. Whitman did not reply to Rossetti's letter of April 12, 1868. [back]
  • 10. Whitman deleted the next line of this draft—"I will think about the American agent too, & write"—his answer to Hotten's request of April 8, 1868 for the name of "a good agent" in America (Yale; Horace Traubel, ed., With Walt Whitman in Camden [1906–1996], 4:308). [back]
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