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William Michael Rossetti to Walt Whitman, 12 April 1868

 loc_tb.00613.jpg 1868 Dear Mr. Whitman,

I received with thanks, & read with much interest, the article by Mr. Hinton1 wh.​ you sent me. Besides Mr. Hinton's own share in the article, I was particularly glad to see in full Emerson's2 letter written on the first appearance of Leaves of Grass.3 Of this I had hitherto only seen an expression or two extracted.

Will you allow me to respond by sending two English notices of the selection. The one in the Academia I find is written by a Mr. Robertson4 whom I have met occasionally—a Scotchman of acute intellectual sympathies. The alterations noted in ink in his article are reproduced by me from the copy wh.​ he  loc_tb.00614.jpg  loc_tb.00615.jpg himself sent me: I infer that they are in conformity with the original M.S., but cut out by a less ardent Editor. The Sunday Times is edited by a Mr. Knight5 of whom also I have some slight personal knowledge. I think the review6 in that paper is very likely done by Mr. Knight himself. The Academia is a recently-started paper, chiefly scholastic, and I suppose of restricted circulation. The Sunday Times has no doubt a very large circulation, & a good standing among weekly newspapers—not being however a specially literary organ.

You will, I think, have seen through Mr. Conway7 the notice, also eulogistic, in the London Review8 I am told of a hostile one in the Express (evening edition of the Daily News) but have not seen it: the Morning Star9 (the paper most closely connected with John Bright) had a very handsome notice about a week ago—but, like all literary reviews in that paper, a brief one. These are all the notices I know of at present. Perhaps I ought to apologize for saying so much to you about a matter wh.​ I know plays but the smallest part in your thoughts & interests as a poet.

As to the sale of the book I really know nothing as yet—not having once seen the publisher since the volume was issued.

A glance at the Sunday Times notice recalls to my attention a sentence therein wh.​ I sh.d​ perhaps refer to—about your having given express sanction &c. Where the writer gets this from I know not—certainly not from me: indeed the P.J. to the selection asserts the exact contrary, and I have not so much as seen Mr. Knight for (I dare say) a couple of years.

With warmest regard and friendship, Yours W. M. Rossetti  loc_tb.00616.jpg

William Michael Rossetti (1829–1915), brother of Dante Gabriel and Christina Rossetti, was an English editor and a champion of Whitman's work. In 1868, Rossetti edited Whitman's Poems, selected from the 1867 Leaves of Grass. Whitman referred to Rossetti's edition as a "horrible dismemberment of my book" in his August 12, 1871, letter to Frederick S. Ellis. Nonetheless, the edition provided a major boost to Whitman's reputation, and Rossetti would remain a staunch supporter for the rest of Whitman's life, drawing in subscribers to the 1876 Leaves of Grass and fundraising for Whitman in England. For more on Whitman's relationship with Rossetti, see Sherwood Smith, "Rossetti, William Michael (1829–1915)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


  • 1. Richard J. Hinton (1830–1901) was born in London and came to the United States in 1851. He trained as a printer, and, like James Redpath (with whom Whitman corresponded on August 6, 1863), went to Kansas and joined John Brown's militant group of abolitionists. In fact, but for an accident he would have been with Brown at Harper's Ferry. A man mistaken for Hinton was hanged. With Redpath, Hinton was the author of Hand-book to Kansas Territory and the Rocky Mountains' Gold Region (1859). Later he wrote Rebel Invasion of Missouri and Kansas (1865) and John Brown and His Men (1894). Apparently Hinton had suggested that Thayer & Eldridge print Leaves of Grass; see the New Voice, 16 (4 February 1899), 2. Hinton served in the Union Army from 1861 to 1865, and saw Whitman while lying wounded in a hospital, a scene which he described in the Cincinnati Commercial on August 26, 1871. After the war Hinton wrote for many newspapers. He defended William D. O'Connor's The Good Gray Poet in the Milwaukee Sentinel on February 9, 1866. Hinton's article in the Rochester Evening Express on March 7, 1868, was a lengthy account of Whitman's "Fame and Fortunes in England and America," with quotations from O'Connor and the naturalist John Burroughs. Obviously pleased, Whitman sent it to friends, including Rossetti, who acknowledged it on April 12, 1868. See Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Friday, September 28, 1888; William Sloane Kennedy, The Fight of a Book for the World (West Yarmouth, MA: Stonecroft Press, 1926), 19, 67, 110–111, 242; the Boston Transcript, December 21, 1901. [back]
  • 2. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882) was an American poet and essayist who began the Transcendentalist movement with his 1836 essay Nature. On November 30, 1868, Whitman informed Ralph Waldo Emerson that "Proud Music of the Storm" was "put in type for my own convenience, and to ensure greater correctness." He asked Emerson to take the poem to James T. Fields, editor of the Atlantic Monthly, who promptly accepted it and published it in February 1869. For more on Emerson, see Jerome Loving, "Emerson, Ralph Waldo [1809–1882]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 3. See Emerson's letter to Whitman of July 21, 1855. [back]
  • 4. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]
  • 5. Joseph Knight (1829–1907) was an English theatre historian, writer, and editor. In addition to serving as a drama critic at the London Sunday Times, he contributed to The Gentleman's Magazine, writing for more than twenty years under the pen name of "Sylvanus Urban." [back]
  • 6. Rossetti is likely referring to "Walt Whitman's Works," which was published in the London Sunday Times on March 3, 1867. [back]
  • 7. 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). [back]
  • 8. See Conway's article "Walt Whitman" in The London Review and Weekly Journal of Politics, Society, Literature and Art of March 21, 1868. [back]
  • 9. Founded in 1856 by British politicians John Bright (1811–1889) and Richard Cobden (1804–1865), the Morning Star was a London daily newspaper that supported peace and was primarily oriented toward radical politics. [back]
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