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William Michael Rossetti to Walt Whitman, 28 February [1876]

 loc.01886.001_large.jpg Dear Whitman

(If you will permit me to drop the "Mr.")—I write in some haste. Yours of 26 Jan. & 11 Feb. received.2

Ever since we in England heard that your health had received a serious shock, we have had it much at heart, I assure you, to testify our love, respect & gratitude, in some tangible shape: & I c.d​ at this moment tell you of at least 3 several plans wh.​ were actively mooted, &  loc.01886.002_large.jpg partly started. Our ideas on the subject have shifted according to the varying accounts that reached us, more especially with regard to the material comforts of your present mode of life. As the extract wh.​ you send me from the West Jersey Press, & wh.​ you vouch for as less strong than the facts, proves that some more cheerful preceding accounts were not accurate, there are some of us who w.d​ really be glad to exert ourselves to the extent of our moderate means, to prove that we are not insensible of the obligations we owe you. Profr.​ Dowden3 of Dublin, & myself, have more especially been in frequent written com loc.01886.003_large.jpgmunication on this subject, &, if I hear from you in terms to warrant, my so doing, I shall call the attention of others to the subject.

Meanwhile Mrs. Gilchrist4 & I agreed on the 25th that we w.d​ at once ask you to oblige each of us with copies of your forthcoming books5 to the value of £5 (25 dollars, I believe this is) each. This morning I saw about getting the requisite letter of credit for the amount, £10, & it will no doubt be procured & transmitted to you very shortly. I c.d​ not find any suitable locality nearer than New York mentioned in the Bank documents.—Mrs. G. w.d​ wish her books to be copies of the Two Ri loc.01886.004_large.jpgvulets only. I sh.d​ wish for The Two Rivulets, & also the forthcoming edition of your poems, in whatever proportions may be most convenient, & suitable for making up the £5.

I sent the substance of the West Jersey Press article to the Academy,6 but regret to find the Editor not forward to publish it: if he fails, I will send it elsewhere. Will also lose no time in offering for publication the poem & prose-matter wh.​ you forwarded to me—& both of wh.​ I read with great interest. I trust I may succeed in all these points.

Arthur Clive (so Dowden in loc.01886.005_large.jpgformed me long ago) is really Standish O'Grady,7 an Irish barrister of good position (or good prospects, I forget which). As it happens, I have not yet seen his article.

With love Yours W. M. Rossetti

Dowden has mentioned to me your "Autograph Edition," but without defining what it is, nor do I precisely know. It sounds tempting, so I hope Mrs. Gilchrist & I may come in for some specimen of it.

 loc.01886.006_large.jpg  loc.01886.007_large.jpg Rosetti Feb. 28 '76 ans March 17  loc.01886.008_large.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. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | 431 Stevens St. | Cor West | Camden | New Jersey | U.S.A. It is postmarked: LONDON | FE 28 | [illegible]; NEW YORK | [illegible]. [back]
  • 2. See Whitman's letters to Rossetti of January 26, 1876, and February 11, 1876. [back]
  • 3. Edward Dowden (1843–1913), professor of English literature at the University of Dublin, was one of the first to critically appreciate Whitman's poetry, particularly abroad, and was primarily responsible for Whitman's popularity among students in Dublin. In July 1871, Dowden penned a glowing review of Whitman's work in the Westminster Review entitled "The Poetry of Democracy: Walt Whitman," in which Dowden described Whitman as "a man unlike any of his predecessors. . . . Bard of America, and Bard of democracy." In 1888, Whitman observed to Traubel: "Dowden is a book-man: but he is also and more particularly a man-man: I guess that is where we connect" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Sunday, June 10, 1888, 299). For more, see Philip W. Leon, "Dowden, Edward (1843–1913)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 4. Anne Burrows Gilchrist (1828–1885) was the author of one of the first significant pieces of criticism on Leaves of Grass, titled "A Woman's Estimate of Walt Whitman (From Late Letters by an English Lady to W. M. Rossetti)," The Radical 7 (May 1870), 345–59. Gilchrist's long correspondence with Whitman indicates that she had fallen in love with the poet after reading his work; when the pair met in 1876 when she moved to Philadelphia, Whitman never fully returned her affection, although their friendship deepened after that meeting. For more information on their relationship, see Marion Walker Alcaro, "Gilchrist, Anne Burrows (1828–1885)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 5. During the centennial celebration of the U.S. in 1876, Whitman reissued the fifth edition of Leaves of Grass in the repackaged form of a "Centennial Edition" and "Author's Edition," with most copies personally signed by the poet. Two Rivulets was published as a companion volume to the book. Notable for its experimentations in form, typography, and printing convention, Whitman's two-volume set marks an important departure from previous publications of Leaves of Grass. For more information, see Frances E. Keuling-Stout, " Leaves of Grass, 1876, Author's Edition," "Two Rivulets, Author's Edition [1876]," and "Preface to Two Rivulets [1876]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 6. Founded by the scholar and entrepreneur Charles Appleton (1841–1879), The Academy was a literature review published monthly in London at its inception in 1869 and, later, published as a weekly until 1902, when it merged with another periodical, entitled Literature. [back]
  • 7. Standish James O'Grady (1846–1928), a lawyer and later a celebrated Irish poet, published (under the pseudonym Arthur Clive) "Walt Whitman: the Poet of Joy," the Gentleman's Magazine, 15 (December 1875), 704–716, in which he concluded that Walt Whitman "is the noblest literary product of modern times, and his influence is invigorating and refining beyond expression." See Harold Blodgett, Walt Whitman in England (Cornell: Cornell University Press, 1934), 180–182, and Hugh Art O'Grady, Standish James O'Grady—The Man & the Writer (Dublin: Talbot Press, 1929). See also Joann P. Krieg, chapter 8, "Dublin," Walt Whitman and the Irish (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2000), 190–231. [back]
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