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Sampson Low and Company to Walt Whitman, 28 March 1873

 loc.01897.001_large.jpg Walt Whitman Esq Solr'soff.​ Treasury Washington D.C. Dear Sir

We are in receipt of Mr J. S. Redfield's1 favour of the 12th ult​ requesting the transference of his interest in your books in our hands to yourself, and we accordingly hand herewith memo.​ of Sales, to Dec​ 31 last together with our draft on Messrs Seribron Wellwood & Co for the amount due of—$17.10—

We are Dear sir Yours faithfully Sampson Low & Co  loc.01897.002.jpg March, 1873 Sampson Low & Co. acc't.
 loc.01897.003_large.jpg 7/550

By Amt.​ as per your a/c​ 112 50 less Goods on hand

48 Whitmans Vistas2 .45 21 60
41 "Leaves Grass" 1.80 73 80 95 40
To Walt Whitman Esq Solictors​ Office Treasury Washington D.C.  loc.01897.004_large.jpg

Sampson, Low & Company (Sampson Low [1797–1881], Edward Marston, Searle, and Rivington) were London booksellers who handled the distribution of Leaves of Grass and Democratic Vistas in England. On February 18, 1876, Whitman received nine dollars from the firm "closing up acc't" (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.).


  • 1.

    James S. Redfield, a publisher at 140 Fulton Street, New York, was a distributor of Whitman's books in the early 1870s. On March 23, 1872, Redfield accepted 496 copies of Leaves of Grass: "I am to account to him (for all that I may sell) at the rate of One Dollar & Fifty Cents a copy, (1.50)" (Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). When Whitman prepared his will on October 23, 1872, he noted that Redfield had 500 copies of the fifth edition of Leaves of Grass, 400 copies of As a Strong Bird on Pinions Free, and 500 copies of Democratic Vistas (The Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library). Redfield later established a London outlet for Democratic Vistas and Leaves of Grass with Sampson, Low, Marston, Low, and Searle, who, on March 28, 1873, transferred Redfield's account for the remaining books to Whitman. On February 12, 1875, when his firm was in bankruptcy, Redfield noted that the balance due Walt Whitman ($63.45) "will have to go in with my general indebtedness. I think my estate will pay 50 cents on the dollar: hope so at any rate." He suggested that Michael Doolady (bookseller and publisher who printed Ada Clare's 1866 book Only a Woman's Heart; mentioned in Whitman's October 13, 1867, letter to Dionysius Thomas and Whitman's November 13, 1867, letter to Doolady) and the new Boston firm of Estes & Lauriat might agree to handle his books. He noted, however, that most book dealers were unwilling to sell Whitman's books, either because of inadequate sales or because of the poet's reputation in respectable circles: "It is only here and there a speckled sheep, like J. S. R., turns up who—not to put too fine a point upon it—don't care a d--n for Mrs Grundy, who would take you in."

  • 2. Whitman's Democratic Vistas was first published in 1871 in New York by J.S. Redfield. The volume was an eighty-four-page pamphlet based on three essays, "Democracy," "Personalism," and "Orbic Literature," all of which Whitman intended to publish in the Galaxy magazine. Only "Democracy" and "Personalism" appeared in the magazine. For more information on Democratic Vistas, see Arthur Wrobel, "Democratic Vistas [1871]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
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