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Walt Whitman to Robert Buchanan, 16 May 1876

Your two letters including the cheque for £25 reached me, for which accept deepest thanks.2 I have already written you my approval of your three communications in the L[ondon] D[aily] News3 & will [say] that in my opinion (& now with fullest deliberation reäffirming it) all the points assumed as facts on which your letter of March 13 is grounded, are substantially true, & most of them are true to the minutest particular—as far as could be stated in a one column letter.

Then let me quite definitely explain myself, about one or two things. I should not have instigated this English move, & if I had been consulted,4 should have peremptorily stopt it—but now that it has started, & grown, and under the circumstances, & by the person, & in the spirit, (& especially as I can & will give, to each generous donor, my book, portrait, autograph, myself as it were)—I am determined to respond to it in the same spirit in which it has risen—to accept most thankfully, cordially & unhesitatingly all that my friends feel to convey to me, which determination I here deliberately express once for all. This you are at liberty to make known to all who feel any interest in the matter.

The situation at present may be briefly & candidly told. I am, & have for three years during my paralysis, been boarding here, with a relative, comfortable & nice enough, but steadily paying just the same as at an inn—and the whole affair in precisely the same business spirit. My means would by this time have entirely given out, but that have been temporarily replenished from sales of my new edition and as now by this most welcome present & purchase—the £25 herein acknowledged.

Though without employment, means or income, you augur truly that I am not in what may be called pinching want—nor do I anticipate it.

My object I may say farther has lately been & still is to build a cheap little5 three or four room house on a little lot I own in a rural skirt of this town—for a nook, where I can haul in & eke out in a sort of independent economy & comfort & as satisfactorily as may be the rest of my years—for I may live several of them yet. To attain this, would be quite a triumph, & I feel assured I could then live very nicely indeed on the income from my books.

I shall (as I see now) continue to be my own publisher & bookseller. Accept all subscriptions to the New Edition. All will be supplied upon remittance. There are Two Volumes. Leaves of Grass, 384 pages, poems, $5, has two portraits. Then Two Rivulets, poems & prose, (including "Memoranda of the War") with photos, altogether 359 pages—also $5. Each book has my autograph. The Two Volumes are my complete works, $10 the set.

I wish the particular address of each generous friend given, so as he or she can be reach'd by mail or express—either with the autographic volume Two Rivulets, or a complete set of my works in Two Volumes, with autograph & portraits, or some other of my books. It may be some while before the books arrive, but they will arrive in time.6


  • 1. This draft letter is endorsed, "Robt Buchanan | (must have gone 17th by Scotia | from N.Y.)"; "Buchanan | May 16 '76." [back]
  • 2.

    On April 18, 1876, in a letter marked "Private," Buchanan discussed the English campaign on Walt Whitman's behalf and, probably because he was perplexed by Walt Whitman's contradictory statements, pressed for a specific statement: "Moncure Conway has denied authoritatively that you wanted money, & I have been waiting & wondering what to do. . . . I wish I were a rich man . . . and you should certainly never want anything your heart craved . . . happy, Whitman, in the serene certainty that you have fulfilled your life, & spoken—in tunes no thunders can silence—the beautiful message you were fashioned to bring!"

    On April 28, 1876, Buchanan sent Walt Whitman a check for £25, including a contribution of £5 from Tennyson, with a list of those who had subscribed £22.15. Walt Whitman sent books on September 5, 1876 (see Whitman's September 4, 1876 letter to Buchanan).

  • 3. See Whitman's April 4, 1876 letter to Buchanan. [back]
  • 4. Walt Whitman deleted the following passage: "There is doubtless a point of view from which Mr. Conway's statement of April 4th might hold, technically—but, essentially, under the circumstances, . . ." Despite the poet's denials, Conway's statement (see Whitman's April 7, 1876 letter to William Michael Rossetti) was justified. [back]
  • 5. Originally Walt Whitman wrote: "a little 100, 6 or $700 house." [back]
  • 6. Walt Whitman struck out the following: "I should like Wm M Rossetti, and Prof. Dowden of Dublin to see this letter." [back]
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