Skip to main content

George C. Macaulay to Walt Whitman, 7 January 1883

 loc.03103.001_large.jpg G. C. Macaulay Ansd Jan 8/83—J. C. c/o Dr Sir1

Your letter and the book2 came to me just now, forwarded from Rugby—I am much obliged to you for the trouble you have taken, and deeply interested in the book, for which I shall write my acknowledgements to the author. Bogue3 does not seem to have absolutely stopped the sale of the '81 edn of "Leaves of Grass,"4 for he tells me that he has some copies still for sale, but I suppose he does not mean to get any more.

As regards the book just received,  loc.03103.002_large.jpg  loc.03103.003_large.jpg perhaps you can tell me whether it includes the whole of the "Memoranda during the war"5 formerly published, and whether it is being published by Trübner & Co6 in the same form as the American edn. I wish to know about these things in case I should be reviewing the book.

Thank you also for the "imprints" of Leaves of Grass7—I am rather puzzled by the symbol (a butterfly on the extended finger of a hand) which appears on these imprints dated 1860, & also on the binding of "Specimen days & Collect"—

Yours faithfully G. C. Macaulay.

P.S. I presume that my name in the book is in the author's handwriting, if so I shall value it the more.


George Campbell Macaulay (1852–1915) was an influential English classical scholar. His review of Leaves of Grass appeared in The Nineteenth Century, 12 (December 1882), 903–918. Despite some reservations, Macaulay's was a fair and judicious essay. On December 17, 1882, Whitman sent a copy of Specimen Days and Collect (1882) to Macaulay, care of Josiah Child.


  • 1. It is likely that Macaulay sent this letter to Josiah Child, Whitman's former agent with Trübner & Co., as Whitman had previously communicated with Macaulay through Child. The "J.C." in the note at the top of the first page is undoubtedly Josiah Child. [back]
  • 2. The first issue of Whitman's Specimen Days and Collect was published by the Philadelphia firm of Rees Welsh and Company in 1882. The second issue was published by David McKay. Many of the autobiographical notes, sketches, and essays that focus on the poet's life during and beyond the Civil War had been previously published in periodicals or in Memoranda During the War (1875–1876). For more information on Specimen Days, see George Hutchinson and David Drews "Specimen Days [1882]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 3. David Bogue was a London based publisher. Bogue took over the distribution of the 1881–1882 edition of Leaves of Grass after Trübner & Co stopped working with Whitman. [back]
  • 4. The 1881–1882 edition of Leaves of Grass was published in November 1881, by Boston publishers James R. Osgood and Company. Oliver Stevens, the District Attorney of Boston, notified Osgood and Co. on March 1, 1882, that the book was officially classified as obscene and was to be suppressed. Osgood withdrew the book, and Whitman arranged for printing to resume with Philadelphia publishers Rees Welsh and later David McKay. For more on this edition, see Dennis K. Renner, " Leaves of Grass, 1881–82 edition," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 5. Memoranda During the War (1875) chronicles Whitman's time as a hospital volunteer during the American Civil War. Whitman began planning the book in 1863; see his letter to publisher James Redpath of October 21, 1863, in which he describes his intended book. For more about the completed volume, see Robert Leigh Davis, "Memoranda During the War [1875–1876]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 6. Whitman's dealings with Trübner & Company were handled through Josiah Child. Trübner & Company was the London agent for Whitman's books; see Whitman's December 27, 1873, letter to the firm. [back]
  • 7. Leaves of Grass Imprints was a free, sixty-four-page promotional pamphlet published by Thayer and Eldridge to advertise the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass. Imprints includes a unique mixture of promotional material including positive and negative reviews of the 1855 and 1856 Leaves of Grass and even reports of Whitman abandoning poetry to drive an omnibus. For a description of Imprints see Ed Folsom, Whitman Making Books / Books Making Whitman (University of Iowa: Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, 2005). [back]
Back to top