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Walt Whitman to Robert Adams, 27 July 1890

 loc_zs.00032.jpg Dear Sir

Y'rs of 25th rec'd2 & thank you. I remember you & y'r call & the ladies very well & send my best wishes & respects to all—I w'd be glad to send you four (or three) copies of the big book,3 (complete works)—as you say, they w'd to you be $4 each (retail 6)—I cannot add in MS any thing more than is already in each & all—I w'd take back & allow for the vol. you speak of—they w'd best be sent you by express, (as the postage is 40cts a copy)—If you take, remit me pay in p o order. Enclosed find circulars—

Respectfully &c:

Walt Whitman  loc_zs.00346.jpg Whitman letter | written to | Robert Adams | Fall River.

Robert Adams (1816–1900) was born in Ayr, Scotland, and immigrated with his family to the United States as a small child. After working as a grocer for several years in Fall River, Massachusetts, Robert and his brother John opened a stationery shop and bookbindery. Prior to the abolition of slavery, Adams aided runaway slaves along the Underground Railroad between Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Adams's obituary includes a statement from Frederick Douglass in which he described Adams as "the first man to recognize me as a man." It also notes his friendships with John Greenleaf Whittier, William Lloyd Garrison, and other well-known abolitionists ("Deaths of Robert Adams and Ransom P. Baker,"Fall River Daily Evening News [April 3, 1900], 8). The Fall River Daily Evening News of November 1, 1890, also records that Adams visited Whitman at his home in Camden "a few days ago" and "arranged for the sale of copies of Whitman's works," adding that Adams found the poet "feeble and unable to hold a long conference" ("Personal" [November 1, 1890], 8). For more information on Adams and abolitionism, see Anti-Slavery Days in Fall River and the Operation of the Underground Railroad, written by his son, Edward Stowe Adams and published by the Fall River Historical Society in 2017.


  • 1. The letter was probably sent to Robert Adams, to whom Walt Whitman sent four books on October 28, 1890. [back]
  • 2. This letter may not survive. [back]
  • 3. Whitman's Complete Poems & Prose (1888), a volume Whitman often referred to as the "big book," was published by the poet himself—in an arrangement with publisher David McKay, who allowed Whitman to use the plates for both Leaves of Grass and Specimen Days—in December 1888. With the help of Horace Traubel, Whitman made the presswork and binding decisions for the volume. Frederick Oldach bound the book, which included a profile photo of the poet on the title page. For more information on the book, see Ed Folsom, Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman: A Catalog and Commentary (University of Iowa: Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, 2005). [back]
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