Skip to main content

Thursday, May 16, 1889

Thursday, May 16, 1889

8.10 P.M. I went down to W.'s with Forrest West, who had casually called, and was on his way to the city with me. W. sat in the parlor—his hat on—a robe across his knees—his cane in his hand—exceedingly easy and bright. "I have been out twice today," he said, "and threatened to go a third time—though this was not effected. We did not go to the river today—we went out—not towards the country—about the City Hall—in that direction." He said he felt "better and better" except for "this persistent cold in the head, which hangs on whether we will or no!"

Said he had "considered" the book "well"—and sure enough, expecting me, he had it there on the chair, a letter tucked under the strings of the package. "It is a brave book," he said, "everything about it is honest—satisfied me—everything that Oldach did was square and true." But the printing—"that vexes me—that is by no means up to the mark—neither registered well nor inked well. I should say, the ink not only very bad, but very sparingly used, too. After the beautiful Emerson book—after Sarrazin—it is almost enough to shock a fellow to come across this. And look at our great English Bible upstairs! The same paper—the same margin—but with a distinctness and marvellous delicacy throughout. Oh no! Ferguson has not done us well this time." But the book "as a whole" would "justify itself." If it failed at one point it did not fail at all points. "We must congratulate ourselves that there has been no disaster—not complain for a shock coming here and there." And he added: "I had expected a lighter green in the cover. He can still get it so, if he has not put in his supply—but if he has, this will do." His letter was very clear and simple, and goes over this ground. Here it is:

328 Mickle Street Camden May 16 '89 Dear Sir

This sample of your binding (old-fashion'd pocket-book style with ordinary tongue or tuck-flap, all holding snug, but not too tight or stiff) is satisfactory & suits me best. The dark green morocco, if you have it already, will do—but if you have to get it get a lighter green. Bind the whole ed'n alike, no variety. Make a short paper pocket (see last page as written on in sample)—In trimming the plates, & (if yet to be done) trim them, especially No: 1, and No: 4, a little more white paper at bottom, & less at top, the trimming in this sample seems to me to be the very reverse. The plates are all put in right in this sample—the stamp on cover is right—& altogether the job looks satisfactory.

I particularly want 50 copies (or 100) in a week.

Walt Whitman

And on the envelope, addressed to "Mr. Oldach Binder, Phila:" he added

Please send this up to the binders (men or women) who are working on my book—& I herewith send them my best respects. 

I returned him his batch of letters from Mrs. O'Connor. Could not get him the first fold from Oldach today. W. wishes to sign them—are promised for tomorrow. "I see," he said, "there was to be a meeting about that dinner this afternoon. Was anything done? Did you hear?" And when I said: "I am not sure—but I believe a hundred tickets were guaranteed." W. laughed. "Well, that is good, anyhow—that has some ring to it!" I am writing letters right and left for the Committee and sending circulars about among literary characters.

Allen Thorndike Rice died today. W. said: "Yes—I saw it in this afternoon's paper!"—how vigilant he still is!—"and it was quite depressing. How many of these deaths are happening now! I did not know Rice personally, but he was very friendly towards me. I remember when James Redpath—I think, last wrote to me, he spoke of Rice—of Rice's desire to have something from me: then of Rice's personality: spoke of him as a steam engine—all force, vehemence, power, exhileration, push, life, vim. And now Rice is gone—gone forever—and never even a warning of it! Does it not advise us of our littleness? No matter what the man—no matter what his place, his duties, his public importance—he is hewed down—cut off—with as little ceremony, as remorselessly, as the little fellows—as even we are!" And "now Rice is gone," W. speculated, "what will be the policy of the Review? Will it get into strange hands—new policies?" I started off shortly with W.'s messages. "Don't forget, boy," he said to me, "We want our books—some of 'em—in a week if we can get 'em!" And again: "I hear from Bucke almost every day—though not every day to any great effect."

Back to top