Skip to main content

Walt Whitman to James S. Redfield, 29 January 1872

My Dear Redfield,2

The $25 you sent me last week duly arrived, for which please accept this Receipt, & my thanks.3

Walt Whitman Solicitor's office Treasury


  • 1.

    Transcript from the City Book Auction in New York, February 20, 1943.

    Walt Whitman did join the Solicitor's Office in the Treasury (as this letter is signed) until January 1872.

  • 2.

    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 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 and the new Boston firm of Estes and Lauriat might agree to handle his books; Doolady was the bookseller and publisher mentioned in Whitman's October 13, 1867 letter to Dionysius Thomas and in Whitman's November 13, 1867 letter to Doolady. He printed Ada Clare's 1866 book Only a Woman's Heart. 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."

  • 3. The receipt, written by Whitman, originally read $1.60, but was corrected to the lower figure when the receipt was dated in another ink. [back]
Back to top