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Moncure D. Conway to Walt Whitman, 9 May 1868

My dear Walt,

I regret to say I was unable to do anything with the proof of Personalism.1 I tried several magazines, but they were already made up for their May numbers. It is the habit of literary folk to leave London during Easter, and in order that they might do so this year the editors had their magazines for May fixed early in April. But in any case I could hardly hope to get an article in here unless I had it three months beforehand—for it takes so much time to get it from one editor to another before it gets to the man who wants it. I shall be very glad to serve you always, and regret that I have failed in this case.

The Reviews have not got hold of you fairly yet; but the good discussion will surely come.

A member of Parliament who once read some quoted passage from Leaves of Grass is now reading Rosetti's2 volume3 with great interest and fast changing his opinion.

But in the last mentioned matters I hope to write you more at length hereafter.

Cordially your friend, M. D. Conway.

Moncure Daniel Conway (1832–1907) was an American abolitionist, minister, and frequent correspondent with Walt Whitman. Conway often acted as Whitman's agent and occasional public relations man in England. For more on Conway, see Philip W. Leon, "Conway, Moncure Daniel (1832–1907)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


  • 1. Whitman had sent his essay "Personalism" to Conway and asked Conway to help place the piece in an English magazine (See Whitman's March 18, 1867, letter to Conway). Conway was not able to find an English magazine to publish the essay. But "Personalism" was published in the Galaxy magazine in May of 1868; the essay was a sequel to Whitman's essay "Democracy" which had been published in that magazine in December 1867. [back]
  • 2. William Michael Rossetti (1829–1915), brother of Dante Gabriel and Christina Rossetti, was an English editor and a champion of Whitman's work. In 1868, Rossetti edited Whitman's Poems, selected from the 1867 Leaves of Grass. Whitman referred to Rossetti's edition as a "horrible dismemberment of my book" in his August 12, 1871, letter to Frederick S. Ellis. Nonetheless, the edition provided a major boost to Whitman's reputation, and Rossetti would remain a staunch supporter for the rest of Whitman's life, drawing in subscribers to the 1876 Leaves of Grass and fundraising for Whitman in England. For more on Whitman's relationship with Rossetti, see Sherwood Smith, "Rossetti, William Michael (1829–1915)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 3. William Michael Rossetti prepared a British edition of Whitman's writings called Poems by Walt Whitman that John Camden Hotten published in 1868. About half of the poems from the 1867 American edition of Leaves of Grass were removed for the British edition. In his twenty-seven page "Prefatory Notice," Rossetti justified his editorial decisions, which included editing potentially objectionable content and removing entire poems: "My choice has proceeded upon two simple rules: first, to omit entirely every poem which could with any tolerable fairness be deemed offensive to the feelings of morals or propriety in this peculiarly nervous age; and, second, to include every remaining poem which appeared to me of conspicuous beauty or interest." For more information on this book, see Edward Whitley, "Introduction to the British Editions of Leaves of Grass." [back]
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