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Walt Whitman to John Burroughs, 13 August [1882]

Welcome home again1—by no means forgetting 'Sula & the youngster—

I am well—have had a very fair summer, (though so much hot weather)—

I commenced publishing L of G in June on my own hook, but found it vexatious from the start,2 & having quite vehement proposals from Rees Welsh, (2d hand book dealer & law book publisher) 23 South 9th St. Phila. I pass'd the use of the plates into his hands—he printed it (the plates are here in Phila) an exact copy of the Osgood edition—Welsh's first edition (a cautious 1000) was ready ab't three weeks ago & was exhausted in a day—the second came in ab't five days ago, & is now nearly gone—a third is ordered—I am glad I let him have it—

I am throwing together a prose jumble, Specimen Days—(see slips enclosed)—nearly 200 pages already cast—O'Connor sent me a copy of your letter about visiting W M Rossetti3—(O'C & I correspond now quite often, & just on the same terms as of yore)4—When you have a leisure hour reel me off a letter—put in ab't Mrs Gilchrist and Herbert—Dr Bucke is keeping back his book till Specimen Days comes out5—will come out by winter likely—

Walt Whitman


  • 1. Burroughs had just returned from a two-month visit to England, as he informed Whitman in a post card on August 9. [back]
  • 2. Before Rees Welsh & Co. became his publisher, Whitman bound some of the "sheets" which he had received from Osgood (see the letter from Whitman to Burroughs of April 28, 1882). Goldsmith estimated that only fifty copies of this "edition" were issued (Clara Barrus, Whitman and Burroughs—Comrades [Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1931], 210n). [back]
  • 3. Late in June, apparently, Burroughs informed O'Connor that Rossetti now called Leaves of Grass "nasty"; see O'Connor's letter to Burroughs on July 12 (Barrus, 220). On July 13 O'Connor wrote to Whitman of Rossetti's recantation: "It is sad and sickening." On August 24 Burroughs explained the situation to Whitman: "Yes, I was much put out with Wm Rossetti; it was not so much what he said about your poems, . . . but his manner, his coldness, his indifference. He did not even ask about your health, or any other human thing, & made me feel that my call upon him, miserable petrefied cockney that he is, was an unwelcome interruption." Apparently Rossetti and Burroughs, in Whitman's words, "did not seem altogether to hit it" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden [Boston: Small, Maynard, 1906], 1:437). When Rossetti wrote to Whitman on January 1, 1885, his praise of Leaves of Grass and Specimen Days was unstinted (Traubel, 1:436–437). [back]
  • 4. This is Whitman's only reference to his estrangement from O'Connor. [back]
  • 5. According to Bucke's letter to O'Connor on October 14, he was withholding his book at Whitman's suggestion. In fact, although he carefully refrained from saying so, Bucke was not happy about Whitman's vague plans for the publication of his study by Rees Welsh & Co. [back]
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