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Walt Whitman to William D. O'Connor, 17 May [1882]

Ben Ticknor has just been here, to make a settlement of the L of G publication business between me and Osgood & Co.—which settlement has been amicably effected—and O & Co. have withdrawn & given it up for good, & made the plates &c over to me2

What I write for is this:—Ben. tells me that the whole business originated from the State Attorney General Mr Marston, who (at the instance of certain parties) peremptorily instructed the Boston Dist.​ Attorney Stevens to proceed against L of G. As I wrote you before, the betes noir were To a common prostitute and A woman waits for me. Unless those were left out he was instructed to indict and arrest to the law's extremity. (I believe I told you that Osgood & Co. formally notified me that they would continue the publication if those were expurgated.)

I do not myself feel any resentment toward O & Co. for any thing done me or the book—They have acted with reference to conventional business & other circumstances.3 Marston is the target for you4—If I learn more I will notify you—


Have you seen my N A Rev. article?5 I expect some proof-impressions & will immediately send you two or three—


  • 1. This letter is endorsed: "Answd May 20/82." It is addressed: Wm D O'Connor | Life Saving Service | Bureau | Washington | D C. It is postmarked: Camden | May | 17 | 2 PM | N.J.; Washington, D.C. | May | (?) | 1882 | Recd. [back]
  • 2. Ticknor, of Osgood & Co., telegraphed on May 16 for an appointment on the following day (The Library of Congress). The settlement provided that Osgood turn over "the plates, dies, steel portrait, and 225 copies (more or less) in sheets of Leaves of Grass, and pay W. W. the sum of $100.00 in cash" (The Library of Congress; The Complete Writings of Walt Whitman [New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1902], 8:298). [back]
  • 3. Though O'Connor on May 20 approved of Whitman's "magnanimous" attitude toward Osgood & Co., he believed that "my part, and the part of all your friends, is to whale them" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, July 18, 1888, 14). [back]
  • 4. In his reply on May 20, O'Connor said that he had "focussed all my fire right upon Oliver Stevens, who, you know, is the only one that appears officially in the transaction." But "when we get Marston to the front, there will be augmented fire for his hide, and I hope to make it so intolerable for him, that he will in self-defence peach on the holy citizens who have egged him on." [back]
  • 5. "A Memorandum at a Venture" (see the letter from Whitman to John Burroughs of April 28, 1882). [back]
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