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Walt Whitman to Ernest Rhys, 2 February 1887

Dear friend

Yours rec'd2 & welcomed, as always—I send Vol. of "Specimen Days and Collect," with emendations—My notion would be for you to print a Vol. including all to page 200, and call it "Specimen Days in America—By Walt Whitman" for title page, & then another Vol. of the matter from page 203 to 338 (including "My Book & I" which I send) & call it "Democratic Vistas and other papers" by Walt Whitman for title page—making two books

But I leave the thing, (after having expressed my suggestion, & sent you the copy) in your & the publisher's hands, with full authority from me to do what the exigencies require, & what you think best3—should I feel like writing a few lines for Preface, I will send you within ten days—but if not, not—It is not certain—If you don't get such lines from me go on without them when you are ready—Should you wish the print facing page 222 I can get it for you, printed here in Philadelphia by the 100 or 1000—(I think it is ab't 3cts a piece, but am not certain)—or I will send you the photo & you can have one made there, if you prefer to have your own as you may—Write me often as you can—I am tied up in my corner by paralysis, & welcome friends' letters—bad cold raw weather—my bird is singing furiously—I am ab't as usual—

Walt Whitman

I have put a couple of photos in the book, at page 122—one is for you—the other I think you can transfer & make for yourself a good plate for picture for the book—I like it better to go in the vol. of the book off against the scene in the text described (as at p. 122)—tell the pub. when he sends me my 10 guineas to send (if convenient) in P.O. order, (or orders) to me at 328 Mickle st. Camden New Jersey—

Write soon, & specifically, & copiously—I will send you the lith. portraits you request—If you want another copy of "Spe. Days," to make proper printer's copy, get one of Wilson's Glasgow Ed'n—it is correct—mind my emendations—Go & see B F C Costelloe4, 40 Grosvenor Road, the embankment, & ask to be introduced to his wife, Mrs. C.5 She is an American, & my best friend—

Ernest Percival Rhys (1859–1946) was a British author and editor; he founded the Everyman's Library series of inexpensive reprintings of popular works. He included a volume of Whitman's poems in the Canterbury Poets series and two volumes of Whitman's prose in the Camelot series for Walter Scott publishers. For more information about Rhys, see Joel Myerson, "Rhys, Ernest Percival (1859–1946)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


  • 1. This letter is addressed: Ernest Rhys | 59 Cheyne Walk | Chelsea | London | England. It is postmarked: Camden | Feb | 2 | 6 PM | 1887 | N.J.; Philadelphia | Feb | 2 | 1887 | Paid; London S.W. | 0 [illegible] | Fe 14 | 87. [back]
  • 2. See Rhys' letter to Whitman of January 19, 1887. [back]
  • 3. Whitman gave Rhys permission to print Specimen Days on October 13, 1886. The arrangements for English publications are documented in the notes accompanying both the aforementioned letter and Whitman's letter to Rhys of February 4, 1887. [back]
  • 4. Benjamin Francis Conn ("Frank") Costelloe (1854–1899), Mary Costelloe's first husband, was an English barrister and Liberal Party politician. [back]
  • 5. Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe (1864–1945) was a political activist, art historian, and critic, whom Whitman once called his "staunchest living woman friend." A scholar of Italian Renaissance art and a daughter of Robert Pearsall Smith, she would in 1885 marry B. F. C. "Frank" Costelloe. She had been in contact with many of Whitman's English friends and would travel to Britain in 1885 to visit many of them, including Anne Gilchrist shortly before her death. For more, see Christina Davey, "Costelloe, Mary Whitall Smith (1864–1945)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
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