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Walt Whitman to Ernest Rhys, 8 March 1887

Have rec'd to-day yours of Feb. 21.2 Send you herewith a little Preface3 to "Specimen Days"4—it might make two pages— Send me three or four slip impressions when in type—Yes, you can retain the Edgar Poe lines on p 17 as you wish—& in brief (having no doubt you will remember what I have said or suggested) I hereby empower you to make any arrangements or ways the publishing exigencies there or your own judgment require—

I will probably send a short MS to be added on p 199 or p 200 to bring my diary up (or nearly up) to date—Something possibly also to the 2d Vol.—giving both books a touch (at any rate) of original identity & fulness—

Walt Whitman

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 | Mar | 8 | 6 PM | 1887 | N.J.; London S.W. | [illegible] | Mr 18 [illegible] | 87. [back]
  • 2. The letter appears to be lost. [back]
  • 3. Included with this letter is the Preface, reprinted in November Boughs (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1888), 93–94. According to a letter dated May 23, 1889, Rhys offered Harry Buxton Forman a number of Whitman manuscripts including "'Specimen Days & Collect' with Whitman's corrections in ink-pencil"; the price was £2.2s. [back]
  • 4. Whitman had sent the copy of Specimen Days on February 2, 1887 (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). On February 15, 1887 Rhys wrote: "I must not decide off-hand about the Specimen Days,—that is, whether to make two vols. as you suggest, or to try & get the whole into one. In the latter case, the book would be rather crowded. . . No! I would not think of putting the copy of Specimen Days with your corrections into the printers' hands and will get copies from Wilson of Glasgow, carefully following all your deletions & so on. It is one of the greatest prizes I possess, & someday a sense of its value will inspire me, I'm afraid, to beg you to send me a copy of Leaves of Grass too with your name in it, (& mine, as proof of ownership,) & some further inscription as well." On January 19, 1887 Rhys wrote at length about a kind of epiphany which he had experienced at the seashore; Whitman termed it "a wonderful letter." [back]
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