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Walt Whitman to William Michael Rossetti (?), [May (?) 1875]

Yes, I shall, unless prevented, bring out a volume this summer, partly as my contribution to our National Centennial. It is to be called Two Rivulets1 (i.e., two flowing chains of prose and verse, emanating the real and ideal), it will embody much that I had previously written. . . . but about one-third, as I guess, that is fresh. Leaves of Grass, proper, will remain as it is identically. The new volume will have nearly or quite as much matter as L. of G. (It is a sort of omnibus in which I have packed all the belated ones since the outset of the Leaves.)

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).


  • 1. This excerpt appeared on May 29 in The Academy, to which Rossetti contributed; see Whitman's letter to Rossetti of April (?) 1875. The article began: "Walt Whitman writes to a correspondent...." However, see the identical description of Two Rivulets in a letter to Edward Dowden of May 2, 1875. Whitman probably used similar phraseology in two letters, one written on May 2 to Dowden and another written about the same time to Rossetti. [back]
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