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Walt Whitman to William M. Rossetti, 22 November 1867

My dear Mr. Rosetti​ :1

I suppose Mr. Conway has received, & you have read, the letter I sent over about three weeks since, assenting to the substitution of other words, &c. as proposed by you, in your reprint of my book, or selections therefrom.2

I suppose the reprint intends to avoid any expressed or implied character of being an expurgated edition. I hope it will simply assume the form & name of a selection from the various editions of my pieces printed here. I suggest, in the interest of that view, whether the adjoining might not be a good form of Title page:3

I wish particularly not only that the little figures numbering the stanzas, but also that the larger figures dividing the pieces into separate passages or sections be carefully followed & preserved, as in copy.

When I have my next edition brought out here, I shall change the title of the piece "When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd," to President Lincoln's Funeral Hymn.4 You are at liberty to take the latter name, or the old one, at your option, (that is, if you include the piece.)

It is quite certain that I shall add to my next edition (carrying out my plan from the first,) a brief cluster of pieces, born of thoughts on the deep themes of Death & Immortality.

Allow me to send you an article I have written on "Democracy"—a hasty charcoal-sketch of a piece, but indicative, to any one interested in Leaves of Grass, as of the audience the book supposes, & in whose interest it is made. I shall probably send it next mail.

Allow me also to send you (as the ocean-postage law is now so easy,) a copy of Mr. Burroughs's Notes,5 & some papers. They go same mail with this.

And now, my dear sir, you must just make what use—or no use at all—of any thing I suggest or send—as your occasions call for. Very likely some of my suggestions have been anticipated.

I remain, believe me, with friendliest feelings & wishes, Walt Whitman.


  • 1. This letter is Walt Whitman's first to William Michael Rossetti, whose name he consistently misspelled. [back]
  • 2. See Walt Whitman's November 1, 1867 letter to Moncure D. Conway for a fuller explanation of the kinds of changes Rossetti had suggested. [back]
  • 3.

    Whitman included with this letter a sketched mock-up of the proposed title page. Whitman suggested the page read, "WALT WHITMAN'S | POEMS | Selected from the American | Editions | By Wm. M. Rosetti​ ."

    On December 8, 1867, Rossetti wrote to Whitman: "The form of title-page which you propose would of course be adopted by me with thanks & without a moment's debate, were it not that my own title-page was previously in print."

  • 4. Rossetti agreed to this change on December 8, 1867: "I had previously given it a title of my own, 'Nocturn for the Death of Lincoln'." See "Postscript" to Poems by Walt Whitman (London, John Camden Hotten, 1868), 402. [back]
  • 5. Rossetti had seen the proofs of Burroughs' pamphlet in April; see Walt Whitman's July 27, 1867 letter to Abby H. Price. [back]
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