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Walt Whitman to William Michael Rossetti, 11 February 1876

 pri.00015.001_large.jpg W. M. Rossetti: My dear friend,

I would ask of you the favor to see, if convenient, whether the enclosed article The American War1 would be available for the Academy2—(or any where else if you think preferable.)

I would like pay for it—would be satisfied with 25 or $30.

I am getting along much the same. My new book wont​ be out yet, publicly, for a month.

Walt Whitman

I also send a little hitherto unpublished poem, The Man-of-War Bird3—which I can't sell here—I wonder if you could sell it for me, in London? It is not in my new book, & is entirely fresh.4

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. "The American War" was published in The Examiner; see Whitman's letter to Rossetti of June 26, 1876. [back]
  • 2. Founded by the scholar and entrepreneur Charles Appleton (1841–1879), The Academy was a literature review published monthly in London at its inception in 1869 and, later, published as a weekly until 1902, when it merged with another periodical, entitled Literature. [back]
  • 3. The poem (later retitled "To the Man-of-War-Bird") appeared in The Athenaeum (April 1, 1876), 463, which paid WW £3.3 (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). It was then published in the Philadelphia Progress on November 16, 1878. [back]
  • 4. Edwin Haviland Miller includes this postscript, which may have been written on the verso of this letter (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. [New York: New York University Press, 1961–69], 3:23). [back]
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