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Walt Whitman to William Michael Rossetti, 30 November 1885

My dear Wm Rossetti

Yours of Nov: 13 with 31 pounds 19 shillings has been received—the third instalment of the "offering"1—my thanks are indeed deeper than words.

I have just been writing to Herbert Gilchrist ab't his mother, & am filled with sadness—nothing new with me, only my eyesight is better—

Walt Whitman

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. Up to this time Whitman had received three payments from Rossetti amounting to $446.18 (see the letter from Whitman to Herbert Gilchrist of December 4, 1885). Including the gift from Carpenter and the Ford sisters (see his letter to Edward Carpenter of August 3, 1885) Whitman received in 1885 from his English admirers a total of $686.01. In contrast, his royalties from McKay for the year totalled $42.77; he also received $24 from Worthington and about $47.50 from Scott (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). In 1885 Whitman received at least $350.20 from sales of poems and articles: "Washington's Monument, February, 1885" ($10), "As One by One Withdraw the Lofty Actors" ($30), "Fancies at Navesink" ($145.20), "Booth and 'The Bowery'" ($60), "Slang in America" ($50), "Some Diary Notes at Random" ($10), "Abraham Lincoln" ($33), and "The Voice of the Rain" ($12). It could not be ascertained how much he received from The Critic for the right to reprint the poem on Grant or from the New York Star for "How Leaves of Grass Was Made." [back]
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