My dear Walt:
I am so busy that I hardly have time to breathe; moreover, I am in the greatest possible difficulties on account of one or two past liabilities still.
This must explain my not answering your letter promptly.
Do write and let me know about when the book is to be ready.
I can do a great deal for it.
I meant to have done more last week, but followed your advice and made a modest and copyable announcement. The papers all over the land have noticed your poem in the Atlantic and have generally pitched into it strong; which I take to be good for you and your new publishers, who if they move rapidly and concentrate their forces will make a Napoleonic thing of it.2
It just occurs to me that you might get Messrs. T. & E. to do a good thing for me: to wit, advance me say one hundred dollars on advertising account—that is if they mean to advertise with me.3 Or if they don't to let me act for them here as a kind of N.Y. agent to push the book, and advance me the money on that score.
I must have one hundred dollars before Saturday night or be in a scrape the horror of which keeps me awake o' nights. I could if necessary give my note at three mos. for the amount and it is a good note since we have never been protested.
Of course I know how extremely improbable it is that Messrs. T. & E. to whom I am an entire stranger will do anything of the kind: but in suggesting it, I have done only my duty to the Sat. Press, and, as I think, to the cause of sound literature.4
H. Clapp Jr.
I need not say, we are all anxious to see you back at Pfaff's,5 and are eagerly looking for your proposed letter to the crowd.
The text presented here is derived from Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden (various publishers, 1906–96). For a detailed description of discrepancies between this electronic edition and the print source, see our statement of editorial policy.
The manuscript of this letter, dated March 27, 1860, is held in the Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
1. Henry Clapp (1814–1875) was a journalist, editor and reformer. Whitman and Clapp most likely met in Charles Pfaff's beer cellar, located in lower Manhattan. Clapp, who founded the literary weekly the New-York Saturday Press in 1858, was instrumental in promoting Whitman's poetry and celebrity; over twenty items on Whitman appeared in the Press before the periodical folded in 1860. Clapp told Horace Traubel, "You will have to know something about Henry Clapp if you want to know all about me." (For Whitman's thoughts on Clapp see With Walt Whitman in Camden, "Sunday, May 27, 1888". (Back)
2. Whitman published the poem "Bardic Symbols" in the Atlantic Monthly 5 (April 1860), 445–447. The poem was revised as "Leaves of Grass. 1" in Leaves of Grass (1860) and reprinted as "Elemental Drifts," Leaves of Grass (1867). The final version of the poem, "As I Ebb'd With the Ocean of Life," was published in Leaves of Grass (1881–82). (Back)
3. Thayer and Eldridge was a Boston publishing firm responsible for the third edition of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass (1860). For more on Whitman's relationship with Thayer and Eldridge see "Thayer, William Wilde [1829–1896] and Charles W. Eldridge [1837–1903]." (Back)
4. Though Whitman refused to ask Thayer and Eldridge for money on Clapp's behalf, Clapp wrote to Thayer and Eldridge directly and managed to secure a check for $200. In return Clapp advertised Leaves of Grass for six months in the New-York Saturday Press. (Back)