Do not for God's sake breathe a word of this to any one even after the papers report it.
December 5, 1860
We go by the board tomorrow or next day2. Please return the check to Mr. Honeybun care of Thayer & Eldridge3. We have fixed your account so that creditors cannot trouble you & so that you owe us but a nominal sum just for appearance sake.—
Our friends would help us but from the condition of our affairs & the prospect of bad business for six or twelve months to come advise us to stop immediately, wind up & begin again.—
The text presented here is derived from a digital image or microfilm reproduction of the original manuscript.
The manuscript of this letter, dated December 5, 1860, is held in the Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
1. Thayer and Eldridge was the 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)
2. By the first week of 1861, Thayer and Eldridge publicly declared bankruptcy. As William Wilde Thayer later remembered in his unpublished autobiography, his publishing firm was "caught with all sails spread, without warning of the storm. Merchants at once began to retrench and reduce liabilities. Capital hid itself. Banks were distrustful. No one knew how the war would end. Books being a luxury, there was no demand. All book firms were 'shaky.' . . . Anti-slavery people were interested in keeping [Thayer and Eldridge] up, but they were forced to call in their funds and most reluctantly let us go down"" (see William Wilde Thayer, "Autobiography of William Wilde Thayer," 22, unpublished manuscript, Feinberg Collection). (Back)
3. Whitman was asked to return the advance check he received (and was previously asked not to cash) for his proposed volume of poetry The Banner At Day-Break. Mr. Honeybun worked as Thayer and Eldridge's book-keeper. (Back)