Title: Walt Whitman to James Redpath, 21 October 1863
Date: October 21, 1863
Source: The transcription presented here is derived from James Redpath, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 1:171-172. For a detailed description of discrepancies between this electronic edition and the print source, see our statement of editorial policy.
Location: Yale University
Whitman Archive ID: yal.00093
My idea is a book of the time, worthy the time—something considerably beyond mere hospital sketches—a book for sale perhaps in a larger American market—the premises or skeleton memoranda of incidents, persons, places, sights, the past year (mostly jotted down either on the spot or in the spirit of seeing or hearing what is narrated)—(I left New York early last December, & have been around in the front2 or here ever since)—full of interest I surely think—in some respects somewhat a combination in handling of the Old French Memoires, & my own personality (things seen through my eyes, & what my vision brings)—a book full enough of mosaic, but all fused to one comprehensive thing—one of the drifts is to push forward the very big & needed truth, that our national military system needs shifting, revolutionizing & made to tally with democracy, the people3—The officers should almost invariably rise from the ranks—there is an absolute want of democratic spirit in the present system & officers—it is the feudal spirit exclusively—nearly the entire capacity, keenness & courage of our army are in the ranks—(what has been done has been unavoidable so far, but the time has arrived to discuss the change)—
I have much to say of the hospitals, the immense national hospitals—in them too most radical changes of premises are demanded—(the air, the spirit of a thing is every thing, the details follow & adjust themselves). I have many hospital incidents, [that] will take with the general reader—I ventilate my general democracy with details very largely & with reference to the future—bringing in persons, the President, Seward4, Congress, the Capitol, Washington City, many of the actors of the drama—have something to say of the great trunk America, the West &c &c—do not hesitate to diffuse myself—the book is very rapid—is a book that can be read by the five or ten minutes at (being full of small parts, pieces, paragraphs with their dates, incidents &c)—I should think two or three thousand sale ought to be certainly depended on here in hospitals in Washington, among departments &c—
My idea is a book of handy size & form, 16 mo or smallish 12 mo, first rate paper (this last indispensable), ordinary binding, strongly stitched, to cost including copyright not more than 35 or 40cts or there-abouts to make, to retail for a dollar. It should be got out immediately. I think an edition, elegantly bound, might be pushed off for books for presents &c for the holidays, if advertised for that purpose. It would be very appropriate. I think it a book that would please women. I should expect it to be popular with the trade.
Of course I propose the affair to you publisherially as something to invest in, to make out of (for both of us)—I take it it would be a very handsome speculation. Only it is to be done while the thing is warm, namely at once. I have been & am in the midst of these things, I feel myself full of them, & I know the people generally now are too (far more than they know,) & would readily absorb & understand my mem[oranda]. Wherefore let us make & publish the book, & out with it so as to have it for sale by middle or 20th of November.5