“WHITMAN IS A WONDERFUL GENIUS TO ME, AND NO LESS THAN A GREAT POET”: FIRST EDITION OF WHITMAN’S DRUM-TAPS, IMPORTANT PREFERRED ISSUE WITH SEQUEL FOR LINCOLN, CONTAINING THE FIRST PRINTING OF “WHEN LILACS LAST IN THE DOORYARD BLOOM’D”—ASSOCIATION COPY BELONGING TO W.M. ROSSETTI
WHITMAN, Walt. Drum-Taps. ISSUED WITH: Sequel to Drum-Taps. When Lilacs Last in the Door-Yard Bloom’d. New York and Washington: No publisher, 1865-6. 12mo, original brown cloth, gilt-stamped title medallion on front board, title medallion blind-stamped on back, speckled edges; pp. (iv), 5-72, (3), 4-24. Housed in a custom clamshell box.
First edition, the important and preferred second issue, one of only 1000 copies, with the first appearance of the sequel celebrating Lincoln containing “Lilacs” and “O Captain! My Captain!” The copy of editor William Michael Rossetti, who introduced English readers to Whitman with his edition of 1868 and was “one of the first to recognize the ‘entire originality’ of Walt Whitman” (ODNB).
Drum-Taps “stands among the nation’s finest poems” (ANB). Upon the death of Lincoln, Whitman delayed the printing of Drum-Taps and added “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” a “profoundly moving dirge for the martyred Lincoln” (CHAL), with separate pagination, table of contents, and title page. W.M. Rossetti’s published correspondence includes a letter from Horace Scudder (a published author and longtime editor of Atlantic Magazine), dated April 24, 1866, which includes this passage: “Have you seen Walt Whitman’s Drum Taps? It is just possible that you have not; and I will take the opportunity afforded by a friend’s going to London to send you a copy… I do not think that Mr. Lincoln’s death brought any nobler expression of the personal grief of the best natures in the country than ‘O Captain, My Captain!’ The lonely grief of the poet in the strong contrast which he presents was really that felt by all… and although I do not believe that any new American poetry is to be established on a reckless disregard of natural laws of rhythm, simply because such laws have produced conventional rules, I think that no one else has caught so rarely the most elusive elements of American civilization.” Rossetti did not reply to Scudder’s letter until October 28, 1866—he thanked Scudder for the book, confessing that he hadn’t had time to give it a full reading, although he did read “the long one on Lincoln’s funeral, and the one you specially mention O Captain My Captain; both most glorious. Whitman is a wonderful genius to me, and no less than a great poet. I am not at all sure but that one day he will stand out as the greatest English-writing poet of this period.” Rossetti’s edition of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass from 1868 includes many poems from Drum-Taps, but in a different sequence from Whitman’s and with minor editing changes. Still, Rossetti’s edition introduced Whitman to British readers—Rossetti and Swinburne were early admirers of Whitman. English readers had to rely on Rossetti’s edition until Ernest Rhys’ 1886 edition, itself abridged. Myerson A3.1a2. Wells and Goldsmith, 11. BAL 21398.
An important association copy in fine condition.