Interviews and Reminiscences

About this Item

Title: "Leaves of Grass": An Interview with the Author at Camden, N. J.

Creator: Anonymous

Date: May 22, 1882

Whitman Archive ID: med.00609

Source: Daily Globe 22 May 1882: 1. Our transcription is based on a digital image of a microfilm copy of an original issue. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the interviews, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Brett Barney and Shea Montgomerey

image 1



An Interview With the Author
at Camden, N. J.


The Correspondence With His
Boston Publishers.


The Effort of Attorney-General
Marston to Suppress the Book.


[Special Despatch to The Boston Globe.]

Mr. Walt Whitman, at his home in Camden today, confirmed the statement that his publishers, Osgood & Co. of Boston, had thrown up their contract for publishing "Leaves of Grass," in obedience to the official command of Attorney-General Marston of Massachusetts, who classified the book as obscene literature. The book, it will be remembered, was published in Boston in September.

In conversation today, Mr. Whitman said before he made the contract, he specified that every line should remain as he wrote it, and that nothing should be omitted. This royalty was fixed at twenty-five cents for every $2 copy sold. The sale was fair, the author's royalty during the winter and spring amounting to over $400. Several hundred copies went to London, and the "Leaves of Grass" attracted the comment of the world. But on March 1 District-Attorney Stevens of Boston, under instructions from Attorney-General Marston, notified Osgood & Co. that he should bring suit against them to stop the circulation of Whitman's book on the ground that it was obscene literature, unless a long list of passages and poems were expurgated. On March 21 Osgood & Co. wrote to Whitman asking whether the objectionable passages could be left out. He wrote, The list, whole and several, is rejected by me, and will not be thought of under any circumstances." Publication was then suspended. A week later the publishers wrote again, saying that if Whitman would only consent to cut out the poems entitled "To a Common Prostitute" and "A Woman Waits for Me" the official would be satisfied and the book could go on. But the author, feeling that he could not remove a part of the work of his life without endangering its artistic completeness, emphatically declined even to consider the proposition. Osgood & Co. replied that they must give up publishing the book, and turned the plates over to the author, saying: "We feel it right to say that it is not we who have fixed the inflexible conditions under which this matter could be decided. Those conditions have been fixed by yourself."

There is the best of feeling between Mr. Whitman and the Osgoods, as the entire action came from Attorney-General Marston.


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