June 27, 03:32 PM GMT
70,000 - 100,000 USD
LEAVES OF GRASS. NEW YORK: (WILLIAM E. CHAPIN FOR THE AUTHOR), 1867
8vo (7 1/4 x 4 3/8 in.; 184 x 111 mm). Engraved portrait by Samuel Hollyer after a photograph inserted opposite p. 23, as issued, fine albumen photograph portrait laid down on verso of front flyleaf facing title; title-page and following leaf browned, bit of glue-stain and small portion of flyleaf adhered to bottom margin of the title from the mounting of the photograph opposite, small newspaper clipping mounted beneath inscription, some scattered browning and very occasional staining. Publisher's half roan over marbled boards, spine gilt-lettered, endpapers marbled en suite, marbled edges; rather worn, with loss at head of spine and foot of front cover. Half brown morocco folding-case.
Peter Doyle (presentation inscription from the author)
BAL 21399; Myerson A2.4.a1; cf. Martin G. Murray, "'Pete the Great': A Biography of Peter Doyle," in Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 12 (Summer 1994): 1-51; Charles Shively, "Whirled Among Sophistications: Peter Doyle," in Calamus Lovers: Walt Whitman's Working Class Camerados (San Francisco: Gay Sunshine Press, 1987)
Presentation copy, inscribed by Whitman to his "Calamus Lover," Peter Doyle on the front flyleaf: "Peter G. Doyle, from Walt Whitman, Washington, April 29, 1868." Whitman probably met Peter Doyle in Washington, D.C., sometime in early 1865 while Doyle was a streetcar conductor, and—despite a number of dissimilarities: Whitman was 45, an accomplished literary figure, and an ardent Unionist, while Doyle was 21, virtually illiterate, and a Confederate veteran—they remained friends, lovers, and correspondents for many years. Dr. R. M. Bucke, one of Whitman's early adherents, edited and published their letters in 1897 as Calamus: A Series of Letters Written During the Years 1868–1880 by Walt Whitman to a Young Friend (Peter Doyle).
In an interview with Bucke published in Calamus, Doyle fondly recalled his first meeting with the poet: "How different Walt was then in Washington from the Walt you knew in later years! You would not believe it. He was an athlete—great, great. I knew him to do wonderful lifting, running, walking. You ask where I first met him? It is a curious story. We felt to each other at once. I was a conductor. The night was very stormy,—he had been over to see Burroughs before he came down to take the car—the storm was awful. Walt had his blanket—it was thrown round his shoulders—he seemed like an old sea-captain. He was the only passenger, it was a lonely night, so I thought I would go in and talk with him. Something in me made me do it and something in him drew me that way. He used to say there was something in me had the same effect on him. Anyway, I went into the car. We were familiar at once—I put my hand on his knee—we understood. He did not get out at the end of the trip—in fact went all the way back with me. I think the year of this was 1866. From that time on we were the biggest sort of friends."
Whitman and Doyle were near-constant companions for seven years. Martin Murray has written that the "effects of [Whitman's] friendship with Doyle may also be seen in the 1867 edition of Whitman's Leaves of Grass"—that is, the edition from which the present presentation copy derives: "Whitman added several new poems, but more significantly, deleted three poems that had been in the 'Calamus' section. As Florence Freedman noted in her biography of Whitman's knight-errant, William Douglas O'Connor [William Douglas O'Connor, Walt Whitman's Chosen Knight (Ohio University Press, 1985)], Whitman eliminated those poems that 'expressed self-doubt and despair,' but 'kept those which expressed love and longing unaccompanied by despair.' … It seems likely … that Walt's new-found confidence in love was, in large measure, a result of his satisfying friendship with Pete. The excisions can be interpreted as Whitman putting the unhappiness of his first 'Calamus' love relationship with Fred Vaughan behind him, as he embarked on this new love adventure."
Although Doyle and Whitman were in touch until the latter's death in 1892, they saw less of each other after 1873 when Whitman suffered both the death of his mother and a debilitating stroke, events that led him from Washington back to New York and, eventually, to Camden, New Jersey. That same year, Whitman drew up a will in which he left to Doyle his silver pocket watch; a revised will of 1888 maintained that bequest, but in Whitman's final will, 1892, Doyle was left nothing. He retained all of Walt's letters and postcards, of course, and seems to have received various mementos of Whitman from other of the poet's disciples, Bucke, Horace Traubel, and John Burroughs, who made sure that Doyle was admitted to Whitman's funeral.
Charles Shively finds in another poignant reminiscence captured by Bucke's interview an echo of the final poem in the Calamus cycle, "Full of Life Now": "I, that was visible, am become invisible, … / Fancying how happy you were, if I could be with you, and become your comrade; / Be it as if I were with you. (Be not too certain but I am now with you.)." Doyle's words were spoken after he had gone to the closet and retrieved an old raglan of Walt's: "I now and then put it on, lay down, think I am in the old times. Then he is with me again. It's the only thing I kept amongst many old things. When I get it on and stretch out on the old sofa I am very well contented. It is like Aladdin's lamp. I do not ever for a minute lose the old man. He is always near by."
This is the scarce first issue of the fourth edition, including first-edition sheets from the first editions of Drum-Taps, Sequel to Drum-Taps, and "Songs Before Parting," all with separate title-pages and pagination. An astonishing association copy and a vital relic of the greatest love of Whitman's life.