Hard Cover. Philadelphia: David McKay, 1888. First Edition. Very Good.
First edition, first issue. Presentation copy, inscribed by Whitman on the front free endpaper to his close friend, William Ingram: "Wm Ingram / from the author / Walt Whitman / Oct: 2 '88--". Publisher's flexible dark red cloth boards, lettered in gilt. One of approximately 100 special copies printed for Whitman for presentation (binding A). Spine ends lightly worn, tear to lower spine with a minor repair, a few small spots, light offsetting to pastedowns and endpaper. Overall, an attractive copy, very good or better. BAL 21430.
Having published Specimen Days 6 years prior, Walt Whitman published November Boughs in 1888. A collection of new poems plus articles he had previously published, it contains insightful self-critique of his own work and what he believed would be his literary legacy. Notably, Whitman cites his magnum opus Leaves of Grass, acknowledging the public's lack of understanding of it, their outrage at its subject matter, and its failure to become a best-seller. The articles also reflect his views on society, namely his support of the working class and Native Americans, and lessons learned from his harrowing yet rewarding encounters working as a nurse during the American Civil War. Published when he himself was turning 70 years old, the poems in November Boughs are grouped under the heading "Sands at Seventy." They reflect his acknowledgment of his old age, but also his hope to continue writing until the very end, whenever that would be.
William Ingram’s copy of November Boughs
Horace Traubel, who became Whitman’s literary executor and biographer, visited Whitman almost every day from the mid-1880s until his death in 1892. Traubel was of great assistance in getting November Boughs published, as he painstakingly carried the proofs to and from the printer and assisted with the business negotiations. During his home visits, Traubel took copious notes of Whitman’s daily activities, his visitors, and their conversations. He later transcribed and published these interactions in three volumes as With Walt Whitman in Camden, a rich and detailed chronicle of the poet’s later years.
From Traubel’s records, we know that Whitman not only kept a lively correspondence with William Ingram, a Quaker living in Philadelphia, but that the two often visited each other. Mr. Ingram owned a tea shop, and he frequently gifted fruit and wine, and of course, tea, to Whitman. They also traded books with one another and discussed literature and philosophy. Specifically, Ingram regularly visited prisons, in a philanthropic gesture to engage the inmates, and this was a frequent topic of conversation between the men. Of Ingram, Whitman noted “He is a man of the Thomas Paine stripe—full of benevolent impulses, of radicalism, of the desire to alleviate the sufferings of the world—especially the sufferings of prisoners in jails, who are his protégés.” (With Walt Whitman in Camden, Sunday, May 20, 1888). Additionally, he commented “He comes of Quaker stock—is thoroughly benevolent: a noble specimen of good English manhood—a mixture of the admirable Middle-ages philanthrop[y] and Eighteenth century deists, infidels: the generation of Voltaire—Cobbett—Paine infidelism. Ingram's particular fad is for the prisoners—he is what they call a prisoner's friend—goes into the prisons, smooths the rough beds of the fellows confined. He often comes to me for rolls of papers and magazines, which I gladly give him.” (With Walt Whitman in Camden, Saturday, June 21, 1890).
In a letter to Richard Maurice Bucke, another biographer and literary executor, Whitman wrote: “Mr Ingram has just been in & bo't a copy of Nov: B. for a Quakeress friend, & got some loose reading matter for a prisoner in jail I send to sometimes—" [October 26, 1888] (Walt Whitman, the Correspondence, p. 227–228.) Indeed, Ingram and Whitman supported one another, and it is fitting that one of the special copies of November Boughs was presented to him. Ingram remained a trusted friend until the very end of Whitman’s life, visiting him several times in the days leading to his death.
Traubel, Horace. With Walt Whitman in Camden. Boston: Small, Maynard and Co., 1906; New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1908; New York: Mitchell Kennerley, 1914.
Miller, Edwin Haviland [editor]. Walt Whitman, The Correspondence. New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977.
LeMaster, J.R. and Kummings, Donald D. [editors]. Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland Publishing, 1998.
Folsom, Ed and Price, Kenneth. M. [Gen. Eds.] The Walt Whitman Archive. Accessed 12 Apr 2018. http://www.whitmanarchive.org.