Definitive autographed first edition of Complete Poems & Prose of Walt Whitman, 1855...1888, limited to 600 copies printed for the author's use, published in Philadelphia by Ferguson Bros. & Co., 1888-89. Hardcover with dark-green morocco and marbled boards and a gilt-lettered spine, 6.75 x 10.5, approximately 892 pages. The volume consists of Leaves of Grass, November Boughs, and Specimen Days and Collect. Signed at the base of the Leaves of Grass title page in black ink, and also signed and inscribed on a tipped-in free end page in black ink, "Gabriel Sarrazin, France, from the author Walt Whitman, America, Jan: 28, 1889."
Affixed to the reverse of the tipped-in page is an ALS, signed "Walt Whitman," one page, measuring 8.5 x 11 unfolded, dated September 5, 1890, from Camden, New Jersey. Addressed to Sarrazin, the letter reads, in full: "Your letter from Noumea [South Pacific] came this forenoon & has quite surprised me—no doubt it will all be better for you—any mark'd move by a man, (we call it in English 'a change of base') will be something of a gain. Still, here, laid up in my old chair & room, waning slightly but surely, pretty fair in physical conditions (had some oysters, ryebread & coffee for breakfast) maintain good spirits—am propelled in wheel chair out door & to the river side nearly every day—& in other respects 'hold the fort' sort o as we might call it—& as I believe I have told you in letters before—y'r letter to H. L. Traubel comes here & that to Morris is doubtless rec'd...
We will see if this gets through as well to you—& I must be sure to send you a paper now and then, & see if they reach you all right—I told you I had y'r essay ab't L of G English'd, (& it has done me more comfort than you can know)—& it shall be printed here one of these days (It and our Col. Ingersoll's speech lately are my grand panaceas)—I have also a copy of the London Universal Review that prints it in French. I am collecting a little final annex (2d annex) to be added to L of G. When printed I will send you the sheets—Also an appendix to November Boughs—What can I send you hence? Write to me and tell—I am sitting here alone in comfort & the fifth sunny perfect day outside as I glance from the window." Affixed to the upper edge of the tipped free end page is the original mailing envelope panel, addressed in Whitman's own hand, "M Gabriel Sarrazin Magistrate Nouméa Nouvelle Caledonie (Colonies Francaises)." Autographic condition: very good, with the tipped-in inscribed page exhibiting foxing, tape to edges, and evidence of letter affixed to the reverse; apart from both being permanently affixed and the ALS folded, the letter and corresponding envelope present nicely. Book condition: G+/None.
Gabriel Sarrazin, a noted translator and poet, was the recipient of this remarkable book and letter pairing. Sarrazin's translation of Rosetti's 'Blessed Damozel' was fittingly set to music by Claude Debussy, with 'La demoiselle élue': what some scholars consider the young composer's first masterpiece. Sarrazin praised Whitman extravagantly in an essay in his book: La Renaissance de la Poésie Anglaise, 1798-1889, which the Leaves of Grass author had translated. Whitman scholar Ed Folsom says of the relationship between Whitman and Sarrazin: it was 'one of the warmest and most satisfying relationships of Whitman's last years.' Whitman wrote that Sarrazin's article on him was 'a great steady trade wind hurrying the ship into port.' As a triple autographic scarcity—two signatures in the uncommon Leaves of Grass-related book and a handwritten letter—this is an exquisite literary offering.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.