To Moncure D. Conway
Washington | November 1, 1867
My feeling and attitude about a volume of selections from my Leaves by Mr. Rosetti, for London publication, are simply passive ones—yet with decided satisfaction that if the job is to be done, it is to be by such hands. Perhaps, too, “good-natured,” as you advise—certainly not ill-natured. I wish Mr. Rosetti to know that I appreciate his appreciation, realize his delicacy & honor, & warmly thank him for his literary friendliness.
I have no objection to his substituting other words—leaving it all to his own tact, &c.—for “onanist,” “father-stuff” &c. Briefly, I hereby empower him, (since that seems to be the pivotal affair, & since he had the kindness to shape his action so much by my wishes--& since, indeed, the sovereignty of the responsibility is not at all mine in the case,)—to make verbal changes of that sort, wherever, for reasons sufficient to him, he decides that they are indispensible. I would add that it is a question with me whether the introductory essay or prose preface to the first edition is worth printing.
“Calamus” is a common word here. It is the very large & aromatic grass, or rush, growing about water-ponds in the valleys—[spears about three feet high—often called “sweet-flag”—grows all over the Northern and middle States—(see Webster’s Large Dictionary—Calamus—definition 2).] The recherchéor ethereal sense of the term, as used in my book, arises probably from the actual Calamus presenting the biggest & hardiest kind of spears of grass—and their fresh, aquatic, pungent bouquet.
I write this to catch to-morrow’s steamer from New York. It is almost certain I shall think of other things—moving me to write you further in a week or so.