Walt Whitman – Answer to insisting friend

You ask for items, details of my early life—of genealogy and parentage, particularly of the women of my ancestry, and of its far-back Netherlands stock on the maternal side—of the region where I was born and raised, and my mother and father before me, and theirs before them—with a word about Brooklyn and New York cities, the times I lived there as lad and young man. You say you want to get at these details mainly as the go-befores and embryons of “Leaves of Grass.” Very good; you shall have at least some specimens of them all. I have often thought of the meaning of such things—that one can only encompass and complete matters of that kind by ‘exploring behind, perhaps very far behind, themselves directly, and so into their genesis, antecedents, and cumulative stages. Then as luck would have it, I lately whiled away the tedium of a week’s half-sickness and confinement, by collating these very items for another (yet unfulfilled, probably abandon’d,) purpose; and if you will be satisfied with them, authentic in date-occurrence and fact simply, and told my own way, garrulous-like, here they are. I shall not hesitate to make extracts, for I catch at anything to save labor; but those will be the best versions of what I want to convey.