Title: Walt Whitman to James Russell Lowell, 2 October 1861
Date: October 2, 1861
Source: Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.
Location: Houghton Library at Harvard University
Whitman Archive ID: har.00051
Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Eric Conrad, and Vanessa Steinroetter
Wednesday morning, October 2, 1861.
Dear Sir: I also send you two more little pieces, to take their chances for the magazine. The price, if you take them, will be $8 each. I forgot to say, with the one I sent yesterday, that whatever pieces are printed, I reserve the right to include them in any future collection of my poems.
1. James Russell Lowell had been the editor at the Atlantic Monthly when Whitman published there in 1860. Unbeknownst to Whitman, however, James T. Fields, partner in the Atlantic's publisher Ticknor & Fields, took over the editorship of the magazine in May 1861 as a cost-saving measure. The Atlantic did not publish a list of its editors, and Whitman subsequently submitted the poem "1861" on October 1, 1861, to Lowell in error. The letter here submits two additional poems, unfortunately unidentified. Later, Whitman received an impersonal reply dated October 10, 1861—signed only "Editors of the Atlantic Monthly"—returning "the three poems with which you have favored us, but which we could not possibly use before their interest,—which is of the present,—would have passed." Horace Traubel questioned Whitman about this rejection many years later, but Whitman could not remember any of the poems he had submitted, only that he had been puzzled by Lowell's reason for their rejection. [back]