Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Francis P. Church and William C. Church, 21 February 1868

Date: February 21, 1868

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 2:18–19. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Location: Private collection of Mrs. Francis Frederic Phillips

Whitman Archive ID: prc.00018

Contributors to digital file: Kenneth M. Price, Elizabeth Lorang, Zachary King, and Eric Conrad




Washington,
February 21, 1868.

Messrs Church.1
My friends,

I have now ready the prose article—(will make, I should think, about 14 printed pages)—which I mentioned to W. F. Church,2 at an interview here not long since.

I cannot give you any complete description of the piece—but will say that it takes up the subject of Democracy where the article by that name in the Galaxy of December, left it—and applies to Individuality—sketches the portrait of the ideal American of the future—also characterizations of the American woman—overhauls the Culture theory, shows its deficiencies, tested by any grand, practical Democratic test—argues that the main thing wanted for the literary, esthetic, & moral areas of the United States is to institute what must result in copious supplies, among the masses, of healthy, acute, handsome Individualities, modernized, & fully adapted to our soil, our days, city & country. The name of my piece is

Personalism.

Don't be alarmed at the (perhaps at first sight) oddity of the word3—it is the right title for the article, and will justify itself, & remain.

The piece is a following up of Democracy—& is, as a literary performance, I think better than that paper—& will arouse more attention. Of course there is nothing in it which you would demur to print in the magazine.

Are your plans such that you would probably like the piece for your April number? Could you print it positively as the leader? Please give me definite & immediate answers. The piece is all ready.


Walt Whitman.


Notes:

1. William Conant Church (1836–1917), journalist and publisher, was a correspondent for several New York newspapers until he founded the Army and Navy Journal in 1863. With his brother Francis Pharcellus (1839–1906), he established the Galaxy in 1866. Financial control of the Galaxy passed to Sheldon and Company in 1868, and it was absorbed by the Atlantic Monthly in 1878. William published a biography of his life-long friend Ulysses S. Grant in 1897, and Francis wrote for the New York Sun the unsigned piece "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus." See Edward F. Grier, "Walt Whitman, the Galaxy, and Democratic Vistas," American Literature, 23 (1951–1952), 332–350; Donald N. Bigelow, William Conant Church & "The Army and Navy Journal" (New York: Columbia University Press, 1952); J. R. Pearson, Jr., "Story of a Magazine: New York's Galaxy, 1866–1878," Bulletin of the New York Public Library, 61 (1957), 217–237, 281–302. [back]

2. Walt Whitman intended to write W. C. Church. [back]

3. Apparently Walt Whitman coined the word "personalism," which Bronson Alcott introduced into American philosophy; see Gay Wilson Allen, Walt Whitman Handbook (Chicago: Packard and Company, 1946), 303. The essay appeared in the Galaxy, 5 (May 1868), 540–547, though not as the lead article, and was later part of Democratic Vistas[back]


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