Commentary

Selected Criticism

Title:
Duyckinck, Evert Augustus (1816–1878)
Author:
Yannella, Donald
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

Whitman and Evert Augustus Duyckinck, near contemporaries, nationalistic Young Americans, and contributors to the movement's main periodical outlet, John L. O'Sullivan's United States Magazine and Democratic Review, labored as journalists in New York during the 1840s and early 1850s. Duyckinck probably served as the Review's literary editor and was coeditor and part owner of other radically nationalistic journals such as Arcturus (1840–1842) and the early Literary World (1847–1853). Aside from ideological sympathies, however, Duyckinck—son of a New York publisher, Columbia educated, and an attorney—had little in common with the poet, and Whitman received virtually no acknowledgment from the man who promoted Melville and Poe.

The reasons for Duyckinck's virtually ignoring Whitman are perhaps self-evident. Duyckinck was a complex man; an intellectual and littérateur committed to the democratic principles and social change of Jacksonian America, he was also profoundly religious, an active participant in the hierarchical and conservative Protestant Episcopal Church. Though he was not a reactionary, Duyckinck's deep religious faith would probably have been the principal barrier to a full appreciation of and taste for Whitman's subjects and prosody, and possibly even the man himself. It is true that Duyckinck and his brother's most enduring work, the Cyclopaedia of American Literature (1855), the place where an entry on Whitman would have been most appropriate, was well along in production in 1855 when the first edition of Leaves appeared, and the same plates were used for the 1856 and 1863 printings. However, the latter did not even include Whitman in its Supplement, nor was he acknowledged in the 1875 revised and reset printing. Whitman himself was not surprised to have been omitted from the Ducykincks' Cyclopaedia. He commented to Traubel in 1888 that he was "not even today accepted in New York by the great bogums—much less then." Whitman recalled having met Evert Duyckinck and his brother, George: "they were both 'gentlemanly men' . . . both very clerical looking—thin—wanting in body: men of true proper style, God help 'em!" (Traubel 139).

Duyckinck, however, is associated with the reprinting of one Whitman poem in an 1857 collaborative anthology with Robert Aris Wilmot, The Poets of the Nineteenth Century. In addition, in the early 1850s Duyckinck and his brother-in-law gained control of Justus Redfield's publishing house and thus may have had a financial interest in the firm in 1871 when it published Whitman.

Bibliography

Chielens, Edward E., ed. American Literary Magazines: The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. New York: Greenwood, 1986.

Pritchard, John Paul. Criticism in America. Norman: U of Oklahoma P, 1956.

Stafford, John. The Literary Criticism of "Young America": A Study in the Relationship of Politics and Literature. Berkeley: U of California P, 1952.

Traubel, Horace. With Walt Whitman in Camden. Vol. 1. 1906. New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 1961.

Yannella, Donald. "Evert Augustus Duyckinck." Antebellum Writers in New York and the South. Vol. 3 of Dictionary of Literary Biography. Ed Joel Myerson. Detroit: Gale, 1978. 101–109.

———. "Writing the 'Other Way': Melville, the Duyckinck Crowd, and Literature for the Masses." A Companion to Melville Studies. Ed. John Bryant. New York: Greenwood, 1986. 63–81.


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