Commentary

Selected Criticism

Title:
Dana, Charles A. (1819–1897)
Author:
Moore, Andy J.
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

Charles Dana was a prominent American journalist and editor for fifty years. At age twenty-one he was a member of the Brook Farm cooperative community, where he met Horace Greeley. In 1847 Greeley employed Dana as city editor and, two years later, as managing editor of the New York Tribune, where he gained notoriety for his support of the Civil War and the antislavery cause.

As editor of the Tribune Charles Dana wrote the first published review of Leaves of Grass on 23 July 1855. Although this review praised Whitman's "bold stirring thoughts," and his "genuine intimacy with nature," Dana revealed his mixed feelings about this new poetry; he added that its language, "too frequently reckless and indecent, will justly prevent [Whitman's] volume from free circulation in scrupulous circles" (Dana 23). As an act of friendship to Whitman, and with the poet's permission, Dana also published in the New York Tribune on 10 October the famous 1855 letter from Emerson.

While on the staff of the Tribune, Dana came up with the idea for a New American Cyclopaedia, the first American reference work, and he edited this from 1858 to 1864. During the early years of the Civil War, Greeley asked for Dana's resignation because of their ideological differences; Lincoln then appointed Dana as a special investigating agent of the War Department and later Assistant Secretary of War. After the war, in 1868, he became editor and part-owner of the New York Sun, and remained in control of this newspaper for twenty-nine years, until his death. In 1888 Horace Traubel asked Whitman if Dana had been his friend, and Whitman replied, "Yes. Dana wishes me well. The Sun always treats me well" (Traubel 140).

Bibliography

Allen, Gay Wilson. The New Walt Whitman Handbook. 1975. New York: New York UP, 1986.

Dana, Charles A. "The First Notice: 1855." Walt Whitman: The Critical Heritage. Ed. Milton Hindus. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1971. 22–23.

Traubel, Horace. With Walt Whitman in Camden. Vol. 3. 1914. New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 1961.

Wilson, James. The Life of Charles A. Dana. New York: Harper, 1907.


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