Commentary

Selected Criticism

Title:
Galaxy, The
Author:
Matteson, John T.
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

The Galaxy was a New York monthly periodical founded and edited by William Conant Church and his brother Francis Pharcellus Church. The Galaxy began publication in 1866 and continued until 1878, when it was absorbed by the Atlantic Monthly. In December 1866 it published an important early critical essay on Whitman, John Burroughs's "Walt Whitman and His 'Drum-Taps,'" which Whitman's friend William O'Connor hailed as "the first article . . . that reveals real critical power and insight, and a proper reverence, upon the subject of Walt Whitman's poetry" (Whitman 296n). So pleased was Whitman with the essay that he wrote his mother three letters between 23 November and 4 December 1866, urging her to buy the magazine. In September 1867, the Galaxy published Whitman's poem, "A Carol of Harvest, for 1867," later titled "The Return of the Heroes."

On 7 September 1867 Whitman wrote to the elder Church that he had "in composition, an article (prose) of some length, the subject opportune. I shall probably name it 'Democracy.' It is partly provoked by, & in some respects a rejoinder to, Carlyle's Shooting Niagara" (Whitman 338). The Galaxy published the article in its December 1867 issue. Whitman later expanded "Democracy" into the book Democratic Vistas. In May 1868 the Galaxy also published Whitman's essay "Personalism," which was also incorporated into Democratic Vistas.

Whitman was evidently fond of the Galaxy. He wrote to O'Connor, "I have felt that the Galaxy folks have received and treated me with welcome warmth and respect" (Whitman 343). Years later, however, the relationship apparently soured, for Whitman complained to the West Jersey Press that his "offerings to Scribner are returned with insulting notes; the Galaxy the same" (qtd. in Grier 349).

Bibliography

Grier, Edward F. "Walt Whitman, The Galaxy, and Democratic Vistas." American Literature 23 (1951–1952): 332–350.

Reynolds, David S. Walt Whitman's America: A Cultural Biography. New York: Knopf, 1995.

Scholnick, Robert J. "'Culture' or Democracy: Whitman, Eugene Benson, and The Galaxy." Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 13 (1996): 189–198.

Whitman, Walt. The Correspondence. Ed. Edwin Haviland Miller. Vol. 1. New York: New York UP, 1961.


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