Commentary

Selected Criticism

Title:
Life Illustrated
Author:
Pannapacker, William A.
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

A miscellany of literature, agriculture, photography, mechanics, reform movements, and other topics, Life Illustrated was a weekly four-page folio printed in New York by Fowler and Wells from 1854 until it merged in 1861 with the American Phrenological Journal, another Fowler and Wells publication, to become the American Phrenological Journal and Life Illustrated, which continued until 1869.

Life Illustrated provided publicity and support for the first two editions of Leaves of Grass. Fowler and Wells sold the first edition (July 1855) in their shop at 308 Broadway, and one of the first reviews of Leaves appeared in Life Illustrated (28 July 1855). They published Ralph Waldo Emerson's letter to Whitman of 21 July, "I greet you at the beginning of a great career" (20 October); they responded to Rufus Griswold's criticisms in the Criterion with the "Annihilation of Walt Whitman" (15 December); and they reprinted favorable material from other periodicals such as Fanny Fern's review in the New York Ledger (17 May 1856) and an unsigned review in the London Leader (19 July 1856).

Meanwhile, Whitman resumed his journalistic career at Life Illustrated from November 1855 to August 1856. His publications covered a range of topics: "The Opera" (10 November); "The Egyptian Museum" (8 December); "Christmas at 'Grace'" (26 January); "America's Mightiest Inheritance [The English Language]" (12 April); "Decent Homes for Working-Men" (12 April); and "Voltaire" (10 May). He also published a series of articles in Life Illustrated called "New York Dissected," which included "The Fourth of July" (12 July); "Wicked Architecture" (19 July); "The Slave Trade" (2 August); "Broadway" (9 August); and "Street Yarn" (16 August).

In 1856 Fowler and Wells agreed to finance the second edition of Leaves of Grass. An article in Life Illustrated (16 August) proclaims the popularity of the first edition and announces the advent of a second edition with "amendments and additions," including Emerson's famous greeting on the spine. Nevertheless, Whitman was dissatisfied with Fowler and Wells as publishers, and his relationship with them soon dissolved, along with his connection to Life Illustrated.

Bibliography

Allen, Gay Wilson. The Solitary Singer: A Critical Biography of Walt Whitman. 1955. Rev. ed. 1967. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1985.

Mott, Frank Luther. A History of American Magazines. 5 vols. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1938–1968.

Whitman, Walt. New York Dissected. Ed. Emory Holloway and Ralph Adimari. New York: Rufus Rockwell Wilson, 1936.


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