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About this Item

Title: The Athenaeum

Creator: Susan Belasco

Publication information: Written for the Walt Whitman Archive. First published on the Archive in 2008.

Whitman Archive ID: per.00053

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Susan Belasco, and Kevin McMullen


In 1876, Whitman felt that his appeal to American audiences was waning and that he was even neglected by American periodicals and readers. Suffering some rejections of his poems from magazines, Whitman began to write about what he called his "American neglect." In what was clearly an advertising campaign to attract attention to his work, he appealed to British friends for help and published an anonymous article in the West Jersey Press on 26 January 1876, "Walt Whitman's Actual American Position." The publication sparked an international debate about Whitman's "neglect" that helped to promote his work—he published his Centennial edition of Leaves of Grass and Two Rivulets as well as Memoranda During the War in 1876. In the midst of this controversy, the British literary paper, The Athenaeum, published "The Man-of-War Bird." The Athenaeum: A Journal of English and Foreign Literature, Science, the Fine Arts, Music and the Drama, launched by J.S. Buckingham in 1828, became a highly influential British weekly until its demise in 1921. The weekly magazine included extensive reviews of new literature as well as reviews of fine arts and music. "The Man-of-War Bird" was undoubtedly placed there by his friend, William Michael Rossetti, who had edited a selection of poems from Leaves of Grass and published it in England in 1868.

Bibliography

Loving, Jerome. Walt Whitman: The Song of Himself. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.

Myerson, Joel. Walt Whitman: A Descriptive Bibliography. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1993.

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

Smith, Sherwood. "William Michael Rossetti." In Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, edited by J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings. New York: Garland Publishing, 1998.

Wellens, Oscar. "The Brief and Brilliant Life of The Athenaeum under Mr. Middleton Murray." Neophilogus 85 (2001): 137-152.

Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass: Comprehensive Reader's Edition. Edited by Harold W. Blodgett and Sculley Bradley. New York: New York University Press, 1965.

Poems

"The Man-of-War Bird." The Athenaeum, April 1886, 463


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