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About this Item

Title: The Cosmopolitan

Creator: Susan Belasco

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

Whitman Archive ID: per.00161

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


Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, a variety of scholars began to speculate on the question of the authorship of William Shakespeare's plays. A favorite theory was that Francis Bacon, the English philosopher, actually wrote the plays and left behind a series of clues or ciphers in his letters and journals. Whitman was evidently never very interested in this theory but he did publish an essay, "What Lurks behind Shakespeare's Historical Plays," in the Critic on September 27, 1884. On August 30, 1887, he wrote a letter to several friends in which he mentions reading an extensive article on the Shakespeare-Bacon controversy in the August 28th issue of the New York World. In the letter he wrote, "I am tackling it—take less and less stock in it," and the result was "Shakespeare Bacon's Cipher." The poem was rejected by McClure's Magazine and by Harper's New Monthly Magazine but accepted by a new periodical, The Cosmopolitan: A Monthly Illustrated Magazine. Founded in 1886, The Cosmopolitan was designed as a family magazine that included articles on travel, adventure, and women's interests. A number of well-known writers published in the magazine, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Julian Hawthorne, and Harriet Prescott Spofford. Cosmopolitan survives today as the glossy magazine of women's lifestyles and fashion.

Bibliography

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

Mott, Frank Luther. A History of American Magazines, 1885–1905. Vol. 4. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1957.

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

Whitman, Walt. The Correspondence. Edited by Edwin Haviland Miller. Vol. 4. New York: New York University Press, 1969.

Whitman, Walt. Daybooks and Notebooks. Edited by William White. Vol. 2. New York: New York University Press, 1978.

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

"Shakespeare Bacon's Cipher." The Cosmopolitan, October 1887, 142


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