Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: James T. Fields to Walt Whitman, 14 December 1868

Date: December 14, 1868

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01615

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Editorial notes: The annotations, "To," "J. T. Fields," and "Dec. 8. '68," are in the hand of Walt Whitman. The annotation, "see notes Aug 26 & 28–1888," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Elizabeth Lorang, Beverley Rilett, Ashley Lawson, Kevin McMullen, John Schwaninger, Marie Ernster, Cristin Noonan, Paige Wilkinson, Stephanie Blalock, and Amanda J. Axley

page image
image 1
page image
image 2

No. 124, Tremont Street, Boston, and 63, Bleecker Street, New York.
December 14, 1868.

Walt Whitman,
Dear Sir:

In order that your poem shall go into the February number of the Atlantic,1 it is impossible to risk the time it would take, to get the proof to Washington and back. So I promise you the piece shall be read, word for word, and point for point, with your copy, which being in print, there is no chance for an error.

Yours always
James T. Fields2

James T. Fields (1817–1881) succeeded James Russell Lowell as editor of the Atlantic Monthly. After Emerson delivered the poem to him, Fields sent $100 to Whitman on December 5, 1868. He informed Whitman on December 14, 1868 that if he was to get the poem into the February issue it would be impossible to send proof to Washington. This was the second of Whitman's poems to appear in the Atlantic Monthly; "Bardic Symbols" was published in the Atlantic Monthly of April 1860. See also Whitman's January 20, 1860, letter to James Russell Lowell and his March 2, 1860, letter to the editor of the Atlantic Monthly.


1. See Walt Whitman's "Proud Music of the Sea-Storm" (Atlantic Monthly 23 [February 1869], 199–203). The February issue of the Atlantic Monthly was available on January 16: Walt Whitman acknowledged receipt of copies in his January 20, 1869, letter to James T. Field: a "package of February magazines, sent on the 16th, arrived safely yesterday." For more on Whitman's publications in the Atlantic Monthly, see Susan Belasco's entry on The Atlantic Monthly in "Poems in Periodicals." [back]

2. James Russell Lowell had been the editor at the Atlantic Monthly when Whitman published there in 1860. Unbeknownst to Whitman, however, James T. Fields, partner in the Atlantic's publisher Ticknor & Fields, took over the editorship of the magazine in May 1861 as a cost-saving measure. The Atlantic did not publish a list of its editors, and Whitman was not the only writer to submit to Lowell in error. On October 8, Lowell wrote to Fields promising some of his own work soon and enclosing "an article by Mr. S. A. Eliot—and three [poems] from Walt Whitman. '1861' he says is $20. the others $8. each." Two days later, Whitman received an impersonal reply—signed only "Editors of the Atlantic Monthly"—returning "the three poems with which you have favored us, but which we could not possibly use before their interest,—which is of the present,—would have passed." [back]


Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Matt Cohen, Ed Folsom, & Kenneth M. Price, editors.