Selected Criticism

Atlantic Monthly, The
Smith, Susan Belasco
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

The Atlantic Monthly: A Magazine of Literature, Art and Politics was the inspiration of Free-Soiler Francis Underwood and writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and James Russell Lowell. Founded as a monthly whose cultural mission would be to guide the age in literature and the arts, the magazine was also firmly antislavery in political orientation. Lowell, editor of the Atlantic from November 1857 until June 1861, was interested in promoting the work of American writers and published works by Harriet Beecher Stowe, John Greenleaf Whittier, Henry David Thoreau, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, as well as younger unknowns, such as Louisa May Alcott and Thomas Bailey Aldrich. Alhough Lowell promoted the works of a variety of American writers, the contributors were generally New Englanders, especially during the early years of the magazine.

Ambivalent about his public reception in the late 1850s, Whitman sought an opportunity for publication in the Atlantic. "Bardic Symbols" (later entitled "As I Ebb'd with the Ocean of Life") appeared in the Atlantic in April 1860. Evidently finding the suggestion of suicide too graphic for the pages of the Atlantic, Lowell deleted two lines from the fourth stanza which Whitman later restored in the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass. Whitman nonetheless offered Lowell three additional poems written during the first months of the Civil War (later included in Drum-Taps), but the editor refused them, apparently finding them too topical for lasting interest. James T. Fields, the next editor of the Atlantic, published "Proud Music of the Sea-Storm" in February of 1869, later reprinted in Passage to India (1871).


Allen, Gay Wilson. The New Walt Whitman Handbook. 1975. New York: New York UP, 1986.

Greenspan, Ezra. Walt Whitman and the American Reader. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1990.

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

Myerson, Joel. Walt Whitman: A Descriptive Bibliography. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 1993.

Sedgwick, Ellery. "The Atlantic Monthly." American Literary Magazines: The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. Ed. Edward E. Chielens. New York: Greenwood, 1986. 50–57.


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