Selected Criticism

Broadway Journal
Rachman, Stephen
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

As editor of the Broadway Journal, Edgar Allan Poe printed Whitman's brief article "Art-Singing and Heart-Singing" in late 1845. The short-lived weekly was the pet project of Charles F. Briggs, author of The Adventures of Harry Franco (1839); Henry C. Watson; and a former schoolteacher, John Bisco, who very much wanted New York to have a review devoted exclusively to literature. When Poe joined the staff, however, the Journal soon became a forum for his critical obsessions, most notably his charges of plagiarism against Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. By the fall of 1845, Poe was wholly in charge of its editorial content and used Whitman as a correspondent, thanking him for his contributions in the Editorial Miscellany for 22 November 1845. The Journal ceased publication in January 1846.

"Art-Singing and Heart-Singing," which appeared in the 29 November 1845 issue, was a revision of an article for the Brooklyn Star entitled "Heart-Music and Art-Music." In both articles (and subsequent reprints), Whitman celebrated the authentically American singing of the Cheneys, a family quartet from New Hampshire then appearing in New York. Whitman declared that "the subtlest spirit of a nation is expressed through its music" ("Art-Singing" 318). In the Cheneys he found what he called "heart-singing" or a natural, democratic music, and he claimed for it a power similar to what he would claim for his poetic vision in Leaves of Grass.

In Specimen Days, Whitman recalled meeting Poe at the Journal's offices, describing him as "very kindly and human, but subdued, perhaps a little jaded" (702). Whitman's brief connection with the Journal offers a glimpse into his early forays into music criticism and musical nationalism and suggests that Poe presided in a small way over Whitman's nascent ideas of American "singing."


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

Miller, Perry. The Raven and the Whale: The War of Words and Wits in the Era of Poe and Melville. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1956.

Mott, Frank Luther. A History of American Magazines, 1741–1850. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1939.

Whitman, Walt. "Art-Singing and Heart-Singing." Broadway Journal 29 November 1845: 318–319. Rpt. in The Uncollected Poetry and Prose of Walt Whitman. Ed. Emory Holloway. Vol. 1. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1921. 104–106.

____. Specimen Days. Complete Poetry and Collected Prose. Ed. Justin Kaplan. New York: Library of America, 1982. 675–926.


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