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Walt Whitman to Ralph Waldo Emerson, 30 November 1868

Dear Mr. Emerson:

On the eve of sending the enclosed piece1 abroad, I have taken a notion to first offer it to the Atlantic—and, if not too great a liberty, to solicit your services for that purpose.

I would be much obliged if you would take it in to Mr. Fields2 the first time you go to Boston—show him this letter—If available at all, I propose it for about the February number of the magazine. The price is $100, & 30 copies of the number in which it may be printed—and I will ask Mr. Fields to do me the favor to send me an answer within a week from the time he receives the piece—or perhaps he can give his decision at once on receiving it.3

With best respect & love, Walt Whitman.

The piece appears in printed form because I have had it put in type for my own convenience, and to insure greater correctness—I forgot to say, above, that I scrupulously reserve the right to print this piece in future in my book—(which, however, will not be for several months.)

W. W.


  • 1.

    Walt Whitman sent "Proud Music of the Sea-Storm" (later called "Proud Music of the Storm"), which James T. Fields, editor of the Atlantic Monthly, promptly accepted for the magazine; the poem appeared in the February 1869 issue of the magazine.

    In 1888 Horace Traubel asked Whitman why he had appealed "to Emerson as a mediator": "For several reasons, I may say. But the best reason I had was in his own suggestion that I should permit him to do such things for me when the moment seemed ripe for it" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden [1906–1996], 2:22).

  • 2. 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. [back]
  • 3. Whitman reported receipt of $100 in his December 8, 1868 letter to Fields, in which he also indicated that he had not yet received the 30 copies of the Atlantic. [back]
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