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James T. Fields to Walt Whitman, 5 December 1868

 loc.01614.001_large.jpg My dear Sir:1

Mr. Emerson2 has handed me the poem, which you offer to the Atlantic Monthly; which I shall gladly publish in our February number,3 and enclose herewith. check for one hundred dollars,4 the sum named in your letter to Mr. Emerson.5

With best wishes. I am Very sincerely yours James T. Fields Walt Whitman. Washington.  loc.01614.002_large.jpg  loc.01614.003_large.jpg  loc.01614.004_large.jpg

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. 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]
  • 2. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882) was an American poet and essayist who began the Transcendentalist movement with his 1836 essay Nature. On November 30, 1868, Whitman informed Ralph Waldo Emerson that "Proud Music of the Storm" was "put in type for my own convenience, and to ensure greater correctness." He asked Emerson to take the poem to James T. Fields, editor of the Atlantic Monthly, who promptly accepted it and published it in February 1869. For more on Emerson, see Jerome Loving, "Emerson, Ralph Waldo [1809–1882]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 3. 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]
  • 4. Whitman confirmed acceptance of the check for $100 in his letter to James T. Fields of December 8, 1868, as was it his payment in full for the piece "Proud Music of the Sea-Storm" (later called "Proud Music of the Storm"). [back]
  • 5. See Whitman's letter to Ralph Waldo Emerson of November 30, 1868. [back]
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