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Walt Whitman to the Editors of Harper's Magazine, 7 January 1860

The theory of "A Chant of National Feuillage"1 is to bring in, (devoting a line, or two or three lines, to each,) a comprehensive collection of touches, localés, incidents, idiomatic scenes, from every section, South, West, North, East, Kanada, Texas, Maine, Virginia, the Mississippi Valley, &c. &c. &c.—all intensely fused to the urgency of compact America, "America always"—all in a vein of graphic, short, clear, hasting along—as having a huge bouquet to collect, and quickly taking and binding in every characteristic subject that offers itself—making a compact, the-whole-surrounding, National Poem, after its sort, after my own style.

Is there any other poem of the sort extant—or indeed hitherto attempted?

You may start at the style. Yes, it is a new style, of course, but that is necessitated by new theories, new themes—or say the new treatment of themes, forced upon us for American purposes. Every really new person, (poet or other,) makes his style—sometimes a little way removed from the previous models—sometimes very far removed.

Furthermore, I have surely attained headway enough with the American public, especially with the literary classes, to make it worth your while to give them a sight of me with all my neologism.

The price is $40. Cash down on acceptance.

I reserve the use of the piece in any collection of my poems I may publish in future.

Should my name be printed in the programme of contributors at any time it must not be lower down than third in the list. If the piece is declined, please keep the MS. for me to be called for. Will send, or call, last of next week.

Walt Whitman


  • 1. Number four of the "Chants Democratic," printed in the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass, 159–166. Apparently the poem was rejected by Harper's. [back]
  • 2. Endorsed (by Walt Whitman): "Private note from Walt Whitman | To Editors and Proprietors Harper's | Magazine, accompanying 'A Chant of National Feuillage.'" [back]
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