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Charles Allen Thorndike Rice to Walt Whitman, 18 January 1889

Dear Mr. Whitman:

One frequently hears it said in connection with the agitation for international copyright that the enactment of the proposed law1 is desirable not only as a matter of justice to the foreign author, and of protection to the native, but also because the flood of English literature, especially of English fiction, which piracy lets loose sets ideals before our young readers which are contrary to the spirit of American life. I do not quite understand how the English ideal of life differs from the American, but a discussion of the subject which I propose to have in The North American Review2 will, no doubt, be a source of enlightenment. Will you be one of the symposium and send me your views in an article of two thousand words, or less, for which, of course, I will pay you? The American Ideal in Fiction3—that will be the title; and each contributor will be expected to point out everything which he considers objectionable in the habit of reading foreign stories.

I am, dear Mr. Whitman, Allen Thorndike Rice.

Charles Allen Thorndike Rice (1851–1889) was a journalist and edited and published the North American Review in New York from 1876 until his death. His Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln by Distinguished Men of His Time (1888) was published by The North American Review Publishing Company.


  • 1. It would be two years before The International Copyright Act of 1891, also referred to as the Chace Act, became the first U.S. Congressional Act to extend some limited copyright protections to foreign copyright holders from select nations. [back]
  • 2. The North American Review was the first literary magazine in the United States. The journalist Charles Allen Thorndike Rice (1851–1889) edited and published the magazine in New York from 1876 until his death. Whitman's friend James Redpath joined the North American Review as managing editor in 1886. After Rice's death, Lloyd Bryce (1852–1915) became owner and editor. At the time of this letter, William Rideing (1853–1918) was assistant editor of the magazine. [back]
  • 3. Whitman briefly mentioned Rice's request for an article in the North American Review in his letter to the Canadian physician Richard Maurice Bucke of January 23–24, 1889: "Rec'd a letter from Rice asking me to write for the N A Review." Whitman's hesitancy to oblige Rice's request as well as his general disinterest for the piece can be gleaned from With Walt Whitman in Camden: "I should acknowledge it in some way: but as to writing about novelists, novels, English, American, any other—God help me: I can't see my way to it . . . what he proposes is out of my line . . . Sure enough why shouldn't I write about novels too if I am of the mind to? though I hardly imagine that I shall do so in this instance" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Thursday, January 24, 1889). [back]
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