In Whitman's Hand


About this Item

Title: The idea that

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: Between 1854 and 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.00389

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Transcribed from digital images of the original. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the manuscripts, see our statement of editorial policy.

Editorial note: A later note, in Whitman's hand, claims that this manuscript was written in 1855. The manuscript is written on the back of a City of Williamsburgh tax form. Scholars, following Fredson Bowers, have generally assumed that Whitman used the Williamsburgh tax forms from 1857 to 1860, while he was working at the Brooklyn Daily Times. The city of Williamsburgh was incorporated with Brooklyn effective January 1855, so the forms would have been obsolete after that date (Whitman's Manuscripts: Leaves of Grass [1860] [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1955], xli–xliii). Bowers also notes, however, that "it is not impossible that Whitman had picked up these tax forms for scrap paper at Rome Brothers at some unknown date in 1854 or early 1855, or later" (xliii). This possibility would seem to be supported by the facts that some of the tax forms Whitman used are dated as early as 1854 (see "Vast national tracts") and material written on the reverse of one tax form was likely a draft of a paragraph in the preface to the 1855 Leaves of Grass (see "The idea of reconciliation"). The exact date of this manuscript is therefore difficult to determine conclusively, but it is possible Whitman was not mistaken when he dated it. In any case the manuscript was almost certainly between 1854 and 1860, with the later note written before 1888.

Notes written on manuscript: On leaf 1 recto, in Horace Traubel's hand: "see notes Sept 2 1888"

Contributors to digital file: Kirsten Clawson, Jeannette Schollaert, Kevin McMullen, Nicole Gray, and Kenneth M. Price

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The idea that of the that in the nature of things, thr[ough?] all affairs and deeds, national or individual, good and bad, each has its inherent law of punishment or reward, which is part of the deed or affair itself, identical with it, and, with its results, goes with that deed, that affair, then and afterwards.—

The idea that the Woman of America is to become the perfect equal of the man.—

The idea of the good old cause, Liberty—that it is to be honored here, whatever day, whatever question, it presents itself in—that the relation of master and slave [this was written in 1855] is to go the: same road out of These States, that the relation of kings, lords, and commons, has gone.

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