In Whitman's Hand


About this Item

Title: The idea that in the

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 manuscripts, see our statement of editorial policy.

Editorial note: This manuscript is written on the back of a City of Williamsburgh tax form. A later note, in Whitman's hand, claims that the manuscript was written in 1855. 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). Most of the manuscripts Whitman wrote on the tax forms can be dated to the late 1850s. Bowers also notes, however, that Whitman may have used the forms over a considerable span of time, and 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). At least two of the tax forms Whitman used were dated 1854 (see, for instance, "Vast national tracts"), but as Edward Grier points out, this may not correspond to the date of Whitman's writing (Notebooks and Unpublished Prose Manuscripts [New York: New York University Press, 1984], 5:1946). Whitman may have found a stack of obsolete Williamsburgh forms in 1857 that included discarded draft forms dated earlier. This manuscript is thus difficult to date conclusively, but it was almost certainly written after 1854 and probably before 1860. Based on a transcription of the manuscript in Horace Traubel's With Walt Whitman in Camden, the later note about the date of the manuscript must have been added before September 1888 ([New York: Mitchell Kennerley, 1915], 246).

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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