In Whitman's Hand


About this Item

Title: The idea of reconciliation

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: Between 1854 and 1860

Whitman Archive ID: loc.05180

Source: The Thomas Biggs Harned Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1842–1937, 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: A version of the second paragraph of this manuscript appears toward the end of the preface to the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass: "No great literature nor any like style of behaviour or oratory or social intercourse or household arrangements or public institutions or the treatment by bosses of employed people, nor executive detail or detail of the army or navy, nor spirit of legislation or courts or police or tuition or architecture or songs or amusements or the costumes of young men, can long elude the jealous and passionate instinct of American standards" (xii). Edward Grier dates the manuscript after 1857 because it is written on the reverse of a City of Williamsburgh tax form (Notebooks and Unpublished Prose Manuscripts [New York: New York University Press, 1984], 1:400). 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 Grier points out, this may not correspond to the date of Whitman's writing (5:1946). Whitman may have found a stack of obsolete Williamsburgh forms in 1857 that included discarded draft forms dated earlier. Although this manuscript matches wording in the preface to the 1855 edition, Whitman copied out sections of the preface in several later manuscripts, and the revision from "much longer" to "permanently" suggests that here Whitman may have been revising away from the preface version here as well. The manuscript is thus difficult to date conclusively, but it was almost certainly written after 1854 and probably before 1860.

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

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The idea of reconciliation—that what has been done, is consumed—Ever, out of its ashes, let new, sweeter, more amicable fruits ripen.—

The idea that no style of behaviour, or dress, or public institutions, or treatment by bosses of employed people, and nothing in the army or navy, nor in the courts, or police, or tuition, or amusements, can much longer permanently elude the jealous and passionate instinct of American standards.—

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