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 the manuscripts, see our statement of editorial policy.

Editorial note: The second paragraph of this manuscript appears, with revisions, in the beginning of the penultimate paragraph of the Preface to the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass. 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dates the manuscript after 1857 because it is written on the reverse of a City of Williamsburgh tax form (Notebooks and Unpublished Prose Manuscripts [New York: New York University Press, 1984], 1:400).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). 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 fact that some of the tax forms Whitman used are dated as early as 1854 (see "Vast national tracts"). Grier rightly points out that this may not correspond to the date of Whitman's writing; presumably if Whitman found a stack of obsolete Williamsburgh forms in 1857, some may have been discarded drafts dated earlier (5:1946). The manuscript is thus difficult to date conclusively, but the connection to the Preface and the ambiguity about the forms would suggest that there is a strong chance it was written just before or early in 1855.

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

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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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