In Whitman's Hand


About this Item

Title: American literature must become distinct

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: Between 1845 and 1855

Whitman Archive ID: rut.00010

Source: Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. 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 includes ideas similar to those found in the 1855 prose preface to Leaves of Grass, suggesting that the date is likely before or early in 1855. Floyd Stovall suggests that some of Whitman's ideas in this manuscript came from an article entitled "Thoughts on Reading" that appeared in the American Whig Review in May 1845 ("Notes on Whitman's Reading," American Literature 26.3 [November 1954]: 352). The manuscript is held at Rutgers University Library along with several similar manuscripts that are numbered sequentially and probably date from around or before 1855: see "dithyrambic trochee," "The only way in which," "The money value of real," and "ground where you may."

Notes written on manuscript: On leaf 1 recto, in unknown hand: "1"

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

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American literature must become distinct from all others.—American writers of must become national, idiomatic, free from the genteel laws—America herself appears (she does not at all appear hitherto) in the spirit and the form of her poems, and all other literary works.—


The greatest poets submits only to himself.

Is nature wild and rude, free, irregular? If nature be so, I & you to too will be so.

Do you suppose Nature keeps has nothing more under those beautiful terrible irrational forms?

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