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About this Item

Title: The Literary World

Creator: Walt Whitman [unsigned in original]

Date: October 12, 1846

Whitman Archive ID: per.00611

Source: Brooklyn Daily Eagle 12 October 1846: [2]. Our transcription is based on a digital image of a microfilm copy of the original issue. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the journalism, see our statement of editorial policy.

Editorial note: This piece is unsigned. However, Whitman was the editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle when this editorial was written, and it was first attributed to Whitman by Cleveland Rodgers and John Black in Walt Whitman, The Gathering of the Forces: Editorials, Essays, Literary and Dramatic Reviews and Other Material Written by Walt Whitman as Editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1846 and 1847 (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1920). The piece was also included by Herbert Bergman in Walt Whitman, The Journalism. Volume I: 1834–1846 (New York: Peter Lang, 1998). The Whitman Archive editors agree that the style and content of the piece are consistent with other known Whitman writings of this period.

Contributors to digital file: Ruth L. Bohan, Taylor Sloan, and Kevin McMullen

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The Literary World.


This is a handsome fifty cent edition of many of the finest poems in the English language—for we consider Mr. Longfellow to be gifted by God with a special faculty of dressing beautiful thoughts in beautiful words. The country is not half just to this eloquent writer; an honor and a glory as he is to the American name—and deserving to stand on the same platform with Bryant and Wordsworth. The pages of the book we are noticing abound with proofs of this deserving: one little turn of thought alone in his poem of 'Rain' is a specimen—a startlingly wild and solemn thought, which, in its complete out–of–the–way–ness from anything like commonplace, could never have sprung in the mind of any but a genuine Converser with the Ideal;—

'For his thought, that never stops,
Follows the water drops
Down to the graves of the dead,
Down through chasms and gulfs profound,
To the dreary fountain-head
Of lakes and rivers under ground;
And sees them when the rain is done,
On the bridge of colors seven
Climbing up once more to heaven,
Opposite the setting sun'—

Says he—as a suggestion of how the commonest occurrences offer themes of great thoughts to the true poet.


This large and handsomely printed work is upon a subject little treated of by 'literary men;' for with the exception of young Dana's book, we know hardly a work prepared by a competent eye-witness, on the subject of the Whale Fishery, in its actual operations, and all the strange and varied scenes it exhibits. Numerous engravings, from drawings by Mr. Von Schmidt,1 adorn the work, and explain the text. Besides the interesting acct. of a Cruise in a Whaler, and of the Whale Fishery, with authentic adventures, anecdotes, &c., there are notes of a sojourn in Zanzibar, &c. . . . . . Perhaps, of late, there has hardly been a book 'brought out' with less of flummery, and more of real worth, than these 'Etchings' as the author himself modestly calls them.2 They take the reader right into the midst of the scenes they describe; and with a pleasant freshness of style, aided by the pictures, afford a certainty of realizing and comprehending what is told, as if it were beheld with the bodily vision. We shall shortly make some extracts from the work.


Truly says the writer of this book, "We may learn much from the pulseless solitudes—from the desert untrodden by the foot of living thing—from the frozen world of mountains, whose chasms and cliffs never echoed to aught but the thunder tempests girding their frozen peaks—from old Nature, piled, rocky, bladeless, toneless—if we will allow its lessons of awe to reach the mind, and impress it with the fresh and holy images which they were made to inspire." . . . . . . The topics treated of in this work are not only the Californias, and 'life' there, but the Great South Sea and the Hawaiian Islands. Graham has published it in very fair style—and the price is fifty cents.

Virtue's ILLUSTRATED FAMILY BIBLE, Nos. 31 and 32.—26 John st., N. Y.

Beautiful engravings of the 'Mount of Olives,' and 'Paul preaching at Athens,' embellish these numbers.3 The Landscape is surpassingly fine—from drawings taken on the spot, and presenting the scene to the life. We have previously spoken in very high terms of the typographical excellence of this serial.

GREENWOOD ILLUSTRATED. No. 2. R. Martin, 26 John st.., N. Y.

The plan of this work involves engravings, executed in the perfectest style of the art, of real scenes in Greenwood—the tombs, the walks, the picturesque groupings of trees, the water views, etc., and also descriptive and biographical notices, with matter opportune to the character of the work. In printing, paper, &c. 'Greenwood Illustrated' is a special master–piece.4

POEMS, by C. F. Hoffman. Harpers, N. Y.

Mr. Hoffman is a gay writer—and many of his pieces make one think of Moore, whose style he imitates. But Mr. Hoffman has not, by very, very far, the 'gift' of a 'divine' poet.


1. The artist, A. A. von Schmidt (dates unknown), was a personal acquaintance of the author, J. Ross Browne. Von Schmidt's drawings had their origins in rough sketches Browne himself had made during his whaling experiences that inspired the book. [back]

2. The book's full title was Etchings of a Whaling Cruise: with notes of a Sojourn on the Island of Zanzibar to which is appended a brief History of the Whale Fishery, Its Past and Present Condition. By drawing attention to the first word of the book's title, "Etchings," Whitman underscores his appreciation of the sister arts tradition which celebrated affinities between the verbal and visual arts. See especially, Bohan, "Whitman and the Sister Arts," Walt Whitman Quarterly Review, 16, no. 3–4 (1999), 153–60. [back]

3. The book was published by George Virtue (1794–1868), a London publisher with offices in New York, which were overseen by his son, James Sprent Virtue (1829–1892). The elder Virtue was particularly known for his illustrated books. Many of the drawings for the Illustrated Family Bible were contributed by the British engraver William Henry Bartlett (1809–1854), including some made on his tour of the Middle East. [back]

4. For Whitman's comments on the first installment of Greenwood Illustrated, see "Literary Notes," August 15, 1846, Brooklyn Daily Eagle. [back]


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