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About this Item

Title: Brother Jonathan

Creator: Susan Belasco

Whitman Archive ID: per.00160

Source: Written for the Walt Whitman Archive. First published on the Archive in 2008. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the periodical poems, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Susan Belasco, and Kevin McMullen

During the early 1840s, Whitman worked as a freelancer for several magazines and newspapers, including Brother Jonathan, a new periodical, subtitled "A Weekly Compend of Belles Lettres and the Fine Arts, Standard Literature, and General Intelligence." The weekly was named for "Brother Jonathan," an early national symbol used to denote Americans eventually replaced by "Uncle Sam." First established in November 1839 and edited by Park Benjamin and Rufus Griswold, Brother Jonathan published a variety of American fiction writers and quickly became known for its sensational stories. In 1840, the journal absorbed the Weekly Dispatch, and several well-known literary and publishing figures served as editors. H. Hastings Weld became the editor and served until April 29, 1843, when John Neal was announced as the new editor. Nathaniel P. Willis served as a literary editor from May 1840 through October 1841 and returned again in January 1843. Other editors include G. M. Snow and Edward Stephens, the husband of the poet and writer Ann Stephens, who was a frequent contributor. The main appeal of Brother Jonathan to readers was the publication of popular serialized novels by British writers, such as Charles Dickens, which, in the absence of an international copyright law, the editors pirated from British magazines. Brother Jonathan occasionally published poetry, and Whitman published two revised poems with new titles during its brief run. Brother Jonathan ceased publication in December 1843.


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Loving, Jerome. Walt Whitman: The Song of Himself. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.

Mott, Frank Luther. A History of American Magazines, 1741–1850. Vol. 1. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1930.

Myerson, Joel. Walt Whitman: A Descriptive Bibliography. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1993.

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"Ambition." Brother Jonathan, 29 January 1842, [113]

"Death of the Nature-Lover." Brother Jonathan, 11 March 1843, 290


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