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Walt Whitman's "Who Was Swedenborg?".

An article entitled "Who Was Swedenborg?" appeared in the Brooklyn Daily Times on June 15, 1858. (1) Although no byline accompanies the text, substantial evidence points toward Walt Whitman as the author of this editorial article on the seventeenth--and eighteenth-century Swedish mystic, scientist, and theologian, Emanuel Swedenborg. Whitman's professional involvement with the Daily Times began as early as 1857 and lasted possibly through the spring of 1859. Owing in large part to Emory Holloway and Vernolian Schwarz's I Sit and Look Out: Editorials from the Brooklyn Daily Times (1932), biographers have long assumed that Whitman served as the editor and, by extension, as the author of the editorial columns that appeared in the Daily Times between the years 1857 and 1859. (2) Indeed, while Holloway and Schwarz do not include "Who Was Swedenborg?" in I Sit and Look Out, Holloway does reprint an excerpt of the article in the second volume of The Uncollected Poetry and Prose of Walt Whitman (1921). (3)

Jerome Loving, however, casts doubt on the authorship of some material from the Daily Times long attributed to Whitman, and he has shown in his biography Walt Whitman: The Song of Himself (1999) that Whitman more likely worked as a contributor and occasional editorial writer rather than as the editor-in-chief of the newspaper. (4) It is nonetheless almost certain that Whitman penned the "Who Was Swedenborg?" editorial, as Holloway claimed long ago. Indeed, two sets of archival documents today held in the Trent Collection at Duke University provide persuasive evidence for Whitman's authorship.

The first document is an article entitled "The New Jerusalem," which Whitman clipped from the original publication and on which he made handwritten marginal commentary (see Figure 1). Richard Maurice Bucke, one of Whitman's literary executors, first enumerated this piece of marginalia amongst 554 other newspaper and magazine articles found in Whitman's possession at the time of the poet's death in 1892. (5) The accumulation of so many news clippings serves as a testament to Whitman's varied intellectual interests as well as to his infamous hoarding instincts. It would be erroneous to assume that Whitman's preservation of "The New Jerusalem" article in and of itself suggests anything more than Whitman's passing curiosity about Swedenborg's life and teachings. However, the similarities between "The New Jerusalem" text and the Daily Times's "Who Was Swedenborg?" reveal important details about Whitman's awareness of and interest in Swedenborgianism in the years surrounding the 1858 composition and publication of the Daily Times article. The depth of Swedenborg's influence on Whitman is undeniable, as demonstrated by Anders Hallengren in two substantial publications on the subject: Deciphering Reality: Swedenborg, Whitman and the Search for the Language of Nature (1992) and "A Hermeneutic Key to the title Leaves of Grass" (2004). (6)

As of February 2013, the Trent Collection's archival description of "The New Jerusalem" lists this document as an anonymous and undated piece of Whitman marginalia, filed under the generic heading, "notes on Swedenborg." (7) Using digital tools, I have determined that "The New Jerusalem" article originally appeared in the February 23, 1856, edition of Charles Dickens' weekly publication, Household Words. (8) Although published anonymously, "The New Jerusalem" article was written by George Hogarth, the father of Dickens' wife, Catherine Thomson Dickens (nee Hogarth). (9) Dickens exercised firm editorial control over Household Words, and, despite the fact that there were "some three hundred ninety writers" who contributed to the publication, Dickens did not allow other authors' names to appear in the journal's pages (Lohrli 24). (10) By attaching only his name to the articles, advertisements, and fictional contributions that appeared in Household Words, Dickens implicitly endorsed as his own the opinions expressed within the pages of his publication. As Anne Lohrli writes in her compendium to Household Words, "In the anonymous publication of material, all distinction of authorship vanished. The story or sketch of the unknown writer held equal place with that of the writer of reputation--indeed, with that of Dickens himself" (34).

The title of Hogarth's article, "The New Jerusalem," is a phrase used by Swedenborgians in reference to Swedenborgianism itself. As the title of one of his theological treatises suggests (The New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrine, 1757-58), (11) Swedenborg dated the establishment of the Church of New Jerusalem in the years 1757 and 1758, and he often referred to the realization of his mystical teachings on earth as the New Jerusalem--a Swedenborgian doctrine based on the biblical book of Revelation. (12) The content of the Household Words article includes an outline of the main tenets of Swedenborgian theology and a biographical precis of Swedenborg's life, conversion, and teachings.

Similarities abound between the "New Jerusalem" article found in Whitman's possession and the Daily Times editorial, "Who Was Swedenborg?," thereby suggesting Whitman's authorship of the latter article. Most striking are the similar accounts of Swedenborg's conver sion narrative. The Household Words article, for example, includes the following paragraph:

Such was [Swedenborg's] life till three score and ten, when he suddenly renounced the world, resigned his public offices, and began to proclaim his celestial mission.... In the preface to one of his mystical treatises (De Gado et Inferno) he says: "I was dining very late one day at my lodgings in London--(this was in seventeen hundred and forty-three)--and was eating heartily.--When I was finishing my meal I saw a sort of mist around me, and the floor covered with hideous reptiles. They disappeared: the mist cleared up; and I saw plainly, in the midst of a vivid light, a man sitting in the corner of the room, who said with a terrible voice, Don't eat so much. Darkness again gathered around me--it was dissipated by degrees, and I found myself alone. The following night the same man, radiant with light, appeared to me and said: I the Lord, the Creator and the Redeemer, have chosen thee to explain to mankind the inward and spiritual sense of the Holy Scriptures, and I shall dictate what thou art to write. That night the eyes of my inner man were opened, and enabled to look into heaven, the world of spirits, and hell; and there I saw many persons of my acquaintance, some dead long before, and others recently." (Hogarth 137)

Similarly, the Daily Times article--published just over two years later-- offers the following account of Swedenborg's conversion narrative:

And how does the reader suppose this ineffable privilege commenced--and what occasion great enough and appropriate enough to start it? Alas! a most unromantic and even vulgar occasion--nothing less than eating dinner! And more than that, the meaning of the heavenly visit, the "first lesson," was summed up in the plain, practical phrase--"Don't eat so much." As Swedenborg relates it, he was just finishing his dinner at an inn in London, when a mist surrounded him, amid which he distinguished reptiles crawling on the floor; and when the mist cleared away, a man radiant with light sitting in the corner of the room uttered the less-eating direction as above.

Out of such a somewhat comical beginning, however, soon rose more serious matter--for the radiant man, at his next appearance, informed Swedenborg to the following effect: "I the Redeemer, the Creator and Lord, have chosen thee to explain to mankind the inward and real sense of the Holy Scriptures, and I shall dictate to thee what thou shalt write."

Although this conversion narrative was a popular anecdote in Swedenborgian circles, the fact that the same testimony with similar word choices, almost verbatim phraseologies, and exact chronological developments appear in both Household Words and in the Daily Times underscores Whitman's reliance on "The New Jerusalem" clipping in writing his own piece on Swedenborg. Indeed, the Daily Times version parallels the Household Words article so closely that it includes references to Swedenborg's mystical visions of reptiles, a man "sitting in the corner of the room," and the divine edict "Don't eat so much" by "a man, radiant with light." Save for a few word changes and an additional comma here and there, the two newspaper accounts of Swedenborg's conversion story are nearly identical.

Whitman included only a few handwritten comments in the upper left-hand margin near the opening paragraph of his cutout of "The New Jerusalem" article. Particularly useful in identifying Whitman's authorship of "Who Was Swedenborg?" are Whitman's marginal calculations of Swedenborg's birth, death, age at the time of death, and age at the time of his religious conversion: "Swedenborg / born 1688 / died 1772 / aged 85"; he also circled and placed into brackets the words "three score and ten," to which he marginally commented, "55 years old." (These markings, save for the numerals "2", "3", and "4" that Whitman included as page numbers in the top right--and left-hand corners of the multi-page document, are the only notes that Whitman inscribed directly onto the newspaper excerpt.)

Scholars today still dispute Swedenborg's biographical dates, owing in large part to Sweden's confusing and long fifty-three-year transition from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, which took place during Swedenborg's lifetime, starting approximately twelve years after his birth--and concluding in 1753 with the full adoption of the Gregorian calendar. As a result, some scholars for the sake of consistency retroactively date Swedenborg's birth in accordance with the Gregorian calendar and Roman New Year. Whitman, however, cites Swedenborg's Julian birth date (1688) and Gregorian-Roman death year (1772); Whitman here also identifies Swedenborg's age at the time of conversion as fifty-five years old. Whitman's calculations in the margins of "The New Jerusalem" article, however debatable, are the exact calculations that appear later in the text of the "Who Was Swedenborg?" editorial. The consistency between Whitman's marginal notes on the newspaper clipping and the biographical details offered in the Daily Times article points toward Whitman's authorship, especially when we take into consideration the many differing or inconsistent dates and ages that are often attached to Swedenborg's biographical timeline.

The second archival document that suggests Whitman's authorship of the Daily Times editorial is an autograph manuscript written by Whitman about Swedenborg that also is held in Duke's Trent Collection (see Figure 2). (13) The text of this document was first printed in Richard Maurice Bucke's Notes and Fragments (1899) (14) and reprinted in Edward Grier's sixth volume of Notebooks and Unpublished Prose Manuscripts (1984) (15) --but, until now, this document has not been examined as proof of Whitman's authorship of the Daily Times article about Swedenborg. Written in pencil, the manuscript consists of twenty-three lines of Whitman's prose notes, and, similar to the Household Words newspaper clipping in Whitman's possession, many of the lines in Whitman's autograph manuscript correspond--often verbatim--to the language, content, and phraseology of the "Who Was Swedenborg?" editorial. The opening sentence, for example, reads:

   He is the a precursor, in some sort of the great
   differences between past thousands
   of years and future thousands---
   He was little thought of at the time.--

The words and phrases such as "precursor"; "great...difference[s]"; and "between past...and future" also appear in the final sentence of the Daily Times editorial: "Viewing [Swedenborg] in something like his own spirit, he appears as the precursor of the great religious difference between past centuries and future centuries." Further, Whitman's handwritten notes seem to serve as an early draft of what came to be the Daily Times article on Swedenborg, as evidenced by the multiple crossed-out words, emended punctuation, and carets for inserted text that all indicate we are observing a creative process rather than mere note-taking.

Whitman next asserts in his autograph manuscript that Swedenborg "is was little thought of at the time"--a phrase that is similarly repeated in the Daily Times editorial: "But there is no proof that any one...gave him even a passing thought; or rather there is proof enough that they did not." Both Whitman's handwritten notes and the Daily Times article advance the idea that Swedenborg's genius was overlooked by other eighteenth-century intellectuals whom Whitman cites in his handwritten notes:

   Voltaire nor Roussea [sic] notice him--
   probably they do did not know of him;
   The English philosophs and literats the
   same; the German the same.

Whitman includes a handwritten list of prominent seventeenth--and eighteenth-century contemporaries of Swedenborg who presumably paid little credence to Swedenborg's intellectual contributions during their shared milieu. As a subheading to the bottom-third portion of his notes, Whitman writes: "contemporary of the French Encyclopoedists--". He then fills three columns with the names and life dates of Goethe, Addison, Johnson, Pope, Hume, Gibbon, William Pitt, Franklin, Jefferson, and Washington. "Who Was Swedenborg?" includes these very same intellectual figures albeit in a slightly different arrangement. The article reads: "During his long life [Swedenborg] was, at some period, contemporaries with the French Encyclopedists, with Addison, Pope, Hume, Gibbon, Johnson, Wm. Pitt, Franklin, Jefferson, Washington, and Goethe." Although the Daily Times article does not specifically invoke Voltaire and Rousseau as does the autograph manuscript, both Voltaire and Rousseau belong to the school of the French Encyclopedists enumerated in Whitman's handwritten notes and in the "Who Was Swedenborg?" article.

The third section of Whitman's notes begins with an alternate spelling of Swedenborg followed by Swedenborg's life dates ("Swedenborgh 1688-1772"). Although the Daily Times article includes the regularized spelling of Swedenborg's surname (no "h"), it is perhaps most important to note here that Whitman's autograph manuscript again includes the exact life dates that he also wrote in the margins of the Household Words article and that are repeated in the Daily Times editorial. The constancy between the three primary source materials--the Daily Times "Who Was Swedenborg?" article, Whitman's marginalia to "The New Jerusalem" article, and Whitman's autograph manuscript--offers persuasive proof of Whitman's authorship, given the ambiguity surrounding Swedenborg's life dates as argued earlier in this paper.

There are numerous reasons why Whitman's manuscript notes indicate his preparation for writing "Who Was Swedenborg" instead of being notes that he might have taken while reading the article. For one, the notes are filled with emendations, editorial marks, and word changes and corrections not unlike Whitman's draft manuscripts for his poetry and other prose pieces. Indeed, the lines from Whitman's autograph manuscript resemble the heavily edited lines of Whitman's Leaves of Grass poetry on which he was working concurrent to the publication of "Who Was Swedenborg?" (16) Further, although Whitman includes verbatim sentences and phrases from his handwritten notes in the published Daily Times article, rarely do these corresponding phrases follow a shared chronology between the article and the handwritten notes. For example, Whitman's first line from the autograph manuscript appears in the final paragraph of the published article ("he appears as the precursor of the great religious difference between past centuries and future centuries"); the enumeration of literary and intellectual figures that Whitman included at the end of his autograph manuscript occurs in the middle of the "Who Was Swedenborg?" article; and so on.

It is also telling that the author of "Who Was Swedenborg?" critiques Swedenborg's poetic skills: "Swedenborg, in his writings, presents every thing in a plain, matter-of-fact way. He is no poet, and, amid all his wondrous experiences, he does not once lose his balance." Whitman's decision to emphasize the lack of poetry in Swedenborg's "plain, matter-of-fact" delivery (i.e., "He is no poet") contradicts Emerson's longstanding endorsement of Swedenborg's status as a poet-theologian. Indeed, Emerson often bestowed on Swedenborg superlative poetic endorsements. Emerson's 1842 lecture, "The Poet"--a lecture that Whitman reviewed in the New York newspaper, The Aurora,lland which perhaps marks the beginning of Whitman's awareness of Swedenborg and Swedenborgianism (18)--identified the religious mystic as an exemplar of the poetic tradition: "After Dante, and Shakspeare, and Milton, there came no grand poet until Swedenborg." (19) Later in his 1850 publication, Representative Men, (20) Emerson again places Swedenborg among five other "great men" of the Western intellectual tradition; Emerson's chapter, "Swedenborg; or the Mystic," (21) appears immediately following the chapter devoted to Plato and precedes the chapters on Montaigne, Shakespeare, Napoleon, and Goethe respectively. In Representative Men, Emerson emphasizes Swedenborg's scientific approach in conveying deeply poetic ideas: "It is remarkable that this sublime genius decides peremptorily for the analytic, against the synthetic method; and, in a book whose genius is a daring poetic synthesis, claims to confine himself to rigid experience" (66). Of Swedenborg's theological treatise, "Animal Kingdom," Emerson writes, "It was written with the highest end, to put science and the soul long estranged from each other at one again. It was an anatomist's account of the human body in the highest style of poetry" (82).

Emerson's cataloging of notable poets (e.g., Dante, Shakespeare, and Milton) and prominent figures of the Western tradition (e.g., Plato, Montaigne, Napoleon, and Goethe) is similar to the rhetorical strategy employed by Whitman in his handwritten notes on Swedenborg. Yet, Whitman disagreed with Emerson's repeated assessment of Swedenborg's poetic qualities. Instead, Whitman recognized the "curious and poetical theory" endorsed in Swedenborg's teachings, and he appreciated Swedenborg's "illustrations and proofs of the mystical religion which he wrought out, shaped, and commenced giving to the world." Swedenborg's "plain, matter-of-fact" approach in conveying cosmological principles, theological abstractions, and astrological travel is a style that Whitman emulated in his poetry, however much he separated Swedenborg from "The Poet" title that Emerson sought to assign him. Moreover, as Hallengren has emphasized in his work on the trinomial Swedenborg-Emerson-Whitman connection, Swedenborg's theory of the "Correspondences," in which he emphasizes the deep connections between humanity and the cosmological/natural world, is an idea often explored by Whitman. In the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass, for example, Whitman writes: "A vast similitude interlocks all, / All spheres, grown, ungrown, small, large, suns, moons, planets, comets, asteroids, / All the substances of the same, and all that is spiritual upon the same..." (22)

Whitman's early readers noticed the similarities. Upon the publication of the 1855 Leaves of Grass, for example, he received a favorable review in The Christian Spiritualist, (23) a journal founded by a group of American Swedenborgians (Hallengren, "Hermeneutic," 47). The anonymous reviewer recognized Whitman's indebtedness to Swedenborgian ideas and compared Whitman's poetic style to Swedenborg's own mystical voice:

[T]he visions and perceptions of one man become the creed and superficial life-element of other minds. Swedenborg is worthy to be enrolled among the master-minds of the world, because he entered for himself into the Arcana of the profoundest mysteries that can concern human intelligences; his great thoughts are revolved, quoted, and represented in all "New Church" publications, but very rarely digested and assimilated by those who claim to be his followers. Still more rare is it to find any receiver of "the heavenly doctrines" determined to enter for himself into the very interiors of all that Swedenborg taught--to see, not the mighty reflections that Swedenborg was able to give of interior realities, but their originals, as they stand constellated in the heavens! (1855 Review 363-364)

According to this Swedenborgian reviewer, Whitman occupied the rarified air of Swedenborg's "heavenly doctrines": "Such we conceive to be the interior condition of the author of Leaves of Grass" (366). The review goes on to extol the prophetic nature of Whitman's poetry:

We can not take leave of this remarkable volume without advising our friends, who are not too delicately nerved, to study the work as a sign of the times, written, as we perceive, under powerful influxes; a prophecy and promise of much that awaits all who are entering with us into the opening doors of a new Era. A portion of that thought, which broods over the American nation, is here seized and bodied forth by a son of the people, rudely, wildly, and with some perversions, yet strongly and genuinely, according to the perception of this bold writer. (367)

Whitman clearly embraced such grandiose assessments of his literary contributions, and he included this review in his "Leaves-Droppings" appendix to the second (1856) edition of Leaves of Grass.

Although Whitman did not agree with Emerson's assessment of Swedenborg's poetic qualities, he did express high regard for Swedenborg's influence on American culture and religion. "Who Was Swedenborg?" concludes: "Though now looming up before the civilized world, and especially in America, as one who, whatever may be said about him, will probably make the deepest and broadest mark upon the religions of future ages here, of any man that ever walked the earth, yet in his own time Swedenborg was neglected and comparatively unknown." Whitman's remarks about Swedenborg's religious contributions are further amplified when he hails Swedenborg as the preeminent influence on the American intellect: "Indeed his followers, among whom are some of the leading minds of our nation, boldly claim that no man, of any age, is now making more significant marks upon American thought, theology, and literature, than Emanuel Swedenborg."

Whitman's growing interest in Swedenborg in the latter half of the 1850s parallels the fervent religious climate of the American antebellum period, and Whitman's curiosity about religion and religious thought seems only to have intensified as his career progressed. (24) M. Jimmie Killingsworth argues that a growing proliferation of religious themes appears in tandem with Whitman's sexual motifs, especially as evidenced in the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass, which includes the homoerotic Calamus poems. (25) Whitman pairs religious themes of conversion with ecstatic sexual experiences--the same sexual/religious duality that Swedenborg explored throughout his theological writings. Indeed, Swedenborg published a number of books addressing human/ divine love and sexuality, including Divine Love and Wisdom (1763), Conjugial [sic] Love and Its Chaste Delights; Also, Adulterous Love and Its Sinful Pleasures (1768), and Intercourse of the Soul and the Body (1769). Whitman was well aware of Swedenborg's sexually-infused brand of religiosity, and, later in his life, he confessed to Horace Traubel, "I think Swedenborg was right when he said there was a close connection--a very close connection--between the state we call religious ecstacy and the desire to copulate. I find Swedenborg confirmed in all my experience. It is a peculiar discovery." (26)

Long after the publication of "Who Was Swedenborg?," Whitman included passing references to Swedenborg in his 1871 Democratic Vistas and in the 1883 November Boughs, both times placing the Swedish mystic in select lists of the greatest religious, philosophical, and artistic figures in history. (27) Throughout his career, Whitman looked to Swedenborg as a literary, philosophical, and theological exemplar from whom he could seek inspiration for his own personal and poetical aspirations. When Whitman wrote in his 1858 "Who Was Swedenborg?" article that Swedenborg served as a "precursor of the great religious difference between past centuries and future centuries," (28) he recognized the mystic's ability to presciently articulate the religio-poetic and poetic-religious spirit of generations and time-periods beyond his own, and he sought to emulate Swedenborg's paradigmatic example.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Special thanks to Kenneth H. Price; Matt Cohen and Nicole Gray for help in acquiring the images; and Kevin Baxter and Leah Grace Goodwin for their expertise on Swedenborg.

(1) [Walt Whitman], "Who Was Swedenborg?," Brooklyn Daily Times (June 15, 1858).

(2) Whitman, I Sit and Look Out: Editorials from the Brooklyn Daily Times, ed. Emory Holloway and Vernolian Schwarz (New York: Columbia University Press, 1932).

(3) [Whitman], "Who Was Swedenborg?," The Uncollected Poetry and Prose of Walt Whitman, ed. Emory Holloway (1921; reprint, Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1972), 2:16-18.

(4) Jerome Loving, Walt Whitman: The Song of Himself (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 227-234. Loving asserts that the "empirical evidence for such a claim [of Whitman's editorship] is almost nonexistent, and...most of the editorials are politically conservative at a time when Whitman was radicalizing American poetry in theme as well as manner" (227).

(5) Richard Maurice Bucke, ed., Notes and Fragments: Left by Walt Whitman and Now Edited by Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke, One of His Literary Executors, 1899 ([Norwood, Pa.]: Norwood Editions, 1977), 89-90; hereafter, Notes and Fragments.

(6) Anders Hallengren, Deciphering Reality: Swedenborg, Emerson, Whitman and the Search for the Language of Nature, series 3, vol. 11 (Minneapolis: The Nordic Roundtable Papers, University of Minnesota, 1992); and "A Hermeneutic Key to the Title of Leaves of Grass," in In Search of the Absolute--Essays on Swedenborg and Literature, ed. Stephen McNeilly (London: The Swedenborg Society, 2004), 45-59; hereafter, "Hermeneutic."

(7) [Anonymous], "The New Jerusalem," n.d., MS4 to 85, Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Duke University (

(8) George Hogarth, "The New Jerusalem," Household Words 6.309 (February 23, 1856), 136-140; hereafter, "The New Jerusalem."

(9) Anne Lohrli, Household Words: A Weekly Journal 1850-1859 Conducted by Charles Dickens--Table of Contents, List of Contributors and Their Contributions Based on The Household Words Office Book in the Morris L. Parrish Collection of Victorian Novelists, Princeton University Library (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1973), 150; hereafter, Household Words. George Hogarth was a lawyer, music critic, and journalist who was a longtime friend of Dickens and who remained civil to Dickens even in the aftermath of Dickens' publicly scrutinized divorce from Catherine Dickens in 1858 (Lohrli 304).

(10) Dickens' name appeared under the masthead: "Conducted by Charles Dickens." Authors such as Elizabeth Gaskell and Wilkie Collins whose novels appeared in serialization in Household Words received public credit by Dickens despite the lack of bylines within the publication itself.

(11) Emanuel Swedenborg, The New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrine, 1757-58, trans. E. A. Sutton (London: Swedenborg Society, 1938).

(12) See Revelation 3:12 and 21:2.

(13) Whitman, Autograph MS, Notes on Swedenborg, n.d., MS4 to 85, Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Duke University; hereafter, Notes on Swedenborg.

(14) Bucke transcribes Whitman's marginalia to "The New Jerusalem" article ("Swedenborg--born 1688--died 1772--aged 85" [89]) before he presents Whitman's handwritten notes on Swedenborg (Bucke, Notes and Fragments, 89-90).

(15) Edward F. Grier, ed., Notebooks and Unpublished Prose Manuscripts, vol. 6 (New York: New York University Press, 1984), 2034.

(16) See the "Poetry Manuscripts" section available on the Walt Whitman Archive listed under the section titled, "In Whitman's Hand" (

(17) Whitman, Walt Whitman of the New York Aurora; Editor at Twenty-Two: A Collection of Recently Discovered Writings, ed. Joseph Jay Rubin and Charles H. Brown (State College, PA: Bald Eagle Press, 1950), 105.

(18) As Floyd Stovall has enumerated in The Foreground of Leaves of Grass (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1974), Whitman might also have familiarized himself with Swedenborgian ideas through spiritualist writings published in America in the mid-1850s such as Andrew Jackson Davis' Principles of Nature: Her Divine Revelations; and a Voice to Mankind (New York: S. S. Lyon and William Fishbough, 1847) and William Fishbough's The Macrocosm and Microcosm; or The Universe Without and Within (New York: Fowlers and Wells, 1852)--both texts being dependent on Swedenborgian spiritualist teachings (154-156). David S. Reynolds suggests in Walt Whitman's America: A Cultural Biography (New York: Knopf, 1995) that Whitman also learned about Swedenborg after attending lectures in May 1846 by the New York University professor and Swedenborgian author, George Bush--a distant relative of the Bush political family (263-265). And Gay Wilson Allen's The Solitary Singer: A Critical Biography of Walt Whitman (New York: Grove Press, 1955) suggests that Whitman often had conversations on the subject of Swedenborgianism with John Arnold, an American Swedenborgian who lived in the same building as the Edmund and Abby Price family, with whom Whitman had a long friendship (199).

(19) Ralph Waldo Emerson, "The Times Series," in The Early Lectures of Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. Stephen E. Whicher and Robert E. Spiller (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1959-1972), 3:352.

(20) According to Joel Porte, Whitman most likely was familiar with Emerson's 1850 Representative Men. See Porte, Representative Man: Ralph Waldo Emerson in His Time (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979), 315.

(21) Emerson, "Swedenborg; or the Mystic," in Representative Men: Seven Lectures (London: George Routledge, 1850), 54-88.

(22) Whitman, Leaves of Grass (Boston: Thayer & Eldridge, 1860), 230-231. Available on the Walt Whitman Archive (

(23) [Review of Leaves of Grass (1855)], The Christian Spiritualist, in Whitman's "Leaves-Droppings," 363-367. [Anonymous], "Leaves-Droppings," in Leaves of Grass (Brooklyn, N.Y.: n.p. 1856), 363-364; hereafter, 1855 Review. Available on the Walt Whitman Archive (

(24) See George B. Hutchinson's The Ecstatic Whitman: Literary Shamanism and the Crisis of the Union (Columbus: Ohio State University, 1986); Michael Sowder's Whitman's Ecstatic Union: Conversion and Ideology in Leaves of Grass (New York: Routledge, 2005); and David Kuebrich's Minor Prophecy: Walt Whitman's New American Religion (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989).

(25) M. Jimmie Killingsworth, Walt Whitman and the Earth: A Study in Ecopoetics (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2004). Available on the Walt Whitman Archive (

(26) Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1964), 5:376.

(27) Whitman, The Complete Poetry and Prose of Walt Whitman, ed.

Malcolm Cowley (New York: Pellegrini & Cudahy, 1948), 2:470; Whitman, November Boughs (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1888), 120. Although I am not the first to itemize these latter references to Swedenborg in Whitman's career, I include mention of them here so as to further assert that Whitman indeed was the author of the "Who Was Swedenborg?" article so many years earlier in 1858.

(28) Whitman, Notes on Swedenborg.
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Author:Kruger, Kathryn Brigger
Publication:Walt Whitman Quarterly Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2013
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