Not much is known about Juliette Beach’s early and later life. We know that she and her husband, Calvin were acquaintances of Henry Clapp. The couple may have visited Pfaff's during their occasional sojourns to New York City. We know, also, that Beach was a contributor for the Saturday Press (Loving 568). Much more, however, is known about the controversy over a review of Leaves of Grass, and there has been much speculation surrounding the true nature of Beach’s relationship to the poet.
It was Henry Clapp who suggested that Juliette review the 1860 Leaves of Grass manuscript. What resulted was a highly critical review of the text in the June 2, 1860 edition of the Saturday Press. It is believed that Calvin Beach intercepted the manuscript and wrote the disparaging review: "Clapp mistakenly appended Juliette's initials to it, and a week later had to print a retraction" (Mullins 51). A more favorable review of Leaves of Grass was published in the Saturday Press on June 23; this review by "A Woman" is attributed to Juliette Beach. Ellen O'Connor suggests that this review was the start of a long correspondence between Beach and Whitman and that he wrote "Out of the Rolling Ocean Crowd" (1865) for her (Mullins 51). Sherry Ceniza also mentions that friend and biographer of John Burroughs, Clara Barrus, also believed that “Out of the Rolling Ocean Crowd” was written for Beach (206).
Despite the objections from Calvin Beach, the long correspondence continued, though no letters between Beach and Whitman have been recovered. (E. Miller, "Walt Whitman" 66-67). Ellen O’Connor does mention Beach three times in her letters to Whitman in 1864 and does include the poem, “Claire” written by Beach and published in the New York Leader in her letter to Whitman (O’Connor). At one time Beach was believed to be the author of the "Ellen Eyre" letter (Holloway, "Whitman Pursued" 10). She was later ruled out as Ellen Eyre because, although she may have visited Pfaff's, she did not have a home in the city as Ellen Eyre claims to have had. Ada Clare, "Bohemian fellow traveler Adah Isaacs Menken," and contributors Juliette Beach and Mary Chilton are listed by Allen as examples of the fact that "'a number of women came to Whitman's aid at this time,' defending the sex poems and such unconventional ideas as the mention of nudity and bodily functions in poetry" (141).
Beach was one of the several people to whom Henry Clapp sent a review copy of Leaves of Grass, thinking that Mrs. Beach "would do Whitman 'great justice in the Saturday Press'" (243). The return letter Clapp received was not what he expected; it was not signed by Mrs. Beach, but Clapp thought it was from her and printed it as hers in the June 2, 1860, edition of the Saturday Press. Acording to Allen, "The reviewer began by saying that he had read only a few of the poems, but apparently he could instinctively sniff out the most offensive passages" (260). Allen quotes some of the original Beach review, which concludes with the reviewer's advice to Whitman to commit suicide, but not to do it by ordinary means, "because some full man, to whom life has become a greivous burden, may at a later day be compelled to choose between death by the same means and a hateful life, and with the pride of noble manhood turn shuddering to live on, rather than admit so much of oneness as would be implied by going to death as did Walt Whitman" (261). Clapp commented in an editorial that the review that "It always gives us pleasure to print every variety of opinion upon such subjects" (260). The next week, a correction was printed by the Saturday Press, indicating that the paper had received a letter from Juliette H. Beach claiming that the review had not been hers; the review copy had been intercepted by her husband, who had written his own response to the book, which had been submitted to the Saturday Press. The paper had been rushed to press without looking further into the matter. Two weeks later, a review signed by "A Woman" appeared in the Saturday Press. This review argued against the points made in the mistaken Beach review, and may have been Juliette Beach's real review of Whitman's work (261).
Allen also writes that the Beach family dissention over Whitman may have been something more than simply a disagreement over poetry. Allen cites Ellen O'Connor's account that Whitman wrote "Out of the Rolling Ocean" for a "certain lady" whose husband was angred by the correspondence between Whitman and his wife. Allen also cites Clara Barrus' claim that "Miss Juliette Beach" was the woman he wrote this poem for and that "She wrote many beautiful letters to Walt which J.B. [John Burroughs] tried in vain to get her consent to publish" (262). Allen maintains that these may not have been love letters, but that they were most likely encouraged by Whitman for unspecified reasons. "We do not know whether the atraction was physical or mainly appreciative any sympathetic, but it appears that the review copy sent to Mrs. Beach did cause a quarrel between her and her husband, and there may have been an emotional sequel" (262). "Out of the Rolling Ocean" was later published in Drum-Taps (340). Beach is thought to have been one of the two female contributors to the Saturday Press in the summer of 1860, who like Mrs. Gilchrist later, defended the "sanity" and "purity" of Whitman's conversational poems (420).
Allen also mentions that Beach was one of several women who may have known him mainly through his poetry but who found him equally attractive as some women who knew him personally (263). Allen mentions that it is unclear as to whether or not Beach visited Whitman in Washington and that she may have believed herself to be in love with Whitman (341).[pages:243,260-262,263,340,341,342,420,565(n50)]
Clapp encourages Whitman to send a copy of the 1860 Leaves of Grass to Beach for her consideration.
Erkkila discusses Beach's refusal to let her husband's negative review of Leaves of Grass stand as her own.[pages:311]
Holloway rules out Beach as a candidate for "Ellen Eyre"; although she may have visited Pfaff's Beach did not have a home in the city as "Ellen Eyre" claimed to. Also, the writer's invitation to Whitman to make himself at home at her house would have been an inappropriate gesture from a married society woman who would have been aware of social convention.[pages:110-111,115]
An admirer of Whitman. Beach wrote many unpublished letters to Whitman and is a possible writer of the "Ellen Eyre" letter.[pages:10]
Ada Clare, "Bohemian fellow traveler Adah Isaacs Menken," and
Mentioned as a contributor to The Saturday Press. Beach was expected to submit a favorable reivew of Leaves of Grass. The Saturday Press review request was intercepted by husband who wrote and submitted his own review of the book. Mr. Beach's negative review was initially published in The Saturday Press as Juliette Beach's. Mrs. Beach wrote her own response to Leaves of Grass after the erronious printing.[pages:242-244]
Identified as a possible writer of the "Ellen Eyre" letter. Beach carried on a lengthy correspondence with Whitman against her husband's wishes.[pages:66-67]
Miller excerpts a few lines that Beach wrote in response to the death of Edward G. P. Wilkins.[pages:68]
To help publicize Leaves of Grass Clapp "cheerfully" published Beach's "revolted review" of the third edition (122).[pages:122]
The Vault at Pfaff's
27 Memorial Drive West, Bethlehem, PA 18015