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Beach, Juliette H. (1829-1900)

Editor, Journalist, Literary Critic, Poet

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).