Walt Whitman

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Signed Books & Works Collection : The top shelf books and items in my collection. Signed and inscribed books, handwritten letters, newspapers and original works.

Signed Books & Works Collection

DinnerWithWalt

The top shelf books and items in my collection. Signed and inscribed b ...

Updated: Dec 14, 2013 12:23pm PST

Whitman images (public domain) : So you might ask, “just who is this Walt Whitman that you are so crazy about!?!” Well, have a seat! Let me tell you a little about him! 

Walt Whitman is the greatest, most ingenious, noble, benevolent and inspiring figure in early American literature (did you expect anything less from me!?!)! Walt Whitman was an enlightened man ahead of his time. He stood for equal rights for everyone, regardless of sex, race, and occupation. What Whitman created is a bold new kind of poetry that has become a major contribution to world literature.

Born on May 31st, 1819 – only 43 years after the formation of the United States, Whitman had a profoundly deep association with Democracy. His aspiration was to create something uniquely American.

On July 4th, 1855 Whitman published his first edition of Leaves of Grass. The first edition consisted of 12 untitled poems, and was published anonymously. As a newspaper editor, Whitman set much of the type, and paid for the printing himself. Over the rest of his life, he published eight more editions of Leaves of Grass, continually revising old poems and adding new poems with each new addition. In 1860, Whitman published the third edition of Leaves of Grass and added 122 new poems. 

Like most artists, Whitman rarely saw any critical praise and acceptance for his work.  In early Victorian America, he was met with scorn and ridicule most of his life for the inclusion of the poems of sexual nature the “Children of Adam” and “Calamus” clusters of poems. Writing for The Criterion, in 1855, Rufus Wilmot Griswold writes of the newly published Leaves of Grass:  “… it is impossible to imagine how any man’s fancy could have conceived such a mass of stupid filth, unless he were possessed of the soul of a sentimental donkey that had died of disappointed love.” He did however receive a big break in 1855. The influential figure, Ralph Waldo Emerson, wrote to Whitman, “Dear Sir, I am not blind to the worth of the wonderful gift of Leaves of Grass. I find it the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed. I am very happy reading it…”

Then in 1861, something dreadful happened in the United States - the US Civil War. This same year, Whitman wrote the poem “Beat! Beat! Drums.” Whitman’s brother, George Washington Whitman, had enlisted in the Union Army at the onset of the war. In 1862, upon hearing of George being wounded in battle, Whitman rushed from New York to Washington D.C. to search for his wounded Union brother. While searching from Army hospital to hospital, what Whitman encountered and witnessed in Washington D.C. changed his life forever. Outside hospital after hospital was a gruesome scene, stacked were huge mounds and piles of amputated limbs. Undeterred, Whitman found his wounded brother and was relieved to discover brother George only had a minor wound and would fully recover.  After witnessing the horrors of so many maimed, wounded and dying young men, Whitman felt it was his duty to carry on in Army hospitals and served as an ‘unofficial’ Army nurse. Whitman attended many wounded and dying soldiers on a daily basis. Knowing he could bring a moment of joy to an otherwise dismal place; he always brought small gifts, mostly paid for by himself, of candy, fruit, money and any other various small requests a solider may have while lying, or dying, in a military hospital bed.  As a prolific writer, Whitman used that talent and wrote letters home to the families of soldiers about their conditions.  

And then, in April 1865, another tragic event occurred for the US Nation - the assignation of Abraham Lincoln. Out of this tragic event came some of Walt’s most famous and mournful poems, “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryward Bloom’d” and the classic and well-known poem, “O Captain, My Captain.”  

In 1872 while still in Washington, D.C., Whitman had the first of many strokes and moved to Camden, NJ to be under the care of his brother George and his wife. Whitman’s health suffered for many years after, he believed it due to witnessing the horrors of the Civil War. Whitman continued writing and revising Leaves of Grass for the remainder of his life. The eighth and final "death-bed edition," published in 1892, contained nearly 400 poems.  He died at the age of 72, in his home in Camden, NJ on March 26, 1892.

Whitman images (public domain)

DinnerWithWalt

So you might ask, “just who is this Walt Whitman that you are so cra ...

Updated: Jul 14, 2013 3:13pm PST

Whitman collection : The bulk of my collection of books, papers and newsletters.  (All this content retains the original copyright by the publisher).

Whitman collection

DinnerWithWalt

The bulk of my collection of books, papers and newsletters. (All this ...

Updated: Jul 14, 2013 10:57am PST

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