Commentary

Selected Criticism

Title:
"Lingave's Temptation"
Author:
McGuire, Patrick
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

First publication data for "Lingave's Temptation" is unknown. A clipping of the tale, obviously from a periodical, is in the Feinberg Collection with Whitman's handwritten revisions. The revised story was printed in Specimen Days & Collect (1882). For publication particulars and revisions, see Brasher's edition of The Early Poems and the Fiction.

This tale is unique in Whitman's fiction; its hero is a poet, "a master of elegant diction, of fine taste, in style passionate yet pure, and of the delicate imagery that belongs to the children of song" (Whitman 333). Lingave's temptation is that, while bitterly unhappy about being poor, he is offered a position using his talents in the cause of some repulsive economic scheme. Lingave overcomes the temptation and plods on in his poverty as before.

The story contains some noteworthy observations about the poet's psyche. Lingave, like Archibald in "The Shadow and the Light of a Young Man's Soul," is given to angry reflection, but the poet is easily drawn from his envy by the simple joys around him.

Parts of the story, written in a kind of editorial "we," are addressed to Lingave: "O, Lingave, be more of a man!" (331). This direct address is followed by a paragraph about us and them. It is "our circle of understanding" versus them, their possessions, and the "lowly flights of their crippled wings" (332).

It is possible to infer that Lingave's rejection of work that would compromise his talent is in effect parallel to Whitman's own dissatisfaction with much of the writing he had done throughout the 1840s.

The story has received little critical attention.

Bibliography

Whitman, Walt. The Early Poems and the Fiction. Ed. Thomas L. Brasher. New York: New York UP, 1963.


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