Commentary

Selected Criticism

Title:
New World, The (New York)
Author:
Erkkila, Betsy
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

The New World (1839–1845) was a popular weekly paper that was founded by Park Benjamin and Rufus Griswold at a time when an increasingly aggressive entrepreneurial press was seeking to create and reach a mass public. Advertised as the "largest and cheapest" newspaper in the world, The New World was also known for publishing the works of famous British authors as "extras." While Whitman worked as a compositor at The New World in 1841, the paper published two of his poems, "Each Has His Grief" and "The Punishment of Pride," as well as "The Child's Champion," Whitman's erotically charged story of the love between an adolescent boy and a young man. In 1842 Benjamin offered Whitman a cash advance to write Franklin Evans; or The Inebriate. A Tale of the Times. Advertised as a temperance novel "By a Popular American Author," issued as an "extra" of The New World and aimed at "the widest circulation possible," Franklin Evans appears to have sold well (possibly twenty thousand copies). Like "The Child's Champion," Franklin Evans draws on the temperance genre to evoke the homoerotic subculture out of which the democratic comrade and lover of Leaves of Grass emerged. Although critics have tended to draw a sharp distinction between early journalist and later poet, Whitman's work for The New World as both printer and author suggest the multivarious sources of his later writing in the world of print journalism and the mass press, popular culture and temperance reform, working class radicalism and an increasingly visible same-sex subculture in the new urban space of the city.

Bibliography

Hoover, Merle M. Park Benjamin, Poet & Editor. New York: Columbia UP, 1948.

Hudson, Frederic. Journalism in the United States from 1690 to 1872. 1875. New York: Harper and Row, 1969.

Mott, Frank Luther. A History of American Magazines, 1741-1850. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1938–1968.

Warner, Michael. "Whitman Drink." Breaking Bounds: Whitman and American Cultural Studies. Ed. Betsy Erkkila and Jay Grossman. New York: Oxford UP, 1996. 30–43.


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