Commentary

Selected Criticism

Title:
Harned, Thomas Biggs (1851–1921)
Author:
Mattausch, Dena
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

One of Whitman's three literary executors, Thomas Biggs Harned was a prosperous Philadelphia lawyer and a brother-in-law of Horace Traubel. His twenty-year acquaintance with Whitman involved nearly daily contact during the poet's final years. Harned's well-furnished Camden home was a social center where Whitman dined and drank richly, amused Harned's three children, and met prominent religious and political men. Harned funded the construction of Whitman's mausoleum and co-arranged his funeral, at which he participated as speaker and pallbearer. Later, Harned wrote the introduction to the definitive ten-volume Camden Edition of Whitman's works (1902). Some thought Harned's decision to publish The Letters of Anne Gilchrist and Walt Whitman (1918) in dubious taste.

Son of a Philadelphia wood carver, Harned quit school at age twelve to earn wages. After attending University of Pennsylvania Law School he practiced criminal law in Camden, then civil law in Philadelphia. At age twenty-two Harned met Whitman, and the two occasionally discussed news and the Shakespeare controversy, agreeing that the Stratford actor was not the author of the plays. In 1877 Harned married Augusta Anna Traubel, another Whitman admiree; her brother Horace's relationship with the poet developed at the Harned home, a frequent setting for Traubel's With Walt Whitman in Camden.

Harned's Memoirs (1920) document a quest for relevance, religious certainty, and social justice. A former Republican who ran unsuccessfully for the New Jersey state senate as an independent (1890), Harned was well read and interested in art and oratory. An abolitionist and Unitarian, Harned was greatly influenced by Rev. W.H. Furness. Whitman often cited Harned's honesty and directness, recognizing the heart of gold beneath his gruff exterior.

Bibliography

Harned, Thomas Biggs. Memoirs of Thomas B. Harned, Walt Whitman's Friend and Literary Executor. Ed. Peter Van Egmond. Hartford: Transcendental Books, 1972.

Traubel, Horace. With Walt Whitman in Camden. 9 vols. Vol. 1. Boston: Small, Maynard, 1906; Vol. 2. New York: Appleton, 1908; Vol. 3. New York: Mitchell Kennerley, 1914; Vol. 4. Ed. Sculley Bradley. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1953; Vol. 5. Ed. Gertrude Traubel. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1964; Vol. 6. Ed. Gertrude Traubel and William White. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1982; Vol. 7. Ed. Jeanne Chapman and Robert Maclssac. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1992; Vols. 8–9. Ed. Jeanne Chapman and Robert Maclssac. Oregon House, Calif.: W.L. Bentley, 1996.


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