Commentary

Selected Criticism

Title:
Boker, George Henry (1823–1890)
Author:
Gould, Mitch
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

George Henry Boker, a wealthy Philadelphian, served as ambassador to Turkey (1871–1875) and Russia (1875) and is best known for Francesca da Rimini (staged 1855), a popular play about adultery among the Italian nobility. Boker was dissatisfied with his theatrical career and desperately wanted a following for his Plays and Poems (1856). Boker's suppressed Sonnets: A Sequence on Profane Love (1929) are thought to be inspired by his wife, Julia, and a mistress, Angie King Hicks.

Whitman had the "kindliest" thoughts of Boker (With Walt Whitman 6:266) and spontaneously referred to him during a discussion with Horace Traubel: "He is pretty genuine, after all: the fellows say he holds off . . . but I don't know. Boker is genuine, has quality" (With Walt Whitman 2:476–477). In contrast to Whitman's concept of manly love, Boker's conception of comradeship was feminine rather than masculine, as indicated by his letter to his friend Bayard Taylor: "We have both . . . an almost feminine tenderness for those we love . . . are you laughing at me for making love to you, as if you were a green girl?" (qtd. in Evans 115).

Bibliography

Evans, Oliver H. George Henry Boker. Boston: Twayne, 1984.

Traubel, Horace. With Walt Whitman in Camden. Vol. 2. New York: Appleton, 1908; Vol. 6. Ed. Gertrude Traubel and William White. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1982.


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