Commentary

Selected Criticism

Title:
Free Inquirer
Author:
Stein, Jennifer J.
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

A "socialistic and agnostic" newspaper (Mott 537) professing many liberal ideas of the day, the Free Inquirer (or Free Enquirer) was subscribed to by Walt Whitman's father, Walter Whitman, Sr. The impressionable young Whitman read it, absorbing its rhetoric and ideas.

The Free Inquirer was originally founded in 1825 by Robert Dale Owen as the New-Harmony Gazette, a journal that recorded the ideas of a small socialist community. As the Free Inquirer, it expanded its readership and purpose. Moving the paper to New York, Frances (Fanny) Wright, a radical public speaker and reformer, joined Owen as an editor during the years that the newspaper voiced support for the common laborer. Among the paper's topics were agnosticism, feminism, social politics, and liberal views on education. Published by well-known, fiery leaders, the Free Inquirer introduced a youthful Walt Whitman to radical thought.

Bibliography

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

Perkins, A.J.G., and Theresa Woolfson. Frances Wright, Free Enquirer: The Study of a Temperament. Philadelphia: Porcupine, 1972.

Reynolds, David S. Walt Whitman's America: A Cultural Biography. New York: Knopf, 1995.


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