Commentary

Selected Criticism

Title:
Long Island Patriot
Author:
Karbiener, Karen
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

Founded in 1821 by Tammany Democrats, the Long Island Patriot was almost as young as Whitman was when he began work there as a printer's apprentice in 1831. The four-page weekly listed Whitman's father among its five hundred subscribers; perhaps Whitman Senior himself had sought employment for his son in its Fulton Street office, about ten blocks from their Brooklyn home.

Though Whitman only worked at the "Pat" for about a year, this introduction to the world of journalism strongly affected his own literary output. Not only did he learn much about typography—information that he later applied to the layout and printing of Leaves of Grass—but he also sampled his first taste of authorship in writing "sentimental bits" (Specimen Days 286–287).

Whitman and the other apprentices, including future Brooklyn Democratic leader Henry Murphy, boarded with the granddaughter of editor Samuel E. Clements. A flamboyant dresser and daring horseman, Clements sometimes took his young employees on breathless buggy rides around New Lots, Flatlands, and Bushwick; he was eventually forced to flee Brooklyn because of his involvement in a plot to exhume Elias Hicks's body and take a plaster cast of the head and face. Despite Clements's charisma and powerful position, Whitman was more deeply impressed by the Patriot's foreman printer, William Hartshorne. Born during Revolutionary times, Hartshorne enthralled his young pupil with accounts of early American notable figures and events. Whitman later memorialized this "most worthy member of the craft preservative of all crafts" (Uncollected 2:245) by writing a tribute to him in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Bibliography

Allen, Gay Wilson. The Solitary Singer: A Critical Biography of Walt Whitman. 1955. Rev. ed. 1967. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1985.

Kaplan, Justin. Walt Whitman: A Life. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1980.

White, William. "A Tribute to William Hartshorne: Unrecorded Whitman." American Literature 42 (1971): 554–558.

Whitman, Walt. Specimen Days. Vol. 1 of Prose Works 1892. Ed. Floyd Stovall. New York: New York UP, 1963.

____. The Uncollected Poetry and Prose of Walt Whitman. Ed. Emory Holloway. 2 vols. 1921. Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1972.


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