Commentary

Selected Criticism

Title:
Perry, Bliss (1860–1954)
Author:
Leon, Philip W.
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

Bliss Perry was born in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and graduated from Williams College in 1881. Two years later he took his M.A. and then studied abroad for two years. In 1893 he became a professor at Princeton University, but he resigned in 1899 to become editor of the Atlantic Monthly, a position he held until 1909. In 1907 he joined the faculty at Harvard as a professor of literature, taking the chair vacated by James Russell Lowell.

Perry wrote fiction, literary biography, and criticism. He was an authority on Ralph Waldo Emerson's life and work. In 1906 he published Walt Whitman, considered a model of literary biography. A second edition appeared in 1908. Though he gathered material from S. Weir Mitchell, E.C. Stedman, John Burroughs, Talcott Williams, J.T. Trowbridge, Horace Traubel, and others who knew Whitman personally, Perry's book was one of the first to approach Whitman with objectivity, eschewing the hero worship found in previous biographies.

Perry was also one of the first critics to note the parallels of certain passages from Whitman's poetry with the speeches of Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita.

Bibliography

"Perry, Bliss." The National Cyclopedia of American Biography. Vol. 46. 1893. Ann Arbor, Mich.: University Microfilms, 1967. 50.

Perry, Bliss. Walt Whitman: His Life and Work. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1906.


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