Commentary

Selected Criticism

Title:
Dowden, Edward (1843–1913)
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.

Born in Cork, Ireland, Edward Dowden was educated at Queen's College, Cork, and at Trinity College, Dublin, where he became professor of English literature in 1867. His substantial literary reputation rests upon his prolific writings about William Shakespeare; he also wrote biographies of Robert Southey, Robert Browning, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Montaigne. Whitman called Dowden "one of the best of the late commentators on Shakspere" (Whitman 884). As did so many other British scholars and writers, Dowden readily accepted Whitman as the new poet, the new voice of America. He included in his Studies in Literature, 1789–1877 (1887) a long essay on Whitman, ranking him with other luminaries and praising his poetry's originality and its musical qualities despite the absence of an immediately discernible prosody. Dowden viewed Whitman as the representative of a new democracy in art, noting in particular that his subject matter included such figures as "all who toil upon the sea, the city artisan, the woodsman and the trapper" (Dowden 489).

Bibliography

Dowden, Edward. "The Poetry of Democracy: Walt Whitman." Studies in Literature, 1789–1877. By Dowden. 4th ed. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, 1887. 468–523.

Whitman, Walt. The Poetry and Prose of Walt Whitman. Ed. Louis Untermeyer. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1949.


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