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Contemporary Reviews

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Title: Walt Whitman

Creator: unknown [unsigned in original]

Date: July 4, 1868

Publication information: Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art 45 (4 July 1868): 420-5.

Source: The original electronic text for this file was prepared for Walt Whitman, The Contemporary Reviews, ed. Kenneth M. Price (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), and the transcription was completed by consulting a representation of the original (e.g., photocopy, microfilm copy). Following publication of that volume, Price received an updated transcription file from Cambridge University Press, and the Whitman Archive has used the final file from the publisher as the basis for the electronic text presented here.

Whitman Archive ID: anc.00071

Contributors to digital file: Natalie O'Neal, Elizabeth Lorang, Vanessa Steinroetter, and Todd Stabley


WALT WHITMAN.

FAINT praise may harm the prose-writer, but there is nothing which predisposes us against a poet so much as extravagant praise; if we are not very young, and have little enthusiasm to spare about anything, we especially resent it. The unreasonable laudation (now so common) makes us as unreasonably despise its object. 'As it is impossible to conceive a world without a Shakespeare, so we cannot picture it to ourselves without this new sweet singer, Jones.' Bother Jones! We that have known Keats and Shelley, and Byron, and Wordsworth and Coleridge, to be told that there has been no such poet as Jones!

Not a little ludicrous eulogy of this sort has been poured of late upon the American poet whose name stands at the head of this paper, but he is really noteworthy nevertheless. He is the first characteristic poetical writer that the United States have produced. Longfellow is but Tennyson and water; and as for the other Transatlantic bards, they have produced solitary poems of great merit, but none which might not have been written by an Englishman of genius, who had paid great attention to the panoramas of the Mississippi or of the Prairies which have been unfolded from time to time in Leicester Square. Whitman's very faults are national. The brag, and bluster, and self-assertion of the man are American only; the fulsome 'cracking-up' of his own nation is such as would not be ventured upon by a British bard; the frequent bathos—the use of newspaper terms and of terms which have no existence out of New York, and in which you almost hear the American nasal twang, are all characteristic. He is Yankee to the backbone; Yankee, also, it must however be added, in his outspoken independence of thought, in his audacious originality, in his perfect freedom from conventional twaddle, and in his contempt for accidental rank of all sorts. He has named half his volume Chants Democratic, and though they are not chants, nor anything like it, they are certainly democratic. He does not write verse at all, which is fortunate, for he would certainly not be particular about his rhymes; nor does he even write blank verse; but he has invented a certain rolling changeful metre of his own, with, as his English editor truly remarks, 'a very powerful and majestic rhythmical sense throughout.' He sometimes furnishes long strings of detached items—very like the list of goods furnished by shops to their customers; but they are 'not devoid of a certain primitive effectiveness' by any means.

The doctrine of nihil humanum, &c. was never pushed to such extreme limits as by Walt Whitman. If a man could gain the suffrages of the human race by flattering them with the sense of their tremendous importance, this poet would be king of the world.

Small is the theme of the following chant, yet the
greatest—namely, ONE'S-SELF; that wondrous
thing, a simple separate person. That, for the
use of the New World, I sing.
Man's physiology complete, from top to toe, I sing.
Not physiognomy alone, nor brain alone, is
worthy for the Muse: I say the form complete
is worthier far. The female equally with the
male I sing.
Nor cease at the theme of One's-self. I speak the
word of the modern, the word En Masse.

Such is Mr Whitman's programme. If he did not speak 'the word of the modern' quite so often, or, at least, not borrow it from the penny-a-liner, it would be better for his fame. Also, through singing 'Man's physiology complete,' he has caused Mr Rossetti to be at the trouble of preparing the present 'Bowdlerised,'1 or excised edition of his works, to suit the squeamish tastes of the Old Country. So please, ladies, be particular to ask for the above-mentioned edition. There is nothing in that which you may not read, or the book would not be noticed in these columns.

Whitman's poetry reminds us, as we have said, of no other poet, but in his prose we seem to recognise some kinship to Emerson's. Here is a fine passage from the preface to his Leaves of Grass [the titles of his poems are unattractive, being almost always affected or unmeaning], insisting upon the importance of human act, word, thought, and the indestructibility of their results.

All that a person does or thinks is of consequence. Not a move can a man or woman make that affects him or her in a day or a month, or any part of the direct lifetime, or the hour of death, but the same affects him or her onward afterward through the indirect lifetime. The indirect is always as great and real as the direct. The spirit receives from the body just as much as it gives to the body. Not one name of word or deed …not of the putrid veins of gluttons or rum-drinkers …not peculation, or cunning, or betrayal, or murder …no serpentine poison of those that seduce women …not the foolish yielding of women …not of the attainment of gain by discreditable means …not any nastiness of appetite …not any harshness of officers to men, or judges to prisoners, or fathers to sons, or sons to fathers, or of husbands to wives, or bosses to their boys …not of greedy looks or malignant wishes …nor any of the wiles practised by people upon themselves …ever is or ever can be stamped on the programme, but it is duly realised and returned, and that returned in further performances, and they returned again. Nor can the push of charity or personal force ever be anything else than the profoundest reason, whether it bring arguments to hand or no. No specification is necessary …to add, or subtract, or divide is in vain. Little or big, learned or unlearned, white or black, legal or illegal, sick or well, from the first inspiration down the windpipe to the last expiration out of it, all that a male or female does that is vigorous, and benevolent, and clean, is so much sure profit to him or her in the unshakable order of the universe, and through the whole scope of it for ever. If the savage or felon is wise, it is well …if the greatest poet or savant is wise, it is simply the same …if the President or chief-justice is wise, it is the same …if the young mechanic or farmer is wise, it is no more or less. The interest will come round …all will come round. All the best actions of war and peace …all help given to relatives and strangers, and the poor, and old, and sorrowful, and young children, and widows, and the sick, and to all shunned persons …all furtherance of fugitives and of the escape of slaves …all the self-denial that stood steady and aloof on wrecks, and saw others take the seats of the boats …all offering of substance or life for the good old cause, or for a friend's sake or opinion's sake …all pains of enthusiasts scoffed at by their neighbours …all the vast sweet love and precious suffering of mothers …all honest men baffled in strifes recorded or unrecorded …all the grandeur and good of the few ancient nations whose fragments of annals we inherit …and all the good of the hundreds of far mightier and more ancient nations unknown to us by name or date or location …all that was ever manfully begun, whether it succeeded or not …all that has at any time been well suggested out of the divine heart of man, or by the divinity of his mouth, or by the shaping of his great hands …and all that is well thought or done this day on any part of the surface of the globe, or on any of the wandering stars or fixed stars by those there as we are here …or that is henceforth to be well thought or done by you, whoever you are, or by any one—these singly and wholly inured at their time, and inure now, and will inure always, to the identities from which they sprung or shall spring.

A fine lay-sermon, surely.

From common humanity our author rises to the American Citizen, with a portrait of whom he furnishes us, which will not easily be recognised by those who have only been accustomed to see English photographs of the individual in question. Other states, he says, indicate themselves by their deputies, but the United States always most in its common people.

Their manners, speech, dress, friendships—the freshness and candour of their physiognomy—the picturesque looseness of their carriage—their deathless attachment to freedom—their aversion to anything indecorous, or soft, or mean—the practical acknowledgment of the citizens of one state by the citizens of all other states—the fierceness of their roused resentment—their curiosity and welcome of novelty—their self-esteem and wonderful sympathy—their susceptibility to a slight—the air they have of persons who never knew how it felt to stand in the presence of superiors—the fluency of their speech—their delight in music, the sure symptom of manly tenderness and native elegance of soul—their good temper and open-handedness—the terrible significance of their elections, the President's taking off his hat to them, not they to him—these, too, are unrhymed poetry. It awaits the gigantic and generous treatment worthy of it.

In the meantime, however, Walt Whitman will try his hand.

Starting from fish-shape Paumanok, where I was
born,
Well-begotten, and raised by a perfect mother;
After roaming many lands—lover of populous
pavements;
Dweller in Mannahatta, city of ships, my city—
or on southern savannas;
Or a soldier camped, or carrying my knapsack and
gun—or a miner in California;
Or rude in my home in Dakotah's woods, my diet
meat, my drink from the spring;
Or withdrawn to muse and meditate in some deep
recess,
Far from the clank of crowds, intervals passing,
rapt and happy;
Aware of the fresh free giver, the flowing Missouri
—aware of mighty Niagara;
Aware of the buffalo herds, grazing the plains—the
hirsute and strong-breasted bull;
Of earths, rocks, fifth-month flowers, experienced—
stars, rain, snow, my amaze;
Having studied the mocking-bird's tones, and the
mountain hawk's,
And heard at dusk the unrivalled one, the hermit
thrush, from the swamp-cedars,
Solitary, singing in the West, I strike up for a New
World.

He even dates from the United States era; in 1856, he writes:

In the Year 80 of the States,
My tongue, every atom of my blood, formed from
this soil, this air,
Born here of parents born here, from parents the
same, and their parents the same,
I, now thirty-six years old, in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.
Creeds and schools in abeyance
(Retiring back a while, sufficed at what they are,
but never forgotten),
I harbour, for good or bad—I permit to speak, at
every hazard—
Nature now without check, with original energy.

Yet he is so good as to say that former experience and instruction have not been altogether thrown away; he is grateful, only let it be distinctly understood, that he is under no slavish sense of obligation; that the gratitude must be reciprocal.

I conned old times;
I sat studying at the feet of the great masters:
Now, if eligible, O that the great masters might
return and study me!

If eligible? One would think he pictured himself as an investment. You must not be put off your liking, reader, by these blots. 'Whitman is a poet who bears and needs to be read as a whole, and then the volume and torrent of his power carry the disfigurements along with it and away.' He is really a fine fellow.

Dead poets, philosophs, priests,
Martyrs, artists, inventors, governments long since,
Language-shapers on other shores,
Nations once powerful, now reduced, withdrawn, or
desolate,
I dare not proceed till I respectfully credit what
you have left, wafted hither:
I have perused it—own it is admirable (moving
a while among it);
Think nothing can ever be greater—nothing can
ever deserve more than it deserves;
Regarding it all intently a long while, then
dismissing it,
I stand in my place, with my own day, here.

It is as the poet of his own day, of his own nation (as also of Humanity, though in a less degree), that Whitman is to be considered. Half a century ago, he would have been wholly unintelligible; and half a century hence, it is possible that he will be forgotten; but he will leave much seed behind him, and perhaps found a school whose pupils will be greater than their master. His messages to the Poor and Fallen (who will most certainly never receive them, by the by) are full of tenderness and fraternal love, but never of pity: why should they be pitied, who are as high as the highest, and as good as the best? Nay, even crime does not cut them off from their equality with him, or him from his sympathy with them.

If you become degraded, criminal, ill, then I become
so for your sake;
If you remember your foolish and outlawed deeds,
do you think I cannot remember my own
foolish and outlawed deeds?
If you carouse at the table, I carouse at the opposite
side of the table;
If you meet some stranger in the streets, and love
him or her—why, I often meet strangers in the
street, and love them.
Why, what have you thought of yourself?
Is it you then that thought yourself less?
Is it you that thought the President greater than you?
Or the rich better off than you? or the educated
wiser than you?
Because you are greasy or pimpled, or that you
was once drunk, or a thief,
Or diseased, or rheumatic, or a prostitute, or are so
now;
Or from frivolity or impotence, or that you are no
scholar, and never saw your name in print,
Do you give in that you are any less immortal?

Whitman does not pretend to read 'the riddle of the painful earth;' but he takes leave to admire, after his fashion, the great Cosmos;

The sun and stars that float in the open air;
The apple-shaped earth, and we upon it—surely the
drift of them is something grand!
I do not know what it is, except that it is grand,
and that it is happiness,
And that the enclosing purport of us here is not a
speculation, or bon-mot, or reconnaissance,
And that it is not something which by luck may
turn out well for us, and without luck must be
a failure for us,
And not something which may yet be retracted in
a certain contingency.

Yet it is Man, and not external Nature, which has his worship:

When the psalm sings instead of the singer;
When the script preaches instead of the preacher;
When the pulpit descends and goes, instead of the
carver that carved the supporting desk;
When I can touch the body of books, by night or
by day, and when they touch my body back
again;
When a university course convinces, like a slumber-
ing woman and child convince;
When the minted gold in the vault smiles like the
night-watchman's daughter;
When warrantee deeds loafe in chairs opposite, and
are my friendly companions;
I intend to reach them my hand, and make as
much of them as I do of men and women like
you.
The sum of all known reverence I add up in you,
whoever you are;
The President is there in the White House for you—
it is not you who are here for him.

. . . . . . . . .

List close, my scholars dear!
All doctrines, all politics and civilisation, exsurge
from you;
All sculpture and monuments, and anything in-
scribed anywhere, are tallied in you;
The gist of histories and statistics, as far back as
the records reach, is in you this hour, and
myths and tales the same;
If you were not breathing and walking here, where
would they all be?
The most renowned poems would be ashes, orations
and plays would be vacuums.

Whitman is practical beyond all poets before him; and, indeed, in one sense (but not in the anti-theological one), material. It delights him to contemplate the visible instruments of labour, and he sings, in minutest detail, the works which they accomplish. The axe leaps, and the solid forest, says he, gives blind utterances, and the manifold shapes arise in his mind's eye, which are hewn out of the wood.

The coffin-shape for the dead to lie within in his
shroud;
The shape got out in posts, in the bedstead posts,
in the posts of the bride's bed;
The shape of the little trough, the shape of the
rockers beneath, the shape of the babe's cradle;
The shape of the floor-planks, the floor-planks for
dancers' feet;
The shape of the planks of the family home, the
home of the friendly parents and children,
The shape of the roof of the home of the happy
young man and woman, the roof over the well-
married young man and woman,
The roof over the supper joyously cooked by the
chaste wife, and joyously eaten by the chaste
husband, content after his day's work.
The shapes arise!
The shape of the prisoner's place in the court-room,
and of him or her seated in the place;
The shape of the liquor-bar leaned against by the
young rum-drinker and the old rum-drinker;
The shape of the shamed and angry stairs, trod by
sneaking footsteps;

. . . . . . . . .

The shape of the gambling-board with its devilish
winnings and losings;
The shape of the step-ladder for the convicted and
sentenced murderer, the murderer with haggard
face and pinioned arms.

. . . . . . . . .

Shapes of doors giving many exits and entrances;
The door passing the dissevered friend, flushed and
in haste;
The door that admits good news and bad news;
The door whence the son left home, confident and
puffed up;
The door he entered again from a long and scandal-
ous absence, diseased, broken down, without
innocence, without means.

These picturings may be somewhat weird and fanciful, but they are expressed with power, and the conception of them is certainly original and striking. They are, however, too prolonged, and remind one of what somebody writes of the minuteness of Crabbe's verse—that he was like a broker appraising furniture.

Under the unsatisfactory title of 'Assimilations,' Whitman describes the influence of association upon the human mind, and, incidentally, depicts most graphically the surroundings and circumstances of the somewhat unenviable home in which he himself was reared.

The mother at home, quietly placing the dishes on
the supper-table;
The mother with mild words—clean her cap and
gown, a wholesome odour falling off her person
and clothes as she walks by;
The father, strong, self-sufficient, manly, mean, angered, unjust;
The blow, the quick loud word, the tight bargain, the
crafty lure,
The family usages, the language, the company, the
furniture—the yearning and swelling heart,
Affection that will not be gainsayed—the sense of
what is real—the thought if after all it should
prove unreal,
The doubts of day-time and the doubts of night-time
—the curious whether and how,
Whether that which appears so is so, or is it all
flashes and specks?
Men and women crowding fast in the streets—if
they are not flashes and specks, what are they?
The streets themselves, and the façades of houses,
and goods in the windows,
Vehicles, teams, the heavy-planked wharfs—the
huge crossing at the ferries,
The village on the highland, seen from afar at
sunset—the river between,
Shadows, aureola and mist, light falling on roofs
and gables of white or brown, three miles off,
The schooner near by, sleepily dropping down the
tide—the little boat slack-towed astern,
The hurrying tumbling waves quick-broken crests
slapping,
The strata of coloured clouds, the long bar of
maroon-tint, away solitary by itself—the spread
of purity it lies motionless in,
The horizon's edge, the flying sea-crow, the fra-
grance of salt-marsh and shore-mud:
These became part of that child who went forth
every day, and who now goes, and will always
go forth every day.

In Mr Rossetti's Preface, we learn in plain prose what Walt Whitman's life has been. Walt, it appears, is merely a characteristic appellation; he was named Walter, like his father before him, who was first a farmer, afterwards a carpenter and builder (hence, doubtless, that eulogy on the axe), and an adherent to the religious principles of 'the great Quaker iconoclast, Elias Hicks,'2 of whom, if our readers have never heard, they are no worse off than we are.

Walt—born in 1819—was schooled at Brooklyn, a suburb of New York, and began life at the age of thirteen, working as a printer, later on, as a country teacher, and then as a miscellaneous press-writer in New York.' He changed his pursuits, after the national fashion: became newspaper editor, and then builder, like his father; from 1837 to 1848, was, we fear, a rowdy, since his American biographer informs us that, during that period, 'he sounded all experiences of life, with all their passions, pleasures, and abandonments;' but in 1862, on the breaking out of the Civil War, he undertook the (gratuitous) service of nursing the wounded. He was a Northerner, of course, but the Southern sick were tended by him with equal care; 'the strongest testimony is borne to his self-devotion and kindliness;' and in a Washington hospital, when attending upon a case of gangrene, he absorbed the poison into his system, and was disabled for six months. In 1865, he obtained a clerkship in the Department of the Interior; but this was taken from him when he published his audacious Leaves of Grass. 'He soon after, however, obtained another modest, but creditable post in the office of the Attorney-general. He still visits the hospitals on Sundays, and often on other days as well.

The poet is 'much above the average size, and noticeably well-proportioned…. He has light-blue eyes, a florid complexion, a fleecy beard, now gray, and a quite peculiar sort of magnetism about him in relation to those with whom he comes in contact…. He has always been carried by predilection towards the society of the common people; but is not the less for that open to refined and artistic impressions.' As 'an accessible human individual,' he is thus described by a writer in the Fortnightly Review: 'Having occasion to visit New York soon after the appearance of Walt Whitman's book, I was urged by some friends to search him out…. The day was excessively hot, the thermometer at nearly 100 , and the sun blazed down as only on sandy Long Island can the sun blaze…. I saw stretched upon his back, and gazing up straight at the terrible sun, the man I was seeking. With his gray clothing, his blue-gray shirt, his iron-gray hair, his swart sunburned face and bare neck, he lay upon the brown-and-white grass—for the sun had burned away its greenness—and was so like the earth upon which he rested that he seemed almost enough a part of it for one to pass by without recognition. I approached him, gave my name and reason for searching him out, and asked him if he did not find the sun rather hot. "Not at all too hot," was his reply; and he confided to me that this was one of his favourite places and attitudes for composing "poems." He then walked with me to his home, and took me along its narrow ways to his room. A small room of about fifteen feet square, with a single window looking out on the barren solitudes of the island; a small cot; a washstand, with a little looking-glass hung over it from a tack in the wall; a pine-table, with pen, ink, and paper on it; an old line-engraving, representing Bacchus, hung on the wall—and opposite, a similar one of Silenus3: these constituted the visible environments of Walt Whitman. There was not, apparently, a single book in the room…. The books he seemed to know and love best were the Bible, Homer, and Shakespeare: these he owned, and probably had in his pockets while we were talking. He had two studies where he read: one was the top of an omnibus; and the other a small mass of sand, then entirely uninhabited, far out in the ocean, called Coney Island…. The only distinguished contemporary he had ever met was the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher,4 of Brooklyn, who had visited him…. He confessed to having no talent for industry, and that his forte was "loafing and writing poems:" he was poor, but had discovered that he could, on the whole, live magnificently on bread and water…. On no occasion did he laugh, nor indeed did I ever see him smile.'

If he does not laugh, he is humorous enough in his poems, although, it may be, without being aware of it. Under the head of Wonders—and if he has the bump of Wonder, I am afraid he has not that of Veneration—he thus discourses:

The great laws take and effuse without argument;
I am of the same style, for I am their friend,
I love them quits and quits—I do not halt and
make salaams.
I lie abstracted, and hear beautiful tales of things,
and the reasons of things;
They are so beautiful, I nudge myself to listen.
I cannot say to any person what I hear—I cannot
say it to myself—it is very wonderful.

The notion of nudging one's self to listen is capital, but suggests that there may be a tinge of Irish-American in Mr Walt Whitman's otherwise pur sang (as he would term it). Here is something which, while reminding one in its form of Mr Martin Tupper,5 would, if the idea should be attributed to him, give that respectable gentleman a fit:

Of detected persons—To me, detected persons are
not in any respect worse than undetected per-
sons—and are not in any respect worse than
I am myself.
Of criminals—To me, any judge, or any juror, is
equally criminal—and any reputable person also—
and the President is also.

We cannot more fitly conclude our notice of this really remarkable man than by quoting his most characteristic poem. It is from the Leaves of Grass, and is called Burial. It expresses very strikingly in his strange rhythm the thought that has struck most of us who have any egotism. How strange that the world should have wagged on for ages before we came into it, and how still stranger (and more audacious) that it will still continue to wag on, when we have ceased to wag.

To think of it!
To think of time—of all that retrospection!
To think of to-day, and the ages continued hence-
forward!

. . . . . . . . .

To think that the sun rose in the east! that men
and women were flexible, real, alive! that
everything was alive!
To think that you and I did not see, feel, think,
nor bear our part!
To think that we are now here, and bear our part!
Not a day passes—not a minute or second, without
an accouchement!
Not a day passes—not a minute or second, without
a corpse!
The dull nights go over, and the dull days also;
The soreness of lying so much in bed goes over;
The physician, after long putting off, gives the
silent and terrible lookfor an answer;
The children come hurried and weeping, and the
brothers and sisters are sent for;
Medicines stand unused on the shelf (the camphor-
smell has long pervaded the rooms);
The faithful hand of the living does not desert the
hand of the dying;
The twitching lips press lightly on the forehead of
the dying;
The breath ceases, and the pulse of the heart ceases;
The corpse stretches on the bed, and the living look upon it;
It is palpable as the living are palpable.
The living look upon the corpse with their eye-
sight,
But without eyesight lingers a different living, and
looks curiously on the corpse.
To think that the rivers will flow, and the snow
fall, and the fruits ripen, and act upon others
as upon us now—yet not act upon us!
To think of all these wonders of city and country,
and others taking great interest in them—and
we taking no interest in them!
To think how eager we are in building our houses!
To think others shall be just as eager, and we quite
indifferent!

The poet considers the universalness of this thing called Death

Slow-moving and black lines creep over the whole
earth…they never cease…they are the burial-
lines;
He that was President was buried, and he that is
now President shall surely be buried.

But the particular illustration which Walt Whitman characteristically selects of Burial is by no means that of the President, but of an old Broadway stage-driver. It is so graphic, that it might be a sketch by Dickens, and yet it has a weird sort of rhythm about it that separates it from prose of any sort:

Cold dash of waves at the ferry-wharf—posh and
ice in the river, half-frozen mud in the streets, a
gray discouraged sky overhead, the short last
day-light of Twelfth-month;
A hearse and stages—other vehicles give place—
the funeral of an old Broadway stage-driver,
the cortège mostly drivers.
Steady the trot to the cemetery, duly rattles the
death-bell, the gate is passed, the new-dug
grave is halted at, the living alight, the hearse
uncloses,
The coffin is passed out, lowered and settled, the
whip is laid on the coffin, the earth is swiftly
shovelled in,
The mound above is flatted with the spades—silence;
A minute, no one moves or speaks—it is done;
He is decently put away—is there anything more?
He was a good fellow, free-mouthed, quick-tem-
pered, not bad-looking, able to take his own
part, witty, sensitive to a slight, ready with
life or death for a friend, fond of women,
gambled, ate hearty, drank hearty, had known
what it was to be flush, grew low-spirited
toward the last, sickened, was helped by a
contribution, died, aged forty-one years—and
that was his funeral.
Thumb extended, finger uplifted, apron, cape, gloves,
strap, wet-weather clothes, whip carefully
chosen, boss, spotter, starter, hostler, somebody
loafing on you, you loafing on somebody, head-
way, man before and man behind, good day's
work, bad day's work, pet stock, mean stock,
first out, last out, turning-in at night;
To think that these are so much and so nigh to
other drivers—and he there takes no interest
in them!

Poems by Walt Whitman. Selected and edited by William Michael Rossetti Hotten: Piccadilly.

'Paumanok is the native name of Long Island, state of New York. It presents a fish-like shape on the map.'

'Mannahatta, or Manhattan, is (as many readers will know) New York.'


Notes:

1. Thomas Bowdler (1754-1825) was an English physician who famously published an expurgated edition of William Shakespeare's work entitled Family Shakspeare (1818) which he considered to be more appropriate than the original for family reading. [back]

2. Elias Hicks (1748-1830) was an advocate of abolition and a liberal Quaker preacher. He became the head of one of the two factions of the first major schism within the Religious Society of Friends. [back]

3. Silenus is a figure from Greek mythology. He was the teacher and faithful companion of the wine-god Dionysus. When intoxicated, Silenus was said to possess special knowledge and the power of prophecy. [back]

4. The influential Protestant spokesman Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) was noteworthy for his oratorical skills and his efforts as a social reformer and abolitionist. [back]

5. The English poet Martin Farquhar Tupper (1810-1889) was best known for Proverbial Philosophy, didactic moral and religious verse. [back]


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