Selected Criticism

Furness, Clifton Joseph (1898–1946)
Pannapacker, William A.
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

Born on 30 April in Sheridan, Indiana, Clifton Joseph Furness received a B.A. from Northwestern University and attended Harvard University's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences from 1927 to 1932, earning an A.M. in education in 1928. He joined the faculty of the New England Conservatory of Music in 1929 and was Supervisor of Academic Studies at the time of his death.

Furness made significant contributions to Whitman studies. Walt Whitman's Workshop (1928) presented previously unpublished materials by Whitman on lecturing and oratory, antislavery notes, "The Eighteenth Presidency!," and intended introductions to American and English editions of Leaves of Grass. Furness also contributed to Clara Barrus's Whitman and Burroughs, Comrades (1931), and he wrote the introduction to the 1939 publication of Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman: Reproduced from the First Edition (1855). In a review of Frances Winwar's American Giant (1941), Furness faulted Winwar for overemphasizing Whitman's alleged affair in New Orleans and for sentimentalizing Whitman's family life. Prompted by his dissatisfaction with this and other biographies, Furness began his own "definitive" Whitman biography. He completed a manuscript, but it was rejected by at least a dozen publishers. After Furness's premature death, Gay Wilson Allen acquired the manuscript and notebooks of the biography and used them in writing The Solitary Singer (1955). Furness's unpublished biography of Whitman is now in the Fales Collection of the Bobst Library, New York University.


Allen, Gay Wilson. The New Walt Whitman Handbook. 1975. New York: New York UP, 1986.

Furness, Clifton J. Introduction. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman: Reproduced from the First Edition (1855). New York: Columbia UP, 1939. v–xviii.

———. Rev. of American Giant: Walt Whitman and His Times, by Frances Winwar. American Literature 13 (1942): 423–432.

———, ed. Walt Whitman's Workshop: A Collection of Unpublished Manuscripts. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1928.


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