Selected Criticism

Williams, Captain John
Cooper, Stephen A.
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

Captain John Williams, great-grandfather of Walt Whitman, was a Welsh master and part owner of a West Indies trading ship. As a young man Williams served under John Paul Jones on the Bon Homme Richard; notably, he fought in the famous naval battle on 23 September 1779, against the English Serapis. Williams's daughter, Naomi ("Amy") Williams Van Velsor, told Whitman of his great-grandfather's sea adventures, and Whitman wrote of the famous Independence sea fight in "Song of Myself": "Would you hear of an old-time sea-fight? / Would you learn who won by the light of the moon and stars? / List to the yarn, as my grandmother's father the sailor told it to me" (section 35).


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

Whitman, Walt. Complete Poetry and Collected Prose. Ed. Justin Kaplan. New York: Library of America, 1982.


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