Selected Criticism

Treasurer's Office, Solicitor of the
Gill, Jonathan
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

Walt Whitman's brief tenure as a clerk at the Solicitor of the Treasurer's Office, a division of the United States Justice Department, in Washington, D.C., was his last regular employment. It is not clear when he started to work there, but by late January 1872 he had been transferred from the Attorney General's Office, and was occupying an office with several other clerks. At the Solicitor of the Treasurer's Office Whitman performed the same types of bureaucratic and secretarial duties that he had at the Attorney General's office, which was also located in the Treasury Building. Unlike his departure from the Department of the Interior a decade earlier, Whitman left the Treasurer's Office because of illness rather than scandal.

Whitman failed to mention the Treasurer's Office when he described the period in "An Interregnum Paragraph" in Specimen Days, and also misremembered the date of the onset of the illness that led to his departure, claiming it took place in February rather than in January. From Whitman's description, it appears that he worked no harder for the Solicitor of the Treasury than he had for the Attorney General. In addition to using his office as a home-away-from-home during his leisure time—Whitman particularly enjoyed the office window's southern view of the Potomac and the mountains of Virginia—in 1872 he took several leaves of absence to work on a new edition of Leaves of Grass.

According to his later description to Richard Maurice Bucke, Whitman had decided to remain in his office on the frigid evening of 22 January 1873, rather than return to his unheated apartment nearby. He was reading a popular novel while reclining by the fire when he was struck with a dizziness that would develop into paralysis later that night while he slept at home. After several months of convalescence, Whitman returned to work part time in March, but in June he moved to Camden, New Jersey. In July he asked the chief clerk of the office for a continued leave of absence, which was granted, and the next month successfully petitioned for a friend to substitute in his place. Despite an appeal to President Grant in 1874, Whitman was eventually discharged.


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

Bucke, Richard Maurice. Walt Whitman. Philadelphia: McKay, 1883.

Reynolds, David S. Walt Whitman's America: A Cultural Biography. New York: Knopf, 1995.


Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Ed Folsom & Kenneth M. Price, editors.