Contemporary Reviews

About this Item

Title: [Review of Leaves of Grass (1855)]

Creator: unknown [unsigned in original]

Date: May 1856

Whitman Archive ID: anc.00181

Source: The Merchant's Magazine and Commercial Review 34 (May 1856): 654. The electronic text for this file was prepared by Whitman Archive staff and affiliates, who transcribed the text from a representation of the original (e.g., photocopy, digital scan or other electronic reproduction, microfilm copy). The electronic text was originally prepared in Microsoft Word for submission to the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review. The transcription was then exported from Microsoft Word as plain text and encoded for publication on the Whitman Archive. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the reviews, see our statement of editorial policy.

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

Leaves of Grass pp. 95. Brooklyn, New York.

There is the name neither of author nor publisher to this singular book—one of the most singular that has ever come under our notice. Appearing at the first glance to be mere unconnected common-place remarks, aphorisms, and opinions, there is yet developed, on further examination, a vast amount of undisciplined power. Many of the lines are such perfect pictures in themselves, that an artist might draw them without reference to any other material, and produce beautiful pictorial compositions. Other portions of the book are perfectly kaleidoscopic—grotesque changes rapidly succeed each other; and no one save the author himself—and he, perhaps, not an exception—can explain them. Had the elder D'Israeli met with "Leaves of Grass," he would have assuredly included it in his "Curiosities of Literature."1 The book is embellished with a portrait (we presume) of the author—a rather melancholy-looking gentleman, with a wide-awake hat on, and neither coat nor vest. Among the "Leaves of Grass," certainly the author himself is not the least remarkable "blade."


1. Isaac D'Israeli, British man of letters and father of the politician Benjamin Disraeli, first published his popular Curiosities of Literature, consisting of anecdotes, characters, sketches, and observations, literary, critical, and historical in 1791. In the nineteenth century, it was reprinted and expanded multiple times. [back]


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