Contemporary Reviews

About this Item

Title: [Review of Leaves of Grass (1881–82)]

Creator: unknown [unsigned in original]

Date: September 11, 1882

Whitman Archive ID: anc.00234

Source: The Philadelphia Press 11 September 1882: 7. 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. 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 By WALT WHITMAN. One volume. 12mo. (7 5/8 x 5 3/8 in.), 382 pp., cloth; price, $2. Philadelphia: Rees Welsh & Co.

"The good gray poet," stands by his colors and indicates his principles. Having been driven from the modern Athens he now appears undimmed and, it is to be hoped, victorious in the neighbor city of his home. The controversy about the morality of his poems need not here be continued. It is a question to which the old motto of the Garter can be well applied—Honi soit qui mal y pense.1 The lewd imagination which would gloat over Whitman's virile lines would find rot to feed on in the best of books. Here, let it be said, however, that Leaves of Grass, as it stands, is not a book for girls or children. It pictures freely or frankly, with-out winking at, the evils in the world—the evils which every man and woman knows exist, and has to face every day. A great part of Whitman's poems is perfectly sound and safe reading for even the tenderest of girlhood. It seems as if it would be worth while to publish for a more indiscriminate public an edition of Leaves of Grass with the sixty or hundred dubious lines omitted. It might injure the perspective of the work from an ideal point of view, but the gain to the young to be able to read the best of Whitman would certainly amply pay for the sacrifice. The Philadelphia issue of Leaves of Grass is identical in make-up to the Osgood edition.


1. Honi soit qui mal y pense is a French proverbial expression meaning "shame on him who thinks evil of it." It is the motto of the Order of the Garter, a distinguished and exclusive English order of knighthood founded by King Edward III in 1348. [back]


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