Walt Whitman Two-Tone Coffee Mug
Walter Whitman (May 31, 1819 – March 26, 1892) was an American poet, essayist, journalist, and humanist. Proclaimed the "greatest of all American poets" by many foreign observers a mere four years after his death, he is viewed as the first urban poet. He was a part of the transition between Transcendentalism and Realism, incorporating both views in his works. His works have been translated into more than twenty-five languages. Whitman is among the most influential and controversial poets in the American canon. His work has been described as a "rude shock" and "the most audacious and debatable contribution yet made to American literature." As Whitman wrote in Leaves of Grass (By Blue Ontario's Shore), "Rhymes and rhymers pass away...America justifies itself, give it time..."----------------------Walter Whitman was born May 31, 1819 in West Hills, Long Island, to parents of Quaker background, Walter and Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. He was the second of nine children. One of his siblings, born prior to him, did not make it past infancy. His mother was barely literate and of Dutch descent and his father was a Quaker carpenter. In 1823 the family moved to Brooklyn, where for six years Whitman attended public schools. It was the only formal education he ever received. His mother taught him the value of family ties, and Whitman remained devoted to his family throughout his life, becoming, in a real sense, its leader after the death of his father. Whitman inherited the liberal intellectual and political attitudes of a free thinker from his father, who exposed him to the ideas and writings of the socialists Frances Wright and Robert Dale Owen, the liberal Quaker Elias Hicks, and the deist Count Volney. ------------------------------ One advantage of living in Brooklyn was that Whitman saw many of the famous people of the day when they visited nearby New York City. Thus he saw President Andrew Jackson and Marquis de Lafayette. In what was one of Whitman's favorite childhood stories Marquis de Lafayette visited New York and, selecting the six-year-old Walt from the crowd, lifted him up and carried him. Whitman came to view this event as a kind of laying on of hands: the French hero of the American Revolution anointing the future poet of democracy in the energetic city of immigrants where the nation was being invented day by day.--------At age eleven he worked as an office boy for lawyers and a doctor, then in the summer of 1831 became a printer's devil for the Long Island Patriot, a four-page weekly whose editor, Samuel L. Clements (NOT Samuel L. Clemens/ Mark Twain), shared the liberal political views of his father. It was here that Whitman first broke into print with "sentimental" bits of filler material. The following summer Whitman went to work for another printer, Erastus Worthington, and in the autumn he moved on to the shop of Alden Spooner, the most successful publisher-printer in Brooklyn. Although his family moved back to the area of West Hills in 1834, where another son, Thomas Jefferson, was born in July, Whitman stayed on in Brooklyn. He published a few pieces in the New York Mirror, attended the Bowery Theater, continued subscribing to a circulating library, and joined a local debating society. In his sixteenth year, Whitman moved to New York City to seek work as a compositor. But Whitman's move was poorly timed: a wave of Irish immigrants had contributed to the already unruly behavior in the city's streets; anti-abolitionist and anti-Irish riots often broke out; unemployment was high; and the winter was miserably cold. Whitman could not find satisfactory employment and, in May 1836, he rejoined his family, now living in Hempstead, Long Island. Whitman taught at various schools until the spring of 1838, when, with the financial support of friends, he began his own newspaper, the weekly Long Islander, in Huntington.---------------Whitman 's stint as an independent newspaperman lasted until May 1839, when he sold the paper and his equipment and went again to New York. This time he was more fortunate, landing a job in Jamaica with James J. Brenton, editor of the Long Island Democrat. In 1841 he moved to New York City, working initially as a printer but ultimately as a journalist. His first important post was as editor of the New York Aurora in 1842.Throughout the 1840s he worked for more than a dozen New York City newspapers, including the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, where he was editor between 1846 and 1848.His position at the Eagle was abruptly terminated in part because of his disagreement with the newspaper's owners over the wisdom of the Wilmot Proviso, which stated that all territories had to be admitted into the Union as free soil states. The fact that he started a free soil paper in 1849 reinforces the conclusion that Whitman left his New Orleans post partly for political reasons. Generally, Whitman's position on slavery was that it was an evil, but so long as the Constitution made it legal, he believed that fugitive slave laws should be obeyed. He stated his views on slavery in a quasi-political treatise called The Eighteenth Presidency written between 1854 and 1856; although it was put into proof sheets, it was never published in Whitman's lifetime. In his optimism for the power of American democracy, he hoped that the American people would voluntarily give up slavery rather than lose it through civil war.------------His most famous work is Leaves of Grass, which he continued to edit and revise until his death and is considered his most personal and political work. A group of Civil War poems, included within Leaves of Grass, is often published as an independent collection under the name of Drum-Taps.The first versions of Leaves of Grass were self-published and poorly received. Several poems featured graphic depictions of the human body, enumerated in Whitman's innovative "cataloging" style, which contrasted with the reserved Victorian ethic of the period. Despite its revolutionary content and structure, subsequent editions of the book evoked critical indifference in the US literary establishment. Outside the US, the book was a world-wide sensation, especially in France, where Whitman's intense humanism influenced the naturalist revolution in French letters. In 2000, the value of a copy of the first edition, which had sold for $35,000 in the 1990s, was cataloged with an estimated value of $50,000 - $70,000.-----------------By 1865 Walt Whitman was world-famous, and Leaves of Grass had been accepted by a publishing house in the US. Though still considered an iconoclast and a literary outsider, the poet's status began to grow at home. During his final years, Whitman became a respected literary vanguard visited by young artists. Several photographs and paintings of Whitman with a large beard cultivated a "Christ-figure" mystique. Whitman did not invent American transcendentalism, but he had become its most famous exponent and was also associated with American mysticism. In the twentieth century, young writers such as Hart Crane, William Carlos Williams, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac rediscovered Whitman and reinterpreted his literary manifesto for a new audience.