Walt Whitman's Life in Words

Essay by jumeeCollege, Undergraduate December 2009

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October 20, 2009Walt Whitman was born in 1819 on Long Island, New york. He was the son of a carpenter, Walt Whitman, Sr. Walt's mother, Louisa Whitman, was a descendant of Dutch farmers. His parents were Quakers, and Quakers were more liberal in their churches and in the ways they served God. They believed in equality and democracy. These doctrines later shaped Whitman's values and are reflected in his works. He left school early, and during his early years he trained as a printer. He later worked as a teacher, and printer. After that, he held a great variety of jobs while writing and editing for several periodicals. He was not successful because his radical views made him unpopular among readers.

In 1855 he published the first edition of "Leaves of Grass," which at that time consisted of only twelve poems. The first edition was composed of untitled poems.

"Have you guessed you yourself would not continue? Have you dreaded those earth beetles? Have you feared the future would be nothing to you?" Here, Whitman was talking about death. He was talking about the reality the will everyone's experience. His work was generally ignored, except by one significant person, Ralph Waldo Emerson who wrote a letter to congratulate him, in which he offered his "greet[ings]... at the beginning of a great career." Whitman quickly published another edition of "Leaves of Grass," and added about twenty more poems to it and attached the letter from Emerson to it without Emerson's permission. Emerson was not very happy with that, but it made other significant poets and readers have a second thought, about his works. In 1860, he wrote another edition of a much larger "Leaves of Grass" containing some 156 poems (123helpme). Examples of...