By David S. Reynolds
Few authors are so compatible to historic examine as Whitman, who's broadly thought of America's maximum poet. This advisor combines modern cultural reports and historic scholarship to light up Whitman's various contexts. The essays discover dimensions of Whitman's dynamic dating to working-class politics, race and slavery, sexual mores, the visible arts, and the belief of democracy. The poet who emerges from this quantity is not any "solitary singer," distanced from his tradition, yet what he himself referred to as "the age transfigured," absolutely enmeshed in his instances and addressing concerns which are nonetheless important this day.
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Additional info for A Historical Guide to Walt Whitman (Historical Guides to American Authors)
68 The assassination elicited four Whitman poems, including the ever-popular "O Captain! " Besides witnessing the war and its leaders, Whitman developed close friendships in Washington. He dined often at the home of the volatile abolitionist William Douglas O'Connor and his reform-minded wife, Nelly, where he had endless discussions with the journalists and government workers who gathered there. Through political contacts, O'Connor got Whitman his clerkship in the Indian bureau. When Whitman was fired from the post after it was discovered he had written sexually explicit poetry, O'Connor penned a vitriolic pamphlet, The Good Gray Poet, which excoriated Whitman's accusers and argued for the essential propriety of his verse.
When he was visited by Alcott and Thoreau, he seemed lazy and slow, enjoying stretching out on a couch for long talks. "54 Although he continued to write poems, Whitman also fantasized about reaching the people directly by becoming a traveling lecturer. "55 He even printed a circular that advertised "Walt Whitman's Lectures," but nothing came of the project. Poetically, he was still driven by a messianic spirit. "56 Presumably, he aimed to produce 365 poems—a not unrealistic expectation, given that, at the time, he was writing so furiously that the third edition of Leaves of Grass would contain a hundred new ones.
Headed by former abolitionist and free-lover Henry Clapp, the Pfaff bohemians consisted of arty, unconventional types, including actresses Ada Clare and Adah Isaacs Menken, who scandalized the respectable by flaunting their illicit love affairs; author Fitz-James O'Brien, who wrote Poesque horror stories; and humorist Artemus Ward. " he wrote in "The Two Vaults," his poem about Pfaff's. "Drink on drinkers! / Bandy and jest! "59 After the cool reception of the first two editions of Leaves of Grass, Whitman may have feared that his mission as cultural poet was in jeopardy, but he did not leave off writing poetry and in fact went forward with plans for a third edition.