Preferred Citation: Pollak, Vivian R. The Erotic Whitman. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c2000 2000.





1. On the history of domination as a psychological problem, see Jessica Ben-jamin, The Bonds of Love: Psychoanalysis, Feminism, and the Problem of Dom-ination (New York: Pantheon, 1988). Paraphrasing Freud, she writes that “The injunction to love our neighbor is not a reflection of abiding concern for others, but a testimony to the opposite: our propensity for aggression” (p. 4). Her analysis has furthered my understanding of the relationship between social aggres-sion and sexual love.

2. As Betsy Erkkila points out in Whitman the Political Poet (New York: Ox-ford University Press, 1989), p. v, the term politics may refer to a wide and subtle range of signifying practices, as well as to specific structures of government, though the more general concept of power links these usages. In this book, I am most interested in analyzing Whitman's strategies for maximizing personal power and, correspondingly, minimizing gender and sexual anxiety—some of it com-mon to his culture, some of it more uniquely his own.

3. Whitman composed the 1855 “Preface” after the book of poems had been written.

4. Kerry C. Larson, Whitman's Drama of Consensus (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), p. xiii.

5. The quotation is from Larson, Whitman's Drama of Consensus, pp. 58–59. See also George B. Hutchinson, The Ecstatic Whitman: Literary Shamanism and the Crisis of the Union (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1986); Erk-kila, Whitman the Political Poet; M. Jimmie Killingsworth, Whitman's Poetry of the Body: Sexuality, Politics, and the Text (Chapel Hill: University of North Car-olina Press, 1989); Michael Moon, Disseminating Whitman: Revision and Cor-poreality in “Leaves of Grass” (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991);

Robert K. Martin, ed., The Continuing Presence of Walt Whitman: The Life Af-ter the Life (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1992), pp. xi-xxiii; Tenney Na-thanson, Whitman's Presence: Body, Voice, and Writing in “Leaves of Grass” (New York: New York University Press, 1992); Bryne R. S. Fone, Masculine Landscapes: Walt Whitman and the Homoerotic Text (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992); Karen Sánchez-Eppler, “To Stand Between: Walt Whitman's Poetics of Merger and Embodiment,” in Touching Liberty: Aboli-tion, Feminism, and the Politics of the Body (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), pp. 50–82; David S. Reynolds, Walt Whitman's America: A Cul-tural Biography (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995).

6. In recreating Whitman's early life, I am indebted to biographers and cul-tural historians such as Gay Wilson Allen, Justin Kaplan, Paul Zweig, and Da-vid S. Reynolds. See Allen, The Solitary Singer: A Critical Biography (1955; re-print, New York: New York University Press, 1967); Kaplan, Walt Whitman: A Life (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1980); Zweig, Walt Whitman: The Mak-ing of a Poet (New York: Basic Books, 1983); and Reynolds, Walt Whitman's America: A Cultural Biography. Other biographers and cultural historians whose work has facilitated my project are cited later in the text.

7. Peter Doyle, quoted in Calamus: A Series of Letters Written during the Years 1868–1880. By Walt Whitman to a Young Friend (Peter Doyle), ed. Rich-ard Maurice Bucke (Boston: Laurens Maynard, 1897), p. 25. See also Charles A. Roe, quoted in Allen, Solitary Singer, pp. 35–36, and George Washington Whit-man, quoted in Allen, p. 33.

8. Whitman described this episode to Ellen M. O'Connor. See Allen, Solitary Singer, p. 37, and Reynolds, Walt Whitman's America, p. 72.

9. Louis Crompton, Byron and Greek Love: Homophobia in 19th-Century England (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), p. 6. In “The Biogra-pher's Problem,” in Walt Whitman of Mickle Street: A Centennial Collection, ed. Geoffrey M. Sill (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1994), pp. 18–27, Justin Kaplan observes that “Correctly or not, we tend to think of Ralph Waldo Emerson as having the sexual voltage of a day-old corpse. Yet we know that Emerson married twice and fathered four children. To reduce this to simple acts, we know with certainty at least four more things about Emerson's sex life than we have ever been able to find out about Whitman's” (p. 20). On Whitman and homoerotic desire, see my discussion of the letters to Abraham Paul Leech in chapter 1, and of the men described in Whitman's notebooks in chapter 3.

10. See the Introductions and Commentary in Charley Shively, ed., Calamus Lovers: Walt Whitman's Working-Class Camerados (San Francisco: Gay Sun-shine, 1987), as well as my discussion of these valuable archival materials in chapters 1 and 5. See also Drum Beats: Walt Whitman's Civil War Boy Lovers (San Francisco: Gay Sunshine, 1989), though here the sexually insatiable Whitman persona is even less credible.

11. See Reynolds, Walt Whitman's America, pp. 70–80, and my discussion of this purported episode inchapter 3.

12. Concurrently, Whitman in Washington had formed a deep and he hoped lasting attachment to the abolitionist writer William Douglas O'Connor and his wife Ellen. “Dear Nelly,” he wrote in December 1864, “you & William have neither

of you any idea how I daily & nightly bear you in mind & in love too—I did not know myself that you both had taken such deep root in my heart—few attachments wear & last through life, but ours must” (Corr 1:244). Before her marriage, Ellen (Tarr) O'Connor had worked on The Liberator, William Lloyd Garrison's antislavery journal, and was active in the women's rights movement. Through her sister's husband William F. Channing, a scientist and physician, she was related to the Concord intellectual circle that included Emerson, Thoreau, and Hawthorne, as well as to Thomas Wentworth Higginson—friend of Emily Dickinson, women's rights advocate, and abolitionist hero. Ezra Greenspan notes that “the kind of family [Whitman] did not have in New York he came to believe during the war decade he had found in Washington in the home of the O'Connors.” See Walt Whitman and the American Reader (New York: Cam-bridge University Press, 1990), p. 227.

13. On Whitman and the British sex reformers, see chapter 5. See also Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, “Toward the Twentieth Century: English Readers of Whit-man,” in Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985), pp. 201–17.

14. See, for example, the issues raised by Christopher Newfield in “Democ-racy and Male Homoeroticism,” Yale Journal of Criticism 6, no. 2 (fall 1993): 29–62. Newfield suggests that “Whitman ties democratic theory and the fluid social arrangements represented, in his view, by male friendship” (42). This is both true and not true, and I amplify the psychology of Whitman's perspective in chapter 5.

15. Whitman did not attempt to integrate Doyle into his Washington circle of writers and artists, where his fondness for Pete's company was acknowledged but not easily understood.

16. For the view that “Whitman extended himself with Peter Doyle farther than he had with any other man and at greater risk to his psychic safety,” see Kaplan, Walt Whitman: A Life, p. 313. Kaplan further describes Whitman as “mainly objectless in his affections until” falling in love with Doyle, whereas I describe sequential loves whose intensity belies the “objectless” label.

17. See also Corr 2:69–70 and 118–19.

18. Peter Doyle, quoted in Shively, Calamus Lovers, p. 106.

19. The Correspondence contains a total of forty-six letters written by Whit-man to Doyle beginning in September 1868 and continuing until mid-June 1873. Beginning in the spring of 1874, Whitman's letters were more perfunc-tory. Doyle visited Camden in May but Whitman became increasingly depressed and debilitated during the summer and fall and described himself as too ill to write. See Corr 2:312, 316. By November 1875, Whitman was able to travel to Washington, where he boarded with Pete's relatives.

20. On Whitman and Stafford, see Corr 3:2–9. Following his multiple strokes in 1873, Whitman never fully recovered his health, but at the Stafford Farm in Kirkwood, New Jersey, which he describes rhapsodically in Specimen Days, his health improved markedly. Throughout their loving friendship, Staf-ford and Whitman quarreled repeatedly, and by 1878 both men had begun to go their separate ways.

21. On war and remasculinization, see Susan Jeffords, The Remasculinization

of America: Gender and the Vietnam War (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989). An alternative though not necessarily antithetical view is that both masculinity and femininity unsettle in historical crisis. See Behind the Lines: Gender and the Two World Wars, ed. Margaret Randolph Higonnet, Jane Jen-son, Sonya Michel, and Margaret Collins Weitz (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987); Arms and the Woman: War, Gender, and Literary Representation, ed. Helen M. Cooper, Adrienne Auslander Munich, and Susan Merrill Squier (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989); Susan Schweik, “A Gulf So Deeply Cut”: American Women Poets and the Second World War (Mad-ison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991).


1. Horace Traubel (1858–1919), son of a Quaker mother and German Jew-ish immigrant father, produced With Walt Whitman in Camden, the most im-portant biography of Whitman's later years. Compliments to Whitman's mother proliferate throughout the poet's conversations with Traubel, who visited him almost daily during the last four years of his life. Whitman's revisionary personal history took a decisive turn in 1867, however, when he described himself not only as “Well-begotten” but as “rais'd by a perfect mother.” See “Starting from Paumanok,” LG 1867, in “Leaves of Grass”: A Textual Variorum of the Printed Poems, ed. Sculley Bradley, Harold W. Blodgett, Arthur Golden, and William White, 3 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1980), 2:273.

2. On Traubel as “the last of the young men with whom the poet developed a strong emotional attachment,” see Gary Schmidgall, Walt Whitman: A Gay Life (New York: Dutton, 1997), p. 226.

3. See Quentin Anderson, “Whitman's New Man,” in Walt Whitman's Au-tograph Revision of the Analysis of “Leaves of Grass” (For Dr. R. M. Bucke's Walt Whitman), ed. Stephen Railton (New York: New York University Press, 1974), p. 29.

4. The notebooks had other purposes as well. For an analysis of their various functions that concentrates mainly on the late 1870s and 1880s, see DBN 1:xi-xix.

5. On the Van Velsors and war, see also Whitman's notebook entry for Au-gust 11, 1864: “Mother was telling me at dinner to-day, how glad she was when peace was declared, after the war of 1812 &c. She said her father told them he hoped they never would be compelled to see the horrors of war, as he had seen them in the Revolution. Mother's brothers were in the army at Brooklyn in 1812. She told me that her father came down to visit them and bring them some things, and she came with him. The camp must have been somewhere in the neighborhood of what is now Washington Park” (NUPM 2:523–24).

6. For example, “In dress she was rather Quakerish” (NUPM 1:6); “the last of Quaker training” (NUPM 1:31); “my grandmother Amy's sweet old face in its Quaker cap” (SD 694); “Amy Williams, of the Friends' or Quakers' denomi-nation” (SD 694); “The maternal one (Amy Williams before marriage) was a Friend, or Quakeress, of sweet, sensible character, housewifely proclivities, and deeply intuitive and spiritual” (SD 695).


In 1867, Whitman attributed the stirring battle narrative in Section 35 of “Song of Myself” to “my grandmother's father the sailor,” though in 1855 he had asked, “Did you read in the seabooks of the oldfashioned frigate-fight?” This yarn-telling great-grandfather is described by the editors of the Norton Critical Edition of Leaves of Grass as Amy Williams Van Velsor's father, Cap-tain John Williams, assumed to have served under John Paul Jones when the Bon-homme Richard defeated the Serapis. Whitman does not mention this “fact” in any of his prose genealogies, which is curious given his hunger for any scrap of ancestral glory. And Quakers, of course, were not supposed to participate in mil-itary engagements.

7. This passage is introduced by a countertype “who sprang in crimson youth from the white froth and the water-blue.” Probably this exotic figure is Aphrodite, the ancient mother-goddess of the eastern Mediterranean.

8. In ferreting out evidence of physical and moral corruption in “Faces,” Whitman looks back to William Cullen Bryant's emblematic catalogue tech-nique in “The Crowded Street” (1843). He also mobilizes a furious energy that anticipates the psychological, sexual, and spiritual dislocation of T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land. On “Faces” as a city poem, and on its historical and literary sources, see Christopher Beach, The Politics of Distinction: Whitman and the Discourses of Nineteenth-Century America (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1996), pp. 111, 128, 130, 133–40, 142–43, 147, 154, 184.

9. Whitman was vague about his maternal aunts and uncles, and it is unclear how many ways the estate was likely to have been divided, assuming that some-thing remained after his step-grandmother's death. Cornelius Van Velsor may have wanted some of his estate to go to Amy's children, but he had a son, Alonzo, by his second wife. Given Alonzo's comparative youth, there may have been noth-ing left over for the others.

10. Bronson Alcott, The Journals of Bronson Alcott, ed. Odell Shepard (Bos-ton: Little, Brown, 1938), p. 289.

11. John Burroughs in a letter to his wife, June 1868, as quoted in Clara Barrus,Whitman and Burroughs: Comrades (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1931), p. 57.

12. Louisa Whitman, quoted in Mattie: The Letters of Martha Mitchell Whit-man, ed. Randall H. Waldron (New York: New York University Press, 1977), pp. 19–20.

13. Louisa Whitman, from the Trent Collection, William R. Perkins Library, Duke University. Except as otherwise indicated, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's letters are paraphrased or quoted from this source.

14. See Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, “The Female World of Love and Ritual: Relations Between Women in Nineteenth-Century America,” Signs 1 (autumn 1975), 1–29.

15. Josephine Barkeloo, quoted in Dear Brother Walt: The Letters of Thomas Jefferson Whitman, ed. Dennis Berthold and Kenneth Price (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1984), p. 149 n.

16. Louisa Whitman, quoted in Bliss Perry, Walt Whitman (Boston: Hough-ton Mifflin, 1906), p. 19.

17. See Sandra Tomc, “An Idle Industry: Nathaniel Parker Willis and the

Workings of Literary Leisure,” American Quarterly 49, no. 4 (December 1997): 780–805.

18. On Walter Senior's body, see Whitman, quoted in Barrus, p. 281.

19. On Jesse's intelligence, see Katherine Molinoff,Some Notes on Whitman's Family (Brooklyn: Comet Press, 1941), p. 19. Walt never discussed Jesse with Traubel or, so far as we can tell, with any of his friends.

20. Jeff also believed that Jesse had contracted syphilis from her. See Dear Brother Walt, pp. 85, 86. On Jesse's injuries, see Civil War Letters of George Washington Whitman, ed. Jerome M. Loving (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1975), pp. 9–10.

21. See the Record of the Kings County Lunatic Asylum, quoted in Gay Wil-son Allen, The Solitary Singer: A Critical Biography of Walt Whitman (1955; re-print, New York: New York University Press, 1967), p. 318.

22. See the letter written by Fred Vaughan after his visit on April 29, 1860, in Calamus Lovers: Walt Whitman's Working Class Camerados, ed. Charley Shively (San Francisco: Gay Sunshine Press, 1987), p. 87. Vaughan provides a careful accounting of the whereabouts of all family members then living at home. Jesse is not among them.

23. The extent of Edward's retardation is puzzling. Family letters show that as an adult he attended church by himself every night, successfully ran errands, and transmitted messages. Louisa Whitman quotes his comments in her letters to Walt and they are almost always apt. On at least one occasion, she provides a long account of a disturbing situation based on Ed's reporting and it is per-fectly coherent, even graphic. (He had met an escapee from the asylum where Jesse was being detained who claimed that “it was too damned bad to keep him there.” Mrs. Whitman became alarmed that Jesse might try to escape as well. See the letter of April 7, 1869, in Allen, Solitary Singer, pp. 407–8. The escapee was Henry Rome, who was related to the printers of the first edition of Leaves of Grass.)

24. See the two letters in Faint Clews & Indirections: Manuscripts of Walt Whitman and His Family, ed. Clarence Gohdes and Rollo G. Silver (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1949), pp. 184–90. This volume reprints sixteen of her letters to Walt, along with a selection of letters written by other family members: the sisters, cheerful Mary Elizabeth Whitman Van Nostrand and dis-turbed Hannah Whitman Heyde; the vicious brother-in-law Charles Heyde; and the faithful George—these last written during his service in the Civil War. Walt saved approximately one hundred and seventy of his mother's letters.

25. See her letter of November 14, 1865, in Faint Clews, p. 192.

26. See Horace L. Traubel, “Notes from Conversations with George W. Whit-man, 1893: Mostly in His Own Words,” in In Re Walt Whitman, ed. Horace L. Traubel, Richard Maurice Bucke, and Thomas Harned (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1893), pp. 35–36.

In a paper presented at the 1984 Modern Language Association Convention in Washington, D.C., “Out of Her Cradle: Walt and Louisa Van Velsor Whitman,” Kenneth M. Price further explains,

Louisa's letters show … that she strongly supported Walt's work. … She kept up with reviews of his poetry and commented on one written by Henry James [“a long one with

flourishes”]. … She expressed concern over whether Walt would succeed in placing his essay “Democracy” in The Galaxy. She read much of the early criticism on her son, expressing a preference for William Douglas O'Connor's The Good Gray Poet over John Burroughs's Notes on Walt Whitman, as Poet and Person. She concluded, however, that Anne Gilchrist's essay “A Woman's Estimate of Walt Whitman” was the best piece written on her son because Gilchrist understood Walt “better than ever any one did before as if she could see right through you.” Unquestionably, Louisa offered the poet important emotional support and demonstrated a sustained and genuine interest in Walt's literary endeavors.

Price cogently points out that critics who emphasize Louisa's illiteracy are wide of the mark. See, for example, Larzer Ziff, in Literary Democracy: The Declaration of Cultural Independence in America (New York: Viking, 1981), p. 33:

Whitman's mother was his gentle sustenance throughout his young manhood, but she was illiterate, and Whitman's love for her, even adoration of her, could not be communicated to her in his poems. If he would have addressed anybody in a lyric it would have been she, as say Wordsworth addressed Dorothy, but this outlet was closed by her inability to read, although he could, of course, recite his verses to her. To this circumstance must in some small part be attributed the public as opposed to the lyric nature of his verse.

At the other extreme, Michael Moon explains that Whitman “remained a loyal partisan of the romances for which he had shared a passion with his mother in his boyhood—books like Scott's Ivanhoe, Cooper's The Wept of Wishton-Wish, and George Sand's Consuelo.” See “Disseminating Whitman,” South Atlantic Quarterly 88, no. 1 (winter 1989), 262. A happy fantasy, but untrue, in that Louisa Whitman is not known to have read any novels during Whitman's boyhood, let alone to have read them with him. In later life she was an avid newspaper reader who was especially interested in politics.

27. Richard Maurice Bucke, Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), p. 15.

28. David S. Reynolds notes that the house, which had been built in 1810, “was on a tract of sixty acres that Walter Whitman at first leased and then bought at sheriff's sale … on April 21, 1821, three years before taking the family to Brooklyn.” See Walt Whitman's America: A Cultural Biography (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995), p. 25.

29. See Berthold and Price,Dear Brother Walt, p. 28.

30. Louisa Whitman, November 1863, from the Trent Collection.

31. For a discussion of Whitman Senior as tavernkeeper, see chapter 4.

32. Louisa Whitman's letters quoted in this paragraph are in the Trent Collection.

33. Alternatively, Kenneth M. Price observes, “It is possible that Louisa consciously echoed Walt's language, but the artless way she worked the phrase into her letter suggests that she was not trying to allude to her son's poem. Instead this was probably one of her pet locutions that Walt weaves into his verse.” Price, “Out of Her Cradle,” p. 6. Louisa's letter is dated June 20, 1867, and is in the Trent Collection; further citations in this paragraph are from the same letter.

34. There are many directions in which this topic could be pursued. For example, we might turn to Donald Grant Mitchell's Reveries of a Bachelor (1850) and other classics of the sentimental genre that Ann Douglas brilliantly

recanonized (in spite of herself) in The Feminization of American Culture (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1977). Or we might consider the figure of the flaneur in nineteenth-century urban literature, as reflected in the Knickerbocker school of New York journalism with which Whitman was intimately familiar, and as discussed by Dana Brand in The Spectator and the City in Nineteenth-Century American Literature (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991). Brand describes the bachelor as an “urban spectator detached from ordinary social, familial, or economic obligations” (p. 28). Or we might want to look further at tropes of pastoral lounging in Romantic poetry, as described by Willard Spiegelman in Majestic Indolence: English Romantic Poetry and the Work of Art (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995). Spiegelman's discussion of Keats's addiction to a “wise passivity,” in chapter 4, is especially valuable. Or to the extent that Whitman's loafer is mainly a symbol of sexual freedom, we should consult Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Epistemology of the Closet (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), pp. 188–212. Sedgwick theorizes the relationship between the urban bachelor figure in the Victorian context and the larger topos of male homosexual panic. For further thoughts on the bachelor as deviant, see Vincent J. Bertolini, “Fireside Chastity: The Erotics of Sentimental Bachelorhood in the 1850s,” American Literature 63, no. 4 (December 1996): 707–37. Bertolini argues that “the bachelor represented the transgressive triple threat of masturbation, whoremongering, and that nameless horror—homosexual sex” (708). As my text is intended to demonstrate, Whitman's loaferish bachelor persona is also shaped by a very specific psychological and domestic environment.

35. Louisa Whitman, August 19, 1868, from the Trent Collection. Louisa was referring to the dog of the Brown family, who occupied the lower part of her house. She disliked them.

36. On Walter Senior as a “natural mechanic,” see Jeff Whitman's obituary, quoted in Dear Brother Walt, p. 189. The obituary was based on information supplied by Walt.

37. Whitman, “Elias Hicks,” in November Boughs, in Walt Whitman: Complete Poetry and Collected Prose, ed. Justin Kaplan (New York: Literary Classics of the United States, 1982), p. 1232. In speaking to Traubel, Whitman suggested that it was his mother rather than his father who first introduced him to Hicks's teachings, but many of the original Long Island Whitmans had been Quakers, and Hicks (1748–1830) had been a friend of Whitman's paternal grandfather. As a young man on Long Island, Walt Whitman considered converting to Quakerism, and in his last years, he kept a large bust of Hicks in his room in Camden. See Perry, Walt Whitman, p. 257.

For an analysis of Hicksite Quakerism, see Robert W. Doherty, The Hicksite Separation: A Sociological Analysis of Religious Schism in Early Nineteenth Century America (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1967). Do-herty notes that “in an age which witnessed the decline in status of people who performed physical labor and at the same time saw the development of economic specialization under the merchant capitalist,” Hicks's rural-based opposition to “Orthodox” leaders who were “wealthy, refined, urban-dwelling businessmen” was powerful indeed (pp. 42, 27). In Philadelphia, for example, forty percent of Hicks's followers were artisans, as was Walter Senior, who would have been part

of the “natural” constituency for Hicks's antiurbanism. For the life of Hicks, who died several months after Whitman may have heard him preach, see Bliss Forbush, Elias Hicks: Quaker Liberal (New York: Columbia University Press, 1956). The term “liberal” is, however, misleading, in that Hicks mainly opposed changes in traditional modes of behavior and belief.

38. Hicks, quoted in November Boughs, p. 1226.

39. “Elias Hicks,” in November Boughs, p. 1233. At the time of Hicks's speech in the ballroom at Morrison's Hotel in Brooklyn Heights in November 1829, Louisa was nine months pregnant and was about to give birth several days later.

40. For a genealogy of the Whitman family, see Allen, Solitary Singer, p. 595. Walter Whitman Senior was born on July 14, 1789 (Bastille Day), and Jesse Whitman died in February 1803.

41. M. Wynn Thomas, The Lunar Light of Whitman's Poetry (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987), pp. 28–29. The internal quote is Sean Wilentz, Chants Democratic: New York City and the Rise of the American Working Class, 1788–1850 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984), p. 55. For further analysis of the expanding market as it pressured the urban artisan class in antebellum America, see Charles Sellers,The Market Revolution in Jacksonian America: 1815–1846 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), and Stuart M. Blumin, The Emergence of the Middle Class: Social Experience in the American City, 1760–1900 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989). Thomas's perspective, however, overstates the solidity of class boundaries in Jacksonian America and in Walter Senior's life. Because class boundaries were unstable, Walter Senior's various occupations (as farmer, craftsman, and small entrepreneur) were important in defining his social status. For Walter Senior as small entrepreneur, see chapter 4. On masculinity as constructed by professional competence, see E. Anthony Rotundo, American Manhood: Transformations in Masculinity from the Revolution to the Modern Era (New York: Basic Books, 1993), chapter 8, “Work and Identity.” And for a sensitive analysis of the poet's anomalous class position, see David Leverenz, Manhood and the American Renaissance (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989), passim. He suggests that Whitman's public voice combines “an artisan's insouciance with entrepreneurial brag” (p. 106).

42. Betsy Erkkila probably overstates the case for Whitman's father as a reader in Whitman the Political Poet (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), when she asserts that “copies of the major freethinking texts—Volney's The Ruins (1791), Paine's The Age of Reason (1791), and Wright's A Few Days in Athens (1822)—were cherished books in the Whitman household” (p. 15). Whitman does not claim that his father was a reader of anything except the Free Enquirer (WWWC 2:205), and his statement “Books were scarce” aptly applies not only to the home of his paternal grandparents but also to the home in which he was raised. Erkkila makes a compelling case, however, for Walt Whitman's responsiveness to Volney's critique of religious orthodoxy as “a primary source of human oppression” (p. 113).

43. According to Clara Barrus, “Burroughs once told me that he understood Walt's father had at one time been addicted to alcohol, and that Walt thought

this habit might have been responsible for Ed's condition. He [Burroughs] instanced a line in ‘Faces’ as referring to this—‘I knew [of] the agents that emptied and broke my brother.’” See Barrus, Whitman and Burroughs, p. 254.

44. The relationship between Whitman's formal schooling and his youthful work needs to be further explored. Intuitively, I agree with the analysis offered by Floyd Stovall, in The Foreground of “Leaves of Grass” (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1974), pp. 23–24. Stovall speculates that Whitman continued to attend school intermittently after he began working for the Clarkes and that “this and his first jobs in newspaper offices in 1831 and 1832 occupied all his time throughout the year. There were two or three school terms during the year, each usually lasting only three or four months. It seems probable that Whitman continued to attend school in Brooklyn for a few months each year until the summer of 1833, when his family moved back to the country.” Stovall further suggests, following Bucke's lead in Walt Whitman, that Whitman attended the (Union Hall) Academy in Jamaica.

45. Allen, Solitary Singer, p. 17.

46. On apprenticeship as an exclusively male institution, “a system of education and job training by which important practical information was passed from one generation to the next,” “a mechanism by which youths could model themselves on socially approved adults,” “an institution devised to insure proper moral development through the master's fatherly responsibility for the behavior of his apprentice,” and “a means of social control imposed upon potentially disruptive male adolescents,” see W. J. Rorabaugh, The Craft Apprentice: From Franklin to the Machine Age in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), pp. vii-viii and passim. Rorabaugh notes that “although printing at-tracted boys who had some fascination for the written word, such apprentices came from the same sorts of backgrounds as other apprentices and entered a craft that stood socially and economically on a par with or only modestly above other crafts.”

47. Possibly some of these moves were due to his father's restlessness. And some of them reflected bad luck. See Whitman's wistful and angry comments in NUPM 1:10–11. In Walt Whitman's America, Reynolds suggests that “the restlessness and unhappiness Whitman associated with his childhood had less to do with a uniformly hostile relationship with his father than with his unstable po-sition in a changing economic and social order. … Previous biographers have described a ‘buy, build, and sell’ pattern in Walter Whitman's business dealings, suggesting that through speculation he at least kept his head above water. Real estate records show that the picture was not that rosy.” See this richly contex-tualized discussion on pp. 24–25 and passim. So far as I know, however, no in-formed biographer has suggested that Whitman's relationship with his father was uniformly hostile.

48. Whitman, quoted in Charles I. Glicksberg, Walt Whitman and the Civil War (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1933), pp. 53–54.

49. This was probably the period during which there were “stormy scenes” with his father who, “when aroused,” was “capable of memorable vehemence.” See “Introduction,” in Complete Writings of Walt Whitman, ed. Richard Mau-rice Bucke, Thomas B. Harned, and Horace L. Traubel, 10 vols. (New York:

G. P. Putnam, 1902), 1:xvi. But Whitman resisted Walter Senior's attempts to get him to help with the farm work, and was teaching in Norwich beginning in June. Apparently the Whitmans moved to Babylon, further out on the Island, in the summer of 1836 where they remained until May 1840. See UPP 2:87. Whit-man was teaching “west of Babylon” during the winter of 1836–37. His living arrangements during this time are not clear. For a helpful map of Long Island geography and of Whitman's whereabouts during these unsettled years, see Al-len, Solitary Singer, p. 27.

The family's economic fortunes had probably improved by 1836, however, when Walter Senior sold land that he had inherited from his mother and his brother for $2,250, which was the equivalent of three or four years’ salary for the average carpenter at that time. See Joseph Jay Rubin, The Historic Whitman (University Park: Penn State University Press, 1973), pp. 32–33, and Reynolds, Walt Whitman's America, p. 55. There are discrepancies between these two accounts, but both Rubin and Reynolds agree that land played a role in Walter Se-nior's fortunes. Reynolds further notes that he had been able to hold onto the sixty acres he purchased in 1821 and to add to them, so that in 1836 he sold more than a hundred acres to the farmer Richard Colyer, whose wife, Hannah, was the daughter of Walter's sister Sarah. These inheritances, purchases, and sales are relevant in assessing the class identification of Walter Senior, which was more complicated than descriptions of him as a dissatisfied artisan might suggest.

50. Emory Holloway suggests that “Archie's unusually confiding attitude toward his mother parallels Whitman's affection for his ‘perfect mother’” (UPP 1:232 n). But the story contains a good mother (the victim-confidante) and a bad mother (the repulsive spinster who teaches him the meaning of hard work). These figures are united in that Archie's mother fears that he won't “‘excel.’” “Ah, for how many the morose habit which Archie rooted out from his nature,” Whitman concludes, “becomes by long usage and indulgence rooted in, and spreads its bitterness over their existence, and darkens the peace of their families, and carries them through the spring and early summer of life with no inhale-ment of sweets, and no plucking of flowers!” (EPF 330). The “ancient, bony, yellow-faced maiden … who seem[s] to be on good terms with everybody” but whose driving ambition shrivels “all other passions,” is probably a displaced version of Louisa herself. Although Archie is a passive-aggressive hero who feels “this [clever] old maid's doings as a rebuke—a sharp-pointed moral to himself and his infirmity of purpose,” his sympathy, and Whitman's, for “the small payment which is given to female labor” is genuine. Nevertheless, hostility that might have been directed toward the father's fecklessness is projected onto the bad, hard-driving mother, of whom it was said that she had been “handsome” in her youth.

51. This was the period, as Whitman recalled in an 1887 article, in which he was legally exonerated for thrashing a neighbor's boy who interfered with his fishing. He triumphed in court, speaking in his own defense. See Justin Kaplan, Walt Whitman: A Life (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1980), pp. 84, 135, and Reynolds, Walt Whitman's America, pp. 58–59.

52. Whitman, quoted in Grace Gilchrist, “Chats with Walt Whitman,” Temple Bar Magazine 113 (February 1898): 208.


53. Herbert Bergman and William White, “Walt Whitman's Lost ‘Sun-Down Papers,’ Nos. 1–3,” American Book Collector 20 (January 1970): 18–19.

54. “Sun-Down Papers,” in UPP 1:37.

55. Katherine Molinoff, An Unpublished Whitman Manuscript: The Record of the Smithtown Debating Society, 1837–38 (Brooklyn: Comet Press, 1941).

56. There have been a number of interesting studies of Whitman and William Cullen Bryant. In Whitman and Tradition: The Poet in His Century, Kenneth M. Price notes that “Our Future Lot” echoes lines and phrases from “Thanatopsis” (pp. 56–57), as it surely does. On McDonald Clarke, see Reynolds, Walt Whitman's America, pp. 88–90. The so-called “Mad Poet of Broadway” died in a New York City prison on March 5, 1842; Whitman memorialized him in the Aurora several days later. In “The Death and Burial of McDonald Clarke. A Parody” (EPF 25–26), Whitman imitates the form of Charles Wolfe's “The Burial of Sir John Moore at Corunna” (1817). (Wolfe was an Anglo-Irish curate; Sir John Moore was a military leader in the British campaign against Napoleon.) Thomas L. Brasher notes, “Whitman's parody is identical in meter, and in the form and number of stanzas, with Wolfe's poem. Whitman borrowed verbatim one line from Wolfe, which appears as the second line of his fourth stanza. For the rest he was content with a general parallel of Wolfe's ideas” (EPF 25 n). Whitman seized the occasion of Clarke's death to condemn the hypocrisy and hardheartedness of the reading public.

57. Orvetta Hall Brenton, in UPP 1:xxxiii-iv n. 1.

58. James J. Brenton, in Rubin, The Historic Whitman, pp. 223, 244.

59. As Carroll Smith-Rosenberg notes in “Davy Crockett as Trickster,” in Disorderly Conduct: Visions of Gender in Victorian America (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985), “The nation extolled ambition, change, and individualism at the same time that it continued to praise the family and traditional social order” (p. 99). “Tomb Blossoms” slyly exemplifies this conflict. “Men of cities!” a trick-sterish Whitman writes, “what is there in all your boasted pleasure—your fashions, parties, balls, and theatres, compared to the simplest of the delights we country folk enjoy?” (EPF 88).

60. Ellen Moers, Literary Women (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1976).

61. Whitman, as quoted in Arthur Golden, “Nine Early Whitman Letters, 1840–1841,” American Literature 58, no. 3 (October 1986): 347–48.

62. Whitman, in Golden, “Nine Early Letters,” 349–50. Mosher is un-identified.

63. Whitman, in Golden, “Nine Early Letters,” 351–52.

64. Henry James, in CH, p. 260. James's review of Calamus, ed. R. M. Bucke (Boston: Laurens Maynard, 1897), appeared as an “American Letter” in Litera-ture on April 16, 1898.

65. Golden, “Nine Early Letters,” 352–53 n. 22. Golden adds that “this would not have been an early expression of the ‘Calamus’ sentiment on Whit-man's part.” For a related contemporary context, see “Youth and Male Inti-macy,” in Rotundo, American Manhood, pp. 56–91. He describes “intimate attachments that verged on romance” (p. 75) and suggests that “most young men enjoyed at least one strong friendship” (p. 76). Rotundo further argues that these “romantic friendships of male youth closely resembled the intense bonds

between women first portrayed by Carroll Smith-Rosenberg in her landmark article, ‘The Female World of Love and Ritual,’” but that “the intimate ties between young men of the nineteenth century differed from those described by Smith-Rosenberg in at least one fundamental way. Among males, romantic friendship was largely a product of a distinct phase in the life cycle—youth” (p. 76). See also Donald Yacovone, “Abolitionists and the ‘Language of Frater-nal Love,’” in Meanings for Manhood: Constructions of Masculinity in Vic-torian America, ed. Mark C. Carnes and Clyde Griffen (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990), pp. 85–95. Yacovone argues, “The freedom with which many abolitionists expressed their love and devotion, and the open ritualistic nature of their relationships, calls for a reconsideration of the commonplace view that Victorian men were emotionally inexpressive and hypermasculine” (p. 85). He further contends that although antebellum Americans accepted no single definition of manhood, “They displayed a variety of phases or types of masculinity which sometimes blurred gender distinctions in ways that would disturb contemporary Americans. This modern reaction to intimate male friendships underscores the profound changes which have occurred in the culture's perception of masculinity. To a surprising degree, mid-nineteenth-century social attitudes permitted great liberty in personal relations, largely untainted by ho-mophobia” (p. 86). Thus, whereas Rotundo emphasizes life cycle effects, Yaco-vone purports to have identified a more lasting pattern of socially unproblem-atic male-male intimacy. Whitman's confidential relationship with Leech does, however, appear to be restricted to youth.

66. Whitman, in Golden, “Nine Early Letters,” 353.

67. This association surfaces again in the tenth “Sun-Down Paper,” pub-lished a year later. Whitman describes a pleasure party on the South Bay during which he observed, “One of us, a married man, had come from home without his breakfast; whereupon an inquiry was instituted that resulted in bringing out the astounding fact that every married man in the company was in the like predicament. An evil-disposed character among us was ungallant enough to say that the fact was a fair commentary on matrimonial comfort.” Ungallant or not, Whitman's observation stuck. Married men get no breakfast. See UPP 1:48–51.

68. His business correspondence was more extensive. The 1857 letter to the Philadelphia abolitionist Sarah Tyndale combines business and pleasure; see Corr 1:42–43.

69. Leech's drafts are in the Feinberg Collection of the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

70. For more on Leech's political and temperance activities, and for a fascinating reading of him as an educated and religious person, see Jerome Loving, Walt Whitman: The Song of Himself (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), pp. 71–72, 41–42. The Whitman quotation is from “Sun-Down Paper,” no. 5, in UPP 1:33. The essay was published in Brenton's Long Island Democrat on April 28, 1840.

71. On drinking as a male prerogative and on temperance as an attack on masculine culture, see Mary Ann Clawson, Constructing Brotherhood: Class, Gender, and Fraternalism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989), chapter 5, “Social Fraternalism and the Artisanal Ideal,” pp. 145–177. Much of what

Clawson observes about emerging bourgeois sociability is relevant to my discussion of temperance fiction in the next chapter.

72. Whitman, in Golden, “Nine Early Letters,” 355–56.


1. See “Bamboozle and Benjamin,” reprinted in Walt Whitman of the New York Aurora: Editor at Twenty-Two, ed. Joseph Jay Rubin and Charles H. Brown (State College, Pa.: Bald Eagle Press, 1950), pp. 110–11. The essay begins, “We have in America many literary quacks.” “Bamboozle and Benjamin” also attacks the contemporary feminist Frances Wright, whom Whitman subsequently claimed to have revered.

2. On the Democratic Review, see Frank Luther Mott, A History of American Magazines 1741–1850 (New York: D. Appleton, 1930), pp. 677–84. The 20,000-copy figure for Franklin Evans was first advanced by Henry Bryan Binns, in A Life of Walt Whitman (London: Methuen, 1905), p. 35, and is thoroughly in keeping with the sales of comparable works described by Mott. Whitman described his payment to Horace Traubel and Thomas Harned in 1888. The gist of the conversation is reprinted in EPF 125.

3. Lowell's remark is quoted in Esther Shephard, “Walt Whitman's Whereabouts in the Winter of 1842–1843,”American Literature 29, no. 3 (November 1957): 291.

4. Sophia Hawthorne is quoted in Mott, A History, p. 680.

5. Whitman's letter to Nathan Hale, Jr., editor of the Miscellany, is included in Corr 1:25.

6. In A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (New York: Macmillan, 1984), Eric Partridge lists 1920 as the earliest date for the use of “queer” to mean homosexual. But the history of this word is still being written. See, for example, George Chauncey, Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890–1940 (New York: Basic Books, 1994), pp. 13–22, 24–25, 101, 125.

7. Stephen A. Black combines these lines of thinking. See Whitman's Journeys into Chaos: A Psychoanalytic Study of the Poetic Process (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975), in which Black explains, “The fiction fails because when Whitman employed stock situations and devices of characterization his own unconscious attitudes and assumptions intruded upon the material. Unconscious forces conflicted with the intent to be conventional; Whitman's narcissism confused the fictional world he was trying to create” (p. 17).

8. For a fuller discussion of Whitman's attitudes toward Indians and for the view that “like many Americans who lived through this period, Whitman never stopped struggling with the insoluble ‘Indian problem,’” see Ed Folsom, Walt Whitman's Native Representations (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994), chapter 3. For the view that Whitman did not struggle enough, see Steven B. Shively, “Prejudice and Praise: Walt Whitman's Portrayal of the American Indian,” Nebraska English Journal 38, no. 2 (1993): 28–39, and Maurice Kenny, “Whitman's Indifference to Indians,” in The Continuing Presence of Walt

Whitman, ed. Robert K. Martin (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1992), pp. 28–38.

9. For Whitman's relation to this debate, see Florence Bernstein Freedman, Walt Whitman Looks at the Schools (New York: King's Crown, 1950), especially pp. 70–71, 73–79, 83–85, 89–90, 92–93, 107–8, 114–19, 133–34, 137–39, 171, 190–93, 196–200. Freedman reprints articles Whitman wrote for the Brooklyn Evening Star and the Brooklyn Daily Eagle between 1845 and 1848 that show him as an educational reformer, campaigning vigorously for the abolition of corporal punishment.

For speculation that Whitman was publicly accused of sodomy while teaching school on Long Island, that he was denounced from the pulpit and tarred and feathered and run out of the town of Southold by a mob of enraged parents, see David S. Reynolds, Walt Whitman's America: A Cultural Biography (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995), chapter 3. On the whole, I find Reynolds's provocative discussion unpersuasive, though I agree that such an accusation, coupled with public disgrace, would clarify some of the murkier passages in Whitman's biography.

For a superb article on the broader cultural significance of flogging scenes, see Richard H. Brodhead, “Sparing the Rod: Discipline and Fiction in Antebellum America,” Representations 21 (winter 1988): 67–96. Brodhead argues that “in the 1830s, then even more prominently in the 1840s and early 1850s, the picturing of scenes of physical correction emerges as a major form of imaginative activity in America, and arguing the merits of such discipline becomes a major item on the American public agenda” (p. 67).

10. See David Leverenz, Manhood and the American Renaissance (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989), p. 5.

11. For a reading of “The Child's Champion” that treats the end of the story as a “pure expression of a homoerotic utopian dream,” see Byrne R. S. Fone, “The Fountains of Love: Poetry and Fiction, 1838–1850,” in Masculine Landscapes: Walt Whitman and the Homoerotic Text (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992), p. 61. Fone's reading of this story and of the early fiction as “muted testimony to a life beneath the life” (p. 38) has many points of similarity to my own analysis, though he goes too far when he writes, “Langton and Charles, at least the implied fantasy hopes, will spend the rest of their days in a very nearly mystical and certainly spiritually uplifting union” (p. 61), since Whitman's fantasy of meaningful male bonding seeks to accommodate heterosexual marriage as well. To this end, Whitman seems to be working more with a “stages of development” model of sexuality, in which homoerotic desire among men eventually forms the basis of a manlier, that is heterosexual, identity. Charles and Langton are presented as emotionally immature; when Langton grows up he marries. What remains underdeveloped in the story's ending is the life beneath the life of their subsequent friendship, especially from Charles's narratively-collapsed perspective. We are led to believe that Langton gets it all (the friend and the wife and the family) but that Charles, second first and second always, remains excluded from the full range of power relations that Langton organizes. As I read it, their relationship is far from egalitarian, which is one of its more believable features.

Charles remains dependent on Langton, whereas Langton, the good father/ brother/lover, continues to have access to a wider range of erotic empowerments.

12. In a now classic analysis of this story, “Rendering the Text and the Body Fluid: The Cases of ‘The Child's Champion’ and the 1855 Leaves of Grass,” in Disseminating Whitman: Revision and Corporeality in “Leaves of Grass” (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991), Michael Moon considers “the clear traces of self-censorship, a highly specialized form of writerly substitution, to be found in the successive editions of [t]his very early story” (p. 26). As I do, Moon sees Whitman as “both practicing and evading self-censorship” and further suggests that Whitman's strategies of “simultaneous extreme literality and extreme indeterminacy have a formative effect on the representation of the fluidity of selves, bodies, and texts which are central to the 1855 Leaves of Grass” (p. 26). Moon further explains,

The most persuasive evidence that Whitman was aware of the strong homoerotic quality of “The Child's Champion” is that when he came to revise it for republication in 1844 …, hedidsoby censoring it of a number of the pronounced and recurrent homoerotic references which the first version of the story foregrounded. … Censorship and self-censorship were crucial elements—were in a sense formative—of Whitman's literary practice from very early on. (pp. 29–30)

13. Franklin Evans has been mistakenly praised as the first or one of the first temperance novels, but as Jean Romig Kirkpatrick points out in “The Temperance Movement and Temperance Fiction 1820–1860” (Ph.D. diss., University of Pennsylvania, 1970), “At least 70 temperance novels were published before Whitman's Franklin Evans and certainly 8 were published in New York City during the ten year period prior to 1840” (p. 21 n. 1). There is an extensive literature on the history of temperance, but temperance fiction awaits the full scale treatment it deserves. See, however, “Ten Thousand and One Nights in a Barroom,” in Herbert Ross Brown, The Sentimental Novel in America 1789–1860 (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1940), pp. 201–41. Valuable specialized studies of Franklin Evans in its historical context include Barton L. St. Armand, “Franklin Evans: A Sportive Temperance Novel,” in Books at Brown 24 (1971): 134–47, and Anne Dalke, “Whitman's Literary Intemperance: Franklin Evans, or The Power of Love,” Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 2, no. 3 (winter 1984): 17–22. For the larger context of reform literature and for a brief but stimulating look at temperance fiction, see David S. Reynolds, Beneath the American Renaissance: The Subversive Imagination in the Age of Emerson and Melville (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1988). For Reynolds's discussion of Franklin Evans in the context of the Washingtonian temperance movement, see his Walt Whitman's America,chapter 4. And for more on the “Literary Uses of Temperance and Alcohol,” see Reynolds, “Black Cats and Delirium Tremens: Temperance and the American Renaissance,” in The Serpent in the Cup: Temperance in American Literature, ed. David S. Reynolds and Debra J. Rosenthal (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1997), pp. 22–59. This volume also contains valuable material on the sociological and medical debates to which Whitman was responding.

14. For an insightful discussion of this novel as an example of the literature

of addiction, see Michael Warner, “Whitman Drunk,” in Breaking Bounds: Whitman and American Cultural Studies, ed. Betsy Erkkila and Jay Grossman (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), pp. 30–43.

15. The word gay was not used to signify homosexual identity until the twentieth century, but Whitman seems to be on the verge of developing this new range of linguistic and affective associations.

16. On Walter Whitman Senior's financial failures, see Justin Kaplan, Walt Whitman: A Life (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1980), pp. 64–65, as well as the discussion in my chapter 1. See too Whitman's remarks about his father's swindling in NUPM 1:10, 10 n. 30, 98, and 98 n. 12.

17. Walt Whitman, “New York Boarding Houses,” in Rubin and Brown, Walt Whitman of the New York Aurora, pp. 22–24.

18. In The Solitary Singer: A Critical Biography of Walt Whitman (1955; reprint, New York: New York University Press, 1967), Gay Wilson Allen explains that “M—could hardly have been any one except his mother” (p. 216). Yet why code his mother's name? Emory Holloway (UPP 2:91) suggests “a lover, or perhaps Whitman's mother or sister Mary.” Roger Asselineau suggests a male lover, in The Evolution of Walt Whitman, 2 vols. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1960), 1:106 ff. Given Whitman's close identification with his brother Jeff, another possibility is his sister-in-law Mattie, whom he adored. His sister Mary seems implausible.

19. See NUPM 1:401–3, 2:876, 3:1269–70. On “Song of Myself” as a spiritual novel, see DBN 3:774–75.

20. As Marjorie Perloff has argued, “Genre, far from being a normative category, is always culture-specific and, to a high degree, historically determined.” In this chapter I have been suggesting that genre is also biographically determined. See Postmodern Genres, ed. Marjorie Perloff (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1989), p. 7.

21. Large and passionate, she was originally “Ruth Anderson, a Quaker's daughter,” and there was to be “An old Quaker lady—good—sensible.” Whitman wondered “how to intertwine [her] with Antoinette's affairs,” and we too may wonder how he would have done it. For more historical context, see Timothy J. Gilfoyle, City of Eros: New York City, Prostitution, and the Commercialization of Sex, 1790–1920 (New York: W. W. Norton, 1992).

22. Whitman attended Emerson's lecture on “Poetry and the Times” on March 5, 1842, as a reporter for the New York Aurora. A version of the lecture was published in Essays: Second Series (1844) as “The Poet.”

23. For the view that metaphors are pernicious in that they obliterate particularity and can make distinct exploitations appear identical, see Karen Sánchez-Eppler, “Bodily Bonds,” in Touching Liberty: Abolition, Feminism, and the Politics of the Body (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), p. 20. See also her discussion of the Virginia section of Franklin Evans in the context of Whitman's depictions of slavery, pp. 57–63 and following, in chapter 2, “To Stand Between: Whitman's Poetics of Merger and Embodiment.” Sánchez-Eppler argues that “the same politically grounded conception of miscegenation informs both Franklin Evans and the 1855 Leaves of Grass” (p. 63).



1. For other photographs of Whitman, see the special double issue of the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 2–3 (1986–87), which brings together all known photographs of the poet for the first time—some 130 in number, ranging from the early 1840s to 1891.

2. See Richard Rorty,Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), p. 18. Rorty provides a brief and insightful discussion of body-worship as an alternative to God-worship in Leaves of Grass. In directing attention toward Whitman's inner life, I do not mean to minimize the importance of those cultural roughnesses inflicted on him by the cruelly intolerant “priests” who authored the “logic and sermons” he was seeking to disavow. Rather, I am attempting to describe the analogies between these inner and outer systems of emotion and belief.

3. For a philosophical approach to Whitman and the uses of compassion, see Martha Nussbaum, “Poets as Judges,” in Poetic Justice: The Literary Imagination and Public Life (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995), 74–121 and passim. She praises Whitman as a poet “whose commitment both to narrative and to the conscious depiction of different ways of life brings him into close contact with the novel” (p. 7).

4. See Dana Brand, The Spectator and the City in Nineteenth-Century American Literature (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991), p. 179. I draw on his lively and astute discussion of Whitman and the Knickerbocker journalists in the discussion that follows.

5. Rorty, Achieving Our Country, p. 24.

6. I exaggerate here to make a point, since we can't rule out the possibility that Whitman recorded his meeting with Emerson in a notebook now missing or subsequently destroyed by him. My hunch, however, is that if he kept a record, it wasn't a detailed one.

7. See, for example, Fanny Fern's titillating praise of Whitman's broad shoulders, exposed “muscular throat,” and “ample chest” in “Peeps from under a Parasol,” a newspaper column in which she attacked the “pretty” gentleman who defined the New York literary establishment, which notoriously included several of her own brothers, by reversing the male gaze. Her satiric appropriation of Whitman as a sex object in her effort to sponsor a more democratic literary culture is reprinted in Ruth Hall and Other Writings, ed. Joyce W. Warren (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1986), pp. 272–73. Fern later became the first woman to praise Leaves of Grass in print, calling it “Well baptized: fresh, hardy, and grown for the masses” (p. 274).

8. Walt Whitman, quoted in Joseph Jay Rubin, The Historic Whitman (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1973), p. 222.

9. Rubin, Historic Whitman, p. 376.

10. From late December 1849 to late February 1850, for example, Whitman edited the first issues of the New York Daily News, but the paper was unable to attract enough subscribers to remain in business. Whitman lost his job when the paper folded.


11. In 1850, Whitman published three poems experimenting with a new free-verse line. “Blood-Money” appeared in the New York Tribune Supplement on March 22 and again in the Evening Post on April 30; “The House of Friends” in the New York Tribune on June 14; and “Resurgemus” in the Tribune on June 21 and again in the Dispatch on August 28. A fourth poem, “Song for Certain Congressmen,” later titled “Dough-Face Song,” appeared in the Post on March 2, but it is a doggerel piece employing strict rhythms and rhymes. “Resurgemus” was untitled in Leaves of Grass 1855, called “Poem of The Dead Young Men of Europe, the 72nd and 73rd Years of These States” in 1856, and titled “Europe” in 1860. This title stuck.

12. “My Boys and Girls” is part of Whitman's bachelor-persona group. Published in 1844, it asks, “What would you say, dear reader, were I to claim the nearest relationship to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson?” He mentions little Louisa, a composite of his mother and sister Hannah Louisa, and a sexually precocious fourteen-year-old apparently modeled on his sister Mary. But he omits the most troublesome two brothers, Jesse and Ed. See EPF 248–50.

13. Richard Maurice Bucke, Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), p. 18 n.

14. Helen E. Price, “Reminiscences of Walt Whitman,” New York Evening Post, May 31, 1919, p. 2: “When we first knew him, before the contraction of his first name became so common, he told us of a stranger who came up to him, and clapping him on the shoulder said: ‘Well, Walt, how are you?’ He evidently resented the familiarity, and one of us asked him if he liked being called by his first name or its contraction. ‘No,’ he said, ‘not by strangers, but I want my friends to call me so: you all and the girls also.’ My sister was only thirteen at the time. Incidentally I will add that I never heard his mother call him ‘Walt.’ To her he was always ‘Walter.’” Reprinted in Walt Whitman in His Own Time: A Biographical Chronicle of His Life, Drawn from Recollections, Memoirs, and Interviews by Friends and Associates, ed. Joel Myerson (Detroit: Omnigraphics, 1991), pp. 274–82.

15. See, for example, a letter of April 4, 1860, which begins, “Walter it is so strange you have not got my letter I sent one last friday morning and should have written more particularly but Jeff said he would write to you the first of last week but when he was home on sunday he said he had not written. … Walt there was A letter come from Boston wanted A Book and I made a mistake and put some other in the letter I sent you, so I will send it in this. … Jesse is working he wants to come home I told him I had hired so much of the house out he would have to hire his board write Walt if you got my letter.” The original, along with 141 other autograph letters from Louisa to Walt that were written from 1860 to 1873, is in the Trent Collection, William R. Perkins Library, Duke University. See also a letter written on October 26, 1863, which reads in part, “My dear walt i was sorry my being so late last week with my letter caused you any uneaseness if any thing was the matter with me more than common you would be advised of it my dear walter so if any thing occurs that i dont write as usual you must not think any thing unusual is the matter) i got the order walter last saturday and was going down to day to get the money but the wind blew so hard i

was afraid to venture it rained here last night very hard). … not one word have i had from Jeff or matt or han or mary you are my whole dependance.”

16. After Whitman addressed the Brooklyn Art Union on the evening of March 31, 1851, the Brooklyn Daily Advertizer reprinted the speech on April 3 under the title “Art and Artists.” According to Emory Holloway, UPP 1:241, the subcaption reads, “Remarks of Walt Whitman, before the Brooklyn Art Union, on the evening of March 31, 1851.” However, Holloway's reprint turns out to be inaccurate. The Brooklyn Daily Advertizer reads “Walter,” not “Walt.”

See also Whitman's letter to his coworker Andrew Kerr, written on August 25, 1866 in which he satirizes the “original & solemn advice, ‘Be virtuous—& you will be happy,’” signing himself “from your Christian friend—Walter” (Corr 1:284).

17. Thomas Jefferson Whitman, as quoted in Dear Brother Walt: The Letters of Thomas Jefferson Whitman, ed. Dennis Berthold and Kenneth M. Price (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1984), p. 15.

18. “I suppose I shall not be a true Whitman,” Jeff wrote to Walt in 1863, “if I dont get disheartened.” He had been explaining his “‘real estate’ scheme.” See Dear Brother Walt, p. 25.

19. For a reading of this passage as a “toast” to the nation's health, see Joan Burbick, “Biodemocracy in Leaves of Grass,” in Healing the Republic: The Language of Health and the Culture of Nationalism in Nineteenth-Century America (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994), p. 114. She further suggests that Whitman's “poetic language represents the United States by privileging the human body as the key to democratic meaning. If the body can be expressed in language, the democratic experiment can be known.”

20. See, for example, Arthur Golden, “The Ending of the 1855 Version of ‘Song of Myself,’” Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 3, no. 4 (spring 1986): 27–30. Golden comes down on the side of a chance misprint.

21. For further discussion of the venerable New Orleans romance theory, which Whitman helped to foster, see chapter 5. The myth dies hard. See, for example, Yusef Komunyakaa: “that octoroon in New Orleans / Who showed you how passion / Ignited dogwoods, how it came / From inside the singing sap,” in “Kosmos,” Walt Whitman: 19 Poets on His Work & Influence, Massachusetts Review 33, no. 1 (spring 1992): 87.

22. As David Cavitch explains in My Soul and I: The Inner Life of Walt Whitman (Boston: Beacon Press, 1985), in New Orleans Whitman was “farther from the center of his life than he could expect to endure except as an exile”:

Whitman may have been stimulated by the cosmopolitan, Southern culture of New Orleans in the feverish military atmosphere right after the Mexican War, but whatever attractions he found in the city did not reach deep or hold him long. This single venture far away from home ended in an abrupt disappointment that has never been fully explained, though the utter unlikelihood of Whitman thriving in such a remote place may be enough to account for his return to Brooklyn in just three months. He was too uneasy over the distance between himself and his home life. (p. 17)

On Whitman's quarrel with his employers J. E. McClure and A. H. Hayes, publishers of the New Orleans Crescent, see, for example, Gay Wilson Allen, The

Solitary Singer: A Critical Biography of Walt Whitman (1955; reprint, New York: New York University Press, 1967), pp. 98–99.

23. Whitman was using an 1846 London translation of Bernhard Ingemann's 1828 novel, which he proposed to retitle The Sleeptalker. Set in thirteenth century Denmark and chronicling struggles for national unity, The Childhood of King Erik Menved: An Historical Romance describes conflicts between personal love and patriotic duty which are, in the end, cheerfully resolved. The defiant trances of one of the leading female characters evidently caught Whitman's attention and may have contributed to the dream-vision frame of “The Sleepers.”

24. For an excellent discussion of Whitman's 1856 letter to Emerson, see Kenneth M. Price, “Whitman on Emerson: New Light on the 1856 Letter,” American Literature 56, no. 1 (March 1984), 83–87. For the larger context of Whitman's relationship to Emerson, see Jerome Loving,Emerson, Whitman, and the American Muse (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1982).

25. Among the many passing notices of Whitman's links to the Young America movement, there is a particularly thorough discussion offered by Thomas Bender, in New York Intellect: A History of Intellectual Life in New York City, from 1750 to the Beginnings of Our Own Time (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1987), pp. 147–55. Bender concludes, “In time, however, Whitman did diverge in an important way from the political and cultural principles of the Democratic Review. As we have noted, Young America believed that political reform, esspecially equal rights, represented the fundamental reform, the one that would bring social improvement and the flowering of a democratic culture. Whitman eventually rejected that vision, believing, increasingly, that cultural reform, not politics, would be the path to a fulfilled American democracy” (p. 155).

26. See The Letters of Emily Dickinson, ed. Thomas H. Johnson, 3 vols. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1958), 2:333, 373–74, 391–92. On Dickinson and Susan, see Vivian R. Pollak, Dickinson: The Anxiety of Gender (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984); Martha Nell Smith, Rowing in Eden: Rereading Emily Dickinson (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992); Open Me Carefully: Emily Dickinson's Intimate Letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson, ed. Ellen Louise Hart and Martha Nell Smith (Ashfield, Mass.: Paris Press, 1998). See also The Master Letters of Emily Dickinson, ed. R. W. Franklin (Amherst, Mass.: Amherst College Press, 1986). Franklin changes the order of the sequence established by Johnson, but Johnson's psychology is more believable and I am not persuaded that Franklin's textual evidence in this instance is compelling.

27. Whitman is referring to the poet's younger brother Samuel Longfellow, pastor of the Second Unitarian Church in Brooklyn, whom he met during the summer of 1855 after Leaves of Grass was published. Samuel Longfellow was acquainted with Emerson, Alcott, and Thoreau, among others; in late December 1856, Alcott's Journal describes meeting Whitman there. Henry Kirke Brown (1814–1886) is perhaps best known for his equestrian statue of George Washington at Union Square in New York. According to the Dictionary of American Biography, “He was the first of our sculptors to make any serious attempt to shake off the ‘real chains’ of the contemporary Italianate pseudoclassicism,

but he came too early to profit by the vigorous new naturalism taught in the French schools” (p. 124). See also the excellent discussion in Kirk Savage, Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth-Century America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997), chapter 2 and passim. Brown, an abolitionist, is credited with extraordinary attempts to represent slavery in public places during the antebellum era.

28. Ward was Brown's favorite pupil. See Savage,Race, War, and Monument,chapter 3. On Ward and Symonds, see WWWC 2:277–78. Traubel reprints Symonds's letter of 1871, beginning, “When a man has ventured to dedicate his work to another without authority or permission, I think he is bound to make confession of the liberty he has taken. This must be my excuse for sending you the crude poem in which you may perchance detect some echo, faint and feeble, of your Calamus.” After linking Symonds, Ward, and his own army experience, Whitman moved on to Oscar Wilde. Wilde, he explained, “has extraordinary brilliancy of genius with perhaps rather too little root in eternal soils. Wilde gives up too much to the extrinsic decorative values in art” (WWWC 2:279).

29. In an 1858 article entitled “The Moral Effect of the [Atlantic] Cable,” reprinted in I Sit and Look Out: Editorials from the Brooklyn Daily Times by Walt Whitman, ed. Emory Holloway and Vernolian Schwarz (New York: Columbia University Press, 1932), pp. 159–61, Whitman explained,

When Beranger, the French Poet of Freedom, wrote the great lyric of his [“La Sainte Alliance des Peuples”], calling upon the nations to “join hands” in amity and with prophetic vision told them of the day when international quarrels should cease and the lion should lie down with the lamb, he must have had some dim foresight, which for ought we know, is vouchsafed to the bards sublime, of the great triumph of man's ingenuity and skill which has just set our people wild with joy and excitement.

Pierre-Jean de Béranger (1780–1857) was more than a passing enthusiasm. During the post-Civil War period, Whitman clipped four magazine articles on the French poet. See Notes and Fragments, ed. Richard Maurice Bucke (London, Ontario, Canada: 1899), p. 81. For further discussion of Whitman and Béranger, see Betsy Erkkila,Walt Whitman Among the French: Poet and Myth (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980), pp. 32–34. She plausibly suggests that Whitman's use of the word “song” in his titles may have been influenced by Bé-ranger, and describes Whitman's early response to Béranger as “a prelude to his later and much more interesting relationship to Victor Hugo.”

30. See Edward Carpenter, Days with Walt Whitman: With Some Notes on His Life and Work (London: G. Allen, 1906; reprint, New York: AMS Press, 1983), p. 47.

31. There now exists a considerable literature on Whitman and painters, sculptors, architects, and photographers. See, for example, the various essays in Walt Whitman and the Visual Arts, ed. Geoffrey M. Sill and Roberta K. Tarbell (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1992), with a foreword by David S. Reynolds. Of special interest for my purposes is the essay by Ruth L. Bohan, “‘The Gathering of the Forces’: Walt Whitman and the Visual Arts in Brooklyn in the 1850s,” pp. 1–27. The volume includes a useful bibliography ranging from an 1896 essay by Edward Carpenter on “Wagner, Millet and Whitman: In Relation to Art and Democracy” through F. O. Matthiessen's American Renaissance

(1941) and on to such classics of contemporary art criticism as Elizabeth Johns, Thomas Eakins: The Heroism of Modern Life (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983). Whitman was nominated for president of the Brooklyn Art Union shortly before it was forced to go out of business early in 1852. The Union, like the American Art Union in New York that was its model, depended on prize-giving to stimulate membership. Admission was free, and when the state banned these art lotteries as a form of gambling, both the New York and the Brooklyn Unions folded.

32. Edwin H. Miller suggests that “this is too disingenuous, even for Whitman.” But Whitman's focus here seems to be on the institutionalization of homosexuality in classical Greece rather than on passions as such. Miller speculates that the notebook manuscript dates from the 1860s. See Walt Whitman's Poetry: A Psychological Journey (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1968), p. 146. On Greek sexual customs, see, among other sources, David M. Halperin, One Hundred Years of Homosexuality: And Other Essays on Greek Love (New York: Routledge, 1990). On the way Greek studies operated as a “homosexual code” in England, see Linda Dowling, Hellenism and Homosexuality in Victorian Oxford (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994). I know of no comparable study for the nineteenth-century United States, but the British context may be relevant for someone as widely read in British literature as Whitman. On subsequent developments in New York City, see George Chauncey, Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890–1940 (New York: Basic Books, 1994). I find this study invaluable for its descriptions of the public places that in effect authorized sexual contact between men.

33. See Robert K. Martin, The Homosexual Tradition in American Poetry (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1979). Martin begins with Whitman and includes such poets as Hart Crane, Fitz-Greene Halleck, Bayard Taylor, George Santayana, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Duncan, Thom Gunn, Edward Field, Richard Howard, James Merrill, and Alfred Corn. For Whitman's influence in England, see Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's “Coda” in Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985). More generally, Whitman's influence on continental homosexual literature and consciousness has been the subject of a number of specialized studies, some of them appearing in the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review. See, for example, Robert K. Martin, “Walt Whitman and Thomas Mann,” Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 4, no. 1 (summer 1986): 1–6. See also Walter Grünzweig, Constructing the German Walt Whitman (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1995), chapter 19 and passim.

34. For a thorough discussion of “Pictures” as part of Whitman's dialogue with British romanticism, see Kenneth M. Price, Whitman and Tradition: The Poet in His Century (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990), pp. 28–34. Price effectively critiques Grier's dating of the notebook, and I agree with his conclusion.

35. As quoted in Allen, Solitary Singer, pp. 151–52. Allen examined a transcript of the missing original, which was made by Clifton J. Furness. Its present location is unknown. The transcript further stated that a Baptist minister presided, which is surprising given Walter Whitman Senior's freethinking religious

views during the 1820s and 1830s. But perhaps he had become more conservative in his old age, or perhaps the minister was known to someone in the family and available on short notice.

A very different funeral is described in Whitman's 1855 poem, “To Think of Time.” The burial of a forty-one-year-old stage driver who “grew lowspirited toward the last. . sickened. . [and] was helped by a contribution” is noticeably lacking in clerical presence. The driver is surrounded by friends, not family, for whom he was unambiguously “ready with life or death.” All this under “A gray discouraged sky overhead. … the short last daylight of December” (LG 1855, p. 100).

36. For a discussion of these receipts, see Justin Kaplan, Walt Whitman: A Life (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1980), pp. 160–61.

37. Kaplan, Walt Whitman, p. 184.

38. As quoted in Ellen M. [O'Connor] Calder, “Personal Recollections of Walt Whitman,” Atlantic Monthly 99, June 1907, 832.

39. Walt Whitman, in Notes and Fragments, p. 116.

40. Allen, Solitary Singer, p. 120.

41. Whitman, however, continued to associate “brutality of utterance” with strong creators, with “the initiators and inspirers.” See his comment to Traubel about Symonds, whom he considered “always gentle” and “dangerously near the superfine in his weaker moments” (WWWC 2:276–77).


1. Whitman used this very public document to conclude the 1856 Leaves of Grass. He also used the famous sentence from Emerson's 1855 letter on the book's spine (“I greet you at the beginning of a great career, which yet must have had a long foreground somewhere, for such a start”), but without Emerson's permission. Neither Emerson nor his friends were pleased by this appropriation.

2. On Whitman as lecturer, see C. Carroll Hollis, Language and Style in “Leaves of Grass” (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1983). And on the importance of Whitman's “presence,” which Hollis also stresses, see Tenney Nathanson, Whitman's Presence: Body, Voice, and Writing in “Leaves of Grass” (New York: New York University Press, 1992). Nathanson suggests, and I concur, that “at its best [Whitman's] work does bear on us with an immediacy not ordinarily associated with poetry: the figure who is said to rise up and appear to us in the poet's direct addresses to his audience seems to overflow the boundaries of the very work that conveys him to us, to shuck off his status as a fictive character existing in a literary representation and impinge on us personally and directly” (p. 2).

3. Timothy Morris also suggests that Whitman's poetry has succeeded in part because the poet-hero can seem so fully present in his work. See Becoming Canonical in American Poetry (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995), in which he suggests that “the belief that a work of art conveys the living presence of the artist, and the implied value that a work is better as the artist is more present in it” (p. xi), emerged as one of the central tenets of the American Renaissance. Morris analyzes the critical mandates for an authentically American

literature that preceded the 1855 Leaves of Grass, as well as the canon-making metanarratives that determined the course of American Studies in the twentieth century. He finds that “the poetics of presence, by valuing those texts that most directly and immediately present the writer as a living voice, came to be a guarantee of the nationalism of canonical texts: an American writer sufficiently present in a work would automatically deliver the greatest amount of Americanism in that work” (p. xi). Writing against the canon, Morris suggests that Americanism was associated with the privilege of the white, Anglo-Saxon, heterosexual male voice, and with (now incredible) principles of originality (p. 9).

4. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1991), pp. 202–3.

5. See David S. Reynolds, Beneath the American Renaissance: The Subversive Imagination in the Age of Emerson and Melville (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1988). See also his Walt Whitman's America: A Cultural Biography (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995), chapters 4, 6, and passim.

6. There are many discussions of childhood that have been helpful to me in thinking about Whitman and his family. Especially useful were the following. John Bowlby, Attachment and Loss. Volume 2: Separation, Anxiety, and Anger (New York: Basic Books, 1973), p. 235, quoted in Cindy Hazan and Phillip R. Shaver, “Romantic Love Conceptualized as an Attachment Process,” Journal of Psychology and Social Personality 52, no. 3 (March 1987): 512. Hazan and Shaver provide a succinct overview of attachment theory, as well as an empirical study supporting some of their claims about the continuity of an individual's attachment patterns over the life cycle. See also Bowlby, A Secure Base: Parent-Child Attachment and Healthy Human Development (New York: Basic Books, 1988), for a fuller working out of the conceptual framework of attachment theory, which is based on three personality types: secure, anxious-ambivalent, and avoidant. Whitman exhibits characteristics of all three of them.

7. On the newly emerging languages of the Jacksonian era, see Marvin Meyers, The Jacksonian Persuasion: Politics and Belief (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1960).

8. Anderson, Imagined Communities, p. 203.

9. For a stimulating and different reading of this dynamic among men, see Donald E. Pease, “Walt Whitman and the Vox Populi of the American Masses,” in Visionary Compacts: American Renaissance Writings in Cultural Context (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1987), pp. 155–56. Pease suggests that “the power in this scenario derives from the unusual work to which Whitman puts this young woman's loneliness and longing. For she does not indulge in regret for what she cannot have. Her longing does not, as it would in Hawthorne or Poe, intensify our sense of her separateness. Instead the intensity of her longing fills in the distance between these young men. She fills the spaces separating the men with the fullness of her longing for all of them equally. As her eyes touch and caress the men, her vision claims an intimacy with the bathers greater than the intimacy with each other disclosed by their nakedness.” Pease concludes that “‘unseen’ relations, the intimate compact the men did not know they shared, becomes visible only through her sight.”

10. Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality. Volume 1: An Introduction

(New York: Random House, 1978), pp. 4–5. For an interesting analysis of common misreadings of Foucault's repressive hypothesis, in which The History of Sexuality is understood as “the charter for so much current writing about homosexuality,” see Linda Dowling, Hellenism and Homosexuality in Victorian England (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994), pp. xi-xiii.

11. Louise Pound, “Whitman and the French Language,” American Speech 1 (May 1926): 421–30; F. O. Matthiessen, American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman (New York: Oxford University Press, 1941), pp. 528–31; Roger Asselineau, The Evolution of Walt Whitman: The Creation of a Book (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1962), pp. 225–38; Betsy Erkkila, Walt Whitman Among the French: Poet and Myth (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980), pp. 10–11, 105, 231. See also Erkkila, “Walt Whitman: The Politics of Language,”American Studies 29 (spring 1984): 21–34.

12. In Majestic Indolence: English Romantic Poetry and the Work of Art (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), Willard Spiegelman offers a brilliant, extended reading of this passage, in which he points out that “watching and wondering at it” is not an exact parallel for “Both in and out of the game.” Participant and spectator, the speaker participates most continuously by watching. Spiegelman rewrites the passage to read, “‘Although I play the game by coming into and going out of it alternately, I also simply stand in the audience as a perpetual spectator.’” He concludes that “from such passages we may hope for a final balance, but they disorient us, never permitting us certain knowledge of where or when Whitman may reenter the lists from the sidelines” (pp. 147–48).

13. For Crane's quotation of “Passage to India,” see the “Cape Hatteras” section of The Bridge, in The Poems of Hart Crane, ed. Marc Simon (New York: Liveright, 1986), pp. 75–84.

14. For “Home Burial,” see The Poetry of Robert Frost: The Collected Poems, Complete and Unabridged, ed. Edwin Connery Lathem (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1975), pp. 51–55. On Frost as the inheritor of Whitman's need for loafing, see Spiegelman, “Our American Cousins,” in Majestic Indolence, p. 150.

15. For other uses of these words, see Harold Edwin Eby, A Concordance of Walt Whitman's “Leaves of Grass” and Selected Prose Writings (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1949). The word “mullen,” whose spelling Whitman changed after 1871, appears only one other time, in the posthumously published poem “Supplement Hours” (1897). “Sullen,” on the other hand, appears with comparative frequency, as in the Calamus line “Sullen and suffering hours! (I am ashamed—but it is useless—I am what I am)” (LG 1860, p. 355). Whitman subsequently deleted the entire poem. Contrary to what we might expect, however, the incidence of words used only once in Whitman's poetry is high. See Asselineau, Evolution of Walt Whitman, p. 231.

Eby's precomputer concordance does not attempt to index Specimen Days, and so misses Whitman's charming vignette on “Mulleins and Mulleins” (SD 805). Here the much maligned mullein figures as an emblem of peace. “Every object has its lesson,” the poet writes, “enclosing the suggestion of everything else—and lately I sometimes think all is concentrated for me in these hardy, yellow-flower'd weeds.”


16. Webster's New International Dictionary, 3d ed., s.v. “worm fence.”

17. See Paul Zweig, Walt Whitman: The Making of the Poet (New York: Basic Books, 1984), especially chapter 1, in which he describes Walter Whitman Senior as the muse of the new language of Leaves of Grass (p. 39).

18. On the tragic element in Whitman's erotic nature, see Edward Carpenter, Days with Walt Whitman: With Some Notes on his Life and Work (London: G. Allen, 1906), p. 47. He describes the poet as self-confident and outgoing, but also as moody, fixed, silent, unquestionable.

19. Christopher Bollas, The Shadow of the Object: Psychoanalysis of the Unthought Known (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987), p. 4. See also chapter 5, “The Trisexual,” pp. 82–96, in which Bollas moves beyond Freud's account of “an innate bisexual disposition in man” to posit a third position, occupied by “a person who ‘seduces’ members of each sex in order to gain the other's desire of his self. The object of desire is the person's own self, but a self hypercathected as part of an erotic family triangle” (82). As a narcissist, Whitman has something in common with this figure, who gratifies others without being able to gratify himself.

20. Jorie Graham, “The Geese,” in The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 1974–1994 (Hopewell, N.J.: Ecco Press, 1995), p. 12.

21. For Dickinson's correspondence with Susan Gilbert Dickinson, see The Poems of Emily Dickinson, ed. Thomas H. Johnson, 3 vols. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1955), 1: 151–55. The poem in question was “Safe in their Alabaster Chambers.”

22. Helen Price recalled that Whitman read the manuscript aloud in “1858, I think.” See her account in Richard Maurice Bucke, Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), p. 29. She stresses his diffidence. On Abby Price and her circle, see Sherry Ceniza, “Abby Hills Price,” in Walt Whitman and 19th-Century Women Reformers (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1998), pp. 45–95. George B. Arnold was the father of the “Bohemian” poet George Arnold and a former president of the Raritan Bay Union (1853–56), a reform community with which the Prices were also associated.

23. Helen E. Price, “Reminiscences of Walt Whitman,” New York Evening Post, May 31, 1919, p. 2.

24. Whitman, quoted by Helen Price in Bucke, Walt Whitman, p. 29.

25. Emerson lectured on “Manners” at the New York Christian Union on Friday, March 23, 1860, and this is presumably the place Vaughan refers to as “Fr. Chapins church.” For Vaughan's letters to Whitman, see Calamus Lovers: Walt Whitman's Working Class Camerados, ed. Charley Shively (San Francisco: Gay Sunshine, 1987), pp. 41–50. The passages I quote are on p. 43. During the two months that Whitman was in Boston in 1860, Vaughan wrote seven extant letters to him, but Whitman's letters from what Vaughan calls “the City of Notions” have not been found.

26. Father Chapin is the Universalist minister Edwin Hubbell Chapin (1814–80), who spoke at a Crystal Palace dinner organized by the New York Publishers' Association in September 1855. He was the author of popular advice books such as True Manliness (1854) and, according to Ezra Greenspan, his speech praised the power of the printing press in an age of “steam and electricity.”

See Walt Whitman and the American Reader (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990), p. 6. See also UPP 1:252.

27. Vaughan, letter of November 16, 1874, quoted in Calamus Lovers, pp. 49–50.

28. See Vaughan's references to “the Press” and to the “Brooklyn Daily Times” in his letter of November 16, 1874. The context suggests that “the Press” was one of his jobs.

29. The “now praying now cursing” quote is from Vaughan's letter of November 16, 1874, in Calamus Lovers, p. 50. His career was unsuccessful, his marriage unhappy, his alcoholism difficult to control. Fred felt that he was untrue to his wife and children, apparently because of his desire for other men, and that his intimate relationship with Walt, however it ended, was the one great success of his life.

30. Emily Dickinson, Poems, 1: 199–200.

31. D. H. Lawrence has perhaps written most memorably on the death cult in Whitman. See Studies in Classic American Literature (1923; reprint, New York: Viking, 1964), pp. 163–77. For a provocative contemporary reading, see David Lawrence Karp, “Death at the Birth of ‘Leaves of Grass’: Domestic and Morbid Imaginings in Walt Whitman's Writings, 1839–1856” (Ph.D. diss., University of Washington, 1991). Karp describes the sentimental tradition of comparative bodiliness from which, he argues, Whitman could not wholly escape.

32. In this much revised poem, which also concludes all future editions, the persona departs “as one disembodied, triumphant, dead.” The neologism “Camerado” was not introduced until 1867.

33. Greenspan, Whitman and the American Reader, pp. 109–10. He further notes that “Whitman's need for ‘contact’ with his readers … was an obsession” and that “at times, in fact, the early poems seem addressed less to impersonal readers outside the reaches of the poem than to unidentified friends and lovers located within the imaginary plane of the poem.”

34. For a discussion of homophobia and phobias about equality in Whitman's time, see Christopher Newfield, “Democracy and Male Homoeroticism,” Yale Journal of Criticism 6, no. 2 (fall 1993): 29–62.

35. Here I borrow from Alicia Ostriker, “Desire Gratified and Ungratified: William Blake and Sexuality,” in Critical Essays on William Blake, ed. Hazard Adams (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1991), p. 107. She writes that “if ‘Unity is the cloke of Folly’ in a work of art, we might make it our business as critics not only to discover, but also to admire, a large poet's large inconsistencies—particularly in an area like the meaning of sex, where the entire culture, and probably each of us, in the shadows of our chambers, feels profound ambivalence.”

36. See M. Wynn Thomas, The Lunar Light of Whitman's Poetry (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987), pp. 13, 14. Thomas's extended reading of this poem is one of the finest I have encountered, though he presents Whitman as a more psychologically transcendent figure than I do. He argues that if the effect of Whitman's language is to violate the reader's privacy, this effect is perhaps intentional, “since in such privacy Whitman finds evidence of the disengagement of vital emotions from the activities of a public life that must therefore become increasingly bankrupt of serious human content” (pp. 14–15).


Here Thomas intends to have it both ways. The poem appeals to the authenticity of private life and seeks to abolish such life. His passionate and witty commentary is premised on the observation that “there is, on the face of it, something faintly ludicrous and even offensive about the way Whitman thrusts his unwanted attention upon these intimate situations. Two's company, three's a crowd, and he seems always to be insisting on being just that one person too many, whose presence is bound to alter the color and tone of the occasion” (p. 14). For an analysis of the poem as “kinky,” an example of “cultivated perversity” in making sex public—“pubic hairs on the ink rollers and so on”—see Michael Warner, “Whitman Drunk,” in Breaking Bounds: Whitman and American Cultural Studies, ed. Betsy Erkkila and Jay Grossman (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 42.

37. For a further discussion of interdependent public and private languages of love in Leaves of Grass, see Betsy Erkkila, “Whitman and the Homosexual Republic,” in Walt Whitman: The Centennial Essays, ed. Ed Folsom (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1994), pp. 153–71. She argues that “the languages of sexuality and spirituality, same-sex love and love between men and women, private and public, intersect and flow into each other in Whitman's work” (p. 158). And for an insightful discussion of “The Politics of Labor and the Poet's Work: A Reading of ‘A Song for Occupations,’” see Alan Trachtenberg, in Walt Whitman: The Centennial Essays, pp. 120–52. Trachtenberg sees “a vicious circularity” at work in the poem, since for Whitman “politics itself often seems a literary rather than a political activity” (p. 123). Although Trachtenberg's terms and mine are far from identical, we share some of the same concerns about Whitman and “closeness” and “the necessity of artifice for the sake of the common life” (p. 127).

38. Nathanson adds, “It is particularly useful to do so in a critical climate inclined to privilege the sort of public concerns that can be adduced in support of the claim that the poet's body figures the body politic. That body also staves off fears and satisfies desires of a more intimate order.” See Whitman's Presence, p. 494.

39. An American Primer by Walt Whitman: With Facsimiles of the Original Manuscripts, ed. Horace L. Traubel (1904; reprint, with an afterword by Gay Wilson Allen, Stevens Point, Wisc.: Holy Cow! Press, 1987), p. 15. Subsequent quotations are included in parentheses in the text. The Primer is a collection of notes that remained unpublished in Whitman's lifetime. His original title was “The Primer of Words,” and he told Traubel that these one hundred and ten separate notes were first intended for a lecture he was planning to deliver in the mid-1850s. The excerpted quote was probably written in 1856 or later. For another presentation of the text, see DBN 3:728–54. On the Primer as a program for expanding the lexicon, see Ed Folsom, Walt Whitman's Native Representations (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994), pp. 20–21.

40. Justin Kaplan describes Jeff as “for years the chief support of [Whitman's] homoerotic fantasy of ‘two boys together clinging.’” See Walt Whitman: A Life (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1980), p. 236.

41. In one of his notebooks, the poet suggested that masturbation and inordinate

“going with women” rot the voice, but that “no man can have a great vocalism … who has no experience of love.” He then crossed out the word “love” and wrote “woman” (DBN 3:737). The next entry associates the great Italian singers with “Mannahatta young men, especially the drivers of horses, and all whose work leads to free loud calling and commanding.” Fred Vaughan was such a driver and it seems likely that Whitman had more emotional space in his life because Jeff Whitman was less available as an “ardent” and approving companion. Jeff played the guitar and sang pleasantly, and Walt bought him a piano in 1852. See the male-homoerotic reverie in DBN 3:765, composed while Jeff was playing the piano.

42. Mattie turned twenty-one in September 1857 and was engaged to Jeff before then. See the account of her lost inheritance in Dear Brother Walt: The Letters of Thomas Jefferson Whitman, ed. Dennis Berthold and Kenneth Price (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1984), pp. xviii-xix n. 14. Her father was dead and her stepmother, who was her guardian, absconded with the funds after Mattie announced that she planned to marry Jeff when she came of age.

43. Justin Kaplan suggests that “Walt loved Mattie as if she were a sister—she and Louisa Whitman were ‘the two best and sweetest women I have ever seen or known or ever expect to see.’ Still, his cherished and exclusive relationship with Jeff had been fractured along with his understanding of ‘adhesiveness,’ now divested of its sanctions in brotherly love.” See Walt Whitman, p. 236.

44. Trachtenberg notes in “The Politics of Labor,” p. 128, that this line echoes Emerson's “wise man in ‘Politics,’ who needs ‘no money, for he is value.’”

45. The Eighteenth Presidency! in Walt Whitman: Complete Poetry and Collected Prose, ed. Justin Kaplan (New York: Literary Classics of the United States, 1982), pp. 1323–24. In Whitman the Political Poet, Erkkila notes that “although Whitman was closest in his views to Fremont's Free-Soil platform, in The Eighteenth Presidency! he refuses to identify with any particular political party” (p. 130). For further discussion of Whitman's contradictory attitudes toward slavery in The Eighteenth Presidency! see my chapter 7.

46. Mark Maslan has directed our attention to analogies between Whitman's hand and his handwriting. See “Whitman's ‘Strange Hand’: Body as Text in Drum-Taps,ELH 58, no. 4 (winter 1991): 935–55.

47. The reviewer was objecting to the “female form” passage in “I Sing the Body Electric,” which includes the description of orgasm as “Limitless limpid jets of love hot and enormous. … quivering jelly of love. … white-blow and delirious juice” (LG 1855, p. 119).

48. Evidently Whitman is also suggesting that, with his rude American tongue, he deliberately ignores the models of the past. On nation-building as dependent on such fierce forgettings, see Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities, passim. Anderson's phrase “the amnesias of nationalism” (p. xv) is especially felicitous.

49. Letter of September 11, 1865. Except as otherwise indicated, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's unpublished letters are paraphrased or quoted from the Trent Collection, William R. Perkins Library, Duke University.

50. The editorial is dated June 22, 1859, and is reprinted in I Sit and Look Out: Editorials from the Brooklyn Daily Times by Walt Whitman, ed. Emory

Holloway and Vernolian Schwarz (New York: Columbia University Press, 1932), 120–22. On the chronology of Calamus, see the next chapter. Evidently the answer to the question “Can All Marry?” is an emphatic no, though the reasons Whitman advances are not appealing. He contends that some women are too ugly to marry, while granting that plenty of “hard-featured visages lighted up by no redeeming ray of intellect … preside at ‘good men's feasts.’”

51. Hannah's obituary is included in Katherine Molinoff, Some Notes on Whitman's Family: Mary Elizabeth Whitman, Edward Whitman, Andrew and Jesse Whitman, Hannah Louisa Whitman (New York: Comet Press, 1941), pp. 41–43. This work contains other useful information on Hannah, especially pp. 24–43. Molinoff presents the boarding school story uncritically, but see below for my discussion of Hannah's feelings of inferiority because of her lack of education.

52. Molinoff, Notes, p. 39.

53. The quotation from Hannah's obituary in the Burlington Free Press and Times is from Molinoff, Notes, p. 42. The writer was Hannah's friend William Hassett, who later served on Franklin D. Roosevelt's White House staff. “In her earlier years she enjoyed a wide acquaintance with contemporary artists and literary people,” Hassett explained in a letter to Molinoff, “and knew intimately many of the celebrities of a generation ago” (Molinoff, Notes, p. 25). Though in chronic ill health, Hannah, the last surviving member of Whitman's immediate family, was eighty-five when she died in 1908.

54. George Whitman, quoted in “Notes from Conversations with George W. Whitman, 1893,” in In Re Walt Whitman, ed. Horace L. Traubel, Richard Maurice Bucke, and Thomas B. Harned (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1893), p. 37.

55. Faint Clews & Indirections: Manuscripts of Walt Whitman and His Family, ed. Clarence Gohdes and Rollo G. Silver (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1949), p. 209. Subsequent citations to this collection of source material will be cited parenthetically in the text.

56. Jerome M. Loving, ed., Civil War Letters of George Washington Whitman (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1975), p. 11.

57. Molinoff, Notes, p. 25. For more on Heyde's poetry, see Jerome Loving, Walt Whitman: The Song of Himself (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), pp. 344–45. And for more on Heyde's career as an artist, see pp. 170, 385, 506 nn. 76, 77.

58. For the “sexual” quote, see Dear Brother Walt, p. 114 n. 8. For the “she devil” quote, see Dear Brother Walt, p. 114 n. 9. For the “pleasure” quote, see Louisa's letter of June 7, 1866, Trent Collection. For speculation that Louisa relished Heyde's aggressive language, see Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, “Confusion of Tongues,” in Erkkila and Grossman, Breaking Bounds, p. 28. Sedgwick further suggests that Louisa was insulting Walt by transmitting Heyde's trenchant abuse of him. My sense of Louisa is that she was genuinely distressed and had no intention of insulting Walt.

59. The “no talents” quote is from an unpublished letter in the Hannah Whitman Heyde Collection, Library of Congress. Pathetically, Hannah adds, “I often wish I was more like him,” that is, more like her husband.

60. Hannah extended many invitations that were not accepted, but Heyde,

who censored her letters, was threatened by the prospect of family visits. From Boston in 1860, Walt wrote to Jeff, “Oh how much I would like to see her once more—and I must, this summer—After I recruit a while home, I shall very likely take a tour, partly business and partly for edification, through all the N[ew] E[ngland] states—then I shall see Han” (Corr 1:54). The 1860 tour never happened and it was not until June 1872, when he was reading at Dartmouth College, that Walt visited Burlington, never seeing his sister again. He continued to send books and money when he could, and his last letter was to her. See Corr 5:277.

61. For Louisa Whitman, the issue was not one of theory but of practice. See the 1869 letter in which she compares Hannah unfavorably to a neighbor who dealt with her abusive husband more successfully. After a terrible fight, “young Chapells wife up stairs here … was singing and lively as usual she says he has an awful temper but it goes in one ear and out the other.” Quoted in Ceniza, Whitman and 19th-Century Women Reformers, p. 20. Ceniza makes the point that Louisa admired women who resisted domination.

62. See her letter of July 21, 1861, Hannah Whitman Heyde Collection. Hannah was often frustrated by the fact that Heyde could be so amiable with others and hateful to her. As she explains it, he had been laughing outside her windows with a man who was a fellow boarder in the hotel where they were staying. “I said cheerfully how much I would like it if he could be pleasant so with me. He said he and that young man were of an equality. I laughed and said well is not a husband and wife one as good as another. He as usual got angry[,] said we were not.” And then he tried to choke her.

63. On the “uppertendom,” see Hannah's unpublished letter dated Monday Morning, Burlington, Oct., beginning “My dear Mother, I have not written in so long because Charlie is most of the time so terrible cross.” She repeatedly describes feelings of inferiority when comparing herself to other women. By 1881, however, she was attracting attention as “Walt Whitman's sister” and the “uppertendom” was seeking her out. Her November 1881 letter to Walt is heartening and is written from a better place. Hannah Whitman Heyde Collection, Library of Congress.

64. The quotations are from the letter in the Hannah Whitman Heyde Collection, beginning “My dear Mother,” cited above.


1. “All About a Mocking-Bird” appeared in the New York Saturday Press on January 7, 1860. See Walt Whitman: The Contemporary Reviews, ed. Kenneth M. Price (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 74–76. The Saturday Press was edited by Whitman's friend Henry Clapp.

2. As early as December 28, 1859, the Cincinnati Daily Commercial had lambasted “A Child's Reminiscence” in a sneering review beginning, “The author of Leaves of Grass has perpetrated another ‘poem.’” See Contemporary Reviews, pp. 71–73.

3. Before Thayer and Eldridge went bankrupt during the winter of 1860–61, they printed an edition of about a thousand copies. Whitman's book enjoyed a steady but modest sale, though not of course “going off in a rocket way, (like

‘Uncle Tom's Cabin’)” (Corr 1:52). Subsequently, Charles Eldridge continued to interest himself in Whitman as poet and person, helping him get to Fredericksburg, Virginia, to see his wounded brother George in December 1862, and then to find work as a copyist in the Army Paymaster's Office, where Eldridge was also employed. Eldridge formed part of the social and intellectual Washington circle loosely organized by William Douglas O'Connor and his wife Nellie, which supported Whitman emotionally and in certain respects materially in 1863, easing his transition out of Brooklyn and making it possible for Whitman to pursue his career as a freelance journalist, poet, and minor government functionary.

4. See Sigmund Freud, “Family Romances” (1908), Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, trans. James Strachey, 24 vols. (London: Hogarth, 1975), 9:235–41. Other usages may be found in “Fliess Paper” (1902), “Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality” (1905), “A Special Type of Choice of Object Made by Men” (1910), and “Moses and Monotheism” (1937).

5. The poem, after all, was published a mere twenty-two days after the abolitionist martyr John Brown was executed at Charleston, (West) Virginia. On his way to the scaffold, Brown had prophesied that “the crimes of this guilty, land: will never be purged away; but with Blood.” See Stephen B. Oates, To Purge This Land with Blood: A Biography of John Brown (New York: Harper & Row, 1970), p. 351. See also Whitman's rendition of this scene in “Year of Meteors” (LG, p. 238), in which he describes himself as standing by with clenched teeth. Whitman, as we have seen, was not wholly averse to the use of physical or psychological force. Mainly, however, he sought to “bind in words” (LG, p. 238), preferring unities bloodlessly achieved. For all his conflation of language and body, Whitman knew and respected the difference.

6. Whitman drew on the phrenological term “adhesiveness” to amplify the male friendship tradition he inherited from the fathers of the American Revolution. On the derivation and queering of this term, see, for example, Michael Lynch, “‘Here Is Adhesiveness’: From Friendship to Homosexuality,” Victorian Studies 29 (autumn 1985): 67–96. See also Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, “Toward the Twentieth Century: English Readers of Whitman,” in Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985), p. 204 and passim.

7. An exception here was the New York Times, which called the Enfans d'Adam section “humanitary.” See Contemporary Reviews, p. 83.

8. Accounting for Whitman's more positive reception in England, Sedgwick speculates that “the sexual-ideological packages sent by the Kosmic American were very different from the ones unpacked” by “cosmopolitan” Englishmen. “The most important differences lay in the assumed class contexts in which the sexual ideology was viewed, and in the standing of women—both of ‘femininity’ and of actual women—in the two visions. These very differences made for Whitman's adaptability as an English (far more than as an American) prophet of sexual politics for the nineteenth century.” Sedgwick further emphasizes Whitman's iconic status as a working-class figure and suggests that he embodied “contradictory and seductive attributes that would not have been combined in an Englishman.” See Between Men, p. 204.


9. This wonderful language, quoted in Corr 1:4, is taken from an 1867 letter Whitman prepared for William Douglas O'Connor to send to William Michael Rossetti, who was preparing judiciously chosen selections of Leaves of Grass for the English market. Rossetti was at work on the Introduction and Whitman was prepared to help him out.

10. Hector Tyndale seems to have dropped out of Whitman's immediate sphere of interest by May 1860, when he visited Louisa Whitman and complained that Walt was not answering his letters. During the Washington years, Whitman mentions him as a repeat visitor in 1866 (Corr 1:279). Whitman also visited him in Philadelphia in 1876, but was displeased with his tone of “settled morbidity” and “ennui” (Corr 3:25, 26). Tyndale had been seriously wounded during the war. Sarah Tyndale, Hector's mother, was an abolitionist friend of Abby Price's. She died not long before Hector's visit to Brooklyn in 1860.

11. So far as we can tell, Whitman refused to heed Emerson's advice, which has been variously described. See Prose Writings of Walt Whitman, ed. Floyd Stovall (New York: New York University Press, 1964), 1:281–82 and 2:494, and WWWC 3:439. Jerome Loving indicates that Emerson wanted Whitman to remove the sequence as a whole, rather than to modify or eliminate selected parts. See Loving, Emerson, Whitman, and the American Muse (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1982), pp. 105–108. M. Jimmie Killingsworth notes that since Emerson himself kept no record of the meeting, “we cannot definitely know which poems he suggested Whitman drop” from the 1860 volume. See Whitman's Poetry of the Body: Sexuality, Politics, and the Text (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989), p. 68. Killingsworth suggests that “A Woman Waits for Me” (first published in 1856 as “Poem of Procreation”) was viewed by Emerson and his circle as particularly offensive. More generally, the subject of Whitman's revisions as a form of self-censorship in response to actual and anticipated public criticism, both in 1860 and subsequently, needs further work. Jeff Whitman, writing to his brother in 1860, views the actual attacks of the “Yam” writers as an opportunity for family fun, noting, “I dont suppose you will mind it any more than you did in the days of your editorship of the B[rooklyn] Eagle when the Advertiser['s] Lees used to go at you so roughly.” I am less sure that Walt shared Jeff's enthusiasm for such “jolly times.” See Dear Brother Walt: The Letters of Thomas Jefferson Whitman, ed. Dennis Berthold and Kenneth Price (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1984), p. 15.

12. There is also a syntactically less obvious reading of these lines in which Whitman is Eve: “Eve following” functions as an appositive and modifies “me,” while the phrase “her just the same” emphasizes a common bond, if not a degendering.

13. In 1856, the untitled poem later called “Great Are the Myths” had been revised and given the more modest title “Poem of a Few Greatnesses.” It appeared in the 1856 volume immediately before “I Sing the Body Electric,” with its uncanny interest in “defil[ing] the dead,” and after the new “Broad-Axe Poem,” in which the self and its language are figured as weapons. The closural force of allusions to death obviously appealed to Whitman, as did unifying and psychologically evasive allusions to immortality. The 1856 Leaves of Grass ends

with a “Burial Poem” that brings together both of these tropes. (The poem had been untitled in 1855 and was later called “To Think of Time.”) On the closural force of allusions to death, see Barbara Herrnstein Smith, Poetic Closure: A Study of How Poems End (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968).

14. I don't mean to suggest, however, that Whitman is always optimistic about language. In “Burial Poem,” for example, “Slow-moving and black lines creep over the whole earth—they never cease—they are the burial lines,” and they may be read as the lines of text moving across Whitman's pages (LG 1856, p. 334, partially repeated on p. 339). These quotations prefigure the funeral-train scene in “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd,” but even in 1856, Whitman was reminding readers, “He that was President was buried, and he that is now President shall surely be buried.”

15. Kerry C. Larson describes “the empowering of a compulsive eros” in Whitman's Drama of Consensus (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), pp. 160, 157, 159.

16. Here I disagree with James E. Miller, Jr., who argued in A Critical Guide to “Leaves of Grass” (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957) that “although [Emory] Holloway's discovery [of the original manuscript] may be biographically revealing, the poem has the ‘meaning,’ surely, of its final version” (p. 50 n). I have never been able to warm up to “I Sing the Body Electric” (LG 1860, pp. 291–302), which in 1860 had not yet acquired its memorable first line. The poem, the longest in the sequence, seems to me ethically admirable in its concern for racial and sexual justice, but also hysterical in its attack on fools who corrupt their own live bodies, pretentious in its feminism, and overall somewhat inert. Predictably, Section 3, a self-contained lyric vignette beginning “I knew a man, a common farmer, the father of five sons” (LG, p. 95) appeals to me as the poem's emotional center. Following this personal and intimate scene, with its unmistakable note of (white) male-male longing, Whitman backs away into a sea of generalities, attempting to constitute a new religion of the variegated body as the basis for American democracy. The poem demonstrates the difficulty of doing so, since the exemplary but also indignant speaker, who delights in taking others apart, is out of touch with his own social aggression. I find the suspension of this aggression in Section 3 refreshing, but it is not clear how this nostalgic lyric episode contains or is related to all the rest. Betsy Erkkila, for example, praises the poem as an “ominous political prophecy” without mentioning this scene. See Whitman the Political Poet (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 125.

17. For a facsimile of the heavily revised manuscript, see Fredson Bowers, Whitman's Manuscripts: “Leaves of Grass” (1860), A Parallel Text (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1955), p. v. For versions of the text that differ slightly in matters of punctuation, see Gay Wilson Allen, The Solitary Singer: A Critical Biography of Walt Whitman (1955; reprint, New York: New York University Press, 1967), p. 252; Bowers, p. 64; and Justin Kaplan, Walt Whitman: A Life (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1980), p. 142. For a discussion of the politics of Holloway's discovery, see Robert K. Martin, The Homosexual Tradition in American Poetry (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1979), p. 4. He notes that though Holloway discovered the manuscript in 1920, by 1926 he was citing “the

revised version to prove Whitman's heterosexuality.” I consider both the manuscript and the versions printed by Whitman as part of a single metastory.

18. Emory Holloway, “Walt Whitman's Love Affairs,” The Dial (November 1920), 473–483. Luce Irigaray celebrates the inherent autoeroticism of woman's sexuality, “two lips which embrace continually,” in “This Sex Which Is Not One” [“Ce sexe qui n'en est pas un”], in New French Feminisms, ed. Elaine Marks and Isabelle de Courtivron (New York: Schocken Books, 1981), pp. 99–106. According to Irigaray, woman's sexual pleasure disrupts the dominant, single-mindedly instrumental phallic economy. “Thus, for example, woman's autoeroticism is very different from man's. He needs an instrument in order to touch himself: his hand, woman's genitals, language,” whereas the biologically gifted woman, who “‘touches herself’” constantly without anyone being able to forbid her to do so” (p. 100), is inherently self-stimulating. Evidently Whitman's woman is constructed as a socially and emotionally dependent figure. For female autoeroticism in Whitman, see “Spontaneous Me,” in Enfans d'Adam, LG 1860, p. 306.

19. The word “youth” appears in the Bowers facsimile, though it is crossed out, at the point where the language “rude and ignorant” is inserted above the line. On the legend of Whitman's encounter with a New Orleans woman of “higher social rank,” see also Henry Bryan Binns, A Life of Walt Whitman (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1905), chapter 4, “Romance (1848),” p. 51, as well as “Appendix B,” pp. 349–50.

20. Martin, Homosexual Tradition, p. 5. He emphasizes the poet's “joy at sexual experiences with other men,” whereas I hear a more self-conscious (in the sense of conflicted) voice.

21. We've already seen a live oak with moss in Calamus 4, “These I Singing in Spring,” in which the speaker takes out of his pocket “some moss which I pulled off a live-oak in Florida, as it hung trailing down” (LG 1860, p. 348). This poem first introduces the figure of the calamus root.

22. Whitman was fond of the figure of glistening and used it memorably. In addition to the swimmers in Section 11 of “Song of Myself,” their beards glistening with wet, he immortalized the “glistening yellow” that partially lights the bodies of the oscillating sea-gulls in “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” as well as “the scallop-edged waves in the twilight, the ladled cups, the frolicsome crests and glistening” (LG 1860, pp. 381, 382). See also the effective conjunction of glistening waters and rustling leaves in “To a Common Prostitute,”LG 1860, p. 399.

23. But what are we to think of the Whitman who seemingly genders intelligence in “I Sing the Body Electric”? Although he writes that “The female contains all qualities, and tempers them—she is in her place, and moves with perfect balance,” he specifically identifies knowledge with men, knowledge that enables the male with his gender-specific qualifies of “action and power” to bring “everything to the test of himself, / Whatever the survey, whatever the sea and the sail, he strikes soundings at last only here, / Where else does he strike soundings, except here?” (LG 1860, pp. 296, 297). I consider Whitman's construction of maternity at length in chapter 7, and in earlier chapters we have noted that Whitman often described his personal mother not only as his father's intellectual equal but as his father's superior.


24. Whitman's poetry rarely ascribes color to eyes. But see the heroic general in Drum-Taps: “(Old as he was, his gray eyes yet shone out in battle like stars)” (LG, p. 316). For more on eyes in Calamus, see below. And see also his description of himself on Broadway in August 1856, in which he features “singular eyes, of a semi-transparent, indistinct light blue.” From New York Dissected: A Sheaf of Recently Discovered Newspaper Articles by the Author of “Leaves of Grass,” ed. Emory Holloway and Ralph Adimari (New York: Rufus Rockwell Wilson, 1936), p. 130.

25. The genre of the antebellum Northern secession poem was not unique to Whitman. See Dickinson's “I'm ceded—I've stopped being Their's” and “I'm Nobody! Who are you” for interesting analogues, in The Poems of Emily Dickinson, ed. Thomas H. Johnson, 3 vols. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1955), 2:389–90, 1:206–7. For fuller publication history and a different textual transcription, see also The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Variorum Edition, ed. R. W. Franklin, 3 vols. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), 1:279–80, 377–78.

26. According to Phyllis Grosskurth, “Symonds sat transfixed. Here was the voice of his own heart, speaking of things he dared not say aloud. Here was a voice celebrating the beauty of a love which he could not confess.” See The Woeful Victorian: A Biography of John Addington Symonds (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1965), p. 120. Like Symonds, Myers was a poet and at that time a classical lecturer at Trinity College. Yet Symonds and Myers never physically consummated their loving friendship, and according to Grosskurth, Symonds envied Myers's ability to find sexual pleasure with women, while he himself languished in what he described in his Memoirs as an emotionally companionate, yet sexually passionless marriage. See Grosskurth, “Introduction,” in The Memoirs of John Addington Symonds (New York: Random House, 1984), pp. 27–28. Some of Symonds's friends and acquaintances, however, took a dimmer view of his marriage and of Catherine North Symonds in particular. Henry James, for example, used the Symonds marriage as the basis for his unsympathetic characterization of the wife in “The Author of Beltraffio.” “Narrow, cold, Calvinistic … a rigid moralist,” he called her, in the notebook entry which forms the germ of the story (quoted in Grosskurth, Woeful Victorian, p. 270).

27. Whitman was nothing if not persistent, however, and in describing plans for his tomb to his friend Richard Maurice Bucke, he explained in May 1891, “I have two deceased children (young man & woman—illegitimate of course) that I much desired to bury here with me—but have ab't abandon'd the plan on acc't of angry litigation & fuss generally & disinterment f'm down south” (Corr 5:203).

28. John Addington Symonds, “Democratic Art. With Special Reference to Walt Whitman,” in Essays Speculative and Suggestive, 3d ed. (London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1907), p. 242. While quoting extensively and sympathetically from Democratic Vistas, Symonds expressed deep reservations about Whitman's “grotesqueness” and “contempt for history.” See also Whitman's formal response, “An Old Man's Rejoinder,” in Walt Whitman: Complete Poetry and Collected Prose, ed. Justin Kaplan (New York: Literary Classics of the United States, 1982), pp. 1249–52, together with Whitman's informal response to Richard

Maurice Bucke, “I guess there is meat in the vols. but I doubt whether he has gripp'd ‘democratic art’ by the nuts, or L of G. either” (Corr 5:63–64).

29. It would be good to know when “Long I Thought” was written. According to Fredson Bowers, it was one of the original cluster of twelve poems called “Live Oak with Moss,” which seems to have come together as a grouping by the late spring of 1859, when Whitman quit his position at the Brooklyn Daily Times. This sequence consisted of the following, as numbered in the 1860 Leaves of Grass: Calamus 14, 20, 11, 23, 8, 32, 10, 9, 34, 43, 36, 42. Bowers suggests that these twelve notebook poems “appear to be highly unified and to make up an artistically complete story of attachment, crisis, and renunciation.” He further notes that “the calamus symbol is nowhere mentioned in these poems.” See Whitman's Manuscripts, pp. lxiv, lxvi, lxvii. There already existed, however, thirteen other poems that became part of the Calamus cluster by the time the book was published. Apparently the idea of the groupings came to Whitman late in the process of composition. Because these thirteen appear on pink paper, Bowers has been able to identify them as having been written by June 20, 1857, when Whitman, in a long letter to his Philadelphia supporter Mrs. Sarah Tyndale, discussed bringing out a third edition and noted that “I have now a hundred poems ready” (Corr 1:44). One of these thirteen early poems (“Calamus taste”) does indeed introduce the symbol later adopted for the expanded, revised, and blended sequence. The original thirteen are as follows: 12 (“Are you the new person”); 13 (“Calamus taste”); 15 (“O Drops of me!”); 16 (“Who is now reading this?”); 17 (“Of him I love day and night”); 21 (“Music always round me”); 22 (“Passing stranger!”); 25 (“The prairie-grass dividing”); 26 (“We two boys together clinging”); 30 (“A promise and gift to California”); 31 (“What ship, puzzled at sea”); 41 (“Among the men and women, the multitude”); 45 (“Full of life”). Apparently the homoerotic portions of “Starting from Paumanok,” the longest new poem of the 1860 Leaves, had also been composed by June 1857.

Whitman had been unemployed during the winter of 1856–57, but financial pressures drove him back to work as editor of the Brooklyn Daily Times. (The country was in the throes of a terrible economic recession, and he was forced to borrow money from James Parton at this time.) When he began editing the Times in June 1857, the last such post he was ever to hold, he apparently put his poetry aside, returning to it in the spring of 1859, shortly before he resigned or lost his position. And so despite his good intentions, as an employee of the Times he was diverted from “The Great Construction of the New Bible … the principal object—the main life work” which in June 1857 he had projected as “Three Hundred & Sixty-five” poems which “ought to be read[y] in 1859.—(June '57)” (NUPM 1:353).

30. The role Whitman renounces has been variously understood. Whereas M. Jimmie Killingsworth suggests that Whitman withdraws from “traditional male sexual politics and poetics” rather than from “poetry per se” (Whitman's Poetry of the Body, p. 104), Michael Moon suggests that Whitman considers giving up his career elsewhere in the sequence, that writing male-male desire may be “corrosive” as well as “therapeutic,” and that there is a “partial denigration of [proscribed] desire” in at least some of these poems, as Whitman seeks

to return intense male-homoerotic desire to what Moon calls “the orbit of the political ‘real.’” See Michael Moon,Disseminating Whitman: Revision and Cor-poreality in “Leaves of Grass” (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991), pp. 166, 167. An excellent discussion is also offered by Alan Helms, who concentrates on a pattern of transgression and retreat he sees as basic to the se-quence as a whole. Helms further suggests that the “capitol” begins to invade Whitman's bower, while the “‘One who loves me’ (the ostensible subject of the poem) hardly appears.” See “‘Live Oak with Moss,’” in The Continuing Pres-ence of Walt Whitman: The Life After the Life, ed. Robert K. Martin (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1992), p. 189.

31. Symonds wrote to Whitman about Calamus 8 on December 9, 1889, as follows. “When I read your Bible, I miss—and I have missed for many years in new editions—the poem which first thrilled me like a trumpet-call to you. It was called: ‘Long I thought that knowledge alone would suffice me.’ Why have you so consistently omitted this in the canon of your works?” Whitman never an-swered his question, though he wrote to Richard Maurice Bucke, “J A Symonds from Switzerland has sent the warmest & (I think sh'd be call'd) the most pas-sionate testimony letter to L of G, & me yet” (Corr 4:408). See The Letters of John Addington Symonds, 3 vols., ed. Herbert M. Schueller and Robert L. Peters (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1969), 3:425. The other two Calamus poems omitted from later editions are 9 (“Hours continuing long, sore and heavy-hearted”) and 16 (“Who is now reading this?”). There appears to be an element of arbitrariness in Whitman's omissions, for other poems are just as hos-tile to the public sphere, just as depressed, and just as self-doubting. Symonds rightly linked Calamus 28 (“When I peruse the conquered fame of heroes”) to Calamus 16 (“Long I Thought”), and it remains unclear why Whitman would remove one poem and not the other, though “Long I Thought” is arguably more emphatic in its antinationalism. Perhaps Whitman's initial elation, as represented by Calamus 8, was followed by the depressions of the later poems, and perhaps all three poems were inspired by the same love affair. If so, then Calamus 9 demonstrates that Whitman has not found his beloved companion in the jealous lover of Calamus 8, and I pursue this psychologically later reading in my text.

32. I do not mean to suggest that Whitman's vision of America as a nation of lovers in the Calamus sequence and elsewhere was merely a screen for homo-erotic desire, but rather that recalcitrant elements in the poems can create this effect. For another view of this matter, see Jay Grossman, “‘The Evangel-Poem of Comrades and of Love’: Revising Whitman's Republicanism,” ATQ 4 (Sep-tember 1990): 201–18. Grossman writes that in the antebellum period Whit-man was “deeply committed to resolving the crisis of the republic, even and es-pecially when he appears to us to be ‘only’ profoundly sexual” (p. 215).

33. Elizabeth Bishop, “One Art,” in The Complete Poems 1927–1979 (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1983), p. 178. Whitman also echoes 1 Corinthians 15:8, “By the grace of God I am what I am,” seeking to humanize its message. On Whitman and St. Paul, see also his August 1890 letter to Bucke, Corr 5:75.

34. Whitman altered “bards” to the more neutral “recorders” in 1867 and eliminated the opening reference to himself as the poet who “prophesied of The

States, and led them the way of their glories.” The original language suggests that while most readers will not understand Whitman's pride in loving men, poets may.

35. For an analysis of undemocratic social meetings in antebellum American cities, including New York and Brooklyn, see Edward Pessen, Riches, Class, and Power Before the Civil War (Lexington, Mass.: D. C. Heath, 1973), especially chapters 9, “The Streets Where They Lived: The Residential Patterns of the Rich and Elite,” 10, “The Marital Theory and Practice of the Rich and Elite,” and 11, “The Private World and the Social Circle of the Rich and Elite.” Pessen argues that rich people socialized with and married each other, and that their residences were clustered in affluent parts of the city. His analysis of the social posi-tion of writers, on pp. 239–40, suggests how anomalous Whitman's class status truly was.

36. Moon, Disseminating Whitman, p. 217.

37. Richard Rorty, Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), p. 26.

38. Rorty, Achieving Our Country, p. 26.

39. We may choose to read the unavowed “it” of “Who is now reading this?” (LG 1860, pp. 361–62) as evidence of further conflict between the homoerotic Whitman and the streets of New York, which threaten to reduce him to an “it” and from which perspective the unending tides of humanity—described in the journalism of, say, the summer of 1856—appear not only unlovely but con-temptible. “A big, heavy, overgrown man, with a face like a raw beef-steak,” he noted, “little piggy eyes, queer, dry, straight, harsh, coarse hair, ‘of a speckled color,’ made up of brownish red and gray, rather dirty clothes, and quite dirty, yellow dogskin gloves. He goes rolling along in an elephantine style, and for fear of being trod on, probably, people get out of the way. That is George Law, who never will be President. Those people, and many more, go about the streets of New York.” See New York Dissected, p. 132. Law, known as “Live Oak George,” was a wealthy investor and aspirant for the Democratic nomination for the Presidency in 1856. (The live oak was favored in shipbuilding because of its exceptional strength, and Law was a shipping magnate.) The son of a poor Irishman, Law had also acquired a real estate fortune. Perhaps some of Whit-man's special animus against him derives not only from Law's financial success but also from his start as an engineer and contractor, a start close to the Whit-man family trade but with a very different monetary end. On Law, see New York Dissected, pp. 236–37.

40. Killingsworth, Whitman's Poetry of the Body, p. 148. In Whitman the Political Poet, Erkkila notes that “Whitman internalized the homophobia of his culture” but that “there is no reason to assume that he deleted Calamus poems nos. 8, 9, and 16 in order to erase their personal homoerotic signature.” She fur-ther suggests that “Whitman's decision to drop three of his more confessional Calamus poems in the 1867 Leaves was probably … motivated by his desire to fuse the poet and the lover in a single national persona who would project the uni-tary figure of a reconstructed self and a reconstructed nation” (pp. 182, 261). As I see it, in the 1860 Leaves of Grass, Whitman was trying both to express and to erase his personal erotic signature. Part of him wanted to fuse the poet and the

lover into a single national persona but part of him knew that he needed to trans-form his personal erotic signature into a less idiosyncratic style. To suggest that his loyalties were divided and his ambitions complex is to understate the case.

41. While working for the Interior Department, Whitman left the copy of Leaves of Grass he was revising in his desk. He was suddenly fired on June 30, 1865, by Secretary of the Interior James Harlan and rehired by Attorney Gen-eral J. Hubley Ashton the next day. There are various accounts of this episode, including Jerome Loving, Walt Whitman's Champion: William Douglas O'Con-nor (College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 1978), pp. 56–65. Loving emphasizes a general move to economize in the Interior Department, but the moral outrage of Harlan, formerly an Iowa Senator, college president, and Meth-odist minister, was genuine. See also the account of this incident in Allen, Soli-tary Singer, pp. 344–350. For a succinct analysis of what happened when Leaves of Grass was banned in Boston and classified as obscene literature, see Allen, pp. 496–500; Erkkila, Whitman the Political Poet, pp. 308–9; Killingsworth, Whitman's Poetry of the Body, pp. 68, 147, 163–64. The short-term effect of the publicity generated by the Boston Attorney General was to boost the sales of the 1881–82 edition, which was later published in Philadelphia by Rees Welsh & Co., rather than by James R. Osgood, one of America's leading (Boston) publishers, as originally planned.

42. Killingsworth,Whitman's Poetry of the Body, p. 149. See also Walt Whit-man's Blue Book: The 1860–61 “Leaves of Grass” Containing His Manuscript Additions and Revisions, ed. Arthur Golden, 2 vols. (New York: New York Pub-lic Library, 1968).

43. Symonds noted this poem in particular as a confirmation of Whitman's lived homoerotic identity.


1. See “Death of Abraham Lincoln,” in Walt Whitman: Complete Poetry and Collected Prose, ed. Justin Kaplan (New York: Literary Classics of the United States, 1982), p. 1041. Lilacs were also in full bloom in Washington outside the Peterson House where Lincoln was taken after the shooting. For a detailed ac-count of these and other historical matters, see Dorothy Meserve Kunhardt and Philip B. Kunhardt, Twenty Days: A Narrative in Text and Pictures of the Assas-sination of Abraham Lincoln and the Twenty Days and Nights that Followed—The Nation in Mourning, The Long Trip Home to Springfield (New York: Har-per and Row, 1965).

2. Doyle is quoted to this effect in Calamus: A Series of Letters Written dur-ing the Years 1868–1880 by Walt Whitman to a Young Friend (Peter Doyle), ed. Richard Maurice Bucke (Boston: Laurens Maynard, 1897), pp. 25–26. Whit-man had not yet made his acquaintance while writing “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd.” In subsequent correspondence with Whitman, Doyle's love of the theater, including burlesque, is evident. For more on Doyle, see Martin G. Murray, “‘Pete the Great’: A Biography of Peter Doyle,” Walt Whitman Quar-terly Review 12, no. 1 (summer 1994): 1–51.

3. Exactly when Whitman first drafted “Lilacs” is unknown. Presumably the

poem was written and rewritten. In mid-September, John Burroughs wrote to his friend Myron Benton, “Walt's book will be out in a week or two. … He is deeply interested in what I tell him of the Hermit Thrush, and says he has used largely the information I have given him in one of his principal poems.” Quoted in Clara Barrus, Whitman and Burroughs: Comrades (Boston: Houghton Mif-flin, 1931), p. 24. Probably the poem had been completed by the end of August.

4. Ed Folsom, Walt Whitman's Native Representations (New York: Cam-bridge University Press, 1994), p. 115.

5. For an eloquent description of “the specter of a reign of terror in which violence would become the primary means of effecting political change,” see Betsy Erkkila, Whitman the Political Poet (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 227. And on the volume as a whole, see, for example, John Burroughs's claim in “Walt Whitman and His Drum-Taps”: “His aim does not per-mit of the slightest expression of partisan or sectional feeling, or any exultation over a fallen foe” (Galaxy 2 [December 1, 1866]: 128). About “Lilacs,” Burroughs continues: “By that curious indirect method which is always the method of nature, the poet makes no reference to the mere facts of Lincoln's death—nei-ther describes it, or laments it, or dwells upon its unprovoked atrocity, or its po-litical aspects, but quite beyond the possibilities of the art of the ordinary versi-fier, he seizes upon three beautiful facts of nature which he weaves into a wreath for the dead President's tomb” (p. 129).

6. Erkkila, Whitman the Political Poet, p. 227.

7. A strong reading challenging the usual unified-poem tradition is offered by Kerry C. Larson in Whitman's Drama of Consensus (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), pp. 231–243. He describes multiple, provisional beginnings; a static, nonincremental mode of development; and a centerless point of view. Though I admire Larson's alertness to fragmentation within the poem, his reading distances the poet's emotional and sexual ambivalence toward figures of male authority, whereas I try to use that ambivalence to explain the poet's (and the poem's) strategic omissions.

8. Michael Moon, Disseminating Whitman: Revision and Corporeality in “Leaves of Grass” (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991), pp. 217, 218.

9. Moon, Disseminating Whitman, p. 218.

10. Galway Kinnell, “Whitman's Indicative Words,” in Walt Whitman: Walt Whitman's Autograph Revision of the Analysis of “Leaves of Grass” (For Dr. R. M. Bucke's Walt Whitman), ed. Stephen Railton (New York: New York University Press, 1974), p. 58.

11. Christopher Beach, The Politics of Distinction: Whitman and the Discourses of Nineteenth-Century America (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1996), p. 23. See also pp. 99–100, on Whitman's turning away from a discourse “of direct personal and political engagement” as a result of his “firsthand expe-rience of a terribly costly war.”

12. Moon, Disseminating Whitman, p. 217.

13. In The English Elegy: Studies in the Genre from Spenser to Yeats (Balti-more: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985), p. 316, Peter M. Sacks describes the poem's supposed stylistics of sexual sacrifice. I am indebted to Michael

Moon's rich counterreading for calling this discussion to my attention. See Dis-seminating Whitman, pp. 215–16.

14. Robert Leigh Davis, Whitman and the Romance of Medicine (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), p. 71.

15. Sacks, English Elegy, p. 317.

16. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1991).

17. Charles I. Glicksberg, ed., Walt Whitman and the Civil War (Philadel-phia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1933), p. 174.

18. I Sit and Look Out: Editorials from the Brooklyn Daily Times by Walt Whitman, ed. Emory Holloway and Vernolian Schwarz (New York: Columbia University Press, 1932), pp. 96, 98.

19. “Death of Abraham Lincoln,” in Complete Poetry and Collected Prose, p. 1039.

20. According to Henry B. Rankin, had Whitman only known it, one of his readers was none other than the prepresidential lawyer himself. In Personal Recollections of Abraham Lincoln (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1916), Rankin writes that “Lincoln … who had been … in the unapproachable depths of one of his glum moods … took up Leaves of Grass for his first reading of it. After half an hour or more of devotion to it, he turned back to the first pages and, to our general surprise, began to read aloud. … His rendering revealed a charm of new life in Whitman's versification. Save for a few comments on some broad allusions that Lincoln suggested could have been veiled, or left out, he commended the new poet's verses for their virility, freshness, unconventional sentiments, and unique forms of expression, and claimed that Whitman gave promise of a new school of poetry” (p. 91). Alas, the tale is a hoax, according to William E. Barton. In Abraham Lincoln and Walt Whitman (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1928), Barton claims that Rankin was never one of Lincoln's law clerks (pp. 90–94). For a more neutral and in that sense encouraging reading, see Merrill D. Peter-son, Lincoln in American Memory (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994).

21. Dear Brother Walt: The Letters of Thomas Jefferson Whitman, ed. Dennis Berthold and Kenneth M. Price (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1984), pp. 59, 61.

22. Samuel Eliot Morison and Henry Steele Commager, The Growth of the American Republic (New York: Oxford University Press, 1934), p. 613.

23. See Mutlu Konuk Blasing, “Whitman's ‘Lilacs’ and the Grammars of Time,” PMLA 97 (January 1982): 31; Kenneth M. Price, Whitman and Tradi-tion: The Poet in His Century (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990), p. 77. On differences between Whitman and Lincoln as the “Beloved Companion,” see Allen Grossman, “The Poetics of Union in Whitman and Lincoln: An Inquiry to-ward the Relationship of Art and Policy,” in The American Renaissance Recon-sidered, ed. Walter Benn Michaels and Donald E. Pease (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985), pp. 183–208.

24. Jahan Ramazani, Poetry of Mourning: The Modern Elegy from Hardy to Heaney (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), p. 219.

25. North American Review (1886), reprinted in Barton, Abraham Lincoln 238 Notes to Pages 165–166

and Walt Whitman, pp. 83–89. The essay is also reprinted with the title “Abra-ham Lincoln” in November Boughs, in Complete Poetry and Collected Prose, pp. 1196–99.

26. Helen Vendler, “Whitman's ‘When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd,’” in Textual Analysis: Some Readers Reading, ed. Mary Ann Caws (New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1986), pp. 132–143.

27. Richard Henry Stoddard, “An Horatian Ode,” in The Praise of Lincoln, ed. A. Dallas Williams (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1911), pp. 102–108. In ad-dition to Whitman, the authors represented in this volume include Thomas Bai-ley Aldrich, William Cullen Bryant, Alice Cary, Phoebe Cary, Rose Terry Cooke, Richard Watson Gilder, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Lucy Larcom, James Russell Lowell, John James Piatt (Whitman's Washington friend), Edmund Clarence Sted-man, Bayard Taylor, John Townsend Trowbridge, Jones Very, and John Green-leaf Whittier. For a study of Lincoln mythology that is a bit dated but still very helpful, see Roy P. Basler,The Lincoln Legend: A Study in Changing Conceptions (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1935). Basler lists other anthologies of Lincolniana. Further, for the kind of material that Whitman censored, see “A Lincoln Remi-niscence,” beginning, “As is well known, story-telling was often with President Lincoln a weapon which he employ'd with great skill” (Complete Poetry and Prose, p. 1072).

28. According to Don E. Fehrenbacher, “Serious scholars have applied the word ‘dictator’ more often to Lincoln than to any other president. The list of his presidential actions inspiring such judgments is a rather long one. With Congress, by his arrangement, not in session, he responded to the attack on Fort Sumter by enlarging the army, proclaiming a blockade of Southern ports, sus-pending the writ of habeas corpus in certain areas, authorizing arbitrary arrests and imprisonments on a large scale, and spending public funds without legal warrant. He never yielded the initiative seized at this time, and, in later bold assertions of executive authority, he introduced conscription, proclaimed emanci-pation and inaugurated a program of reconstruction.” See “Lincoln and the Con-stitution,” in The Public and the Private Lincoln: Contemporary Perspectives, ed. Cullom Davis, Charles B. Strozier, Rebecca Monroe Veach, and Geoffrey C. Ward (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1979), p. 127.

29. The love letter to the future King Edward VII that Whitman embedded within “Year of Meteors (1859–60)” is possibly the most embarrassing vignette in Leaves of Grass.

Remember you surging Manhattan's crowds, as you passed with your cortege of nobles?

There in the crowds stood I, and singled you out with attachment;

I know not why, but I loved you … (and so go forth little song,

Far over sea speed like an arrow, carrying my love all folded,

And find in his palace the youth I love, and drop these lines at his feet).

(DT 51–52)

See also “A Broadway Pageant” in the same volume (pp. 61–65).

30. William Wordsworth, “She dwelt among the untrodden ways” and “Strange fits of passion have I known,” in Poems, Volume I, ed. John O. Hay-den (New York: Penguin Books, 1977), pp. 366–67.


31. According to Cathy N. Davidson, “Charlotte Temple became America's first best-selling novel in the earliest years of the Republic, when the fledgling na-tion was yet defining its own cultural and political identity, and it remained a best-seller well into the beginning of the twentieth century and America's ascen-dancy as a world power.” See Susanna Rowson, Charlotte Temple, ed. Cathy N. Davidson (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), p. xi.

32. Four Years in the Confederate Artillery: The Diary of Private Henry Rob-inson Berkeley, ed. William H. Runge (Chapel Hill: University of North Caro-lina Press, 1961), p. 144.

33. Vendler sees this passage as an example of Whitman's great delicacy of feeling. She writes, “It is, as the poem says, the living who remain and suffer. Only the dead are excused from suffering, insanity, and the gross inflictions of war. With characteristic delicacy, Whitman puts himself in a minor place in the list of survivors: for each dead soldier ‘the mother suffer'd, / And the wife and child and musing comrade suffer'd / And the armies that remain'd suffer'd.’… The thrice-repeated ‘suffer'd’ is paired inextricably with the twice-repeated ‘re-main'd’ until the two verbs become synonymous: to remain is to suffer” (“Whit-man's ‘Lilacs,’” p. 140).

34. Ramazani, Poetry of Mourning, pp. 525–26, 264.

35. The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, ed. Roy P. Basler, 9 vols. (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 2:90. The address was deliv-ered at City Hall in Chicago.

36. On May 28, 1862, Andrew enlisted as a private in the 13th Regiment, New York State Militia, Heavy Artillery. He was mustered in on June 16, 1862, in Suffolk, Virginia, and served for three months without seeing any serious action. His health declined rapidly after he returned to civilian life in Septem-ber. For more on Andrew Whitman's military status, see Martin G. Murray, “Bunkum Did Go Sogering,” Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 10, no. 3 (win-ter 1993): 142–48.

37. Harold Bloom, “Whitman's Image of Voice: To the Tally of My Soul,” in Agon: Towards a Theory of Revisionism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), pp. 179–199. The quoted passages are from pp. 188–190.


1. An earlier version of this chapter appeared in Breaking Bounds: Whitman and American Cultural Studies, ed. Betsy Erkkila and Jay Grossman (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), pp. 92–111. I hope that this revision is less theory-driven and more closely attentive to the emotional complexities of Whit-man's social experience. References to Democratic Vistas are to the edition given in the Citation Note.

2. For an overview of motherist movements, see Elaine Tuttle Hansen,Mother Without Child: Contemporary Fiction and the Crisis of Motherhood (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997). She summarizes “the prolific and still growing feminist critique of motherhood that has evolved over the past three decades” (p. 5).

3. See Henry Clarke Wright, The Empire of the Mother Over the Character

and Destiny of the Race (Boston: B. Marsh, 1863). As the feminist historian Mary Ryan explains in her similarly named book, The Empire of the Mother: American Writing about Domesticity 1830–1860 (New York: Haworth Press, 1982), “Despite the incongruity between the domestic mystique and the realities of an industrializing society, the cult of the mother's empire continued to gain converts during the 1850s. Even the fledgling women's rights movement suc-cumbed to its seductions. This process is illustrated by the women's rights jour-nal founded by Amelia Bloomer and titled, ominously, The Lily. In its early issues, The Lily printed adamant proposals for sexual equality, and sarcastically reviewed the ‘namby pamby sort of articles on women and wives.’ By the mid-1850s, however, The Lily enthusiastically endorsed a thoroughly domestic im-age of woman: ‘Not in the whole world … is there a character as heroic as the home mother.’ While she was to remain in her isolated domestic sphere, the ideal woman was invested with incomparable power. The Lily maintained that ‘Without home, without the domestic relations, the love, the cares, the responsibilities which bind men's hearts to the one treasury of their precious things, the world would be a chaos, without order, or beauty; without patriotism, or social regulation, without public or private virtue’” (pp. 111–12). Part of Whitman would have agreed.

4. Sacvan Bercovitch refers to Democratic Vistas as Whitman's “towering state-of-the-covenant address,” yet he argues that the work “has proved disap-pointing as political or social commentary because it is a work of symbolic inter-pretation. Its terms are doomsday or millennium.” He further notes that a “de-termination not to surrender the dream, because the dream was the only option to despair, informs Whitman's work.” See The American Jeremiad (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1978), p. 198.

5. Democratic Vistas was based on three installments that Whitman com-pared to a “serial story” (Corr 2:33). His “small volume in prose” was issued as an eighty-four page pamphlet in 1870, though the title page read 1871 (Corr 2:100). There was a new introduction for this edition. For additional publica-tion history, see Edward F. Grier, “Walt Whitman, The Galaxy, and Democratic Vistas,American Literature 23, no. 3 (November 1951): 322–50. For “Shoot-ing Niagara: And After?” see Thomas Carlyle, Critical and Miscellaneous Essays, ed. H. D. Traill, 5 vols. (New York: Scribner's, 1901), 5:1–48.

6. The quote is from F. O. Matthiessen, American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman (New York: Oxford University Press, 1941), p. 591.

7. Carlyle, “Shooting Niagara,” pp. 7, 5.

8. Whatever her virtues, the Dark Mother in “Lilacs” perpetuates a sexist as-sociation between the womanly and the unworldly. Even if to capitulate to the Real power of the mother is to escape from the artificially structured and psy-chologically coercive male symbolic order, this capitulation does not effectively challenge gender or racial binaries. The mystical Dark Mother emerges as that which is not-language. Ironically, then, Whitman's democratic elegy in some mea-sure reproduces the system of gendered and racialized thinking that he intends to unsettle.


9. For a reading of this passage that draws attention to its historical evasiveness while concentrating on the decomposing materiality of the (presumably white) corpse, see Timothy Sweet, Traces of War: Poetry, Photography, and the Crisis of the Union (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990), pp. 75–76. Sweet observes that the scene “is conceived in such a way as to demonstrate that effacing the history of death in war and achieving the ideological signifi-cance that makes sense of death in war are a single operation.”

10. James McPherson, The Negro's Civil War: How American Negroes Felt and Acted During the War for the Union (New York: Pantheon, 1965), pp. ix–x;Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), p. 35.

11. Gay Wilson Allen, The Solitary Singer (1955; reprint, New York: New York University Press, 1967), pp. 444–45.

12. Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States (New York: Harper, 1980), p. 194.

13. Several years later he was to break with his champion William Douglas O'Connor, author of the pugilistic “Good Gray Poet,” over just this issue. Dur-ing the heated presidential campaign of 1872 in which Horace Greeley vied openly for the black vote, O'Connor accused Whitman of bigotry. Whitman, who was supporting Grant, responded recklessly, and the damage was done. The friends did not speak again for more than a decade, though Whitman ex-tended his hand when they met by chance on the street the following day. For the most thorough study of the Whitman-O'Connor relationship, see Jerome Loving, Walt Whitman's Champion: William Douglas O'Connor (College Sta-tion: Texas A & M University Press, 1978). For the view that erotic complications determined the rupture, see David Cavitch, My Soul and I: The Inner Life of Walt Whitman (Boston: Beacon Press, 1985), pp. 173–85.

On slaveowning in Whitman's family background, see Justin Kaplan, Walt Whitman: A Life (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1980), pp. 131–32, and Al-len, Solitary Singer, p. 15. On family attitudes toward African Americans, see also George Washington Whitman, Civil War Letters, ed. Jerome M. Loving (Durham, N.C: Duke University Press, 1975), pp. 4–5, 127, 156, and passim. In the late 1880s, when Horace Traubel was questioning Whitman about his racial attitudes, he conceded, “After all I may have been tainted a bit, just a little bit, with the New York feeling with regard to anti-slavery” (WWWC 3:76).

14. “The Radicals in Council,” in I Sit and Look Out: Editorials from the Brooklyn Daily Times by Walt Whitman, ed. Emory Holloway and Vernolian Schwarz (New York: Columbia University Press, 1932), pp. 45–46.

15. Needless to say, women today continue to negotiate these issues. In the state of Washington in 1992, where I was then living and working, Senator Patty Murray was elected as “just a mom in tennis shoes.” She proudly adopted this slogan after it had been derisively coined by a male colleague in the Washington legislature. But when it was announced early in her Senate term that Murray had canceled her appointments for a day to stay home with a sick child, several of my hardworking “mom” colleagues at the University of Washington were indig-nant. They didn't cancel classes when their children had the flu; why should she?


16. Robert Weisbuch, “Whitman's Personalism, Arnold's Culture,” in Atlan-tic Double-Cross: American Literature and British Influence in the Age of Emer-son (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), p. 85.

17. See Gayle Rubin, “The Traffic in Women: Notes on the ‘Political Econ-omy’ of Sex,” reprinted in The Second Wave: A Reader in Feminist Theory, ed. Linda Nicholson (New York: Routledge, 1997), pp. 27–62.

18. Joanne Feit Diehl, “From Emerson to Whitman,” Women Poets and the American Sublime (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990), p. 11.

19. M. Wynn Thomas observes that “in Democratic Vistas Whitman ex-plicitly compares destructive natural forces with widespread social upheaval in terms of their disruptive effects on human life.” For a fuller discussion of Whit-man's “dissenting anger,” jeering tone, and generalized violent impulse, see The Lunar Light of Whitman's Poetry (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987), pp. 24, 6–7, and passim. Thomas, however, is uncomfortable with what he calls “the peculiarities of Whitman's own psychology” and suggests that Whitman “is accurately recording objective features of contemporary social relationships” (pp. 19, 20).

20. See Christopher Newfield, “The Politics of Male Suffering: Masochism and Hegemony in the American Renaissance,” Differences 1, no. 3 (fall 1989): 55–87. He argues that “the first half of the nineteenth century seems to find white American men in a protracted celebration of aggressive masculinity,” but that “aggression is only half the story.”

21. For a lovely reading of “There Was a Child Went Forth” in the context of family poems, see Stephen Gould Axelrod, in Sylvia Plath: The Wound and the Cure of Words (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990), pp. 59–61. He describes the illusion of self-sufficiency as a “harmful self-deception.”

22. See Lewis Hyde, The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property (New York: Random House, 1983), pp. 185–86.

23. For a reading of this poem in the context of nineteenth-century eugenics, see M. Jimmie Killingsworth, Whitman's Poetry of the Body (Chapel Hill: Uni-versity of North Carolina Press, 1989), pp. 62–65. He suggests that “enfolding and effusing—the actions of the female genitalia—become the model for ideal creative power,” but does not fully persuade himself that this is the case. More generally, in the chapter “Procreation and Perfectibility: 1856,” Killingsworth argues that “Whitman's woman—rather than developing fully as the archetypal model for creative power—becomes something of a cog in the eugenic machine” (p. 73).

24. See, for example, the gigantic, but also consumptive new-world spirit-mother who suffers from breast cancer in “Thou Mother with Thy Equal Brood,” an 1872 poem in which “The livid cancer spread its hideous claws, clinging upon thy breasts, seeking to strike thee deep within” (LG, p. 460). De-scribing this “Emblem of general maternity lifted above all, / Sacred shape of the bearer of daughters and sons,” out of whose “teeming womb … giant babes in ceaseless procession issu[e],” Whitman writes, “I but thee name, thee prophesy, as now, / I merely thee ejaculate!” (LG, pp. 458–59).

25. Newfield, “The Politics of Male Suffering,” p. 56.

26. Alicia Ostriker, “Loving Walt Whitman and the Problem of America,”

in The Continuing Presence of Walt Whitman: The Life After the Life, ed. Rob-ert K. Martin (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1992), p. 227. See also Mi-chael Moon's superb reading, which emphasizes Whitman's nongeneric use of the word “men,” as well as his devaluation of women who are not mothers, in Disseminating Whitman: Revision and Corporeality in “Leaves of Grass” (Cam-bridge: Harvard University Press, 1991), p. 78.

27. D. H. Lawrence, “Whitman,” in A Century of Whitman Criticism, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1969), p. 157.

28. Betsy Erkkila, Whitman the Political Poet (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), pp. 258–59.

29. Betsy Erkkila, The Wicked Sisters: Women Poets, Literary History, and Discord (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), p. 4.

30. Ostriker, “Loving Walt Whitman,” p. 227.

31. Robert Leigh Davis, Whitman and the Romance of Medicine (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), pp. 75, 44.

32. Sandra M. Gilbert, “The American Sexual Poetics of Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson,” in Reconstructing American Literary History, ed. Sacvan Bercovitch (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986), pp. 130–31. Gilbert views Whitman as the more socially conservative writer.

33. Adrienne Rich, “The Eye of the Outsider: Elizabeth Bishop's Complete Poems 1927–1979,” in Blood, Bread, and Poetry: Selected Prose 1979–1985 (New York: Norton, 1986), p. 131. The context for her remark is a critique of Bishop's “Songs for a Colored Singer.”

34. See Edward Carpenter, Days with Walt Whitman: With Some Notes on his Life and Work (London: George Allen, 1906), p. 43. “Sloane Kennedy” was the journalist William Sloane Kennedy, who published “A Study of Whitman” in 1881.

35. The classic nineteenth-century feminist appreciation of Whitman is by Gilchrist—his most influential contemporary woman reader. For a useful study of Gilchrist's often tormented life, see Marion Walker Alcaro, Walt Whitman's Mrs. G: A Biography of Anne Gilchrist (Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1991).

36. Quotations in this paragraph are from Emily Dickinson, The Letters of Emily Dickinson, ed. Thomas H. Johnson, 3 vols. (Cambridge: Harvard Univer-sity Press, 1958), 2:404, 649, 475, 405.

37. See Willis J. Buckingham, Emily Dickinson's Reception in the 1890s: A Documentary History (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1989), p. 280 and passim.

38. The quotation is from “The Death of Abraham Lincoln,” in Complete Poetry and Collected Prose, p. 1046.

39. See Walter H. Eitner, “Emily Dickinson's Awareness of Whitman: A Re-appraisal,” Walt Whitman Review 22, no. 3 (September 1976): 111–15; and Karl Keller, “The Sweet Wolf Within: Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman,” in The Only Kangaroo among the Beauty: Emily Dickinson and America (Balti-more: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979), pp. 251–93.

40. Susan Gilbert Dickinson, quoted in Millicent Todd Bingham,Emily Dick-inson: A Revelation (New York: Harper, 1954), p. 59.


41. Elizabeth Cady Stanton As Revealed in her Letters, Diary and Reminiscences, ed. Theodore Stanton and Harriet Stanton Blatch, 2 vols. (New York: Harper, 1902), 2:210.

42. See my discussion of this poem in chapter 4, in which I offer a less famil-iar reading.

43. Frances Wright, quoted in M. Jimmie Killingsworth, Whitman's Poetry of the Body (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989), p. 66.

44. Whitman did not change “semitic” to “seminal” until 1871, when he also revised “By Blue Ontario's Shore” to read “his seminal muscle” (LG, p. 344). See also the reference to the greatest poet's “semitic muscle” in the 1855 “Pref-ace” (LG 1855, p. 21). For a reading of Whitman that preserves the association between semen and breast milk, see Sharon Olds, “Nurse Whitman,” in Satan Says (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1980), p. 13.

45. The classic account of this ideology is Barbara Welter, “The Cult of True Womanhood, 1820–1860” (1966), reprinted in her Dimity Convictions: The American Woman in the Nineteenth Century (Athens: Ohio State Uni-versity Press, 1976). The opposing ideology of Real Womanhood is set forth in Frances B. Cogan, All-American Girl: The Ideal of Real Womanhood in Mid-Nineteenth-Century America (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1989).

Both Erkkila, in Whitman the Political Poet, pp. 257–59, and Sherry Ceniza, in “Walt Whitman and Abby Price,” Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 7, no. 2 (fall 1989): 51–52, describe Whitman's women as moving out of the home rather than remaining confined within it. Erkkila makes the valuable point that the conflict between Whitman's emphasis on the power of motherhood and his admiration for women such as “Frances Wright, George Sand, Margaret Fuller, Anne Gilchrist, Lucretia Mott, and Delia Bacon—all women who had chal-lenged traditional women's roles”—is “a contradiction at the root not only of nineteenth-century American culture but of feminism itself” (pp. 315–16).

46. “Clef Poem” was retitled “On the Beach at Night Alone” in 1871, but Whitman was already reworking the nipple-tasting lines in 1860. They were altered to read, “I suppose the pink nipples of the breasts of women with whom I shall sleep will touch the side of my face the same, / But this is the nip-ple of a breast of my mother, always near and always divine to me, her true child and son, whatever comes” (LG 1860, p. 230). The entire passage was aban-doned in 1867.

47. See John Gatta, American Madonna: Images of the Divine Woman in Literary Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997). Among the writers he considers are Nathaniel Hawthorne, Margaret Fuller, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harold Frederic, Henry Adams, and T. S. Eliot.

48. “Free Academies at Public Cost,” in I Sit and Look Out, pp. 53–54. For an account of Whitman's quarrel with Fern, which accuses him of blatant sex-ism, see Joyce W. Warren, Fanny Fern: An Independent Woman (New Bruns-wick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1992). For a critique of this account, see Sherry Ceniza, review of Fanny Fern: An Independent Woman, Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 11, no. 2 (fall 1993): 89–95.

49. “The Death of Abraham Lincoln,” in Complete Poetry and Collected Prose, p. 1046.

50. “The Death of Abraham Lincoln,” p. 1046.


Preferred Citation: Pollak, Vivian R. The Erotic Whitman. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c2000 2000.