Walt Whitman Biography BA English Semester 3 BBMKU Notes

Walt Whitman: Early Life And Works

Walt Whitman was born on 31st May 1819, in West HillsNew York. His father was Walter Whitman, and his mother was Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. He was the second of nine children. Son and father’s names were the same. So he was called “Walt” to differentiate him from his father. Whitman with his family moved to Brooklyn from West Hills. Whitman’s childhood was bothersome and unhappy due to his low economic status. When he was 11, Whitman completed formal schooling. He then sought employment for additional income to support his family. After that, he was an office boy for two lawyers and was an apprentice for the weekly Long Island newspaper, the Patriot, edited by Samuel E. Clements. Whitman got an opportunity to learn about the printing press and typesetting there.

Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman

The following summer, Walt Whitman started working for another printer, Erastus Worthington, in Brooklyn. In the spring, his family, excluding Whitman, moved back to West Hills. Whitman got a job at a Store of Alden Spooner, editor of the leading whig weekly newspaper, the Long Island Star. In 1835, Whitman left the star and Brooklyn. He then moved to New York City and worked there as a compositor. Afterwards, In May 1836, he rejoined his family in Hempstead, Long Island. Later, Walt Whitman served as a teacher at various schools until the spring of 1838, but he found the teaching profession needed improvement for him.

After his teaching attempts, he moved back to Huntington, New York, and founded his own newspaper, the Long Islander. He sold the journal to E. O. Crowell after ten months. By the summer of 1839, he got a job as a typesetter in Jamaica, Queens, with the “Long Island Democrat.” Whitman served as publisher, editor, pressman, and distributor and provided home delivery. He then attempted to teach from the winter of 1840 to the spring of 1841. He published a series of ten editorials under the title “Sun-Down Papers—From the Desk of a Schoolmaster” in three newspapers between the winter of 1840 and July 1841. In these essays, he assumed a formed persona, a technique he would employ throughout his career.

In May, Whitman moved to New York City and initially began working at a low-level job in the New World. However, he also continued working for short periods for various newspapers; in 1842, he was editor of the “Aurora,” and from 1846 to 1848, he was editor of the ‘Brooklyn Eagle.’ While working for the latter institution, many of his publications were in music criticism. During this time, he became a devoted lover of Italian opera. This new interest made an impact on his writing in free verse.

Throughout the 1840s, he served freelance fiction and poetry to various publications. Whitman was a representative of the 1848 founding convention of the ‘Free Soil Party,’ which discussed the threat slavery would pose to free white labour and northern businessmen moving into the newly colonized western colonies.

Walt Whitman: Literary Works

In 1850, Whitman’s first poem was published under the title ‘Blood Money,’ written in free verse. It was published in the New York evening post. His some other work’s name and their publication dates are mentioned below:

  • The Inebriate: A Tale of the Times (1842)
  • The Half Breed: A tale of the Western Frontier (1846)
  • Leaves of Grass (1855, the first of seven editions through 1891)
  • Manly Health and Training (1858)
  • Drum Taps (1865)
  • Democratic Vistas (1871)
  • Memoranda During the War (1876)
  • Specimen Days (1882)

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