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Title: A Life of Walt Whitman
Author: Binns, Henry Bryan
Language: English
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                ("RICHARD ASKHAM")


[Illustration: _Walt Whitman at thirty-five_]




With Thirty-three Illustrations


First Published in 1905







To the reader, and especially to the critical reader, it would seem
but courteous to give at the beginning of my book some indication
of its purpose. It makes no attempt to fill the place either of a
critical study or a definitive biography. Though Whitman died thirteen
years ago, the time has not yet come for a final and complete life
to be written; and when the hour shall arrive we must, I think, look
to some American interpreter for the volume. For Whitman's life is
of a strongly American flavour. Instead of such a book I offer a
biographical study from the point of view of an Englishman, yet of
an Englishman who loves the Republic. I have not attempted, except
parenthetically here and there, to make literary decisions on the value
of Whitman's work, partly because he still remains an innovator upon
whose case the jury of the years must decide--a jury which is not yet
complete; and partly because I am not myself a literary critic. It is
as a man that I see and have sought to describe Whitman. But as a man
of special and exceptional character, a new type of mystic or seer.
And the conviction that he belongs to the order of initiates has
dragged me on to confessedly difficult ground.

Again, while seeking to avoid excursions into literary criticism, it
has seemed to me to be impossible to draw a real portrait of the man
without attempting some interpretation of his books and the quotation
from them of characteristic passages, for they are the record of his
personal attitude towards the problems most intimately affecting his
life. I trust that this part of my work may at any rate offer some
suggestions to the serious student of Whitman. Since he touched life at
many points, it has been full of pitfalls; and if among them I should
prove but a blind leader, I can only hope that those who follow will
keep open eyes.

Whitman has made his biography the more difficult to write by demanding
that he should be studied in relation to his time; to fulfil this
requirement was beyond my scope, but I have here and there suggested
the more notable outlines, within which the reader will supply
details from his own memory. As I have written especially for my own
countrymen, I have ventured to remind the reader of some of those
elementary facts of American history of which we English are too easily

The most important chapters of Whitman's life have been written by
himself, and will be found scattered over his complete works. To
these the following pages are intended as a modest supplement and
commentary. Already the Whitman literature has become extensive, but,
save in brief sketches, no picture of his whole life in which one may
trace with any detail the process of its development seems as yet to
exist. In this country the only competent studies which have appeared
are that of the late Mr. Symonds, which devotes some twenty pages to
biographical matters, and the admirable and suggestive little manual of
the late Mr. William Clarke. Both books are some twelve years old, and
in those years not a little new material has become available, notably
that which is collected in the ten-volume edition of Whitman's works,
and in the book known as _In re Walt Whitman_. On these and on essays
printed in the _Conservator_ and in the _Whitman Fellowship Papers_ I
have freely drawn for the following pages.

Of American studies the late Dr. Bucke's still, after twenty years,
easily holds the first place. Beside it stand those of Mr. John
Burroughs, and Mr. W. S. Kennedy. To these, and to the kind offices of
the authors of the two last named, my book owes much of any value it
may possess. I have also been assisted by the published reminiscences
of Mr. J. T. Trowbridge, Mr. Moncure Conway, and Mr. Thomas Donaldson,
and by the recently published _Diary in Canada_ (edited by Mr.
Kennedy), and Dr. I. H. Platt's Beacon Biography of the poet.

Since I never met Walt Whitman I am especially indebted to his friends
for the personal details with which they have so generously furnished
me: beside those already named, to Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Johnston, Mr.
J. Hubley Ashton, Mrs. W. S. Kennedy, Mrs. E. M. Calder, Mr. and Mrs.
(Stafford) Browning of Haddonfield (Glendale), Mr. John Fleet of
Huntington, Captain Lindell of the Camden Ferry, and to Mr. Peter G.
Doyle; but especially to Whitman's surviving executors and my kind
friends, Mr. T. B. Harned and Mr. Horace Traubel. To these last, and
to Mr. Laurens Maynard, of the firm of Messrs. Small, Maynard & Co.,
the publishers of the final edition of Whitman's works, I am indebted
for generous permission to use and reproduce photographs in their
possession. I also beg to make my acknowledgments to Mr. David McKay
and Mr. Gutekunst, both of Philadelphia.

Helpful suggestions and information have been most kindly given by my
American friends, Mr. Edwin Markham, Professor E. H. Griggs, Mr. Ernest
Crosby, Dr. George Herron, Professor Rufus M. Jones of Haverford,
Mr. C. F. Jenkins of Germantown, and Mr. and Mrs. David Thompson
of Washington. Mr. Benjamin D. Hicks of Long Island has repeatedly
replied to my various and troublesome inquiries as to the Quaker
ancestry of Walt Whitman, and Dr. E. Pardee Bucke has furnished me
with an admirable sketch of his father Dr. R. M. Bucke's life and the
photograph which I have reproduced. In England also there are many to
whom I would here offer my most grateful thanks. And first, to Mr.
Edward Carpenter, whose own work has always been my best of guides in
the study of Whitman's, and whose records of his interviews with the
old poet in Camden have given me more insight into his character than
any other words but Whitman's own. He has also read the MS., and aided
me by numberless suggestions. Mrs. Bernard Berenson, who for some years
enjoyed the old man's friendship, has supplied me with an invaluable
picture of his relations with her father, the late Mr. Pearsall Smith,
and his family, and has generously lent me various letters in her
possession, and permitted me to make reproductions from them. Mr. J.
W. Wallace, of the "Bolton group," has allowed me to read and use his
manuscript description of a visit to Camden in 1891; and another of the
same brotherhood, Dr. J. Johnston, whose admirable account of a similar
series of interviews in the preceding year is well known by Whitman
students, has supplied me with a photograph of the little Mickle Street
house as it then was.

To Mr. William M. Rossetti and to Mr. Ernest Rhys I am indebted for
valuable suggestions; and for similar help to my friends, Professor W.
H. Hudson and Messrs. Arthur Sherwell, B. Kirkman Gray and C. F. Mott.
Finally, the book owes much more than I can say to my wife.

While gratefully acknowledging the assistance of all these and others
unnamed, I confess that I am alone responsible for the general accuracy
of my statements, and the book's point of view, and I wish especially
to relieve the personal friends of Whitman from any responsibility for
the hypothesis relating to his sojourn in the South, beyond what is
stated in the Appendix. To all actual sins of commission and omission
I plead guilty, trusting that for the sympathetic reader they may
eventually be blotted out in the light which, obscured though it be,
still shines upon my pages from the personality of Walt Whitman.

                                        H. B. B.

LONDON, _January, 1905_.



  PREFACE                                   vii

  TABLE OF CONTENTS                        xiii

  LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS                      xv




      I. THE WHITMAN'S OF WEST HILLS          1

     II. BOYHOOD IN BROOKLYN                 10

    III. TEACHER AND JOURNALIST              28

     IV. ROMANCE (1848)                      46

      V. ILLUMINATION                        56

     VI. THE CARPENTER                       79

    VII. WHITMAN'S MANIFESTO                 95

   VIII. THE MYSTIC                         110

     IX. "YEAR OF METEORS"                  134

      X. THE TESTAMENT OF A COMRADE         148

     XI. AMERICA AT WAR                     171


   XIII. A WASHINGTON CLERK                 205

    XIV. FRIENDS AND FAME                   221

     XV. ILLNESS                            247

    XVI. CONVALESCENCE                      258


  XVIII. AMONG THE PROPHETS                 289


     XX. AT MICKLE STREET                   314

    XXI. "GOOD-BYE, MY FANCY"               325

  APPENDIX A                                347

  APPENDIX B                                349

  INDEX                                     351




                                                             FACING PAGE

  WALT WHITMAN AT 35, from a daguerrotype                 _Frontispiece_
    in possession of Mr. J. H. Johnston

  HIS MOTHER, from a daguerrotype in possession of Mr. Traubel         6

  WEST HILLS: THE WHITMAN HOUSE FROM THE LANE (1904)                   8

  W. W.'S FATHER                                                      14

  WEST HILLS: HOUSE FROM YARD                                         28

  NEW ORLEANS ABOUT 1850                                              48

  R. W. EMERSON                                                       92

  W. W. AT 40, from a photo, in the possession of Mr. D. McKay       140

  W. W. AT 44, from photo, in possession of Mr. Traubel              179

  WILLIAM DOUGLAS O'CONNOR                                           190

  JOHN BURROUGHS IN 1900                                             201

  ANNE GILCHRIST, from an amateur photograph                         225

  W. W. AT ABOUT 50                                                  227

  PETE DOYLE AND W. W., by permission of Messrs. Small, Maynard      231
    & Co., from a photo, by Rice, Washington, 1869

  PETER G. DOYLE AT 57, from a photo, by Kuebler, Philadelphia       233

  NO. 431, STEVENS STREET, CAMDEN (1904)                             240

    _L. of G._

  TIMBER CREEK, THE POOL                                             259

  TIMBER CREEK, BELOW CRYSTAL SPRING                                 261

  EDWARD CARPENTER AT 43                                             267

  DR. R. M. BUCKE                                                    270

  W. W. AT 61                                                        276

  MR. STAFFORD'S STORE, GLENDALE (1904)                              286

  MART WHITALL SMITH (MRS. BERENSON) IN 1884                         302

  W. W. AND THE BUTTERFLY; AGED 62; from photo,                      304
    by Phillips & Taylor, Philadelphia

    in possession of Mrs. Berenson

  MICKLE STREET, CAMDEN, from a photo, by Dr. J. Johnston            317

  FACSIMILE OF AUTOGRAPH POST CARDS (1887-88),                       326
    in possession of Mrs. Berenson

  W. W. AT 70, by permission of Mr. Gutekunst, Philadelphia          331

  ROBERT G. INGERSOLL                                                334

  W. W. AT 72, from a photo, of Mr. T. Eakins,                       338
    by permission of Messrs. Small, Maynard & Co.

  HORACE TRAUBEL                                                     342

  THE TOMB, HARLEIGH CEMETERY (1904)                                 346


_The following abbreviations are used in the Notes._

  Bucke = R. M. Bucke's _Walt Whitman_, 1883.

  Burroughs = John Burroughs' _Note on Walt Whitman_, 1867.

  Burroughs (2) = John Burroughs' _Note on Walt Whitman_. Second

  Burroughs (_a_) = John Burroughs' _Whitman: A Study_, 1896.

  Carpenter = E. Carpenter's "Notes of Visits to W. W." in _Progressive
    Review_: (_a_) February, 1897; (_b_) April, 1897.

  _Camden's Compliment_ = _Camden's Compliment to W. W._, 1889.

  _Cam. Mod. Hist._ = _Cambridge Modern History: United States._

  _Comp. Prose_ = _W. W.'s Complete Prose_, 1898.

  Calamus = _Calamus, Letters of W. W. to Pete Doyle_, 1897.

  Camden = _Camden Edition_ (10 vols.) _of W. W.'s Works_, 1902.

  Donaldson = T. Donaldson's _W. W.: The Man_, 1897.

  _En. Brit. Suppt._ = _Encyclopædia Britannica: Supplement, United

  _Good-bye and Hail_ = _Good-bye and Hail, W. W._, 1892.

  _In re_ = _In re W. W._, 1893.

  Johnston = Dr. J. Johnston's _Notes of a Visit to W. W._, 1890.

  Kennedy = W. S. Kennedy's _Reminiscences of W. W._, 1896.

  _L. of G._ = _Leaves of Grass_, complete edition of 1897: followed by
    numerals in brackets, edition of that year.

  _Mem. Hist. N.Y._ = J. G. Wilson's _Memorial History of New York_.

  Roosevelt = T. Roosevelt's _New York_, 1891.

  Symonds = J. A. Symonds's _W. W.: A Study_, 1893.

  _Wound-Dresser_ = _The W. D., Letters of W. W. to his Mother_, 1898.

  _Whit. Fellowship_ = _Whitman Fellowship Papers_, Philadelphia, 1894.


  MSS. Berenson = Letters in possession of Mrs. Bernard Berenson.

  MSS. Berenson (_a_) = Reminiscences contributed to this volume.

  MSS. Carpenter = Letters in possession of E. Carpenter.

  MSS. Diary = A Diary (1876-1887) in possession of H. Traubel.

  MSS. Harned = Papers in possession of T. B. Harned.

  MSS. Johnston = Papers in possession of J. H. Johnston, New York.

  MSS. Traubel = Papers in possession of H. Traubel.

  MSS. Wallace = J. W. Wallace's Diary of a Visit to W. W. in 1891.



The men of old declared that the lands of adventure lay in the West,
for they were bold to follow the course of the sun; and to this day the
bold do not look back to seek romance behind them in the East.

Whether this be the whole truth or no, such is the notion that
comes upon the wind when, journeying westward in mid-Atlantic, you
begin to know the faces on ship-board, and to understand what it is
that is in their eyes. Strange eyes and foreign faces have these
voyagers--dwellers upon Mediterranean shores, peasants from the borders
of the Baltic, or dumb inhabitants of the vast eastern plains, huddled
now together in the ship. But in them is a hope which triumphs over
the misery of the present as it has survived the misery of the past,
and to-day that hope has a name, and is America. For America is indeed
the hope of the forlorn and disinherited in every land to whom a hope
remains. From the ends of the earth they set out, and separated from
one another by every barrier of race and language, meet here upon the
ocean, having nothing in common but this hope, this dream which will
yet weld them together into a new people. For the comfortable dreamer
there is Italy and the Past, but for many millions of the common
people of Europe and of Italy herself--and the common people too have
their dream--America, the land of the Future, is the Kingdom of Romance.

Nor to these only, but, as I think, to every traveller not unresponsive
to the genius of the land. For it is the genius of youth--youth with
its awkward power, its incompleteness, its promise. And the home
of this genius must be the land not only of progress and material
achievement, but also of those visions which haunt the heart of youth.
America is more than the golden-appled earthly paradise of the poor,
it is a land of spiritual promise. And more perhaps than that of any
nation the American flag is to-day the symbol of a Cause, and of a
Cause which claims all hearts because ultimately it is that of all

And America has another claim to be regarded as truly romantic. Hers is
the charm of novelty. It is not the glamour of the old but of the new,
and the perennially new. Some four centuries have passed since the days
of Columbus, centuries which have dimmed the lustre of many another
adventurous voyage into dull antiquity, but America is still the New
World, and the exhilarating air of discovery still breathes as fresh in
the West as on the first morning.

With that discovery there dawned a new historic day whose sun is not
yet set. We instinctively put back the beginning of our own era to the
time of Elizabeth, that Virgin Queen in whose colony of Virginia the
American people was first born, to grow up into maturity under its

And if we see but vaguely in the greyest hours of our dawn the figure
of the Discoverer, while beyond him all seem strange as the men of
yesterday--if we behold our own sun rising on the broad Elizabethan
hours--how fitting it is that the New World should be peopled by those
who still retain most of the temper of that generous morning! The
American of to-day with his thirst for knowledge, his versatility,
his quick sense of the practicable, his delight in the doing of
things, his directness and frankness of purpose, his comradeship
and hospitality, his lack of self-consciousness--with all the naïve
inconsistencies, the amiable braggings, the mouthings of phrases, and
the love of praise which belong to such unconsciousness of self--with
his glowing optimism, his belief in human nature, his faith and
devotion to his ideals--the American of to-day is in all these things
the Elizabethan of our story. America is the supreme creation of
Elizabethan genius--its New World, to which even that world which we
call "Shakespeare" must give place.[1]

The Romance of America is not only new, it is like a tale that is being
told for the first time into our own ears. And like some consummate
story whose chapters, appearing month by month, hold us continually
in expectant suspense, its plot is still evolving and its characters
revealing themselves, so that as yet we can only guess at its

I call it a Romance, for it is indeed a tale of wonder; but unlike
the old romances its bold realism is not always beautiful. The style
of its telling is often loud, its words blunt, its rhythm strange and
full of changes. But it has a large Elizabethan movement which cannot
be denied. Denounce and deprecate as we will, all that is young in us
responds to it. The story carries us along, at times by violence and in
our own despite, but so a story should. It may be the end will justify
and explain passages that to-day are but obscure: no story is complete
until the end, and America has not yet been told. It is still morning
there: and the heart of it is still the heart of youth.

       *       *       *       *       *

The unprejudiced and candid visitor will be provoked to criticism by
much that he sees in the United States; but even his criticism will be
prompted by the possibilities of the country. It is this sense of its
possibilities which captures the imagination, and fills the mind with
the desire to do--to correct, it may be--but in any case to do.

The incentive to action is felt by everyone, American or immigrant, and
dominates all. Here for the first time one seems to be, as it were,
in a live country, among a live people whose work is actually under
its hand and must occupy it for years to come. In England things are
different; the country does not so audibly challenge the labourer to
till and tame it. It does not say so plainly to every man--_I want you:
here is range and scope for all your manhood_. Only the seer can read
that word written pathetically across all this English countryside
whose smooth air of completion conceals so blank a poverty. In America
the very stones cry out, and all who run must read. And thus the whole
American atmosphere is that of action.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Chinese, that most practical of peoples, have an old saying that
the purpose of the true worship of heaven is to spiritualise the earth.
It is a reminder that materialism and mysticism should go hand in hand.

Now the American is often, and not unjustly, accused of sheer
materialism. But by temper he is really an idealist. The very
Constitution of the United States, not to mention the famous
_Declaration_, is no less transcendental than the _Essays_ of Emerson,
nor less weighty with deep purpose than the speeches of Lincoln. All
these are characteristic utterances of the American genius; they have
been attested by events, and sealed in the blood of a million citizen

And how, one may ask, could the citizens of a State which more than
any other manifestly depends for its life upon communion in an ideal
be other than idealists? Gathered from every section of the human
race, this people has become a nation through its consciousness of a
Cause; its members being possessed not of a common blood, tradition
or literature, but of a purpose and idea sacred to all. If then the
national life depends upon the living idealism of the people, the
actual unquestionable vigour of this national life may be taken as
evidence of the strength of that idealism. But, on the other hand,
the nation's present pre-occupation with its merely material success
conceals the gravest of all its perils, because it threatens the very
principle of the national life.

Thus held together by its future, and not as seem most others,
by their past, the American nation has been slow in coming to
self-consciousness, slow therefore in producing an original or
national art. Hitherto it has been occupied with its own Becoming; and
to-day, to virile Americans, America remains the most engrossing of
occupations, the noblest of all practicable dreams.

The spirit of the Renaissance has here attempted a task far graver than
in Medician Florence or Elizabethan London: to create, namely, not so
much a new art as a new race. It has here to achieve its incarnation
not in line and colour, not in marble nor in imperishable verse, but
in the flesh and blood of a nation gathered from every family of Man.
And for that, it is forever assimilating into itself scions of every
European people, and transforming them out of Europeans into Americans.

Vast as such a process is, the assimilation of all their surging
aspirations and ideals into one has been hardly less vast. It is little
wonder then that America has been slow in coming to self-consciousness.
What is wonderful is her organic power of assimilation. And now there
begin to be evidences in American thought of a spiritual synthesis, the
widest known. As yet they are but vague suggestions. But they seem to
indicate that when an American philosophy takes the field it will be
pragmatical in the best sense; too earnestly concerned with conduct and
with life to be careful of symmetry or tradition; directed towards the
future, not the past. It will be a philosophy of possibilities founded
upon the study of an adolescent race.

It seemed natural to preface this study of Whitman with a sketch of the
American genius. Doubtless that genius has other aspects than those
here presented, and to some of these, later pages will bear witness;
but the impression I have attempted to reproduce is at least taken from
life. It is, moreover, not unlike that of Whitman himself as presented
in his first Preface, and is even more suggestive of the America of his
youth than that of his old age.

Every thinker owes much to his time and race, and Whitman more than
most. He always averred that the story of his life was bound up with
that of his country, and took significance from it. To be understood,
the man must be seen as an American. As a Modern, we might add, for the
story of his land is so brief.

Dead now some thirteen years, and barely an old man when he died,
his personal memory seemed to embrace nearly the whole romance. His
grandfather was acquainted with old Tom Paine, whose _Common Sense_
had popularised the Republican idea in the very hour of American
Independence: he himself had talked with the soldiers of Washington,
and as a lad[2] he had met Aaron Burr who killed the glorious Hamilton,
sponsor for that Constitution which when Whitman died was but a century

In the seven decades of his life the American population had multiplied
near seven-fold, and had been compacted together into an imperial
nation. It seemed almost as though he could remember the thirteen poor
and jealous States, with their conflicting interests and traditions,
their widely differing climates, industries and inhabitants, separated
from one another by vast distances--and how they yielded themselves
reluctantly under the hand of Fate to grow together in Union into the
greatest of civilised peoples; while central in the story of his life
was that Titanic conflict whose solemn bass accompaniment toned and
deepened loose phrases and popular enthusiasms into a national hymn.

Himself something of a poet--how much we need not attempt to
estimate--he did continual homage to that greater Poet, whose works
were at once his education and his library--the genius of America. None
other, ancient or mediæval, discoursed to his ear or penned in immortal
characters for him to read, rhythms so large and pregnant. It was the
prayer and purpose of his life that he might contribute his verse to
that great poem; and his life is like a verse which it is impossible
to separate from its context. That he understood, and even in a sense
re-discovered America, can scarcely be denied by serious students of
his work. I believe that the genius of America will in time discover
some essential elements of herself in him, and will understand herself
the better for his pages.

       *       *       *       *       *

Belonging thus to America as a nation, the earlier scenes of Walt
Whitman's story are fitly laid in and about metropolitan New York.
It was not till middle life and after the completion and publication
of what may be regarded as the first version of his _Leaves of
Grass_--the edition that is to say of 1860--that he removed for a
while to the Federal capital where, throughout the War, the interest of
America was centred. Afterwards he withdrew to Camden, into a sort of
hermitage, midway between New York and Washington.

Though his heart belonged to the West, the Far West never knew him.
Both north and south, he wandered near as widely as the limits of
his States. He knew the Mississippi, the Great Lakes, and the Rocky
Mountains; but all that vast and wonderful country which reaches west
from Colorado towards Balboa's sea was untrodden by his feet. A circle
broadly struck from the actual centre of population, and taking in
Denver, New Orleans, Boston and Quebec, includes the whole field of his
wanderings within a radius of a thousand miles. He was not a traveller
according to our modern use of the word; he had never lost sight for
many hours of the shores of America; even Cuba and Hawaii were beyond
his range.

But he had studied nearly all the phases of life included in the
Republic. His birth and breeding in the "middle States" gave him a
metropolitan quality which neither New England nor the South could
have contributed. Of peasant stock, himself an artizan and always
and properly a man of the people, he was of the average stuff of
the American nation; and his everyday life--apart from the central
and exceptional fact of his individuality--was that of millions of
unremembered citizens. Whitman was not only an American type, he was
also a type of America.

The typical American is not city born. Rapidly as that sinister fate
is overtaking the Englishman, the native American is still of rural
birth.[3] And, as we have said, Whitman was of the average; he was born
in Long Island of farming folk.

But he was a modern, and the modern movement throughout the world is
citywards. Everywhere the Industrial Revolution is destroying the
economy of our ancestors and creating another; diverting all the
scattered energy which springs out of the countryside into the great
reservoirs of city life, there to be employed upon new tasks.

Modern life is the life of the town, and for many years it was
Whitman's life. But again every town depends for its vitality and
wealth upon the countryside. The city is a mere centre, factory and
exchange. It cannot live upon itself. It handles everything but
produces none of all that raw material from which everything that
it handles is made. Especially is this true of the human stuff of
civilisation. Men are only shaped and employed in cities--they are not
produced there. The city uses and consumes the humanity that is made
in the fields. And Whitman, who was drawn into the outskirts of the
metropolis as a child, and as a young man entered into its heart, was
born among wide prospects and shared the sane life of things that root
in the earth. He was the better fitted to bear and to correlate all the
fierce stimuli of metropolitan life.


[1] _Cf._ _Camb. Mod. Hist._, 736; Burroughs (_a_), 240; Bryce's
_American Commonwealth_, i., 10, 11, etc.; _L. of G._, 436 n.

[2] MSS. Harned.

[3] _Cf._ _En. Brit. Suppt._




The old writers[4] tell how Long Island was once the happy hunting
ground of wolves and Indians, the playing place of deer and wild
turkeys; and how the seals, the turtles, grampuses and pelicans
loved its long, quiet beaches. Seals and whales are still occasional
visitors, and its coasts are rich in lore of wrecks, of pirates and of
buried treasure.

A hundred years ago it could boast of hamlets only less remote
from civilisation than are to-day the villages of that other "Long
Island"--the group of the Outer Hebrides--which, for an equal distance,
extends along the Scottish coast from Butt of Lewis to Barra Head. The
desultory stage then occupied a week on the double journey between
Brooklyn and Sag Harbour. Beyond the latter, Montauk Point thrusts its
lighthouse some fifteen miles out into the Atlantic breakers. Here the
last Indians of the island lingered on their reservation, and here the
whalers watched for the spouting of their prey in the offing.

A ridge of hills runs along the island near the northern shore, rising
here and there into heights of three or four hundred feet which
command the long gradual slope of woods and meadows to the south, with
the distant sea beyond them; to the north, across the narrow Sound,
rises the blue coast line of Connecticut.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is on the slopes below the highest of these points of wide vision
that the Whitman homestead lies, one of the pleasant farms of a land
which has always been mainly agricultural. Large areas of the island
are poor and barren, covered still with scrub and "kill-calf" or
picturesque pine forest, as in the Indian days. But the land here is

From the wooded head of Jayne's Hill behind the farm, the township of
Huntington stretches to the coast where it possesses a harbour. It was
all purchased from the Indians in 1653, for six coats, six bottles,
six hatchets, six shovels, ten knives, six fathom of wampum, thirty
muxes, and thirty needles.[5] The Indians themselves do not seem to
have caused much anxiety to the settlers; but a generation later, it
is recorded that in a single year no fewer than fifteen of the wolves,
which they had formerly kept half-tamed, were killed by the citizens of

The next troublers of the peace were the British troops. For here,
a century later, during the last years of the War of Independence,
Colonel Thompson of His Majesty's forces pulled down the Presbyterian
Church, and with its timbers erected a fortress in the public
burying-ground, his soldiers employing the gravestones for fire-places
and ovens.[6] They seem to have occupied another meeting-house as a
stable. Such are the everyday incidents of a military occupation;
arising out of them, claims to the amount of £7,000 were preferred
against the colonel by the township; but he withdrew to England, where,
as Count Rumford, he afterwards became famous upon more peaceful fields.

In Whitman's childhood, Huntington was, as it still remains, a quiet
country town of one long straggling street. It counted about 5,000
inhabitants, many of them substantial folk, and in this was not far
behind Brooklyn. In those days the whole island could not boast 60,000
people. But if they were few, they were stalwart. The old sea-going
Paumànackers were a rough and hardy folk, and travellers remarked the
frank friendliness of the island youth.[7]

Inter-racial relations seem upon the whole to have been good; the
Indians being treated with comparative justice, and the negro slaves
well cared for. Between the Dutch and the English there was friction in
the early years. Long Island, or Paumanok--to give it the most familiar
of its several Indian names[8]--had been settled by both races; the
Dutch commencing on the west, opposite to their fortress and trading
station of New Amsterdam (afterwards New York), and the English, at
about the same time, upon the east. They met near West Hills, and
Whitman had the full benefit of his birth upon this border-line, Dutch
blood and English being almost equally mingled in his veins.

As to the Dutch of Long Island, they were marked here as elsewhere by
sterling and stubborn qualities. There is a reserve in the Dutch nature
which, while it tends to arouse suspicion in others, makes it the best
of stocks upon which to graft a more emotional people. Slow, cautious,
conservative, domestic, practical, they have formed a bed-rock of
sound sense and phlegmatic temper, not for Long Island only, but for
the whole of New York State, where, till the middle of the eighteenth
century,[9] they were predominant. Perhaps no other foundation could
have adequately supported the superstructure of fluctuating and
emotional elements which has since been raised upon it.

The Dutch homesteads of the island were famous for their simple, severe
but solid comfort, their clean white sanded floors, their pewter and
their punches. From such a home came Whitman's mother. She was a van
Velsor of Cold Spring, which lies only two or three miles west of the
Whitman farm. Her father, Major Cornelius van Velsor, was a typical,
burly, jovial, red-faced Hollander.

But Louisa, his daughter, was not wholly Dutch, for the major's wife
was Naomi Williams, of a line of sailors, one of that great Welsh clan
which counted Roger Williams among its first American representatives.
Naomi was of Quaker stock.[10]

       *       *       *       *       *

The Quakers appear early in the story of the island, whose settlement
was taking place during the first years of their world-wide activity.
Within a quarter of a century of the first purchase of land from the
Indians, an English Quaker, Robert Hodgson,[11] was arrested in a Long
Island orchard for the holding of a conventicle. He was carried to New
Amsterdam, cruelly handled, and imprisoned there.

In 1663, John Bowne,[12] an islander of some standing who had joined
the Friends, was arrested and transported to Holland, there to undergo
his trial for heresy. This was in the period when the district was
under Dutch control. A year later this came to an end, and when, in
1672, George Fox preached under the oaks which stood opposite to
Bowne's house[13] at Flushing, and again from the granite rock in the
Oyster Bay cemetery, he seems to have been met by no opposition more
serious than that which was offered by certain members of his own

We read[14] of the settlement of a group of substantial Quaker families
near the village of Jericho, where they built themselves a place of
worship in 1689; and here, a century later, lived Elias Hicks, perhaps
the ablest character, as he was the most tragic figure, in the story of
American Quakerism. He was a friend of Whitman's paternal grandfather,
and thus from both parents the boy inherited something either of the
blood or the tradition of that Society which, directly or indirectly,
gave some of the noblest of its leaders to the nation. Such men, for
instance, as William Penn, Thomas Paine, and, indirectly, Abraham

       *       *       *       *       *

The earliest of the Whitmans of whom there appears to be any record
is Abijah, apparently an English yeoman farmer in the days of
Elizabeth.[15] His two sons sailed west in 1640 on the _True-Love_.
One of these, Zechariah, became a minister in the town of Milford,
Connecticut, and sometime before Charles II. was crowned in the old
country,[16] Joseph, Zechariah's son, had crossed the Sound and settled
in the neighbourhood of Huntington. Either he or his successor seems
to have purchased the farm at West Hills, where Walt Whitman was
afterwards born; and in 1675 "Whitman's hollow" is mentioned as a
boundary of the township.

The garrulous histories of Long Island have little to tell us of the
family. One of Joseph's great-grandsons was killed in the battle of
Brooklyn,[17] that first great fight between the forces of England
and her rebellious colonies, when in 1776 Howe and his Hessians drove
Putnam's recruits back upon the little town. Lieutenant Whitman was one
of those who fell on that day before Washington could carry the remnant
of his troops across the East River under the friendly shelter of the

Another great-grandson, Jesse, married the orphan niece of Major Brush,
also a "dangerous rebel" who suffered in the British prison of "the
Provost".[18] Brushes, Williamses and Whitmans all seem to have served
in the armies of Independence, and one at least of their women would
have cut a figure in the field. For Jesse's mother was large-built,
dark-complexioned, and of such masculine manners and speech that she
seemed to have been born to horses, oaths and tobacco. As a widow she
readily ruled her slaves, surviving to a great age. In contrast with
her, Jesse's wife, who also displayed remarkable ability, was a natural
lady.[19] She had been a teacher, and was a woman of judgment. Perhaps
Jesse himself was of gentler character than his terrible old mother; he
had leanings towards Quakerism, and was a friend and admirer of Elias
Hicks.[20] So too was Walter, the father of Walt, and one of Jesse's
many sons.

Born in 1789--the year in which the amended Constitution of the
United States actually came into force--Walter grew up into a silent
giant,[21] a serious solid man, reserved and slow of speech, kindly but
shrewd and obstinate; capable too, when he was roused, of passion. He
was a wood-cutter and carpenter, a builder of frame-houses and barns,
solid as himself. He learnt his trade in New York, and afterwards
wandered from place to place in its pursuit. For a time after his
marriage in 1816, he appears to have lived at West Hills, probably
farming a part, at least, of the lands of his fathers. Their old house
had recently been replaced by another at a little distance. This is
still standing, and here, three years later, his second son was born.
The child was called after his father, but the name was promptly
clipped, and to this day he remains "Walt."

       *       *       *       *       *


His mother,[22] Louisa van Velsor, was a well-made, handsome young
woman, now in her twenty-fourth year. Fearless, practical and
affectionate, hers was a strong and happy presence, magnetic with
the potency of a profound nature, as large and attractive as it was
without taint of selfishness. She seemed to unite in herself the
gentle sweetness and restraint of her Quaker[23] mother, with the
more heroic, full-blooded qualities of the old jolly major. She
had a natural gift of description and was a graphic story-teller, but
of book-learning she had next to none, and letter-writing was always
difficult to her. She lacked little, however, of that higher education
which comes of life-long true and fine relations with persons and with
things. She had been an excellent horsewoman, and in later years her
visitors were impressed by her vitality and reserve power. Her words
fell with weight; she had a grave dignity; but withal her oval face,
framed in its dark hair and snowy cap, was full of kindness; and about
the corners of her mouth, and under her high-set brows, there always
lurked a quaint and quiet humour. Little as we know of Louisa Whitman,
we know enough to regard her as in every respect the equal in character
of her son, whom she endowed with a natural happiness of heart. She
became the mother of eight children, and lived to be nearly eighty
years old, somewhat crippled by rheumatism, but industrious, charming
and beloved to the last.

       *       *       *       *       *

The first four years of his life, little Walt spent at West Hills. He
is not the only worthy of the place, for here, half a century earlier,
was born the Honourable Silas Wood,[24] who now and for ten years to
come, represented the district in Congress. Already, doubtless, he was
collecting materials for his _Sketch of the First Settlement of Long
Island_, soon to appear.[25] But neither he nor his history greatly
concerns us.

Some two or three miles of sandy lane separate the old Whitman farm
from the present railway station. On an autumn day one finds the way
bordered by huckleberries and tall evening primroses, yellow toad-flax,
blue chickory and corn-flowers, and sturdy forests of golden-rod
among the briars and bushes. In the rough hedgerows are red sumachs,
oaks, chestnuts and tall cedars, locusts and hickories; the gateways
open on to broad fields full of picturesque cabbages, or the plumed
regiments of the tall green Indian corn. It is a farming country, and
a country rich in game--foxes and quails and partridges--and populous
now with all kinds of chirping insects, with frogs and with mosquitoes.
The wooded hills themselves are full of birds; beyond them there are

The road winds to the hills which give the place its name. To be
precise, the Whitman farm, as my driver assured me, belongs to the
hamlet of Millwell, but the title of West Hills is better known. The
other name may, however, serve to recall those cold sweet springs which
rise along the foot of the hills and keep the country green, and whose
waters are highly esteemed in New York.

The lane passes by the end of an old grey shingled farmhouse, boasting
a new brick chimney. A delicate, ash-like locust tree stands by the big

Here, if you turn into the farm road under the boughs of the orchard,
and then, through the wicket in the palings, cross the weedy garden
square, you may enter under the timber-propped porch into the
low-ceiled house where Walt was born. It is small but comfortable,
of two stories and a half. The morning sun streams through the open
door, blinks in at the sun-shutters, and filters through the mosquito
netting. On the left of the hall[26] are a bedroom and parlour, and the
dining-room is on the right, where a wing of one story has been added.
Beyond this there is a lower extension; and beyond again, extend the
chocolate-coloured barns and sheds and byres and stables of the farm.
At one corner of the garden palings stands the little well-house with
its four neat pillars, and a big bell swings in its forked post by the
side gate to summon the men from the fields into which one sees the
farm road wandering. The fields run up to the wood. Across the road
from the garden is an apple orchard, where the pigs root, and the hens
scratch and cluck and scuffle. It was planted by Walt's uncle Jesse.


This is not the first ancestral cabin of the Whitmans; that lies
at a little distance, nearer to the woods. It belongs now to another
farm--the former holding having been divided--and the old cabin has
become a waggon-shed. Both farms have long since passed out of the
family; but near the first house, on a little woody knoll,[27] you may
still see the picturesque group of unlettered stones which cluster on
the Whitman burying hill.

Neither Walt himself nor his father and mother are buried here among
their relatives and ancestors; but the boy, so early pre-occupied with
the mysteries of life, must have often stolen to this strange solitude
to commune with its silence and to hear the wind among the branches,
whispering of death. There is a big old oak near by, old perhaps as the
first Whitman settlement, and a grove of beautiful black walnuts, and
this, too, was one of the children's haunts.

       *       *       *       *       *

Such was the old Whitman home and country, to which the boy's earliest
memories belonged, where he spent some of the years and nearly all
the holidays of his youth and early manhood, and in which his later
thoughts found their natural background, his deepest consciousness its
native soil. It is, as we have seen, no tame or narrow country, but
wide and generous, and it is within sound of the sea. In the still
night that succeeds a storm, you may hear the strange low murmur of
the Atlantic surf beating upon the coast.[28] The boy was born in the
hills, with that sea-murmur about him.


[4] See _inter alia_ Furman's _Antiquities of Long Island_; and his
_Notes Relating to the Town of Brooklyn_; Silas Wood's _Sketch of
First Settlement of L. I._; B. F. Thompson's _History of L. I._; N.
S. Prime's _History of L. I._; _A Brief Description of New York_, by
Daniel Denton (1690), ed. by G. Furman.

[5] Wood, 73 n.

[6] See Wood's, Thomson's, and Prime's _History of L. I._

[7] _Comp. Prose_, 7; _cf._ Furman's _Antiquities_, 249; Denton, 14.

[8] Wood, 65; _cf._ _Comp. Prose_.

[9] _In re_, 197.

[10] See Appendix A.

[11] S. M. Janney's _History of Friends_, vol. i.

[12] Furman's _Antiq._, 97; Janney, vol. ii.

[13] Furman's _Antiq._, 229.

[14] Thompson, _op. cit._

[15] Symonds, xii.; _Savage Genealog. Dict._

[16] _Comp. Prose_, 3; Bucke, 13.

[17] Camden Introd.

[18] _Ibid._

[19] _Comp. Prose_, 6; Camden, xix.

[20] _In re_, 202.

[21] Burroughs, 79; Bucke, 15; _Whit. Fellowship_, '94 (Brinton and
Traubel); _Wound Dresser_, 115, etc.

[22] Bucke, 16; _Comp. Prose_, 274; Camden, xvii.; _In re_, 195, etc.

[23] See Appendix A.

[24] Wood, 5 (ed. by A. J. Spooner).

[25] 1828.

[26] _Whit. Fellowship_, _op. cit._

[27] _Comp. Prose_, 4.

[28] _Ibid._, 6.



The hill-range which forms the back-bone of Long Island, and upon
whose slopes Walt Whitman was born, terminates on the west in Brooklyn
Heights, which overlook the busy bay and crowded city of New York.

The heights recall Washington's masterly retreat; and the hint is
enough to remind the shame-faced English visitor that the American is
not without cause for a certain coolness in the very genuine affection
which he manifests for the mother country. 'Seventy-six and the six
years that followed, with all their legacy of bitter thoughts, was
succeeded by 1814 and the burning of the Capitol. In this later war it
was Virginia, not New England, that took the initiative; Massachusetts
and Connecticut even opposed it, and it may have been none too popular
in adjacent Long Island.

It is doubtful whether Major van Velsor or his sons actually took
the field against the British. But this second and last of the
Anglo-American wars was still a bitter and vivid memory when in May,
1823,[29] towards Walt's fourth birthday, his father, the old major's
son-in-law, left the farm, removing with his family to Front Street,
Brooklyn, near the wharves and water-side.

Though but a country town with great elm-trees still shading its main
thoroughfare,[30] Brooklyn was growing, and its trade was brisk. It is
likely that the carpenter, Whitman, framed more than one of the hundred
and fifty houses which were added to it during the year.

In the meantime, Walt took advantage of his improved situation to study
men and manners in a sea-port town. He watched the ferry-boats that
for the last ninety years had plied to and fro, binding Brooklyn to
its big neighbour opposite upon Manhattan Island. For another sixty
years their decks provided the only roadway across the East River,
and they still go back and forward loaded heavily, in spite of the
two huge but graceful bridges which now span the grey waters. The boy
gazed wondering at the patient horse in the round house on deck, which,
turning like a mule at a wheel-pump, provided the propelling power for
the ferry-boat till Fulton replaced him by steam.

The boy in frocks must have wondered, too, at the great shows and
pageants of 1824 and 1825 which filled New York with holiday-making
crowds. For in August of the former year, came the old hero of two
Republics, General Lafayette, to be received with every demonstration
of admiring gratitude by the people of America. Some scintilla of the
glory of those days--pale reflection, as it was, of the far-away tragic
radiance that lighted up the world at the awakening of Justice and of
Liberty on both sides of the sea--fell upon the child. For when the old
soldier visited Brooklyn to lay the corner-stone of a library there, he
found the youngster in harm's way and lifted him, with a hearty kiss,
on to a coign of vantage.[31] Thus, at six years old, Walt felt himself
already famous.

Again, a few months later, the city was all ablaze with lights and
colour and congratulations on the opening of the Erie Canal, which
connected New York with Ohio and promised to break the monopoly of
Western commerce held hitherto by the queen city of the Mississippi.

       *       *       *       *       *

By this time, the family counted four children; two brothers, Jesse
and Walt, and two little girls, Mary and Hannah, all born within six
years. Of the children, Walt and Hannah appear to have been special
friends, but we have little record of this period. As they grew old
enough, they attended the Brooklyn public school and went duly to
Sunday school as well.[32] In the summers they spent many a long
holiday in the fields and lanes about West Hills.

A reminiscence of those times is enshrined in one of the best known
of the _Leaves of Grass_,[33] written more than a quarter of a
century later, a memory of the May days when the boy discovered
a mocking-birds' nest containing four pale green eggs, among the
briars by the beach, and watched over them there from day to day till
presently the mother-bird disappeared; and then of those September
nights when, escaping from his bed, he ran barefoot down on to the
shore through the windy moonlight, flung himself upon the sand, and
listened to the desolate singing of the widowed he-bird close beside
the surf. There, in the night, with the sea and the wind, he lay
utterly absorbed in the sweet, sad singing of that passion, some
mystic response awakening in his soul; till in an ecstasy of tears
which flooded his young cheeks, he felt, rather than understood, the
world-meaning hidden in the thought of death.[34]

This self-revealing reminiscence, even if it should prove to diverge
from historic incident and to take some colour from later thought,
illumines the obscurity which covers the inner life of his childhood.
Elsewhere we can dimly see him as his mother's favourite; towards her
he was always affectionate. But with his father he showed himself
wayward, idle, self-willed and independent, altogether a difficult
lad for that kindly but taciturn and determined man to manage. Walt
retained these qualities, and they caused endless trouble to every
ill-advised person who afterwards attempted the task in which worthy
Walter Whitman failed.

Among his young companions, though he was not exactly imperious, Walt
seems to have played the part of a born leader; he was a clever boy; he
always had ideas, and he always had a following. And as a rule he was
delightful to be with, for he had an unflagging capacity for enjoyment
and adventure.

But there must have been times when he was moody and reserved. The
passionate element in his nature which the song of the mocking-bird
aroused belongs rather to night solitudes than to perpetual society
and sunshine. As he grew older, and, perhaps, somewhat overgrew his
physical strength,[35] he was often unhappy in himself. There was
something tempestuous in him which no one understood, he himself
least of any. Probably his wise and very human mother came nearest to
understanding; and her heart was with him as he fought out his lonely
battles with that strange enemy of Youth's peace, the soul.

       *       *       *       *       *

Little brothers were added from time to time to the family group;
Andrew, George and Jeff, and last of all poor under-witted Ted, born
when Walt was a lad of sixteen, to be the life-long object of his
mother's affectionate care. The names of Andrew and Jeff reflect
their father's political sentiments; the latter recalling the founder
of the old Jeffersonian Republicanism; and the former being called
after Andrew Jackson, the popular and successful candidate for the
presidency, in the year of the boy's birth, who afterwards reorganised
his party, creating the "Democratic" machine to take the place of what
had hitherto been the "Republican" caucus. Thus Republicanism changed
its name, and the title did not reappear in party politics for a

As Walter Whitman built, mortgaged and eventually sold his
frame-houses, the family would often move from one into another: we
can trace at least five migrations[36] during the ten years that they
remained in Brooklyn. He was a busy, but never a prosperous man; with
his large family, the fluctuations of trade must have affected him
seriously; and scattered through his son's story, there are fast-days
and seasons of privation. Walter Whitman was, in short, a working man
upon the borders of the middle-class: thrifty, shrewd, industrious,
but dependent upon his earnings; mixing at times with people of good
education, but of little himself; a master-workman, the son of a
well-read and thoughtful mother, living in the free and natural social
order which at that time prevailed in Brooklyn and New York.

He was not outwardly religious; he was never a church-goer; even
his wife, who called herself a Baptist, only went irregularly,[37]
and then, with an easy tolerance, to various places of worship--the
working mother of eight children has her hands full on Sundays. In
the household there was no form of family prayers. But when old Elias
Hicks[38] preached in the neighbourhood, they went to hear him, tending
more towards a sort of liberal Quakerism than to anything else.


The Whitmans were not an irreligious family--Walt was, for instance,
fairly well-grounded in the Scriptures--but they thought for
themselves, they disliked anything that savoured of exclusion, and
their religion consisted principally in right living and in kindliness.
Their devotion to the old Quaker minister is interesting. Hicks was
a remarkable man and a most powerful and moving preacher. He was
large and liberal-minded; too liberal, it would seem, for some of
his hearers. His utterances had however passed unchallenged till an
evangelical movement, fostered by some English Friends among their
American brethren, made further acquiescence seem impossible.

That which complacently calls itself orthodoxy is naturally intolerant,
it can, indeed, hardly even admit tolerance to a place among the
virtues; and the evangelical propaganda must be very pure if it is to
be unaccompanied by the spirit of exclusion. It may seem strange that
such a spirit should enter into a Society which gathers its members
under the name of "Friends," a name which seems to indicate some
basis broader than the creeds, some spiritual unity which could dare
to welcome the greatest diversity of view because it would cultivate
mutual understanding. But the broader the basis and the more spiritual
the bond of fellowship, the more disastrous is the advent of the spirit
of schism masking itself under some title of expediency, and here this
spirit had forced an entrance.

Between Hicks--who himself appears to have been somewhat intolerant of
opposition, a strong-willed man, frankly hostile to the evangelical
dogmatics--and the narrower sort of evangelicals, relations became
more and more strained, until, in 1828, the octogenarian minister was
disowned by the official body of Quakers, after some painful scenes. He
was however followed into his exile by a multitude of his hearers and
others who foresaw and dreaded the crystallisation of Quakerism under
some creed.

Soon after the crisis, and only three months before his death, Elias
Hicks preached in the ball-room of Morrison's Hotel on Brooklyn
Heights. Among the mixed company who listened on that November evening
to the old man's mystical and prophetic utterance, was the ten-year old
boy, accompanying his parents.

Hicks sprang from the peasant-farming class to which the
Whitmans belonged; and, as a lad, had been intimate with Walt's
great-grandfather, and with his son after him. It was then, with a
sort of hereditary reverence, that the boy beheld that intense face,
with its high-seamed forehead, the smooth hair parted in the middle
and curling quaintly over the collar behind; the hawk nose, the high
cheek bones, the repression of the mouth, and the curiously Indian
aspect of the tall commanding figure, clad in the high vest and coat
of Quaker cut. The scene was one he never forgot. The finely-fitted and
fashionable place of dancing, the officers and gay ladies in that mixed
and crowded assembly, the lights, the colours and all the associations,
both of the faces and of the place, presenting so singular a contrast
with the plain, ancient Friends seated upon the platform, their
broad-brims on their heads, their eyes closed; with the silence, long
continued and becoming oppressive; and most of all, with the tall,
prophetic figure that rose at length to break it.

With grave emphasis he pronounced his text: "What is the chief end
of man?" and with fiery and eloquent eyes, in a strong, vibrating,
and still musical voice, he commenced to deliver his soul-awakening
message. The fire of his fervour kindled as he spoke of the purpose of
human life; his broad-brim was dashed from his forehead on to one of
the seats behind him. With the power of intense conviction his whole
presence became an overwhelming persuasion, melting those who sat
before him into tears and into one heart of wonder and humility under
his high and simple words.

The sermon itself has not come down to us. In his _Journal_,[39] Hicks
has described the meeting as a "large and very favoured season." It
seems to have been devoid of those painful incidents of opposition
which saddened so many similar occasions during these last years of his

The old man had been accused of Deism, as though he were a second Tom
Paine and devotee of "Reason": in reality his message was somewhat
conservative and essentially mystical. A hostile writer[40] asserts
truly that the root of his heresy--if heresy we should call it--lay in
his setting up of the Light Within as the primary rule of faith and
practice. He always viewed the Bible writings as a secondary standard
of truth or guide to action; as a book, though the best among books.
And as a book, it was the "letter" only: the "spirit that giveth life"
even to the letter, was in the hearts of men.

In his attitude toward the idea of Christ, he distinguished, like
many other mystics, between the figure of the historic Jesus of
Nazareth and that indwelling Christ of universal mystical experience,
wherewith according to his teaching, Jesus identified himself through
the deepening of his human consciousness into that of Deity. In the
mystical view, this God-consciousness is in some measure the common
inheritance of all the saints, and underlies the everyday life of
men. And to it, as a submerged but present element in the life of
their hearers, Fox and the characteristic Quaker preachers have always
directed their appeal, seeking to bring it up into consciousness. Once
evoked and recognised, this divine element must direct and control all
the faculties of the individual. It is the new humanity coming into the

Hicks recognised in Jesus the most perfect of initiates into this
new life; and as such, he accorded a special authority to the Gospel
teachings, but demanded that they should be construed by the reader
according to the Christ-spirit in his own heart. Properly understood,
the doctrine of the Inner Light is not, as many have supposed it to be,
the _reductio ad absurdum_ of individual eccentricity. On the contrary
it tends to a transcendental unity; for the spirit whose irruption
into the individual consciousness it seeks and supposes, is that
spirit and light wherein all things are united and in harmony. In this
sense, the Quaker preacher was appealing to the essence of all social
consciousness--that realisation of an organic fellowship-in-communion
which the sacraments of the churches are designed to cultivate.

However dark his great subject may appear to the trained gaze of
philosophy, the old man's words brought illumination to the little boy.
The sense of human dignity was deepened in him; he breathed an air of
solemnity and inspiration.

Hicks died early in the new year, and with him there probably fell
away the last strong link which held the Whitmans to Quakerism. But the
seed of the ultimate Quaker faith--that faith by which alone a quaint
little society rises out of a merely historic and sectarian interest
to become a symbol of the eternal truths which underlie Society as
a whole, a faith which declares of its own experience that Deity is
immanent in the heart of Man--this seed of faith was sown in the lad's
mind to become the central principle around which all his after thought

       *       *       *       *       *

Although, as these incidents make evident, Walt's nature was strongly
emotional, he never went through the process known as conversion.
Religion came to him naturally. Responsive from his childhood to the
emotional influence of that ultimate reality which we call "God" or
"the spiritual," he can never have had the overwhelming sense of
inward disease and degradation which conversion seems to presuppose.
Well-born and surrounded by wholesome influences, it is probable that
the higher elements of his nature were always dominant. The idea of
abject unworthiness would hardly be suggested to his young mind. He was
not ignorant of evil, insensible to temptation, or innocent of those
struggles for self-mastery which increase with the years of youth. We
have reason to believe that he was wilful and passionate; though he was
too affectionate and too well-balanced to be ill-natured. Harmonious
natures are not insensitive to their own discordant notes, and the
harmony of Whitman held many discords in solution.

He had then in his own experience, even as a child, material sufficient
for a genuine sense of sin. But this sense, never, so far as we know,
became acute enough to cause a crisis in his life, never created in his
mind any feeling of an irreparable disaster, or any discord which he
despaired of ultimately resolving. He had not been taught to regard God
as a severe judge, of incredible blindness to the complexity of human
nature;[41] and perhaps partly in consequence of this, he was ever a
rebel against the Divine Justice.

There is, it may be said, another kind of conversion, a turning of the
eyes of the soul to discover the actual presence and power of God at
hand: the sequel may show whether Whitman felt himself to be ignorant
of this change.

       *       *       *       *       *

Honest, upright and self-respecting, his parents never took an ascetic
view of morality. They did not share in that puritanical hostility
to art and to amusements which too long distorted the image of truth
in the mirror of Quakerism. Even as a lad, Walt discovered those
provinces of the world of romance which lie across the footlights,
and in the dazzling pages of the _Arabian Nights_;[42] and, as a
youth, he followed the wizard of Waverley through all his stories and
poems, becoming, soon after Sir Walter's death, the happy possessor of
Lockhart's complete edition, in a solid octavo volume of 1,000 pages.
From this time forward he was an insatiable novel-reader, especially
devoted to Fenimore Cooper, who was then delighting the younger
generation with stories of pioneer life.

It would be a mistake, however, to suppose that the boy's life at this
time was all amusement. At eleven years of age he was in a lawyer's
office,[43] proud in the possession of a desk and window-corner of his
own. The master found him a bright boy and was kind to him, forwarding
his limited education a step further. He also subscribed on his behalf
to a circulating library which supplied the lad with a continuous
series of tales. But for whatever reason--one fears it was not
unconnected with those stories--Walt soon found himself running errands
for another master.

In his thirteenth year he was put to the printing trade, and ceased, at
least for a while, to live under his father's roof.[44] The mother was
out of health for a long time, during the period of the youngest son's
birth and infancy, and when in 1832 the town was visited by a severe
epidemic of cholera, the Whitman family removed into the country. But
Walt stayed behind, boarding with the other apprentices of the Brooklyn
postmaster and printer. Mr. Clements and his family were good to the
lad while he was with them, and some effusions of his--for like other
clever boys he was writing verses--appear to have found their way into
the _Long Island Patriot_.

From the _Patriot_ he soon removed to the _Star_, another local weekly,
whose proprietor, Mr. Alden J. Spooner, was a principal figure in
the Brooklyn of those days, and who long retained a vivid memory of
a certain idle lad who worked in his shop. If he had been stricken
with fever and ague, he used to say laughing, the boy would have been
too lazy to shake.[45] At thirteen, Walt was too much interested in
watching things to take kindly to work; most of his time was spent in
learning what the world had to teach him; but in the end he learnt his
trade as well.

No place could have been better chosen to awake his interest in the
many-sided life around him than a printing office, the centre of all
the local news. Here he developed fast in every way, shot up long
and stalky, scribbled for the press as well as learning his proper
business, and became a very young man about town. Already, he felt the
attraction of the great island city of Mannahatta, where, according to
its earliest name, for ever "gaily dash the coming, going, hurrying

       *       *       *       *       *

New York had for a time been crippled by the collapse of American trade
which followed the close of the Napoleonic wars in Europe,[47] but had
recovered again, and was now growing rapidly--a city of perhaps 200,000
inhabitants, the English element predominating in its curiously mixed
population. Though it was prosperous, it had its share of misfortune.
Serious riots--racial, religious and political--were not infrequent.
Epidemics of cholera swept through it; and in December, 1835, thirteen
acres of its buildings were burnt out in a three days' conflagration.

In spite of these disasters the town grew and extended, and means
of locomotion multiplied. The stages were running on Broadway from
Bowling Green to Bleecker Street, that is about half-way to Central
Park, and the great thoroughfare was crowded with traffic, presenting a
scene busier even and certainly more picturesque than that of to-day.
Fashionable folk still lived "down town" below the present City Hall,
in a district now given up as exclusively to offices and warehouses as
is the City of London. Ladies took their children down to play upon
the open space of the Battery, looking down the beautiful bay; and did
their shopping at the various Broadway stores. Upon their door-steps,
on either side of the street, citizens still sat out with their
families through the summer evenings; they condescended to drink at
the city pumps, and to buy hot-corn and ices from the wayside vendors,
while the height of diversion was to run with the engine to some fire.
In a word, New York life was still natural and democratic; palaces
and slums were as unknown to the democracy of the metropolis as the
sky-scrapers which render the approach to-day, in spite of its wooded
hills, its ships and islands, among the least beautiful of the great
sea-ports of the world.

Of diversions the citizens had no lack, for the population was now
sufficient to support a good native stage and to attract foreign
artists. The year 1825 saw the advent of Italian opera at the Old Park
theatre, which stood not far from the present Post Office; and Garcia
and Malibran appeared in the "Barber of Seville".[48] It was here that
Edwin Forrest was first seen by a New York audience; while fashionable
English actors like Macready and the Kembles were among its visitors.
But even more interest centred in the Bowery, the great popular
theatre built to seat 3,000, where the elder Booth and Forrest played
night after night before enthusiastic houses of young and middle-aged
artisans and mechanics capable of thunderstorms of applause.

There were other theatres, too, such as Niblo's and Richmond Hill, and
to all of these young Whitman presently found his way armed with a
pressman's pass. He must have spent many an evening in the city while
he was still working for Mr. Spooner, and one unforgettable night, when
he was fifteen or so, he was present at a great benefit in the Bowery
when Booth played "Richard III."[49] Fifty years later, the scene of
that evening remained as clear before his eyes as when he sat in the
front of the pit, hanging on every word and gesture of that consummate
actor. Inflated and stagy his manner might be; but he revealed to
the lad, watching his studied abandonment to passion, a new world of
expression. For the first time, he understood how far gestures, and a
presence more powerful than words, can express the heights and depths
of emotion.

On that night in the Bowery, as upon those memorable nights on the
Long Island Beach, and in Morrison's Ballroom, Walt came face to face
with one of the supreme mysteries. On these occasions it had been the
mystery of Death, which alone brings peace to the heart of passionate
love, and the mystery of the Immanent Deity; now it was that other
equal mystery, the mystery of Expression, the utterance of the soul
in living words and acts and vivid presence. Love and Religion were
already significant to him; he had now been shown the meaning of Art.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the meantime he had begun, as boys will, to take an interest in
politics. And before going further, we must glance at the outstanding
events and tendencies of the period.

Those two famous documents, _The Declaration of Independence_ and the
_Constitution of the United States_, are associated respectively with
Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton,[50] and represent two currents
of political theory which beat against one another through subsequent
years. Jefferson was saturated with the political idealism of the
school of Rousseau, which sums itself up in the demand for individual
liberty and rights, the declaration of individual independence, and
freedom from interference.

Hamilton on the other hand--who was by temper an aristocrat, and once
at a New York dinner described the people as "a great beast,"[51]--was
possessed by the idea of the Nation; he dwelt upon the duty of each
member to the whole, promulgating doctrines of solidarity and unity
in the cause of a common freedom. The two views are, of course,
complementary; their antagonism, if it gave the victory to either,
would be fatal to both; and their reconciliation is essential to the
life of the Republic. But between their supporters, antagonism has
naturally existed.

The ideal of the Jeffersonian Republicans became associated with
popular or "Democratic" sentiment,[52] standing as it did in opposition
to the more conservative and constitutional position of the Hamiltonian
Federalists. For a time the two parties dwelt together in such amity
that the Federalists were actually merged with the Republicans; but
the uncontested election of Monroe was a signal for the outbreak of
the old contest. At the next election,[53] an Adams of Massachusetts
was returned to the White House; and Jackson of Tennessee, one of the
defeated candidates, built up a Democratic party of opposition whose
organising centre was New York. On the other side, the followers of
Adams and his secretary, Henry Clay, came eventually to be known as
Whigs, "Republican" ceasing for a quarter of a century to be a party

The titles of the parties serve approximately to indicate their
different tendencies; though it must be remembered that the Whiggery
of Adams was coloured by New England idealism, while the material
interests of the South turned their energies to capture the naturally
idealistic Democracy of Jackson. Eventually the division became almost
a geographical one; though certain of her interests and perhaps her
jealous antipathy to New England, gave New York's sympathies to the

In 1832, when Walt was studying the world through the keen eyes of
thirteen, and the windows of a Brooklyn printing shop, Democratic South
Carolina was offering a stubborn resistance to the Federal tariff.
Theoretically, and one may add ethically, any tariff was contrary to
the Jeffersonian doctrine of universal freedom; and practically, it was
disastrous to the special interests of the South. Carolina, under the
poetic fire and genius of Calhoun, was the Southern champion against
Northern, or, let us say, Federal aggression. She stood out for the
rights of a minority so far as to propose secession. The South was
aggrieved by the tariff, for, roughly speaking, its States were cotton
plantations, whose interests lay in easy foreign exchange; they grew no
corn, they made no machinery, they neither fed nor clothed themselves.
The North on the other hand was industrial, anxious to guard its infant
manufactures against the competition of Great Britain. The West was
agricultural, demanding roads and public works which required the funds
provided by a tariff. Now even these public works, these high roads and
canals, were calculated directly to benefit the Northern manufacturers
rather than the planters of the South whose highway to the West was
the great river which had formerly given them all the Western trade to
handle, and whose cheapest market for machinery and manufactured goods
lay over the high sea whither its own staple was continually going.

The tariff imposed for the benefit of the Northern section was, then,
opposed by the South on grounds of industrial necessity as well as of
political theory. And it may be noted the argument of the Southerner
was equally the argument of many an artisan in the metropolis, who saw
in free trade the sole guarantee of cheap living.

       *       *       *       *       *

Thus there was a certain antagonism between the interests of the two
geographical sections of the American nation; and this was emphasised
by another cause for hostility. Every statesman knew that, although
unacknowledged, it was really the question of slavery which was already
dividing America into "North" and "South". And recognising it as beyond
his powers of solution, he sought by maintaining a compromise to
conceal it from the public mind.

The "Sovereign States," momentarily united for defence against a
domineering king, had at the same hour been swept by Tom Paine's and
Jefferson's versions of the French Republicanism, and North and South
alike adhered to a doctrinaire equality. The negro, they were willing
to agree, should be voluntarily and gradually emancipated.

But the hold of this policy on the South was soon afterwards undermined
by the economic development which followed the introduction of the
cotton-gin. The new and rapidly growing prosperity of the planter
depended on the permanence of the "institution". And from this time
forward the Southern policy becomes hard to distinguish from the vested
interests of the slave-owner. The prosperity of the South seemed to
depend upon the extension of the cotton industry: the cotton industry,
again, upon slave-labour; thus it was argued, the institution of
slavery was necessary to the prosperity of the South. The North, so the
Southerner supposed, had its own interests to serve, and only regarded
the South as a market. It was, he felt, jealous of the dominance of
Southern statesmanship in the Union; and its desire to destroy "the
institution" was denounced as the sectional jealousy of small-minded,
shop-keeping bigots, of inferior antecedents. By the brute force of
increasing numbers, by a vulgar love of trade, and the accidents of
climate and of mineral resources, the North was beginning to establish
its hold upon Congress, and arrogating to itself the Federal power.

Hitherto, with the exception of the Adamses and of Jackson, every
President had been of Virginian birth, bred, the Southerner declared,
in the broader views of statesmanship. But the North was now
predominant in the House of Representatives, and a balance could only
be preserved in the Senate, where each State appoints two members, by
constant watchfulness. Thus the rapid settling of the middle West by
Northerners must be balanced by the annexation of new cotton-growing
regions in the South-west. The famous Missouri Compromise of 1821 fixed
the frontier between future free-soil and slave States at the line of
the southern boundary of Missouri, while admitting that State itself
into the Union as a member of the latter class. Hence it was only in
the South-west that slavery could develop, and extension by conquest of
cotton territory became henceforward an object of Southern politicians.

While, then, it was the aggression of the South which finally drove
the nation into civil war, the South for many years had viewed itself
as an aggrieved partner in the inter-State compact, victimised in the
interests of the majority. It felt, perhaps not unjustly, that it was
being overridden, and that the Federation was becoming what Jefferson
described as "a foreign yoke".[54] It became excessively sensitive to
hostility: every rumour of the spread of Abolition sentiment in the
North--a sentiment which favoured a new attitude towards the Federal
power, and would give control to it over the domestic affairs of what
hitherto had literally been "Sovereign States"--raised a storm of
indignation and evoked new threats of secession.

       *       *       *       *       *

But while slavery was already playing its part in American politics
it had not yet become the main line of party cleavage. Although the
party of free trade and of State rights was the party of the South,
it was not yet the party of slavery. It was still throughout America
the "people's party," and the slave power was the last to desire that
it should cease to hold that title, especially in the North. For many
a year to come there would be stout Abolitionists who could call
themselves Democrats; while "dough-faces," or politicians who served
the party of slavery, were always to be found amongst the Whigs.

Even while party feeling ran high, the increase of the means of
communication and the introduction of steam transport, both on land and
water, favoured the larger Federal sentiment and quickened the national
consciousness. Talk of secession had been heard in New England as well
as in South Carolina; but actual secession became more difficult as
the manufacturers of the East, the cotton-growers of the South, and
the farmers of the Mississippi basin had tangible evidence of the many
interests and privileges which were common to them, and beheld more
and more clearly the future upon which America was entering. Year by
year the idea of the Union gained in vitality; and in spite of party
feeling, President Jackson had a nation behind him when he refused to
yield to South Carolina's threat of secession.

A compromise was effected, and Carolina submitted to the collection
of duties under a somewhat mitigated tariff: the relation of the
constituent States to the Federal power remaining still undefined,
waiting, for a generation to come, upon the growth of national
sentiment on the one hand, and the accumulation of resentment upon the


[29] _Comp. Prose_; Bucke; MSS. Harned.

[30] Descriptions of Brooklyn at this time in _Mem. Hist. N.Y._;
Roosevelt; Thompson, 179 n.; Furman's _Brooklyn_; Furman's _Antiq._,
390-97; Burroughs; _Comp. Prose_, 10 n., 510, etc.

[31] _Comp. Prose_, 9 n.

[32] _W. W.'s Diary in Canada_, 5.

[33] _L. of G._, 196.

[34] _Cf._ especially:--

    Never more shall I escape, never more the reverberations,
    Never more the cries of unsatisfied love be absent from me,
    Never again leave me to be the peaceful child I was before what
      there in the night,
    By the sea under the yellow and sagging moon,
    The messenger there arous'd, the fire, the sweet hell within,
    The unknown want, the destiny of me.

[35] _Comp. Prose_, 10; Grace Gilchrist in _Temple Bar_, cxiii., 200.

[36] MSS. Harned; _Comp. Prose_, 9.

[37] _In re_, 38.

[38] _Comp. Prose_, 9, 457-474; E. Hicks' _Journal_, under 1829; _The
Friend_ (Philadelphia), _or Advocate of Truth_, i., 216 (1828).

[39] 3rd ed., 438.

[40] _The Beacon_, 145.

[41] Bucke, 61.

[42] _Comp. Prose_, 9; _L. of G._, 440.

[43] Bucke; MSS. Harned.

[44] _Comp. Prose_, 9, 10; MSS. Harned.

[45] MSS. Johnston, paper by Chandos Fulton.

[46] _L. of G._, 385; Kennedy, 64.

[47] For New York see esp. _Mem. Hist. N.Y._, and Roosevelt.

[48] _Mem. Hist. N.Y._, iv., 171, 477.

[49] _Comp. Prose_, 13, 14, 426-431.

[50] _Camb. Mod. Hist._; Bryce, i., 1-31.

[51] Goldwin Smith, _The United States_ (1893), 132.

[52] _En. Brit. Suppt._, and G. Smith.

[53] 1824-25.

[54] _Cf._ _Camb. Mod. Hist._, 375, 376.



The spring of 1836 found Whitman in New York.[55]

He was in his seventeenth year, had now learnt his trade, and had begun
to write for the weekly papers; among others, contributing occasionally
to the handsome and aristocratic pages of the _Mirror_, perhaps the
best of its class.[56] He lived in that journalistic atmosphere which
encourages expression and turns many a clever lad into a prig. Walt was
self-sufficient, but there was nothing of the prig[57] in him. Limited
as his schooling had been, he was naturally receptive and thoughtful,
and his education went steadily forward; he made friends with older
men, and with men of education from whom he learnt much. And now he
became a teacher.

He was a healthy boy, but had somewhat overgrown his strength, and
perhaps this was among the causes of his leaving the city in May, and
going up Long Island into the country. He joined his family for awhile,
who were living at Norwich;[58] and subsequently settled for the winter
as a country teacher at Babylon, boarding round, as was the custom, in
the homes of his various pupils.

       *       *       *       *       *


The little town of Babylon stands on the swampy inner shores of the
Great South Bay, which is a spacious lagoon separated from the Atlantic
by a narrow beach or line of sand hills. This outer beach bears
here and there a ridge of pine forest or a lighthouse; but for the
rest, it is abandoned to sea-birds and grass, to the winds and a few
sand-flowers scattered among the wind markings which are stencilled
in purple upon the sand in some delicate aerial deposit. Outside,
even upon quiet days, the surf beats ponderously with ominous sound,
the will and weight of the ocean in its swing. Within, across the
wide unruffled waters of the lagoon, populous with sails, is the
far-away fringe of the Babylon woods, and over them, pale and blue, the
hill-range above Huntington.

The bay itself is a glorious mirror for the over-glow of the sky at
sunset or sunrise. Standing upon its inner rim at Babylon, as the
colour begins to die into the dusk, you may see mysterious sails
moving by hidden waterways among fields still merry with the chirrup
of innumerable crickets; while beyond the rattle of cords and pulleys
and the liquid murmur of the moving boats, beyond their lights that
pierce the darkening water like jewelled spears, glimmers a star on
Fire Island beach to greet the great liners as they pass by. In summer
it is a field of many harvests; famous for its blue-fish, its clams
and oysters; and neither the lads of Babylon nor their young master
were behind-hand in spearing eels, catching crabs and gathering birds'
eggs.[59] In a hard winter it is frozen over for months together.

       *       *       *       *       *

For the greater part of the next four or five years, Walt remained in
the country, moving about from place to place, and paying occasional
visits to New York. He is said to have been a good and popular
teacher;[60] and if his equipment was not great, it was sufficient;
he liked boys and had the gift of imparting knowledge. He took his
work seriously, was always master in the schoolroom, and knew whatever
passed there. He followed methods of his own; breaking loose from
text-books, to expound his knowledge and impart his own interests to
his scholars. The element of personality told throughout his teaching;
already it was notable as the power behind all that he did. An
impression of himself, of his universal kindliness, of the sympathetic
quality of his whole person, his voice and look and manner, and of a
certain distinction and dignity inseparable from him, was retained by
his pupils in after years.

His favourite method of punishment is worth recording, as
characteristic of his power and of his theory of pedagogics. An
admirable story-teller, he would chastise any scholar who had behaved
dishonourably, by describing his conduct to the whole school, and
without the mention of a name, the guilty boy or girl was sufficiently
self-condemned and punished in his own shame. Graver offences were made
more public.

In recess and away from school, Walt was a sheer boy, heartily joining
in the most boisterous games and sharing every kind of recreation
consistent with his kindly spirit. "Gunning" was never included.

Among the scholars there must often have been those of his own years,
and the fact that he could preserve his status as a teacher while
living on terms of frank comradeship with his scholars, declares him
born to the office. They were mixed schools which he taught, and
towards the girls his attitude was one of honest equanimity. He was
the same with them as with the boys, betraying neither a sentimental
preference nor a masculine disdain. Perhaps American girls with their
friendly ways and comparative lack of self-consciousness, call for less
fortitude on the young teacher's part than some others; but Walt's
own temperament stood him in good stead. It seems improbable that he
was ever subject either to green-sickness or calf-love, and he was no

Perhaps the idleness of which Mr. Spooner retained so lively a
recollection, might have hindered his becoming an ideal dominie. His
thoughts must sometimes have been far afield, his pupils and their
tasks forgotten. It was not, as I have already suggested, that he was
lazy; he worked hard and fast when his mind was upon his work, and best
of all perhaps as a teacher in contact with human beings; but he was
never so busy that he could refuse to pursue an idea, never so occupied
that he could miss a new fact or emotion.

Like other young teachers, Walt probably learnt at least as much as he
taught, if not from his pupils, then from their parents. Boarding with
them, he came to know and to love his own people, the peasant-yeomanry
of the island.[62]

He was a favourite with the friendly Long Island youths and girls of
his own years, but his closer friendships seem to have been with older
people: the well-balanced, but strongly marked fathers and mothers
of families. He loved the country too, and all the occupations and
amusements of the open-air, into which he had been initiated as a
child. Thus he learned his island by heart, wandering over it on foot,
by day and night; sailing its coasts and out into the waters beyond,
in pilot and fishing boats, to taste for himself the brave sea life of
those old salts, Williamses and Kossabones, his mother's ancestors.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the spring of 1838, we find him again at Huntington; and here, in
June,[63] he founded a weekly journal, the _Long Islander_, which is
still published. Full of interests, self-sufficient and ready with his
pen, and in close touch with his readers, he conducted the paper for a
while with success. He was nineteen and an enthusiast; and he was both
printer, editor and publisher.

Like others of the time, his paper was probably a humble sheet of
four small pages, and his task was not so heavy as it may sound. He
thoroughly enjoyed the work, as well he might: the new responsibility
and independence were admirably suited to his years and temper. He
purchased a press and type, and his printing house was in the upper
story of what is now a stable, which stood on the main street of the

There he did most of the work himself, but I have talked with an old
man who shared his task at times. And not his task only; for the
printing room was, we may be sure, the scene of much beside labour.
Walt loved companionship, and was an excellent story-teller; he loved
games, especially whist, which he would play--and generally win--for a
pumpkin pie. But when he worked, he "worked like the mischief," as the
saying is;[64] and when he said so his companions knew that they must
go. They must have recognised, if they thought about him at all in that
way, that while he made no display of his knowledge he knew far more
than they, and while he was an excellent comrade, it would not do to
treat Walt with too great familiarity.

As to his talk, it was clean and wholesome and self-respecting. He
was too much of a man already to resort to the mannish tricks of many
youths. He had, moreover, at this time, a tinge of Puritanism, which
did him no harm: he neither smoked nor drank nor swore. He contemned
practical jokes. Maybe there was less of Puritanism about him than
of personal pride. He was himself from the beginning, belonged to no
set, and went his own ways. He seemed to be everywhere and to observe
everything without obtruding himself anywhere. And having purchased
a horse, he carried the papers round to the doors of his readers in
the surrounding townships. Often, afterwards, he recalled those long
romantic drives along the glimmering roads, through the still fields
and the dark oak woods under the half-luminous starry sky, broken by
friendly faces and kind greetings.

But before the year was out the appearance of the _Long Islander_
became more and more irregular, till the patience of its owner and
subscribers was exhausted. In the spring it ceased for a time, and
when it reappeared it was numbered as a fresh venture under new

Walt had gone back to school teaching at Babylon.[65] He continued this
work for two years more, wandering from place to place, now at the
Jamaica Academy, now at Woodbury, now at Whitestone. He was, at this
time, a keen debater and politician, an Abolitionist, a Washingtonian
teetotaler, and ardently opposed to capital punishment. He took an
active share in the stump oratory of 1840, when Van Buren of New York
was for the second time the Democratic nominee for President. The fact,
with the knowledge he always showed of the art of oratory, and the
plans for lecturing which he afterwards drafted, seems to testify to a
native capacity for public speaking, as well as a genuine and serious
interest in the affairs of the nation.

       *       *       *       *       *

Walt Whitman was becoming recognised as a young man of ability: in
spite of his nonchalant and friendly unassuming ways, he had pride
and ambition. He felt in himself that he was capable of great things,
and that it was time to begin them. Not very clear as to what his
proper work might be, he took the turning of his inclination, and
early in the summer of 1841 entered the office of the _New World_,
as a compositor,[66] to become for the next twenty years one of the
fraternity of New York pressmen.

His first success was achieved in the August number of the _Democratic
Review_, one of the first American periodicals of the day, which
counted among its contributors such writers as Bryant, Whittier,
Hawthorne and Longfellow. His "Death in the Schoolroom,"[67] appearing
over the initials of "W. W.," caught the public fancy, and was widely
copied by the provincial press. It is the study of a gruesome incident
in Long Island country life; by turns sentimental and violent in its
horror, and evidently intended as an argument against school flogging.
It has a sort of crude power and its subject matter would have appealed
to Hawthorne. It is by no means discreditable; but to us it seems
verbose, and it is clumsy in its exaggerated style. Lugare is shown to
us at one moment standing as though transfixed by a basilisk--and at
another, "every limb quivers like the tongue of a snake".

Whatever its faults, they did not offend the taste of the hour: the
Review welcomed his contributions, and some study from his pen appeared
in its pages each alternate month throughout the next year, some being
signed "Walter Whitman" in full. To the _New World_ he had meanwhile
been contributing conventional and very mediocre verses in praise of
Death and of compassionate Pity.[68]

The remorse of a young murderer; an angel's compassionate excuses for
evil-doers; the headstrong revolt of youth against parental injustice,
and the ensuing tragic fate; the half-insane repulsion of a father
toward his son, prompting him to send the lad to a madhouse and thus
wrecking his mind; the refusal of a young poet to sell his genius; the
pining of a lover after the death of his beloved; the lonely misery of
a deaf and dumb girl, who has been seduced and deserted; the reform
of a profligate by a child; the sobering of a drunkard at his little
sister's death-bed; and an old widow's strewing of flowers on every
grave because her husband's remains unknown: such are the subjects
with which he dealt.[69] His wanderings in Long Island had supplied
him with incidents upon which to exercise his imagination. Those which
he selected have always some pathetic interest, while several have an
obviously didactic purpose.

Whitman's moral consciousness was still predominant: he was an
advocate of "causes". But his morality sprang out of a real passion
for humanity, which took the form of sentiment; a sentiment which was
thoroughly genuine at bottom, but which in its expression at this time,
became false and stilted enough to bear the reproach of sentimentality.
In view of their author's subsequent optimism, it is interesting to
note that all these studies are of figures or incidents, more or less

Whitman was puzzling over the ultimate questions: the problem of evil,
as seen in the sufferings inflicted by tyrannical power, and by callous
or lustful selfishness, upon innocent victims; on the inscrutable
tragedies of disease and insanity; and again, upon the power of
innocence, of sorrow and of love to evoke the good which he saw
everywhere latent in human nature, and which a blind and heavy-handed
legalitarian justice would destroy with the evil inseparable from it.
The more he thought over these problems, the more he recognised the
futility of condemnation, and the effectiveness of understanding love.

       *       *       *       *       *

The _New World_, upon which he was working, published the first
American versions of some of the principal novels of the day; it
reprinted several of the new poems of Tennyson from English sources
and contained long notices of such works as Carlyle's _Heroes and
Hero-worship_. In November, 1842, it issued as an extra number
Dickens's _American Notes_, the sensation of the hour--the author
having been _fêted_ at the Park Theatre in February--and announced
Lytton Bulwer's _Last of the Barons_ to follow. On the 23rd of
the month, in the same fashion, appeared _Franklin Evans, or The
Inebriate_, a tale of the times, by Walter Whitman. It was advertised
as a thrilling romance by "one of the best novelists in this country";
and the proprietors of the magazine expressed their hope that the
well-told incidents of the plot and the excellence of the moral would
commend the book to general circulation. Nor were they disappointed. It
is said that twenty thousand copies were sold. The book, then, achieved
a tolerable success, and its author profited to the extent of some
forty pounds.

Copies of _Franklin Evans_ are now excessively rare, and one may
say with confidence they will remain so. For the tale will never be
reprinted. It claims to be written for the people and not for the
critics, and even the people are unlikely to read it a second time.

It is an ill-told rambling story of a Long Island lad who, going to
the metropolis and taking to drink, falls through various stages of
respectability till he becomes a bar-tender. He marries and reforms,
but presently gives way again to his habit; his wife then dies, and he
falls lower. Eventually he is rescued from gaol, and signs the "old"
pledge against ardent spirits. Then he goes to Virginia, where he
succeeds in fuddling his wits with wine, and marries a handsome Creole
slave. Forthwith he becomes entangled with a white woman who drives his
wife to the verge of madness, until a tragic fate releases him from
them both, and the story concludes with his signature to the pledge of
total abstinence. The author recommends it to his readers, and breaks
out into praises of the Washingtonian crusade, foretelling its imminent
and complete victory over the "armies of drink".

The pages are diversified by Indian and other narratives impertinent to
the plot, and by invectives against the scornful attitude of the pious
and respectable toward those who are struggling in the nets of vice.
The whole book is loosely graphic and frankly didactic, its author
declaring his wish to be improving, though he will keep the amusement
of his readers in view. He opines that in this temperance story he has
found a novel and a noble use for fiction, and if his first venture be
successful, be assured it will be followed by a second.

It is difficult to treat _Franklin Evans_ seriously. That Whitman
was at the time a sincere advocate of the more extreme doctrines of
temperance reform can hardly be doubted. But in after years--the whole
incident having become a matter of amusement to its author, not wholly
unmingled with irritation when, as sometimes, it was thrust upon him
anew by reformers as ardent as he had once been--he would laugh and
say with a droll deliberation that the story was written against time
one hot autumn in a Broadway beer-cellar, his dull thoughts encouraged
by bubbling libations. One suspects a humorous malice in the anecdote,
belonging rather to his later than his earlier years. It may be noted,
however, that while Whitman commended the pledge, he also commended
a positive policy of "counter attraction" to all the young men who
scanned his pages, to wit, an early marriage and a home, though he
himself remained a bachelor.

_Franklin Evans_ was honest enough. Young Whitman was serving
the adorable Lady Temperance with fervour, if not with absolute
consistency. He knew her cause to be a good one; but he found that, in
this form, it was not quite his own, and he was too natural not to be
inconsistent. He had not yet come to his own cause, nor for that matter
to himself. And thus his essay became a _tour de force_; as he did not
repeat it, we may suppose he was as little satisfied as those who now
waste an hour upon this "thrilling romance".

He was now in the full stream of journalistic activity. He wrote for
the _New York Sun_, and appears for a few months to have acted as
editor in succession of the _Aurora_ and the _Tattler_.[70] In 1843 he
filled the same post on the _Statesman_, and the year after upon the
_Democrat_; while contributing also to the _Columbian Magazine_, the
_American Review_, and Poe's _Broadway Journal_.[71]

Probably none of these contributions are worthy of recollection.
Anomalous as it may sound, from twenty-three to thirty-five Whitman was
better fitted for an editor than for an essayist. He was clever without
being brilliant; he had capacity but no special and definite line of
his own. His strength lay in his judgment; and upon this both friends
and family learnt to rely.

Several of the papers for which he wrote were party organs; it may have
been that his political services in 1840 won him an introduction to the
editors of the _Democratic Review_, and helped him on his further way.
In any case, it is certain that he frequented the party's headquarters
in the city. Tammany Hall was named after an Indian brave,[72]
presumably to indicate the wholly indigenous character of its
interests. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, it seems to have
become the seat of a society of old Knickerbockers, gathered partly
for mutual protection against certain groups of foreign immigrants
who had shown a hostile disposition, and partly in opposition to the
aristocratic Cincinnati Society presided over by Washington. During
Jefferson's Presidency it became a political centre, and was identified
with the Democratic party from the time of its re-organisation under
Jackson in New York State.

The Democrats failed to elect Van Buren, and were in opposition from
1840 to 1844. During the electoral struggle, a Baltimore journal had
spoken slightingly of the humble character of Harrison, the Whig
candidate:[73] better fitted, it pronounced, for a Western log-cabin
and a small pension than for the White House. Harrison, like Andrew
Jackson, was an old soldier: he had beaten the Indians long ago in a
fight at Tippecanoe; and that, together with the simplicity of this
Cincinnatus--the imaginary log-cabin, the coon-skins and hard cider,
which made him the impersonation of the frontiersman to whom America
owed so much, being all artfully exaggerated by party managers--caught
the fancy of the whole country, which rang for months together with the
refrain of "Tippecanoe and Tyler too". Harrison died immediately after
his inauguration and Vice-president Tyler took his place.

In Tammany's back parlour, Walt made the acquaintance of many notables,
and not least, of an old Colonel Fellowes,[74] who loved to discuss Tom
Paine over a social glass, and to scatter to the four winds the legends
of inebriety which had gathered about his later years of poverty and
neglect. But that Whitman was a violent partisan even at this time,
seems to be disproved by the fact that in 1843 or 1844 he contributed
political verses to Horace Greeley's _Tribune_, a paper which had
grown out of the Whig election sheet.[75] And though, like his father,
he adhered now and always to the general political tradition of the
Democrats, was a free trader, jealous of the central power, and voted
with his party till it split in 1848, he was as good an Abolitionist
as Greeley himself. Indeed, both the _Tribune_ poems are inspired by
the theme of slavery, and as if in witness to the reality of their
inspiration, he breaks for the first time into the irregular metres he
was to make his own.[76]

A religious ardour breathes from these singular Scriptural utterances.
The first, "Blood-money," is a homily on the text, "Guilty of the body
and the blood of Christ". In the slave, whom he describes as "hunted
from the arrogant equality of the rest," he sees the new incarnation of
that "divine youth" whose body Iscariot sold and is still a-selling. It
is an admirable piece of pathos, fresh, direct and unmannered, and by
far the most individual and striking thing Whitman had done. And it was
the only one which could be regarded as prophetic of the work that was
to follow. Especially is this felt in such lines as

    The cycles, with their long shadows, have stalked silently forward,
    Since those ancient days; many a pouch enwrapping meanwhile
    Its fee, like that paid for the son of Mary.

The piece was signed "Paumanok," as also was "A Dough-face Song," which
appeared in the _Evening Post_.

The second of the _Tribune_ poems, "Wounded in the House of
Friends,"[77] is inferior to the first in poetic merit, though adopting
a somewhat similar medium. It is a rather violent denunciation of those
intimates of freedom whose allegiance to her can be bought off--"a
dollar dearer to them than Christ's blessing"--elderly "dough-faces"
whose hearts are in their purses. It was upon Northern traitors to
the cause rather than upon the people of the South, that Whitman
poured out his indignation: and this position he always maintained.
The _Tribune_ itself was at the time an ardent supporter of Clay's
candidature for the Presidency; but Clay subsequently trimmed upon this
very question, and this action, by alienating the anti-slavery party in
New York, resulted in his defeat at the polls.

Whitman's political poems suggest already that loosening of ties
which separated him a few years later from the main body of his
party; but in 1844, following the lead of advanced Democrats like
W. C. Bryant, he worked actively for Polk, the party candidate, who
became President.[78] We cannot too often remind ourselves that the
later Republicanism of the 'sixties was supported by men who had been
Free-soil Democrats as well as by certain of their Whig opponents.
Meanwhile, it was to the Radical wing of his party that young Whitman

       *       *       *       *       *

Though engaged in the political struggle, he was by no means absorbed
in it. His profession encouraged his natural interest in the affairs of
his country, but not in the political affairs alone. He shared in the
social functions of the city and its district. He frequented lectures
and races, churches and auction rooms, weddings and clam-bakes.[79] He
spent Saturday afternoons on the bare and then unfrequented sand ridge
of Coney Island, bathing, reading and declaiming aloud, uninterrupted
by a single one of the hundreds of thousands who now fill the island
with their more artificial holiday making and their noisier laughter.
In those days one did not require a costume to bathe on Coney Island

Nearer than Coney Island, Brooklyn Ferry was always one of his
favourite haunts.[80] Walt had always loved the boat as well as the
river; as a child he had seen the horses in the round-house give place
to the engine with its high "smoke-stack"; the captain and the hands
were old friends, and he never tired of watching the passengers. Who
does not feel the delight of such a ferry, the swing of the boat, the
windy gleam in the sky, the lights by day or night upon the water, the
sense of weariless and unceasing movement as of life itself? New York,
on its island, is richer than most cities in these river crossings,
which take you at once out of the closeness and cares of the streets
into the free broad roadways of wind and water, roadways which you
can scarcely traverse without some enlargement and liberation of the
city-pent soul in your breast.

And in the city itself he had a thousand interests;[81] he went
wherever people met together for any purpose; he had a critic's
free pass to the theatres and was often at the opera and circus,
he frequented the public libraries too, and the collections of
antiquities; but most of all he loved to read in the open book of
Broadway. Up and down that amazing torrent of humanity he would ride,
breasting its flood, upon the box-seat of one of the stages, beside
the driver. From time to time he would make himself useful by giving
change to the fares within, when he was not already too fully occupied
declaiming the great passages from his favourite poets into the ears of
his friend.

The fulness of human life surging through the artery of that great
city exhilarated him like the west wind or the sound and presence of
the sea. The sheer contact with the crowd excited him. And though he
came to know New York in all its dark and sordid corners--and even
an American city before the war was not without its shame--he won an
inspiration from its multitudinous humanity distinct from any that the
country-side could afford. Every year he grew more conscious of his
membership in the living whole of human life; and the consciousness
which brought despair to Carlyle, brought faith and glory to Whitman.
He did not blink the ugly and sinister aspects of things, as many an
optimist has done; he saw clearly the brothel, the prison, and the
mortuary; his writing at this time, as we have seen, deals largely
with the tragedies of life; but humanity fascinated him--not an
abstract or ideal humanity, but the concrete actual humanity of New
York. For its own sake he loved it, body and soul, as a man should. It
was not philanthropy, it was the wholesome, native love of a man for
his own flesh and blood, for the incarnation of the Other in the same
substance as the Self.

Very little passed in the city without his knowledge. He was in the
crowd that welcomed Dickens in 1842;[82] and was doubtless among the
thousands who celebrated the introduction of the first water from the
Croton supply into New York, and hailed the pioneer locomotive arriving
over the new track from Buffalo. Among the public figures of the day,
he became familiar with the faces of great politicians like Webster and
Clay; among writers, he saw Fitz-Green Halleck and Fenimore Cooper,[83]
and made the acquaintance of Poe who was struggling against poverty in
New York, and who became at this time--1845--suddenly famous through
the publication of "The Raven";[84] and won the more lasting friendship
of Bryant, who was at that time the preeminent American poet, and held
besides the editorship of the _Evening Post_, to which Walt had been a

       *       *       *       *       *

In February, 1846, Whitman was appointed editor of the _Brooklyn Daily
Eagle_,[86] a democratic journal of a single sheet. The office was
close to the Ferry, and he seems at this time to have lived with his
family on Myrtle Avenue, near Fort Greene, rather more than a mile
away. His editorials boasted no literary distinction, and were even
at times of doubtful grammar; but they were direct and vigorous, and
discussed all the topics of the hour.[87] When a New York Episcopal
Church was consecrated with much ceremony and display, he would
denounce the self-complacent attitude of the Churches; every instance
of lynching or of capital punishment would call forth his protest;
he was faithful in his support of the rights of domestic animals; he
approved of dancing within reasonable hours, and he advocated art in
the homes of the people. Largely owing to his persistent advocacy the
old battle-ground of Fort Greene was secured to Brooklyn as a park.

In dealing with the immediately critical question of relations with
Mexico, while he anticipated extension of territory without dismay,
he uttered his warning against the temper which prompts a nation to
aggressive acts. "We fear", he said,[88] "our unmatched strength may
make us insolent. We fear that we shall be too willing (holding the
game in our own hands) to revenge our injuries by war--the greatest
curse that can befall a people, and the bitterest obstacle to the
progress of all those high and true reforms that make the glory of this
age above the darkness of the ages past and gone."

The admission of Texas into the Union, in 1845, was soon followed
by a war with Mexico, which eventually completed the filibustering
work of Houston by the annexation of New Mexico and California. This
territorial expansion was pushed forward, as we noted before, by Polk
and the Democrats in the interests of the South;[89] but the fact that
it was Wilmot, a Free-soil Democrat, who introduced the celebrated
proviso to an appropriation of money for the war, proposing to exclude
slavery from all territory which might be acquired from Mexico, reminds
us of the division within the party which resulted in a split two years

The country at this time was in a condition of feverish irritation; and
the war spirit was only too easily aroused. In 1847, it threatened to
burst into flame over a territorial dispute with Great Britain. America
claimed the latitude of 54.40 as the northern boundary of Oregon, and
for awhile, under the jingo President, the country rang with the insane
alliterative cry of "fifty-four forty or fight".[90] A spirited foreign
policy is the universal panacea of the charlatan; it is his receipt
for every internal disorder, and it was continually being prescribed to
America during the next fifteen years. This was indeed the charlatan's
hour, when the official policy of the dominant Democratic party
oscillated between jingoism and what was afterwards known throughout
America as "squatter sovereignty". It was the repudiation of the Wilmot
proviso, and the adoption of the new doctrine which Douglas afterwards
made his own, that drove Whitman into revolt.

He was comfortably seated in his editorial chair, where he might have
remained for years had his Radical convictions permitted. Though
the owners of the _Eagle_ were orthodox party men, the editor's
anti-slavery attitude was not concealed,[91] and indeed could not be.
Their criticism of his editorials caused him immediately to throw up
his post. He would not compromise on the question, and he would not
brook interference. It was January, 1848, when he left the _Eagle_,[92]
and a few weeks later he was making his way south to New Orleans.

       *       *       *       *       *

Whitman had joined the "Barnburners" or Van Buren men of New York
State, who now became Free-soil Democrats, making the Wilmot proviso
their platform,[93] in opposition to the "Hunkers," who denounced
it. As to the Whigs, they burked the whole matter, and contrived in
their nominating convention to silence the question by shouting. The
Democratic party found its real platform in the nostrum of "squatter
sovereignty," the specious doctrine that in each new State the citizens
should themselves decide upon their attitude towards slavery, deciding
for or against it when drawing up a Constitution. To this, Lewis Cass,
its candidate for the Presidency, subscribed. But the "Barnburners" put
forward Van Buren, a former President, and a Democrat of the school of
Jefferson and Jackson, who was also supported by the "anti-slavery"
party. His policy was to confine slavery within its actual limits: "no
more Slave states, no more slave territory". As a consequence of the
Democratic split in the Empire State, the thirty-six electoral votes of
New York were given to the Whig candidate, General Taylor, the Mexican
conqueror, and he became the next President.

A whole-hearted Free-soil Democrat, Whitman's position as editor of an
orthodox party journal had naturally become untenable.


[55] MSS. Harned.

[56] _Comp. Prose_, 187.

[57] _Whit. Fellowship_, '94 (Traubel).

[58] MSS. Harned.

[59] _Comp. Prose_, 7-9.

[60] _Whit. Fellowship_, '94 (C. A. Roe); Johnston, 114.

[61] _Whit. Fellowship_ (Roe); _In re_, 34.

[62] _Comp. Prose_, 10, 11, 521.

[63] _Ib._, 10, 11, 188; Thomson, 476; Burroughs (_a_), 28.

[64] _Whit. Fellowship_, '94 (Traubel).

[65] MSS. Harned.

[66] _Ibid._

[67] _Comp. Prose_, 336.

[68] _New World_, Nov. 20, Dec. 18, 1841.

[69] _Comp. Prose_, 340-370; _Democratic Review_, etc.

[70] MSS. Harned; _Comp. Prose_, 188.

[71] _Comp. Prose_, 12, 196.

[72] _New York Mirror_ (1833), 87. _Cf._ Larned.

[73] _Camb. Mod. Hist._, 389.

[74] _Comp. Prose_, 90.

[75] _Mem. Hist._, iv., 157.

[76] _Comp. Prose_, 372.

[77] _Ib._, 273.

[78] Bucke, 23.

[79] _Ib._, 21.

[80] _Comp. Prose_, 11.

[81] _Comp. Prose_, 11-14, 426, 519.

[82] _Comp. Prose_, 11.

[83] _Ib._, 11, 12.

[84] _Alibone's Dict._

[85] _Comp. Prose_, 196.

[86] MSS. Harned.

[87] _Atlantic Monthly_, xcii., 679.

[88] _Atlantic Monthly_, xcii., 686.

[89] _Camb. Mod. Hist._, 397, 398.

[90] _Ib._, 399.

[91] _Atlantic Monthly_, xcii., 683, 684.

[92] MSS. Harned.

[93] _Camb. Mod. Hist._, 399; _Comp. Prose_, 188.


ROMANCE (1848)

Whitman was nearly twenty-nine, and had not, so far as I can
discover, wandered beyond the limits of his own State,[94] nor had he
experienced, to our knowledge, any serious affair of the heart. The
only trace of strong personal emotion in his writing hitherto is that
which we found in the _Tribune_ poems, dictated by the passion of human
solidarity. "Blood Money" is probably the only thing which he had yet
produced from the deeper regions of consciousness; it is the only piece
of real self-revelation which he had yet confided to the world. Now we
come suddenly upon a time of wandering, over which he himself has drawn
a veil--a veil which covers, we cannot for a moment doubt, one of the
most important incidents of his life. But it is a veil which we are
unable to raise.[95]

       *       *       *       *       *

Walking in the lobby of the old Broadway Theatre, between the acts, one
February night,[96] Whitman was introduced to a Southern gentleman.
A quarter of an hour later he had engaged to go South, to assist in
starting the _Crescent_, a daily paper in New Orleans. On the eleventh
of the month he set out.[97] The South was as unknown to him as it
still remains to the majority of Northerners; and the South must have
been as strange and fascinating to the son of Mannahatta as are the
shores of the Mediterranean to a Londoner. An air of romance seems to
breathe from his every reference to this period, and it may well be
that the passionate attraction which afterwards drew his memory to the
"magnet-south" had some personal incarnation.

Bidding a hasty good-bye to his family and friends, he left New York
and made his way[98] through populous Pennsylvania, and over the
Alleghanies to Wheeling on the Ohio river, where he found a small
steamer, and in it descended leisurely, with many stops by the way,
through the recently settled lands of Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and
Illinois, into the Mississippi, the Father of Waters, thenceforward
pursuing his voyage for more than a thousand miles along that greatest
of American highways, to the borders of the Mexican Gulf.

For the first time his eyes saw how vast was his country: he realised
the South, and he understood the significance of the political
struggle for the control of the new West. He was almost afraid as he
journeyed, not so much at the immensity of the prospect, as because
he felt himself upon the verge of the Unknown and its mysteries: and
his feelings found utterance in some verses written on the voyage and
subsequently published--surely, with a smile at the critics--in his
_Collected Prose_. As they illustrate his mood at the time, and afford
the best example of his skill as a maker of conventional verses, I may
quote from them here.

After describing the fantastic forms which line the margins of the
forest-bordered river, he proceeds:--

    Tide of youth, thus thickly planted,
      While in the eddies onward you swim,
    Thus on the shore stands a phantom army,
      Lining for ever the channel's rim.

    Steady, helmsman! you guide the immortal;
      Many a wreck is beneath you piled,
    Many a brave yet unwary sailor
      Over these waters has been beguiled.

    Nor is it the storm or the scowling midnight,
      Gold, or sickness, or fire's dismay--
    Nor is it the reef or treacherous quicksand
      Will peril you most on your twisted way.

    But when there comes a voluptuous languor,
      Soft the sunshine, silent the air,
    Bewitching your craft with safety and sweetness,
      Then, young pilot of life, beware.[99]

The lines are not of the best, but they are suggestive. They seem
to express the lurking fear of one hardily bred in the North, when
first he feels upon his face the breath of the seductive South. His
strenuous self-sufficiency is imperilled. A strange world of sensations
surrounds him, awakening in himself a world of emotions as strange. It
is suggested to him that he is not quite the man that he supposed, that
there is another side to his character, and he resents the suggestion.
For who will willingly begin over again the task of self-discovery?
The conservative organising active Ego fears the awakening of the
adventurous, receptive Ego. I think Whitman was startled as he realised
how little as yet he understood himself, or was willing to accept his
whole soul if it should rise up and face him.

       *       *       *       *       *


The New Orleans of '48 must have been the most romantic and perhaps
the most prosperous city in the Union. It was the centre of Western
commerce, as well as of Mexican filibustering: its great hotels, the
St. Charles and the St. Louis, were the rendezvous of planters and
merchants, politicians and adventurers, and of the proudest aristocracy
in the States.[100] It was a gay city, with its Creole women and
Spanish men, its dancing and its play, its masks and dominoes, its
duels and carnivals; gay as only an old city can be gay, with the
contrast between age and youth.

About the Catholic cathedral was a mass of irregular red-tiled roofs
and a net-work of shady alleys, on to which opened great galleries and
courtyards full of vines. Scent of roses and the caressing sound of
Creole singing stole upon the languorous breaths of the warm humid air,
breaths which lazily stirred the golden-rod that overgrew the dormer
windows, the old venetian blinds, the geraniums and the clothes
hanging in the sun. Along the alleys went the priests in their black
skirts. Through the doorways one saw red floors sanded and clean, and
quaint carved furniture, heirlooms of generations; or caught a glimpse
of some old garden with its fountains and lilies, its violets and
jonquils, myrtle and jessamine. Everywhere flowers and singing birds,
and the soft quaint Creole phrases falling with the charm that only
Southern lips confer.

Such was the old French quarter. Along the river-side was another; the
lawless world of Mississippi flat-boatmen, a vagrant population drawn
from many States, who with the soldiers discharged after the Mexican
war frequented the low saloons and gaming-houses; passionate men,
capable of any crime or adventure.

Again, there were the Bohemians of the city, the artists, journalists
and actors of a centre of fashion. Opera had found its first American
home at New Orleans, and was presented at the famous Orleans Theatre
four times a week. Whitman, the opera-goer, must often have been
there. Perhaps he met among the Bohemians a juvenile member of their
group, Dolores Adios Fuertes, a young dancer, to be known hereafter
in London and in Paris as Adah Isaacs Menken, actress, and authoress
of a pathetic volume of irregular metres, who now lies buried at Mont

       *       *       *       *       *

During the three months of his stay, Whitman saw New Orleans
thoroughly.[101] Often on Sunday mornings he would go to the cathedral;
he idled much in the old French quarters, and sauntered and loafed
along the levees, making acquaintances and friends among the boatmen
and stevedores. He frequented the huge bar-rooms of the two hotels,
where most of the business of the city seems at that time to have been
transacted; but temperate and simple himself, he preferred to their
liqueurs and dainties his morning coffee and biscuit at the stall of a
stout mulatto woman, who stood with her shining copper kettle in the
French market. There all the races of the world seemed to be gathered
to idle or to bargain. He went also to the theatres, where he talked
with the soldiers back from the Mexican war; among the rest, with
General Taylor, soon to be President, a jovial, genial, laughter-loving
old man, one of the plainest who ever went to the White House, where he
died soon after his inauguration in 1849.

Whitman appears to have been thoroughly enjoying himself, when suddenly
about the end of May, he made up his mind to return to the North.
His brother Jeff, a lad of fifteen, who had accompanied him and was
working in the printing office, was homesick and out of health; the
climate with its malarial tendencies did not suit him. Walt was always
devoted to this young brother, who had been his companion on many a
Long Island holiday, tramping or sailing,[102] and becoming alarmed at
his condition, hurried him away. There were other reasons which, he
says, made him wish to leave the city, but as he does not specify[103]
them himself, we can only follow the indications in guessing at their
nature. We know they were not connected with his work: it is probable
that they were private and personal.[104]

       *       *       *       *       *

When asked in later years why he had never married, he would say
either that it was impossible to give a satisfactory explanation,[105]
although such an explanation might perhaps exist, or he would declare
that, with an instinct for self-preservation, he had always avoided
or escaped from entanglements which threatened his freedom.[106]
These replies he made with an obvious reticence and reservation. He
who professed to make so clean a breast of his own shortcomings, and
who in his last years required that records of himself should err in
being somewhat over personal, deliberately concealed certain important
incidents in his life. There can, I think, be only one interpretation
of this singular state of affairs: that these incidents concerned
others equally with himself, and that those others were unwilling to
have them published. If they had been his, and his alone, he would have
communicated them, but they were not.

Whatever Whitman's duty in this matter, it behoves his biographer to
present as full a picture as possible of his life, and to let no fact
go by without notice; while the knowledge that Whitman himself could
not disclose the whole truth, should only make us the more careful in
our reading of the scanty facts which are known.

It seems that about this time Walt formed an intimate relationship with
some woman of higher social rank than his own--a lady of the South
where social rank is of the first consideration--that she became the
mother of his child, perhaps, in after years, of his children; and that
he was prevented by some obstacle, presumably of family prejudice, from
marriage or the acknowledgment of his paternity.

The main facts can now hardly be disputed. Whitman put some of them
on record in a letter to Addington Symonds during the last year
of his life, designing to leave a fuller statement in the care of
his executors. But this, through access of weakness, was never
accomplished. Remarks which he let fall from time to time in private
conversation seem to admit of no other interpretation than that I have
put upon them.

In one of his poems[107] he vividly describes how once in a populous
city he chanced to meet with a woman who cast her love upon him,
and how they remained together till at last he tore himself away,
to remember nothing of that city save her and her love. In spite of
Whitman's express desire that the poem should be regarded merely
in its universal application--a desire which in itself seems to
betoken a consciousness of self-betrayal--we cannot but recognise its
autobiographical suggestion. And in the stress laid upon the part of
the woman, we may see a cause for Whitman's reticence. If it was
she who had pressed the relationship, it behoved him the more, for
her sake, to keep silence, and to leave the determination of the
relationship to her.

But perhaps the most important evidence upon this obscure passage of
his story is to be found in the psychological development which we can,
as I believe, trace in his character. It was but a short time after his
Southern visit,[108] perhaps in the same year, that he began to sketch
out some of the poems which afterwards took the form familiar to us in
_Leaves of Grass_. Now these differ from his earlier writings in many
ways, but fundamentally in their subjectivity. In them he sets out to
put himself on record in a way he heretofore had not attempted, and
this enterprise must, I take it, have had its cause in some quickening
of emotional self-consciousness. That process may well have culminated
a few years later in what has been described as "cosmic consciousness";
but before that culmination, Whitman's experience must have contained
elements which do not seem to have been present in the Whitman of
_Franklin Evans_, or of the verses written upon the Mississippi. These
elements, I believe, he acquired or began to acquire in the South.

Hitherto we have seen him as a young man of vigorous independence,
eagerly observant of life, and delighting in his contact with it.
Henceforward he enters into it in a new sense; some barrier has been
broken down; he begins to identify himself with it. Strong before in
his self-control, he is stronger still now that he has won the power
of self-abandonment. Unconsciously he had always been holding himself
back; at last he has let himself go. And to let oneself go is to
discover oneself. Some men can never face that discovery; they are not
ready for emancipation. Whitman was.

But who emancipated him? May we not suppose it was a passionate and
noble woman who opened the gates for him and showed him himself in the
divine mirror of her love? Had Whitman been an egoist such a vision
would have enslaved and not liberated his soul.

But if this woman loved him to the uttermost, why did he leave her?
Why did he allow the foulest of reproaches to blacken that whitest
of all reputations, a Southern lady's virtue? Nowhere in the world
could such a reproach have seemed more vile, more cruel. The only
answer we can make is that it was, in some almost inexplicable way,
her choice. And that somehow, perhaps by a fictitious marriage, this
reproach was doubtless avoided; the woman's family being readier to
invent some subterfuge than to take a Northern journalist and artisan
into their sacred circle. There is a poem which remained till recently
in manuscript--a poem[109] of bitter sarcasm and marked power of
expression--in which Whitman holds an aristocrat up to scorn. He never
printed it himself, and this fact adds to the possibility that it may
gain some of its force from personal suffering.

Whether Whitman met his lady again we do not know. There is no record
of a second visit to the South, though there is no evidence to disprove
such a visit; rather indeed, to the contrary, for Whitman speaks in one
of his letters[110] of "times South" as periods in which his life lay
open to criticism; and refers, elsewhere,[111] to his having lived a
good deal in the Southern States. As he was in no position to reply to
criticism upon this matter, he was careful not to arouse it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Whatever lay behind his departure, Whitman left New Orleans on the
25th of May, 1848,[112] ascending the Mississippi in a river steamer
between the monotonous flat banks. Jeff picked up at once.[113] They
spent a few hours in St. Louis where the westward flowing streams of
northern and of southern pioneers met and mingled.[114] Changing boats,
and passing the mouth of the great yellow Missouri, they made their
way up the Illinois river for some two hundred miles, arriving after
forty-eight hours at La Salle, whence a canal boat carried them to
Chicago. Through the rich agricultural lands of Illinois they passed at
a speed not exceeding three miles an hour.

They spent a day in the still very young metropolis of the North-west,
travelling thence by way of the Great Lakes to Buffalo. The voyage
occupied five glorious summer days. Whitman went on shore at every
stopping place intensely interested in everything. He was so delighted
with the State of Wisconsin, which was about this time admitted to the
Union, that he dreamed of settling in one of its new clean townships;
and he carried away with him definite impressions of the towns of
Milwaukee, Mackinaw, Detroit, Windsor, Cleveland, and Buffalo.

A week from La Salle he passed under the Falls of Niagara and saw the
whirlpool; but coming at the end of so much wonder, the stupendous
spectacle does not seem to have greatly impressed him. Twenty-four
hours of continuous travel through the thickly settled country
districts of New York State brought him to the old Dutch capital
of Albany, whence descending the beautiful Hudson with its wooded
high-walled mountain banks, he reached New York on the evening of 15th

He had been away from home four months, had travelled as many thousand
miles, and had made acquaintance with seventeen of the States of the
Union. In New Orleans he had learnt the meaning of the South, from St.
Louis he had looked into the new West, while in Illinois, Indiana,
Wisconsin, Michigan, and the coasts of Ontario, he had seen the rich
corn-lands of the North-west under their first tillage. And he had felt
the meaning of the Mississippi, that great river whose tributaries,
from the Alleghanies to the Rockies, drain and fertilise half the
arable land of America.

Besides the discovery in himself of a new world, a new hemisphere,
Whitman came home filled with the sense of his American citizenship.
A patriot from his childhood, from henceforward "these States," as
he loved to call them, became the object of his passionate devotion.
Not in their individuality alone--though this he recognised more than
ever, regarding each in some degree as a nation--but above all in their
Union. Thus he came back to Brooklyn to take up his old vocation and
his old acquaintances with a sense of enlargement: latent powers had
been awakened within him and a new ideal which may once have been a
childish dream, began to dominate his manhood, hitherto lacking in a
clear purpose.

In the old days,[115] when his mother read the Bible to him and taught
him something of its meaning, it had seemed to the child that the
highest of all the achievements of manhood must be to make such another
book as that. It had been written thousands of years ago by inspired
men, to be completed some day by others as truly inspired as they. For
he believed in the Quaker doctrine of the continuity of revelation,
which is not strange to a child.

Such fancies in a child's mind are apt to grow into a purpose: to
dream, is to dream of something one will presently do. If the dream
is wholly beyond the range of possible accomplishment, a cloud of
disillusionment descending on the face of youth will blot it out; but
if it is not, it may become an ideal which will shape the whole of
manhood as sternly as any fate.

To be an American prophet-poet, to make the American people a book
which should be like the Bible in spiritual appeal and moral fervour,
but a book of the New World and of the new spirit--such seems to have
been the first and the last of Whitman's day-dreams. It must have come
to him as a vague longing when he was still very young, and he was
never so old as to lose it. Now on his return from this long journey,
his mind full of America and full of profound and mystical thoughts
concerning love and the soul and the soul's relation to the world, the
dream began to struggle in him for utterance. It was seven years before
it found itself a body of words, but henceforward it took possession of
his life.


[94] Descriptions of Virginia in _Franklin Evans_ being probably
derived from hearsay.

[95] Camden, xxxv.

[96] _Comp. Prose_, 14, 188, 522.

[97] MSS. Harned.

[98] Burroughs, 82.

[99] _Comp. Prose_, 374; see also Rejected Passages in Camden.

[100] _Historical Sketch Book and Guide to N. O._, 1885.

[101] _Comp. Prose_, 251, 439-443; Bucke, 24.

[102] _Comp. Prose_, 514.

[103] _Ib._, 441.

[104] See Appendix B.

[105] _In re_, 323.

[106] Bucke, 60.

[107] _L. of G._, 94.

[108] _In re_, 116; _L. of G._, 434; Bucke, 135; _cf. infra_, 89, 103.

[109] Camden, iii., 261, 262.

[110] Letter to A. J. Symonds, see _infra_, Appendix B.

[111] _Comp. Prose_, 522.

[112] Camden, xxxiv.

[113] _Comp. Prose_, 441-43.

[114] _Cf._ Winston Churchill, _The Crisis_.

[115] _Cf._ _L. of G._, 434.



Whitman returned to Brooklyn about the time that Free-soil Democrats
and Liberty men were uniting at Buffalo on the ticket and platform
which I have already described. He established a small book-store and
printing office on Myrtle Avenue,[116] and commenced the publication of
the _Freeman_, a weekly first, but afterwards a daily paper.

The venture continued for about a year but eventually proved
unsuccessful. Its failure may have been due to the comparatively small
circle of readers which the Free-soil party in Brooklyn could provide,
or it may have resulted from the same lack of regularity which killed
the _Long Islander_. It is not improbable that Whitman wearied of
the continuous mechanical production demanded by the ownership and
management of a daily paper. He was not methodical; and his mind was
struggling with ideas which made him restless in harness, ideas so
large and fundamental that much of the merely ephemeral detail of
journalism must have become irritating and irksome. When the _Freeman_
collapsed it was a bondage broken, and its owner and editor became a
freeman himself.

His father was some sixty years of age and failing in health, and for
lack of anything more suited to his state of mind, Walt joined him,
taking up his business and becoming a master carpenter, building small
frame-houses in Brooklyn and selling them upon completion as his father
had been doing these thirty years.

Brooklyn was growing fast, and the Whitmans prospered. Walt lived at
home and spent little; he was soon on the way to become rich. What was
more important, he was now the master of his own time; and carpentering
left his mind free to work entirely in its own way. He was no longer
being "pushed for copy". When the mood was urgent he could idle; that
is to say, he could give himself up to his thoughts. He could dream,
but the saw in his hand and the crisp timber kept him close to reality.
He was out of doors, too, and among things rather than thoughts, so
that his ideas were but rarely bookish.

       *       *       *       *       *

Yet though he was the opposite of bookish he was not ill-read. He
always carried a volume or part of a magazine in his knapsack with his
mid-day dinner;[117] and every week for years he had visited Coney
Island beach to bathe there and to read. He watched the English and
American reviews, bought second-hand copies whenever they contained
matter of interest to him, tore out his prize and devoured it with his
sandwich. He loved especially to read a book in its native elements:
the _Inferno_[118] in an ancient wood, Homer in a hollow of the rocks
with the Atlantic surf on either hand, while he saw all the stage-plays
of Shakespeare upon the boards.

He had always remained faithful to Scott, and especially to the
Border ballads of his collection, with their innumerable and repaying
notes. He studied the Bible systematically and deliberately, weighing
it well and measuring it by the standards of outdoor America in the
nineteenth century. In the same way and spirit he had read and re-read
Shakespeare's plays before seeing them, until he could recite extended
passages; and he had come to very definite conclusions about their
feudal and aristocratic atmosphere and influence.

He read Æschylus and Sophocles in translations, and felt himself
nearer to the Greeks than to Shakespeare or the Middle Ages. It is
interesting to note that he barely mentions Euripides, most modern of
the Hellenes, the poet of women, and was evidently little acquainted
with Plato. Surely if he had read _The Republic_ or _The Symposium_
there could be no uncertainty upon the matter.

But about another poet, as opposed to Plato as any in the category,
there is no shade of doubt. Whitman, like Goethe and Napoleon, was
a lover of that shadowy being whom Macpherson exploited with such
success--Ossian the Celt.[119] Ossian is dead, and for good reasons--we
can do much better than read Ossian to-day; but with all his mouthings
and in spite of the pother of his smoke, he is not without a flavour
of those Irish epics which are among the perfect things of pure
imagination. And when one thinks of the eighteenth century with
its town wit, one cannot wonder at the welcome Macpherson's Ossian
won. Great billowy sea-mists engulf its reader; and through them he
perceives phantom-forms, which, though they are but the shadows of men,
are pointed out to him for gods. But at least the sea is there, and the
wind and an outdoor world. Whitman was not blind to the indefinite and
misty in Ossian.[120] He himself clung to the concrete, and though he
could rant he preferred upon the whole to use familiar phrases. But he
loved Ossian for better, for worse. And we may add as a corollary he
disliked Milton.[121]

In the case of the foreign classics I have mentioned, and of others
like Don Quixote, Rousseau, and the stories of the Nibelungen,[122] he
fell back upon translations, and in works of classical verse, often
upon prose. He declaimed the _Iliad_ in Pope's heroics, but he studied
it according to Buckley.[123]

As a journalist and writer for the magazines, he had become more or
less acquainted with contemporary literature, but, with few exceptions
only, it seems to have affected him negatively. He knew something of
Wordsworth, Byron and Keats;[124] the first he said was too much of a
recluse and too little of a lover of his kind; Byron was a pessimist,
and in the last of the three he seemed only to find one of the
over-sensitive products of civilisation and gentility. Tennyson--whose
"Ulysses" (1842) was a special favourite--interested him from the
beginning, though Whitman always resented what he called his "feudal"
atmosphere.[125] It is doubtful whether he had yet read anything of
Carlyle's, though he would be acquainted with the ideas of _Heroes and

Among Americans, he was apparently most familiar with Bryant and with
Fenimore Cooper. When he first studied Emerson is uncertain; he seems
to have known him as a lecturer, and could not have been ignorant of
the general tendencies of his teaching.[126] Longfellow's "Evangeline,"
Lowell's "Biglow Papers" and Whittier's "Voices of Freedom" were the
talk of the time. He had met Poe; and his tragic death at Baltimore
in 1849 may have set him to re-read the brilliant but disappointing
verses, and profounder criticism, of that ill-starred genius.[127]

But it was from the pages of the Bible, of Homer and of Shakespeare,
of Ossian and of Scott that he derived most. Ballads he loved when
they came from the folk; but Blake and Shelley, the purely lyrical
writers of the new era, do not seem to have touched him; perhaps they
were hardly virile enough, for when he came to know and appreciate
Burns, it was as a lyrist who was at once the poet of the people and
a full-blooded man. From all of which it may be deduced that it was
the elemental and the virile, rather than the subtle qualities of
imagination which appealed to him; he responded to breadth and strength
of movement and of passion, rather than to any kind of formal or
static beauty. For him, poetry was a passionate movement, the rhythm
of progress, the march of humanity, the procession of Freedom. It
was more; it was an abandonment to world-emotions. Where he felt this
abandonment to inspiration, he recognised poetry, and only there. In
American literature he did not feel it at all.

When he read poetry, the sea was his favourite companion. The rhythm
of the waves satisfied the rhythmical needs of his mind. Everything
that belonged to the sea exercised a spell over him. The first vision
that made him desire the gift of words was that of a full-rigged
ship;[128] and the love of ships and shipping remained a passion with
him to the end; so that when he sought to describe his own very soul
it was as a ship he figured it. For the embrace of the sea itself, for
the swimmer's joy,[129] he had the lover's passion of a Swinburne or a

His reading was not, of course, confined to pure literature, but we
have no list of the books which he read in other departments. We know
that he was deeply interested in the problems of philosophy and the
discoveries of science.

Though never what is called a serious student of their works, he had
a good understanding of the attitude both of the metaphysicians and
of the physicists of his time; and he had no quarrel with either. In
his simple and direct way he came indeed very near to them both; for
he loved and reverenced concrete fact as he reverenced the concept
of the cosmos. Individual facts were significant to him because they
were all details of a Whole, but he loved facts too for their own
sake. And to the Whole, the cosmos, his soul responded as ardently as
to the detailed parts. The deeper his knowledge of detail--the closer
his grasp upon facts--the more intense must be his consciousness of
the Whole. This consciousness of the Whole illuminated him more fully
about this date, in a way I will soon recount; it must for some time
previously have been exercising an influence upon his thought.

Regarding poetry as the rhythmical utterance of emotions which are
produced in the soul by its relation to the world, he doubtless
regarded science as the means by which that world becomes concrete,
diverse and real to the soul, as it becomes one and comprehensible to
it through philosophy. Science and philosophy seemed alike essential,
not hostile, to poetry. Poetry is the utterance of an inspired emotion;
but an emotion inspired by what? By the discovery that the Other and
the Self are so akin that joy and passion arise from their contact.

In order to conceive of science or philosophy as hostile to poetry,
we must think of them as building up some barrier between us and the
world. But in this respect modern science does not threaten poetry, for
it recognises the homogeneity of a material self with a material world;
neither does idealism threaten the source of this emotion, regarding
the self and the world as both essentially ideal.

The aim of modern thought has been, not to isolate the soul, but rather
to give it back to the world of relations. It seems to me that, in so
far as Religion has attempted to separate between the Self and things,
between God and Man, between the soul and the flesh, Religion has cut
at the roots of poetry; but the Religion which attempted this is not, I
believe, the religion of the modern world.

Whitman then accepted modern science and philosophy with equanimity,
in so far as he understood them, and in their own spheres. Apparent
antagonisms between them did not trouble him. They were for him
different functions of the one soul. He was too sensible of his own
identity and unity in himself to share in the perplexity of those who
lose this sense through the exclusive exercise of one or other of their
functions. His joint exercise of these proved them to be harmonious. He
was unconscious of any quarrel in himself between the scientific and
the poetic, the religious and the philosophic faculties.

Definitions in such large matters must generally seem absurd and almost
useless, yet here they may be suggestive. If Whitman had formulated
his thought he might, perhaps, have said: "Science is the Self probing
into the details of the Not-self; Philosophy is the Self describing the
Not-self as a Whole; Religion is the attitude of the Self toward the
Not-self; and Poetry springs from the passionate realisation of the
homogeneity of the Self with the Not-self".

In such rough and confessedly crude definitions we may suggest, at any
rate, a theory for his attitude toward the thought of his day. That
thought, it seems unnecessary to add, was impregnated by the positive
spirit of science. Names like those of Leibnitz, Lamarck, Goethe, Hegel
and Comte remind us that the idea of evolution was becoming more and
more suggestive in every field--soon to be enforced anew, and more
definitely, by Darwin, Wallace and Spencer. The idea of an indwelling
and unfolding principle or energy is the special characteristic of
nineteenth century thought; and it has been accompanied by a new
reverence for all that participates in the process of becoming. Every
form of life has its secret, and is worthy of study, for that secret
is a part of the World's Secret, the Eternal Purpose which affects
every soul. We are each a part of that progressive purpose which we
call the universe. But we are each absolutely and utterly distinct and
individual. Every one has his own secret, his own purpose; in the old
phrase, it is to his own master that each one standeth or falleth.

Ideas such as these, the affirmations of a new age, were driving the
remnants of the old faiths and the dogmas of the school of Paley into
the limbo of the incredible; but they were also casting out the futile
atheisms and scepticisms of the dead century. The era of Mazzini,
Browning, Ruskin, Emerson, was an era of affirmations, not an era of
doubt. And Whitman caught the spirit of his age: eagerly he accepted
and assimilated it.

His knowledge of modern thought came to him chiefly through the more
popular channels of periodical literature, and through conversations
with thoughtful men. Probably the largest and most important part
of his reading, then and always, was the daily press. A journalist
himself, he had besides an insatiable craving for living facts, and
especially for American facts. He wanted to know everything about his
country. America was his passion: he understood America. Sometimes he
wondered if he was alone in that.

       *       *       *       *       *

The papers were, indeed, crowded with news of enterprise and adventure.
In California, the new territory which Frémont and Stockton had taken
from Mexico, gold was discovered in 1848, and in eighteen months a
torrent of 50,000 argonauts had poured across the isthmus and over the
plains, leaving their trail of dead through the awful grey solitude
of the waterless desert. In the summer of '49 there were five hundred
vessels lying in San Francisco harbour,[130] where a few years earlier
a single visitor had been comparatively rare. And at the same hour,
on the eastern coast, every port was a-clamour with men frantically
demanding a passage, and the refrain of the pilgrims' song was
everywhere heard,

    Oh, California, that's the land for me.

There is no indication in Whitman's writings that he was ever swept off
his feet by this fierce tide of adventure. Anyone who has felt such
a current setting in among the fluid populations of the West is not
likely to underestimate its power. Even in the more staid and sober
East the excitement must have been intense: and it is, at the first
thought, surprising that Walt, who was still full of youth and strength
and ambition, should have remained at home. On second thought, however,
it is clear that gold-seeking was about the last enterprise to entice
a man who was shortly to relinquish house-building because he was
accumulating money.

The attraction of the new lands may have been strong when the _Freeman_
released him, but he had had wandering enough for the present, and the
attraction of New York itself was at least as strong. Unlike Joaquin
Miller, who was among the first in each of the new mining camps which
sprang up along the Pacific slopes during the next fifty years, Whitman
remained within the circle of New York Bay. He was content to see the
vessels being built for their long and hazardous voyage, strong to take
all the buffeting of two oceans--those beautiful Yankee clipper ships
which have never been rivalled for grace combined with speed. He was
content to see all the possibilities of that bold frontier life in the
friendly faces of young men leaning over the bench or driving their
jolly teams.

He was not one of those who need to go afield in order that their
sluggish blood may be quickened into daring, or their dull mood be
thrilled with admiring wonder. Nothing was commonplace to his eyes,
and he found adventures enough to occupy him in any street. Thus
while others were framing new governments for new communities, he
stayed at home and framed new houses for new families of workmen; and
perhaps after all, in his transcendental fashion, he found his own
work the more romantic. He had a deeply-rooted prejudice against the
exceptional; he planned for himself the life of an average American of
the middle nineteenth century, no longer geographically a frontiersman,
though more than ever a pioneer in other fields. He would have taken
his pan and washed for gold in the Sacramento had he wanted; but the
Brooklyn streets and ferry, Broadway and the faces of New York held
him. He had not exhausted them yet.

He had, moreover, a strongly conservative instinct, an inclination to
"stay put," evident in his story from this time forth. He was not a
nomad, forever striking his tent and moving on; he wanted a settled
home, and attached himself more than most men to the familiar. He took
root, like a tree. The secure immobility of his base allowed him to
stretch his branches far in every direction.

His mind, too, we may be sure, was occupied with its own problems. At
first, perhaps, as an inner struggle with insurgent and rebel thoughts
and desires, but now as an effort of the conscious self to include
and harmonise new elements, and so to lie open to all experience with
equanimity, refusing none. Such a process of integration in a mind like
Whitman's requires years of slow growth and brooding consciousness, if
it is to be fully and finally achieved. And as the integration of his
character became more and more complete, he won another point of view
upon all things, and, as it were, saw all things new. It is little
wonder that we have but scanty record of the years from 1850 to 1855.

In his home-life in Brooklyn he was happy and beloved and able to
follow his own path without being questioned, or, for that matter,
understood. He was probably not quite the easiest of men to live
with.[131] He had his own notions, with which others were not allowed
to interfere; he never took advice, and was not too considerate of
domestic arrangements.

As to money, which was never too plentiful in the household, he
professed and felt a royal indifference, in which, one may suspect, the
others did not share. The father was somewhat penurious on occasion and
capable of sharp practice; he had worked hard and incessantly, and had
known poverty; the youngest son, moreover, would always be dependent
upon others, and Jesse, the oldest, seems to have displayed little
ability. One can understand that the father and his second son--who,
with the largest share of capacity, must have seemed to the old man
the most given over to profitless whims and to idle pleasures--had not
always found it easy to live together, and that in the past the mother,
with her good sense and understanding of them both, had often had to
mediate between them. In the later years, however, Walt understood his
father thoroughly and himself better, so that their relationship became
as happy as it was really affectionate.

His knowledge of the world, his coolness in a crisis, his deliberate
balancing of the facts, and yet more deliberate and confident
pronouncing of judgment, made him an oracle to be consulted by his
family and the neighbours on every occasion of difficulty. The
sisters and younger brothers were all fond of him; he was more than
good-natured and kind, and never presumed upon his older years to limit
their freedom of action or thought.

       *       *       *       *       *

The man's kindliness and benignity are admirably suggested in the
portraits taken in his thirty-sixth year, the earliest that we have.
One in particular--that chosen for the frontispiece of this book--is
almost articulate with candour and goodwill. In many respects it is the
most interesting of the hundred or more portraits extant. Whitman was
an excellent sitter, especially to the camera. His photographs give
you a glance of recognition, and rarely wear the abstracted look, the
stolidity, which is noticeable in several easel pictures.

The daguerrotype of 1854 is the most speaking of the whole series. It
is an absolutely frank face, by no means the mask which, according to
the sitter himself, one of the later portraits shows. It is frank,
and it is kindly, but how much more! The longer one gazes at it the
more complex its suggestions become. The eyes are not only kind, they
are the eyes of a mystic, a seer; they are a thought wistful, but
they are very clear. Like William Blake's, they are eyes that are
good for the two visions; they see and they are seen through. If, as
I suppose is probable, something of the expression is due to the fact
that the photograph was taken on a brilliant summer's day, we can only
congratulate ourselves that the elements co-operated with the sitter's

In striking contrast with the eyes is the good-natured but loose mouth,
a faun-like expression upon its thick lips, which dismisses at once
any fancy of the ascetic saint. The nose, too, is thick, strong and
straight, with large nostrils. Even in the photograph you can feel
that rich and open texture of the skin which radiates the joy of
living from every pore.

It is the face, above all, of a man, and the face of a man you would
choose for a comrade; there would be no fear of his failing or
misunderstanding you. But, withal, it is the face of a spirit wholly
untamed, a wood-creature if you will, perhaps the face of Adam himself,
looking out upon Eden with divine eyes of immortality.

Remember, as you meet his gaze, that he knows the life of cities, and
that the Fall lies behind him, not before. Perhaps that is why some who
have looked at it describe it as the "Christ portrait"--for Jesus was
the second Adam--but this is not the ascetic Christ of the Churches,
the smile about the lips is too full for that. No, it is the face of a
man responsive to all the appeals of the senses, a man who drives the
full team of those wild horses of passion which tear in pieces less
harmonious souls.

This is a man who saw life whole, and had joy of it. He knew the life
of the body on every side, save that of sickness, and of the mind
on every side, save that of fear. His large, friendly, attractive
personality was always feeding him with the materials of experience,
and there was nothing in it all which he did not relish. The responses
of his nature to each object and incident were joyous; for the
responses of a harmonious nature are musical, whatever be the touch
that rouses them.

       *       *       *       *       *

A shrewd estimate of Whitman's character had been made five years
before by a New York phrenologist, and its general accuracy seems
to have vanquished the incredulity of its subject.[132] Mr. Fowler
described him--I will translate the jargon of his pseudo-science
into plain English--as capable of deep friendship and sympathy, with
tendencies to stubbornness and self-esteem, and a strong feeling for
the sublime. He thought that Whitman's danger lay in the direction of
indolence and sensuality, "and a certain reckless swing of animal
will". At the same time he recognised in him the quality of caution
largely developed.

As this estimate was subsequently quoted by Whitman with approval, and
referred to as an authority, it evidently tallied with his reading
of himself, and while it is by no means remarkable or particularly
significant, it bears out other testimony. That "reckless swing of
animal will" always distinguished him from the colourless peripatetic
brains and cold-blooded collectors of copy so numerous in the hosts of
journalism. Walt came of a race of slow but passionate men, and when he
was deeply moved he could be terrible. At such times his wrath blazed
up and overwhelmed him in its sudden access, but it was as short-lived
as it was swift.

It is related[133] that once in a Brooklyn church he failed to remove
his soft broad-brimmed hat, and entered the building with his head
thus covered, looking for all the world like some Quaker of the olden
time. The offending article was roughly knocked off by the verger. Walt
picked it up, twisted it into a sort of scourge, seized the astonished
official by the collar--he always detested officials--trounced him with
it, clapped it on his head again, and so, abruptly and coolly, left
the church. He was a tall, muscular fellow, stood six feet two, and
was broad in proportion, and could deal effectually with an offensive
person when he felt that action was called for. Such actions naturally
added to his popularity among the "boys"--the stage-drivers, firemen
and others--with whom he was always a favourite. But, as a rule, he
had no occasion to use his strength in this manner. He never gave,
and rarely recognised, provocation. There are times, however, when
persuasion has to give place to more summary demonstrations of purpose.

Of his strength, but especially of his health, he was not a little
proud. As a lad, the praise that delighted him most was that of his
well-developed body as he bathed.[134] He did not care to be thought
handsome; he knew that wholesomeness and health were really more
attractive, and he was content with his own perfect soundness. He was
never ailing, even when, in his 'teens, he outgrew for a time his
natural vigour. In middle life it was his boast that he could not
remember what it was to be sick. Vanity is so natural in the young
that when properly based it is probably a virtue, and there can be no
question that Walt's was well-founded.

       *       *       *       *       *

There is something more, however, in the portrait I have been
describing than the perfection of physical health. It is health raised
to its highest possibility, which radiates outward from the innermost
seat of life, potent with the magnetism of personality, through every
pore and particle of flesh. His health, hitherto unbroken, had been
deepened into that sense of spiritual well-being which, in its fulness,
only accompanies the realisation of harmony or wholeness.[135] He had
undergone some fusing process which ended in unity and illumination.

It is difficult to say anything at all adequate about such an
experience, because it appears to belong to the highest of the stages
of consciousness which the race has yet attained; and because there are
many men and women of the finest intellectual training and the widest
culture to whom it remains foreign.

The petals of consciousness unfold as it were from within, and every
stage of unfolding, being symmetrical, appears to be perfect. A further
evolution is almost inconceivable, but the flower still unfolds. The
healthy and vigorous personality of the man whose story we are trying
to read, continued its development a stage further than the general,
and at an age of from thirty to thirty-five established an exceptional
relation with the universe.

That exceptional relation is best described as mystical, though the
word has unhappy and unwholesome associations, which cannot attach to
the character revealed in the portrait. Whitman was almost aggressively
cheerful and rudely healthy. But he was not the less a mystic. One
of the most essentially religious of men, his religion was based upon
profound personal experience.

The character of mystical experience seems to vary as widely as does
that of individual mystics, but it has certain common features. It is
essentially an irruption of some profounder self into the field of
consciousness; an irruption which is accompanied by a mysterious but
most authoritative sense of the fulness, power and permanence of this
new life. Consequent upon this life-enhancement, come joy and ecstasy.

The whole story of the development of consciousness is, as I have
said, a process of unfoldings; but there is one critical moment of
that process which occurs sometimes after the attainment of maturity,
of such infinite significance to the individual that it seems like a
revolution rather than a mere development in consciousness. It is often
described as conversion. Whitman's experience was fully as significant
and wonder-compelling as any; but momentous as it was, its nature
compelled him to regard it as a further and crowning step in a long
succession of stairs--a culmination, not a change of direction. With it
he came to the top of the slope and looked over, on to the summit, and
beheld the outstretched world. It was no turning round and going the
other way; it was the rewarding achievement of a long and patient climb.

But the simile of the mountain-side hardly suffices, for this was
a bursting of constraint--a breaking, as well as a surmounting of
barriers; as though the accumulating waters in some dark and hidden
reservoir should so increase in volume that they burst at last through
their confining walls of rubble and of rock, forcing their way upwards
in a rush of ecstasy to the universal life and the outer sunshine. This
outlet of the pent-up floods of emotional experience into another and
a vaster sphere of consciousness--this outpouring of the soul from its
confinement in the darkness to the freedom of the light--results from
the slow accumulation of the stores of life, but it has at last its
supreme hour, its divine instant of liberation.

In this it has its parallel with the passion of Love. For the inner
mysteries of religion and of sex are hardly to be separated. They are
different phases of the one supreme passion of immanent, expanding
and uniting life; mysterious breakings of barriers, and burstings
forth; expressions of a power which seems to augment continually with
the store of the soul's experience in this world of sense; experience
received and hidden beneath the ground of our consciousness. To feel
the passion of Love is to discover something of that mystery breaking,
in its orgasm, through the narrow completeness and separate finality
of that complacent commonplace, which in our ignorance we build so
confidently over it, and creating a new life of communion. To feel the
passion of religion is to discover more.

The relation of the two passions was so evident to Whitman that we
may believe it was suggested to his mind by his own experience. In
some lives it would appear that the one passion takes the place of the
other, so that the ascetics imagine them to be mutually exclusive;
but this was certainly not Whitman's case. Whitman's mysticism was
well-rooted in the life of the senses, and hence its indubitable
reality. We have seen that he had had experience of sex-love, and
we have found reasons to aver that it was of a noble and honourable
order; we have seen this experience followed by an acute crisis and its
determination, or at least its suspension, and change of character.

But in the meantime, the sex-experience had revealed to Whitman the
dominance in his nature of those profound emotional depths of which
he had always been dimly conscious since the hours on Long Island
beach. The whole crisis had made him realise more fully than ever the
solemnity and mysterious purpose of life. It had not satisfied him: it
had roused in him many perplexities, and had entailed what was probably
the first great sacrifice of his life. In a word, this obscure and
mysterious page in his story prepared him who read it for a further
emotional revelation, such as I have been describing.

This actually came to him one memorable midsummer morning[136] as he
lay in the fields breathing the lucid air. For suddenly the meaning of
his life and of his world shone clear within him, and arising, spread
an ineffable peace, joy and knowledge all about him. The long process
of integration was at last completed. He was at one with himself, and
at peace. It was the new birth of his soul, and properly speaking, the
commencement of his manhood.

Co-incident with self-realisation came the realisation of the
universe. He saw and felt that it was all of the same divine stuff as
the new-born soul within him; that love ran through it purposefully
from end to end; that thought could not fathom the suggestions which
the least of things was capable of making to its brother the soul;
that the very leaves of the grass were inspired with divine spirit
as truly as the leaves of any Bible. It was as though something far
larger than that which he had hitherto regarded as himself had now
become self-conscious in him. He was an enthusiast in the literal
sense of that mystic word, possessed by a god, filled with the divine
consciousness. The Spirit is One, and he was in the Spirit. It
identified him with the things and objects that hitherto had appeared
external to him, and infinitely increased his sense of their mysterious
beauty. George Fox's description of his own mystical experience is
true, upon the whole, of Whitman's. He writes: "Now was I come up in
spirit through the flaming sword into the Paradise of God. All things
were new, and all the creation gave another smell unto me than before,
beyond what words can utter."[137] When one considers the Quaker
reputation for veracity and caution, one can hardly doubt that these
wonderful words describe a condition of consciousness similar to that
of Whitman on the June morning of which we speak.

Fox continues that the nature of things lay so open to him that he was
at a stand "whether he should practise physic for the good of mankind".
It was by the subtle sympathy of the Spirit that the first Quaker
supposed himself to be familiar with the medicinal virtues of herbs,
and the same sympathy made Whitman feel that he understood the purpose
of their myriad lives. The wonder of the universal life was revealed to
them both. They partook of the consciousness which pervades all matter.

To both men illumination brought a double gift of vision, vision into
the nature of the universal purpose--of the spiritual or deeper side
of life--and insight into the condition and needs of individuals. But
in Fox and Whitman this insight, which seems to predominate rather in
observant than in creative types of genius such as theirs, was less
prominent than the other vision. They were more largely occupied with
the universal than with the individual; and while their words carry
the extraordinarily intimate message of an appeal to the profoundest
element in each soul, their very universality may have rendered
them often indifferent to the secondary consciousness or individual
self of their hearers. And it is observable that neither of them
evinced anything of that dramatic gift which seems to require the
predominance of this insight into the secondary self-consciousness. The
impersonality with which as preacher or poet they made their public
appeal, must have made them at times somewhat inaccessible in their
private lives.

Consciousness, it would seem, is of a double nature, being, as it were,
both personal and impersonal--if we may use these terms of something
that seems after all to be so wholly personal. And hence it appears
contradictory to itself, and we are forever trying to harmonise it
by the sacrifice of one portion to the other. But in reality it is
one consciousness with two functions: the first for fellowship and
communion, the second for definition and for concrete achievement.

Whitman developed these two functions harmoniously; he never sacrificed
his individual self-consciousness to the cosmic. He was just as
positively Walt Whitman the man, as he was Walt Whitman the organ of
inspiration. I think we may say that in the midst of that mysterious
wonder, that extension of himself which took place at the touch of
God, Whitman's own identity, so far from being lost, was deepened and
intensified, so that he knew instinctively and beyond a doubt that it
was in some sense of the word absolute and imperishable.

       *       *       *       *       *

Earlier in this chapter we viewed philosophy as the attempt of the
Self to apprehend the Not-self as a Whole; Whitman's revelation was,
it seems to me, the discovery in himself of the sense which does
so apprehend the universe; not as a hypothetical Whole, but as an
incarnate purpose, a life with which he was able to hold some kind of
communion. It was a realisation, not a theory. Whatever this communion
may have been, it related him to the universe on its spiritual side by
a bond of actual experience. It related him to the ants and the weeds,
and it related him more closely still to all men and women the world
over. The warmth of family affection was extended to all things, as it
had been in the experience of the Nazarene, and of the little poor man
of Assisi.

But while his sense of relationship to individuals was thus quickened,
the quickening power lay in the realisation of God's life, and of his
own share in it. His realisation of God had come to him through an
ardent love of individual and concrete things; but now it was that
realisation which so wonderfully deepened and impassioned his relation
to individuals. What we mean when we use the word God in public, is
necessarily somewhat ambiguous and obscure; but when Whitman used it,
as he did but rarely and always with deliberation, he seems to have
meant the immanent, conscious Spirit of the Whole.

Theory came second to experience with him, and he was no adept at
definition: the interest he grew to feel in the Hegelian philosophy
and in metaphysics resulted from his longing, not to convince himself,
but to explain himself intelligibly to his fellows, and, in so far as
it was possible, make plainer to them the meaning of the world and of

It seems desirable to define his position a little further, though we
find ourselves at once in a dilemma; for at this point it is evident
that he was both--or neither--a Christian nor a Pagan. He is difficult
to place, as indeed we must often feel our own selves to be, for whom
the idea of a suffering God is no more completely satisfying than
that of Unconscious Impersonal Cosmic Force. Again, while worship was
a purely personal matter for him, yet the need of fellowship was so
profound that he strove to create something that may not improperly be
described as a Church, a world-wide fellowship of comrades, through
whose devotion the salvation of the world should be accomplished.

In a profound sense, though emphatically not that of the creeds,
Whitman was Christian, because he believed that the supreme Revelation
of God is to be sought, not in the external world, but in the soul of
man; because he held, though not in the orthodox form, the doctrine
of Incarnation; because he saw in Love, the Divine Law and the Divine
Liberty; and because it was his passionate desire to give his life to
the world. In all these things he was Christian, though we can hardly
call him "a Christian," for in respect of all of these he might also be
claimed by other world-religions.

As to the Churches, he was not only outside them, but he frankly
disliked them all, with the exception of the Society of Friends;
and even this he probably looked upon principally as a memory of
his childhood, a tradition which conventionality and the action of
schismatics had gone far to render inoperative in his Nineteenth
Century America. We may say that he was Unitarian in his view of Jesus;
but we must add that he regarded humanity as being fully as Divine as
the orthodox consider Jesus to be; while his full-blooded religion was
very far from the Unitarianism with which he was acquainted;[138] and
his faith in humanity exalted the passions to a place from which this
least emotional of religious bodies is usually the first to exclude
them. In fact, he took neither an intellectual nor an ascetic view of
religion. He had the supreme sanity of holiness in its best and most
wholesome sense; but whenever it seemed to be applied to him in later
years he properly disclaimed the cognomen of saint, less from humility,
though he also was humble, than because he knew it to be inapplicable.
In conventional humility and the other negative virtues, renunciation,
remorse and self-denial, he saw more evil than good. His message was
one rather of self-assertion, than of self-surrender. One regretfully
recognises that, for many critics, this alone will be sufficient to
place him outside the pale.

Another test would be applied by some, and though it would exclude
many besides Whitman, we may refer to it in passing. He was apparently
without the sense of mystical relationship, save that of sympathy, with
Jesus as a present Saviour-God.[139] But none the less he had communion
with the Deity whose self-revealing nature is not merely Energy but
Purpose. And his God was a God not only of perfect and ineffable
purpose, but of all-permeating Love.[140]

Whether his relation to God can be described as prayer, it is perhaps
unprofitable to ask. It is better worth while to question whether
he was conscious of feeding upon "the bread of life," for this
consciousness is a test of communion. Undoubtedly he was; and the
nourishment which fed his being came to him as it were through all
media. The sacrament of wafer and cup is the symbol of that Immanent
Real Presence which is also recognised in the grace before meat.
Whitman partook of the sacrament continually, converting all sensation
into spiritual substance.

The final test of religions, however, is to be found in their fruits,
and the boast of Christianity is its "passion for souls". Now Whitman
is among the great examples of this passion, and his book is one long
"personal appeal" addressed, sometimes almost painfully, "to You".

But, it may be asked, did he aim at "saving souls for Christ"? If I
understand this very mystical and obscure question, and its ordinary
use, I must answer, No,--but I am not sure of its meaning. Whitman's
own salvation urged him to save men and women by the Love of God for
the glory of manhood and of womanhood and for the service of humanity.

Far as this may be from an affirmative reply to the question, the
seer who has glimpses of ultimate things will yet recognise Whitman
as an evangelical. For he brought good tidings in his very face. He
preached Yourself, as God purposed you, and will help and have you to
be. Whether this is Paganism or Christianity let us leave the others
to decide; sure for ourselves, at least, that it is no cold code of
ethical precepts and impersonal injunctions, but the utterance of a
personality become radiant, impassioned and procreative by the potency
of the divine spirit within.

       *       *       *       *       *

In stating thus the nature of Whitman's vision, I do not wish to place
it too far out of the field of our common experience. His ordinary
consciousness had been touched by it in earlier hours; and some gleam
or glimmer of it enters every life as an element of romance. But for
most of us, only as a light on the waters that passes and is gone, not
as in Whitman's case, and in the case of many another mystic whether
Pagan or Christian--for mysticism is far older and more original
than the creeds--as the inward shining and immortal light which
henceforward becomes for them synonymous with health and wholeness.
For most men, the fairy light of childhood becomes a half-forgotten,
wholly foolish memory; Romance also we outgrow, or cling only to its
dead corpse as to a pretty sentiment. Thus the wonder of our childhood
and our youth, so essentially real in itself, fades into the light of
common day; it becomes for our unbelief a light that never was on sea
or land.

But in Whitman's story we find it living on, to become transformed in
manhood into the soul of all reality. His wonder at the world grew
more. And this wonder, always bringing with it, to the man as to the
child, a sense of exhilaration and expansion, was at the heart of his
religion, as it is doubtless at the heart of all. No one will ever
understand Whitman or his influence upon those who come in contact
with him, who does not grasp this fact of his unflagging and delighted
wonder at life. It kept him young to the end. The high-arched brows
over his eyes are its witness.


[116] Bucke, 25.

[117] J. T. Trowbridge, _My Own Story_. _Cf._ list of articles, etc.,
in Camden, vol. x.

[118] Later than this, spring, 1859; _cf._ Camden, ix., 92.

[119] Camden, ix., 188; _Comp. Prose_, 184, 185.

[120] Camden, ix., 95.

[121] _Ib._, 98.

[122] _Ib._, 80, 81.

[123] _L. of G._, 441.

[124] Camden, ix., 98, 120.

[125] _Ib._, 123-128; _Comp. Prose_, 487.

[126] Camden, ix., 160; _cf._ Trowbridge.

[127] _L. of G._, 441.

[128] Kennedy, 43.

[129] _Fortnightly Review_, vi., 538.

[130] _Camb. Mod. Hist._, 400, 401; C. H. Shinn, _Mining Camps_ (1885),
132, 133.

[131] _In re_, 33-40.

[132] _In re_, 25 n.

[133] Johnston, 102.

[134] G. Gilchrist, _op. cit._

[135] _Comp. Prose_, 502.

[136] _In re_, 342; Camden, iii., 276, 277, 287; Bucke's _Cosmic
Consciousness_, 33-35; _L. of G._, 32, 33. _Cf._:--

    ... "Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and knowledge
      that pass all the argument of the Earth.
    And I know that the hand of God is the promise of my own,
    And I know that the Spirit of God is the brother of my own,
    And that all the men ever born are also my brothers, and the women
      my sisters and lovers,
    And that a kelson of the creation is love,
    And limitless are leaves stiff or drooping in the fields,
    And brown ants in the little wells beneath them,
    And mossy scabs of the worm fence, heap'd stones, elder, mullein
      and poke weed."--L. of G., ed. '92.

[137] _Fox's Journal_ (ed. 1901), p. 28.

[138] _Comp. Prose_, 322; Camden, v., 280, 281.

[139] _Cf._ however, _infra_, 167.

[140] _Cf. In re_, 368; Camden, ix., 166 (on Hegel).



In the fifties a change came over America, a change preluding the great
struggle which ensued. The population grew rapidly with its former
mathematical regularity; but the settlement and development of the
country went forward even more rapidly. During the decade, the area of
improved land increased by one-half, and the value of farm property
was doubled. The west bank of the Mississippi being already settled,
the future of the lands still further west between the Missouri and
the Rockies, became of paramount interest to the nation. It was this
problem of the West which strained until it broke that policy of
compromise which for a generation had bound American politics.

The year 1850 itself is memorable for Clay's opportunist resolutions
in Congress, which were intended to settle nothing; and for the fierce
debates upon them and upon the Fugitive Slave Bill, in which Webster
and Seward, Calhoun and Jefferson Davis participated.[141] Clay and
Webster died soon after, and their party being utterly routed at the
polls in 1852, finally went to pieces. The vote of the liberty party
had declined, and compromise still held up its foolish head. But the
victorious Democrats brought all hope of its continuance to an end by
reviving the principle of "squatter sovereignty," and proceeding to
apply it in the newly settled lands. It was their policy to snatch
the question of slavery out of the hands of Congress; for which, as
the organ of the Federal power, they nursed an increasing enmity.
The bloody scenes which drew all eyes to Kansas made it plain that
compromise was done; the South had thrown it over, and was now
half-consciously driving the country into war.

When the leaders of 1850 died there was no one to take their places,
though the crisis called for men of counsel and of spirit. President
Pierce, of New Hampshire, the tool of the party machine, merely
represented the political weakness of the nation. It was not till
after the next elections that their new leaders were discovered by the
American people. Judge Douglas, the champion of "squatter sovereignty,"
rose indeed into prominence in 1854, but his greater antagonist still
remained comparatively unknown in the country, though famous in his
State and among his neighbours for keen logic and humorous common-sense.

There was no leadership. Compromise was yielding not to principle
but to the spirit of the mob. Immigration and the increase of the
towns favoured organised political corruption; and the tyranny of
interests and privileges was beginning to make itself felt on every
hand. When parties are separated by motives of personal gain rather
than by principle, party-feeling finds expression not in devotion and
enthusiasm, but in violence. It was not only in such newly settled
lands as Kansas, nor alone in such chaotic aggregations of humanity as
were being piled together in New York, that constitutional methods were
abandoned and private violence was condoned. The spirit of anarchy was
abroad, and members of Congress went armed to the Capitol itself.

The violence was a natural reaction from the compromise, and like the
compromise was a birth of the materialistic spirit. America's idealism,
so triumphant at the close of the eighteenth century, had fallen upon
too confident a slumber, and heavily must the Republic pay for that
sleep. A young nation of idealists is doubtless more subject than
any other to these outbreaks of materialism and its offspring. It is
optimistic, and when it sleeps it leaves no dogs on guard. The nation
becomes engrossed in material tasks, and is presently surprised by the
enemy. But being so surprised, and fighting thus at disadvantage, it
accomplishes more than the wary old pessimists whose energy is absorbed
in prudence.

American idealism was asleep, but its slumbers were by no means
sound. The voices of Garrison, Emerson and others mingled troublously
with its dreams. And the pursuit and capture of fugitive slaves like
Anthony Burns, in Boston itself; and the extraordinary sale, both in
America and Europe, of _Uncle Tom's Cabin_,[142] did much to quicken
that Abolitionist sentiment which in the end won the day. For the
present, however, and until the third year of the war, abolition
remained outside the region of practical politics. The question
which was dividing the nation was whether slavery should become a
national institution--whether it should take its place, as the South
intended, as one of the essential postulates in the theory of American
liberty--or should be restrained within its old limits as a State
institution, an evil which the Federal Government would never recognise
as necessary to the welfare of America, but which it was too proud and
too generous to compel its constituent States to abolish. The situation
was one of unstable equilibrium, and the illogical position could not
much longer be maintained. It was the logic of ideas that first drove
the South into secession, and afterwards the nation into abolition.

       *       *       *       *       *

Immigration was now beginning to create a difficult problem in the
metropolis,[143] and was in part accountable for the corruption which
from this time forward disfigured its politics. By 1855 New York
counted more than six hundred thousand inhabitants; a number which in
itself must inevitably have created many a delicate situation in a new
country, but which was rendered tenfold more difficult to manage by its
rapid growth and heterogeneous character. It had doubled in fifteen
years, and a continuously increasing stream of immigration had poured
through it.

The first great wave had brought nearly two millions of Europeans,
principally Germans and Irish, across the Atlantic during the later
forties. The failure of the Irish potato crop in 1846, the crisis of
1848, when Europe was swept by revolution and afterwards by reaction,
sent hundreds of thousands of homeless men across the sea. Many of the
Germans afterwards took their share in another struggle for freedom
in their new home; but on the other hand, the more helpless of the
immigrants, and a large proportion of the Irish, swelled the population
of New York; and proved themselves quicker to learn the advantages of
party subserviency than the ethics of citizenship. Many of them had
been trained in the school of tyranny at home. Thus the city government
became almost hopelessly corrupt, falling into the hands of the genteel
and unprincipled Mayor Fernando Wood,[144] and Isaiah Rynders, captain
of his bodyguard of blackguards. Men of this stamp began to control
not only the government of New York city, but the national party which
had its headquarters at Tammany Hall. Whitman was intimate with the
condition of things there,[145] and knew the men who manipulated the
machine, and pulled the strings at the nominating conventions. He has
described those of this period in the most scathing words, and has made
it clear that they were among the worst of a bad class. They did not
favour slavery so much as inaction; they longed only for a continuance
of their own good fortune, desiring to fatten peacefully at the troughs
of corruption. To men like these, ideals seem to constitute a public
danger. And the war which broke over America in 1861 was due as much to
the northern menials of Mammon as to the real followers of Calhoun. It
was not only against the South that America fought--or rather it was
not against the South itself at all--but against the hosts of those
who used her freedom for the accomplishment of an end antagonistic to

Evidences of the demoralising influence always present in the life
of a great city were thus painfully patent in New York, especially
in the lowest strata, becoming hourly more debased and numerous. The
plutocracy also began to imitate the showy splendours of Paris under
the second Empire.[146] But it would be wrong to assume that corruption
and display characterised the metropolis of the fifties. For in spite
of the foreign influx, and the venality of a considerable class both of
native and of foreign birth, and in spite too of the snobs, in spite
that is to say of the appearance of two dangerous elements, the very
poor and the very rich, there was still predominant in New York a frank
and hearty democratic feeling. The mass of the people still embodied
much of the true American genius; they were marked by the friendly,
independent and unconventional carriage which is still upon the whole
typical of the West.

New York was full of large democratic types of manhood. Notable, even
among these, was Walt Whitman. Even here, he was unlike other men: the
fulness of his spirits, his robust individuality, the generosity of his
whole nature, was so exceptional as to make itself felt. His figure
began to grow familiar to all kinds of New Yorkers during these years.
He was frequently to be seen on Broadway,[147] in his favourite coign
of vantage, on the stage-top by the driver's side, a great, red-faced
fellow, in a soft beaver, with clothes of his own choosing, an open
collar like that of Byron or Jean Paul, and a grey beard. The dress
suited him, he was plainly at home in it, and in those days it was
not specially remarkable or odd; it was the man himself who compelled

On many a holiday through 1853 he might also have been seen at the
International Exhibition or World's Fair,[148] which was held in the
Crystal Palace on Sixth Avenue and Fortieth Street, and offered a
remarkable object lesson to the people of New York on the development
of American resources and the value of that national unity which
railroads and machinery were yearly making more actual. Here America
was seen in all her own natural promise, and also in her relation to
the Transatlantic world.

It was one of those sights which Whitman dearly loved. The Exhibition
taught him far more than books about the country in which he lived;
for his mind was like a child's in its responsiveness to concrete
illustrations--a quality which may explain the long strings of nouns
which figure so oddly on many a page which he afterwards wrote. He
loved a medley of things, each one significant and delightful in
itself. A catalogue was for him a sort of elemental poem; and being
elemental, he sought to introduce the catalogue into literature. We who
live in another and more ordered world, rarely respond to this kind of
emotional stimulus, which was doubtless very powerful for Whitman, and
cannot but laugh at his attempts to move us by a chatter of names. It
may be we are wrong, and that another age will smile at us in our turn,
though at present we remain incredulous.

Here, too, he studied such examples as he found of statuary and
painting, arts of which he must hitherto have been largely ignorant. It
is only very old or very wealthy cities that become treasuries of the
plastic arts, and at this time New York was not yet sufficiently rich,
or perhaps sufficiently travelled, to have accumulated this kind of
wealth. Whitman was not blind to painting, like Carlyle, for in later
years he so appreciated the genius of J. F. Millet that he used to say,
"the man that knows his Millet needs no creed".[149]

       *       *       *       *       *

After a varied experience as teacher, printer, journalist and editor,
Whitman had settled into the life of an American artisan. He had
inherited much of the Dutch realism, the love of things and of the
making of things, from his mother's side; while on his father's, the
associations with mallet and chisel had been strong from his childhood;
and thus his trade helped him to gather together the fragments of his
identity and weld them into one. As he was never in any sense its
slave, it also provided him with the means for that constant leisurely
study of life which was now his real occupation. When a house was
off his hands and the money for it assured, he would take a holiday,
extending sometimes over weeks together, in the remote parts of Long
Island.[150] The open spaces helped his mood, and the quietness
furthered the slow processes of self-realisation.

While at Brooklyn, he was every day on the ferry, and almost every
evening he was in New York. He read during his dinner hour, and thought
and meditated while he worked. The physical exercise quieted his brain.
Taken earlier, it might have deadened it; but he was now a mature man
full of thoughts, and well furnished with experience. What he needed
was to assimilate all this material and make it his own. And while
he built houses, the co-ordinating principle of his personality was
building up for him a harmonious self-consciousness, which gradually
filled out the large and wholesome body of the man. This gestating
process required precisely the deliberation and open-air accompaniments
which were afforded by his present life--a life so different from the
confinement and incessant strain and stress which check all processes
of conscious development in most men and women before they reach
maturity. His nature was emotional, and music played a considerable
part in its development. Always an assiduous opera-goer, Whitman took
full advantage of the musical opportunities which New York offered him
at this time. In 1850, Barnum had brought Jenny Lind to the Castle
Gardens--now the Aquarium--a fashionable resort on the Battery, and
Maretzek of the Astor Opera House, had replied with Parodi, and Bettini
the great tenor.[151]

Best of all, in 1853, Marietta Alboni visited the city, and Whitman
heard her every night of her engagement.[152] This great singer, whose
voice was then in the plenitude of its power, had been some twelve
years before the public and was already beginning to attain those
physical proportions suggested in the cruel but witty saying that
she resembled an elephant which had swallowed a nightingale. She was
low-browed and of a somewhat heavy face, though Whitman thought her
handsome; but it was by her voice, not her face, that she triumphed.
Critics found her talent exceptionally impersonal and even cold, though
they confessed that never voice was more enchanting.[153] This coldness
is rather difficult to understand, for Whitman, who was a judge in such
matters, felt it to be full of passion, and a passion which swept him
away in the Titanic whirlwind of its power.[154] He had found Jenny
Lind somewhat immature and her voice unrewarding, but Alboni awakened
and illumined his very soul, and became, as it were, the incarnation of

The same summer[155] Walt took his father, whose health was failing, on
a visit to Huntington, to see the old home for a last time. Two years
later, Walter Whitman died and was buried in Brooklyn.

The family seems to have been living in Ryerton Street,[156] in a house
which was the last building on that side of the town. Beside Walt,
there were three unmarried brothers at home, George and Jeff as well as
Edward; and Hannah, Walt's favourite sister. We hear little of Jesse,
the oldest brother, who appears to have been a labourer, of Andrew, or
of the remaining sister Mary. Probably they were all married by this
time and living away.

The three at home were the ablest of the brothers, and doubtless
they shared the financial responsibility between them. The Portland
Avenue house, into which they presently moved, bears witness to their
comfortable circumstances. Walt contributed his share with his
brothers; beyond that he seemed indifferent about money; he hardly ever
spoke of it, and perhaps by way of contrast with the others, evidently
regarded the subject as of minor importance. Indeed, just as his own
work had really grown profitable and he was on the way to become rich,
he gave up carpentering for good. This was early in 1855.

Of late he had been more and more absorbed and pre-occupied; his days
off had been more frequent and numerous, and whatever his immediate
occupation he was continually stopping to write. He seemed to grow
daily more indifferent to opinion, daily more markedly himself.

The fragments which he wrote in out-of-the-way places or at work he
would read aloud or recite when by himself, to the waves or to the
trees; trying them over at the opera, on the ferry, or on Broadway,
where in the midst of the city one can be so unobserved and so unheard
in the heart of its hubbub. He must assure himself that they were
without a hint of unreality or of books.

For he was now deliberately at work upon his great task, his child's
fancy. He was come up into his manhood. He had, it seemed to him,
thoroughly perceived and absorbed the spirit of America and of his
time. His message had come to him, and he was writing his prophetic
book, his _Song of Walt Whitman_.

At last, the manuscript was done, and in the early summer he went to
work in a little printing shop on Cranberry Street, and set up much,
perhaps the whole, of the type jealously with his own hands.[157] About
the beginning of July, and a few days only before his father's death,
it was completed. In the _New York Tribune_ for the sixth of the month,
it was advertised as being on sale at Fowler & Wells's Phrenological
Depôt and Bookstore on Broadway, and at Swayne's in Fulton Street,
Brooklyn. The price was at first two dollars, which seems a little
exorbitant for so slender and unpretending a volume, in shape and
thickness a mere single copy of one of the smaller periodicals, bound
in sea-green cloth, with the odd name, _Leaves of Grass_, in fanciful
gilt lettering across its face. It was presently reduced to a dollar.

The other members of the household took the new venture very quietly.
They had never been consulted in the matter--it had been Walt's affair,
and only his; and the father's death must speedily have obliterated the
little mark it made upon their minds.[158] "Hiawatha" was published
about the same time, and a copy found its way into the house. The
mother, turning the pages of both, considered that if Longfellow's
were acknowledged as poetry, Walt's queer lines might pass muster too.
Brother George fingered the book a little, and concluded it was not
worth reading--that it was not in his line anyhow.

Doubtless they were relieved when the writing and printing were done,
thinking that now surely Walt would return to the ways of mortals. For
he had certainly fallen into the most irregular habits. He lay late
abed, and came down still later to breakfast; wrote for a few hours,
and when the table was being laid for dinner, took down his big hat
and sauntered out, to return presently after the meal was over and the
dishes cold.[159] He was not intentionally inconsiderate, but he was
wholly engrossed in his work, and so pre-occupied that he must often
have been tiresome enough.

After dinner he disappeared altogether, spending the afternoon and
evening in his own leisurely way; setting type, perhaps, on his book at
Andrew Rome's little office, and then going off to the opera or to some
friend's; and, as he came back, staying far into the night in talk with
the young fellows on the ferry, or on one of the East River steamers.
Sometimes Hannah or Jeff might accompany him, but as a rule he went

If his family anticipated any change in his ways when the book was
out, they were doomed to disappointment. The new task was but begun;
the methods approved themselves to his mind and were pursued. He had
weighed everything over again that summer, as soon as the book was out,
going away to the eastern shore of Long Island for months of thought
and solitude.[160]

       *       *       *       *       *

As one turns the ninety broad pages of the volume, with their large
type, their long flowing lines, their odd punctuation and occasional
slips in orthography, every detail telling of the individuality behind
it, one feels a little of what it must have meant to its maker. Five
times, they say,[161] he wrote and re-wrote, made and un-made it, and
looking back it seemed as though for seven years it had been struggling
with him for utterance.

He had written tales and verses with the others, but this book he knew
was different from them all. It was not so much his writing as himself.
It was a man, and, withal, a new sort of man. For better or worse it
was Walt Whitman, a figure familiar enough to the common people of
Brooklyn and New York, familiar and beloved--he was not unconscious of
his exceptional power of attraction[162]--but a Walt Whitman whom, as
yet, they understood very little, who had, indeed, but recently come to
an understanding of himself, and who was now approaching to speak with
them. Here is the frank declaration of himself, which he proffers to
all. Now, at last, we shall understand one another, he seems to say.

It was the old, old need for expression, the ultimate and deepest
necessity of man, which urged him to his task and made its publication
possible. Self-revelation is, of course, continuous and inevitable
upon its unconscious side. It is only when it becomes a deliberate act
that it astonishes the beholder to outcries of admiration or indignant

Now the passion that overwhelms the poet is near akin to the lover's,
for he is a lover whose heart is transfigured by the presence of
Beauty, the Beloved, immanent in his world. And only by a naked avowal
can such passion be satisfied.

There are those, of course, who regard every self-revelation as an
immodesty, and who will and do avert their eyes from all passion,
crying shame. But some at least of the others, who are well aware of
the weakness of words, and know how few can use them perfectly, will
reverently approach such a confession as Whitman's; not, indeed, as if
it were that of a young girl, but as that of a man, naïve, yet virile,
and of heroic sanity. And if they feel any shame they will frankly
acknowledge it to be their own.

There is a kind of egoism which all self-revelation pre-supposes--the
consciousness of possessing something supremely worthy of giving. This
glorious pride is not incompatible with the profoundest humility, for
it is divine, like the "I am" of Jehovah, the egoism of God.

       *       *       *       *       *

If self-expression is the outcome of passion, its new incarnation has
some of the wonder which attends a birth. The most virile of poets
must here become as a woman; and the mystery which, for any mother,
enwraps her first-born, clings for his Muse about her slender child
by the great god of song. And when, as in the instance of this book
of Whitman's, the children of the Muse betray in every feature the
abandonment of the remote passion in which they were conceived, one
cannot oneself handle them without emotion.

Walt regarded the book with undisguised pride and satisfaction.
Mother-like, he eyed it as the future saviour of men. He saw it
prophetic and large with destiny for America. He was confident that the
public would be quick to recognise that quality in it for which they
had been so long half-consciously waiting. The people would read it
with a new delight, for surely it must be dynamic with the joy in which
it was written.

He often said in later years that _Leaves of Grass_ was an attempt to
put a happy man into literature.[163] Others may discuss the optimism
and the egoism of his pages, for of both qualities there is plenty in
them, but, after all, they are but secondary there. As to the qualities
themselves, we may hold contrary and even disparaging opinions of their
value, they will certainly at times repel us. But primarily these pages
portray the happy man, and a strong and happy personality has the
divine gift of attraction. Byron may dominate the whole of Europe for a
generation by the dark Satanic splendour of his pride; Carlyle may hold
us still by his fierce, lean passion for sincerity; but Whitman draws
us by the outshining of his joy.

Happiness is not less infectious than melancholy or zeal; and if it
is genuine it is at least equally beyond price. As far as it goes, it
seems to indicate that a man may be perfectly adjusted to this world
of circumstances, which to us appears so often contrary. A happy and
intelligent man of thirty-six, who has looked at life open-eyed, and
is neither handsome, rich nor famous is worthy of attention. There is
something half-divine about him; and we cannot but hope he may prove to
be prophetic of the race.

       *       *       *       *       *

Some such thought must have been in Emerson's mind, when a few days
after the perusal of _Leaves of Grass_, he wrote his acknowledgment
to its unknown author.[164] The letter has been often quoted, but it
is so significant that I must quote it again. For no other literary
acknowledgment ever accorded to Whitman possesses anything like equal
interest or importance.

Emerson was certainly the most notable force among American writers
at that time; and one might add, the only figure of anything like the
first magnitude. In Great Britain, the century had already produced the
literature which we associate with the names of Wordsworth, Coleridge,
Scott, Byron, Shelley, Keats and Carlyle, not to mention the earlier
work of Tennyson, Browning and others. Emerson was the only American
who could venture to claim rank with these, and then hardly equal
literary rank. But in some respects his influence was greater, for
his was certainly the clearest and fullest expression of the American
spirit in letters. His words are therefore of importance to us:--

                              "CONCORD, MASS'TTS, _21st July, 1855_.

  "DEAR SIR,--I am not blind to the worth of the wonderful gift of
  _Leaves of Grass_. I find it the most extraordinary piece of wit and
  wisdom that America has yet contributed. I am very happy in reading
  it, as great power makes us happy. It meets the demand I am always
  making of what seems the sterile and stingy nature, as if too much
  handiwork, or too much lymph in the temperament, were making our
  Western wits fat and mean. I give you joy of your free and brave
  thought. I have great joy in it. I find incomparable things said
  incomparably well, as they must be. I find the courage of treatment
  that so delights us and which large perception only can inspire.

  "I greet you at the beginning of a great career, which yet must have
  had a long foreground somewhere, for such a start. I rubbed my eyes a
  little, to see if this sunbeam were no illusion; but the solid sense
  of the book is a sober certainty. It has the best merits, namely, of
  fortifying and encouraging.

  "I did not know until I last night saw the book advertised in a
  newspaper that I could trust the name as real and available for a
  post office. I wish to see my benefactor, and have felt much like
  striking my tasks and visiting New York to pay you my respects.

                                        R. W. EMERSON.


[Illustration: R. W. EMERSON]

The epigrammatic style of the sentences, together with a strong
flavour of sentiment, may set the reader in his turn rubbing his
eyes, and wondering whether Emerson were consciously inditing a mere
complimentary letter. But a second perusal renders such an idea
untenable. The epigram and the sentiment were parts of the Emersonian
mannerism. The letter was not penned in hot haste, after a first
glance at the pages; a delay had taken place between reading and
writing. Moreover, when about this time a visitor called at Concord,
he was sent on his way to Brooklyn as upon a pilgrimage, with the
significant words, "Americans abroad may now come home: unto us a man
is born".[165] Another epigram, uttered perhaps with a gentle smile,
but without a flavour of irony.

Emerson was then a man of fifty-two. The first and second series of
his lecture-essays had been published more than ten years, and the
first volume of his poems in 1847; he was already famous in England as
well as in America. But though he was in certain quarters the cynosure
of admiration, in others he was the butt of ridicule. This same year
the London _Athenæum_ praised Irving because, as it said, his fancies
were ideal, and not like Emerson's merely typographical--because they
did not consist, like the latter's, in the use of verbs for nouns, in
erratic punctuation, tumid epithets, which were startling rather than
apposite, or in foreign forms and idioms.[166]

This though milder, is not unlike what many of the critics were soon
to be saying with better reason of Whitman; and it is interesting
to recall that in 1839, when he was Whitman's age, Emerson was
struggling to escape from the limits of metre into a rhythm that should
suggest the wildest freedom; that should be "firm as the tread of a
horse,"[167] vindicate itself like the stroke of a bell, and knock
at prose and dulness like a cannon ball; a rhythm which should be in
itself a renewing of creation, because it was the form of a living
spirit. In later years, Emerson seems to have harked back again to
the more regular forms, believing them to correspond to essential
pulse-beats, or organic rhythm. But his journal contains several
little prose poems of the date of 1855 or 1856, notably the sketch of
the "Two Rivers," outlined partly in loose irregular metres.

This search of the Concord prophet after a new free rhythmical form,
must have predisposed him to interest in such a book as _Leaves of
Grass_, where the laws of metre are in force no longer. But beyond
this, the older man felt a close kinship with the younger. Whitman
had declared himself unequivocally for the faith in life which was
Emerson's gospel; and he smacked of the soil and air of America in
a way that Emerson could not but love. Here at last was an actual
incarnation of the ideas he had so long been hurling at the heads of
the American people.

A beautiful and characteristic modesty is evident in the tone of the
letter. Emerson might well have acknowledged the younger man as a pupil
rather than as a benefactor; it was the same quality as had appeared in
his reply to Frederika Bremer, when, five years earlier, she had been
praising his own verses: "The Poet of America," he answered gravely,
"is not yet come. When he comes he will sing quite differently."

The idea of an American poet was "in the air". Intellectual America was
in revolt; she would remain no longer a mere province of Britain; her
writers should shape themselves no more upon merely English models.
Lowell in his "Biglow Papers" and Longfellow in "Hiawatha" were among
many who sought to exploit the literary soil of the New World. Whatever
their success in this, they can hardly be said to have inaugurated a
new literature. No American Muse had yet appeared upon the Heights of
Helicon to spread a new hush over the world, and by her singing raise
the place of song perilously near to the stars. But though she had not
appeared she was eagerly expected; and Emerson's letter is like nothing
so much as the heralding cry that he had at last caught a glimpse of
her across Whitman's pages. It was but a glimpse, and he was yet in
doubt; he must come to Brooklyn himself, must meet this fellow face to
face, and see.


[141] _Camb. Mod. Hist._, 417, 418.

[142] _Comb. Mod. Hist._, 440.

[143] _Ib._, 701.

[144] Roosevelt, 195.

[145] _Comp. Prose_, 217.

[146] Roosevelt, 199.

[147] Burroughs (_a_), 24, 25.

[148] Bucke, 25.

[149] MSS. Traubel.

[150] Bucke, 24.

[151] _Mem. Hist. N.Y._, iv., 178.

[152] _Mem. Hist. N.Y._, iv., 179; _cf._ _Saturday Rev._, 30th June,

[153] G. Bousquet, _Nouvelle Biog. Générale_.

[154] MSS. Wallace.

[155] Bucke, 157.

[156] M. D. Conway, _Autobiography_, vol. i.

[157] Bucke, 24; Johnston, 42, 43.

[158] _In re_, 35, 36.

[159] _In re_, 36.

[160] Bucke, 26.

[161] _Ib._, 137.

[162] _L. of G._, 322.

[163] _L. of G._, 443.

[164] Kennedy, 74, 75 n.; Dr. Platt's _Walt Whitman_, 27, 28, etc.

[165] Burroughs (_a_), 50.

[166] 17th Feb., 1855, qu. in _Alibone_.

[167] _Emerson in Concord_, 227-233.



It is time that we ourselves took a view of the book, for we must see
what Whitman had actually done during these last months, and gather
what further indications we may as to his general notions of himself
and of the world.

The volume consists of a long preface or manifesto[168] of the New
Poetry, and of twelve poems by way of example. The preface commences
with a description of America, the greatest of poems, the largest and
most stirring of all the doings of men. "Here is action untied from
strings, necessarily blind to particulars and details, magnificently
moving in masses!" Here is a nation, hospitable, spacious, prolific; a
nation whose common people is a larger race than hitherto, demanding a
larger poetry.

He describes the American poet, who is coming to awaken men from their
nightmare of shame to his own faith and joy. That poet is the lover of
the universe, who beholds with sure and mystic sight the perfection
that underlies all imperfection, for he sees the Whole of things. Past
and future are present to him; and with them is the eternal soul. "The
greatest poet does not moralise or make applications of morals--he
knows the soul." His readers become loving, generous, democratic,
proud, sociable, healthy, by beholding in his poems the beauty of these

"Seer as he is, the poet," continues Whitman, "is no dreamer. He sees
and creates actual forms.... To speak in literature with the perfect
rectitude and insouciance of animals, and the unimpeachableness of
the sentiment of trees in the woods and grass by the roadside is the
flawless triumph of art. If you have looked on him who has achieved it,
you have looked on one of the masters of the artists of all nations and
times. You shall not contemplate the flight of the grey gull over the
bay, or the mettlesome action of the blood horse, or the tall leaning
of sunflowers on their stalk, or the appearance of the sun journeying
through heaven, or the appearance of the moon afterward, with any more
satisfaction than you shall contemplate him. The great poet has less a
marked style, and is more the channel of thoughts and things without
increase or diminution, and is the free channel of himself. He swears
to his art, I will not be meddlesome, I will not have in my writing any
elegance or effect, or originality, to hang in the way between me and
the rest like curtains.... I will have purposes as health or heat or
snow has, and be as regardless of observation.... You shall stand by my
side and look in the mirror with me."[169]

His words never pose before the reader for ornament, they are living
things. And for this very reason, he follows no models; his thought
is living and original; it must find a new form for its perfect
expression, as a new seed would find new growth and leafage.

The poet appeals to every reader as to an equal, because in every
reader he appeals to the Supreme Soul. Many may not hear him, but he
appeals to all, and not to a coterie.

Whitman then proceeds to the praise of science. Knowledge, bringing
back the mind from the supernatural to the actual, brings faith with
it; and the soul is the divinest thing that science discovers in the
universe. He turns to philosophy, and bids her deal candidly with
whatsoever is real, recognise the eternal tendency of all things
toward happiness, and cease to describe God as contending against some
other principle.

The poet deals with truth and with the actual. All else is but a sham
and impotent. For everywhere and always, the soul which is the one
permanent reality, loves truth and responds to it.

The poet is by nature prudent, as one who knows the real purpose of
the soul and of the universe, and would act in accordance with that
knowledge. He accepts the impulses of the soul as the only final
arguments; and only the deeds which it dictates appear to him to be
profitable. Living in his age, and becoming its embodiment, he is
therewithal a citizen of eternity. The future shall be his proof: will
his song remain at her heart? Will it awaken, century after century,
the divine unrest, and as it were, create new souls forever?

As for the priests and their work, they are done. The American poets
shall fill their place, and the whole world shall answer to their
message. Their words shall be in the English tongue--the language of
"all who aspire"--but they shall be the very words of the people of
America; they shall be native to the soil, and redolent of the air of
the Republic. Such poets shall be America's own, and in them she will
welcome her most illustrious visitors. They are her equals; for the
soul of a man is as supreme as the soul of a nation. And America shall
absorb them as affectionately as they have absorbed her.

Such is the gist of Whitman's manifesto. Nature the Soul and Freedom;
Simplicity and Originality of Expression--these, its dominant notes,
recall at once Rousseau, Wordsworth and Shelley, with many another;
while certain passages remind the reader that _The Germ_ was but
recently published across the sea, the manifesto of another movement
associated with the names of the Rossetti family and with the
Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. But whatever the reminiscences it awakens,
Whitman's preface is his own. The thoughts were not all originally his.
But they had shaped themselves newly in his brain and under his pen,
and every line bears the stamp of originality.

       *       *       *       *       *

Without staying to discuss the preface let us proceed to a rapid survey
of the remaining pages. They are written, it would seem, for measured
declamation, in a sort of free chant, which is neither prose nor verse,
but whose lines coincide in length with natural pauses in the thought.
Whitman himself spoke very deliberately, in a half drawl; he had a
melodious baritone voice of considerable range and power, and one can
well imagine how he would recite, when alone or with some intimate
friend, the first lines, beginning:--

    I celebrate myself,
    And what I assume you shall assume,
    For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
    I loafe and invite my soul,
    I lean and loafe at my ease, observing a spear of summer grass.[170]

The lines are quite simple and direct; they are intended to place
the reader at once in relation with the actual idler who recites
them in the summer fields. He is an out-of-doors fellow, who lives
whole-heartedly in the present, rejoicing in the world and observing
it. He and his soul--he distinguishes decisively between the temporal
and the eternal elements in himself whose equal balance, neither
abdicating its place nor contesting that of the other, makes the
harmony of his life--he and his soul commune together, and discover
that the world means Love, and that the very grass is full of
suggestions of immortality.

Everything indeed has its word for Walt Whitman; he understands what
the streets are unconsciously saying; the animals of the country-side,
the working men, the youths and the women, each and all are teaching
him something of himself. All life appeals to him; he recognises
himself in each of its myriad forms. And his thoughts are the
half-conscious thoughts which lie in the minds of all. It is not only
the happy and prosperous whom he represents, but the defeated also,
and the outcast.

All things have their mystical meanings; but especially are manhood and
womanhood divine. There is nothing more divine than they. As for him,
he is proud, satisfied, august. He has no sympathy with whimperings,
or conformity to the ideas of others. Is not he himself the fellow and
equal of the supreme Beings, of the Night, the Earth, and the Sea?

He has faith in the issue of time; he fully accepts all reality as a
part of the whole purpose. He at least will be fearless and frank, and
conceal nothing; all desires shall be expressed by him.

And to him all the bodily functions are wonderful. His whole life
is a wonder and delight, beyond the power of words to utter. Sounds
especially he enjoys; alluding to the passionate emotions aroused
in him by the opera, and adding an obscure, erotic dithyramb on the
ecstasy of touch, the proof of reality, for we understand everything
through touch.

Everything is seen by him to be full of meaning, because he himself
is a microcosm and summary of the universe "stuccoed with quadrupeds
and birds all over". He feels so vividly his personal kinship with the
animals which are never pre-occupied about religion or property, that
he thinks he must have passed through their present experience "huge
times ago," to include it now in his own.[171] Forthwith, he strings
together in a rapid succession of dazzling miniatures, some of the
contents of his personal memory; pictures out of his experience or his
imagination, that remain vivid and significant to him. His sympathy
makes them actually real to him; the figures in them are each a part of
himself. "I am the man," he cries, "I suffered, I was there."[172]

But he has his own distinct personality. He is the friendly and flowing
savage, full of magnetism, health and power--

    Wherever he goes men and women accept and desire him,
    They desire he should like them, and touch them, and speak to them,
      and stay with them.

    Behaviour lawless as snow-flakes, words simple as grass, uncombed
      head, and laughter, and naïveté,
    Slow-stepping feet, and the common features, and the common modes
      and emanations....

He sees the divine that is in men, and how all the gods are latent in
the race, and with them ever more besides. Even in the midst of their
absurd littleness, which he fully recognises, he calls men to the
reality of themselves, away from the religions of the priests to their
own souls. He understands doubt very well, but he has faith, faith in
an ultimate happiness for each and all.

       *       *       *       *       *

He endeavours to express his sense of eternity, and of the friendliness
of the world to him:--

    Rise after rise bow the phantoms behind me,
    Afar down I see the huge first Nothing--the vapour from the
      Nostrils of Death--I know I was even there,
    I waited unseen and always, and slept while God carried me through
      the lethargic mist,
    And took my time, and took no hurt from the fetid carbon.

    Long I was hugged close--long and long.

    Immense have been the preparations for me,
    Faithful and friendly the arms that have helped me.

    Cycles ferried my cradle, rowing and rowing like cheerful boatmen,
    For room to me stars kept aside in their own rings,
    They sent influences to look after what was to hold me.

    Before I was born out of my mother, generations guided me,
    My embryo has never been torpid--nothing could overlay it.

    For it the nebula cohered to an orb,
    The long slow strata piled to rest it on,
    Vast vegetables gave it sustenance,
    Monstrous sauroids transported it in their mouths, and deposited it
      with care.

    All forces have been steadily employed to complete and delight me,
    Now I stand on this spot with my Soul.[173]

Thus it seems to him that he has existed potentially from the beginning;
that all the ages in succession have cared for him, and that now the
whole world is full of his kin and lovers. He beholds the universe
as gloriously infinite in its assured purpose: God has appointed a
meeting-place where He waits for every soul. The way of the soul is
eternal progress, and each one must follow that road. My pupils, he
exclaims, shall become masters and excel me! They shall be wholesome,
hearty, natural fellows, attracted to me because I neither write for
money nor indoors.[174]

My religion is the worship of the soul. I am calm and composed, and
satisfied about God, whom I do not in the least understand. Death
and decay seem wholesome to him; they are the way of life by which
he himself came to the present hour, wherein he realises the mystic
reality, the life eternal, and the ineffable idea of happiness as the
central purpose of the Universe:--

    Do you see, O my brothers and sisters?
    It is not chaos or death--it is form, union, plan--it is eternal
      life, it is happiness.[175]

With an enigmatical farewell, he resumes his place in the life of the
world, awaiting such of his readers as belong to him:--

    You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
    But I shall be good health to you, nevertheless,
    And filter and fibre your blood.

    Failing to fetch me at first, keep encouraged,
    Missing me one place, search another,
    I stop somewhere waiting for you.[176]

The other poems are pendants to the first, offering further
exemplifications of the precepts of the preface. He appeals, for
example,[177] to his fellow workmen and workwomen, that they realise
their own greatness and immortality, their own individual destiny; for
nothing can ever be so worthy of their reverence as their own soul.

He bids them employ and enjoy this hour to the full,[178] for death
comes, and it will not be the same as life. Yet death also will be good
to the soul--all the signs assure the soul that it will be satisfied;
and there is nothing which does not share in the soul-life.

In dreams[179] he recognises some free utterances of the soul, and in
sleep, the great equaliser of men. As he watches them asleep all become
beautiful to him with the beauty of the soul, which men also call
Heaven. Diseased or vile they may be, but their souls forever urge them
along the appointed way towards the goal. He seems to see all souls
meeting together in sleep, mysteriously to circle the earth, hand in
hand. He entrusts himself to sleep with the same security as to Death
and Birth.

At the sight and touch of the human body,[180] he kindles with the
delight of a Renaissance painter, a Botticelli or a Michael Angelo. The
very soul loves the flesh, and the contact of flesh with flesh rejoices
it. He writes of the magic force of attraction embodied in a woman; nor
of attraction only, but of emancipation. He extols the strength and
joy which is embodied in a man. The body of every man and woman, says
he, should be as sacred to you as your own, for the body is almost the
soul, and to desecrate the bodies of the dead is a little thing beside
the shame that we put upon the bodies of the living.

    If life and the soul are sacred, the human body is sacred,
    And the glory and sweet of a man, is the token of manhood untainted,
    And in man or woman, a clean, strong, firm-fibred body,
    Is beautiful as the most beautiful face.[181]

He fills a page[182] with quick Hogarthian sketches of the lower types
of faces, and then, turning about, acclaims the souls behind them as
his equals. They too will duly come to themselves, following towards
the light, after the Lord.

He loves thus to enlarge upon the poet's office as the Answerer[183]
or sympathiser with all men, and how he should be welcome and familiar
to each. In the poet's company, the soul of each one quickens. And yet
the poet is no greater than the least; his verses are not nobler than
the kindly deed of any poor old woman.

He writes of 1848, the year of Revolutions,[184] somewhat in the style
of "Blood Money," and probably this page is one of the earliest of
the fragments, and may date back to the year which it celebrates. In
spite of the successes of tyranny, and the failures of the young men of
Europe, he sees that Liberty herself is never foiled.

By way of sharp contrast[185] he directs a mocking and colloquial page
of satire against the 'cute Bostonians of 1854. Whitman's dislike of
Boston is never for a moment concealed; Jonathan the Yankee he detests.
And now he brings home to him the profits of his bargaining; he has
dethroned King George only to set up in his place this Republican
President, Pierce of New Hampshire, who in these loud-echoing streets
employs the strength of America upon the capture of a fugitive slave.

Sometimes he is autobiographical.[186] "There was a child went
forth,"--he recites--a country boy who, at West Hills and in Brooklyn,
absorbed all the sights and sounds of his world into himself; till
the early lilacs, the morning-glories, and the orchard blossom, the
quarrelsome and the friendly boys and the bare-footed negro-children
all became a part of him. His parents, too, in the daily life of the
home as well as by heredity, entered into his make-up; the mother,
wholesome, quiet and gentle, the father, virile and hot-tempered, with
a streak of craft and astuteness running through him. And as they
became a part of me, he says, so now they shall become a part of you
that read this page.

Or at his naïvest, we see him standing open-mouthed and amazed, like
a very child, before the sheer naked facts of his own story from the
date of his birth to the present hour;[187] and endeavouring to evoke
a similar naïve attitude in the reader, not indeed towards the date of
Whitman's birth, but towards that of his own.

Upon a kindred note we turn the last page also[188]--for it is a
proclamation of reverence, reverence for all the old myths; reverence
for the high ideals; reverence too for Youth and for Age, for Speech
and Silence, for true Wealth and true Poverty, always with stress upon
the last member of each pair; for America, too, and for the Earth with
its ineffable future; for Truth, for Justice, for Goodness--ay, and,
he adds with conscious paradox, for Wickedness as well; above all for
Life, but not less for Death. Great is Life, he concludes:--

    Great is Life, real and mystical wherever and whoever:
    Great is Death:--sure as Life holds all parts together, Death holds
      all parts together:
    Sure as the stars return again after they merge in the light, Death
      is great as Life.

How are we to sum up these pages, and figure out what it is they come
to? No summary is likely to do justice to a book of poetry, which
demonstrates itself by wholly other methods than argument, and it would
be foolish for me to attempt it. But there is one point with which I
must make shift to deal.

Beginning with a forecast of the New Poetry, as of something which
should be in its essence indigenous to America, the natural expression
of a new spirit and race and of its attitude towards the Self and the
Universe, Whitman has boldly given examples to show what it was he
meant. What are we to say of these? Do they give us a new art-form? or,
if you will, a new kind of poetry? Do they bring us material for some
new law of rhythm or metre?

These are deep questions, and dangerous to answer. For myself, I
can but give an affirmative to them, accepting the smiles of the
incredulous. And I must do so without a discussion which would here be
tedious, even if I were able to make it profitable.

There is a simple test of the whole matter which one may oneself
apply: Does Whitman's method of writing arouse, in those who can read
it with enjoyment, an emotion distinct in character from that aroused
by the methods of all other poets? Does _Leaves of Grass_ awake some
quality of the Soul which answers neither to the words of Tennyson nor
Browning, Emerson nor Carlyle? The proof by emotional reaction requires
some skill in self-observation and more impartiality; but, on the
whole, I think those who have tried it fairly seem to take my part, and
to answer emphatically in the affirmative.

What then is this emotion which Whitman alone, or in special measure,
evokes? It is a further hard but fair question, for it involves
Whitman's personality, and this book is an attempt to answer it.
Briefly, it is the complex but harmonious emotion which possesses a
sane full-blooded man of fully awakened soul, when he realises the
presence of the Eternal and Universal incarnate in some "spear of
summer grass". One may call it the religious emotion; but it is not
the emotion of any other religious poetry, saving perhaps some of the
Hebrew prophets: and every prophet has his own cry. It is the emotion
of a religion which is as large as the largest conceptions which man
has yet formed of life; for Whitman, apart from any limitations in his
thought, appears to have lived more fully and with fuller conscious
purpose than did other men.

In order to make oneself understood at all one speaks in hyperbole, and
doubtless I exaggerate. Whitman was, of course, no God among men, nor
was he greater than other poets; in a sense he was even less than the
least of them, so subjective was his genius; but since he consciously
evokes a new emotion, he has his place among true artists, for Art
is the power of evoking the emotion in others which one intends. And
since the new emotion seems to be altogether ennobling when it is fully
realised, being at once enlarging and integrating to the soul, we ought
the more gladly to hail and acknowledge him.

I say a new emotion, not meaning, of course, that he is alone in
calling up the soul, for no great poetry can leave the soul unstirred;
but that no poetry of modern times stirs the soul in the same manner as
does that of this full-natured man. So far, I think, we may acknowledge
Whitman's success as a poet, and I am not concerned to urge it further.
There are many who do not respond to his writings in the way I have
indicated, and they naturally refuse him the title. There are others
who do, and who accord it to him; and I confess I am of the latter.

       *       *       *       *       *

The only American poet who approaches him in sentiment is Emerson.
Poems like "Each and All," with its motive of the cosmic unity, "The
perfect Whole," or "Brahma," with its reconciling all-inclusiveness,
are very near in thought to Whitman; so again is "Merlin" with its

                  Great is the art,
    Great be the manners of the bard;
    He shall not his brain encumber
    With the coil of rhyme and number,--

or "Woodnotes"--"God hid the whole world in thy heart"--or the
exclamation "When worlds of lovers hem thee in" of the "Threnody"; or
his "Test," when he hangs his verses in the wind. The inspiration of
the two men made them akin; but it was far from identical. There are
sides of _Leaves of Grass_ which are absent from Emerson's writings,
just as there are phases of Emerson's thought which are never really
touched by Whitman. But above all, while the works of both are
exhilarating to the soul, the emotional reactions from them are quite

Considering Emerson's influence at the time upon all that was most
virile in American thought, we might feel certain that some part at
least of his teaching had illuminated Whitman's mind, and there is
sufficient evidence in his own writings to prove it.[189] He said
indeed, that it was Emerson who led him to a spiritual understanding
of America, and who finally brought his simmering ideas to the
boil.[190] But he also vehemently asserted the independence of _Leaves
of Grass_ from any direct Emersonian or other literary influence; and
in this the internal evidence of his book supports him. It is really
impossible to confuse the flavours of Whitman and of Emerson.

       *       *       *       *       *

One more comparison, and I will pursue the story. There is much which
Whitman obviously shares with Shelley. Their kinship of inspiration is
too significant for a passing note, and might well be followed over
many pages. The writer of _Leaves of Grass_, and the youthful author of
_Queen Mab_, had drunk at the same fountain of love and wonder.[191]

Shelley's _Defence of Poetry_ should be read alongside of the Preface
of 1855. In it also you will find it stated that the poet lives in the
consciousness of the whole; that he is not to be bound by metrical
custom, the distinction between poets and prose-writers being but
a vulgar error; it is sufficient if his periods are harmonious and
rhythmical. Poetry is therein discovered as the great instrument of
morality, for it exercises and therefore strengthens the imagination,
which is the organ of love--that going-out of a man from himself to
others, in which morality finds the final expression.

Here, as in Whitman's pages, the permanence of poetry is asserted; its
significance is not to be exhausted by the generation in which it found
expression. Poetry is the motive power of action and creates utilities.
It is the root and blossom of science and philosophy. Poetry is the
interpenetration of a diviner nature with our own; it turns all things
to loveliness, and strips off that film of use and wont which holds
our eyes from the vision of wonder. The great poets are men of supreme
virtue and consummate prudence. They are the world's law-givers.

It must be enough for us to have noted the parallel, which might easily
be pressed too far. There are regions of thought and expression in
which their opposition would, of course, appear even more striking;
we need not pursue the subject, remembering that much of what they
share derives from the influence which we associate with the works of

       *       *       *       *       *

Whatever our opinion of Whitman's astonishing "piece of wit and
wisdom," we cannot be surprised that in some quarters it was received
with contemptuous silence, and in others with prompt and frank abuse.
The _Boston Intelligencer_,[192] for instance, credited it to some
escaped lunatic; the _Criterion_[193] to a man possessed of the soul
of a sentimental donkey that had died of disappointed love; while the
_London Critic_,[194] comparing him to Caliban, declared he should be
whipped by the public executioner.

It is, perhaps, more astonishing that some of the leading journals and
reviews of America--the _North American Review_, _Putnam's Monthly_,
and the _New York Tribune_[195]--for example, noticed the book at some
length and with friendly forbearance, if not with actual acclamation.
The first of these gave the book, in its January issue (1856), three
pages of discriminating welcome from the pen of Edward E. Hale, a
religious minister of liberal mind and warm heart, whose own inner
experience was not without resemblance to Whitman's in its harmonious
development and absence of spiritual conflict.[196]

Whitman was probably prepared for the abuse; it was the indifference of
the public which astonished him. At first, it would seem, there was no
sale whatever for the book;[197] and Emerson was the only one of its
readers who found it specially significant.

Having spent the summer months in solitude in the country,[198]
Whitman decided upon a somewhat questionable method of advertisement:
he contributed unsigned notices of his book to the _Brooklyn
Times_,[199] with which he appears to have been connected,[200] and
to a phrenological sheet issued by Fowler and Wells, his agents on
Broadway. He fortified himself[201] for his task by observing that
Leigh Hunt had written for the Press upon his own work, and even
claimed the high example of Dante.

These articles, whose anonymity seems to infringe on the impartiality
of the Press, and to be in some sense a breach of journalistic honour,
are not a little astonishing. That in the phrenological journal
may, perhaps, be dismissed as a mere publishers' circular or puff,
contributed, as such things frequently are, by the writer. As to the
other, Whitman was for a while the editor of the _Brooklyn Times_, and
may have written on himself while serving in this capacity, or perhaps
at the request of the actual editor, doubtless his personal friend. Or,
again, if we would excuse, or rather explain, his action, we may regard
the reviews as his own attempt to look impersonally at his work.

Whatever we may think of the moral aspect of the notices, or
however we may account for them, they have considerable interest as
further expositions of his purpose, re-inforcing the Preface after
an interval of meditation. As such, and as a corrective of popular
misapprehensions, he doubtless intended them. In these pages he lays
special emphasis on the American character of his work. He notes his
studied avoidance of all foreign similes and classical allusions. He
compares himself with Tennyson and other poets, only to declare that
he is alone in understanding the new poetry, which will not aim at
external completeness and finish, but at infinite suggestion; which
will be an infallible and unforgettable hint--a living seed, not merely
of thought, but of that emotional force which is of the Soul and alone
can mould personality.


[168] This is given in full in O. L. Trigg's _Selections_; parts only,
in _Comp. Prose_, 256.

[169] _Comp. Prose_, 261.

[170] _L. of G._, 29.

[171] _L. of G._, 54.

[172] _Ib._, 59.

[173] _L. of G._, 55.

[174] _L. of G._, 75.

[175] _Ib._, 78.

[176] _Ib._, 79.

[177] _Ib._, 169.

[178] _L. of G._, 333.

[179] _Ib._, 325.

[180] _Ib._, 81.

[181] _Ib._ (1855).

[182] _Ib._, 353.

[183] _L. of G._, 134.

[184] _Ib._, 211.

[185] _Ib._, 209.

[186] _Ib._, 282.

[187] _L. of G._, 304.

[188] _Ib._ (ed. 1855).

[189] Camden, ix., 160; notes to mag. art. of May, 1847.

[190] Letter in Appendix to _L. of G._ (1856) and Trowbridge, _op. cit._

[191] It is interesting to recall that _Prometheus Unbound_ was written
in the year of Whitman's birth.

[192] Bucke, 198.

[193] _Ib._, 197.

[194] _Ib._, 196; _In re_, 60.

[195] _N. A. R._, January, 1856; _Trib._, 23rd July, 1855.

[196] W. James, _Var. of Relig. Experience_, 82-83.

[197] Bucke, 138; Burroughs, etc.

[198] Bucke, 26.

[199] _In re_, 13, 32; Bucke, 195.

[200] _Atlantic Monthly_, xcii., 679.

[201] Camden, ix., 119.



In September, 1855, Mr. Moncure Conway, having heard of Whitman during
a visit to Concord, called upon him in Brooklyn, with an introduction
from Emerson. Walt was then living with his family in one of a row of
small artisans' houses, in Ryerton Street,[202] out of Myrtle Avenue.
At the moment, however, he was correcting proofs in the little office
where his book had been printed, and wore a workman's striped blue
shirt, open at the throat. A few days later, he called upon Mr. Conway,
his sister and another lady, at the Metropolitan Hotel, where his
manners and conversation were enjoyed and approved. He was then garbed
in "the baize coat and chequered shirt" in which he appears in the
_Leaves of Grass_ portrait.

Mr. Conway in his story has somewhat confused the details of these
visits with those of another paid by him upon a Sunday morning some two
years later, when the Whitmans seem to have moved to a more commodious
house on North Portland Avenue. The matter is not important, and we may
follow the main lines of the picturesque account which he contributed
in October, 1866, to the _Fortnightly Review_.[203]

According to this narrative, Whitman was discovered basking in the
hot sunshine on some waste land outside Brooklyn. He was wearing the
rough workman's clothes of his choice, was as brown as the soil and
as grey as the grass bents. His visitor was at once impressed by the
exceptional largeness and reality of the man, and by a subtle delicacy
of feeling for which _Leaves of Grass_ does not appear to have prepared
him. Whitman was slow, serene, gracious; in spite of the grey in his
hair and beard, and the deep furrows across his brow, his full red face
and quiet blue-grey eyes were almost those of a child.

Returning to the house, the visitor noticed a quality about him which
belonged by rights to the line-engraving of Bacchus which hung in the
bare room he occupied. Like a Greek hero-god, he made one ask oneself
whether he was merely human. And after crossing the bay with him, and
bathing and sauntering along the beach of Staten Island, the visitor
seems to have left in a condition of almost painful excitement, unable
to give his thought to anything but Whitman.

A few days later, according to this account, Conway found him setting
type for the next edition of his book. Although he was still writing
occasionally for the press, _Leaves of Grass_ continued to provide his
principal occupation. They crossed the ferry together and rambled about
New York. Nearly every artisan they met greeted Walt affectionately as
an old friend, and not one of them knew him as a poet.

Together they went to the Tombs prison, Whitman always having
acquaintances among the outcasts of society, and often visiting
them in detention, both here and at Sing-Sing. Here, Conway had an
opportunity of estimating the power over others which was wielded by
this personality, whose latent force had so much moved himself. The
prisoners confided in him, and on behalf of one he interviewed the
governor of the prison. The victim had been detained for trial on
some petty charge in an unhealthy cell. Whitman repeated the man's
story, and characterised it, with a sort of religious emphasis and
deliberation, as a "damned shame". It was manifestly upon the tip of
the official tongue to rebuke Walt for impertinence; but though he was
dressed as an artisan, his quiet determined gaze was too much for
the autocrat, who gave way before it and ordered the prisoner to be
transferred to better quarters.

       *       *       *       *       *

Other distinguished visitors called on him from time to time. Of
Emerson's own visits we know next to nothing, but they were frequent
and very welcome, sometimes ending with a dinner at Astor House. We
have a glimpse of Lord Houghton, sharing a dish of roast apples with
his friendly host.[204] Ward Beecher, the famous Brooklyn preacher,
was among the callers; and it was on their way from his church that,
on Sunday, 9th November, 1856, Mrs. Whitman, in her son's absence,
received Bronson Alcott and Thoreau.

Both men belonged to the circle of Emerson's Concord intimates, and
both have left a record of the successful renewal of their visit
upon the following day.[205] The lovable, mystical, oracular Alcott,
the delight of his friends, seems to have been greatly attracted by
Whitman, whom he knew already, and of whom he has spoken in terms of
the highest praise. The mother, he found on that first visit, stately
and sensible, full of faith in her son "Walter"; full, too, in his
absence, of his praises, as being from his childhood up both good and
wise, the faithful and beloved counsellor of brothers and sisters.

They spent two delightful hours with Walt next day, a Philadelphia lady
accompanying them and sharing their intercourse with "the very god
Pan," as Alcott styles him. The conversation was to have been renewed
on the morrow, but Walt failed to put in an appearance. He was apt to
be vague about such appointments, and one could never be sure that
he felt himself bound by them. Like a Quaker of the old school, he
followed the direction of the hour, and his promises were tentative and
well guarded.

Thoreau, too, the naturalist philosopher of Walden, wrote down his
impressions of the interview. He was puzzled by Whitman, finding him
in many ways a strange and surprising being, outside the range of
his experience. Rough, large and masculine but sweet--essentially a
gentleman, he says; but the title is paradoxical and inappropriate, and
he qualifies it immediately by adding that he was coarse not fine. As
to the last point, after vigorously debating it, Whitman and he appear
to have retained contrary convictions. But Whitman himself would have
been the first to disclaim refinement, a quality which he associated
with sterility. If Thoreau had said he was elemental, we would not now

They were not likely to understand one another. The two men present a
remarkable contrast, though on certain sides they have much in common.
Thoreau was about two years the older; his principal book of essays,
called _Walden_ after the site of his hermitage, had been published
when he was about Whitman's age. Physically he was most unlike the
genial red-faced giant opposite to him. Slight and rather short, with
long arms and sloping shoulders; mouth, eyes and nose seemed to tell of
solitary concentrated thought. There was something in his face of the
frontiersman, that woodland look one sees also in Lincoln's portraits;
something, too, of the shyness wood creatures have.

He disliked and avoided the generality of men. In this he would compare
himself with Emerson, who found society a refuge from the shabbiness of
life's commonplace, while Thoreau's own resource was always solitude.
He was continually being surprised by the vulgarity of himself and of
his fellows, continually flushing with shame, personal or vicarious;
and he sought and found a refuge in the pure and lonely spirit that
haunted Walden Pool.[206]

Whitman, on the other hand, though he loved solitude, seems, even in
solitude, to have craved for movement. In this he was very far from
the orientalism of Thoreau and its strenuous seeking after peace. He
loved progress. His genius belonged not to the forest pool, whose
reflections were unrippled by a breeze--the mirror of the abstract
mind--but to the surging passion of the ocean beach.

Similarly, in his attitude towards men, he was far removed from both
Thoreau and Emerson. Emerson confessed he could not quite understand
what Whitman so enjoyed in the society of the common people; and many
a Democrat, if he were only as honest, would make the same confession.
It was not that Emerson was in any sense of the word a snob; but the
emotional side of his nature responded but feebly to certain of the
elemental notes whose vibration is felt perhaps more frequently among
the common people than elsewhere. Emerson's fellowship was largely upon
intellectual fields: Whitman's almost wholly upon the more emotional.

Thoreau found society in disembodied thought, and emotional fellowship
in the woods. But to Whitman the sheer contact with people, and
especially the unsophisticated natural folk of the class into which
he was born and among whom he was bred, was not only a pleasure but a
tonic which he could barely exist without. In solitude, he became after
a time, heavy, inert, lethargic. His mind itself seemed to grow stale.
He was a mere pool of water left upon the beach, which loses virtue in
its stagnant isolation.

Whitman seems to have been exceptionally conscious of the stream of
electric life which is the great attractive power of a city, and which
in itself tends to draw all young men and women into its current.
It buoyed him up and carried him, giving him a sense of exaltation
only to be compared with that which other poets have derived from the
mountains, or the wind out of the West. His large body and intuitive
mind craved for the magnetic stimulus and suggestion of people moving
about him; he did not look to them to save him from the commonplace,
nor did he shrink from them as bringing him new burdens of a common

Coarse, actual, living humanity was his supreme interest and passion.
And the delicacy and refinement of the scholar was dreadful to him,
because it separated him instantly from the vulgar and common folk.
He was one of the roughs, he used to say; and so he was, but with a
difference. It was this that puzzled his Concord friends who were quick
to feel but slow to understand it. Their perplexity did not, however,
turn into mistrust; for their appreciation of all that they understood
was full and generous.

Thoreau hardly knew whether he was more repelled or attracted by this
"great fellow" who seemed to be the personification of Democracy.[207]
Like Tennyson at a later date, he was unable to define him, but stood
convinced that he was "a great big something".[208] A little more
than human, Thoreau added; meaning a little larger than normal human

In any case, the man was an enigma. He wrote of those relations between
men and women for which the poets choose the subtlest and most delicate
words in their treasury, in syllables which seemed to Thoreau like
those of animals which had not attained to speech. Yet even so, he
spoke more truth, beast-like as his voice sounded, than the others. And
Thoreau frankly reminded himself, if Whitman made him blush the fault
might not be Whitman's after all.

They did not talk very much or very deeply, as there were four to share
the conversation. Thoreau, too, was in a rather cynical mood, and spoke
slightingly of Brooklyn and America and her politics, which in itself
was enough to chill the stream of intercourse. But they found a common
interest in the Oriental writers with whom Whitman was but vaguely
acquainted, the scholar advising upon translations. Thoreau and Emerson
had both noted the resemblance between _Leaves of Grass_ and some of
the sacred writings of India; and the latter once humorously described
the _Leaves_ as a mixture of the _Bhagavad-Gitá_[209] and the _New York
Herald_.[210] Thoreau died in 1862, and this was probably their only

       *       *       *       *       *

Thoreau carried off with him a copy of the new edition of Whitman's
poems, fresh from the press, and some of the remarks I have alluded to
refer especially to its contents, and to several of the new poems which
we must now briefly consider, for it is obviously impossible to give
any worthy account of Whitman without attempting at least to outline
the successive expressions of his own views about himself, as they are
set forth in his book.

None of the twenty new _Leaves_ appears so important as the "Song of
Myself," but among them are some of the finest and most suggestive
pages he ever wrote, notably the "Poem of Salutation," and the "Poem of
the Road".[211] The book is now shorn of its prose preface, which would
be a serious loss if large portions of it were not to be found broken
into lines, and otherwise slightly altered, upon the later pages. It
had been used as a quarry for poems, and some of the blocks underwent
but little trimming.

In the "Salutation," he identifies himself elaborately and in much
detail, with all peoples of the globe, finding equals and lovers in
every land. The universal survey is faithfully made; the poem is like
a rapid passage through a gallery of pictures, and regarded as a
whole, suggests the outlines of the world-wide field which its author
desires the reader to view. Whitman asserts his comprehensive sympathy;
like America he includes all men. He is one with them in their common
humanity, and sympathises with them individually in the main purposes
and desires of their lives.

The poem opens in the form of question and answer. Looking into
Whitman's face, the questioner sees as it were a whole world lying
latent within his gaze and becoming actual as he looks. Taking the
poet's hand, he begs him to explain: Walt accedes with readiness, and
immediately forgets the questioner.

The subject of the poem--man as the microcosm not only of the universe
but of the Race--is not perhaps novel; but its meaning is none the
less difficult to expound. For it bears directly upon the cosmic
consciousness, in which, as I have said, many of us are wanting. There
are some, however, who are at times aware of moods in which they
realise the symbolic character of all objects; they see them, that is
to say, as forms through which vivid emotions are conveyed to the soul.
At such moments, the whole world becomes for them a complex of these
symbols, whose authenticity they can no more doubt than the meaning
of daily speech, and whose ultimate significance is of an infinite
content, which forever unfolds before them.

Such moods were evidently frequent with Whitman, and perhaps became
the norm of his consciousness. In them his eyes read the world, as
though it were the writing of that infinite and supreme Soul which
was himself, and yet not himself; that Soul of All, with which his
consciousness was become mystically one. He felt the actual thrill and
meaning of the World's Words; words which he more fully describes or
rather tries to suggest, in another poem, afterwards known as the "Song
of the Rolling Earth".[212] In order to explain Whitman's meaning one
would need to make a study of the roots of this kind of symbolism, a
task which is here impracticable. We must be content instead with a
glance at the poem itself.

    "Earth, round, rolling, compact--suns, moons, animals--all these
      are words to be said,"[213]

he asserts; vast words, not indeed of dots and strokes, nor of
sounds, but of real things which exist and are uttered. I myself, and
not my name, he says suggestively, is the real word which the Soul
understands. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear, not my words
but Me, The Word. The words of great poets are different from those
of mere singers and minor poets, because they suggest these ultimate
words, these presences and symbols. A symbol, be it remembered, always
using the word in the sense indicated, is no arbitrary sign, it is
a form or appearance, which seen _through_ the eye--to use Blake's
happy formula--presents to the imagination an unimpeachable, distinct
emotional concept.

To Whitman, everything became thus symbolic. He saw the Earth
itself--the whole world about him--as a symbol, infallibly presenting
to him a distinguishable idea or meaning; not indeed a thought,
for the word fails to express something which must clearly be
supra-intellectual--the perception of a conscious state of emotion.

Of what then was the Earth a symbol to Whitman's sight? He says,
frankly enough,[214] that he cannot convey the idea in print; but that
as far as he can suggest it, it is one of progress, or amelioration;
it is generous, calm, subtle; it includes the idea of expression, or
the bearing of fruit; it is the acceptance of all things, and it is the
general purpose which underlies them all.

I fear that those who seek for simple explanations in plain words will
scarcely be satisfied with this. Perhaps Whitman is only reasserting
in his own manner the familiar adage that God is the prince of poets,
and that the universe is His Chapbook which He offers to all. If so, he
either gives a new meaning to the words, or he has rediscovered their
old vital sense and redeemed them from the stigma of rhetoric. I do
not know whether after all the simple-sounding words are not the more

The Words of the Earth-Mother spoken to her children are, he would have
us believe, ultimate and infallible; all things may be tried by them.
That is what he means when he says he has read his poems over in the
open air. He has proved them thus to see if their suggestion is that
of the Earth. She sits, as it were, with her back turned toward her
children,[215] but in her hand she holds a mirror, the clear mirror of
appearances which are true, and in that mirror we may see ourselves and

    With her ample back toward every beholder,
    With the fascinations of youth, and equal fascinations of age,
    Sits she whom I too love like the rest--sits undisturb'd,
    Holding up in her hand what has the character of a mirror, while
      her eyes glance back from it,
    Glance as she sits, inviting none, denying none,
    Holding a mirror day and night tirelessly before her own face.

How much we can see, depends upon our own character. To the perfect
man, the Face of the Mother is perfect: to the man ashamed, disfigured,
broken, it appears to be such as he. Only the pure behold the Truth.
There is no merely intellectual test of truth, for truth is known only
by the Soul. As one looks into the mirror, and reads the thought behind
appearances, not with the intellect but with the sight of the awakened
soul, one grows to understand what Progress means, one sees a little
further into the secrets of Love; one learns that the divine Love
neither invites nor refuses.

The Sayers of Words are those who with pure insight--or as Coleridge
would say, Imagination--behold things as they are apprehended by the
cosmic consciousness; and thus beholding them as they truly are, find
words which hint to the soul of that Reality which speaks through all
appearance. After the sayers come the singers, the Poets who, building
words together, create new worlds.

In another poem, the Open Road[216] becomes the symbol of Freedom,
Acceptance, Sanity, Comradeship, Immortality and Eternal Battles.

    Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
    Healthy, free, the world before me,
    The long brown path before me, leading wherever I choose.

    Henceforth I ask not good-fortune--I am good-fortune,
    Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
    Strong and content, I travel the open road.


Among the best known and most popular of the _Leaves of Grass_, it
is also among those which are most filled with recondite and mystic
meanings. Over these we must not linger, save to note the indication
of the mystic sense by phrases like "the float of the sight of things"
and "the efflux of the Soul". The poem as a whole is marked by musical
cadences, and is vivid from end to end with courage and the open air.

After the "Song of Myself," Thoreau preferred the "Sun-down Poem,"
which describes the crossing of Brooklyn Ferry.[217] It is filled with
the thought that, even after half a century and in our own day, when
others than he will be crossing, still he will be with them there
unseen. The thoughts that come to him show him the Soul wrapt around
in unconsciousness, and the things which, by contact with the clean
senses, are presently realised as meanings by the Soul. The poem is a
fine example of Whitman's delight in movement, in masses of people, and
in the surroundings of his city.

In the "Clef-poem,"[218] intended to strike the key-note, not only for
his poems, but as it were for the universe itself with its innumerable
meanings, he tells how, standing on the beach at night alone, he
realised that all things--soul and body, past and future, here and
there--are interlocked and spanned by a vast homogeneity of essence.
The knowledge sweeps away all possibilities of anxiety about the future
after death; experience can never fail to feed the soul. It contents
him also with the present: no experience can ever be more wonderful to
him than this of to-night, when he lies upon the breast of the Mother
of his being. The future can be nothing but an eternal unfolding of
this that he beholds already present in his body and Soul.

       *       *       *       *       *

While dwelling upon the symbolical mysticism which cannot be ignored
in Whitman's whole habit of thought, I may add a further word upon
its character.[219] Mysticism appears under several forms. The Indian
guru, winning the eternal consciousness by long practices in the
gymnasium of the mind; the lover discovering it through the fiery
gateways, and tear-washed windows of passion; the poet seeking it in
the eyes of the Beauty that was before the beginning of the world; the
Quaker awaiting its coming in silence and simplicity; the Catholic
preparing for it by prayer and fasting, by ritual and ceremony; the
lover of nature discovering it among her solitudes; the lover of man
entering into it only by faith, in the strenuous service of his kind:
all these bear witness to the many ways of experience along which the
deep waters flow.

Belonging to no school, Whitman had relations with several of the
mystical groups; he had least, I suppose, with that which seeks the
occult by traditional crystal-gazing and the media of hypnotic trances
or the dreams produced by anæsthetic drugs. He was a mystic because
wonders beset him all about on the open road of his soul. In him
mysticism was never associated with pathological symptoms; it was, as
he himself suggests, the flower and proof of his sanity, soundness and

He had not learnt his lore from books. Plato and Plotinus, Buddha and
Boehme, were alike but half-familiar to him; he never studied them
closely as a disciple should. His thought may have been quickened
by old Elias Hicks, and strengthened occasionally by contact with
the Friends. It often recalls the more leonine, less catholic spirit
of George Fox; and the vision of the Soul, standing like an unseen
companion by the side of every man, woman, and child, ready to appear
at the first clear call of deep to human deep, was ever present to
them both, and in itself explains much that must otherwise remain
incomprehensible in their attitude. But the world of Whitman was that
of the nineteenth century, not of the seventeenth: Carlyle, Goethe
and Lincoln, had taken the places of Calvin, Milton and Cromwell. In
many aspects the mysticism of _Leaves of Grass_ is nearer to that of
_The Republic_ and _The Symposium_, than to that of Fox's _Epistles_
and _Journal_; nearer, that is, to the Greek synthesis, than to the
evangelical ardour of the Puritan. Temperance he loved, but he hated
the narrowness of negations.

       *       *       *       *       *

To return to the book: the thought of the sanity of the Earth is
brought to bear upon the problem of evil in a poem[220] which describes
how, in spite of the mass of corruption returned to it by disease and
death, the earth neutralises all by the chemistry of its laws and life.
With calm and patient acceptance of evil, nature refuses nothing, but
ever provides man anew with innocent and divine materials. And such, it
would seem, is the inherent character of the Universe, and therefore of
the Soul.

A poem,[221] whose opening cadences were suggested by the drip, drip,
drip, of the rain from the eaves, presents the Broad-axe as the true
emblem of America, Whitman's substitute for the Eagle whose wings are
always spread.

    Broad-axe, shapely, naked, wan!
    Head from the mother's bowels drawn!
    Wooded flesh and metal bone! limb only one and lip only one!
    Gray-blue leaf by red-heat grown! helve produced from a little seed
    Resting the grass amid and upon,
    To be leaned, and to lean on.

Here we enter the picturesque, muscular world of wood-cutters and
carpenters so familiar to the author, and we are reminded of the older
and more sinister uses and products of the axe. Seen by Whitman, the
Broad-axe itself is a poem that tells of strenuous America, with her
free heroic life and the comradeship of her Western cities, great
with the greatness of their common folk. It tells him of the woman of
America, self-possessed and strong; and of large, natural, naïve types
of manhood. It even prophecies to him of Walt Whitman, and sings the
"Song of Myself," the message of the noble fierce undying Self. As a
Cuvier can reconstruct an undiscovered creature from a single fossil
bone, so might the poet seer have foretold America by this symbol of an

The idea of America is further expounded in several other poems,
especially in the longest of the additions, which was afterwards
expanded into "By Blue Ontario's Shore".[222] Much of its essential
thought, however, and some of its actual phrasing belongs to the
old Preface, and has therefore been already noted. It dwells on the
potential equality of every citizen in the sight of America herself, an
equality based upon the divine Soul which is in each; and also, upon
Liberty, which is the ultimate and essential element of all individual

The thought of America calls up in Whitman's mind the picture of that
poet, that "Soul of Love and tongue of fire," who will utter the idea
which is America, and which alone can integrate her diverse peoples
into one. And here Whitman flings off his cloak which concealed him in
the Preface, and openly announces that it is he himself who incarnates
the spirit of the land.

    Fall behind me, States!
    A man, before all--myself, typical, before all.

    Give me the pay I have served for!
    Give me to speak beautiful words! take all the rest;
    I have loved the earth, sun, animals--I have despised riches,
    I have given alms to every one that asked, stood up for the stupid
      and crazy, devoted my income and labour to others,
    I have hated tyrants, argued not concerning God, had patience and
      indulgence toward the people, taken off my hat to nothing known
      or unknown,
    I have gone freely with powerful uneducated persons, and with the
      young, and with the mothers of families,
    I have read these leaves to myself in the open air--I have tried
      them by trees, stars, rivers,
    I have dismissed whatever insulted my own Soul or defiled my body,
    I have claimed nothing to myself which I have not carefully claimed
      for others on the same terms,
    I have studied my land, its idioms and men,
    I am willing to wait to be understood by the growth of the taste of
    I reject none, I permit all,
    Whom I have staid with once I have found longing for me ever

The poet is that equable sane man, in whose vision alone all things
find and are seen in their proper place, for he sees each _sub specie
æternitatis_--in its eternal aspect.

But while thus boldly declaring himself as the man that should come,
he has of course no desire to stand alone, and attempts to outline
the equipment necessary for future American poets. They must not only
identify themselves in every possible way with America, they must
be themselves creative and virile. Those who criticise, explain and
adjudge, can only create a literary soil; they cannot produce the
flower and fruit of poetry.

Returning to his favourite adage that a man is as great as a nation,
he asserts that the true poet is America; frankly reading himself as
a whole, he will see the meanings of America. Is then America also a
symbol? Assuredly. She is the Republic; she is the Kingdom of God;
she is Blake's Jerusalem; but behold, she is already founded and
four-square upon the solid earth.

That he was open-eyed to the materialistic spirit rampant throughout
the continent while he was writing, is clearly shown in the bitter
mockery of "Respondez,"[224] a poem afterwards suppressed. It is a
challenge to thought; an ironic assertion of things that are false and
futile, and which yet parade as realities. Though suggestive it is
obscure, and its subsequent omission was wise.

Thoughts of the destiny of America,[225] and of the evil and
imperfection which he saw about him, hindering, as it seemed, the
realisation of that destiny, and of the destiny of individual souls,
must often have moved him to passionate longing. He was not one of
those who confuse good with evil; he always recognised the difference
between right and wrong as among the eternal distinctions which could
never cease to hold true. He hated sin as he hated disease, and
recognised both as threatening and actual.

If he rarely denounces, it is because he has seen that the way of the
soul is along the path of love and not of fear or of hate; and because
he recognises the office of sin in the story of the soul. He is not
anxious about vice or virtue, but only about life and love. Love, at
its fullest, is something different from virtue; it contains elements
which virtue can never possess, and which most ethical codes consign to
the category of vice. Such love alone is the expression of the soul;
and every student of love discovers sooner or later that the soul has
its own intimate standard for judging what is wrong and what is right,
and when that which was wrong has now become right for it to do.

Love, then, is Whitman's code. And when he seeks to call the youth
of America away from selfishness and sin, he issues no new table of
Thou-Shalt-Nots, but fills their ears with the words of their destiny,
and of the meaning of America. For he knows that to sin is to choose
a narrow and despicable delight, and that one must needs choose the
nobler, larger joy when it becomes present and real. Hence he recalls
all the aspirations that went to the birth of America, and describes
the parts that women and men must fill if they are to be realised. He
reminds his young readers of all the divine possibilities of manhood
and of womanhood, and of how those possibilities are for them; and
warns them that the body must necessarily affect the soul, for it is
the medium through which the soul comes into consciousness.

    Anticipate your own life--retract with merciless power,
    Shirk nothing--retract in time--Do you see those errors, diseases,
      weaknesses, lies, thefts?
    Do you see that lost character?--Do you see decay, consumption,
      rum-drinking, dropsy, fever, mortal cancer or inflammation?
    Do you see death, and the approach of death?

    Think of the Soul;
    I swear to you that body of yours gives proportions to your Soul
      somehow to live in other spheres,
    I do not know how, but I know it is so.[226]

Finally, in the new poems, Whitman makes more plain his attitude
toward the woman question, as it is called. An American National
Women's Rights Association had been founded in 1850, and although
its agitation for the suffrage proved unsuccessful, the more general
movement which it represented, especially the higher education of
women, was gaining ground throughout America. The movement may be said
to have been born in New York State, where Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton
and Miss Susan B. Anthony were its most active leaders; but it owed
much to Boston also, and notably to Margaret Fuller (Ossoli), whose
tragic death had been an irreparable loss to the cause.[227]

Whitman was in cordial sympathy with everything that could forward the
independence of women. But he disliked some outstanding characteristics
of the movement. It was in part a violent reaction against the
unwholesome sentimentalism of the past; a reaction which took the form
of sexless intellectualism with a strong bent towards argumentation,
perhaps the most abhorrent of all qualities to Whitman.

This movement for women's rights seemed to him too academic and too
superficial; college education and the suffrage did not appeal to
him. But he was not the less an enthusiast for the cause itself, as
he understood it. His views are simple and clear. A soul is a soul,
whether it be man's or woman's; and as such, it is of necessity free,
and the equal of others. A woman is every way as good as a man. This
truth must be made effective in all departments of life.

Then, taking up the thought which underlies the teaching of Plato, a
woman is a citizen; and an American woman must be as independent, as
dauntless, as greatly daring as a man. Such as the woman essentially
is, such will be the man, her son, and her mate. But--and it is here
he differs from the leaders of the movement--sex is basic not only in
society but in personal life; and the woman unsexed is but half a woman.

Two poems in the new edition, the nucleus of the subsequent _Children
of Adam_, are devoted to these ideas. In the first,[228] he describes
the women of his ideal:--

    They are not one jot less than I am,
    They are tanned in the face by shining suns and blowing winds,
    Their flesh has the old divine suppleness and strength,
    They know how to swim, row, ride, wrestle, shoot, run, strike,
      retreat, advance, resist, defend themselves,
    They are ultimate in their own right--they are calm, clear,
      well-possessed of themselves.

In the second,[229] he declares that life is only life after love--he
means the passionate fulness of love--and indicates that womanhood
is to be glorified not through a sexless revolt, but through the
redemption of paternity. When the begetting of children is recognised
to be as holy and as noble as the bearing of them, then the rights of
women will be on the way to recognition.

If motherhood is the glory of the race, then a movement towards
perpetual virginity brings no solution of our problem. The only
solution lies in the independence of women, and in the evolution of a
higher masculine ideal of the sex relation. The whole thing must be
naturally and honestly faced. Until we so face it, we cannot understand
a world in which it is so implicated, that sex is, as it were, a
summing up of all things.

This last thought grew upon him, becoming more prominent in the next
edition. In the present one it recurs in the open letter to Emerson
printed in its appendix,[230] and gave a peculiar colour to the volume
in the public eye. So much was this the case, that a prosecution seemed
at one time imminent, many persons regarding the book as obscene. Among
timid and conventional people, it seems to be established as a canon of
criticism that it is always immoral to discuss immorality. They go but
little farther who denounce the purity which is not defiled by pitch;
or tear out by the roots all flowers that grow upon dung-heaps.

       *       *       *       *       *

Such then, added to the old, formed the contents of the new edition of
1856. The appendix included Emerson's letter, which Whitman had been
urged to publish, by Mr. C. A. Dana, editor of the _New York Sun_, and
a personal friend of Emerson.[231] He succeeded in convincing Whitman,
who appears at first to have doubted the propriety of such an action.
There is no evidence that Emerson resented the use thus made of his
glowing testimony, although he would probably have modified his words
had he written in acknowledgment of the enlarged volume. A sentence
from the letter appeared also upon the back of the book: "I greet you
at the commencement of a great career.--R. W. Emerson." This, together
with the storm of indignation aroused by the absolutely frank language
of the poems dealing with sex, gave the book notoriety and a rapid sale.

It is the least pleasing of the editions of _Leaves of Grass_,
insignificant in appearance, and yet aggressive, by reason of that
Emersonian testimonial. The open letter at the end, of which I have
already spoken, is far from agreeable to read. It is careless,
egotistical, naïve to a degree, and crowded with exaggerations.
Addressing Emerson as master, it proceeds to denounce the churches as
one vast lie, and the actual president as a rascal and a thief. It is
so egregiously self-conscious that it makes the reader question for a
moment whether all the egoism and naïveté of the preceding pages may
not have been worn as a pose; but a moment's further consideration
gives the question a final negative. Few men are without their hours of
weakness; and that Whitman was not among those few, the letter is proof
if such were needed.

The letter is not void of interest, since it records the rapid sale
of the previous edition of a thousand copies, and anticipates that in
a few more years the annual issue will be counted by thousands. This
sanguine forecast explains the permanent and otherwise unreasonable
disappointment of Whitman at the reception of his book.

It still made its appearance devoid of the usual adornment of a
publisher's name upon the title-page. Messrs. Fowler & Wells were
again the principal agents, others being arranged with in the chief
American cities, in London also, and Paris and Brussels. Plates were
cast from the type, and a large sale was prepared for. But the New
York agents soon withdrew, unwilling to face the storm of public
opinion,[232] and perhaps the dangers of prosecution, and the book fell
out of print when only a thousand copies had been issued.

       *       *       *       *       *

The two ventures of 1855 and 1856 had brought Whitman little money,
a mere handful of serious readers, and some notoriety. Though he did
not give in, he began to look about him for some supplementary means
of delivering his soul of its burden. His youthful success on the
political platform, his love of crowds and of personal contact, his
extraordinary popularity among the younger people, and his own keen
sense of the power of oratory, turned his thoughts to lecturing.[233]
He would follow the road which Emerson and Thoreau had taken. He would
evangelise America with his gospel. Henceforward, as his mother said,
he wrote barrels of lectures,[234] and at the same time he studied his
new art more or less systematically. After his death a package of notes
on Oratory, and the rough draft of a prospectus were found among his
papers; the latter was headed, "15 cents. Walt Whitman's Lectures." It
belongs to the year 1858.

By this time he had planned to write, print, distribute and recite
throughout the United States and Canada a number of lectures--partly
philosophical, partly socio-political, partly religious--with the
object of creating what he conceived to be a new, and for the first
time truly American attitude of mind. The lectures were ultimately to
form a second volume of explanation and argument which would sustain
the _Leaves_. He had now omitted any preface to the poems, the creative
work standing alone. But having printed the second edition and thus
relieved his mind of its most pressing burden, he recognised that the
work of explanation and of criticism remained.

Moreover, he conceived that his lectures would quicken public interest
in his book; while, by showing himself, he hoped to dispel some of the
misapprehensions which concealed his real meaning from the popular
mind. He alludes whimsically in this memorandum to the offensive
practice of self-advertisement, of which he was not unconscious,
remarking that "it cannot be helped," for it is the only way by which
he can gain the ear of America, and bid her "Know thyself".

Finally, he proposed to earn his living in this manner. He would have
preferred to give his services without fee, in the Quaker fashion;
but for the time being at least, he must make a charge of ten dollars
(two guineas) a lecture, and expenses, or an admission fee of one dime
(about sixpence) a head.

The idea of lecturing was probably as old as the idea of the _Leaves
of Grass_; he seems to have been considering it ever since he returned
from the South. But now he formulated his ideas, which were of course
those underlying the _Leaves_, and thought much and cogently on the
style and manner of public speaking. His conclusions betray an ideal
for oratory as individual and as mystical as that for the poet's art.

Whitman, the lecturer, is conceived as a prophet possessed by the
tempestuous passion of inspiration. The orator is to combine the
gifts of the great actor with the inspiration of the Pythoness and
the spontaneity of the Quaker prophet. His gestures should be large,
but reserved; the delivery deliberate, thought-awakening, elliptical,
prophetic, wholly unlike that of the glib platform speakers of his day
and our own. At first, erect and motionless, the speaker would impress
his mere personality upon the assembly; then his eyes would kindle,
like the eyes in that strange marble Balzac of Rodin's, and from the
eyes outward the whole body would take fire and speak.

He conceived of oratory not as the delivery of some well-prepared
address, but as the focussing of all the powers of thought and
experience in an hour of inspiration and supreme mastery. He saw how
much it entailed--what breadth of knowledge, what depth of thought,
what perfect flexibility of voice and gesture trained to clear
suggestion, what absolute purity of body, what perfect self-control.
For, he would say to himself, the great orator is an artist as supreme
as Alboni herself; his voice is to be as potent as hers, and his life
must show an equal devotion to its purpose.

In this conception of the orator we have then a most interesting
parallel with that of the poet. And just as Whitman the poet stands
part way between the writer of prose and the singer in verse, including
in himself some of the qualities of each, and adding an inspiration
wholly his own, so Whitman the orator appears in this vision standing
between the actor-singer and the lecturer or preacher, improvising
great words.

The political aspect of his enterprise is suggested by a brief
memorandum, dated in April, 1857,[235] wherein he notes that the
"Champion of America" must keep himself clear of all official
entanglements, devoting himself solely to the maintenance of a living
interest in public questions throughout the length and breadth of the
land. Standing aside from the parties with their clamorous cries, he
must hold the public ear by nobler tones.

In another place[236] he writes that as Washington had freed the
body politic of America from its dependence upon the English crown,
so Whitman will free the American people from their dependence upon
European ideals. The mere publication of such frank, but private
assertions of Whitman's own faith in himself, will doubtless arouse a
ready incredulity in the reader's mind. It might, perhaps, seem kinder
to his memory to suppress them altogether; but upon second thought it
will, I think, appear possible that he was a better judge than others
of his own ability. His personality was one of extraordinary power,
and his outlook of a breadth which was almost unique. And, as I have
said, he felt himself to be an incarnation of the American spirit.

At the time, America was without leadership. Lincoln was still unseen;
and Whitman was fully as capable of filling the highest office in
the United States as several who have held it; while nothing in the
circumstances or traditions of the White House made it absurd for
any able citizen, of whatever rank, to entertain the thought of its
tenancy. This would be especially true of a popular New Yorker, who
made perhaps the best of all candidates for a Presidential campaign.
The Republican party had but just been formed, and for the first time
had fought an election. Thunderclouds of war were in the air, urged on
by the ominous forces of slavery, and America was without a champion.

 I think the idea of political leadership crossed Whitman's mind at
 this time, and that he put it definitely aside. The hour cried out for
 the man, and the cry was not to go unanswered; but with all his power
 and all his goodwill and fervour, Whitman became slowly convinced that
 it was not to be he. He had seen too much of party manoeuvres, and
 had too vigorous a love of personal liberty, to contend for office.
 But he did covet the power of a prophet to stir the heart of America,
 and appeal to her people everywhere in her name. He never gave up the
 idea of lecturing or lost his interest in oratory; but the lectures he
 planned, the course on Democracy and the rest, remained undelivered.
 It is as though he had prepared himself and stood awaiting a call
 which never came.

Instead, he turned once more to add new poems to his collection.
A hint in explanation is to be found in a poem written about this
time,[237] in which he tells how, having first sought knowledge, he
then determined to live for America and become her orator; he was
afterwards possessed by the desire for a heroic life of action, but was
given the commission of song. Finally, another change came over his
spirit; the claims of his own life seized him; he could not escape from
the passion of comradeship which overwhelmed him and wholly absorbed
his thought.[238] We shall consider this phase in the next chapter, but
before doing so, it will be well to recall the political events of the
hour and the circumstances surrounding the advent of a new power and
personality into American life.


[202] M. D. Conway, _Autobiography_.

[203] _Fort. Rev._, vi., 538; Kennedy, 51.

[204] _In re_, 36.

[205] See _Familiar Letters of H. D. Thoreau_, 339-349.

[206] F. B. Sanborn's _Thoreau_, 307; _cf._ H. S. Salt's _Thoreau_, 293.

[207] _Fam. Letters_, 347.

[208] Camden, lxxii.; _cf._ _Life of A. Tennyson_, ii., 424.

[209] A new translation of the great Indian classic had just appeared.

[210] Kennedy, 78.

[211] _L. of G._, 112, 120.

[212] _L. of G._, 176.

[213] _L. of G._ (1860), 329; _cf._ _An American Primer_, by W. W.

[214] _L. of G._, 179.

[215] _L. of G._, 177.

[216] _Ib._, 120.

[217] _L. of G._, 129.

[218] _Ib._, 207; ('60), 229-31.

[219] See also p. 166.

[220] _L. of G._, 285.

[221] _Ib._, 148.

[222] _L. of G._, 264.

[223] _Ib._ (1860), 121.

[224] _L. of G._ (1860), 166.

[225] _Ib._, 171-74; _cf._ _L. of G._, 213.

[226] _L. of G._ (1860), 172.

[227] See esp. the _Life of Susan B. Anthony_.

[228] _L. of G._, 88.

[229] _L. of G._, 90.

[230] _Ib._ (1856).

[231] Bucke, 139.

[232] Burroughs, 19.

[233] Camden, vii.; viii., 244-260; ix., 200; x., 32.

[234] _In re_, 35.

[235] Camden, ix., 7, 8.

[236] _Ib._, viii., 245.

[237] _L. of G._ (1860), 354.

[238] As the poem is not given in the complete _L. of G._ I reprint it

    Long I thought that knowledge alone would suffice me--O if I could
      but obtain knowledge!
    Then my lands engrossed me--Lands of the prairies, Ohio's land, the
      southern savannas, engrossed me--For them I would live--I would
      be their orator;
    Then I met the examples of old and new heroes--I heard of warriors,
      sailors, and all dauntless persons--And it seemed to me that I
      too had it in me to be as dauntless as any--and would be so;
    And then, to enclose all, it came to me to strike up the songs
      of the New World--And then I believed my life must be spent in
    But now take notice, land of the prairies, land of the south
      savannas, Ohio's land,
    Take notice, you Kanuck woods--and you Lake Huron--and all that
      with you roll toward Niagara--and you Niagara also,
    And you, Californian mountains--That you each and all find somebody
      else to be your singer of songs,
    For I can be your singer of songs no longer--One who loves me is
      jealous of me, and withdraws me from all but love,
    With the rest I dispense--I sever from what I thought would suffice
      me, for it does not--it is now empty and tasteless to me,
    I heed knowledge, and the grandeur of The States, and the example
      of heroes, no more,
    I am indifferent to my own songs--I will go with him I love,
    It is to be enough for us that we are together--We never separate



Abraham Lincoln, the man for whom the hour cried out, was not quite
unknown to fame.[239] Ten years older than Whitman, and like Whitman
owning to a strain of Quaker blood in his veins, he belonged by origin
to the South and by adoption to the West. After six years' service in
the Illinois Legislature, and a term in the Lower House at Washington,
he settled down at the age of forty to his profession as a country

In 1854 the repeal of the Missouri compromise in favour of "squatter
sovereignty" recalled him to political life, and he became the champion
of Free-soil principles in his State, against the chief sponsor of
the opposing doctrine, the "little giant of Illinois," Judge Stephen
Douglas. His reply to Douglas in October of that year was read and
applauded by his party throughout America.

Hitherto he had been a Whig, and during Clay's lifetime, his devoted
follower, but the repeal of the compromise was followed in 1856 by
the formation of a new party, and Lincoln and Whitman both became
"black republicans". "Barnburners," Abolitionists and "Anti-Nebraska"
men--those that is to say who opposed the application of the doctrine
of "squatter sovereignty" to Nebraska and Kansas--had united to form
a new Free-soil party. They nominated J. C. Frémont, the gallant
Californian "Path-finder" for the Presidency; but, owing to the
presence of a third candidate put forward by the Know-nothing
Whigs--whose only policy seems to have been a "patriotic" hatred of all
Catholics and foreigners--the Democratic nominee was elected for the
last time in a generation. After his four years were out, a succession
of Republican Presidents occupied the White House for twenty-four years.

James Buchanan, who defeated Frémont--becoming like Lincoln, his
successor, a minority President--seems to have been an honourable and
well-intentioned Pennsylvanian, but he was a man whose character was
quite insufficient for his new office. As an injudicious, short-sighted
diplomatist, he had already, when minister at St. James's in the days
of President Pierce, commended his intrigues for the annexation of Cuba.

Earlier in 1856 Chief Justice Taney, of the Supreme Court, had
delivered his notorious decision in the Dred Scott case; laying it down
that Congress could not forbid a citizen to carry his property into the
public domain--that is to say, it could not prohibit slavery in the
territories--and that, in the political sense of the word, a negro was
not a "man," but only property. This decision and the bloody scenes
enacted in Kansas, where settlers from the North and South were met to
struggle for the constitution which should make the new State either
slave or free, greatly exasperated public opinion, and called forth,
among others, the protests of Abraham Lincoln.

In 1858, while Whitman was studying oratory, Lincoln was stumping
Illinois, in those ever-memorable debates which laid bare all the
plots and purposes of the Southern politicians. When the votes in that
contest were counted, Lincoln held an actual majority; but Douglas was
returned as Senator by a majority of the electoral votes. Though thus
defeated, Lincoln was no longer hidden in a Western obscurity. He was a
man with a future; and America had half-unconsciously recognised him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Towards the close of 1859, the fire which had been kindled in Kansas
flashed out suddenly in Virginia. America was startled by the news of
John Brown's raid, and the capture of the arsenal at Harper's Ferry.

Brown was among the most remarkable personalities of the time; and
while some saw in him a religious fanatic of the Roundhead type, who
compelled his enemies to pray at the muzzle of his musket, and who
for the Abolition cause would shatter the Union; others counted him
a martyr for the cause of freedom. Emerson had been one of his most
earnest backers when first he went to Kansas; and now his deed fired
the enthusiasm of New England. Thoreau wrote: "No man in America has
ever stood up so persistently and effectively for the dignity of human
nature, knowing himself for a man, and the equal of any Government";
and when he was hung, it was Thoreau who vehemently declared that
John Brown seemed to him to be the only man in America who had not
died.[240] His high spirit quickened the conscience of the North, and
two years later its sons marched into Virginia singing the song of his

Whitman was present at the trial of certain of Brown's abettors in
the State House at Boston;[241] one of a group prepared to effect
their rescue in the event of a miscarriage of justice. Lincoln, on
the other hand, was of those who, in spite of their intense hatred
of slavery, wholly disapproved the Raid. For him, John Brown was a
maddened enthusiast, a mere assassin like Orsini.[242] His attempt to
raise the slaves of Virginia in revolt against the whites was abhorrent
to the Republican statesman whose knowledge of the South showed him
the horrors of a negro rising. Regarding slavery as the irreconcilable
and only dangerous foe of the Republic, Lincoln held that the Federal
Government must restrain it within its actual bounds; and that the
sentiment in favour of gradual emancipation advocated by Jefferson, the
father of the Democratic party, should be encouraged in the States of
the South. But it was the States themselves that held and must hold the
fatal right of choice; it was for them, not for America, to liberate
their slaves.

       *       *       *       *       *

While the figure of Lincoln was thus becoming more and more visible to
the nation, Whitman was fulfilling his own destiny in New York. He was
born to be a leader of men; but a poet, a path-finder, a pioneer, not a
politician or president. Whatever his noble ambition might urge, or his
quick imagination prompt, he kept his feet to the path of his proper

He had a prodigiously wide circle of friends, gathered from every
walk of life: journalists and literary men of all kinds; actors and
actresses; doctors and an occasional minister of religion; political
and public characters; the stage-drivers and the hands on the
river-boats; farmers from the country; pilots and captains of the port;
labourers, mechanics and artisans of every trade; loungers too, and
many a member of that class which society has failed to assimilate
and which it hunts from prison to asylum and poor-house; and he had
acquaintances among another class of outcasts whose numbers were
already an open menace to the life of the Western metropolis, the girls
who sell themselves upon the streets.[243]

Many anecdotes are told of him during these years: how for instance
he would steer the ferry-boats, till once he brought his vessel into
imminent peril, and never thereafter would consent to handle the wheel;
or how, during the illness of a comrade, he held his post, driving his
stage in the winter weather while he lay in the wards of the hospital;
or again, how he took Emerson to a favourite rendezvous of firemen and
teamsters, his good friends, and to the astonishment of the kindly
sage, proved himself manifestly one of them.

A doctor at the old New York Hospital,[244] a dark stone building
surmounted by a cupola, and looking out over a grassy square through
iron gates upon Pearl Street, often met him in the wards, where he
came to visit one or other of his driver friends, and enjoyed the
restful influence of his presence there or in the little house-doctor's
room. In those days, when Broadway was crammed with vehicles and with
stages of all colours, much as is the Strand to-day, the proverbial
American daring and recklessness gave ample opportunity for accidents.
As to the drivers, they were generally country-bred farmers' sons, fine
fellows, wide-awake and thoroughly conversant with all that passed in
the city from the earliest grey of dawn till midnight: and Whitman
found some of his closest comrades in their ranks.

Sometimes a member of the hospital staff would go over with him to
Pfaff's German restaurant or Rathskeller on Broadway; a large dingy
basement to which one descended from the street. Here, half under the
pavement, were the tables, bar and oyster stall, whereat the Bohemians
of New York were wont to gather, and in a yellow fog of tobacco-smoke
denounce all things Bostonian. John Swinton, a friend of Alcott and of
Whitman, belonged to the group,[245] and among those who drank Herr
Pfaff's lager-beer, and demolished his schwartz brod, Swiss cheese, and
Frankfurter wurst, were many of the brilliant little band which at this
time was making the _New York Saturday Press_ a challenge to everything
academic and respectable.

It was here that a young Bostonian, paying his first visit to the city
in 1860,[246] found Whitman installed at the head of a long table,
already a hero in that revolutionary young world. The _Press_ was his
champion, and his voice was not to be silenced. Mr. Howells, for it was
he, had been amused and amazed at the ferociously profane Bohemianism
of the worthy editor, who had lived in Paris, and now worshipped it in
the person of Victor Hugo as much as he detested Longfellow and Boston.

Mr. Howells was astonished and deeply impressed by the extraordinary
charm, gentleness and benignity of the man whom the _Press_ was
extolling as arch-anarch and rebel. Whitman's eyes and voice made a
frank and irresistible proffer of friendship, and he gave you his hand
as though it were yours to keep. An atmosphere of unmistakable purity
emanated from him in the midst of that thickness of smoke, that reek of
beer and oysters and German cooking. He was clean as the sea is clean.
He passed along the ordinary levels of life as one who lives among the
mountains, and finds his home on Helicon or Olympus.

Ada Clare[247] (Mrs. Julia Macelhinney), by all accounts a charming
and brilliant woman, was queen of this rebel circle, and especially a
friend of Whitman's. News of her tragic death from hydrophobia, caused
by the bite of her pet dog, came as a terrible shock to all who had
known her. He had other women friends, notably Mrs. "Abby" Price, of
Brooklyn, and her two daughters.[248] The mother was an incurable lover
of her kind, whose hospitality to the outcast survived all the frauds
practised upon it.

The haunted faces of the needy were becoming only too familiar both in
New York and Brooklyn. The winter of 1857-58 had been a black one:[249]
banks had broken, and work had come to a standstill; and there had been
in consequence the direst need among the ever-increasing class of men
who were wholly dependent upon their weekly earnings. The rise of this
class in a new country marks the advent of the social problem in its
more acute form: and from this date on there was a rapid development of
the usual palliative agencies, missions, rescue-homes and what-not. The
permanent problem of poverty had made its appearance in America.

It need hardly be added that at the same time there were many evidences
of the growing wealth of another class of the citizens, those
whose profits were derived from land-values and the employment of
wage-labour. The brown-stone characteristic of the modern city was now
replacing the wood and brick which had hitherto lined Broadway,[250]
as private houses gave way to shops and offices, hotels and theatres.
Residences were built farther and farther up-town; and the Quarantine
Station on Staten Island, which stood in the way of a similar expansion
in that desirable quarter, was burnt out by aspiring citizens. And
meanwhile the pressure of life in the East-side rookeries was growing
more and more tyrannous.

The foundering of a slave-ship off Montauk Point was one of the more
striking reminders of the menace of vested interests to all that
the fathers of the Republic had held dear.[251] For even the slave
trade was now being revived, and the hands of Northern merchants
were anything but clean from the gold of conspiracy. Sympathy for
the "institution" and its corollaries was strong in New York, and
was not unrepresented at Pfaff's. It must have been about the close
of 1861,[252] or a little later, that one of the Bohemians proposed
a toast to the success of the Southern arms. Whitman retorted with
indignant and passionate words: an altercation ensued across the table,
with some show of ill-mannered violence by the Southern enthusiast; and
Whitman left his old haunt, never to return till the great storm of the
war had become a far-away echo.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: WHITMAN AT FORTY]

There are two portraits which belong to the Pfaffian days. In either
he might be the stage-driver of Broadway, and his dress presents a
striking contrast with the stiff gentility of the orthodox costume,
the silk hat and broadcloth, of the correct citizen. He is a great
nonchalant fellow, with rough clothes fit for manual toil; a coat
whose collar, by the way, has a rebellious upward turn; a waistcoat,
all unbuttoned save at a point about half-way down, exposing the
loose-collared shirt surrounded by a big knotted tie. The trousers
are of the same striped stuff as the vest; one hand is thrust into a
pocket, the other holds his broad brim.

In the photograph, which alone is of full length, the face is strong
and kindly, as Mr. Howells saw it; but in the painting, which dates
from 1859,[253] and is valuable as showing the florid colouring of
the man at this time--the growth of hair and beard, though touched
with grey, very vigorous and still dark, the eyebrows almost black,
the face handsome, red and full as of an old-time sea-captain--the
aspect is heavy and even a little sinister. Probably this is a clumsy
rendering of that lethargic and brooding condition which the occupation
of sitting for a portrait would be likely to induce; and in this it is
curiously unlike that of the photograph.

The pose in the latter is unstudied and a little awkward; one cannot
help feeling that the man ought to loaf a little less. The head is
magnificent, but the knees are loose. There was something in Whitman's
character which this full-length portrait indicates better than any
other; something indefinite and complacent, which matched with his
deliberate and swaggery gait. It is a quality which exasperates the
formalists, and all the people who feel positively indecent in anything
but a starched shirt.

Whitman wore the garb and fell naturally into the attitudes of the
manual worker. When he was not at work he was relaxed, and stood at
ease in a way that no one could mistake. And when he went out to enjoy
himself he never donned a tail-coat and patent shoes. Something in this
very capacity for relaxation and looseness at the knees made him more
companionable to the average man, as it made him more exasperating to
the superior person. The gentility of the clerical mannikin of the
office was utterly abominable to him; so much one can read in the
portrait, and in the fact that he persisted in calling himself Walt,
the name which was familiar to the men on the ferry and the road.[254]

       *       *       *       *       *

Early in 1860 Whitman made arrangements with a firm of young and
enterprising Boston publishers for the issue of a third edition of
his book. It had now been out of print for nearly three years, and
new material had all that time been accumulating, amounting to about
two-thirds of what had already been published.

He went over to Boston and installed himself in a little room at the
printing office, where he spent his days carefully correcting and
revising the proofs. A friend who found him there speaks of his very
quiet manners.[255] He rarely laughed, and never loudly. He seemed to
be provokingly indifferent to the impression he was creating, and made
no effort to talk brilliantly. He was indeed quite bare of the small
change of conversation, and gave no impression of self-consciousness.
At the time of this interview he was accompanied by a sickly listless
lad whom he had found at the boarding-house where he stayed. Whitman
had compassion on him and carried him along, in order that he might
communicate something of his own superabundant vitality to him.

During his stay in Boston, Walt frequently attended the services then
conducted at the Seamen's Bethel by Father Taylor.[256] As a rule, he
avoided churches of every sort, feeling acutely the ineffectiveness of
what is grimly called "Divine Service," feeling also that worship was
for the soul in its solitude.[257] Not that he was ignorant of that
social passion which finds its altar in communion of spirit, or was
blind to the deepest mysteries of fellowship. To these, as we shall
see, he was particularly sensitive. But the formalities of a church
must have seemed foolish and irksome to one for whom all fellowship was
a kind of worship, and all desire was a prayer. In the preaching of
Father Taylor there was nothing formal or ineffective. In it Walt felt
anew the passionate sense of reality which had thrilled him as a child
in the preaching of old Elias Hicks.

Father Taylor was now nearly seventy;[258] a southerner by birth, he
had been a sailor, and became upon conversion a "shouting Methodist".
The earnestness of his first devotion remained with him to the last;
and his prayers were especially marked by the power which flowed from
him continually. Behind the high pulpit in the quaint heavily-timbered,
wood-scented chapel was painted a ship in distress, in vivid
illustration of his words which were ever returning to the sea. All his
ways were eloquent, unconventional, picturesque and homely like his
face, so that he won the hearts of all conditions of men, and became
one of the idols of Boston.

The old man's power of fascination seemed almost terrible to his
hearers; one young sailor opined that he must be the actual Holy Ghost.
Walt himself was always moved to tears by the marvellous intimacy of
his passionate pleading in prayer.[259] He spoke straight to the Soul,
and not at all, as do common preachers, to the intelligence or the
superficial emotions; and the Soul of his hearers answered, with the
awful promptitude of an unknown living presence within. His passion of
love was at once tender and remorseless; Whitman compares him with a
surgeon operating upon a beloved patient.

In this man, before whom all the elocution of the platform was mere
trickery, Walt recognised the one "essentially perfect orator" whom
he had ever heard, the only one who fulfilled the demands of his own
ideal. And be it remembered, Theodore Parker was in his power in those
days, while Father Taylor was an evangelical of the old school. It is,
after all, not mysticism but orthodoxy which is exclusive; and though
he was wholly a heretic, Whitman was able fully to love and appreciate
those who were farthest removed from his own point of view.

       *       *       *       *       *

Upon this visit Emerson and Whitman saw much of one another. They were
both men in middle life--Emerson had passed his fiftieth year--and each
entertained for the other a feeling of warm and affectionate regard.
Whitman felt toward the older man almost as to an elder brother,[260]
and the sweet and wise and kindly spirit of Emerson frequently sought
out the younger in brotherly solicitude for his welfare.

Their intimacy had sprung from Emerson's letter, and it was always
Emerson who pressed it. Something in the mental atmosphere in which the
Concord philosopher moved was very repellant to Whitman: he positively
disliked "a literary circle," and blamed it for all the real or
imagined shortcomings of his friend. He himself would not go to Concord
from his horror of any sort of lionizing.

So when Emerson wanted to talk, they would walk together on the
Common;[261] as on one memorable, bright, keen February day, when
under the bare branches of the American elms, they paced to and fro
discoursing earnestly.

Emerson's name had been somewhat too conspicuously displayed on the
back of the second edition, of which he had been caused to appear
almost as a sponsor; and some of the lines thus introduced had put his
Puritan friends completely out of countenance, while giving his many
enemies an admirable opportunity to blaspheme. The frank celebration of
acts to which modern society only alludes by indirection, revealed to
the observant eye of orthodoxy that cloven hoof of immorality which it
always suspects concealed about the person of the philosophic heretic.
And we can well imagine the consternation of the blameless householder
of Boston as, in the bosom of his astonished family, he read aloud the
pages commended to him by the words of the master.

It was thus upon Emerson, who did not quite approve the offending
poems, that much of the storm of indignation wreaked itself; and
whatever Emerson himself might think of the situation, his family was
indignant. One can almost hear them arguing that a man has heresies
enough of his own to close the ears of men to his message, without
gratuitous implication in heresies which are not his; if he value his
charge, let him keep clear of other men's eccentricities; he really has
no right to allow himself to be represented as the sponsor for such
sentiments as Whitman printed in the _Body Electric_.[262]

But whatever his friends might counsel, Emerson spoke from his own
heart and wisdom that February day. He was pleading not for himself,
but for the truth as he saw it, and for his offending friend. It was
not because the book was being published as it were in his own diocese,
his own beloved Boston; but because the new edition would be the first
to be issued by a responsible house, and destined, probably, to enjoy a
wide and permanent circulation, remaining for years the final utterance
of Whitman upon these matters, that Emerson was so urgent and so

His position was a strong one; his arguments, and the spirit which
prompted them, were, as Whitman admitted, overwhelming, and his
companion was in a sense convinced. It is much to be regretted that
neither of the friends kept any detailed record of this discussion, but
I think we can guess what the older man's position would be.

Your message of the soul, we can imagine Emerson saying, is of the
utmost importance to America: it is what America needs, and it is what
you, and you alone, can make her hear. But you can only make her hear
it, if you state it in the most convincing and simple way.

Now these poems of yours upon sex complicate and confuse the real
message, not because they are necessarily wrong in themselves--I
do not say they are--but because they do and must give rise to
misunderstanding, and in consequence, obscure or even cancel the rest.
They give the book an evil notoriety, and will create for it a _succès
de scandale_. It will be bought and read by the prurient, to whom its
worth will be wholly sealed.

And not only do you destroy the value of the book by printing such
poems as these, you render it actually dangerous. Personally you and
I are agreed--he would say--with Boehme where he writes that "the new
spirit cometh to Divine vision in himself, and heareth God's word, and
hath Divine understanding and inclination ... and ... _the earthly
flesh_ ... _hurteth him not at all_".[263] We know the flesh to be
beautiful and sacred; we turn with loathing from the blasphemies of
Saint Bernard and of Luther, who saw in it nothing but a maggot-sack, a
sack of dung. On these things we are at one; but how are we most wisely
and surely to direct others on the road to self-realisation?

To feed the monster of a crude passion is surely not the way to bring
the individual toward the Divine vision. To be frank about these
matters is necessary; but in order to be honest is it necessary to
fling abroad this wildfire, against which we are all contending, lest
it destroy the labours of ages? Must we nourish this giant, whose
unruly strength is for ever threatening to tear in pieces the unity of
the self?

By these poems you are deliberately consigning your book to the class
which every wise parent must label "dangerous to young people," and
which the very spirits you most desire to kindle for America will be
compelled, by the law of their being, to handle at their peril, and to
turn from with distress.

       *       *       *       *       *

Arguments not unlike these were doubtless used by Emerson, for we
know that he discussed this problem; and Whitman listened attentively
to them, explaining himself at times, but generally weighing them in
silence. Perhaps they were not new to him, but they were rendered
the more powerful and well-nigh irresistible by the persuasive and
beautiful spirit, the whole magnetic personality of his friend.

Walt was deeply moved, and when, after a couple of hours, Emerson
concluded the statement of his case with the challenge, "What have you
to say to such things?" could but reply, "Only that while I can't
answer them at all, I feel more settled than ever to adhere to my own
theory and exemplify it". "Very well," responded Emerson cheerfully,
"then let us go to dinner."[264]

They had been pacing up and down the Long Walk by Beacon Street, from
which one looks across the broad, park-like stretch of the Common--that
Common whose grey, bright-eyed squirrels are so confiding, and whose
air is so good from the sea. To-day the oldest of the elms, that kept
record of the past as wisely as any archives, have yielded to the winds
and to the tooth of time. The growth of these trees is very different
from that of our English species, and their long, curving branches
rib the vault of sky overhead. The two men went over the historic
hill--where now the gilded dome of the State House glows richly against
the sky--descending through picturesquely narrow streets, full of
memories and echoes of old days, to their destination at the American


[239] _Cf._ useful ed. of his speeches recently added to "Unit Library".

[240] Thoreau's _A Plea for Captain J. B._, and _The Last Days of J. B._

[241] Kennedy, 49.

[242] Address at Cooper Inst., 27th February, 1860.

[243] Among the MSS. Traubel is a first draft for a novel (?) dealing
with a woman of this class.

[244] Dr. D. B. St. J. Roosa in _N.Y. Mail and Express_.

[245] Donaldson, 208.

[246] W. D. Howells, _Lity. Friends and Acq._, 74.

[247] Kennedy, 70.

[248] Bucke, 26, 38.

[249] _Mem. Hist. N.Y._, iii., 458-60.

[250] _Cf._ _Mem. Hist. N.Y._, iii., 464, etc.

[251] _Ib._, iii., 468.

[252] Kennedy, 69.

[253] In possession of Mr. J. H. Johnston, of New York. Reproduced as
frontispiece to _Comp. Prose_.

[254] Kennedy, 44; Bucke, 33; Burroughs, 20, 21.

[255] Mr. Trowbridge.

[256] _Comp. Prose_, 385-87.

[257] _Ib._, 226, 227.

[258] _Father Taylor, the Sailor Preacher_, by G. Haven and T. Russell,

[259] _Comp. Prose_, 386.

[260] Kennedy, 76, 77; _cf._ _Comp. Prose_, 315-17; Burroughs (_a_),
67, etc.

[261] Burroughs, 144.

[262] _L. of G._, 81.

[263] _Two Theosophical Letters_, ii., 11.

[264] Bucke, 144, 145; _Comp. Prose_, 184.



What the theory was from which even Emerson's eloquence could not
persuade Whitman, we may understand better if we take up the new
volume, turning the pages which were now being added to it, till toward
the end we come upon the matter of debate.

Though handsomer and pleasanter to handle than its predecessor, this
Boston edition still wears a countryman's dress; a heavily stamped
orange cover which threatens the symmetry of any library shelf.
Evidently, Whitman did not intend it to lie there in peace. It was to
be different from the rest, and bad company for them.

It opens on a reproduction of the 1859 painting, which faces an
odd-looking lithographed and beflourished title-page. The old Preface
has gone for good, and now its place is taken by a _Proto-Leaf_ or
Summary, by way of introduction.[265]

The first edition had been a manifesto of the American idea
in literature and ethics, and a declaration of the gospel of
Self-realisation. The second expanded the mystical meanings involved
in this; "think of the soul" running through all, and breaking out
continually as a refrain, and it made clearer the message to women
already more than hinted in the first. Now in the third edition,
emphasis falls upon the personal note, which becomes strangely
haunting. The book is not only for the first time a complete and living
whole; it is a presence, a lover, a comrade, and its close is like a

       *       *       *       *       *

Solitary, singing in the West, says the introductory Leaf,[266] the
poet is striking up for a New World; and lo, he beholds all the peoples
of all time as his interminable audience. For through him, Nature
herself speaks without restraint; and through him, the Soul, the
ultimate Reality.

He sings for America; for there at last the Soul is acknowledged; and
his song will bind her together. The Body, Sex, Comradeship, these he
sings: but above all, Faith, for he is proclaiming a new religion which
includes all others and is worthy of America.[267] Of whatever he may
seem to write, he is always writing of Religion; for indeed she is
supreme. Love, Democracy, Religion--these three--and the greatest of
these is Religion.

The world is unseen as much as seen. The air is full of invisible
presences as real as the seen. And his songs also are for those as yet
unseen, his children by Democracy, the woman of his love. For them he
will reveal the soul, glorious in the body.

Ah, what a glory is this our life, and this our country! Death itself
will not carry him away from it. In these fields, men and women in the
years to come will ever be discovering him, and he will render them
worthy of America as none other can. For he has "arrived," he is no
longer mortal.

If you would behold America, seek her in these pages. And if you would
triumph and make her triumphant, you must become his comrade. The final
note is one of passionate love-longing for comradeship.[268]

Such is the summary of the book; but it cannot be so briefly dismissed
by us, for it is full of suggestions of the inner workings of
Whitman's mind at this period, for us, in some respects, the most
characteristic and important of all. For after it there comes the war,
the watershed of his life; there he employed and in a sense expended
all the resources of his manhood, to issue from it upon the slopes of
ill-health which lead down into the valley of the shadow. But here he
is in his prime, and on the heights.

Here also, his individuality shows most definitely, even in its
secondary qualities. The association with men of a somewhat less
Bohemian type than were many of his literary friends in New York, and
the more cosmopolitan atmosphere of the national capital, together
with the close intimacy with death which the war-hospitals afforded,
somewhat quieted the tone of later editions. Here there is more of the
naïve colloquialism and mannerism, the slang and the ejaculations of
"the arrogant Mannhattanese" which he loves to proclaim himself.[269]
It is the edition which is most dear to many an enthusiast, and most
exasperating to many a critic.

After the first-written and longest of all the poems, "The Song of
Myself," here called "Walt Whitman," there follow two large bundles,
tied together and labelled respectively "Chants Democratic" and "Leaves
of Grass". The bulk of these consists of material already familiar.

But number four of the Chants,[270] celebrating the organic unity of
America, is new, and may be quoted as a curious example of Whitman's
style. Here are seven pages of soliloquy practically innocent of a
period, flowing along together in a hardly vertebrate sentence, which
enumerates the different elements included in the Union. Strange
as it certainly looks, this creation must have been so constructed
of set purpose, for Whitman could not be ignorant of the oddity of
its appearance, when viewed by the ever-alert humour of the already
hostile American critic. Can there possibly be any connection between
this style of composition and the larger consciousness of which he
had experience? The question may appear absurd, but I ask it in all
seriousness, and would propose an affirmative answer.

Whitman regarded his whole book as a unit, not as a collection. Like
the composer who elaborates a single theme into a long-sustained
symphony, or the psychological novelist who requires three volumes
for the portrayal of a personality, he held his meaning suspended in
order that it might be more fully grasped; and this is true also of his
individual poems. The thought he had to convey was not epigrammatic,
but a complex of suggestions which merge into one as they are read
together. I would even venture to suggest that some of these exercises
in sustained meaning were also designed to train the faculty of
apprehending the Many-in-One, the Unity, which, as he believed, lies
behind all variety. In considering this suggestion one may contrast the
emotional results produced by epigrams and long sentences. May not the
former be the natural rhythm for wit and the latter for imagination?

The contrast between the essayist on "Man" and the singer of
"Myself" is obvious;[271] but the optimism of the eighteenth century
epigrammatist seems to be echoed in Whitman's pages.[272] On the verge
of war, and in the midst of all the corruption of American politics,
he has the audacity to declare and reiterate, "Whatever is, is best".
Are we to dismiss it as the shallow utterance of a callous-hearted,
healthy-bodied, complacent American, deliberately blind to the world's
tragedy? A thousand times, no. The pages before and after such
declarations are filled with knowledge of suffering and death, of the
bereavement of love, of the shame that follows sin, and of the desire
for a better day. But here and elsewhere, he sees the perfect plan
of the ages being fulfilled. From his Pisgah-height, he beholds the
stretch of time; and looking out over creation as did the Divine Eye,
he, Walt Whitman, beholds that it is all good.

Emerson has written of "the Perfect Whole"; but in the pages before us
Whitman specifies the parts, seeing them all illumined by the mystic
light of the soul. This lays him open to attack; it is even dangerous
from the point of view of morality. Whitman acknowledges as much, but
he still has faith in his vision; he is still obedient to the inner
impulse which for him at least, is indubitably divine. There must
always be a point at which the moralist would fain part company from
the mystic: one is occupied in the fields of eternity, while the other
is pre-occupied upon the battlefield of time. There is room for both
in a world where time and eternity alike are real, but the toil of the
seer must not be made subservient to that of the warrior.

Some of the lines of Whitman's "Hymn to the Setting Sun" recall the
canticle which Brother Francis used to sing among the olives:

    Open mouth of my Soul, uttering gladness,
    Eyes of my Soul, seeing perfection,
    Natural life of me, faithfully praising things,
    Corroborating for ever the triumph of things--[273]

and it is all pregnant with the wonder of being. In this it is like his
earlier work, but it has added deeper notes to its melody, and has won
therewith a finer rhythm. A mellow glory of the setting sun irradiates
it. All space, the poet reminds us, is filled with soul-life, and the
strong chords of that life awake the rhythms of his praise for the joy
of the Universal Being.

He greets death with equanimity, and it is this bell-note of welcome to
death which gives the full bass to the first Boston edition. America,
these poems and their writer, and all the struggling creatures of life,
are to find their meaning in death, in transition; they are to slough
off what is no longer theirs and pass forward into life. Are they then
to lose individual identity? No, the soul is identity, and they are of
the soul; but that in them which is not the soul will find its meaning
in death. There is a spiritual body, which the soul has gathered
about itself through the agency of the senses, and that body the soul
retains; but the body of the senses dissolves and finds new uses and
new meanings, through death.

We may illustrate this thought from the life of the whole tree, which
is enriched by the life of every leaf. When the sap withdraws from the
leaf, and the leaf shrivels and dies, and the frost and wind carry
its corpse away and mix it with the mire, the soul of the leaf still
lives in the tree. But the mere outer body, which did but temporarily
belong to the life of the leaf, finds new value by its destruction and
death. Who has not felt the liberating joy of the autumn gales? Who has
not rejoiced among the trees, feeling with them the sense of rest and
quiescence in which the force of life accumulates anew for expression
and growth? But for the fallen leaves also we may rejoice, since their
atoms have won something by contact with the life of the tree which now
they can communicate to the humble mire.

In another of these poems,[274] Whitman compares himself with the
historian. The latter studies the surface of humanity, while in the
former the inner self of the race finds expression. Such is the
difference between an historian and a prophet. In another,[275]
carrying forward a kindred thought, he declares that he has discovered
the story of the past, not in books but in the actual present. To the
seer, as to God, the past is not gone by, but is clearly legible in
the pages of our current life, if only we would learn to read them.
It is hidden from our normal consciousness; but in certain phases
of consciousness to which, it would appear, Whitman attained, it is

To this deeper consciousness Whitman looked for the fulfilling of
his own work and the integration of all knowledge in the future. As
men shall enter into it, he believed, their work will show the clear
evidence of an underlying unity;[276] it will cease to be fragmentary,
and our libraries, instead of being mere museums filled with specimens,
will become organic like a tree. Then the sense of the cosmos will
superintend all things that man makes, as it superintends all the
works of nature. A unity already exists, but an unconscious unity, like
that of chaos.[277] His own work is, of course, only a part; a prelude
to the universal hymn which later poets will raise together. But it is
a prelude, and this distinguishes it from other contemporary verse.

America, the land of the Many-in-One, he had discovered as the field
for the new poetry.[278] For the divine unity is a living complex
of variety. Every heart has its own song, and yet the heart of all
song is one. Henceforward, he will go up and down America like the
sun, awakening the new seasons of the soul. Some of his songs are
especially for New York, others for the West, the Centre or the South.
But everywhere and to all alike, they cry the messages of Reality,
Equality, Immortality. Neither do they cry only, but they actually
create. For song, he says, is no mere sound upon the wind, born but
to die; these songs of his are the most real of realities; they will
outlast centuries, supporting the Democracy of the world.[279]

       *       *       *       *       *

The section which is specifically entitled _Leaves of Grass_ opens upon
a note of that humility in which Whitman is supposed to have failed.
Throwing wholly aside his egoism and pride, he identifies himself with
tiny and ephemeral things--the scum and weed which the sea flings upon
Paumanok's coast.

"As I Ebbed with the Ocean of Life"[280] is a most significant poem,
which it is impossible to summarise briefly. It appears to have been
suggested by the experiences of an autumn evening on the Long Island
beach, perhaps upon the then lonely sands of Coney Island; an evening
in which the divine pride of conscious power and manhood, from which as
a rule he wrote in the exaltation of inspiration, ebbed away, and left
him struggling with the power of what he calls the electric or eternal
self, striving as it were against it to retain his own individual

Although it is not easy to explain what he means, the passage admirably
suggests the complex inner experience of his life at this period. It
was filled with battles and adventures of the spirit, and it kept his
mind always supplied with ample material for thought. It is no wonder
that the endeavour to explain himself, and to keep some kind of record
of these explorations and discoveries in the Unknown occupied much of
his time, and that these years are somewhat barren of outward incident.
The inner experiences of so sane and stalwart a man are of the utmost
psychological interest, and we cannot lay too much stress upon their
importance in Whitman's story, proving as they do the delicate nervous
organisation of the man.

As the struggle proceeds, Walt seems to be seized by a strange new
feeling. He is fascinated by the tiny wind-rows left by the tide upon
the sand, and the sense of a likeness between himself and them arises
in him, taking the form not so much of a thought as of a consciousness
of kinship. The ocean scum and débris reminds him how near to him is
the infinite ocean of life and death, and how he himself is but a
little washed-up drift, soon to be swallowed in the approaching waters.
Doubt overwhelms him; he seems to know nothing of all that he thought
he knew; his Soul and Nature make mock at him. He admits that he is but
as this tiny nothing.

This mood is a real one in Whitman. It is wrong to think of him as a
man who was always complacent and cock-sure; all heroic faith must have
its moments of doubt, its crisis of despair, its cry of abandonment
upon the cross.

But they are moments only. If he is but this sea-drift, yet he claims
the shore as his father: "I take what is underfoot: what is yours,
is mine, my father". So he takes hold upon the Eternal Reality and
communes with it, praying that his lips may be touched and utter the
great mysteries; for otherwise, these will overwhelm his being.[281]
Pride, the full tide of life, will soon flow again in our veins; but
after all, what are we but a strange complex of sea-drift and changing
moods strewed here at your feet? It is not pessimism but humility which
asks that question, the humility which is part of a divine pride.

That pride refuses to blink anything; let us face it all, even to the
utmost, he keeps saying. He feels that the soul can and must face
all.[282] He has not to make a theory or to justify himself, to uphold
institutions, or inculcate moralities; he has to open the doors of
life in faith. He has to let light in at all the windows. And if it
illumines ugliness as well as beauty, sin and shame as well as virtue
and pride--still it is his part to let in the ever-glorious light. The
more the light shines in, the more the Soul is satisfied. In himself he
recognises sin and baseness and gives it expression, bringing it to the

    (O admirers! praise not me! compliment not me! you make me wince,
    I see what you do not--I know what you do not;)
    Inside these breast-bones I lie smutch'd and choked,
    Beneath this face that appears so impassive, hell's tides
      continually run,
    Lusts and wickedness are acceptable to me,
    I walk with delinquents with passionate love,
    I feel I am of them--I belong to those convicts and prostitutes
    And henceforth I will not deny them--for how can I deny myself?[283]

But it is a mistake to think of the mystic, and especially of Whitman,
as the mere onlooker at life, and the moralist as the practical person.
There is ultimately of course no distinction between mystic and
moralist, the mystic is the moralist become seer. And he is, perhaps,
even more strenuous in his life than is the moralist; but life has now
assumed for him a different aspect. He is no longer pre-occupied by the
hunger and thirst after righteousness--for he feeds satisfied upon the
divine bread. He is not worried about sin, because he is conscious of
the antiseptic power of the Soul-life which heals the sores of sin, and
sloughs off the body of corruption. What is evil passes away when life
is earnestly pursued. He sees that everything which exists at all,
however evil it may be, exists by reason of some virtue or excellence
which it possesses, and which fits it to its environment. The wise soul
uses the excellence of things, and so things hurt it not at all. The
things that are not for it are evil to it; but in the sight of God they
are not evil, for all things have their value to Him.

Live your life, then, in faith, not in fear; such is the word of the
mystic. Condemn nothing; but learn what is proper for your own need;
and by sympathy, learn to read the hearts about you, and help them
also to live according to the wisdom of the soul. Feed the soul, think
of the soul, exercise the soul--and the things, the instincts, the
thoughts that are evil to you now, will presently cease to trouble you.
For in Whitman's universe the devil is dead.

It is this point of view, reached in his illumination, which enabled
him to look out upon all the shame and evil of the world, and yet to
rejoice. I doubt if he had as yet justified this attitude to himself
by any process of reasoning; and it would be presumptuous in me to
attempt the task; he simply accepted it as the only possible, or rather
the ultimate and highest attitude of the enlightened soul. When one
discovers the soul, that is the attitude in which she stands. The joy
of the soul fills the universe. Nothing any longer seems unworthy of
song. Not for its own sake, perhaps, but for that which it reveals to
the soul. And in the exaltation of this soul-sight he sings.

Towards the end of this section, there is a little group of poems which
deal with the voice.[284] Whitman recognised that the human voice is
capable of expressing more than mere thoughts. For the whole man speaks
in the voice; and as the soul becomes conscious, the voice gains in
actual timbre, and wins besides a mystical authority over the heart of
the hearer. Each word spoken by the awakened soul is freighted with
fuller meaning than it carried before, and every word so spoken has
a beauty which the soul gives it. He illustrates a kindred thought by
dwelling upon the different meanings which his own name assumes in
different mouths.[285] It would seem as though he realised that power
of the name which is familiar to some uncivilised peoples and has been
largely forgotten by us.

The section closes with a poignant little verse[286] which declares
with all the passion of conviction, that this paper is not paper, nor
these words mere words; but that this is the Man Walt Whitman, who
hails you here and cries farewell. The book is a sacrament; it is
the wafer and wine of a Real Presence; it is a symbol pregnant with
personality; it is no book, it is a man.

    Lift me close to your face till I whisper,
    What you are holding is in reality no book, nor part of a book,
    It is a man, flushed and full-blooded--it is I--_So long!_
    We must separate--Here! take from my lips this kiss,
    Whoever you are, I give it especially to you;
    _So long_--and I hope we shall meet again.

The _Salut au Monde_ carries this _Ave atque Vale_ to each and all.

I have already spoken of "A Word out of The Sea"[287] in which Whitman
relates an incident of his childhood on the Long Island coast. This
is among the most melodious of his chants; and though Death and Love
are the themes of all great poets it would be difficult to quote any
passage more suggestive of the pathetic mystery of bereavement, than
the song which he puts to the notes of the widowed mocking-bird. The
bird's song has purposes unknown to its singer, meanings which are
caught by the boy's heart, and awaken there a strange passion and wild
chaos, that Death, whose voice is as the accompaniment of the sea to
the cry of the bird, can alone soothe and order. It is impossible to
read this poem and think of its author as ignorant of personal love and
personal loss. The notes of despair and triumph blend together here and
elsewhere in this edition.

We turn now to the _Enfans d'Adam_, poems of sex, whose name is
suggested by Whitman's outlook on life as on a garden of Eden, and by
his conception of himself as it were a reincarnate Adam, begetter of a
new race of happier men.[288]

These are the poems which formed the storm-centre of Emerson's
discussion. They celebrate the love of the body for its correlative
body, the bridegroom's for the bride's; and they celebrate the concern
of the soul in reproduction. The proof and law of all life is that it
go forth from itself in fertilising power, that it beget or conceive;
and without this, life and love would be bereft of glory. And more: for
Whitman broke wholly with that mysticism which once saw in the organs
of sex a deformity consequent upon man's fall; he beheld them rather as
the vessels of a divine communion.

From this mystical view of Whitman's, Emerson would conceivably have
found no reason for dissent, but the new mysticism was full-blooded
and masculine. It sprang out of experience, and was in no respect
a substitute for it. When he wrote of the body, Walt used the word
mystically it is true, but he meant the body nevertheless, using the
word to the full of its meaning. He was very far from the abstract
philosophic idealism which we usually and often unfairly associate with
the transcendentalism of Concord. Thoreau, for example, the Oriental
dreamer, had been thrilled through by the bloody and even brutal
fanaticism of John Brown.

Yet Whitman's virility was different from theirs. His celebration of
passion was as honest and frank as Omar's praise of the vine. To him,
the begetting of children seemed in itself more satisfying to the soul
than any words could express. It needed no apologist; but rose out of
the region of cold ethics in the divine glow of its ecstatic reality.

Such an attitude, it seems to me, is only possible to a man who has
known true love, and has lived a chaste and temperate life. And these
poems, far from representing Whitman as a man of dissolute habits,
indubitably afford the clearest proof, if it were needed, of his
temperance and self-control; but that is, happily, a matter which
is beyond dispute. He was not a man to seek unlawful pleasures, or
to approach life's mysteries irreverently, neither was he a man to
treat womanhood, even when it had covered itself with shame, with
anything but the utmost gentleness and chivalry. It was in the cause
of womanhood, if we can say that it was in any cause, that he wrote
his poems of sex, seeking, for woman's sake, to wipe away the shame
that still clings about paternity.[289] The physical rites of love
were beautiful to his sight; and he sought to tear away the obscene
draperies and skulking thoughts by which they have been hidden.

With this in view, he added an inventory of all the items of the flesh
to his poem of "The Body Electric,"[290] intended as are all his lists
to make the subsequent generalisation more actual. These, he said, are
the parts of the soul. For matter and mind are twin aspects of the one
reality, which is the soul. All knowledge comes to the soul through the
senses, and if we put shame upon any function of the body we cripple
something in the soul.

In a singular phrase,[291] he declares that he will be the robust
husband of the true women of America, the women who await him;
meaning, I suppose, that through the medium of his book, he will
quicken in those who are fearless and receptive, the conception of the
new Humanity. He is Adam, destined to be the father of a new race,
by the women who are able to receive him. Sexual imagery is rightly
used in this connection, not only because it is according to mystical
precedent, but because sex is the profoundest of the passions, as much
spiritual as physical, and all reproductive energy is sexual. Whitman
believed that until this was recognised, religion and art must remain
comparatively sterile.

The question which these poems raise is far too large and too delicate
for full discussion in this place. And its discussion is rendered more
difficult because, present as it is in most of our minds, it is in many
still unripe for words. The soul knows its own needs and its own hours,
and pages like these of Whitman's are not for every reader. Whitman
knew it, and many a time in this volume he asks whether it were not
better for you to put the book aside. As for himself, the time had come
when these things must be uttered.

The soul must take experience in its own time; but Whitman was
convinced that without initiation into the mysteries of love, much
of life must remain an enigma to the individual. It was, it would
appear, after initiation that he himself had realised his identity
with all things. We speak sometimes of the bestial side of our nature,
forgetting that when love illuminates it, it is this side in particular
which redeems all that before seemed gross among the creatures.

True to his determination to include all, even the outcast, in his
synthesis, Whitman, in another poem,[292] companions publicly with
sinners and with harlots. He shares their nature also; they, too, have
their place. But if he says they are just as good as the best, it is
only when seen by the eyes of a Divine Love. He, as much as any man,
realises the handicap of sin; in the end the soul must conquer; but
think how sin--the sin of the Pharisee and of the callous heart as much
as that of the prostitute--disfigures the temple of the soul, and mars
the spiritual with the outward body.

Temperate himself, Whitman's sympathy for those who sin in the flesh
was very real. And indeed for all sins of passion he felt, perhaps,
a special understanding. The story runs that while he was still in
Boston,[293] he met a lad he had known in New York, who was now, after
a drunken brawl, in which he believed he had killed a companion,
escaping from the American police to Canada. The young fellow told
Walt his story, and was sent upon his way with that comrade's kiss of
affection which meant so much more than good advice or charity.

Before closing this section, Whitman returns[294] to the Adamic idea,
as though to make his meaning unmistakable. In him, Adam has nearly
circled the world, and now looks out across the Pacific to his first
birth-place in the East; and still his work is unaccomplished. Still
must he go on seeking for his bride, the Future. The passion of
creation is upon him, he is strained with yearning for that towards
which his soul gravitates.

As we finish these poems, we remember how at this time their author
impressed those who approached him with two equal qualities, his force
and his purity: for great passion is a clear wine in a chaste vessel.
He had a right to say as his last word on this subject, "be not afraid
of my body"; for, indeed, it was his soul, enamoured of all things,
wholesome and pure.

       *       *       *       *       *

After these poems, comes the "Song of the Road," and other familiar
pieces, and then another group wholly new. These appear to have been
written in the autumn of 1859,[295] and are called _Calamus_; a name
either for a reed or for the sweet-flag,[296] which occurs in the
Bible and in the pages of Greek and Latin writers, but is here used of
a common American pond-reed, a sort of tall sedge or great spear of
grass, a yard or so in height, emitting a pungent watery smell, whose
root is used for chewing. In these poems he asserts the soul's need
of society, for life and growth. The gospel of self-realisation thus
becomes a social gospel, and the thought gives a political significance
to these, the most esoteric of all Whitman's poems.

He seems more than usually sensitive about them, and dreads to have
them misunderstood. Proud and jealous, he would drive all but a few
away from his confidences. They are only intended, he says,[297] for
his comrades; for it is only they who will understand them.

But in the more obvious sense the poems are for all. It is to
comradeship and not to institutions that Whitman looks for a political
redemption. He will bind America indissolubly together into the
fellowship of his friends.[298] Their friendship shall be called after
him,[299] and in his name they shall solve all the problems of Freedom,
and bring America to victory. Lovers are the strength of Liberty,
comrades perpetuate Equality; America will be established above
disaster by the love of her poet's lovers.

Then he turns to himself and his own friends, or rather, perhaps, to
his own conscious need for friends. It is curious when one thinks
of it, that we have no record of any close friendship, save that of
Emerson, dating from these days. And he who knew and loved so many men
and women, seems to have carried forward with him no equal friendship
from the years of his youth. In this respect, he was solitary as a
pioneer. He longed for Great Companions, but he did not meet them at
this time upon the open road of daily intercourse.

Yet was he not alone. Some say he wrote of comradeship because he never
found such a comrade as him of whom he wrote;[300] but in one at least
of these poems he declares that his life, or at the least his singing,
depends upon such comradeship. And the absence of any record merely
reminds us that Whitman was chary of committing such personal matters
to the keeping of a note-book. What record has he left of those women
and their children, whose relation to himself must have bulked so
largely in the world of his soul? The poems seem to indicate at least
one very intimate friendship, more passionately given than returned.

Sometimes, as on the beach of Paumanok, doubt oversets him. Perhaps
after all,[301] appearances do not mean what he sees in them. Perhaps
the reality, the purpose, lies still undiscovered in them. Perhaps the
identity of the human self after death is but a beautiful fable. There
is a perfect answer--shall we say an evasion?--of these questionings
and of all doubts, which fellowship provides.

    To me, these, and the like of these, are curiously answered by my
      lovers, my dear friends;
    When he whom I love travels with me, or sits a long while holding
      me by the hand,
    When the subtle air, the impalpable, the sense that words and
      reason hold not, surround us and pervade us,
    Then I am charged with untold and untellable wisdom--I am silent--I
      require nothing further,
    I cannot answer the question of appearances, or that of identity
      beyond the grave,
    But I walk or sit indifferent--I am satisfied,
    He ahold of my hand has completely satisfied me.

Then he praises Love; all other joys and enterprises of the heroic soul
become but little things when weighed against the life of fellowship,
the joy of the presence of the beloved.[302] Is this another of those
places where the moralist begs to take his leave of the mystic? Let us
beseech him to stay, for it is out of the strenuous passions of the
soul that all good and lasting works for humanity have sprung. It was
the face of Beatrice--and for the Italian, it could only have been her
face--which drew Dante down through the circles of horror and up the
steep slopes of Purgatory to Paradise. It was the beauty of the lady
Poverty, that enabled her lover to kiss the sores of the lepers in the
lazar house below Assisi. What would the Apostles have done in the name
of their Lord had they not, like Mary the mystic, chosen the better
part of communion with Him instead of fidgetting forever, with Martha,
upon the errands of duty?

He writes of Love's tragedy, and refusal; of the measured love returned
for the infinite love accorded.[303] But oftener he dwells upon its
joy. The air becomes alive with music he had never heard before.[304]
The passion in his heart responds to a passion of which hitherto he
had not dreamed, hidden in the heart of the world, awaiting its hour
to break forth. And as these poems have come slowly up from out of
the inner purpose of things, to find utterance upon Whitman's pages,
so slowly will their meaning arise in the hearts of those that read
them.[305] It is not to be guessed in a moment. For they are freighted
with the mystery which unfolds in the patience of the soul.

Although he warns his reader from time to time to beware of him, for
he is not at all the man he seems, a note of yearning for confidence
cannot be suppressed. He confesses that his very life-blood speaks in
these pages,[306] and that his soul is heavy with infinite passion
for the love of its Comrades that shall be. Sometimes, as he passes a
stranger in the streets, he knows in himself that once they were each
other's; some deep chord of life thrilling, as though with memory,
to promise that they will yet come together again.[307] Ah, how many
and many an one of these his mystic kin must the lands of the earth
contain! It is not America only, but the whole human race that he will
bind at last into his fellowship, laughing at institutions and at laws,
persuading all men by the power of the Soul which is in all.[308] One
institution there is which he confesses[309] that he would inaugurate.
Let men who love one another kiss when they meet, and walk hand in
hand. It is no mere sentiment; he sees that love must have its witness.
In warm manly love is the mightiest power in the universe, a power that
laughs at oppressors and at death.[310]

    I dreamed in a dream, I saw a city invincible to the attacks of the
      whole of the rest of the earth,
    I dreamed that was the new City of Friends,
    Nothing was greater there than the quality of robust love--it led
      the rest,
    It was seen every hour in the actions of the men of that city,
    And in all their looks and words.

_Calamus_, like the bundle labelled _Leaves of Grass_, closes on the
note of personal presence.[311]

       *       *       *       *       *

I trust it has already been sufficiently suggested that Whitman's
mysticism is not to be confused with much that hitherto has passed
under that name. Mysticism it is, for it is the expression of mystical
experience; but it is clearly not the mysticism which is completed in
a circle of devotion, religious exercises, meditation and ecstasy. It
is the mysticism which recreates the world in a new image. Professor
Royce, in his most interesting lectures on "The World and the
Individual," has described it, or something very similar to it, under
the title of Idealism; and his careful and suggestive elaboration of
his theme is the best indirect commentary upon what I have called
the mysticism of Whitman with which I am acquainted. It includes an
admirable exposition of the meaning of the Soul or Self.

Your whole world, he declares, is your whole Self--Whitman would
perhaps have said, it is the mirror which reveals yourself. The
Infinite Universe, whereof yours is but a part, is the Self of God. We
live, but are not lost in Him, for we are as it were His members. There
are two aspects of the human self: the temporal, in which it appears
as a mere momentary consciousness, and the eternal, which reveals it
as an indestructible purpose, the essence of reality. For reality, the
professor argues, is the visible expression of purpose or meaning.

To proceed to the social aspect of this teaching: the individual, when
he becomes conscious of his world--his Self--becomes conscious, too,
that his world is only one aspect of the Universe, that there are a
myriad others, and that the Universal Life consists of a Fellowship
of such Selves as his. Thus, God is the Many-in-One; in Him the Many
are one Self and complete. And the Many do not only seek completion
in the Divine Unity; they also seek fellowship with one another.
The Divine life, which is the basis of Human life, is thus a life
of Fellowship--as the Apostle says, it is Love. It is not merely a
trinity, it is a City of Friends; or rather of Lovers, as Edward
Carpenter suggested in his recent essays.[312]

Now I am convinced that this thought underlies _Calamus_; not,
indeed, as a metaphysical theory, but as one of those overwhelming
realisations of the ultimate significance of things which I have
described inadequately as Whitman's symbolism. Seeking to plumb the
depths of passion, he found God. Sex became for him, in its essence,
the potency of that Life wherein we are One. And comradeship, a passion
as intense as that of sex, he beheld as the same relation between
spiritual or ætherial bodies.[313] He was aware that the noblest of
passions is the most liable to base misunderstandings. But in it alone
the soul finds full freedom. Sex passion finds its proper expression in
physical rites, it is the passion of the life in Time; on the contrary,
the passion of comrades is of eternity and only finds expression in
Death.[314] This appears to have been Whitman's conviction.

       *       *       *       *       *

Yet another bundle follows _Calamus_; a packet of more or less personal
letters or messages called _Messenger Leaves_. In subsequent editions
they were sorted out into other sections. They are not all new; but
among those that now appear for the first time are the daring and noble
lines to Jesus.

    My spirit to yours, dear brother,
    Do not mind because many, sounding your name, do not understand you,
    I do not sound your name, but I understand you, (there are others
    I specify you with joy, O my comrade, to salute you, and to salute
      those who are with you, before and since--and those to come also,
    That we all labour together, transmitting the same charge and
    We few, equals, indifferent of lands, indifferent of times,
    We, enclosers of all continents, all castes--allowers of all
    Compassionaters, perceivers, rapport of men,
    We walk silent among disputes and assertions, but reject not the
      disputers, nor anything that is asserted, ...
    Till we saturate time and eras, that the men and women of races,
      ages to come, may prove brethren and lovers, as we are.[315]

Scattered through the generations--so we may read his thought--are
those who have come into the cosmic consciousness or larger life, who
have passed beyond the reach of time and of mere argument, and who
therefore understand one another as others cannot understand them. The
love and communion which exists between such Great Companions, is a
pledge and earnest of the Society of the Future, when all men shall be
one, even as these are one.

The thought may shock those to whom it comes suddenly, if they see in
Whitman the "mere man" of their own narrow conception of humanity.
But in judging him we must remember that he openly claims for himself
and for other men all the Divine attributes which Christians are in
the habit of ascribing to their Lord. Whitman believed that Jesus
identified himself with Humanity; and that all who enter, as he
entered, into the cosmic life share in the fellowship of God, even as
did he.

More fully than many Christians, Whitman recognised Jesus as literally
his elder brother; he joined with him in the words "Our Father,"
feeling them to be true. And as one reads the gospel narratives one
ventures to believe that the Master who called the disciples his
friends, would himself have been eager to welcome the assertion of such
a relationship.

Another letter[316] is to one about to die; it is filled not with
melancholy but with congratulation. The body that dies is but an
excrement, the Self is eternal and goes on into ever fuller sunlight.

Another,[317] which has aroused perhaps more misunderstanding than
anything which Whitman wrote, is addressed to a prostitute. It hardly
seems to call for explanation; for it is like the simple offering of
the hand of friendship to an outcast; the assertion that for her, too,
Whitman's living eternal comradeship is real and close, accompanied by
the injunction that she be worthy of such friendship.

He writes to rich givers[318] in the Franciscan spirit; for he that is
willing to give all, is able to accept.

To a pupil[319] he suggests that personality is the tool of all good
work and usefulness. To be magnetic is to be great. Come then and first
become yourself.

But it is impossible even to refer in passing to all the separate
poems, each one with its living suggestion. Some of the briefest are
not the least pregnant.

       *       *       *       *       *

The book closes with poems of departure. A dread falls upon him;[320]
perhaps after all he may not linger, to go to and fro through the lands
he loves, awakening comrades; presently his voice also will cease. But
here and now at least his soul has appeared and been realised; and that
in itself should be enough.

Then he says his farewell. His words have been for his own era; and in
every age, the race must find anew its own poets for its own words. But
till America shall have absorbed his message, he must stand, and his
influence, his spirit, must endure.[321] After all, he does but seek,
with passionate longing, one worthier than himself, who yet shall take
his place. For him, he has prepared.

Now is he come to die. Without comprehending or questioning, he has
obeyed his mystical commission; he has sown the Divine seed with which
he was entrusted; he has given the message with which he was burdened,
to women and to young men; now he passes on into the state for which
all experience and service has been preparing him. He ceases to sing.
His work is accomplished. Now disembodied and free, he can respond to
all that love him, and enter upon the intenser Reality of the Unknown.

    Dear friend, whoever you are, here, take this kiss,
    I give it especially to you--Do not forget me,
    I feel like one who has done his work--I progress on,
    The unknown sphere, more real than I dreamed, more direct, darts
      awakening rays about me--_So long!_
    Remember my words--I love you--I depart from materials,
    I am as one disembodied, triumphant, dead.[322]


[265] _L. of G._, 18.

[266] _L. of G._, 19.

[267] _Ib._, 23.

[268] _Ib._, 29; (1860), 22.

[269] In this edition the old-fashioned, colloquial "you was" is

[270] _L. of G._, 138.

[271] See _infra_, 289.

[272] _L. of G._, 191.

[273] _L. of G._, 374.

[274] _L. of G._, 11; (1860), 181.

[275] _Ib._, 300.

[276] _Ib._, 299.

[277] _L. of G._, 18.

[278] _Ib._ (1860), 190.

[279] _Ib._ (1860), 193.

[280] _Ib._, 202.

[281] _L. of G._ (1860), 198.

[282] _L. of G._ (1860), 236.

[283] _L. of G._, 298; (1860), 231.

[284] _L. of G._, 297.

[285] _L. of G._, 303.

[286] _Ib._ (1860), 242.

[287] _L. of G._, 196; see _supra_, 12.

[288] _L. of G._, 79.

[289] _Cf._ Mrs. Gilchrist in _In re_, 50.

[290] _L. of G._, 87, 88.

[291] _Ib._, 88.

[292] _L. of G._, 94; (1860), 311.

[293] Bucke, 102, 103.

[294] _L. of G._, 95.

[295] _Ib._ (1860), 378. Several of the poems are fuller in this
edition, some being omitted in the complete _L. of G._

[296] Rossetti, _Selections_, 390 n.; Kennedy, 134.

[297] _L. of G._, 97, 98, 100, 103.

[298] _Ib._, 99.

[299] _Ib._ (1860), 349.

[300] Donaldson, 7.

[301] _L. of G._, 101.

[302] _Ib._ (1860), 354.

[303] _Ib._ (1860), 355; _L. of G._, 110.

[304] _L. of G._, 343.

[305] _Ib._, 103, 104.

[306] _Ib._, 104, etc.

[307] _Ib._, 106.

[308] _Ib._, 107.

[309] _Ib._ (1860), 350.

[310] _L. of G._, 109.

[311] _L. of G._, 112.

[312] _The Art of Creation._

[313] _L. of G._, 96.

[314] _Ib._, 96.

[315] _L. of G._, 298; _cf._ _An American Primer_, 18, 19.

[316] _Ib._, 344.

[317] _Ib._, 299.

[318] _L. of G._, 216.

[319] _Ib._, 302.

[320] _Ib._, 370; (1860), 449.

[321] _Ib._, 380.

[322] _L. of G._, 382.



The new edition of _Leaves of Grass_ pleased the critics as little
as its predecessors, but had a wider circulation. Some four or five
thousand copies had been sold before the house of Thayer and Eldridge
went down in the financial crash which followed on the outbreak of the
war.[323] Emerson came in again for some share of the critical assault,
though his name was in no way connected with the new issue. Of Whitman
himself a London journalist declared[324] that he was the most silly,
the most blasphemous, and the most disgusting writer that he had ever

But if it found fresh enemies, the new edition found also new friends;
and notably in England, whither a few adventurous copies of the earlier
versions had already penetrated. Both Emerson and Thoreau had sent
them to their English friends--among whom was Carlyle--but apparently
with scant acknowledgment. Ruskin's correspondent, Mr. Thomas Dixon
of Sunderland, had purchased a few examples of the first edition at
Dutch auction; and some of these he forwarded to Mr. William Bell
Scott, who again handed on one of them to Mr. W. M. Rossetti; an act
which, as the story will show, proved to be of great importance to Walt
Whitman.[325] It was the book of 1860, however, which first aroused
the younger generation of Englishmen, among whom was the late Mr.
Addington Symonds. "Within the space of a few years," says he, "we were
all reading and discussing Walt."

       *       *       *       *       *

The book appeared under the shadow of impending war. With the
Presidential election of 1860, America came to the edge of the abyss;
and the return of Abraham Lincoln was promptly followed by the
organisation of secession. Whitman was still in Boston when, early in
the spring, Lincoln first made his appearance in New York, W. C. Bryant
introducing him to a great meeting at the Cooper Institute.

The famous speech which he then delivered lived long in its hearers'
memory; but even the personal impression which he made, remarkable as
it was, hardly prepared New York to learn in the following May that it
was Abraham Lincoln, and not W. H. Seward, the nominal leader of the
Republican party, who had received the Presidential nomination at the
great Chicago Convention.

Had the Democratic party been able to hold together, Lincoln could
not have carried the election; but it was now split, and further
weakened by the appearance of a Constitutional Union Party.[326] The
most dangerous of the opposing candidates seemed to be Lincoln's
old antagonist and subsequent loyal supporter, Judge Douglas, who
represented his well-worn policy of local option, or "squatter
sovereignty". Breckinridge of Kentucky openly advocated the extension
of slave territory; while Bell, the Unionist, kept his own counsel.

Early in the summer of that great struggle, Whitman returned to New
York. In June[327] he was among the immense crowd of interested
spectators who filled Broadway from side to side, on the arrival of
the first Japanese embassy to America; and he was of the thousands
who welcomed the succession of distinguished visitors who came, that
ominous summer, to the capital of the West. There was the _Great
Eastern_, that leviathan of the modern world, whose advent was so long
and so eagerly anticipated; there was Garibaldi, fresh from the fields
whereon Italy had become a kingdom--not indeed the sister republic of
Mazzini's ardent dream, who should have given the new law of Liberty to
Europe, but at least something more than a memory and a geographical

Another, in whom Whitman felt an even warmer interest, was "Baron
Renfrew," otherwise the Prince of Wales. The fair royal stripling
of those days attracted the stalwart Democrat, who like old George
Fox, could recognise a man under a crown as readily as a man in rags.
Whitman's eyes were keen to read personality; perhaps we should
rather say that the sense by which personality is distinguished was
highly developed in him. And he to whom the attributes of rank were
non-existent, fell in love with this young man[328] whose warm heart
was to make him perhaps the best beloved of monarchs, as he afterwards
fell in love with many a private soldier carried in wounded from
the field. Albert Edward was one of those strangers in whom Whitman
recognised a born comrade; and this fact at once raises his democratic
sentiment out of the region of class feeling.

He was a witness, too, of the advent of other visitors even more
brilliant, and burdened even more to the popular fancy, and perhaps to
his own, with significance. He saw the extraordinary display of the
heavens--the huge meteor, luminous almost as the moon, which fell in
Long Island Sound, and the unannounced comet flaring in the north.

The autumn was loud with the electoral struggle. The presence of three
opposing candidates was not enough to assure Lincoln's success. The
general expectation seems to have leaned towards an electoral tie, none
of the candidates polling a majority of the votes; and this would have
resulted, as on the similar occasion of 1824, in the choice between
them being left to the House of Representatives. Upon the result of
such choice the slave party was willing to stake its hopes of success;
anticipating that even though he were the popular candidate, Congress
would not select Lincoln, but would put him aside, as it had passed by
Jackson in its previous opportunity.

But to the consternation of the South, the "black Republican"
rail-splitter polled a clear majority over all three antagonists
combined. A majority, that is to say, of electoral votes, for the
American President is not chosen directly by the people, but by the
people's delegates.[329] Each State elects its quota of Presidential
electors, chosen not in proportion to the strength of parties in the
State, but all of them representing the dominant party.[330] Thus it
may happen that a candidate, like Judge Douglas, who polls a large
minority of the total popular vote, will receive a mere handful of
electoral suffrages, having failed to carry more than one or two
States. Lincoln was chosen by 180 votes to 123; and though Douglas's
popular poll was two-thirds of Lincoln's, and nearly as large as that
of the two other candidates combined, his electoral support was only
one-tenth of the voices against Lincoln. The Republican vote in the
country fell short of the combined opposition poll by a million out
of a total of less than five million votes. From the popular point of
view, Lincoln was, therefore, in the difficult position of a minority

The result of the November elections was scarcely made public before a
committee of Southern Congressmen issued a manifesto,[331] proclaiming
the immediate need for a separate Confederacy of slave-holding States,
if the institution upon which their prosperity depended was to be
saved from the machinations of Northern politicians. They audaciously
identified both Lincoln and the Republican party with the policy of
Abolition; whereas the choice of Lincoln instead of Seward, the
Abolitionist, might in itself have been accepted as sufficient evidence
that the North, while determined to preserve the Union, was resolute
against interference with the internal policy of the South.

The Manifesto was followed, on the 20th of December, by the secession
of South Carolina, ever since Calhoun's day the leader of revolt
against Federal power. Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and
Louisiana promptly joined her.

Although Lincoln's election was assured in November, the executive
power remained till the beginning of March in the feeble hands of
Buchanan, who was the creature of advisers themselves divided in
counsel, to the signal advantage of that section which supported
the revolt. When, at last, the outgoing President made up his mind
to dismiss his secessionist secretary of war, the Cotton-State
Caucus called a Convention at Montgomery, the picturesque and sleepy
old capital of Alabama; and this finally formulated a permanent
constitution for the Confederacy precisely a week after the
inauguration of the new President.[332]

In the meantime Lincoln could only stand a spectator of the wholly
ineffective measures which were being taken to frustrate the active
aggression of the slave power. But towards the end of February he set
out for Washington. Passing on his way through Indiana and Ohio, he was
received by an enormous crowd in New York; and here Whitman first saw
him, not from his favourite seat upon a stage-coach, for the streets
were too densely packed for traffic, but as one of the thirty or forty
thousand silent pedestrian onlookers collected in the city's heart,
where now the post-office stands.

Whitman well knew what the ominous silence, which greeted that
loosely-made gaunt figure, concealed;[333] and how different was the
mood of New York that day from the holiday-making good-humour with
which it was wont to greet the arrival of other illustrious guests.
Under the speechlessness lurked a black moody wrath ready to break

It was a pleasant afternoon, just twelve months after that other
February day when Whitman and Emerson had paced up and down the slope
of Boston Common in earnest colloquy. Lincoln went silently into the
Astor House without any demonstration either of welcome or of open
hostility; thereafter proceeding to his inauguration. He was compelled
to pass secretly through Baltimore, where violence was only too ready
to manifest itself on the slightest encouragement. The fact that the
President-elect, in order to reach the capital, had thus to travel
through a State which was only with difficulty retained for the Union
cause, shows how close that cause was to disaster. And though, as
Lincoln stated in his inaugural address, the bulk of the American
people opposed secession, and the party which favoured it was but a
comparatively small minority; yet it could only be either an ignorant
optimism, or on the contrary a firmly founded and earnest faith in
the devotion of the great mass of the citizens to the ideals of their
fathers, which could face such a situation without dismay.

The weight of numbers, however, favoured the North. A review of the
census returns show that at their first compilation in 1790 the
population of the Southern and the Northern divisions of the country
was almost absolutely equal; but that from the beginning of the century
the increase in the latter was the more rapid; so that in 1860 the free
population of the North was more than double that of the South.

But in spite of this great numerical preponderance, the North itself
was not united on the question at issue, as is clearly shown by the
returns of the Presidential election, when Douglas polled a million
Free-state votes. For though Douglas opposed secession, he did not
oppose the extension of slavery. It is shown clearly, too, in the
attitude of New York; of which more, later.

And beyond this the Southerner was in some respects better fitted,
as well by his virtues as by his faults, for a military life. The
qualities of leadership and of obedience are cultivated under an
aristocratic ideal, as they are not under a democratic. And the South,
which had practically controlled the executive under Buchanan, and
especially the department of war, was better prepared to take the field
than was the North. On the other hand, the strength of the Union lay
in its cause, and in the latent idealism of the American people, which
woke into activity at the first menace to the Stars and Stripes.

Whether the war really settled anything, whether it might possibly have
been avoided, whether secession left to itself would not literally have
cut its own throat, these are interesting philosophic speculations into
which we need not enter. For already the spectre of war had long been
abroad, stalking through the unharvested fields of Kansas and Nebraska,
and gesticulating with horrid signs and mocking whispers in every
corner of America. When the slave party had first raised its fatal
cry of "our institution in danger," it had raised the cry of war. And
when at last men like Lincoln retorted with the declaration that the
Union was irrefragable--that secession could only be justified after
some criminal use of the Federal power to override the rights of the
minority--the battle was manifestly joined.

It is but fair to add that although the party of Lincoln had now truly
become the party of the Union, the first line of cleavage between North
and South was marked out by a schismatic spirit in the North itself,
by its support of its own sectional interests, when enforcing a policy
of protection upon the whole country.[334] There can be little doubt
that the mistrust felt in the South, while largely due to anterior
causes, was born under this evil star. So true does it seem that when a
nation's policy is being shaped according to merely material interests,
the seeds are being sown of future revolution.

       *       *       *       *       *

The fatal movement of American destiny towards its crisis must have
dominated much of Whitman's thought at this time. Secession was in the
very air he breathed; for at its first proclamation an echoing voice
was heard in New York itself.

Here Mayor Wood, after a short period of deserved seclusion, had
returned to power. Unsatisfied with his patronage he dreamed of wider
fields. Was it not the splendid vision of a Presidency which encouraged
this fatuous person to declare for a second secession, the creation
of a new island republic of New York? "Tri-Insula" was to have been
its title,[335] and its territories would have comprised Mannahatta,
Staten, and Long Islands. The proposal was enthusiastically received by
the absurd creatures of Tammany, who then sat upon the City Council.
But their complacent folly was of brief duration. It was dispersed by
the first rebel gun-shot.

       *       *       *       *       *

Whitman had been at the opera on Fourteenth Street,[336] and was
strolling homeward down Broadway about midnight, on the 13th of April,
when he was met by the newspaper boys crying the last extras with
more than ordinary vehemence. Buying a copy and stopping to read it
under the lamps of the Metropolitan Hotel, he was startled by the news
that war had actually broken out. The day before, Confederate troops
had fired upon the flag at Charleston Harbour and Fort Sumter. South
Carolina had flung her challenge down.

The President immediately called for troops, and the response of the
North was instantaneous. New York herself did not hesitate, but voted
at once a million dollars and sent forward her quota of men.[337] Mayor
Wood was among the many thousands of Democrats who became patriots that
day--in so far as one can suddenly become patriotic.

Whitman was not among the volunteers, but his brother George, who was
ten years his junior, was one of the first to offer.[338] He had been
following the family trade as a Brooklyn carpenter, and henceforward
proved himself a brave and able soldier. He was neither braver nor
abler than Walt, but the latter stayed at home, and there are those who
have blamed him for it.


Putting on one side, as they have done, his subsequent service to
the army, such blame springs from a misunderstanding of the man's
nature. There are some men wholly above the reproach of cowardice or
indifference, whom it is impossible for us to conceive as shouldering
a gun. And for those who knew him most intimately, Whitman was such
a man. Many men who loved peace heard the call to arms and obeyed.
Abraham Lincoln[339] himself--to whom America was entrusting the
conduct of the war--had but now proclaimed its futility, while his
whole nature revolted from its cruel folly. And had his destiny bidden
him to join the colours one cannot doubt that Walt Whitman would have
done so.[340] But that inner voice, which he obeyed, rather forbade
than encouraged him.

And even in years of war there is service one can do for one's country
out of the ranks. No war can wholly absorb the energies of a civilised
people, for the daily life of the nation must be continued. There
are, besides, tasks that have a prior claim upon the loyalty of the
individual, even to the defence of the flag. And Whitman had such a
task, for he bore, as it were, within his soul the infant of an ideal
America, like a young mother whose life is the consecrated guardian of
her unborn babe. His book was now, in a sense, complete; but none could
feel more strongly than he that even his book was only an inadequate
expression of his purpose; while life lasted his days were to be
devoted to the creation of an immortal comradeship, and a spiritual
atmosphere in which the seeds concealed in his writings might germinate.

It must also be noted that, though in his open letter to Emerson[341]
he had written of war almost as a soldier whose blood kindles at the
sound of the trumpets, and though the spirit of his book is one which
"blows battles into men," yet the last edition had been marked by a
curious and significant approximation to Quakerism. It was in 1860,
when war was so near at hand, that he substituted the Friendly numeral
equivalents for the usual names of the months and days of the week;
not, assuredly, because he objected to the recognition of heathen
deities, like the early Friends, but in order to avow some relationship
between himself and Quakerism. The increase of mystical consciousness
may have made him more aware at this time of his real identity with
this society of mystics to which he never nominally belonged.

We have had repeated occasion to note the Quaker traits in Whitman's
character, and here, at the opening of the war, it is well to emphasise
them anew.[342] His love of silence, his spiritual caution, his
veracity and simplicity of speech, his soul-sight, and the practical
balance of his mysticism--that temperance of character upon which
his inspirational faculties were founded--and, finally, the equal
democratic goodwill he showed to all men; these qualities speak the
original Quaker type. And the world may well extend to Whitman the
respect it acknowledges for the Quaker's refusal to bear arms.

It was, indeed, because he loved America so well that he did not fight
with the common weapons. We have seen that he associated himself
intimately with the American genius, a genius which necessarily
includes the qualities of the South at least equally with those of the
North; he himself[343] inclining to lay the emphasis upon the Southern
attributes, as though their wealth in the emotional and passionate
elements were more essential than any other. America robbed of the
South would, indeed, have been America divided against herself. Hence
he shared to the full in the desire and struggle for unity against the
sordid party which instigated secession. But he knew that a victory of
arms was not necessarily a victory of principles, and it was for the
principle that he strove.

May we not assert the possibility of a highly developed and powerful
personality exerting itself upon the side of Justice and Liberty in
moments of national crisis, in some manner more potent than that of
merely physical service? Would not Whitman have been wasting his forces
if he had surrendered himself to the spirit of the hour, and gone
forth with the volunteers to stop or to forward a bullet or a bayonet?
These are questions we well may ponder, and without attempting to give
reasons for so doing, we may answer in the affirmative.

Certain it is that two or three days after he first read the news of
South Carolina's challenge, and the day following the President's
appeal, he recorded this singular vow in one of his notebooks as though
it were the seal upon a struggle of his spirit: "April 16th, 1861. I
have this day, this hour, resolved to inaugurate for myself a pure,
perfect, sweet, clean-blooded, robust body, by ignoring all drinks but
water and pure milk, and all fat meats, late suppers--a great body, a
purged, cleansed, spiritualised, invigorated body."[344]

Read with its context of the events which were occupying his mind,
may we not surmise that this was a new girding of the loins for some
service of the great cause, more strenuous than ever, though perhaps
yet undefined; that this vow of abstinence for the establishment of a
spiritualised body, made thus at the opening of the war, and at the
time of George's enrolment, when Lincoln's call for volunteers was
ringing in the heart of every loyal citizen[345]--that this vow was
that of an athlete going into training for a supreme effort; and an
athlete whose labours are upon that unseen field, whereon it may be the
battles of the visible world are really won. It was thus that Whitman
obeyed the calls of duty both within him and without.

       *       *       *       *       *

Lincoln's first tasks were to create an army and to confine the area of
insurrection. He proclaimed the blockade of the Southern ports; called
out more regulars and volunteers, and succeeded in preventing West
Virginia and Missouri from joining the Confederacy. Had he been able to
retain for the service of the Union a certain brilliant young officer,
the war might have opened and closed upon a very different story; but
Robert Lee had already joined the Southern army, though not without an
inward conflict.

No leader of equal genius appeared upon the other side until Grant came
out of the West. The weakness of Northern generalship was only too
clearly evidenced in the defeat at Bull Run, midway between the two
capitals, which were now little more than a hundred miles apart, the
Confederate Government having removed to Richmond. As a result of the
defeat Washington itself lay in imminent peril; and if General Johnston
had followed up his advantage, it would have fallen into his hands. But
he missed his hour, and the consternation of the North was followed by
a mood of stubborn resolution.

Slowly but surely Lincoln built up his military organisation. In the
whirlpool of currents he remained steadfast to his single policy
of maintaining the Union. He succeeded in evading the occasions of
war which threatened abroad; he conciliated all in the South which
was at that time amenable to conciliation; and, eager as he was for
emancipation, he refused to be driven before the storm of Abolitionist
sentiment which had risen in the North.

During 1862, while Grant and Farragut were gradually clearing the
Mississippi, the great natural thoroughfare of America, Lee was more
than holding his own among the hills and rivers of Virginia. The
opposing army of the Potomac remained ineffective under the brilliant
but dilatory McClellan, and his more active successors, Burnside and
Hooker. Lee assumed the aggressive, and invaded Maryland; but was
turned back from a projected raid into Pennsylvania by the drawn battle
of Antietam; in which, as in many of the previous engagements of this
army, George Whitman fought.

Antietam was immediately followed by the preliminary proclamation of
emancipation, to take effect in all States which should still continue
in rebellion at the commencement of the new year. Lincoln's mind had
long been exercised upon the best means of compassing the liberation of
the slaves; and until the close of the war, he himself looked for the
ultimate solution of the problem to the method of compensation adopted
by Great Britain in the West Indies. This was successfully applied to
the district of Columbia, but the offer of it received no response
either from the other States to which it was magnanimously made, or
from Lincoln's own Cabinet. The present proclamation was intended as a
blow at the industrial resources of the rebellion.

       *       *       *       *       *

In mid-December General Burnside lost nearly 13,000 men at
Fredericksburg, Virginia, and reading the long lists of wounded,
the Whitmans came upon George's name among the more serious
casualties.[346] Great was the distress in the home on Portland Avenue,
and Walt set off at once to seek him at the front. His pocket was
picked in a crush at Philadelphia Station, and he arrived penniless
in Washington.[347] There, searching the hospitals for three days and
nights, he could get no news of his brother's whereabouts, but managed
somehow to make his way to the army's headquarters at Falmouth. It had
been a long, melancholy journey; but arrived at the camp, he found his
brother already well again, his wound having healed rapidly.

This sudden journey had momentous consequences for Whitman. His stay
in New York was, perhaps naturally, drawing to a close. There are
indications in the last poems that he was contemplating a westward
journey, and possibly a settlement beyond the Rockies.[348] Although he
paid it frequent visits, he never lived again in Brooklyn.

At Falmouth he found among the wounded a number of young fellows
whom he had known in New York.[349] He took a natural interest in
their welfare, and even though he felt he could do little for them,
lingered till a party going up to Washington offered him an opportunity
for usefulness in their escort. Arriving at the capital, he found
innumerable similar occasions in the many hospitals which had been
established in and about the city. These he began to visit daily,
supporting himself by writing letters to the New York and Brooklyn
press--to the _New York Times_ in particular--and by copying work in
the paymaster's office.[350] It was not till two years later that he
obtained regular employment in the Civil Service; but during the whole
of that time he was paying almost daily visits to the wards, in his
honorary and voluntary capacity, as friend of the wounded.

The number of these was periodically swollen by great battles. On the
4th of May, 1863, General Hooker lost the day at Chancellorsville, and
was replaced by Meade. Early in July, Lee made a second alarming dash
into the North, but was turned back by General Meade from the bloody
field of Gettysburg, where the total losses reached the appalling
figure of 60,000.

By this time, more than two years after the fall of Fort Sumter, the
first easy boasting of a short campaign and an overwhelming triumph,
indulged by both sides, had long died; and the solemn sense of the
great tragedy being enacted before its eyes possessed the nation. This
sentiment could not have been more nobly expressed than in the words
used by the President, when, speaking at the dedication of a portion of
the Gettysburg battlefield as a national cemetery,[351] he said: "We
here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that
this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom: and that
government of the people by the people for the people shall not perish
from the earth".

Meade's victory, and the news following fast upon it of Grant's capture
of Vicksburg, with the consequent reopening of the Mississippi,
reassured the wavering faith of many patriots. But the situation
was still full of peril. In this same month--July, 1863--there were
serious riots in New York,[352] instigated by the "Copperheads," as the
Northern sympathisers with the Confederacy were dubbed, in opposition
to the first draft for the army under the general conscription law of
March. In these, more than a thousand persons were killed or wounded.

The riots were the more difficult to quell because all available
troops and volunteers had been sent to the front; and these of course
included a great proportion of the stabler citizens. At the same time
the disaffected elements remained in their full strength. The political
character of the disturbance was plain enough; for the rioters set upon
any negroes they met, slinging them to the lamp-posts, and would have
burned down the hospital, full of wounded Union soldiers, had they not
been prevented.

It is some satisfaction to know that we cannot couple the name of
Fernando Wood with these outrages. There was something genuine in
his patriotism. He was now in Congress, and had recently been vainly
attempting, in his usual futile fashion, to negotiate a peace.

       *       *       *       *       *

Both the draft and the riots caused the Whitman family no little
anxiety. George, who had entered the army as a private and was
promoted stage by stage till he became a lieutenant-colonel, was of
course already at the front;[353] and Jeff, who had married four years
earlier, was keeping the home together for the old mother and helpless
youngest son, as well as for his own wife and their young children.
Anything that happened to him would involve the happiness of the whole
family. They feared especially that he might be drawn for service; and
Walt wrote from Washington that in that event, he would do all in his
power to raise the necessary money to provide a substitute.[354]

Walt himself never closed his ears against the call to serve in the
ranks, if it should come to him. Had he himself been drawn, he might
have regarded the circumstance as the intimation of duty; but he
was not. Instead he took the risks of small-pox in the infectious
wards, as well as that which is incurred by the frequent dressing of
gangrened wounds; and he bore the spiritual burden of all the pathetic
war-wreckage which drifted into Washington month after weary month.

The tension of those days was terrible to him. Devoted to the "Mother
of All," the American nation, he loved her sons both North and South
with an equal affection, their suffering and destruction wringing
his heart. For, mystic as he was, he had all the strong passions
of humanity, and felt to the full the agonies of the flesh. On the
one side also, his own brother was in the hottest of the fighting
throughout these years; while on the other, it is just possible that
some young son of his own, known or unknown to him, may have served
among the boys in the opposite ranks before the war was over. His
Abolitionist friends would sigh, and say the struggle must go on till
every slave should be free; but he who valued freedom not less than
they, and understood perhaps better what it really means, dissented
from them.

The first sight of a battlefield made him cry out for peace; and if
in the following months he felt the exhilaration which breathed from
the simple heroism displayed by the soldiers, he still saw that war
is not all heroic, but in time must darken the fairest cause. The
terrible burden of its inconceivable extravagance began to weigh upon
him like a nightmare. Each new season, with its prospective train of
ambulances, its legion of tragedies, bewildered him with its horror;
till he angrily denied that the whole population of negroes could be
worth so terrific a purchase.[355] It may have been the exaggerated
retort to an extremist argument; but indeed it was not for the negroes
that the war was being fought; it was not for the powerful but highly
coloured manifesto of _Uncle Tom's Cabin_, but for the "Declaration
of Independence," and for the Constitution of America. And this both
Whitman and Lincoln realised: they knew the negro of the South as
the New Englander never knew him, and were firm in demanding for him
the rights of a human being; but they knew also that mere abolition
would not give him these, nor could it render him capable of the right
exercise of American citizenship.

       *       *       *       *       *

Though Lee had been thrown back from Gettysburg, his army had never
recognised a defeat; and the chief danger to the cause of American
unity lay in the conviction of the South that its general and his men
were really invincible. For two more years they kept the field, with
a heroic determination that appears at the same time little short of
criminal when we consider the conditions involved upon all the parties
to resistance. And when we add to these the story of the Southern
military prisons, even the chivalrous fame of Lee becomes stained with
an ineffaceable shame. Better a thousand times to have acknowledged
defeat than to have been guilty of enforcing such things. But the pride
of the South had become rigid, and would only admit defeat after it
was broken. Its political leaders had staked everything upon victory;
and it would seem that they preferred to sacrifice a whole generation
of their supporters and victims rather than bear the penalty of their

When Grant, or rather the reckless courage of his American
volunteers,[356] had crushed General Bragg at Chattanooga, and his
friend Sherman had completed the work of clearing Tennessee, Lee's army
remained the sole hope of the desperately impoverished South. But still
in itself and in its leader it was absolutely confident.

A similar confidence inspired the hearts of the Union soldiers, when
in March, 1864, the downright laconic general from the West was given
supreme command, and went into Virginia to crush his antagonist by mere
force of numbers and determination.

In Grant at last both Lincoln and the army had found the man they
were waiting for. But still a year went by before the task was
accomplished--a year whose memory is the most terrible of the war--upon
whose page are inscribed such names as, The Wilderness, Spotsylvania,
Bloody Angle, North Anna, Cold Harbour, recalling those awful fields
whereon more than a hundred thousand soldiers fell. While Grant was
stubbornly pushing Lee back upon Richmond, and finally holding him
there, Sherman was cutting him off from further support by that
extraordinary march south-eastwards from Chattanooga through Atlanta
to the sea. He captured Savannah just before Christmas; and afterwards
turning north, and wading through all the morasses and crossing all
the innumerable streams and rivers of the Carolinas, he completed his
errand a few days before his chief entered the Southern capital.

Several futile attempts had been made to bring about a reconciliation
between North and South before the bitter end;[357] but Lincoln, eager
as he was for peace, stood out irrevocably for the acknowledgment
of the Union, and now added to it the emancipation of the slaves.
It was clear that nothing short of Lee's capitulation could satisfy
the country or end the war. On the 3rd April, Richmond surrendered
to Grant; and on the day after, the President, who was then with the
army, entered the city which the evacuating forces had fired. Five more
days and Lee gave himself up: by the end of the month the surrender of
the Confederate troops had been effected, while Jefferson Davis was
captured in Georgia on the 10th of May. A fortnight later the combined
hosts of Grant and Sherman passed before the President in a last grand
review along Pennsylvania Avenue and before the White House, to be
thereafter disbanded.

But the President was no longer Abraham Lincoln. Re-elected in the
preceding autumn, in spite of Republican intrigues and the dangerous
opposition of General McClellan, who was put forward by the Democrats,
Lincoln had been assassinated during a performance at Ford's Theatre,
on the evening of the 14th of April, the fourth anniversary of the fall
of Fort Sumter.

The loss to his country was irreparable. More than any other of its
Presidents, either before or since, Abraham Lincoln embodied the real
genius of the American nation, and in the hour of their agony he was
the father of his people. Slowly they had learnt his strength and his
wisdom; but they had hardly begun to understand the greatness of a
heart which was able to love the South with a mother's tenderness even
while it was in arms against him.

The Vice-President, who stepped into his place, was a Union Democrat;
he also loved the South, but less wisely than well. His rash haste
in the reconstruction of the governments of the defeated States
threw the nation into the hands of the group of narrowly partisan
Republicans which continued to rule America with unscrupulous ability
and ill-concealed self-interest[358] for sixteen years, threatening by
its attitude towards the Southern people to alienate their sympathies
forever from the Union.


[323] Burroughs, 20, 21.

[324] _Literary Gazette_, 7th July, 1860; _qu._ Bucke, 202.

[325] W. M. Rossetti, _Selections from W. W._, introd., and E. Rhys,
_Selections from W. W._, introd.; W. B. Scott, _Autobiog._, ii., 32,
33, 268, 269.

[326] There is no fact more important to be remembered for a right
understanding of the events that follow than this, that the Slave party
only controlled a portion, perhaps a minority, of the Democrats.

[327] _L. of G._, 190; _Mem. Hist. N.Y._, iii., 472.

[328] _L. of G._, 1876.

[329] Bryce, _op. cit._, i., 46, 47.

[330] But see _ib._, i., 44.

[331] _Camb. Mod. Hist._, 445.

[332] _Camb. Mod. Hist._, 449.

[333] _Comp. Prose_, 302.

[334] See _supra_, p. 24.

[335] Roosevelt, 202-04.

[336] _Comp. Prose_, 15, 16.

[337] Roosevelt, 203; _Mem. Hist. N.Y._, iii., 485.

[338] _W.'s Memoranda during the War_, 59.

[339] Inaugural, 1861.

[340] Bucke, 104.

[341] _L. of G._ (1856), Appendix.

[342] _Cf. In re_, 213.

[343] _Cf._ _Comp. Prose_, 255, etc.

[344] MSS. Harned.

[345] _Camb. Mod. Hist._, 451.

[346] _Comp. Prose_, 15.

[347] _Wound-Dresser_, 23, 47, 48.

[348] _L. of G._ (1860), 371.

[349] _Comp. Prose_, 21; _Wound-Dresser_, 24.

[350] Burroughs, 29; _Wound-Dresser_, 10, etc.

[351] 19th Nov., 1863.

[352] Roosevelt, 203-206.

[353] _Wound-Dresser_, 94.

[354] _Wound-Dresser_, 95.

[355] _Cf._ Kennedy.

[356] Owen Wister's _Grant_ (Beacon Biogs.), 95, 96.

[357] _Camb. Mod. Hist._, 579.

[358] _Camb. Mod. Hist._, 638.



Whitman's residence in Washington and the nature of his occupation in
the hospitals, through the years of the war, have rendered an outline
of their history almost necessary. Of his manner of life during this
period we have many notes and records, both in his own letters and
memoranda and in the biographical accounts afterwards printed by his

During the first five or six months after his arrival he took his
meals and spent much of his spare time with Mr. and Mrs. O'Connor, who
had recently settled in the city.[359] He boarded in the same house
as they, about six blocks from the Treasury building, where O'Connor
worked, and a mile from the Armory Square Hospital, where lay many of
his own wounded friends.

William Douglas O'Connor was a strikingly handsome man of thirty
years, full of spirit and eloquence.[360] He had previously been a
Boston journalist, had married in that city a charming wife, and was
the father of two children. He had lost his post there through his
outspoken support of John Brown and the attack on Harper's Ferry.
While out of employment he had written his novel, _Harrington_, an
eloquent story of the Abolitionist cause, which was published by Thayer
& Eldridge. In 1861 he had obtained a comfortable clerkship in the
Lighthouse Bureau under the new Lincoln administration.


Whitman had already made his acquaintance in Boston, and their
friendship now became most cordial and intimate. Generous and romantic
in his view of life, O'Connor's whole personality was very attractive
to Whitman from the day of their first encounter. He had the warm
Irish temperament which Walt loved; he was a natural actor, and Walt
was always at home with actors.[361] Moreover, he was an eager and
intelligent admirer of _Leaves of Grass_; and his keen insight, wide
reading and remarkable powers of elocution sometimes revealed to
their author meanings and suggestions in his own familiar words of
which he himself had been unconscious. O'Connor's personal attachment
to and reverence for the older man is evident upon every page of
_The Carpenter_, a tale which he afterwards contributed to _Putnam's
Magazine_;[362] while in the impassioned eulogium of _The Good Gray
Poet_ he has expressed his admiration for the _Leaves_.

Upon politics however the two friends never agreed, and, unfortunately,
O'Connor was always eager for political argument. He was a friend
of Wendell Phillips, that anti-slavery orator who once described
Lincoln as "the slave-hound of Illinois," because the latter approved
the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law while it remained on the
statute-book: and to O'Connor, compulsory emancipation always came
before the preservation of the Union. This of course was not Whitman's
view, and it was upon the negro question that their friendship finally
suffered shipwreck.[363]

O'Connor's rooms soon became the centre of an interesting group of
literary friends. Mr. Eldridge, the publisher,[364] came to Washington
after the wreck of his Boston business, and a little later Mr. John
Burroughs,[365] a student of Wordsworth, Emerson and the _Leaves_,
being attracted to the capital, whither all eyes were turning, gave up
teaching in New England, and obtained a Government clerkship. Mr. E.
C. Steadman,[366] a poet and journalist in those days, and a clerk in
the Attorney-General's department, was of the O'Connor group; and Mr.
Hubley Ashton[367] also, then a rising young lawyer, who afterwards
intervened successfully on Whitman's behalf at a critical moment.

The last-named of these gentlemen tells me that he first saw Whitman
late one evening at the rooms of their mutual friend. It was indeed
past midnight when Walt appeared asking for supper. He was wearing army
boots, his sleeves were rolled up, and his coat was slung across his
arm. He had just come in with a train-load of wounded from the front,
and had been disposing of his charges in the Washington hospitals. Very
picturesque he looked, as he stood there, stalwart, unconventional,
majestic, an heroic American figure.

       *       *       *       *       *

That figure rapidly became as familiar in Washington as it had been in
New York.[368] No one could miss or mistake this great jolly-looking
man, with his deliberate but swinging gait, his red face with its grey
beard over the open collar, and crowned by the big slouch hat; and
every one wondered who and what he might be. Some Western general, or
sea-captain, or perhaps a Catholic Father, they would guess;[369] for
he seemed a leader of men, and there was a freshness about his presence
that surely must have come either from the prairies, the great deep,
or the very heart of humanity. He had the bearing, too, of a man of
action; he looked as though he could handle the ribbons, or swing an
axe with the best, as indeed he could.

Whitman was more puzzled than any of the onlookers about his
occupation, or rather his business. Occupation he never lacked while
the hospitals were full; but for years he was very poor, and once,
at least, seriously in debt.[370] The need for money, to supply the
little extras which might save the life of many a poor fellow in the
wards, was constant; and now, probably for the first time, he found it
difficult to earn his own livelihood. He had failed in his application
for a Government clerkship. Living in Washington was in itself costly,
and the paragraphs and letters which he contributed to the local and
metropolitan press, with his two or three hours a day of copying in the
paymaster's office--a pleasant top-room overlooking the city and the
river--brought him but a meagre income.

Moreover the need for money began to press in a new direction; for
first, the family breadwinner at Brooklyn was threatened, and then,
though he was not drawn for the army, his salary was cut in two.[371]
Whereupon brother Andrew, always one suspects rather a poor tool,
fell ill; and died after a lingering malady,[372] leaving a widow and
several little children in poverty.

Walt himself lived in the strictest simplicity. For awhile, as we
have seen, he boarded with the O'Connors; then he took a little room
on a top-floor;[373] breakfasted on tea and bread, toasted before an
oil-stove, and had for his one solid meal a shilling dinner at a cheap
restaurant. To all appearance he was in magnificent health. At the
beginning of the first summer he is so large and well, as he playfully
tells his mother, that he looks "like a great wild buffalo, with much
hair".[374] Simplicity of life was never a hardship to him. There was
something wild and elemental in his nature that chose a den rather than
a parlour or a club-room for its shelter.

The money difficulty renewed his thoughts of lecturing, and after the
first summer in Washington his home--letters often refer to it.[375]
But the plan now appears less as an apostolate than as a means of
raising funds for his hospital service. The change may, of course, be
due in part to the fact that he was writing of his plans to his old
mother, who would be most likely to appreciate this motive; but it
was chiefly the result of his present complete absorption in those
immediate tasks of comradeship for which he seemed to be born.

He was, however, well advised not to actually attempt the enterprise.
Even a famous orator could hardly have found a hearing during the
crisis of the war, when the newspaper with its casualty lists was
almost the sole centre of interest. And even had he been sure of
success, his hospital service would not have let him go.

       *       *       *       *       *

During this first summer Whitman hurt his hand, and had to avoid some
of the worst cases in order to escape blood-poisoning;[376] but in
September he wrote home: "I am first-rate in health, so much better
than a month or two ago: my hand has entirely healed. I go to hospital
every day or night. I believe no men ever loved each other as I and
some of these poor wounded sick and dying men love each other."[377]
Such words are a fitting commentary upon the pages of Calamus. Here,
among the perishing, the genius of this great comrade of young men
found its proper work of redemption.

Great, indeed, was his opportunity. The federal city was full of troops
and of wounded soldiers. The whole of the district a few blocks north
of Pennsylvania Avenue, and of that lying east of the Capitol, were
alike occupied by parade grounds, camps and hospitals. The latter even
invaded the Capitol itself; and for a time the present Hall of Statuary
was used as a ward.[378] Midway between the Capitol and the present
Washington Monument, and close to the Baltimore and Potomac railway
station, is the site of the Armory Square Hospital; four blocks to the
north again is the Patent Office, for a long time filled with beds.
And hard by, in Judiciary Square, where the hideous Pension Office now
stands, was another great camp of the "boys in white". Whitman was a
frequent visitor at all of these.

There were fourteen large hospitals in the city by the summer of
1863; and the total number in and about it rose to fifty. They
spread away over the surrounding fields and hill-sides, as far as the
Fairfax Seminary[379] on the ridge above the quaint Washingtonian
town of Alexandria. This was almost in the enemy's country. And even
the melancholy strains of the Dead March were welcomed with covert
rejoicings by its citizens when the funeral of some Union soldier
passed their doors.[380] All through the war Washington itself was full
of disaffected persons; and for a while, looking out from the height of
the Capitol, one could see the Confederate flag flying on the Virginian
hills opposite.

The greater part of the hospital nursing was done, of course, by
orderlies; and a more or less severe and mechanical officialism
prevailed in most of the wards. But this frigid atmosphere was warmed
by the presence of a number of women; emissaries of Relief Associations
supported by individual States, or of the Sanitary and Christian
Commissions. It is difficult to overestimate the good that was done by
Dorothea Dix and her helpers, among whom were not a few Quakeresses;
and by all the devoted Sisters of Mercy and Sisters of Charity whose
goodwill never failed.

But even then the field for service was so vast that much remained
undone. Many of the doctors and surgeons were able and kindly, some
of them were absolutely devoted to their painful labours; and many of
the nurses were more than patient and faithful; but the lads who were
carried in wounded and sick from the cold and ghastly fields, wanted
the strong support of manly understanding and prodigal affection in
fuller measure than mere humanity seemed able to give.[381] Human as he
was, Walt came to hundreds, perhaps thousands of them, like a Saviour.
In after years they remembered "a man with the face of an angel" who
had devoted himself to their individual needs.[382]

The mere presence of a perfectly sane and radiant personality raised
the tone of a whole ward.[383] The dead-weight of cloudy depression
brooding upon it would melt in the ineffable sunshine that streamed
from him. And then he always seemed to know exactly what was wanted,
and he was never in a hurry. When anything was to be done or altered,
he spoke with the authority of the man who alone, among overpressed and
busy people, has the leisure for personal investigation; and therefore
in most cases he had his way.

Absolutely unsparing of himself, he knew too well wherein his
strength lay to be careless of his health. If his food was sometimes
insufficient, he would yet take his one square meal,[384] after
refreshing himself with a bath, before starting upon his rounds. And
when they were over, he cleared his brain under the stars before
he turned in to sleep. Thus he kept his power at the full, and his
presence was like that of the open air. He would often come into the
wards carrying wild flowers newly picked, and strewing them over the
beds, like a herald of the summer. Well did he know that they were
messengers of life to the sick, words to them from the Earth-mother of

Whatever he might be in the literary world of Washington or New York,
here Whitman was nothing but Walt the comrade of soldiers. And for
himself, he said in later years, that the supreme loves of his life had
been for his mother and for the wounded.[385] It is a saying worthy of
remembrance, for it indicates the man.

Of the efficiency of his service there can be no question.[386] He
worked his own miracles. He knew it positively himself, and besides,
both the lads and the doctors assured him, time and again, that he was
saving lives by refusing to give them over to despair. "I can testify,"
he writes to _The Brooklyn Eagle_, his old paper, "that friendship has
literally cured a fever, and the medicine of daily affection a bad
wound."[387] In his own words, he distributed himself,[388] as well as
the contents of his pockets and haversack, in infinitesimal quantities,
certain that but little of his giving would be wasted. And yet he
never gave indiscriminately;[389] he knew always what he was doing, and
did it with deliberation.

The feeling that the lads wanted him had detained him at the first;
the superabundance of his life, and the fulness of his health and
spirits, carrying with them a conviction of duty when he entered these
vestibules of death.[390] Here was something that he, and he only,
could adequately accomplish; here was a cry he was bound by the law of
his being to answer; and the cry of the hospitals continued to hold
him till the war was done. As he left of a night, after going his last
round and kissing many a young, pale, bearded face, in fulfilment of
his own written injunctions, he would hear the boys calling, "Walt,
Walt, Walt! come again, come again!" And it would have required a
harder heart than his to refuse them, even had the answer within been
less loud and insistent.

They kept him busy, too. He provided them with pens, stamps, envelopes
and paper, and wrote their letters for them;[391] letters to mothers,
wives and sweethearts; and the last news of all, when the sad
procession had carried son, husband or lover to his soldier's grave,
and had fired over him the last salute. He would enter, armed with
newspapers and magazines which he distributed; and often he would
read to the men, or recite some suitable verses, never, I think, his
own.[392] He played games with them, too; and though he was one of the
few men in Washington who never smoked,[393] he was the only one of all
the visitors who brought them tobacco; and the ward-surgeons, though at
first they protested, could not refuse him; it really seemed as though
Walt knew best. On the glorious Fourth, he would provide a feast of
ice-cream for some ward;[394] and on other hot days--and there were too
many in the capital--would distribute the contents of crates full of
oranges,[395] or lemons and sugar for the making of lemonade.

It was for such gifts as these, and many others of a similar kind,
that he needed money; and through the influence of Emerson, James
Redpath and other friends in New York and Boston, he was able to
distribute perhaps £1,200 among the soldiers in these infinitesimal
quantities.[396] Thus he became the almoner of many in the North.

Much of the service, however, was entirely his own--if one can ever
call love one's own, which all things seem to offer to the soul that
has learnt to receive from all. In cases of heart sickness, and the
despondency and despair that come to the lonely man lying helpless
among callous or unimaginative and therefore indifferent persons,
Walt's quick divination of the real trouble made him the best of
nurses; and he took care to remember all the cases that came under his
notice, innumerable as they must have seemed.

He kept a strict record of his patients and their individual needs
in little blood and tear-stained notebooks, many of which are still
extant.[397] This is an additional proof of that concrete definiteness
of observation which distinguishes his habit of mind from the love of
merely nebulous generalisation of which he is sometimes accused. One is
bound to respect the intuitions of a mind which has so large a grasp of

Beginning characteristically with the Brooklyn lads whom he found
scattered about the several hospitals, and who claimed his attention by
the natural right of old acquaintanceship, his work grew like a rolling
snowball, as he made his way from bed to bed; for he was always quick
to feel the needs of a stranger. Before long he realised that there
was not one among the thousand tents and wards in which he might not
profitably have expended his whole vital energy. As it was, however,
he tramped from hospital to hospital, faithfully going his rounds as
far afield as the Fairfax Seminary. And in those days the Washington
streets were heavy walking in the wet weather; for Pennsylvania Avenue
was the only one that was yet paved,[398] and then boasted nothing but
the cobble-stones, which still serve in the quaint streets across the

He walked a great deal. The open air relieved the tension of the wards,
which at times was almost unbearable. Though his presence and affection
saved many a lad's life, there must have been many more that died; and
the tragedy of these deaths, and the terrible suffering that often
preceded them, bit into his soul.

Fascinated though he was by his employment, and delighting in it while
he was strong and well,[399] the strength of his great heart was often
as helpless as a little child's; and his whole nature staggered under
the blows, which he felt even in his physical frame. He was literally
an "amateur"; he could never take a detached or "professional" attitude
towards his patients, for he knew that what they needed from him was
love; their suffering became his suffering, and something died in him
when they died.

The following passage, written when the war itself was drawing to a
close, indicates the character of much of his work, and the spirit in
which it was done:--

 "The large ward I am in is used for secession soldiers exclusively.
 One man, about forty years of age, emaciated with diarrhoea, I was
 attracted to, as he lay with his eyes turned up, looking like death.
 His weakness was so extreme that it took a minute or so every time
 for him to talk with anything like consecutive meaning; yet he
 was evidently a man of good intelligence and education. As I said
 anything, he would lie a moment perfectly still, then, with closed
 eyes, answer in a low, very slow voice, quite correct and sensible,
 but in a way and tone that wrung my heart. He had a mother, wife and
 child, living (or probably living) in his home in Mississippi. It
 was long, long since he had seen them. Had he caused a letter to be
 sent them since he got here in Washington? No answer. I repeated the
 question very slowly and soothingly. He could not tell whether he had
 or not--things of late seemed to him like a dream. After waiting a
 moment, I said: 'Well, I am going to walk down the ward a moment, and
 when I come back you can tell me. If you have not written, I will sit
 down and write.' A few minutes after I returned; he said he remembered
 now that some one had written for him two or three days before. The
 presence of this man impressed me profoundly. The flesh was all sunken
 on face and arms; the eyes low in their sockets and glassy, and with
 purple rings around them. Two or three great tears silently flowed out
 from the eyes, and rolled down his temples (he was doubtless unused
 to be spoken to as I was speaking to him). Sickness, imprisonment,
 exhaustion, etc., had conquered the body, yet the mind held mastery
 still, and called even wandering remembrance back."[400]

At times the tragedy unnerved him, so that even his native optimism
was clouded. "I believe there is not much but trouble in this world,"
we find him writing to his mother, and the page hardly reads like one
of his; "if one hasn't any for himself, he has it made up by having
it brought close to him through others, and that is sometimes worse
than to have it touch oneself."[401] He had already learnt the primer
of sorrow; now he was studying the lore in which he was to become so
deeply read.

       *       *       *       *       *

Even that first summer the malarial climate and excessive heat of
Washington, with the close watching in the wards, and the continual
draught upon his vital forces, affected him perceptibly. In his letters
home he mentions heavy colds, with deafness and trouble in his head
caused by the awful heat,[402] as giving him some anxiety. He seems
to have had a slight sun-stroke in earlier years, which made him more
susceptible to this kind of weakness; and on hot days he went armed
with a big umbrella and a fan.[403] But through all this time he seemed
to his friends the very incarnation of his "robust soul".


Though he shuddered sometimes as he recalled the sights of the wards,
the life outside was a pleasant one.[404] He loved to take long
midnight rambles about the city and over the surrounding hills, with
his friends. In spring, he delighted in the bird-song, the colour and
fragrance of the flowers which lined the banks of Rock Creek,[405] a
stream which, entering the broad Potomac a mile above the Treasury
building, separated Washington from the narrow ivy-clad streets of
suburban Georgetown.

And the stir and life of the capital always interested him. He loved
to watch the marching of the troops; and the martial music and flying
colours always delighted him as though he were a boy. He frequently
met the President,[406] blanched and worn with anxiety and sorrow,
riding in from his breezier lodging at the Soldiers' Home on the north
side of the city, to his official residence. They would exchange the
salutations of street acquaintances, each man admiring the patent
manliness of the other.

In Washington, as in New York, Whitman was speedily making himself
at home with everybody; eating melons in the street with a
countryman,[407] or chatting at the Capitol with a member of Congress;
for men or women, black or white, he always had his own friendly word.
He had besides, as we have seen, his inner circle at O'Connor's.

He was often at the Capitol, that noble, but somewhat uninteresting
building which overlooks the city; and if he deplored the low level of
the Congressional debates, he found some compensation among the trees
without; for fine trees were already a feature of Washington,[408]
which now appears, as one looks down upon it, like a city builded in
a wood. About sundown, too, he liked to stand where he could see the
level light blazing like a star upon the bronze figure of Liberty,
newly mounted above the dome.

It was in the summer of 1864, when Whitman was forty-five years of age,
that he had his first serious illness. He had never been really out of
health before. The preceding autumn he had paid a short visit to his
home, and in February had gone down to the front at Culpepper, thinking
that his services might be needed nearer to the actual scene of battle.
But he found that he could do better work in Washington. The cases
there seemed to grow more desperate as the long strain of the war made
itself felt upon the men in the ranks.

It was immediately after this that Grant was given the supreme command;
and at the close of March, Whitman, who foresaw the real meaning of the
task of crushing Lee, wrote of it thus: "O mother, to think that we are
to have here soon what I have seen so many times; the awful loads and
trains and boat-loads of poor, bloody and pale, and wounded young men
again.... I see all the little signs--getting ready in the hospitals,
etc. It is dreadful when one thinks about it. I sometimes think over
the sights I have myself seen: the arrival of the wounded after a
battle; and the scenes on the field too; and I can hardly believe my
own recollections. What an awful thing war is! Mother, it seems not
men, but a lot of devils and butchers, butchering one another."[409]

A week later, describing the frightful sufferings of the soldiers, and
the callous selfishness of their attendants, he says: "I get almost
frightened at the world".[410] Again, two days after: "I have been in
the midst of suffering and death for two months, worse than ever. The
only comfort is that I have been the cause of some beams of sunshine
upon their suffering and gloomy souls and bodies too."[411] And he
adds: "Oh, it is terrible, and getting worse, worse, worse".[412]

Rumours spread in the city of the probable character of Grant's
campaign; and as he realised more and more fully what would be its
inevitable cost, a sort of terror took hold of him. Yet he believed in
Grant, as well as in Lincoln.[413] And hating war as he did, he could
not see any other course possible now than to complete its work. He was
solemnly ready to take his part in those ranks of men converted, as it
were, into "devils and butchers," if need be, if he could feel assured
that he was more use to America upon the field than in the wards among
the sick and dying.

Meanwhile, he shared the old mother's anxiety about George, who was
always in the thick of the fighting. News, both true and false, was
arriving; and his letters are always seeking to support the old woman's
faith, and to give her the plain truth with all the hope that might be.

He was kept very closely occupied now in the hospitals; and especially
at Armory Square, where some 200 desperate cases were collected;[414]
men who had lain on the field, or otherwise unattended, until their
wounds and amputations had mortified. He had always made a rule of
going where he was most needed. But now he began to suffer severely
from what he describes as fulness in the head, to have fits of
faintness, and to be troubled with sore throat.

To add to the horrors of those days, a number of the wounded lads
went crazy; and at last the strain became so manifestly too much for
his failing vitality, that his friends and the doctors bade him go
North for a time. But he hung on still; hoping, like Grant, for the
war to end with the summer, and writing to his mother that he cannot
bear to leave and be absent if George should be hit and brought into
Washington.[415] However, with midsummer upon him and its deadly heat,
he became really ill, and had to relinquish his post. For nearly six
months he remained restlessly at home.

Whitman never fully recovered. We may perhaps be surprised at this, and
wonder that he should have broken down, even under the circumstances.
Was he not in such relations with the Universal Life that he should
daily have been able to replenish the storehouse of his physical and
emotional forces?

He was no spendthrift, and husbanded them as well as he might, knowing
their value; and doubtless he asked himself this very question many a
time. Doubtless, too, he was confident, at least during the earlier
months, that after the strain was over his resilient nature would
regain its normal tone. But on the other hand, he had volunteered for
a service to whose claims he was ready to respond to the uttermost
farthing.[416] Where others gave their lives, who was he to hold back
anything of his?

The soul, one may say, never gives more than it can afford; for the
soul is divinely prudent, and knows the worthlessness of such a gift.
And giving with that prudence, it never seeks repayment; what it gives,
it gives. But the body, even at its best, is not as the soul. And when
the soul gives the vital and emotional forces of its body to invigorate
other bodies, it may give more of these, and more continuously, than
the body can replace. And so it was with Whitman. He gave, and I think
he gave deliberately, for he was an extraordinarily deliberate man,
that for which he cared far more than life; he gave his health to the
friends, the strangers, whom he loved; and thus his "spiritualised
body"[417] found its use.


[359] _Wound-Dresser_, 53.

[360] _Comp. Prose_, 511, 512; Howells, _op. cit._

[361] _Comp. Prose_, 518, 519; MSS. Traubel.

[362] See _infra_, 227.

[363] See _infra_, 236.

[364] _Wound-Dresser_, 128; Bucke, 39, 40.

[365] Bucke, 12.

[366] _Wound-Dresser_, 133.

[367] Calamus, 23, 24, etc.

[368] Bucke, 99.

[369] _Ib._, 37.

[370] _Wound-Dresser_, 52.

[371] _Wound-Dresser_, 133.

[372] _Ib._, 64, etc.

[373] Trowbridge, _op. cit._

[374] _Wound-Dresser_, 66.

[375] _Ib._, 84.

[376] _Wound-Dresser_, 98.

[377] _Ib._, iii.

[378] S. D. Wyeth's _The Federal City_, 1868.

[379] _Comp. Prose_, 40, 41.

[380] J. S. Wheelock's _The Boys in White_, 1870.

[381] _Wound-Dresser_, 7.

[382] Bucke, 37.

[383] _Wound-Dresser_, 28.

[384] _Comp. Prose_, 32.

[385] _In re_, 391.

[386] _Wound-Dresser_, 8, 89, 113; Bucke, 36.

[387] _Wound-Dresser_, 14.

[388] _Ib._, 12.

[389] _Wound-Dresser_, 32, 33.

[390] Camden, ix., 200.

[391] _Wound-Dresser_, 13.

[392] _Ib._, 42.

[393] _Ib._, 13; Calamus, 24.

[394] _Wound-Dresser_, 39.

[395] _Ib._, 30, 31.

[396] Donaldson, 153; _Comp. Prose_, 51.

[397] _Mem. During the War_, 3.

[398] _Recollections of Washn. in War Time_, A. G. Riddle, 1895. _See
Transcriber's Note._

[399] _Wound-Dresser_, 74, 84.

[400] _Comp. Prose_, 453, 454.

[401] _Ib._, 104.

[402] _Wound-Dresser_, 62, etc.

[403] _Wound-Dresser_, 79.

[404] _Ib._, 123; _Comp. Prose_, 70.

[405] Dr. T. Proctor in _Journal of Hygiene_, Feb., 1898.

[406] _Comp. Prose_, 38.

[407] Calamus, 31.

[408] _Wound-Dresser_, 112.

[409] _Wound-Dresser_, 156, 157.

[410] _Ib._, 159.

[411] _Ib._, 160.

[412] _Ib._, 161.

[413] _Wound-Dresser_, 139, etc.

[414] _Ib._, 37, etc.

[415] _Ib._, 198.

[416] Bucke, 38, 39.

[417] _Supra_, 181.



While Whitman was at home, during the latter part of 1864, he doubtless
put the finishing touches to _Drum-taps_, which was printed at New
York early in the following summer. Several of the poems in this
collection had been written in that city during the two years which
had elapsed since the last publication of _Leaves of Grass_, before he
set out for Washington. The manuscript had remained at home, tied up
in its square, spotted, stone-colour covers,[418] but was sent on to
him, to be discussed in the Washington circle. Early in 1864 a friend
seems to have taken it the round of the Boston publishers, but without

If we are to understand Whitman's attitude towards the war, we must
glance at the little brown volume of seventy-two pages, _Walt Whitman's
Drum-taps_. Among the poems which preceded his visit to the capital
were probably the song of "Pioneers,"[420] with its cry of the West,
and the poem of the "Broadway Pageant,"[421] of 1860, celebrating the
Japanese Embassy, and forming a complementary tribute to the maternal
East. To these one may add the lines to "Old Ireland"[422] and the
noble "Years of the Modern".[423]

In this last he proclaims the growing consciousness of solidarity among
the peoples of the world. Artificial boundaries seem to be breaking
down in Europe, and the people are making their own landmarks--witness
the rise of a new Italy. Everywhere men among the people are awaking to
ask pregnant questions, and to link all lands together with steam and

    Are all nations communing? Is there going to be but one heart to
      the globe?
    Is humanity forming en-masse? for lo, tyrants tremble, crowns grow
    The earth, restive, confronts a new era, perhaps a general divine
    No one knows what will happen next, such portents fill the days and
    Years prophetical! the space ahead as I walk, as I vainly try to
      pierce it, is full of phantoms,
    Unborn deeds, things soon to be, project their shapes around me,
    This incredible rush and heat, this strange ecstatic fever of
      dreams, O years!
    Your dreams, O years, how they penetrate through me! (I know not
      whether I sleep or wake);
    The perform'd America and Europe grow dim, retiring in shadow
      behind me,
    The unperform'd, more gigantic than ever, advance, advance upon

The war poems follow.

       *       *       *       *       *

Whitman's attitude towards war is not obvious, but it is, I believe,
logical and consistent. On one side it approximated to the Quaker
position, but only on one side. Or rather, perhaps, the Quaker position
approximates to one side of Whitman's. He was devoted to a social
order, or republic, which could not be realised by deeds of arms. He
had no hatred for any of his fellows, and recognised in his political
enemy a man divine as himself--one cannot say that he had any personal
enemies, though there were men who would like to have been accounted

The fat years of peace had, however, awakened doubts in him of the
average American's capacity for great passions.[425] These seemed to be
rare among them, and Whitman had been driven to seek them in nature and
her storms. It was with exultation, then, that he felt the response of
New York and of the whole of America to the call of the trumpet.[426]

Men of peace are accustomed to lament the contagion of the war-fever,
and with a large measure of justice. But so long as civilisation tends
to render the common lives of men cheap or calculating, there will
remain a divine necessity for those hours of fierce enthusiasm which,
like a forest fire or religious revival, sweep irresistibly over a
nation. Whitman shared the rhythmic answer of the blood, and of the
soul which is involved therewith, to the imperious throbbing of the
drums.[427] He knew that it represented in some, perhaps barbaric, way
the throbbing of the nation's heart, and that the cry "To Arms!" called
forth much that was best in men.

The call to arms is one thing; the actual fighting, which converts
men, to use his own phrase, into "devils and butchers," is another.
The call to arms awakes something in a man more heroic than the life
he ordinarily lives; he seems to hear in it the voice of the Nation
calling him by name, and when he answers he feels the joy of the
Nation in his heart. He becomes consciously one with a great host in
the hour of peril. He hears the voice of a Cause in the bugles and the
drums. He shares in a new emotion, which is his glory because it is
not his alone. He finds a fuller liberty than he has ever known in the
discipline of the ranks; he accepts the petty tyrannies to which he is
subjected, feeling that behind the officers is the will of the Nation
to which he has yielded his own.

This, for better and worse, we may call the mysticism of war, and it
appealed forcibly to Whitman. For him, war was illuminated by the idea
of solidarity; an idea which was constantly present to him from this
time forward. He no longer saw the great personalities only, nor only
their divine comradeship in the life of God; all that remained as
vivid as of old; but now he was being constantly reminded of the way
in which individuals share consciously in the life of the nation; and
this suggested to him how, presently, they will come to be conscious of
their part in the life of the Race.

He recognised how essential was the sense of citizenship to fuller
soul-life. The barriers in which our individual lives are isolated must
be broken, if liberty is to be brought to the soul. If we are to live
fully, we must feel the tides of being sweep through our emotional
natures. Hence his welcome to war, which, in spite of all the fiendish
spirits which follow in its wake, does thrill a chord of national
consciousness in the individual heart.

We may well ask whether there is no errand worthier of this sense of
solidarity than that of slaughter. Surely the affirmation of such an
errand underlies the whole thought of _Drum-taps_, with its call to a
"divine war".[428]

The hour has come when the Social Passion is about to rouse the peoples
to a nobler crusade against oppression than any yet; when the nations
shall be purged by revolutions wholesomer than those of 1789 or 1861.
Whitman's whole life, throbbing in every page he wrote, proclaims it.

He regarded the Civil War as a sort of fever in the body politic,
caused by anterior conditions of congestion. War had become necessary
for the life of that body, and only after a war could health re-assert
itself. To compromise continually, as we boast in England that we do,
may sustain a sort of social peace, but it is almost certain to drive
the disease deeper into the very heart of our national life, and there
to sap the sheer ability for any kind of noble enthusiasm. You may
purchase a sort of peace with the price of a life more sacred than even
that of individual citizens. Whitman demanded national health, without
which he could see no real peace.

He did not suppose, indeed, that war could of itself effect a cure.
Health could only return in so far as the aroused conscience of
the nation--which had lived in its soldiers and in the wives and
families who had shared in their devotion--was carried forward into
the civil life. Peace itself must be rendered sentient of that heroic
national purpose which had for a moment flashed across the fields of
battle.[429] Peace, indeed, is only priceless when it has become more
truly and wisely heroical than war; when it has become affirmative
where war is cruelly negative; when it creates where war destroys,
quickening the heart of each citizen to fulfil a sacred duty.

Whitman well knew that in order to have such a peace we must set
before the peoples a mission, a sublime national task. What party is
there to-day, either in England or America, which dares to hold up for
achievement any programme of heroism?

Read in this light, and only so, I believe, will _Drum-taps_ yield up
its essential meaning. It is a Song of the Broad-axe, not a scream of
the war-eagle.[430]

       *       *       *       *       *

In alluding to _Drum-taps_, I have somewhat anticipated the natural
course of the story, to which we must now return. Even at home on
furlough, Whitman could not wholly relinquish the occupation which he
had assumed, and became a frequent visitor at the hospitals of Brooklyn
and New York.

Early in December, 1864, he was back again at his post, suffering from
the added anxiety for his brother's welfare; for George was a prisoner
in the hands of the Confederates, enduring the almost inconceivable
horrors of a winter imprisonment at Dannville. At the beginning of
February Walt made an application to General Grant, through a friend
in the office of the _New York Times_,[431] for the release of his
brother, together with another officer of the 51st New York Volunteers;
alleging, as an urgent reason, the deep distress of his aged mother
whose health was breaking. The application appears to have been
successful, and George, who had been captured early in the preceding
summer, and upon whom fever, starvation, exposure and cold had wreaked
their worst for many months, returned alive to Brooklyn, his excellent
constitution triumphant over all hardships.

In the same month Whitman obtained a clerkship in the Indian Bureau of
the Department of the Interior, and thoroughly enjoyed the contact into
which he was thus brought with the aboriginal Americans. They on their
side appear to have distinguished him as a real man among the host of
colourless officials, and to have responded to his advances.[432]

This was the early spring of Lincoln's death; and Walt was at the
President's last levee.[433] He looked in also at the Inauguration Ball
held in the Patent Office--strangely converted from its recent uses
as a hospital. There he remarked the worn and weary expression of the
beloved brown face; for still the great tragedy dragged on.

Five or six weeks later, a young Irish-Virginian, one of Walt's
Washington friends,[434] was up in the second gallery of the crowded
theatre upon the tragic night of the assassination, and saw the whole
action passing before his bewildered eyes. Whitman was at home again in
Brooklyn: seeing George, we may presume, and making final arrangements
for his _Drum-taps_; on his return he seems to have heard the whole
graphic story from his friend.

It is doubtful whether Whitman and the dead President had ever spoken
to one another, beyond the ordinary greeting of street acquaintances.
They had met perhaps a score of times, and it is recorded that
once, when Walt passed the President's window, Lincoln had remarked
significantly--"Well, _he_ looks like a man".[435] It seems possible
that at first Whitman may have felt something of the public uncertainty
about the character of the new President.[436]

How deep-rooted in the average American mind was the distrust or
dislike of his policy is seen in the fact that, only six months before
the death that was mourned by the whole nation, the opposition to his
re-election was represented by a formidable popular vote. The South
was in revolt, and therefore of course disfranchised; but even so,
McClellan polled as large a total as had the President at the previous
election; though Lincoln himself increased his former vote by a little
more than one-fifth. So strong ran popular feeling against the whole
policy of interference with the seceding States even in the fourth year
of the war.

But Lincoln's death revealed his true worth to America. And the sense
of the almost sacramental nature of that death, as sealing for ever the
million others of the war, and finally consecrating the re-established
union of North and South, grew upon Whitman, who long before had
realised that Lincoln was the father of his country and the captain of
her course.

A sense of some impending tragedy seems to have accompanied Whitman
upon his walks at the time of the assassination. It was early spring
and the lilac was in blossom; a strange association, deeper than mere
fancy,[437] seemed to the poet to establish itself between the scent of
the lilac, the solitary night-song of the hermit-thrush, the fulness of
the evening star at this time, and the passing of "the sweetest, wisest
soul of all my days and lands". It was out of this deeply realised
association that he built up the mystical symphony which he afterwards
called "President Lincoln's Burial Hymn," a poem in many respects
similar to his other great chant of death, "Out of the Cradle".

Mystical and symbolic, it is charged with a vast national emotion; and
this gives a certain vagueness to its solemnity, better befitting its
theme than a more concrete treatment. The poet was not writing of "him
I love," but rather attempting to express the feeling of lonely loss
which thousands experienced on that dark April day. Hence his poem is
the hymn of a nation's bereavement rather than the elegy of a great man
dead. Whitman, in his attitude toward Lincoln, had come to regard him
as an incarnation of America. He thought of him as he thought of the
Flag; and his personal reverence for the man took almost the form of
devotion to an ideal.

       *       *       *       *       *

The President's death had been already noted in _Drum-taps_, but
when he conceived the longer poem, Whitman seems to have recalled
the edition,[438] in order to add this and certain other verses as a
sequel, thus delaying its publication till about the end of the year.

Another of the new poems calls for a word in passing. "Chanting the
Square Deific"[439] is an attempt to express his theory of ultimate
reality, that is to say, of the soul. Four elements go to the making
of this, and these he calls respectively, Jehovah, Christ, Satan and
Santa Spirita--adopting, as he sometimes would, a formula of his own
inventing, that was of no known language. In other words, he conceived
of the soul's reality,[440] as characterised by four essential
qualities; first, its obedience to the remorseless general laws of
being; second, its capacity for attraction to and absorption into
others--its love-quality; third, its lawless defiance of everything but
its own will; fourth, its sense of identity with the whole.

Condemnation, compassion, defiance, harmony, these he says are final
and essential qualities of the Divine; only as they are united can
our idea of God or of the Soul, which is the Son of God, be complete.
In the traditional Satan of revolt and pride, he saw an element
without which the harmony was immaterial and unreal. Evil and perilous
in itself, in its relation to the rest it is the solid ballast of
the soaring soul. In this, he suggests much of the attitude which
Nietzsche was afterwards to make his own.

       *       *       *       *       *

During the composition of some of these poems a crisis occurred in his
new official career. The war was over, but the hospitals still were
full, and Walt was busy there as usual in his leisure hours; and at his
desk in the Indian Bureau, whenever his duties were not pressing, he
was at work upon his manuscripts,[441] when some hostile fellow-clerk
seems to have called the attention of the newly appointed chief of the
department to the character of these private documents.

Whitman had been a favourite with the chief clerk in the bureau, and
had been given a good deal of latitude; perhaps the hostile person
had observed this with a jealous eye. The manuscript proved to be not
the innocuous _Drum-taps_, but an annotated copy of _Leaves of Grass_
preparing for a new edition. A reading of the volume decided the chief
upon a prompt dismissal of its author, and this is not surprising when
we remember that Mr. Harlan had been appointed through the pressure of
the powerful Methodist interest which he commanded. The Methodist eye
in him must have regarded many of these pages with suspicion and not a
few with disgust.

The dismissal itself was perfectly colourless; it ran:--

                    "DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,
                              "WASHINGTON, D.C., _June 30th, 1865_.

  "The services of Walter Whitman, of New York, as a clerk in the
  Indian Office, will be dispensed with from and after this date.

                              "JAS. HARLAN,
                                    "_Secretary of the Interior_."[442]

It is obvious that the chief had no right to open his clerk's desk
and examine what he knew to be private papers; but having done
so, and being presumably of an unimaginative, narrowly pious and
over-conscientious character, we cannot wonder at his action. From
Whitman's point of view the matter was serious; he could ill-afford a
peremptory dismissal from the public service. And to his friends the
dismissal appeared not so much unjust as enormous.

O'Connor, hearing the news, went straight to Hubley Ashton, in the
fiery heat of that generous and righteous wrath which scintillates and
flashes with perfervid splendour through the pages of his _Good Grey
Poet_.[443] Mr. Ashton was not so fierce, but he was indignant. He
was a member of the Administration, and used his power to Whitman's
advantage. Finding all remonstrance with Mr. Harlan to be vain, he yet
induced him to make some sort of exchange by which Whitman was not
actually dismissed from the service, but only transferred to his own
department--the Attorney-General's.

Painful at the time, the affair did Whitman little injury. When
Harlan's action became known it was far from popular in Washington,
where every one knew Walt, and where next to nobody had read his
_Leaves_. A section at least of the local press supported the claims of
a fellow-pressman;[444] while in the Civil Service he was a favourite
with the clerks. In literary circles, also, O'Connor's slashing attack
upon the Secretary for the Interior turned the tables in Walt's favour.

In later years assaults of the same character were not infrequent,
both upon _Leaves of Grass_ and its author; but, however annoying,
they always resulted in arousing curiosity, and thus in extending the
circle of readers. Probably the fear of this consequence prevented
their further multiplication, for average American opinion was then
undisguisedly hostile, as, of course, it still remains.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the whole, Whitman seems to have been happy in his new office. He
never tired of the view from his window[445] in the second storey of
the Treasury Building, overlooking miles of river reaches with white
sails upon them, and the range of wooded Virginian hills. He liked his
companions, and he relished the green tea which came in every afternoon
from a girl in an adjacent office;[446] not, indeed, intended for him,
but resigned to him by its recipient, who was scornful of the cup.

He went on great walks, especially by night, and enjoyed his jaunts on
the cars. One Thanksgiving Day we find him picnicing by the falls of
the Potomac, and on another occasion he is visiting Washington's old
mansion at Mount Vernon.[447] Every Sunday till the close of 1866 he
was in the hospitals, and frequently called at one or other during the
week. He was a regular visitor at the homes of several friends, and his
acquaintance with Mr. Peter Doyle, which seems to have begun during the
last winter of the war, had ripened into a close comradeship.

Mr. and Mrs. Burroughs had always to keep Sunday breakfast waiting for
him; there was a regularity in his lateness.[448] After a chat with
them, and a glance through the Sunday papers, he would stroll over to
the office for his letters on his way to some hospital, and during the
course of the afternoon he dropped in at the O'Connors' for tea. In
the winter he spent much of his leisure by the fire in the comfortable
Library of the Treasury Building reading novels, philosophy and what he

He boarded at a pleasant house on M Street, near Twelfth.[449] It
stood back from the road, with a long sweep of sward in front of
it, and an arbour under a great cherry tree, which became in spring
a hill of snowy blossom. As the evenings grew warmer, Whitman and
his fellow-boarders would draw their chairs out on to the grass and
sit under the trees talking or silently watching the passers-by, or
listening to occasional strolling players.

To his companions and to casual visitors he seemed as strong as ever.
He ate well, avoiding excess, and, still adhering to his resolution,
partaking but sparingly of meat. He went to bed and rose early. Always
affable and courteous, he contrived to take his part in the general
conversation without saying much.

Such a life was easy, and passably comfortable; he was earning a fair
salary, and making new friends constantly. But he was without a home;
and Washington, after all, as the seat of officialism, shows the seamy
side of democracy. The cynic declares that its population consists
exclusively of negroes, mean whites and officials; thus presenting a
melancholy contrast to the metropolis of the fifties with its large
class of vigorous-minded, independent artisans, the backbone of a city
democracy as the yeoman-farmers are of a nation.

The routine also of the work he was doing must often have been irksome
to him.[450] It is one of the enigmas of Whitman's life that he should
have been content to continue in Washington six years at least after
the hospitals had ceased to claim him; sitting before a Government desk
as third clerk and earning his regular pay of rather more than three
hundred pounds a year.[451] How great the change from his old Bohemian
days! The question obtrudes, was Walt becoming "respectable"?

Whether he were or no, at least he had become noticeably better clad
and less aggressive, a gentler seeming man than of old.[452] And yet
there was always something illusive about this apparent change. He
could still turn the face of a rock to impertinent intruders;[453] he
could still blaze out in sudden anger upon a rare occasion.

But he was near fifty now, and for several years the strong sympathies
of his nature had been fully and continually exercised in the wards.
His individuality was as marked as ever; but with the war he had
experienced a deeper sense of his membership in the life of the Race.
The word "_en-masse_," now so often on his lips, expresses this
constant consciousness. It was not new to him, but its dominance was

Again, while he had seen before that, in general, every soul is divine,
it was the days and nights which he spent in the wards which made
him understand how divine it actually is. The meaning of love grows
richer in its exercise, and this was doubtless true in the case of Walt

The experience of recent years had cleansed his self-assertion of
qualities which were merely fortuitous. Never intentionally eccentric,
he had previously perhaps exaggerated the traits which were peculiar
to a stage in the development of his own personality. But the crucible
heat of the wards rid him of that, while integrating his nature more
perfectly. Living more intensely than ever, he was living more than
ever in the lives of others; and this inevitably made him more catholic.

Other circumstances aided in the same direction. His manner of daily
life had altered. He lived no longer among his own folk at home, but
instead among professional men and clerks, at a middle-class Washington
boarding-house. He worked now with a pen, not a hammer; and his book,
written for the young American artisan, was being read and appreciated,
not at all by him, but instead by students in Old and New England. He
lost nothing of himself by becoming one of this other class in which
for the time he lived with his book. A smaller man might have been
seriously affected by such a change in environment; but while it could
not be without effect upon Whitman, it never made him less true to his
essential self.

In considering this period, I think we may say that the Whitman of the
later sixties was still the large masculine man who wrote the first
_Leaves of Grass_; but having in 1860 completed the first plan of the
book, his task of self-assertion now became as it were a secondary
matter. The suffering and sympathy of the war had developed the saviour
in him; so that some of his portraits, taken at the time, have almost
the air of a "gentle shepherd". His message became increasingly one
of helpful love, newly adjusted to the individuals among whom he was

And with the rise of a group of able young champions and admirers, it
became more necessary that he should guard his message and himself from
anything that could encourage that habit of personal imitation which
would have created a group of little Whitmanites, whose very ability
must have limited the original inspiration which had bound them to him.

Thus it was in a sense true that, after the publication of the
volume of 1860, the first Whitman was, as he prophesied he would be,
"disembodied, triumphant, dead".

       *       *       *       *       *

So much on the matter of Whitman's increased respectability: as to his
prolonged stay in Washington, something further must be said.

It is evident that he was no longer the Titan of old days. In the
spring of 1867 he writes home that he is well, but "getting old";[454]
and every year he seemed to feel the extremes of the Washington climate
more and more. This is further evidence of decreasing vitality.

Had he returned to New York, it must probably have been to write for
the press; and however physically robust he might suppose himself to
be, something at least of the old force of initiative had left him.
There was no longer any immediate need for his presence at home; for
when Jeff went West to St. Louis, as engineer to the city waterworks,
his brother George was there to take his place as the mother's main

Walt was, moreover, earning a sufficient income in an easy fashion.
The work itself was light; he was trusted, and little supervised. His
chief seems to have recognised that he had spent himself unsparingly
for America in the hospitals, without immediate reward; and now, in
consequence, allowed him to arrange his duties as suited him best. He
spent but little of his income upon himself; though the penurious
simplicity and discomfort of the early days was no longer desirable.
He always sent something to his mother, and seems to have divided the
remainder between any of his hospital boys who still lingered; the
beggars whom he never refused; his friends, and the Savings Bank.

But one suspects that Whitman really stayed on in Washington for the
same reason that he had previously remained in New York. He took
root wherever he stood; and it required the tug of duty to remove
him. Wherever he was, his life was full of incident and material for
thought. Outward occupation or adventure counted for comparatively
little in his experience. His present circumstances favoured the steady
progress of his own writing and the prosecution of his friendships.

Not that he ever forgot his friends in the metropolis, or grew
indifferent to the claims of his family. He contrived to spend at least
a month every summer in his old haunts, living at home and making
daily expeditions on the bay, bathing from the Coney Island beach, and
sauntering along Broadway.[455] He often had business at the printers',
for he was now again his own publisher.

The _Leaves_ had been out of print since the failure of his Boston
friends, and in 1867 he was working on a new edition, completing the
very copy which had roused the wrath of Mr. Harlan. He seems to have
spent a few days with his friend Mrs. Price;[456] and coming down
late to tea one evening, after working on his manuscripts, one of the
daughters has recorded the extraordinary brightness and elation of his
mien. "An almost irrepressible joyousness," she says, "shone from his
face and seemed to pervade his whole body. It was the more noticeable
as his ordinary mood was one of quiet yet cheerful serenity. I knew he
had been working at a new edition of his book, and I hoped if he had an
opportunity he would say something to let us into the secret of his
mysterious joy. Unfortunately, most of those at the table were occupied
with some subject of conversation; at every pause I waited eagerly for
him to speak; but no, some one else would begin again, until I grew
almost wild with impatience and vexation. He appeared to listen, and
would even laugh at some of the remarks that were made, yet he did
not utter a single word during the meal; and his face still wore that
singular brightness and delight, as though he had partaken of some
divine elixir."

But it was not always in joy that he wrote. Other friends have told how
they have noted him turning aside from the street into some door or
alleyway to take out a slip of paper and write, with the tears running
fast across his face.[457] Whether in tears or in ecstasy, it is
certain that he composed his poems under the stress of actual feeling;
and of emotions which shook his whole being and thrilled its heavy,
slow-vibrating chords to music.


[418] _Wound-Dresser_, 61.

[419] Trowbridge, _op. cit._

[420] _L. of G._, 183.

[421] _Ib._, 193.

[422] _Ib._, 284.

[423] _Ib._, 370.

[424] _L. of G._, 371.

[425] _Ib._, 228.

[426] _Ib._, 220.

[427] _L. of G._, 222.

[428] _Cf._

    "I, too ... also sing war, and a longer and greater one than any,
    Waged in my book with varying fortune, with flight, advance and
      retreat, victory deferr'd and wavering,
    (Yet methinks certain, or as good as certain, at the last), the
      field the world,
    For life and death, for the Body and for the eternal Soul,
    Lo, I too am come, chanting the chant of battles,
    I above all promote brave soldiers."--_L. of G._, 9, 10.

[429] _L. of G._, 276, 278.

[430] Camden, iii., 160, 161.

[431] Facsimile in Williamson's _Catalogue_.

[432] _In re_, 383; _Comp. Prose_, 411-13.

[433] _Comp. Prose_, 59.

[434] Calamus, 25.

[435] Bucke, 42.

[436] _Wound-Dresser_, 139.

[437] _L. of G._, 255; _Comp. Prose_, 305.

[438] _L. of G._, 263; _cf._ (1865); _cf._ Calamus, 35 n.

[439] _L. of G._, 339.

[440] _Cf._ W. N. Guthrie's _W. W. as Religious and Moral Teacher_
(1897), 80 n.; Symonds, 26.

[441] Bucke, 40-42, 73.

[442] MSS. Traubel; for a further attack see Burroughs (2), 123.

[443] Included in Bucke.

[444] Potter, _op. cit._; Bucke, 19.

[445] Camden, viii., 188-91, etc.

[446] _Ib._

[447] _Ib._

[448] Johnston, 130-40; _cf._ Camden, viii., 220.

[449] Potter.

[450] Camden, viii., 175.

[451] _Ib._, 184.

[452] Potter; _Rossetti Papers_, 492.

[453] Calamus, 22.

[454] Camden, viii.

[455] See Calamus.

[456] Bucke, 32; Miss Price gives date as 1866; the new ed. appeared
late in 1867.

[457] Bucke, 171.



In October, 1867, the new volume appeared; it was intended to replace
the former final edition of 1860, and in itself was now regarded as
final. Whitman wrote home to his mother that at last he had finished
his re-arrangings and corrections, for good.[458] But he was mistaken;
for because the book was a whole, every page which he added to it in
succeeding years entailed a new revision of the rest. Each new note
affects the old sequence, which thus requires to be ordered anew.

The book might be handsomer, he says; but he notes that he has omitted
some excessive phrases, and even dropped a passage or two which had not
stood the test of time; and now he feels that the volume proves itself
to any fair-minded person. Beyond these alterations, the book contains
little that is new.

That public interest in Whitman was increasing is shown by the
appearance this year of the first of those brief biographical studies
which have since become so numerous. It was from the pen of his
intimate friend, Mr. John Burroughs, than whom none knew him better
during the Washington days; and having besides the full advantage of
Whitman's supervision, remains a principal authority to this day.[459]

Equally important was the preparation in England this autumn of a
volume of selections by Mr. W. M. Rossetti.[460] The editor of the
_Germ_, that most interesting expression of a new and pregnant spirit
in art whose brief but brilliant course had ended a few years before
the first appearance of the _Leaves_, was the right man to introduce
Walt Whitman to the English reader. Both he and his brother, the poet,
had for several years been admirers of Whitman's work; and before the
publication of the new edition he had written an able notice of the
book in _The Chronicle_, a short-lived organ of advanced Catholic

This was widely copied by the American press. It preserves a judicial
tone, which while fully appreciating the literary value of the new
work, is far from indiscriminate praise. Mr. Rossetti frankly protested
against what he regarded as the gross treatment of gross things, not
so much on ethical as on æsthetic grounds; against jarring words and
faulty constructions. He noted the obscurity and fragmentary character
of many passages, commented on the agglomerative or cataloguial habit,
and upon the author's justifiable, but at first sight exasperating,

Much of this was, at least from its writer's literary point of view,
just and valuable criticism. Mr. Rossetti was less fortunate when he
asserted that if only he were brought down by sickness many things
would appear very different to Whitman; for while the remark contains
an incontestable element of axiomatic truth, its particular application
was based upon a misapprehension of the poet's character. He conceived
that Whitman's faith depended upon physical well-being--just as Walt
once declared that Goethe's religion was founded simply upon good
digestion and appetite--thus missing the spiritual basis of his

But if Rossetti's literary criticisms are searching and upon the whole
just, his praises are not less notable. _Leaves of Grass_ he describes
as by far the largest poetical performance of our period; and while
acclaiming him the founder of American poetry, he foresees that its
author's voice will one day be potential and magisterial wherever the
English language is spoken.

The criticism was followed by the compilation of a volume of selections
containing nearly one half of the current _Leaves of Grass_, and a
large part of the original Preface of 1855. The enterprise brought the
compiler into cordial personal relations with the poet.[462] There had
at first been a slight misunderstanding as to the scope of the English
version, and an expurgated but otherwise complete edition had been
suggested. Whitman could not be a party to such a volume, and would
naturally have preferred his own complete book to any selections. But
in Mr. Rossetti he recognised an understanding friend. While frankly
expressing his own views, he was most cordial and generous in the
declaration of his faith in his correspondent's wisdom, and of his
desire to leave him unshackled.

The selections contained none of the poems which had aroused the
indignation of Mr. Harlan and his friends, and would probably have
more than satisfied the very different criticisms of Emerson. Their
publication established the foundation of Whitman's English fame, which
now rapidly outstripped his American. Already known to the few--to such
men for instance as Tennyson, Dante G. Rossetti, Swinburne, W. Bell
Scott, J. A. Symonds and Thomas Dixon--_Leaves of Grass_ was from this
time eagerly sought after by a considerable number of the younger and
more vigorous thinkers.

       *       *       *       *       *

Although they never met, Whitman's friendship with Symonds is so
important that I cannot pass it by without some reference to the
younger man's character.[463] He had been, as is well known, an
exceptionally brilliant Oxford scholar; who had shown so little trace
of the disqualifying elements of genius that his painfully accurate
poetic form carried off the Newdigate prize. After his studies at
Balliol, he entered early manhood with impaired sight, an irritable
brain and incipient consumption. His temper was naturally strenuous,
but this quality was accompanied by introspective morbidity.

In the autumn of 1865, at the age of five and twenty,[464] the
late Mr. Frederick Myers introduced him to _Leaves of Grass_; his
reading of one of the Calamus poems--"Long I thought that knowledge
alone would suffice me"[465]--from the edition of 1860, sending, as
Symonds says, electric thrills through the very marrow of his bones.
Whitman of course rode rough-shod over all the scholar's academic and
aristocratic prejudices, and required slow assimilation. This process
continued during the next four years; but he says that the book became
eventually a more powerful formative influence in his life than Plato's
works,[466] or indeed any other volume, save the Bible.

Married already, and already largely an invalid, life was full of
difficulties for so keen and eager a mind; and the _Leaves_ became
his anchor, especially the poems of Calamus.[467] It was in 1869 and
1870[468] that he realised their full value.

Already his mind had responded to the idea of the cosmos and of cosmic
enthusiasm,[469] suggested to it in the Hymn of Cleanthes, in certain
pages of Marcus Aurelius, Giordano Bruno, Goethe, and the Evolutionists
of his own time. To these ideas Whitman brought conviction and
reality. It was through his study of the _Leaves_ that Symonds came
to understand for himself the infinite value and possibility of human
comradeship, and became a glad participant in the Universal Life.

For twenty years the two men corresponded as close friends; and there
were few in whose admiration for his work Whitman found such keen
satisfaction. But Addington Symonds was always a conscientious as well
as an affectionate and reverent friend; and while at a later date he
publicly protested against Mr. Swinburne's assault,[470] and in his
posthumous study of Whitman, proved himself second to none in his
admiration of him whom he called Master, yet he himself made some of
the frankest and most trenchant criticisms of his friend's work. He
thus preserved his independence, and, unlike that of the mere disciple,
his praise of Whitman is rendered really valuable by this quality.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: ANNE GILCHRIST]

In the summer of 1869, Mr. Madox Brown lent a copy of the _Selections_
to his friend Mrs. Alexander Gilchrist, the widow of Blake's
biographer. She responded to the book's appeal, and immediately
borrowed Mr. Rossetti's copy of the complete volume.[471] While wholly
approving the omission from his _Selections_ of such poems as the
"Children of Adam," and herself making some partial reservation with
regard to these as perhaps infringing in certain passages the natural
law of concealment and modesty, she expressed to Mr. Rossetti, in
fervid and impassioned phrases, the joy that came to her in this new
gospel, worthy at last as she thought of America. Her friend obtained
her permission to allow her letters to him to be published; and they
appeared in the Boston _Radical_ for May, 1870.

Her words of womanly understanding stirred Whitman too deeply for much
outward expression.[472] He hardly regarded them as a declaration
of individual friendship, showing himself at the time even a little
indifferent[473] to the personality of their writer. They were, he
knew, a testimony not so much to him as to his _Leaves of Grass_, which
were a half-impersonal utterance, and as such he received them with
gratitude.[474] Nothing, not even O'Connor's brilliant vindication, had
so justified the poems to their maker.

Whitman has been roundly abused by Mr. Swinburne[475] and others,
because, as they say, he lacks the romantic attitude toward woman.
Mr. Meredith has shown in his own inimitable way the fiends that mask
themselves too often under this romantic mien; and one is not always
sure whether Whitman's honesty is not in itself a little distasteful to
some of his critics.

It is true that he has addressed woman as the mother or the equal mate
of man, rather than as the maid unwed, as though his thought of sex
transcended the limits usually assigned to it. I am persuaded that the
explanation of this is to be found in the fact that Whitman's mystic
consciousness had broken many of the barriers which have constricted
the passion of sex too narrowly during past centuries. He heard all the
deeps of life calling to one another and responding with passionate
avowals of life's unity. The soul of the lover--as all the poets have
been telling us since Dante's day--discovers its true self in the
beloved person: but the soul of Whitman discovered itself as surely
and as passionately in the Beloved World. The expression is so novel
that it sounds well-nigh absurd to ears that do not "hear". But for
those who can hear, Whitman's voice is all surcharged with the lover's
passion; not less intense but larger in its sanity than the voices of
other poets.

Again we may justly urge that, in general, it was Woman as Madonna,
rather than as Venus, whom he contemplated. Or shall we say he saw the
Madonna in Venus, as Botticelli did? His love, when he wrote, was that
of a man of middle life, in whom the yearning tenderness of fatherhood
mingled with the other currents of passion. His vision beheld the
Divine Child, without whom love itself is incomplete. For fatherhood
and motherhood are seen by the insight of the poet to be implicit in
the passion of sex, and it was impossible for Whitman, the seer, to
think of one apart from the other.

As a wife and a mother, Anne Gilchrist recognised the beauty and
purity of Whitman's conception of love; and his book was to her like
the presence of a great and wise comrade.[476] She was the first woman
who had publicly recognised his purpose in these poems, and it was an
act of no small heroism.[477] Whitman might well be moved by it.

       *       *       *       *       *


The _Selections_ had appeared in 1868, a year which also saw the
publication[478] of O'Connor's tale, _The Carpenter_, in whose pages
commences that legendary element in Whitman's story, which follows the
advent of the more striking personalities. Here Whitman is confused
with Christ, somewhat as was Francis by his followers, more than six
centuries before.

That such a thing should have been possible in the Whitman circle
requires a few words of explanation. I have already described the poem
in which he himself claims comradeship with "the Crucified".[479] The
further assertion of such a claim inevitably fell to O'Connor, whose
work was always marked by an element of vehemence and even of excess.
Brilliant, generous, eloquent, he was oftener a fervid partisan than a
safe critic.

Having already coupled Whitman's name with the greatest in
literature[480]--an act of audacity, even if we accept the
conjunction--it was but natural that, finding the man himself nobler
even than his works, he should compare him with the greatest masters
of human life. He was not satisfied even with the praises he had piled
upon his hero in his indignant rejoinder to the Hon. James Harlan.

O'Connor's tale is of no great value; but it reminds us that there was
in Walt something which bewildered those who knew him best: something
Jove-like says one;[481] something that, judged by ordinary standards,
was superhuman, alike in its calm breadth of view and its capacity for
love. They observed that what others might do under the constraint of
exceptional influences, of intellectual conviction, moral ideal or
religious enthusiasm, he did naturally. He did not rise to an occasion,
but always embraced opportunity as though from a higher level. He
was not shocked or alienated by things which shocked other men; and
personal slights and injuries hardly touched him, dropping from him
at once. He was the best of comrades, and yet he was a man of deep
reserve. And he was so many-sided that his friends were hardly aware
that he concealed something of himself from them. Always when you
met him again you found him bigger than you had remembered him; and
the better you knew him, the less certain you would be of accurately
forecasting his actions or understanding his thoughts.

If, however, we call him superhuman, it must be by an unusual manner
of speech; for he was, as we know, the most human of men, seeming to
be personally familiar and at home with every fragment of humanity.
He comprehended the springs of action in individuals, as the soul
comprehends the purpose of each limb and article of the body. He had
the understanding which comes through a subtle sympathy with the whole
of things.

Explain or ignore it as we will, there is in every man that which is
Divine; but usually this side of his nature is, as it were, turned away
from view. Our personality has deeps which even our own consciousness
has not plumbed, though at times it catches a glimpse of them. And we
know that there are men whose consciousness is as much deeper than ours
as ours is deeper than that of a babe. Whitman was one of these; and
the fact that he was such a one must always render the writing of his
biography a tentative task. It seems as though O'Connor, feeling this,
had thrown his own attempt at portraiture into the form of a sort of
parable. For his friends, while they saw possibilities in him which
they also recognised in themselves, saw also others which bewildered
them by their suggestions of the old hero-stories; and it cannot
therefore be wondered, if sometimes they found in his life a similitude
to that of the Nazarene.

The world is ever telling over the old legends, and wondering in spite
of itself if, after all, they might be true. In our nobler moments
we find ourselves rebelling against the traditional limitations of
our manhood; something within our own hearts assures us that humanity
is destined to attain a nobler stature. Every new revelation of the
possibilities of life, every new incarnation of humanity in some great
soul, brings to our lips the name of Jesus. For in it the aspirations
of the world's childhood have been made our own.

We can never believe that the story of the Christ closed with the
earthly career of Jesus. We know that He will come again; that humanity
will renew its promise; that the old stock will break once more into
prophetic blossom. And waiting and watching, at the advent of every
great one, our hearts cry out the ineffable name of our hope, at whose
very hearing the soul of faith is refreshed. Every great soul assures
us that the old, old stories are more than true; they are prophetic
for our very selves; speaking to us of a Divine destiny and purpose to
which we, too, may--nay, must--eventually arise. To Whitman's closest
friends such was his gospel.

       *       *       *       *       *

But it was not every one who could read him so significantly. Merely
intellectual people, trying him by their own standards, often found
him stupid. A young doctor, for instance, who had known him in New
York, and was now a fellow-boarder with him upon M Street, records his
own impression formed at this time, that Walt was physically lazy and
intellectually hazy;[482] that his conversation was disappointingly
enigmatic and obscure, and his words were misty, shadowy, elusive
adumbrations. His vocabulary, says this gentleman, even when he was
deeply affected by natural scenes, was almost grotesquely inadequate;
they were "tip-top," he would declare; and you could only gather from
his manner and the tone of his voice that he meant more than a shabby

The doctor, who was doubtless an encyclopædia of accurate knowledge,
found his companion sadly ignorant of the common names of the trees
and birds they noticed on their rambles. A few years later, however,
Whitman displayed so considerable a knowledge in these directions that
one may at least suppose he profited considerably from his companion's
information.[483] And even if he did not know their names, he came near
to knowing their actual personality; which is probably more than even
the worthy doctor attempted.

It is very certain that Whitman was no dreamer of vague dreams. His
face at this time was equally expressive of alertness and of calm.
His small eyes, grey-blue under their heavy-drooping passionate lids,
were of an extraordinarily penetrating vision. They were the eyes of
a spirit which looked out through them ceaselessly as from behind a
shelter. Circled by a definite line, they had the perceptive draining
quality of a child's when it is first awake to all the world's
storehouse of strange things.[484] Never a merely passive onlooker, he
was always a dynamic force, challenging and evoking the manhood of his

       *       *       *       *       *

This is notably the case in his relations with Peter Doyle, of whom
I have already spoken as one of Walt's closest companions during the
greater part of the Washington period. Doyle was a young Catholic,
born in Ireland but raised in the Virginian Alexandria.[485] His
father, a blacksmith and machinist, eventually went to work in a
Richmond foundry; and when the war broke out, Pete, who was a mere
lad, entered the Confederate army. Soon after, he was wounded and
made a prisoner, and being carried to Washington, he obtained during
his convalescence[486] the post of conductor on one of the tram-cars
running upon Pennsylvania Avenue. It was a course of some four miles,
from Georgetown, by the White House and Treasury and near to Armory
Square, up the hill by the Capitol and down again to near the Navy Yard
on the Anacostia River. And in such a course he was bound sooner or
later to make the acquaintance of Whitman.


Their meeting occurred one wild stormy night, perhaps in the winter
of 1864-65,[487] when Pete was about eighteen. Walt had been out
to see John Burroughs, and was returning wrapt around in his great
blanket-rug, the only passenger in the car. Pete was cold and lonely:
something about the big red-faced man within promised fellowship and
warmth. So he entered the car and put his hand impulsively on Walt's
knee. Walt was pleased; they seemed to understand one another at once;
and instead of descending at his destination, the older man rode an
extra four miles that night for friendship's sake.[488]

Pete was a fair well-built lad, with a warm Irish heart; and in Walt,
who was old enough to have been his father, the fraternal and paternal
qualities alike were very strong. Separated from his own children,
and his own younger brothers whom he had dearly loved, his heart's
tenderness expended itself upon other lads, and upon none more than
upon Pete. There are few ties stronger than those which bind together
the man or woman of middle life whose sympathies are still natural and
warm, and the adolescent lad or maiden upon life's threshold.

Whitman did not appear merely as a good fellow to his young comrade:
his affection ran too deep for that. This is well illustrated by an
incident in their relationship.[489] In a passing fit of despondency
Pete declared that life was no longer worth living, and that he had
more than half a mind to end it. Walt answered him sharply; he was
very angry and not a little shocked. This occurred upon the evening
of his departure for Brooklyn for one of his visits home, and the two
separated somewhat coldly.

Walt arrived really ill, suffering from a sort of partial and temporary
paralysis, which seems to have attacked him at times during the latter
part of his residence in Washington. As soon as he was sufficiently
recovered, he wrote his friend a letter full of loving reproaches, of
affectionate calls to duty, and promises of assistance. The unmanly
folly of Pete's words had, he says, repelled him; but afterwards the
sense of his indestructible love for the lad had returned again in
fuller measure than ever, and he became certain that it was not the
real Pete, "my darling boy, my young and loving brother," who had
spoken those wicked words. He adjures him, by his love for his widowed
mother and for Walt his comrade, to be a man.

Many of the letters to Pete, during the vacations in Brooklyn from
1868 to 1872, are marked by a sort of paternal anxiety for the young
man's welfare. Pete was impulsive and emotional; he was not one to
whom study or thrift was naturally easy. Walt aided him all he could
in both directions. He was always encouraging his "boys" to read
good books, combining still, as in earlier years, the rôles of teacher
and comrade; but he never checked in any degree his friend's boyish,
generous and pleasure-loving nature. And his love was returned with the
whole-hearted loyal devotion of the true Celt.

       *       *       *       *       *


This friendship with Doyle was only one among many,[490] and the fact
that Pete was a Catholic and had been a Confederate soldier, shows how
far such relations transcended any mere similarity of opinion. Indeed,
there is nothing more notable in the circle of Whitman's friends than
their extraordinary dissimilarity one from another.

Day after day, Pete would come to the Treasury building after his work
was done, and wait sleepily there till Walt was free; when they would
start off upon a stroll, which often extended itself for many miles
into the country. Walt frequently had other companions upon these
rambles. Sometimes it would be John Burroughs, and sometimes quite a
party of men, laughing, singing and talking gaily together as they went.

Whitman was the heart of good-fellowship; he was the oldest of them
in years, but in years only. One wonders sometimes whether he himself
realised that all these men were so much his juniors. There was no
comrade, either man or woman, who had grown up beside him, learning
with him the lessons of life. His mother was the great link with his
own boyhood, and the letters which he wrote to her from Washington[491]
show how strong was his attachment to her, and how great his capacity
for home-love.

It is, then, not a little tragic that he had no home to call his own.
In a sense he was a solitary man; in the midst of his all-embracing
love and his self-revealing poems, Walt Whitman lived his life apart
and kept many secrets. In spirit he was as solitary as Thoreau, nay,
even more than he, for, though his fellowship was with the life
Universal, his consciousness of it seemed unique.

His self-reliant, masculine nature was attractive to women, with whom
he had, as one of his friends phrased it, "a good way". With them and
with children he was natural and happy.

Vague and anonymous figures of women move from time to time across
his story. In 1863 it is with "a lady" that he first remarks the
President's sadness.[492] In 1868 he has great talks and jolly times
with the girls he meets on a trip in New England,[493] and he writes
of his "particular women friends in New York". In 1869 he declares
laughingly, he is quite a lady's man again as in the old days.[494]

Women trusted him instinctively, and he repayed their trust by a
remarkable silence as to his relations with them. He understood the
hearts of women, for there was in him much of the maternal. This
quality often finds quaint expression in his letters to Pete, who is
"dear baby"[495] sometimes, and who found more than one kiss sent him
upon the paper.

As he became famous, Whitman had his queue of visitors. Now it is a
spiritualistic woman, who breaks off her interview in order to converse
with the spirit of Abraham Lincoln; and now a Mrs. McKnight,[496] who
would paint his portrait. Later, when he fell ill, "Mary Cole" came and
ministered to him.[497] Mrs. O'Connor, with Mrs. Burroughs and Mrs.
Ashton, belonged to the circle of his friends. With women, as with men,
he had his own frank way of expressing affection, and many a time he
greeted them with a kiss, knowing it would not be misinterpreted.

       *       *       *       *       *

From 1868 to 1870 he was engaged upon a brief political treatise,
apparently suggested to him by Carlyle's vehement assault upon
Democracy and all its ways, in _Shooting Niagara_.[498]

Life in Washington during and after the war had made the short-comings
of Democracy very evident to Whitman. The failure of President Johnson
and his attempted impeachment, had been followed by drastic measures
for enforcing Republican ideas in the South by all the abominable
methods known to corruption and carpet-bag politicians. The year 1868
saw the election of Grant to the Presidency, and under him corruption
extended in every direction. Grant's real work was finished at
Appomattox,[499] and his eight years of official life added nothing to
his fame. But Whitman, sharing the national regard for a simple-minded,
downright soldier, heartily approved his nomination, and urged his
brothers to support him.

For the carpet-bag reconstruction of the South he had, of course, no
sympathy. He longed for a union of hearts, and looked ardently forward
to the day when the South, whom he loved so passionately, would realise
again her inalienable part in the Union. Without her America was
incomplete. And in the "magnet South"[500] was much that was personally
dearest to Whitman's heart.

The more extreme Abolitionist sentiment had combined with the exigency
of party to create a position in the Southern States which was
intolerable to all right feeling. The suffrage had been taken away
from the rebellious whites and given instead to the negroes. It was as
though the management of the household affairs should be entrusted to
wholly irresponsible children. One need hardly add that it was not the
negro who ruled, but the political agent who bought his vote and made
a tool of him. Such a policy only exasperated the antagonism between
North and South.

And Whitman, though he hated slavery, saw that the negro was not ready
to exercise the full rights of citizenship. When the negro vote in
the capital became dominant in political elections, and the black
population paraded the city in their thousands, armed and insolent,
they seemed to him "like so many wild brutes let loose".[501]

It was upon this question of negro-citizenship that he quarrelled
with O'Connor. They had been arguing the subject, as O'Connor would
insist on doing, and Walt, for the nonce, had the better of the bout.
Thoughtlessly, and in the heat of the moment, he pressed his advantage
too far; O'Connor lost his temper--perhaps Walt did the same--but when
a moment later the older man returned to his usual good humour and held
out his hand warmly to his friend, O'Connor's wrath was still hot; he
was offended and refused the reconciliation. In spite of their friends
the sad estrangement continued for years.

       *       *       *       *       *

The political treatise appeared at last under the title of _Democratic
Vistas_.[502] It is the outcome of Whitman's experiences and
meditations upon the purpose of social and national life, especially
during the last decade in Washington. In many respects it is an
enlargement of portions of the first Preface.

In these fragmentary political memoranda Whitman is seen as the
antagonist of what is often supposed to be the American character.
The book is a scathing attack upon American complacency, which is
even more detestable to Whitman than it was to Carlyle. He recognises
the vulgarity and corruption that everywhere abound; the superficial
smartness and alert commercial cunning which have taken the place of
virtues in the current code of transatlantic morals. Flippant, infidel,
unwholesome, mean-mannered; so he characterises New York, his beloved
city. As fiercely as Carlyle he detests all the shams and hypocrises
of democratic government, and he is as keen to discover the perils of
universal suffrage.

But withal he holds fast to faith, and offers a constructive ideal.
The jottings are threaded together by the reiterated declaration
that national life will never become illustrious without a national
literature. It is precisely here, says he, that America is fatally
deficient. Except upon the field of politics, what single thing of
moral value has she originated? And what possible value has all her
material development unless it be accompanied by a corresponding
development of soul?

There is something like an inconsistency of attitude in this book;
for here, on the one hand, we have Whitman assuming the rôle of the
moralist, denouncing, menacing, upbraiding, and generally allowing
himself to employ the moralist's exaggerated, because partial, manner
of speech. On the other hand, we find, interspersed among these
passages of condemnation, others which assert his unwavering faith in
the issue, his constant sense of the heroic character of the people.

Whitman never professed consistency, but his inconsistency is generally
explicable enough. In this case he is of course denouncing the America
of his day, only because he is regarding her from the popular point of
view as something perfect and complete. He has faith in America when
he views her as a promise of what she shall be; but even then only
because he sees far into her essential character. The shallow, popular
optimism is, he knows, wholly false; for if America is to triumph, as
he believes she will, it can only be by the profound moral forces which
are silently at work beneath the trivial shows of her prosperity.

The last enemy of the Republic was not slain when the slave party of
secession, with its feudal spirit, was overcome. The victory of the
North has for the present secured American unity, and with it the
broad types both of Northern and of Southern character essential to
the creation of a generous and profound national spirit. But America
has set forth upon the most tremendous task ever conceived by man; a
task indeed beyond the scope of any man's thought. Urged on by the
inner destiny-forces of the race, she is attempting to realise the
race-ideal of a true democracy. To accomplish her errand she must be
nerved and vitalised by the highest and deepest of ideals; for hers is
a world-battle with all the relentless foes of progress.

Whitman, seeing clearly the dark aspect of the future, the wars
and revolutions yet in store, and having counted the cost of them,
though he had faith that America would eventually achieve her purpose,
yet might well be foremost in scourging her light moods of optimism
with bitter words. And though he had not despaired of America--and
even if he had, would have been the last man to suggest despair to
others--though, also, he knew and loved the real soul of the nation; he
was not so blind to possibilities of disaster, possibilities which he
had faced more than once in recent years, as to suppose that she was of
necessity chosen to be the elder sister of the Republics of the coming

On the contrary, while he had no doubt of the growth and progress
of humanity, he knew that a branch of the race might wither away
prematurely; and he saw in the current culture and social beliefs of
the city populations a wholly false and mischievous conception of
American destiny. If the people of America were to perceive nothing but
a field for money-making wherever the Stars and Stripes might float,
then their patriotism would be worthless, and the Republic must fall.

He loved America too passionately to be cynically indifferent as to
her fate. In spite of unworthy qualities, she yet might realise the
world's hope. But seeking ardently for a way, there was only one that
Whitman could see; it was the way of religion. The old priestcraft was
effete, but religion had not died with it.[504] In a new fellowship of
prophet-poets, who should awaken the Soul of the Nation in the hearts
of their hearers, as did the prophet-poets of Israel, in these and in
these alone he had assurance--for already he seemed to behold them afar
off--assurance of the future of his land.[505]

Whitman agreed with Carlyle as to the infinite value to the race
of great men. He continually asserts their necessity to Democracy;
not, indeed, as masters and captains so much as interpreters and as
prophets. The truly great man includes more of the meaning of Democracy
than the little man, and is therefore the better fitted to explain the
purpose of the whole. Moreover, according to Whitman, it is for the
creation of great personalities that Democracy exists; for he differs
widely from the Platonic mysticism with its Ideal State as the goal of
personal achievement.

He includes in his philosophy of society what is best both in the
individualistic and the socialistic theories. He sees progress
depending upon the interplay of two forces, which he calls the two
sexes of Democracy[506]--Solidarity and Personality. It is for great
souls to declare in the name of Personality the fundamental truth
of Democracy, that every man is destined to become a god. They must
realise for themselves, and assert for the world, that a man well-born,
well-bred and well-trained, may and must become a law unto himself.

According to Whitman, the one purpose of all government in a
democracy is to encourage by all possible means the development of
Soul-consciousness in every man and woman without any exception.[507]
For, speaking generally, one may affirm that every fragment of humanity
is ultimately capable of the heroism which is the force at humanity's
heart; but each fragment can only realise its possibilities as a part
of the whole, and as sharing in the life of Solidarity.

To accomplish this destiny, and not for reasons of merit, Democracy
encourages and requires of every one a participation in the duties and
privileges of citizenship. And similarly, it requires that every one
should be an owner of property in order that each may have his own
material cell in the body politic.[508]

All persons are not yet prepared for citizenship; but such as are
minors must be wisely and strenuously prepared, for Democracy suffers
until all become true citizens.

The idle and the very poor are always a menace to Democracy.[509]

Even a greater menace, if that be possible, is to be found in the low
standard of womanhood which still prevails in America. Woman, if only
she would leave her silliness and her millinery,[510] and enter the
life of reality and enterprise, would, by the majesty of maternity,
be more than the equal of man. I think, though approving of women's
suffrage, he doubted whether it could effect the change he desired to

It cannot be doubted that, like Plato, he saw in the triviality of
the women of the upper classes especially, one of the gravest dangers
which beset the Republic. For the aim of Democracy is great free
personalities, and these can only be produced from a noble maternity.
Unless motherhood and fatherhood in all their aspects become a living
science,[511] and the practice of personal health is recognised as the
finest of the arts, any achievement of the purpose of Democracy must be
slow indeed.

Of other and very secondary kinds of culture, desirable enough in their
place, America, he continues, has no lack. In some respects she is more
European than Europe. But to personality, and the moral force which is
personality, she is alarmingly indifferent. We have fussed about the
world, cries this stern speaker of truth to his age and nation; we have
gathered together its art and its sciences, but we have not grown great
in our own souls. Our mean manners result precisely from that.

Thus he returns to reiterate the cry that can always be heard whenever
we open any book of his, the cry of the quintessential importance of
religion in every field of human life.[512] For religion is the life of
the soul; that is to say, it is the heart of life.

Whitman's religion, however, is not that which is taught by churches
and churchmen. It is a religion extricated from the churches. In a
notable passage[513] he declares: "Bibles may convey, and priests
expound, but it is exclusively for the noiseless operation of one's
isolated self to enter the pure ether of veneration, reach the Divine
levels, and commune with the unutterable". In short, religion is moral
or spiritual force: it is that which forms and maintains existence:
without it, the continued life of nation or individual is inconceivable.

For a nation, too, has its soul-identity; and must become conscious of
that if it is to live, much more if it is to lead. The awakening of
America to this consciousness of its spiritual purpose Whitman awaits,
as the prophets of Israel awaited the Messiah.[514] And we may add that
with its realisation of nationhood, there comes to a people the sense
of its membership in the solidarity of the race.

Now this soul-consciousness, he proceeds, comes to a nation through its
literature. In its songs and in its great epics, a people tells and
reads the secrets of its life; it sees there, as in a glass, the Divine
purpose which tabernacles in its own heart.

A literature which can do this for America will not be made by merely
correct and clever college men, or by fanciful adepts in the arts
of verse. Those who make it must breathe the open air of Nature;
they must, in the largest sense, be men of science. But in Whitman's
language nature and science include more than the material and the
seen. They are the world of reality and its knowledge; and the soul
is the essence of reality: wherefore its experience is the sum of

Thus made, literature will for the first time be worthy to quicken and
immortalise the life of America.[515] It will feed the infant life of
the real nation. Reading it, Americans will become aware at last of
their world-destiny; and they will face the whole of life and death
with a new faith and joy. America will become not merely a new world,
but the mother of new worlds:[516] and lowering as the skies must often
be, and tragic though the day's end, she will behold the stars beyond.

       *       *       *       *       *

Such, in crudest outline, is the gist of Whitman's tractate; which,
with the fifth edition of the _Leaves_, appeared early in 1871.
_Leaves of Grass_ now included _Drum-taps_; but the poems of President
Lincoln's death, with other matter suggested by the close of the war,
were separately published in a little volume of 120 pages, which, while
containing poems upon the lines suggested in _Democratic Vistas_, and
reverting again to old themes, was more especially marked by those in
which the idea of death as a voyage upon an unknown sea is dominant.


The little book was called _Passage to India_, after the opening poem;
and it has a completeness of its own, closing with a "Now Finalé
to the Shore". In its preface, he alludes to a plan which he had
entertained--his active imagination entertained so many plans which
he never realised![517]--the scheme of a new volume to companion and
complement the _Leaves_, suggestive of death and the disembodied soul,
as the _Leaves_ were of the life in the body. He found, however, that
the body was not so soon to be put aside; to the end, its hold upon him
was extraordinarily tenacious. Doubting his ability for the task, he
became content to offer a fragment and hint of what he had intended.

_Passage to India_ is among his finest efforts.[518] Some of its
single lines ring like clear bells, while the movement of the whole is
varied, solemn and majestic. He shows his reader how the enterprise
and invention of the world is binding all lands together to complete
the "rondure" of the earth. The opening of the Suez Canal and of the
Pacific Railroad are fulfilling the dream of the Genoese, who sought a
passage to India in the circumnavigation of the world.

But, says Whitman, with that characteristic mystical touch which is
never absent in his poems, it is only the poet who conceives of the
world as really one and round. For none but he understands that the
universe is essentially one, Soul and Matter, Nature and Man. To
the mystic sense, India becomes symbolic of all the first elemental
intuitions of the human race. Thither now again the poet leads his
nation, back to its first visions and back to God.

Returning almost to the phrases of his first great poem,[519] Whitman
declares his sureness of God, and his resolve not to dally with the
Divine mystery. For him, God is the heart of all life, but especially
the heart of all life that is true, good and loving: He is the
reservoir of the spiritual, and He is the soul's perfect and immortal
comrade. Thus Whitman's idea of God embraces the "personal" element,
so-called, which has been predicated by Christian experience and dogma.

When the soul has accomplished its "Passage to India"--has realised the
unity of all[520]--then, says he, it will melt into the arms of its
Elder Brother, the Divine Love. He does not mean that it will lose its
slowly gained consciousness of selfhood; but that, to employ a formula
of the Christian faith, it will enter the Godhead as a distinct Person.
For the Godhead of Whitman's theology is the ultimate unity of ultimate
personalities--Many-in-one, the God of Love, the Heart of Communion or

It is with a splendid cry of adventurous delight and heroic ardour
that Whitman sets out upon his perilous voyage, seeking the meaning of
everything and of the whole, all hazards and dangers before him, upon
all the seas of the Unknown: but not foolhardily--"Are they not all the
seas of God?"

       *       *       *       *       *

In passing, we may note that in these Washington poems the feeling for
formal perfection is often clearly manifested. Many of the shorter
lyrics repeat the opening line at their close. And careful reading, or
better, recitation, will show that some at least of the longer poems
are constructed with a broad, architectonic plan.

It is indeed a great mistake to suppose that Whitman was careless of
form. Paradoxical though it sound, it was nothing but his overwhelming
sense of the necessity for a living incarnation of his motive-emotions
which led him to abandon the accepted media of written expression.
He probably laboured as closely, deliberately and long upon his
loose-rhythmed verses as a more precious stylist upon his. Whether
successful or no, he was most conscientious and self-exacting in
his obedience to the creative impulse, and in his selection of such
cadences and words as seemed to his ear the best to render its precise

Probably the quiet life at Washington, and the intercourse there with
studious and thoughtful men and women, helped his artistic sense. With
a few exceptions, however, the Washington poems are somewhat less
inevitable and procreative in their quality than those of an earlier
period. They are not less interesting, but they are less elemental.

       *       *       *       *       *

"The older he gets," wrote a correspondent of the _New York Evening
Mail_, "the more cheerful and gay-hearted he grows."[521] Though he was
now beginning to wear glasses, his jolly voice as he sang blithely over
his bath, and his thrush-like whistle,[522] his hearty appetite and
love of exercise, bore witness to vigour and good spirits.

The circle of his friends grew daily wider, and a measure of
international fame began to come to him. Both in Germany and in France
his book was being read, criticised and admired.[523] Rossetti's
selections had given him an English public, which was eager now for new
editions of his complete poems; he had cordial letters from Tennyson
and Addington Symonds; Swinburne addressed him in one of his "Songs
before Sunrise," and there were many others.[524]

From time to time he would receive an invitation from some academic or
other body to recite a poem at a public function. Thus, in the autumn
of 1871, he gave his "Song of the Exposition" at the opening of the
annual exhibition of the American Institute;[525] it is a half-humorous
poem, which follows some of the political themes suggested in
_Democratic Vistas_. Again, at midsummer, 1872, he recited "As a Strong
Bird on Pinions Free"[526] on the invitation of the United Literary
Societies of Dartmouth College, in New Hampshire; making at this time a
further tour as far as Lake Champlain, to visit his sister Hannah, who
was married unhappily and far from all her people.[527]

Later the same autumn, old Mrs. Whitman left Brooklyn to live with her
son, the colonel, in Camden; a quiet unattractive artisan suburb of
Philadelphia. The old lady, now nearly eighty, partially crippled by
rheumatism, and a widow for some eighteen years, did not long survive
this transplanting. But sorrows came thick upon the Whitmans at this
time. And first of all, it was Walt himself who broke down and was


[458] Camden, viii., 218.

[459] _Notes on Walt Whitman as Poet and Person_, 1867.

[460] _Poems of W. W._, 1868.

[461] See also Preface to _Poems of W. W._, and _Rossetti Papers_, 240.

[462] _Rossetti Papers_, 270, 287, etc.

[463] Symonds, 4; _J. A. Symonds, a Biography_, by H. R. F. Brown.

[464] Symonds, 158.

[465] _Supra_, 133 n.

[466] _J. A. Symonds_, ii., 70; _Camden's Compliment_, 73.

[467] _J. A. Symonds_, ii., 15.

[468] _Ib._, ii., 82.

[469] _Ib._, ii., 130, 131.

[470] Symonds in _Fortnightly Rev._, xlii., 459; A. C. S. in _ib._, 170.

[471] _Anne Gilchrist, Her Life and Writings_, by H. H. G., 1887; and
_In re_, 41, 42.

[472] _Rossetti Papers_, 459, 460.

[473] Bucke, 31.

[474] _In re_, 72.

[475] _Fort. Rev._, _loc. cit._

[476] _In re_, 42.

[477] See _infra_, 264.

[478] In _Putnam's Magazine_, Jan., 1868.

[479] See _supra_, 167.

[480] In the _Good Gray Poet_.

[481] Burroughs, 85.

[482] Potter, _op. cit._

[483] See _infra_, 262.

[484] O'Connor, qu. in Bucke, 62.

[485] Calamus, 21.

[486] MSS. Wallace.

[487] Calamus, 23, gives 1866; but _Comp. Prose_, 70, throws date back:
see also _supra_, 210.

[488] Although it has been previously quoted, the following passage
from Mr. Burroughs' _Birds and Poets_ gives so graphic a description of
Whitman at this time, that I cannot forbear to quote it:--

"I give here a glimpse of him in Washington, on a Pennsylvania Avenue
and Navy Yard horse-car, toward the close of the war, one summer
day at sundown. The car is crowded and suffocatingly hot, with many
passengers on the rear platform, and among them a bearded, florid-faced
man, elderly but agile, resting against the dash, by the side of the
young conductor, and evidently his intimate friend. The man wears a
broad-brim white hat. Among the jam inside near the door, a young
Englishwoman, of the working class, with two children, has had trouble
all the way with the youngest, a strong, fat, fretful, bright babe
of fourteen or fifteen months, who bids fair to worry the mother
completely out, besides becoming a howling nuisance to everybody. As
the car tugs around Capitol Hill, the young one is more demoniac than
ever, and the flushed and perspiring mother is just ready to burst into
tears with weariness and vexation. The car stops at the top of the hill
to let off most of the rear platform passengers, and the white-hatted
man reaches inside, and gently but firmly disengaging the babe from
its stifling place in the mother's arms, takes it in his own, and out
in the air. The astonished and excited child, partly in fear, partly
in satisfaction at the change, stops its screaming, and as the man
adjusts it more securely to his breast, plants its chubby hands against
him, and pushing off as far as it can, gives a good look squarely in
his face; then, as if satisfied, snuggles down with its head on his
neck, and in less than a minute, is sound and peacefully asleep without
another whimper, utterly fagged out."

[489] Calamus, 53-55.

[490] Calamus, 18.

[491] Camden, viii., 169-243.

[492] _Wound-Dresser_, 90.

[493] Calamus, 48.

[494] _Ib._, 62.

[495] Calamus.

[496] Camden, viii., 235.

[497] _In re_, 74.

[498] _Comp. Prose_, 208, 209 n.

[499] Wister's _Grant_, 130.

[500] _L. of G._, 359.

[501] Camden, viii., 226 (May, 1868).

[502] _Comp. Prose_, 197-251

[503] _Comp. Prose_, 246, 247.

[504] _Ib._, 200.

[505] In a most characteristic passage, which may be quoted as a
specimen of the style of this book, he writes of "the need of powerful
native philosophers and orators and bards ... as rallying-points to
come in times of danger.... For history is long, long, long. Shift
and turn the combinations of the statement as we may, the problem of
the future of America is in certain respects as dark as it is vast.
Pride, competition, segregation, vicious wilfulness, and license beyond
example, brood already upon us.... Flaunt it as we choose, athwart and
over the roads of our progress, loom huge uncertainty, and dreadful,
threatening gloom. It is useless to deny it. Democracy grows rankly
up the thickest, noxious, deadliest plants and fruits of all--brings
worse and worse invaders--needs newer, larger, stronger, keener
compensations and compellers. Our lands embracing so much (embracing
indeed the whole, rejecting none), hold in their breast that flame also
[which is] capable of consuming themselves, consuming us all.... We
sail a dangerous sea of seething currents, cross and under-currents,
vortices--all so dark, untried--and whither shall we turn? It seems as
though the Almighty had spread before this nation charts of imperial
destinies, dazzling as the sun, yet with many a deep intestine
difficulty and human aggregate of cankerous imperfection--saying,
lo! the roads, the only plans of development, long and varied with
all terrible balks and ebullitions.... Behold the cost, and already
specimens of the cost. Thought you, greatness was to ripen for you
like a pear? If you would have greatness, know that you must conquer
it through ages, centuries--must pay for it with a proportionate
price. Yet I have dreamed, merged in that hidden-tangled problem of
our fate, whose long unravelling stretches mysteriously through time
... a little or a larger band--a band of brave and true, unprecedented
yet--armed and equipped at every point--the members separated, it may
be, by different dates and States ... but always one, compact in soul,
conscience-serving, God-inculcating, inspired achievers, not only in
literature the greatest art, but in all art--a new, undying order,
dynasty, from age to age transmitted--a band, a class, at least as
fit to cope with current years, our dangers, needs, as those who, for
their times, so long, so well, in armour or in cowl, upheld and made
illustrious that far back, feudal, priestly world."--_Comp. Prose_,
246-48; _cf._ also 202.

[506] _Comp. Prose_, 221; 207 n.

[507] _Comp. Prose_, 212.

[508] _Ib._, 215.

[509] _Ib._, 211.

[510] _Ib._, 206.

[511] _Comp. Prose_, 225.

[512] _Ib._, 226.

[513] _Ib._, 227.

[514] _Ib._, 240, 241.

[515] _Comp. Prose_, 244.

[516] _Ib._, 250.

[517] _Comp. Prose_, 273 n.

[518] _L. of G._, 315.

[519] _Ib._, 321, 76.

[520] _L. of G._, 322.

[521] Bucke, 44.

[522] Burroughs, 126.

[523] Bucke, 202, 203, 207-9.

[524] _In re_, 72.

[525] _L. of G._, 157; _cf._ "Two Rivulets," Song of Expos.

[526] _L. of G._, 346.

[527] Calamus, 98.



At the opening of 1873 Whitman had been just ten years in Washington,
and was in the fifty-fourth of his age. Recent letters to his friends
had told of more frequent spells of partially disabling sickness and
lassitude.[528] On the evening of Thursday, January 23rd, he sat late
over the fire in the Library of the Treasury Building, reading Lord
Lytton's _What will he do with it?_[529] As he left, the guard at the
door remarked him looking ill.

His room was close by, just across the street; and he went to bed as
usual. Between three and four in the morning, he awoke to find that
he could move neither arm nor leg on the left side. Presently he fell
asleep again; and later, as he could not rise, lay on quietly, till
some friends coming in raised the alarm and fetched a doctor. After
some six or seven years of preliminary symptoms,[530] Walt had now had
a slight stroke of paralysis.

His first thought was of his mother, to whom he wrote as soon as he was
able, reassuring her; for the newspapers had exaggerated his condition.
Once before, he reminds her with grim humour, they had killed him off;
but he is on the road to recovery; in a few days he will be back at his
desk on the other side of the street.

Pete Doyle, Charles Eldridge and John Burroughs came in to nurse and
companion him: Mrs. Ashton would have carried him to her house; Mrs.
O'Connor, who did not share in the estrangement of her husband, was
often at his bedside. And at the bed-foot, his mother's picture was
always before him.

He had scarcely begun to move about a little in his room before a
letter from St. Louis told of the death of Martha, Jefferson Whitman's
wife, to whom the whole family was much attached, and Walt especially.
The blow fell heavily on him.

On the last day of March,[531] he crossed the street again to his work;
and by the end of April he was having regular electrical treatment, and
working for a couple of hours daily, with an occasional lapse. His leg
was very clumsy, and he complained of frequent sensations of distress
and weakness in his head, but he seemed to be progressing as well as
was possible.

Early in May, however, the old mother in Camden fell ill. Walt was very
anxious about her;[532] at her age she could hardly recover from a
serious illness, and his letters to her are pathetically full of loving
solicitude. She grew rapidly worse, and although he was still but
feeble, he could not remain away from her. On the 20th he hurried home,
and on the 23rd, while he was with her, she died.[533]

The shock to Walt was terrible; and when, dreading the heat, he
attempted to reach the coast, he had a serious relapse at the outset,
and was brought back to Colonel Whitman's, to the melancholy little
house. And here he too, so it would seem, was to end his life.

       *       *       *       *       *

Only a year before, in the preface to the reprint of his Dartmouth
College poem,[534] he had declared that now--the Four Years' War being
over, and he himself having rounded out the poem of the "Democratic
Man or Woman"--he was prepared for a new enterprise. He would now set
to work upon fulfilling the programme of his _Democratic Vistas_; and
put the States of America hand-in-hand "in one unbroken circle in a
chant". He would sing the song for which America waited, the song of
the Republic that is yet to be.

Again, a year earlier, he had told in his _Passage to India_ how he was
ready to set forth upon the Unknown Sea.

And now, with his labours unaccomplished, his heart stricken and heavy
with bereavement, joylessly he seemed to hear the weighing of the
anchor and to feel his ship already setting forth. Where now was the
old exaltation of spirit; where the eager longing for Divine adventure
with which hitherto he had always contemplated death?

Now sorrow claimed him, and for a season he lost hold of joy and faith.
He was as one abandoned by the Giver of Life, and isolated from Love.
Thus deserted, he became utterly exhausted of vitality. It is as though
for a time his soul had parted from his bodily life, and yet the life
in the body must go on. If death had come now he would not have refused
it; but his hour was not yet. Neither living nor dying, through the
sad, dark days of long protracted illness and solitude, of physical
debility and mental bewilderment--as it were, through year-long
dream-gropings--he waited.

The light of his life seemed suddenly to have gone out.[535] Near as
he had dwelt to death, in the tragedy of the war-hospitals and in the
habit of his thought, he was wholly unprepared for the death of his

He was a man upon whose large harmonious and resonant nature every
tragic experience struck out its fullest note. Philosophy and religion
were his, if they were any man's; but he was not one of those who
escape experience in the byways of abstraction. He took each blow full
in his breast.

His mother was dead; that was the physical wrench which crippled
him body and soul. He could not accustom himself to her death and
departure.[536] He could not understand it, nor why he was so stricken
by it. It seemed as though in her life his mother had given to her son
something that was essential to that soul-consciousness in which he had
lived, and that her death had broken his own life asunder, so that it
was no longer harmonious and triumphant.

His mother was dead, and he was alone in Camden. Not perhaps actually
alone, for his new sister, George's wife, was always kindly; and so,
indeed, was George himself. But spiritually he was alone. He had lost
something, it seems, of the spiritual companionship which had made the
world a home to him wherever he went. And now the human comrades who
had come so close were far away. Washington and New York were equally
out of reach; and he had lost O'Connor. Letters, indeed, he had; but
they did not make up to him for the daily magnetic contact with the men
and women whom he loved. Touch and presence meant more to him than to
others, and these he had lost.

He was, then, very much alone; bereft at once, so it would seem, of the
material and the spiritual consciousness of fellowship; standing wholly
by himself, in the attitude of that live-oak he had once wondered at
in Louisiana, because it uttered joyous leaves of dark green though it
stood solitary.[537] He was like a tree blasted by lightning; yet he
too continued to put forth his leaves one and one, letters of cheery
brief words to his old comrades, and especially to Pete.[538] He was
an old campaigner worsted at last, standing silently at bay; only
determined, come what might, that he would not grumble or complain.

       *       *       *       *       *

His circumstances were not all gloomy. Through the summer of 1873,
Whitman remained with his brother, at number 322, Stevens Street, in
the pleasant room his mother had occupied upon the first floor. Around
him were the old familiar objects dear to him from childhood.

He was not wholly house-tied: two lines of street-cars ran near
by,[539] and by means of one or other he contrived to reach the ferry,
which he loved to cross and cross again, revelling in the swing of the
tawny Delaware, and all the comings and goings of the river and ocean
craft. Hale old captains still remember him well as he was in those
days. Sometimes also he would extend his jaunt, taking the Market
Street cars on the Philadelphia side of the river, and going as far as
the reading-room of the Mercantile Library upon Tenth Street.[540]

But often he was too weak to go abroad for days together. His brain
refused to undertake the task of leadership or co-ordination, and there
was no friend to assist him. With his lame leg and his giddiness, he
had at the best of times hard work to move about; but as he wrote to
Pete, "I put a bold face on, and _my best foot foremost_".[541]

During bad days he sat solitary at home, trying to maintain a good
heart, his whole vitality too depressed to do more. "If I only felt
just a little better," he would say, "I should get acquainted with
many of the [railroad] men,"[542] a class who affected this particular
locality. But feeble as he was, it was long before he made any friends
to replace the lost circle at Washington. Now and again some kindly
soul, hearing that he was ill, would call upon him:[543] or Jeff would
look in on his way to New York, or Eldridge or Burroughs, coming and
going between Washington and New England.

Walt could not readily adjust himself to his new circumstances. His was
not an elastic, pliable temper; but on the contrary, very stubborn,
and apt to become set in ways; the qualities of adhesion and inertia
increasing in prominence as his strong will and initiative ebbed. He
kept telling himself between the blurs that disabled his brain, that
he might be in a much more deplorable fix; that his folks were good to
him; that his post was kept open for his return, and that his friends
were only waiting to welcome him back to Washington.

But he could not pass by or elude the ever-present consciousness
and problem of his mother's death. At the end of August he wrote to
Pete: "I have the feeling of getting more strength and easier in the
head--something like what I was before mother's death. (I cannot be
reconciled to that yet: it is the great cloud of my life--nothing that
ever happened before has had such an effect on me.)"[544] When we
remember his separation from the woman and the children of his love,
and all the experiences of the war, we may a little understand the
meaning of these soberly written words, and the strength of the tie
which bound together mother and son. Who knows or can estimate the full
meaning of that relationship which begins before birth, and which all
the changes and separations of life and death only deepen?

       *       *       *       *       *

It is difficult to look calmly at this period of Whitman's life. One
resents, perhaps childishly, the fate which overtook this sane and
noble soul. Surely he, of all men, had been faithful to the inner
vision, and generous to all. He had fulfilled the Divine precept; he
had loved the Lord his God with all the might of soul and body, and
his neighbour as himself. From childhood up he had been clean and
affectionate, independent and loyal, whole-heartedly obedient to the
law as it was written in his heart, undaunted by any fear or convention.

He had prized health, and held it sacred, as the essential basis of
freedom and sanity of spirit. And he had hazarded it without reserve
and without fear, in the infectious and malarial wards of the hospitals.

He had opened his heart to learn the full chords and meanings of all
the emotions that came to him; and when he had become a scholar in
these, he became an interpreter of the soul unto itself, both in the
printed page and in the relations of his life. In _Leaves of Grass_
he gave, to whosoever would accept the gift, his own attitude towards
life, and the results of his study of living. In the wards he gave
himself in whatever ways he could contrive to the needy.

And he gave all. Twenty years at least of his own health he sacrificed,
and gave freely, out of the overflow of his love, to the wounded
in their cots. As I have before suggested,[545] he gave more than,
physically speaking, he could afford. But he gave with joy, knowing
that he was born to give, and that in giving himself irretrievably,
he was fulfilling the highest law of his being, and fully and finally
realising himself. It was the crowning proof not only of "Calamus," but
of his gospel of self-realisation.

Deliberate though his service was, not even Whitman himself could fully
estimate the cost of his charity. But he accepted the consequences of
all his acts as proper and due, being, indeed, implicit in the acts
themselves. And now, when his very joy in life was called in to meet
the mortgage he had given; when he was, as it were, stripped naked and
left in the dark; he accepted his condition without declaiming against
the Divine justice, or calling insanely upon God.

Year after year, he was patient, expecting the light to break again,
the daylight beyond death. He had never professed to understand the
ways of God, but he had always trusted Him. And when faith itself
seemed for awhile to forsake him, his blind soul did but sit silently
awaiting its return.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was out of such a mood, lighted at times by moments of vision,
that during 1874 and 1875 he wrote some of the noblest of his verses,
notably the "Prayer of Columbus," the "Song of the Universal," and the
"Song of the Redwood Tree".

There are those who have suggested that Whitman's illness was brought
on by a life of dissipation; one supposes that such persons find in
these poems the death-bed repentance of a maudlin old _roué_. But to
the unprejudiced reader such a view must appear worse than absurd.
Whitman never claimed to have lived a blameless life, but he did claim
to have lived a sane and loving one; the evidence of all his writings,
and of these poems especially, supports that claim.

Simple and direct, the "Prayer of Columbus" breathes the religious
spirit in which it was conceived. Lonely, poor and paralysed, battered
and old, upon the margin of the great ocean of Death, he pours out
his heart and tells the secret of his life; for, as Whitman himself
confessed, it is he who speaks under a thin historical disguise.[546]

    I am too full of woe!
    Haply I may not live another day;
    I cannot rest, O God, I cannot eat or drink or sleep,
    Till I put forth myself, my prayer, once more to Thee,
    Breathe, bathe myself once more in Thee, commune with Thee,
    Report myself once more to Thee.

    Thou knowest my years entire, my life,
    My long and crowded life of active work, not adoration merely;
    Thou knowest the prayers and vigils of my youth,
    Thou knowest my manhood's solemn and visionary meditations,
    Thou knowest how before I commenced I devoted all to come to Thee,
    Thou knowest I have in age ratified all those vows and strictly
      kept them,
    Thou knowest I have not once lost nor faith nor ecstasy in Thee....

    All my emprises have been fill'd with Thee,
    My speculations, plans, begun and carried on in thoughts of Thee,
    Sailing the deep or journeying the land for Thee;
    Intentions, purports, aspirations mine, leaving results to Thee.

    O I am sure they really came from Thee,
    The urge, the ardour, the unconquerable will,
    The potent, felt, interior command, stronger than words,
    A message from the Heavens whispering to me even in sleep,
    These sped me on....

What the end and result of all, he cannot tell--that is God's business;
but he has felt the promise of freedom, religious joy and peace. The
way itself has always been plain to him, lit by an ineffable, steady
illumination, "lighting the very light". And now, lost in the unknown
seas, he will again set forth, relinquishing the helm of choice; and
though the vessel break asunder and his mind itself should fail, yet
will his soul cling fast to the one sure thing; for though the waves of
the unknown buffet his soul, "Thee, Thee, at least I know".

       *       *       *       *       *

In the "Song of the Universal"--apparently delivered by proxy at the
Commencement Exercises of Tuft's College, Massachusetts, midsummer,
1874[547]--Whitman reiterates his conviction that the Divine is at the
heart of all and every life. The soul will at last emerge from evil and
disease to justify its own history, to bring health out of disease, and
joy out of sorrow and sin. Blessed are they who perceive and pursue
this truth! It is to forward this wondrous discovery of the soul that
America has, in the ripeness of time, arrived.

    The measured faiths of other lands, the grandeurs of the past,
    Are not for thee, but grandeurs of thine own,
    Deific faiths and amplitudes, absorbing, comprehending all,
    All eligible to all.

    All, all for immortality,
    Love like the light silently wrapping all,
    Nature's amelioration blessing all,
    The blossoms, fruits of ages, orchards divine and certain,
    Forms, objects, growths, humanities, to spiritual images ripening.

    Give me, O God, to sing that thought,
    Give me, give him or her I love this quenchless faith,
    In Thy ensemble, whatever else withheld withhold not from us,
    Belief in plan of Thee enclosed in Time and Space,
    Health, peace, salvation universal.

Without this faith the world and life are but a dream.

       *       *       *       *       *

The "Song of the Californian Redwood"[548] still harps upon American
destiny and upon the mystery of death. The giant of the dense forest,
falling before the axes of the pioneers, declares the conscious soul
that lives in all natural things. He complains not at death, but
rejoices that his huge, calm joy will hereafter be incarnate in more
kingly beings--the men that are yet to dwell in this new land of the
West--and, above all, in the Godlike genius of America. The "Song of
the Redwood Tree" is the voice of a great past, prophetic of a greater,
all-continuing, all-embracing future, and, therefore, undismayed at its
own passing.

Such were the weapons with which Whitman fought against despair; such
the heroic heart which, amid confusion, restlessness and perplexity,
still held its own.

       *       *       *       *       *

CAMDEN, 1904]

At the end of September, 1873, the Whitmans had moved into a fine new
brick house[549] which George, who was now a prosperous inspector of
pipes, had built upon a corner lot on Stevens Street. It faced south
and west, and Walt chose a sunny room on the second floor, as we should
say, or, according to the American and more accurate enumeration, on
the third. Here he remained for ten years.

The house still stands, well-built and comfortable; and though the
neighbourhood is shabby and the district does not improve with time,
the trees that stand before it give it a pleasant air upon a summer's
day. Walt was to have had a commodious room upon the floor below,
specially designed for his comfort and convenience, but he preferred
the other as sunnier and more quiet.

The family now consisted of three only, for Edward, the imbecile
brother, was boarding somewhere near by in the country. Jeff was in St.
Louis, the two sisters were married, Andrew had died. About Jesse we
have no information; he may still have been living in Long Island or
New York.

More than once Whitman wrote very seriously to Pete, gently preparing
him for the worst;[550] but though confinement, loneliness and debility
of brain and body made the days and nights dreary, there continued to
be gleams of comfort. John Burroughs had begun to build his delightful
home upon the Hudson, and called at Camden on his way north, after
winding up his affairs in the capital. Among occasional callers was
Mr. W. J. Linton, who afterwards drew the portrait for the Centennial
edition of the _Leaves_. And Walt made the acquaintance of a jovial
Colonel Johnston, at whose house he would often drink a cup of tea on
Sunday afternoons.[551]

Then, too, the young men at the ferry, and the drivers and conductors
on the cars, came to know and like him, helping him as he hobbled to
and fro.[552] He was often refreshed by the sunsets on the river,
and by the winter crossings through the floating ice;[553] while the
sound and sight of the railroad cars crossing West Street, less than a
quarter of a mile away, reminded him constantly of Pete Doyle, now a
baggage-master on the "Baltimore and Potomac".

He had a companion, too, in his little dog,[554] which came and went
with him, and all these pleasant, homely little matters go to make
his letters as cheerful as may be. If only he could be in his own
quarters, and among his friends, he would be comparatively happy. It
is the home-feeling and affection that he craves all the time; even
a wood-fire would help towards that, but alas, brother George has
installed an improved heater!

About midsummer, 1874, a new Solicitor-General discharged Whitman from
his post at Washington.[555] Hitherto Walt had employed a substitute to
carry on his work. But he had now been ill some eighteen months, and
the prospect of his return was becoming so remote that he could not
feel he had been treated unjustly.

From this time forward his financial position became precarious.
The amount of his savings grew less and less, and his earnings were
not large. Besides beginning to edit his hospital memoranda for
publication, he wrote for the papers and magazines whenever his head
allowed him to do so; and in England, as well as at home, there was
still some demand for his book. But even the scanty sales-money did not
always reach him, being retained by more than one agent who regarded
the author's life as practically at an end.[556]


[528] Camden, viii., 238-40; Calamus, 86.

[529] Bucke, 46; _In re_, 73.

[530] Camden, ix., 200.

[531] _In re_, 79.

[532] _In re_, 89.

[533] Calamus, 99; Bucke, 46.

[534] _Comp. Prose_, 272.

[535] _Comp. Prose_, 274 n.

[536] Calamus, 104, 109.

[537] _L. of G._, 105.

[538] See Calamus.

[539] See Calamus, 106.

[540] _Ib._, 111.

[541] _Ib._, 106.

[542] _Ib._

[543] _E.g._, the late Mr. Wm. Ingram.

[544] Calamus, 109.

[545] see _supra_, 204.

[546] Calamus, 145; _L. of G._, 323.

[547] _L. of G._, 181.

[548] _Ib._, 165.

[549] Number 431; Calamus, 118.

[550] Calamus, 119, etc.

[551] Calamus, 126, 127.

[552] _Ib._, 133.

[553] _Ib._, 143.

[554] _Ib._, 137.

[555] _Ib._, 155.

[556] Bucke, 46.



All through 1875 the weakness continued; but in November he was well
enough to pay a visit to Washington, accompanied by John Burroughs;
and, the public re-burial of Poe taking place about that time in
Baltimore, Doyle appears to have convoyed him thither.[557] There,
sitting silently on the platform at the public function, he seems once
again to have been cordially greeted by Emerson, but O'Connor, who was
also present, made no sign.[558]

       *       *       *       *       *

It was not till the following summer that Whitman's old spirits began
to return. Since his mother died he had passed three years in the
valley of the shadow, and he was still lonely, sick and poor when his
English friends came to his rescue.

He and his writings had been pulverised between the heavy millstones
of Mr. Peter Bayne's adjectives in the _Contemporary Review_ for the
month of December. In England, as well as in America, he had literary
enemies in high places. But on the 13th of March the _Daily News_[559]
published a long and characteristically fervid letter, full of generous
feeling, from Mr. Robert Buchanan, who dilated upon the old poet's
isolation, neglect and poverty. It aroused wide comment, and some
indignation on both sides of the Atlantic, among Whitman's friends as
well as among his enemies.

That he was never deserted by his faithful American friends a series
of articles upon his condition, published in the Springfield (Mass.)
_Republican_, bears witness.[560] But Buchanan's letter evoked new and
widespread sympathy, which was the means of saving Whitman from his
melancholy plight. A fortnight later the _Athenæum_ printed his short
sonnet-like poem, "The Man-o'-War Bird".

In the meantime, Mr. Rossetti, always faithful to his friend, had
learned of his condition, and had written asking how best his English
admirers might offer him assistance. Walt wrote in reply, stating that
his savings were exhausted, that he had been cheated by his New York
agents, and that in consequence he was now, for the new Centennial
edition, which had just appeared, his own sole publisher.[561] If any
of his English friends desired to help him, they could best do so by
the purchase of the book. He wrote with affectionate gratitude, and
quiet dignity. He was poor, but he was not in want.

There came, through Mr. Rossetti, an immediate, generous and most
cordial response, and in the list of English and Irish subscribers
appear many illustrious names. The invalid revived; "both the
cash and the emotional cheer," he wrote at a later time, "were
deep medicine".[562] He could now afford to overlook the bitter
and contemptuous attacks which were being made upon him by an old
acquaintance in the editorials of the _New York Tribune_.[563] And,
which was at least equally important, he could contrive to take a
country holiday.

[Illustration: TIMBER CREEK: THE POOL, 1904]

       *       *       *       *       *

About the end of April, or early in May, he drove out through the
gently undulating dairy lands and the fields of young corn to the New
Jersey hamlet of Whitehorse, some ten miles down the turnpike which
leads to Atlantic City and Cape May.[564] A little beyond the village,
and close to the Reading Railroad, there still stands an old farmhouse,
then tenanted by Mr. George Stafford, and to-day the centre of a group
of pleasant villas known as Laurel Springs.

It was here that Whitman lodged, establishing cordial relations with
the whole Stafford family, relations which added greatly to the
happiness of his remaining years. He became especially attached to Mrs.
Stafford, who intuitively read his moods,[565] and to her son Harry.

       *       *       *       *       *

A short stroll down the green lane, which is now being rapidly
civilised out of that delightful category, brings one to a wide woody
hollow, where amid the trees a long creek or stream winds down to a
large mill-pool with boats and lily leaves floating upon it. Save for
the boats and the people from the villas, the place has been but little
changed by the quarter of a century which has elapsed since Whitman
first visited it.[566] The walnut and the oak under which he used to
sit among the meadow-grass are older trees, of course, and the former
is now circled with a wooden seat; but the kecks and crickets, the
shady nooks by the pool, the jewel-weed and the great-winged tawny
butterflies are there as of old. And with them much of the old, sweet,
communicative quiet.

At the creek-head, among the willows, is a swampy tangle of mint
and calamus, reeds and cresses, white boneset and orange fragile
jewel-weed, and above, from its mouth in the steep bank, gushes the
"crystal spring" whose soft, clinking murmur soothed the old man many a
summer's day.

Here, early and late, he would sit or saunter through the glinting
glimmering lights, and here Mother-Nature took him, an orphan, to her
breast. The baby and boyhood days in the lanes and fields at West
Hills, and among the woods and orchards came back to him and blessed
him with significant memories. To outward seeming an old man, and
near sixty as years go, in heart he was still and always a child. And
for the last three years a broken-hearted, motherless child. He had
been starving to death for lack of the daily ministry of Love.


At Timber Creek, by the pool and in the lanes, the touch of that
all-embracing Love which pervades the universe was upon him. Without
any effort on his part the caressing air and sunshine re-established
the ancient relationship of love, in which of old he had been united
to Nature. He would sit silent for hours, wrapt in a sort of trance,
realising the mystery of the Whole, through which, as through a body,
the currents of life flow and pulse. Woe to any one, however dear, who
broke suddenly in upon his solitude![567]

His heart went out to the tall poplars and the upright cedars with
their tasselled fruit, and he felt virtue flow from them to him in
return. He believed the old dryad stories, and became himself truly
nympholeptic, and aware of presences in the woods. In August, 1877,
he writes: "I have been almost two years, off and on, without drugs
and medicines, and daily in the open air. Last summer I found a
particularly secluded little dell off one side by my creek, originally
a large dug-out marl-pit, now abandoned, filled with bushes, trees,
grass, a group of willows, a straggling bank and a spring of delicious
water running right through the middle of it, with two or three little
cascades. Here I retreated every hot day, and follow it up this summer.
Here I realise the meaning of that old fellow who said he was seldom
less alone than when alone. Never before did I come so close to Nature,
never before did she come so close to me. By old habit I pencilled down
from time to time almost automatically, moods, sights, hours, tints and
outlines on the spot."[568]

Unlike the ordinary naturalist he regarded the birds and trees, the
dragon-flies and grey squirrels, the oak-trees and the breeze that sang
among their leaves, as spirits; strange, but kindred with his own,
members together with his of a transcendental life; and he communed
with them. Something, he felt sure, they interchanged; something passed
between them.

Their mystical fellowship had its ritual, as have all religions. The
place was sacred, and he did off, not only his shoes, but all his
raiment, giving back himself to naked Mother-Nature, naked as he was
born of her. In the solitude, among the bare-limbed gracious trees
and the clear-flowing water, he enjoyed many a sun-bath, and on hot
summer days, in his bird-haunted nook, many a bathing in the spring;
many a wrestle, too, with strong young hickory sapling or beech bough,
conscious, as they wrestled together, of new life flowing into his

Whatever ignorance of names his Washington acquaintance may have
discovered,[570] his diary at this time is full of nature-lore. It
enumerates some forty kinds of birds, and he was evidently familiar
with nearly as many sorts of trees and shrubs; while differentiating
accurately enough between the sundry trilling insects, locusts,
grasshoppers, crickets and katydids which populate the district,
vibrant by day and night. Doubtless he had learnt much from the
companionship of John Burroughs, but he was himself an accurate

The story of his visits to Timber Creek and its vicinity from 1876
to 1882 is told in _Specimen Days_, with much else beside--a book to
carry with one on any holiday, or to make a holiday in the midst of
city work. It is, for the rest, an admirable illustration of the saying
of the philosopher-emperor, that virtue is a living and enthusiastic
sympathy with Nature.[571]

       *       *       *       *       *

Three years of gradual convalescence were divided not only between the
Stafford's farm and the house on Stevens Street, but also with the
homes of other friends whose love now began to enrich his life.[572]
Of three of the most notable among his new comrades we must speak
in passing. In the autumn of 1876 Anne Gilchrist took a house in
Philadelphia, while in the following summer Dr. Bucke and Mr. Edward
Carpenter came to Camden on pilgrimage.

Whitman often said in his later years that his best friends had
been women, and that of his women friends Mrs. Gilchrist was the
nearest. She was an Essex girl of good family, nine years younger than
Whitman.[573] At school she had loved Emerson, Rousseau, Comte and
Ruskin, and a little later she added to them the writings of Carlyle,
Guyot and Herbert Spencer. Music and science, with the philosophical
suggestions which spring from the discoveries of science, were her
chief interests.

At twenty-three she married Alexander Gilchrist, an art-critic and
interpreter. It was a wholly happy marriage; Anne became the mother of
four children, and, beside being deeply interested in her husband's
work, contrived to contribute scientific articles to the magazines.

While compiling his well-known _Life of Blake_, Mr. Gilchrist fell a
victim to scarlet fever. His widow, with her four young children and
the uncompleted book, removed to a cottage in the country, and there,
with the encouragement and help of the Rossetti brothers, she finished
her husband's task. Her life was now, as she said, "up hill all the
way," but the book helped her. And her close study of Blake, added
to her scientific interests and her love of music, formed the finest
possible introduction to her subsequent reading of Whitman.

Her task was concluded in 1863; it had tided her over the first
two years of her bereavement; but her letters of sympathy to Dante
Rossetti, heart-broken at the loss of his young wife, discover her
gnawing sorrow yet undulled by time. Like Whitman, she had the capacity
for great suffering. And like Whitman, too, she was helped in her
sorrow by the companionship of Nature. And, again, she was a good

Unlike her grandmother, who was one of Romney's beauties, Anne
Gilchrist was not a handsome woman; but her personality was both vivid
and profound, and increasingly attractive as the years passed. She was
so serious and eager in temperament that, even in London, she lived in
comparative retirement.

The letters which she exchanged with the Rossettis during a long period
are evidence both of her common-sense and her capacity for passionate
sympathy. They are often as frank as they are noble; revealing a nature
too profound to be continually considerate of criticism. This gives to
some of her utterances a half naïve and wholly charming quality, which
cannot have been absent from her personality, and must have endeared
her to the comrades whom she honoured with her confidence.

This high seriousness of hers made her the readier to appreciate a poet
who, almost alone among Americans, has bared his man's heart to his
readers, careless of the cheap ridicule of those smart-witted cynics
whom modern education and modern morality have multiplied till they are
almost as numerous as the sands of the sea. She was a little more than
forty when she first read _Leaves of Grass_ and wrote those letters to
W. M. Rossetti in which she attested her appreciation of their purpose
and power.[574]

It was no light thing for a woman to publish such a declaration of
faith; and in her own phrase,[575] she felt herself a second Lady
Godiva, going in the daylight down the public way, naked, not in body
but in soul, for the good cause. She was convinced that her ride was
necessary; for men would remain blind to the glory of Whitman's message
until a woman dared the shame and held its glory up to them. And what
she did, she did less for men than for their wives and mothers, upon
whom the shadow of their shame-in-themselves had fallen.

Mr. Rossetti has described[576] her as a woman of good port, in fullest
possession of herself, never fidgetty, and never taken unawares;
warm-hearted and courageous, with full, dark, liquid eyes, which were
at the same time alive with humour and vivacity, quick to detect every
kind of humbug, but wholly free from cynicism. Her face was not only
expressive of her character, but "full charged with some message" which
her lips seemed ever about to utter. Her considerable intellectual
force was in happy harmony with her domestic qualities, and filled her
home-life with interest.

Such was the woman who, in November, 1876, at the age of forty-eight,
brought her family to Philadelphia, in order that one of the daughters
might study medicine at Girard College; and in whose home, near the
college grounds, Whitman henceforward, for two or three years,[577]
spent a considerable part of his time. The relationship of these two
noble souls seems to have been comparable with that which united
Michael Angelo and Vittoria Colonna, and they were at a similar time of

       *       *       *       *       *

This, the Centennial year, was filled with thoughts and celebrations
of American independence; among which we may recall the Exposition
in Philadelphia--where throughout the summer, Whitman had been a
frequent visitor--and the Centennial edition of his works. He had also
celebrated the occasion by sitting for his bust to a young sculptor, in
an improvised studio on Chestnut Street. The weather was too hot for a
coat; and in his white shirt sleeves he would, at the artist's request,
read his poems aloud with naïve delight, which rose to a climax when
the sound of applause from a group of young fellows on the stairs
without, crowned his efforts. "So you like it, do you?" he cried to
them; "well, I rather enjoyed that myself."[578]

The old sad and solitary inertia was broken. Ill though he often was,
the lonely little upper room held him no longer; nor was he any more
shut up within the sense of bereavement. Jeff had come over from St.
Louis, and his two daughters spent the autumn with their aunt and
uncles in Stevens Street. All through the winter Walt was moving back
and forward between George's house, the Staffords farm, and Mrs.
Gilchrist's. He was cheerfully busy with the orders for his pair of
handsome books, which were selling briskly at a guinea a volume.

_Leaves of Grass_ had been reprinted from the plates of the fifth
edition. Its companion, _Two Rivulets_, was a "mélange" compounded of
additional poems, including "Passage to India," and the prose writings
of which we have already spoken, printed at various times during the
last five years. "Specimen Days" was not among them, and did not appear
till 1882. The title _Two Rivulets_ suggests the double thread of
its theme, the destiny of the nation and of the individual, American
politics and that mystery of immortal life which we call death. They
were not far asunder in Whitman's thought.[579]

At the end of February, Mr. Burroughs met Walt at Mrs. Gilchrist's,
and thence they set out together for New York. Here, Whitman stayed
with his new and dear friends, Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Johnston;[580] and
presented himself in his own becoming garb at the grand full-dress
receptions which were held in his honour; the applause which greeted
him, and the atmosphere of real affection by which he was surrounded,
compensating him for the always distasteful attentions of a lionising
public, eager for any sensation.

He renewed also, and with perhaps more unmitigated satisfaction, his
acquaintance with the men on the East River ferries, and the Broadway
stages; and, finally, he ascended the Hudson to stay awhile with John
Burroughs. This pleasant holiday jaunt was not without its tragic
element; his friend, Mrs. Johnston, dying suddenly on his last evening
in New York.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was in May that Mr. Edward Carpenter visited him in Camden. After a
brilliant Cambridge career, he was now a pioneer University Extension
lecturer in natural sciences. But besides, or rather beyond this, a
poet, in whom the sense of fellowship and unity was already becoming


In a note to his just-published preface, Whitman had spoken of the
"terrible, irrepressible yearning"[581] for sympathy which underlay his
work, and by which he claimed the personal affection of such readers
as he could truly call his own. This also was the aim which underlay
Mr. Carpenter's first book of verses, _Narcissus and Other Poems_,
published in 1873.[582]

Their author was already familiar with _Leaves of Grass_, which he had
first read at about the age of twenty-five, and which he had since
been absorbing, much as he absorbed the sonatas of Beethoven. They fed
within him the life of something which was still but dimly conscious;
something dumb, blind and irrational, but of titanic power to disturb
the even tenor of an academic life. One remarks that both Mrs.
Gilchrist and he shared to the full the modern feeling for science and
its philosophy, and for music.

When he visited Whitman, Edward Carpenter was thirty-three; it was
not till four years after this that he gave himself up to the writing
of his own "Leaves," coming into his spiritual kingdom a little later
in life than did Walt. In many respects his nature, and consequently
his work which is the outcome and true expression of his personality,
was in striking contrast with that of his great old friend. Lithe
and slender in figure, he was subtle also and fine in the whole
temper of his mind; sharing with Addington Symonds that tendency to
over-fineness, that touch of morbid subtilty which demands for its
balance a very sweet and strenuous soul, such indeed, as is revealed in
the pages of _Towards Democracy_.

He found Whitman's mind clear and unclouded after the suffering of the
last four years, his perception keen as ever.[583] Courteous, and
possessed of great personal charm, he was yet elemental and "Adamic"
in character. He impressed his visitor with a threefold personality:
first, the magnetic, effluent, radiant spirit of the man going out to
greet and embrace all; then, the spacious breadth of his soul, and the
remoteness of those further portions in which his consciousness seemed
often to be dwelling; and afterwards, the terrible majesty, as of
judgment unveiled in him, a Jove-like presence full of thunder.

This last element in his nature was naked, ominous, immovable as
a granite rock. When once you perceived it, there was, as Miss
Gilchrist has remarked,[584] no shelter from the terrible blaze of
his personality. But this rocky masculine Ego was wedded in him with
a gentle almost motherly affection, which found expression in certain
caressing tones of his widely modulated voice. While, to complete alike
the masculine and feminine, was the child--the attitude of reverent
wonder toward the world.

By turns then, a wistful child, a charming loving woman, an untamed
terrible truth-compelling man, Whitman seems to have both bewitched and
baffled his young English visitor.

Mr. Carpenter saw him at Stevens Street and Timber Creek, and again
under Mrs. Gilchrist's hospitable roof. They sat out together in the
pleasant Philadelphia fashion through the warm June evenings upon the
porch steps; and Walt would talk in his deliberate way of Japan and
China, or of the Eastern literatures. He liked to join hands while he
talked, communicating more, perhaps, of himself, and understanding
his companion better, by touch than by words. His mere presence was
sufficient to redeem the commonplace.

His visitor had also an opportunity of noting the efficiency of
Whitman's defences against the globe-trotting interview-hunting type of
American woman. His silence became aggressive, and her words rebounded
from it; he had disappeared into his rock-faced solitude where nothing
could reach him. And a very few moments of this treatment sufficed,
even for the brazen-armoured amazon.

       *       *       *       *       *

During Mr. Carpenter's visit, Mrs. George Whitman, whom Dr. Bucke has
described as an attractive, sweet woman, was out of health, and her
brother-in-law made a daily excursion down town and across the ferry to
see her, and to transact his own affairs. In the heat of the following
July she first opened the door to Dr. Bucke.[585]

He, too, had long been a student of _Leaves of Grass_, a student at
first against his own judgment, and with little result beyond an
annoying bewilderment to his sense of fitness, and of exasperation
to his intelligence. But from the first, he felt a singular interior
compulsion to read the book, which he could not at all understand. Its
lack of all definite statement was the head and front of its offending
to a keen scientific mind. But now after many years, he had come to
recognise the extraordinary power of suggestion which was embodied in
every page.

Dr. R. Maurice Bucke's personality was strongly marked and striking; he
had as much determination as had Whitman himself, and his whole face is
full of resolute purpose.

Born in Norfolk, in 1837, but immediately transplanted to Canada, he
was thoroughly educated by his father, who was a man of considerable
scholarship and a minister in the Church of England.

In 1857, he crowned an adventurous youth passed in the mining regions
of the Western States, by a daring winter expedition over the Sierras,
in which he was so badly frozen that he afterwards lost both feet, but
his tall and vigorous figure showed hardly a trace of this misfortune.

Returning to Canada, he studied medicine; and eventually, in 1877,
became the head of a large insane asylum at London, Ontario. Here he
introduced several notable reforms in the treatment of the patients,
which were widely imitated throughout America.

He was a keen student of mental pathology, and for some time before
his death was reckoned among the leading alienists of the continent.
Certain interesting and suggestive studies of the relation which
appears to exist between the so-called sympathetic nervous system and
the moral and emotional nature, but especially his _magnum opus_,
_Cosmic Consciousness_, published the year before his death (1901),
reveal the direction of his dominant interest. From 1877, he was one
of Whitman's closest friends, and became subsequently his principal

In the printed recollections of his first interview with Whitman,[587]
Dr. Bucke recalls the exaltation of his mind produced by it; describing
it as a "sort of spiritual intoxication," which remained with him for
months, transfiguring his new friend into more than mortal stature. It
is another instance of the almost incredible power of the invalid's


       *       *       *       *       *

Whitman's own jottings and records of the period testify to his
increasing physical vigour. He goes, for instance, to the Walnut
Street Theatre, to a performance of Joaquin Miller's _The Danites_,
accompanied by his friend the author.[588] In the summer of 1878, and
in the succeeding year, he is again a guest both of John Burroughs
and of J. H. Johnston.[589] On the second occasion, he had delivered
his lecture on the "Death of Lincoln" in the Steck Hall, New York;
promising himself anew, that if health permitted, he would even now set
forth on the lecture tour which he had so long contemplated.[590] But
though, in the autumn, he made, with several friends, an extended tour
of some sixteen weeks beyond the Mississippi, he did not accomplish
this cherished scheme.

       *       *       *       *       *

At night on the 10th of September, Whitman and his party left
Philadelphia, westward bound. Walt delighted in the magic speed and
comfort of the Pullman;[591] in which, lying awake among the sleepers,
he was whirled all through the first night up the broad pastoral
valley of the Susquehanna, curving with its thousand reedy aits about
thick-wooded steeps; and on, over ridge and ridge of the Alleghanies,
till morning found them at smoking Pittsburg.

Crossing the Ohio, almost at the point whence he had descended it
thirty years before on that fateful southern journey, the good engine,
the Baldwin, hurried them all that day through rich and populous Ohio
and Indiana. Whitman was not disinclined to acknowledge a personality
in the fierce and beautiful locomotive which he had already celebrated
in a poem full of fire and of the modern spirit.[592]

They were due next morning at St. Louis, but about nightfall their
headlong flight through the broad lands was arrested. The Baldwin ran
foul of some obstacle, and suffered serious damage and consequent
delay. Spending the third night in the city, they continued through a
beautiful autumn day, across the rolling prairies of Missouri, feasting
their eyes upon the wide farmlands full of the promise of bread for
millions of men.

Nor material bread only. There is something in the vast aerial spaces
of these prairie states, their great skies and lonely stretches, which
exalts and feeds the soul; something oceanic, Whitman thought, "and
beautiful as dreams".[593] Central in the continent, this country had
always seemed to him to correspond with certain central qualities in
his ideal America, and to supply the background for the two men whose
figures stood out supremely above the struggle for the union, Lincoln
and Grant--men of unplumbed and inarticulate depths of character, and
of native freedom of spirit and elemental originality of thought.

Whitman stayed for a while with friends upon the road, at Lawrence and
Topeka. Many of the boys he had tended in the wards were now hale men
out West, and they were always eager for sight of him; so that there
were few places in America where he would not have found a hearty

He proceeded along the yellow Kansas River, through the Golden Belt,
and over the Colorado table-lands, bare and vast as some immense
Salisbury Plain, to Denver. In that young city he spent several days,
dreaming his great dreams of a Western town that should be full of
friends and strong for and against the whole world, breathing her fine
air, sparkling as champagne and clear as cold spring water; falling in
love with her people and her horses, and the little mountain streams
which ran along the channel ways of her broad streets.

Thence, he made short trips into the Rockies; where the railroad winds
among fantastic yellow buttes with steep sloping screes, and towering
battlements; and the trains swing eagerly round a thousand curves to
follow the bronze and amber path-finder, brawling in its sinuous ravine
between the pinnacled, red, cloud-topped crags which it has carved and

Every break in the walls disclosed Olympian companies of august peaks
against the high blue. Gradually the way would climb to the summit,
its straightness widening, here and there, into sedgy mountain meadows
closed about by keen-cut granite heights, the perfect record of
laborious ages; and as the day advanced, the broad and restful light
broadened and grew more serene as it shone afar on chains of snowy

Here in this tremendous mountain fellowship, with its shapes at once
fantastic and sublime, its solemn joy and wild imagination, its
infinite complex of form and colour suggesting vast emotions to the
soul, Walt breathed his proper air and recognised the landscape of his
deepest life. "I have found the law of my own poems," he kept saying
to himself with increasing conviction, hour after hour.[594] Like the
lonely mountain eagle which he watched wheeling leisurely among the
peaks, he was at home in this sternly beautiful, untamed, unmeasured

Towards the end of September, he turned East again from the mining town
of Pueblo; leaving the Far West unseen[595]--Utah with its Canaanitish
glories of intense lake and naked, ruddy, wrinkled mountains; the great
grey desert of Nevada; and the forest-clad Sierras looking out across
their Californian garden towards the Pacific. Stopping here and there
with his former friends, he found his way to Jefferson Whitman's home
in St. Louis, and there remained over the year's end.

This cosmopolitan Western city,[596] planted in the centre of that
vast valley which the Mississippi drains and waters, and at the heart
of the American continent, was intensely interesting to Whitman. He
had an almost superstitious love for "the Father of Waters"; and many
a moonlit autumn night he haunted its banks, its wharves and bridges,
fascinated by the sound of the moving water as the river flowed through
the luminous silence under the eternal stars.

Physically, St. Louis did not suit him: he was ill there for weeks
together; but even so, he was happy in his own simple, human way.
He went twice a week to the kindergartens, and there, for an hour
together, he entertained the younger pupils with his funny children's
tales.[597] After the first moments of strangeness, and alarm at his
size and the whiteness of his hair, nearly all the children quickly
came to love old "Kris Kringle" or "Father Christmas" as they would
call him;[598] and for his part, he was as happy among little children
as a young mother.

Early in January, 1880, he returned home. All his delight in the West,
gathered on his first journey up the Mississippi thirty years before,
and since accumulating from many sources, notably from the young
Western soldiers he had nursed, had been confirmed by this visit.

In only one thing was he disappointed. The men had seemed, to his
searching gaze, fit sons of that new land of possibility; but in the
women he had failed to find the qualifications he was seeking.[599]
Physically and mentally, he saw them still in bondage to old-world
traditions; instead of originating nobler and more generous manners,
they were imitating the foolish gentility of the East. Whitman was very
exacting in his ideal of womanhood; and perhaps it was mainly upon the
ladies of the shops and streets that his strictures were passed; for
there are others in that Western world, who are not far from her whom
he has described in the "Song of the Broad-axe"--the best-beloved,
possessed of herself, who is strong in her beauty as are the laws of

       *       *       *       *       *

After six months at home among his books and his friends--to whom
at this time he added, at least by correspondence, Colonel Robert
Ingersoll, afterwards a member of the inner circle--Whitman set out
upon another journey, in length almost equal to that of the preceding
autumn. Early in June,[601] he crossed the bridge over Niagara on his
way to London, Ontario; and now at his second sight, the significance
of that majestic scene, which thirty years before he would seem to have
missed, was discovered to him.

Staying with Dr. Bucke, he made frequent visits to the great asylum,
with its thousand patients, under the wise doctor's care. Walt's own
family life, with the tragedy of his youngest brother's incapacity,
had made the melancholy brotherhood of those whom he has beautifully
described as the "sacred idiots"[602] especially interesting to him.
He attended the religious services held in the asylum; joining with
those wrecked minds in a common worship, and seeing the storms of their
lives strangely quieted, as though a Divine love, brooding over all,
had hushed them.[603] With many of the patients he became personally
acquainted, and years afterwards recalled them by name, inquiring
affectionately after their welfare.

Whitman was in better health than usual, and in excellent spirits. He
loved the doctor, was happy and at home in his household, and on the
best of terms with its younger members. Among the latter, his presence
never checked the natural flow of high spirits, as does the presence of
most grown-up persons: he was always one of themselves.

This, indeed, was a characteristic of Whitman in whatever company he
was found, from a kindergarten to a company of "publicans and sinners".
The spirit of comradeship identified him with the others, and he was
so profoundly himself that such identification took nothing away from
his own identity. Among the young people of Dr. Bucke's household his
fun and humour had free and natural expression; as when, for example,
one moonlit evening, he undertook the burial of an empty wine-bottle,
addressing a magniloquent oration over its last resting-place to the
goddess Semele.

He loved to linger at the table, telling stories after tea; and to
recite or read aloud, when the family sat together in the dusk on the
verandah; and sometimes, too, he would take his turn in singing some
well-known song. For reading aloud, he would often choose some poem of
Tennyson's--"Ulysses" seems to have been his favourite.

At this time also, in a secluded nook in the grounds, he read leisurely
over to himself, with the satisfaction which Tennyson's work nearly
always gave him, the newly published _De Profundis_.[604] His diary
of these pleasant, refreshing weeks contains many notes of the
thick-starred heavens and the merry birds, and the multitudinous
swallows, which would recall to his well-stored mind the story of
Athene and Ulysses' return.[605]

       *       *       *       *       *

His vital force seemed to be almost unimpaired. The noble calm of his
presence, indeed, made him appear even older than he was; his fine
hair was snowy white, and the high-domed crown which rose through it
and grew higher and nobler with every year, gave him all claims to

But, though at first sight he seemed to be nearer eighty than sixty
years old, and though he was lame from paralysis, a second glance
showed him erect and without a line of care or of senility upon his
face. His complexion was rosy as a winter pippin, and his cheeks were
full and smooth, for his heart was always young.

His host wished to show him Canada; in which country he was the
more deeply interested through his settled conviction that it would
presently become a part of the United States. The St. Lawrence and the
Lakes, he always said, cannot remain a frontier-line; they are and
should be recognised as a magnificent inland water-way, comparable with
the Mississippi.

Towards the end of July[607] he set out upon this great road with his
friend. Taking boat at Toronto, they descended by easy stages, stopping
a night or two at Kingston, Montreal and Quebec, Whitman thoroughly
enjoying all the new scenes and making friends everywhere on the
way. He sat on the fore-deck in the August sunshine, wrapped in his
grey overcoat, wondering at the grim pagan wildness of the lower St.
Lawrence, nightly watching the Northern Lights, and appearing on deck
before sunrise.

[Illustration: WHITMAN AT SIXTY-ONE, JULY, 1880]

As they turned up the deep dark Saguenay and reached the mountain
pillars of Eternity and Trinity, the mystery of northern river and
height, with all they hold of stillness and of storm, communed
with him. He saw infinite power wedded with an ageless peace; and
all, however awful in its sublimity, yet far from inhospitable
to an heroic race of men; nay, by its very awfulness, inviting and
proclaiming the men who shall dare to dwell therein.

With the people of Canada, as a whole, he was well pleased. He liked
their benevolent care for the weak and infirm in body and mind; and
thought them in every respect worthy of the destiny which he believed
that he foresaw--the destiny of citizenship in the Republic.


[557] _Comp. Prose_, 150.

[558] The incidents may not all belong to this visit.

[559] Bucke, 213.

[560] _W. W. Autobiographia_, 205 n.

[561] _Comp. Prose_, 311, 312; Donaldson, 29-31.

[562] _Comp. Prose_, 519.

[563] Bucke, 215, 216, etc.

[564] _Cf._ _Comp. Prose_, 75.

[565] MSS. Wallace.

[566] _Comp. Prose_, 75.

[567] MSS. Wallace.

[568] _Comp. Prose_, 96-98.

[569] _Comp. Prose_, 91, 92, 98.

[570] _Ib._, 84, 94, 116; _cf. supra_, 230.

[571] _Ib._, 193.

[572] MSS. Diary; Calamus, 170.

[573] _Anne Gilchrist_, by H. H. G.

[574] See _supra_, 225-7.

[575] Gilchrist, 190.

[576] _Ib._, Preface.

[577] MSS. Diary.

[578] _In re_, 370.

[579] _Comp. Prose_, 270.

[580] Bucke, 216, 217.

[581] _Comp. Prose_, 277 n.

[582] Tom Swan's _Edward Carpenter_, 1902, and article by E. C. in
_Labour Prophet_, May, 1894.

[583] Carpenter (_a_).

[584] G. Gilchrist, _op. cit._; _cf._ Carpenter (_b_).

[585] Calamus, 10 n.

[586] MS. of Dr. E. P. Bucke, and _W. W.'s Diary in Canada_, v.

[587] Bucke, 50; _Whit. Fellowship, Memories of W. W._, by R. M. B.

[588] MSS. Diary.

[589] _Comp. Prose_, 106, 122.

[590] _Ib._, 506.

[591] _Comp. Prose_, 132, 149.

[592] _L. of G._, 358.

[593] _Comp. Prose_, 134.

[594] _Comp. Prose_, 136.

[595] _Ib._, 140.

[596] Calamus, 170-72.

[597] Bucke, 63.

[598] MSS. Berenson (_a_).

[599] _Comp. Prose_, 146.

[600] _L. of G._, 157.

[601] _Comp. Prose_, 153-58, and _Whit. Fellowship Memo. of W. W._
(Bucke); Bucke, 48.

[602] _L. of G._, 325.

[603] _Comp. Prose_, 154.

[604] _Diary in Canada_, 10, 11.

[605] _Comp. Prose_, 132.

[606] Bucke, 49.

[607] _Diary in Canada_, 41.



After a winter in Camden, Philadelphia and the country, among friends
old and new, Whitman paid his second visit to Boston. The house-tied
stationary years of 1873 to 1876 had been succeeded by a period of
considerable activity, both mental and physical.

On the 14th of April, he gave his lecture on the "Death of Abraham
Lincoln," at the Hawthorn Rooms.[608] It was the third year of its
delivery; on the two previous occasions it had been read in New York
and Philadelphia; and he purposed thus annually to commemorate an event
which appeared to him as perhaps the most significant of his time, an
event which the American people could ill afford to forget.

In Whitman's view, as we have noted, the assassination of the great
President had sealed the million deaths of the war, and cemented, as
could nothing else, the Union for whose sake they had been given. He
believed that future ages would see in it the most dramatic moment
of the victorious struggle of the nation against slavery. Rarely
hereafter, in spite of increasing feebleness, did he miss the occasion
as the season came round; though it was often with difficulty that even
a small audience could be gathered for the anniversary.

Among the friends and notables whom he met in Boston was Longfellow,
who had already called on him in Camden; and Whitman was warm in
eulogies of the old poet's courteous manner and personality.[609]
Something of the burden of his first prophetic message had lifted from
Walt's shoulders, and with it some of his wrath against the popular
poets of America. He had consequently become better able to express his
sense of the real value of work like theirs when its secondary place
was recognised.

There were others in Boston whom he also now discovered for the first
time; notably the women of middle and later life, among whom he
rejoiced to find some of those large, vigorous personalities whose
absence he had lamented in the West.

In earlier days he had been alienated by the academic and Puritan
qualities which still gave its principal colour, especially when seen
from New York, to intellectual Boston. But both Boston and Whitman
had changed--alike with the war and with the advance of time; the
provincialism of the former had given place to broader views, and the
nobler identification of New England with the whole interests of the
nation; while the latter was now able more generously to estimate
even New England's shortcomings, and to recognise among its people
that ardour and yearning for the ideal which had always been theirs,
but warmed now and humanised, as he thought, by a new joyousness and
breadth of tolerance.[610] He felt a sunshine in the streets, which
radiated from the men and women who traversed them. This effusive
ardour of public spirit set him thinking of Athens in her golden days;
and for the first time he, who had so much of the Greek in his nature,
felt himself at home in Boston.

The visit was also memorable to him because it introduced him to the
works of Millet, and, one may add, to the emotional significance of
painting as an art.[611] As I have before noted, New York only became
a centre of art collections in comparatively recent years; and it was
probably not till Whitman had sat for two hours before some of the
Breton artist's finest studies in the house of a Bostonian, that he
recognised Painting as the true sister of music and of poetry.

It was fitting that this revelation should have come to the poet of
Democracy from such canvasses as that of the first "Sower" and the
"Watering the Cow". Surcharged as they are with a primitive emotion
new to modern art, the works of Millet reveal the inner nature of that
great Republican peasant people whom Whitman always loved.

       *       *       *       *       *

Much of the early summer, after his return, was spent at Glendale,
whither the family from Whitehorse had now removed, Mr. Stafford having
taken the store on the cross-roads, some three or four miles from his
old home. Directly opposite to it there stands a Methodist chapel, and
often on a Sunday morning the young people would laugh as they heard
Walt, in the room above, angrily banging down his window sash at the
first clanging of the bell. But behind the chapel is a dense wood, and
here he spent many a long, happy day.

The heat of July was, as usual, very trying to him; and at the end of
the month he accompanied Dr. Bucke on a visit to his old breezy haunts
in Long Island. The farm at West Hills had passed out of the family;
Iredwell Whitman, the last of Walt's uncles to hold it, seems to have
sold out about 1835. In the little burying ground there is a stone
erected to his daughter Mahala, who died eight years later.[612]

While in Boston he seems to have received propositions from the firm
of Osgood and Company for the publication of a definitive edition of
the _Leaves_, and about the beginning of September, after completing
his manuscript at the home of his friends, Mr. and (the second) Mrs.
Johnston, at Mott Haven, New York,[613] he settled down in the New
England capital to read proofs and to enjoy himself.

He stayed at the Bullfinch, close to Bowdoin Square, and frequented the
water-side.[614] Often he would take the cars which run through South
Boston to City Point, whose pebbly, crescent beach is lapped forever by
the Atlantic ripple. And to this place the lover of Whitman may well
follow, for it holds memories of him.

On a summer's evening, after dark, thousands of young Bostonians gather
under the lamps, laughing and talking and listening to the band; but,
beyond the zone of lights and mirth and music, one finds oneself at
once in a mystical solitude. A long bridge or pier stretches out into
the bay, terminating in Castle Island and grim Fort Independence;
and wandering out along it, surrounded in every direction by distant
lights, the illuminated dome of the State House rising afar in the
west, and lights moving to and fro mysteriously upon the water, you
feel the night wind blowing cool across the black gulf of sea as it
carries to you distant sounds of merry-making. Very far away they
seem, thus encircled in mysterious spaces which are peopled by sea
voices and the stars. The light surf makes upon the shore its constant
and delicious murmur--"death, death, death, death, death"[615]--and
the lights and the noises of life, with all its passing show, are
mysteriously related in that murmur to the sane, star-lighted silence
of eternity.

Whitman walked daily on the Common, watching the friendly grey
squirrels, and becoming acquainted with each one in turn of the
American elms under which he sat.[616] Timber Creek had deepened his
knowledge of the life of trees and little creatures since last he
walked here with Emerson.

Emerson, too, he saw once again. Mr. Sanborn, the friend at whose trial
he had been present on that former visit,[617] took him out through
the suburbs and the wooded country to Concord. It was Indian-summer
weather, and the meadows, that late Saturday afternoon, were busy and
odorous with haymaking; all things spoke of peace. Emerson came over
for the evening to Mr. Sanborn's house, and the two old friends sat
silent in the midst of the talk.

Bronson Alcott, who had brought Thoreau to Brooklyn and had once
compared Whitman with Plato,[618] was of the company of illustrious and
charming neighbours. The others talked, but Emerson leaned back in his
chair under the light, a good colour in his old face, and the familiar
keenness; and near by sat Walt, satisfied to watch him without words.

On Sunday the Sanborns and he went over to dinner. His place was by
Mrs. Emerson, who entertained him with talk of Thoreau, but though
he listened with interest, most of his attention belonged to his
beloved host. More than ever, if that were possible, did Whitman
lovingly recognise the character of his friend. He had not always
been just to Emerson,[619] nor had Emerson always maintained his
first generosity;[620] each had said of the other words one cannot
but regret, but deeper than such words of partial criticism was the
comrade-love which united them.

In a letter, written immediately after this visit to his friend Alma
Calder, who had recently become the second Mrs. J. H. Johnston, Whitman
wrote: "I think Emerson more significant and _glorified_ in his present
condition than in any of his former days".[621]

The whole family was present, and sitting quietly among them Whitman
could understand the natural limitations which his household entailed
upon the philosopher, and acknowledging these, felt the personal bond
stronger than ever. The relation of the two men had been singular as
well as noble, for it was the elder who had sought the younger out and
affectionately acknowledged him, and through the years that followed
the advances had been made by him.

Whitman's attachment to Emerson had been one of love and reverence for
his person, much more than of intellectual affinity. "I think," he
wrote a few years later to his Boston friend, Mr. W. S. Kennedy, "I
think I know B. W. E[merson] better than anybody else knows him--and
love him in proportion."[622] The evidence does not indicate a similar
understanding on Emerson's part, though the love between them was not
unequal. To Emerson, as to Tennyson, Whitman remained "a great big
something" of undetermined character.

Whitman met many friends, new and old, upon this visit, but of the
old, Thoreau had long been dead; and the strong, homely sailor's
face of Father Taylor drew Boston no longer to the Seamen's Bethel.
Whitman himself attracted much attention as he sauntered along among
the fashionable shoppers on Washington Street; tall, erect and noble,
one could not pass him without notice. I have heard a lady tell how,
being familiar with his portraits, she recognised him at once. Seeing
him mount a car she followed, taking a seat where for several miles
she could, without rudeness, study and enjoy that splendid ruddy face,
through which, lamp-like, there shone and glowed an inner light of
spiritual ecstasy.

And for Whitman himself, those were happy days.[623] The paralysis and
the other ailments, more or less serious and painful, by which it had
been enforced, troubled him less than usual. In his little room at
Messrs. Rand & Avery's printing house, or out-of-doors in the woods
with a fallen tree for his table,[624] he was revising the proofs of
his _Leaves_ with a deliberation and particularity worthy of their
final form.

For now this singular book, slowly built up through the continual
inspiration, thought and labour of a quarter of a century, had come to
its completion, and the final plates were to be cast. Or better, we may
say that for the first time it was to be really published, all other
efforts in that direction having been but tentative, and more or less
unsuccessful. Hitherto, despised and rejected of publishers, it had
issued with an innocent air from strange places, unvouched by any name
which was recognised by the bookselling world. The edition of 1860 is
the only exception; and almost immediately after its publication, the
enterprising house which guaranteed it sank into ruins.[625]

Now at last, the plan of the book had been, as far as health and
strength permitted, brought to completion[626]--a plan amended since
the previous Boston visit, and qualified to admit those poems which had
since been written, and at first designed for a supplementary book. The
cargo was filled, and the good ship ready to sail.

       *       *       *       *       *

After a visit to the Globe Theatre to see Rossi in "Romeo and
Juliet,"[627] and a supper with his co-operators, the printers and
proof-readers, whose aid he was always eager to acknowledge, Whitman
set out again for New York, returning home about the beginning of
November. Late in the same month, the book, his vessel as he loved
to think of it, set out upon its voyage; but in spite of favourable
presages and a happy commencement, it was soon shrouded about in fog,
which only yielded to a storm.

Some 2,000 copies were sold during the winter, but early in the
New Year (1882)[628] the trouble, which seemed to have passed
over when the Postmaster-General decided that the book was not so
obscene as to be "unmailable," began to threaten anew. The Boston
District Attorney,[629] urged by certain agents of the Society
for the Suppression of Vice--as though, forsooth, vice could be
"suppressed"!--objected to the publication, and demanded the withdrawal
of certain passages.

Whitman was hardly surprised. He had discussed these passages, or a
certain number of them, with his own judgment; and it is possible
that Mrs. Gilchrist's view of them had also appealed to him. In his
own judgment they were right, but he seems to have been willing to
omit five brief items, amounting in all to nearly a page, from the
incriminated "Children of Adam" section, if it would save the edition
from further molestation.[630] These he suggested might be cut out
of the plates, and replaced by other cancelling lines which he would
substitute. This was early in March.

But the Attorney was not to be so easily satisfied. He demanded the
omission of lines in all parts of the volume, amounting to a total of
eight or ten pages.[631] This, Whitman emphatically refused; and as
neither party would give way, Messrs. Osgood, without testing the case
further, threw up their publication on the 9th of April. Their action
was scathingly contrasted with that of Woodfall, the publisher of the
letters of Junius, and of Mr. Murray, Lord Byron's publisher, by W. D.
O'Connor, in a letter to the _New York Tribune_. His indignant sense
of literary justice had brought him once more to the side of his old
friend, and although the former cordial relations seem hardly to have
been re-established, the phantasmal but rigid barrier between them was
crumbling away.

       *       *       *       *       *

That Whitman was sorely disappointed by the issue of the affair, goes
without saying, for he had counted much upon this edition. But District
Attorneys and Societies for the Suppression of Vice were not likely to
daunt him.

Binding a number of copies in green cloth, he issued them himself; for
Messrs. Osgood had made over to him the printed sheets and plates. At
midsummer, he transferred the latter to a Philadelphia firm--afterwards
Mr. David McKay--who immediately brought out an edition which sold in a
single day.[632] Persecution had, as usual, assisted the cause, and for
some months the sale continued brisk, bringing Whitman at the year's
end royalties to the amount of nearly £300.[633]

       *       *       *       *       *

The Osgood disaster was not the only menace to Whitman's slender income
during these years. The plates of the original Boston edition of
1860 were still extant, having been bought at auction by a somewhat
unscrupulous person, who, in spite of Whitman's protest, succeeded in
putting a number of copies upon the market.

This affair was already worrying Whitman when he lay ill at St. Louis,
and it was not till just before the publication of Messrs. Osgood's
edition that some sort of settlement with this Mr. Worthington was
effected. The author seems to have accepted a nominal sum by way of
royalty,[634] and was dissuaded from seeking the legal redress for
which at first he had hoped. The surreptitious sale of this spurious
edition was, however, continued till his death.

       *       *       *       *       *


Much of the winter of 1881 to 1882 had been spent at Glendale; and
during the following autumn he was busy with the proofs of _Specimen
Days and Collect_, a volume of about the same size as the _Leaves_, and
similar in appearance, which embraced the bulk of his prose writings
up to that time, including a selection from the early tales and
sketches. The plan of separation adopted in the Centennial edition, in
which the supplementary volume consisted of both prose and verse, was
now abandoned, and the whole of Whitman's verse--with the exception
of rejected passages which are numerous--was re-arranged and fitted
together into the enlarged scheme of the _Leaves_.

This new arrangement is not without interest. First comes the prefatory
section intended to prepare the reader, and to indicate the character
of the book--it belongs largely, in order of time, to the later,
more explanatory period. There follows the original poem, now known
as "The Song of Myself," with its assertion of the Divine and final
Me--the inherent purpose and personality of the All--and its gospel
of Self-Realisation. After this we have the poems of Sex--life's
reproductive energy--by which self-assertion is carried out towards
society; and then of comradeship and the social passion. These
complete the first section of the book, and, as it were, bring the
individual to his or her majority. Henceforward he is a man and citizen.

There ensues a group of a dozen powerful poems--"The Open Road," "The
Broad-axe" and others--in which the life of ideal American manhood
is celebrated, and the conception of America and her needs becomes
more and more complete. In "Birds of Passage," the loins are girded
for noble perils, and here the middle of the volume is reached. There
follows, "Sea-Drift" and "By the Road-side"; the former, a group of
poems contemplative, in middle life, of the mysteries of bereavement
and of death; the latter, full of questions, doubts and warnings,
leading up to the "Drum-taps," poems of war, of national consciousness
and of political destiny.

"Autumn Rivulets" are discursive and peaceful after the storm; they
introduce a group, including "The Passage to India," in which the unity
of the world is emphasised, a unity which is declared simultaneously by
Whitman with the utterance of his thoughts of death. In "Whispers of
Heavenly Death," he gives expression to many moods, to insurgent doubts
and to triumphant faith. They are followed by an Indian-summer of
miscellaneous poems, "From Noon to Starry Night," and the volume closes
with the "Songs of Parting," and the identical words which in 1860 he
had set at the end.

There is little new in the book beyond the arrangement, and careful and
final revision and readjustment of all the items to the unity of the
whole. The main lines of the edition of 1860 are still followed; but
since that version, most of the political poems have been added, and
many of those which sing of battle and of death, with a considerable
mass of the explanatory and philosophical material natural to later

All this has necessarily qualified the earlier work, and has made the
task of revision and adjustment necessary. For Whitman had a profound
sense of congruity and character, and his alterations were dictated
by his original purpose of creating a book which his own soul might
forever joyfully acknowledge and attest, and even perhaps in future
ages continue.[635] The book was his body, projected, out of his
deepest realisation of himself, into type and paper, and it changed
somewhat in all its parts as it grew to completion and became more


[608] _Comp. Prose_, 171-74, 433; Kennedy, 3 n.; Bucke, 223-26.

[609] _Comp. Prose_, 173.

[610] _Ib._, 172.

[611] _Ib._, 174.

[612] MSS. Wallace.

[613] _Comp. Prose_, 176-80.

[614] Kennedy, 3 n.

[615] _L. of G._, 201.

[616] _Comp. Prose_, 183.

[617] _Ib._, 181; _supra_, 136.

[618] Bucke, 100.

[619] Williamson's _Catalogue_, facsimile mem. of 187; _Comp. Prose_,

[620] Kennedy, 74-79.

[621] MSS. Johnston.

[622] Kennedy, 77.

[623] _Comp. Prose_, 180-85; Bucke, 147; MSS. Traubel.

[624] Camden, x., 113.

[625] See _supra_, 171.

[626] Bucke, 147.

[627] MSS. Diary.

[628] MSS. Carpenter.

[629] Bucke, 58, 148-53; Kennedy, 118, 119; Camden, viii., 288.

[630] MSS. Johnston.

[631] Bucke, 151.

[632] _Ib._, 153.

[633] MSS. Diary; _cf._ Donaldson.

[634] MSS. Diary.

[635] _L. of G._, fly-leaf.



With the completion of the main body of his work, and before we pass to
the details of his last years in Camden, a brief digression into wider
fields may perhaps be permissible. For Whitman's thought, though it is
very consciously his, is interestingly related to that of the preceding
century and of his own, and no study of him would be at all complete
which left this fact out of consideration. Readers who prefer to follow
the path of events will find it again in the next chapter.

       *       *       *       *       *

While it is difficult to imagine a greater contrast than that between
the Essayist on Man and the Singer of Myself, they were at least agreed
as to the proper subject for human study.

Physically they were most dissimilar--Pope, a little, deformed,
ivory-faced wit, all nerves and eyes; Whitman, a huge,
high-complexioned, phlegmatic peasant-artisan. Between their thought
lay the century of Rousseau, Goethe and Hegel, of Washington,
Robespierre and Napoleon. And their mental contrast was as marked as
their physical. It is clearly indicated in the formal character of
their work: Pope's, a mosaic of brilliant couplets; Whitman's, a choral
or symphonic movement.[636]

Wholly lacking in the intellectual dazzle of the Augustan wits,
Whitman's strength lay rather in those naturalistically romantic
regions of the imaginative world which in the eighteenth century were
being rediscovered by certain provincial singers, the forerunners of
the Lake-poets. In the verses of Scottish poets from Ramsay to Burns;
in Macpherson's "Ossian," and, finally, in the work of two men who were
Londoners but "with a difference"--the soul-revealing cries of Cowper
and the lyric abandonment of Blake--there was restored to English
poetry that emotional quality which had been banned and ousted by the
self-conscious club-men of the eighteenth century.[637]

Just as the passion of high conviction returns to English politics with
Burke, and to English religion with Wesley, so it finds expression once
again in the rhythmical impulse of _Lyrical Ballads_ and the _Songs of
Innocence_. There is here a new feeling for beauty, a new sense of the
emotional significance of Nature.

With the return of that enthusiasm based upon conviction, which the
sceptical Deism of Pope abhorred, there came a more elastic use of
metre. For the movement of poetry should vary as the pulse varies under
emotion. Passion now took the place of logic in the guidance of the
rhythm of thought. And as the spirit of the poet lay open to the stars,
his ear caught new and ever subtler rhythms, and became aware that
every impelling motive for song has its own perfect and inalienable
movement. His attention passed from current standards and patterns to
those windy stellar melodies unheard by the town-bred Augustan ear. All
this, with much more, is revealed in the work of the new poets, from
Wordsworth, Coleridge and Shelley to Tennyson.

When Whitman came, his spirit was aware of this newly apprehended canon
of poetic form. At first, he tried the medium of rhymed verses; but his
were without inspiration. When self-expression became imperative he
abandoned them.

For the poet, nothing can be more important than the emotional
atmosphere which his verses create, for he is conveying rather moods
than fancies, inspirations of the soul rather than thoughts of the
intelligence. Eventually, it is the poet's own personality or attitude
of mind that most affects the world; and it seemed to Whitman that this
must communicate itself through the medium of his thoughts by their
rhythm or pulse of speech and phrasing. The manner of speaking means
more almost than the matter spoken, because it is by the manner, and
not by the thought, that the speaker's attitude toward life is most
intimately conveyed.

It need hardly be said that there are rhythms which suggest and evoke
gladness and exaltation; others which call forth melancholy; others
which predispose to lascivious passions, and so forth: the thought is
older than Plato. Whitman wished to convey to his readers all that I
have attempted to describe in the foregoing pages; his own attitude
towards life, that of a fearless, proud, abysmal, sympathetic,
wholesome man. And he found no medium among those in current use which
seemed to him effective for his purpose.

He had to go back to the prophets of Israel, and the rhythm into which
their message was put anew by the seventeenth century translators, to
find a model. It was from them, and from a study of the movements of
prose, but especially of speech, that he came to his own singular, and
not inappropriate style. At the last definition, the appeal of _Leaves
of Grass_ is intended to be that of an intimate kind of speech. It
would be interesting, in this connection, to compare Whitman's manner
with that of the other writers of his period who have most distressed
the purists--Browning, Carlyle, Emerson and Meredith--but that field is
too large for us to enter now.

       *       *       *       *       *

Addington Symonds once said[638] that Whitman had influenced him even
more deeply than Plato; and the juxtaposition of the two names is as
singular as it is suggestive. For while the "arrogant Mannhattanese"
is far indeed from the founder of the Academy, there is something
essentially Platonic in Whitman's attitude toward poetry. For Whitman
was a moralist in the highest sense. With Plato, he dreamed always of
the Republic, and that dream was the moving passion of his life.

He would--at least in his earlier years--have said with Plato, in his
_Laws_, "The legislator and the poet are rivals, and the latter can
only be tolerated if his words are in harmony with the laws of the
State". But over the last phrase he would have laughed, adding, In my
Republic the citizens think lightly of the laws!

Like Plato, he accused all the poets whom he loved best of an essential
hostility to the Republic. Their whole attitude implied an aristocratic
spirit, which discovered itself in their rhythms, and struck at the
life of America. He would only admit such poets as are in harmony with
the spirit of the Republic, and interpret the genius of America.

It was for America, then, that he made his chants; chanting them, as he
hoped, in such fashion that they might forever nerve new soldiers for
the battle which he saw her destined to maintain through all the ages
against the ancient tyrannies of the past.

       *       *       *       *       *

If one were to seek among modern writers for those whose genius is
related to Whitman's, one would, I suppose, name first Rousseau,
with his moody self-consciousness, his great social enthusiasm,
his religious fervour, and his passionate perception of beauty in
Nature.[639] And then, after Goethe, to whom I have several times
referred in passing, one would add Byron, that audacious egoist, who,
threatening the Almighty like some Miltonic Lucifer, fascinated the
gaze of Europe.[640]

But Whitman had almost nothing either of the morbid sentiment or
dramatic skill of the French reformer, nor had he Byron's theatrical
and somewhat futile rhetoric of rebellion. He was indeed very much at
peace with the cosmos; his confessions are frank, but impersonal; his
egoism may be Satanic in its pride, but then for him, Satan, though he
remains in opposition, is really an essential factor in the government
of the worlds. Temperamentally he was nearer to George Sand;[641] and,
on at least one side of his nature, to Victor Hugo.[642]

       *       *       *       *       *

It is rather as a prophet than as a literary figure that we must
compare him with his great contemporaries. On this side, he was
obviously related to Millet, to Beethoven and to Wagner--but it seems
simpler roughly to set him over against several men of his own craft
who hold a European reputation--to Carlyle, Mazzini, Emerson, Morris,
Browning, Tolstoi and Nietzsche.

With Whitman, Carlyle[643] recognised the underlying moral purpose of
the universe, and the organic unity or solidarity of mankind; but being
himself a Calvinistic Jacobin of irritable nerves, these convictions
filled him, not with a joyful wonder and faith, but with contempt and
despair. He never saw humanity as the body of a Divine and Godlike
soul; and though he was continually calling men to duty and repentance,
he did so from inward necessity rather than with any anticipation of
success. For he felt himself to be a Voice crying in the wilderness.
Whitman worshipped the hero as truly as did Carlyle; but then he saw
the heroic in the heart of our common humanity, where Carlyle missed
it; hence his appeal was one of confidence, not despair.

For Mazzini, the word "duty" was not a scourge but a magician's
wand, because he believed.[644] The Italian was not, like Carlyle,
an iconoclast, but a messenger of good tidings; and if he carried a
sword, it was in the name of the Prince of Peace. Like Whitman, he was
conscious of the world-life pulsing through him; in himself he found
the peremptory spirit of the Republic demanding from him both blood and
brain. Like Whitman also, he looked to a comradeship of young men for
the regeneration of his nation; and to a poet to come for the great
words which alone can unite men and nations, creating the world anew
in the image of Humanity. For them both, religion was the ultimate
word--a religion free from the shackles of dogma, free in the spirit of
the Whole--and it was a word which the world could only receive from
the poets that are to be. But while thus similar in their aspirations,
they were very different in temper and circumstances. For Mazzini was
a fiery, nervous martyr to his cause, a Dantesque exile from the land
of his love. And yet his appeal, at least in his writings, is not so
intimate as is that of the less vehement apostle of liberty.

With Emerson,[645] whose relationship to Whitman I have already
discussed, there is the great contrast of temperament. For in him,
passion seems to have played but little part. He is one of the noblest
of those constitutional Protestants and individualists who are
incapable of feeling the fuller tides of the catholic passion of social
sympathy. His earnest and profound spirit seems to dwell forever in the
sunny cloisters of a thoughtful solitude, far distant from life's rough
and tumble.

Browning's belief that the immanent Divinity finds expression through
passion, and is lost in all suppression of life;[646] and his faith
in the universal plan, which includes the worst with the best, relate
his thought to Whitman's. For them both, each individual life contains
a part of the divine secret. It is the concrete personality of things
which they seek to express, though in very different ways.

Browning astonished Carlyle by his confident cheerfulness. And his
optimism was founded upon knowledge, or at least did not depend upon
ignorance. Though he believed in the triumph of the divine element in
every soul--the element of love--he recognised the reality of evil, and
saw life as a battle.

But not as a battle between the body and the soul, or between vice
and virtue: the conflict, for Browning as for Whitman, is ultimately
between love as the inmost spirit of life, and all other virtues and
vices whatsoever. Love alone "leaves completion in the soul," and
solves the enigmas of doubt.

Browning's conception of a Democracy, in which all men should "be equal
in full-blown powers," and God should cease to make great men, because
the average man would have become great, was set forth in some of the
earliest work of a genius as precocious in its development as that of
his master Shelley.

But it would be easy to exaggerate the relationship which I have
indicated. For Browning was a cosmopolitan and delightful gentleman,
who in his later years cultivated music and studied yellow parchments
and the freaks of human nature, in a Venetian palace; while Whitman was
sauntering through old age in the suburb of an American city, appearing
by comparison uneducated, uncouth and provincial. Appearance is,
however, deceptive, for the earth Walt smacks of is the autochthonous
red soil of the creation of all things.

       *       *       *       *       *

Tolstoi, aristocrat as he is by birth and education, is yet a peasant
in his physical and spiritual character; a Russian peasant, with the
moujik's almost Oriental stubbornness of resignation and passivity.
Like Whitman, he is one of the people, and in some respects he is an
incarnation of Russia, as Whitman was of America. But while there are
many obvious relations between the two men, their contrast is the more
striking. Tolstoi has the Oriental tendency towards pessimism and
asceticism. He sees the body and spirit in irreconcilable conflict.
And similarly he opposes forever pleasure and duty; so that his is a
message of the endless sacrifice of self.

An abyss of terror surrounds him, from which he can only escape by a
life of resolute and loving self-devotion.[647] His gospel is one of
escape, and is in many respects nearer in spirit to Carlyle's than to
Whitman's. Tolstoi's detestation of the State is, doubtless, largely
traceable to the military despotism under which he has lived.

There is a certain element of pessimism also, in the attitude of
William Morris, as of Ruskin his master. But though he flings back
the Golden Age into the thirteenth century, his gospel is really one
of actual joy. When the citizen finds pleasure in his daily work,
the State will prosper; such is his promise for the future, and his
condemnation of the present. Carlyle urged men to work, in order to
kill doubt, and silence the terrible questions; but Morris finds that
the questions are really answered by work, if only it is done in the
spirit of the artist, and in fellowship with others.[648]

Like Whitman, Morris was one who seemed to his friends almost terribly
self-sufficing; he could stand alone, they thought. But strong as he
seemed in his solitude, he was the poet of fellowship, of a fellowship
which is man's fulfilment and immortal life. Though Whitman's view
of that life was more philosophical, and his personality had a more
mystical depth, the two men had much in common, especially in the
aggressive and elemental masculinity of their character, and their
superb joy and pride in themselves.

       *       *       *       *       *

It would be interesting to compare Whitman's general position with that
of Nietzsche; that most perplexing figure of young Germany in revolt
from Hegel and all the past, from the restraint, system and conventions
which threaten the liberty of the individual spirit. But Nietzsche is
difficult to summarise; and time has not yet given us the perspective
in which alone the general forms of his thought will become evident.

It is clear, however, that he expresses that spirit of rebellion which
was so marked a feature of the first _Leaves of Grass_; a rebellion
against all bondage, even though it call itself virtue and morality.
And this, be it remembered, was always a part of the real Whitman; it
was the side of the _Square Deific_ which he has aptly named "Satan".

Between Nietzsche's "overman," jealous of every tittle of his identity,
and always a law unto himself, refusing to bow his neck to the virtues
and vices of the "weaker brother"; and Whitman's self-asserting Ego,
there is the same striking resemblance. One can never omit the dogma of
the sacredness of self-assertion, with the criticism of Christianity
which it involves, from any statement of Whitman's position. He
evidently detested that plausible levelling argument, so potent for
mischief to the race-life which it professes to guard--that one must
be always considering the effects of example upon the foolish and
perverse, and endeavouring to live down to their folly and perversity,
instead of up to the level of true comradeship. Be yourself, say
Whitman and Nietzsche, and do not waste your life trying to be what you
fancy for the sake of other people you ought to be.

Whitman's doctrine of equality is again really not unlike Nietzsche's
doctrine of inequality; for it only asserts the equality of individuals
because of the overman latent in each one; and is different enough from
the undistinguishing equalitarianism of popular philosophy.

But Whitman had the balancing qualities which Nietzsche lacked. As he
said once to Mr. Pearsall Smith: "I am physically ballasted so strong
with weightiest animality and appetites, or I should go off in a
balloon". In his case, self-assertion was not associated with mania;
for it never snapped those ties of comradeship and love which keep men
human, but became instead a bond for fuller and nobler relations with
men and women.

The comparison with Nietzsche suggests the limits of Whitman's
Hegelianism. For though he once declared that he "rated Hegel as
Humanity's chiefest teacher and the choicest loved physician of my
mind and soul"; and again, that his teaching was the undercurrent
which fructified his views of life,[649] yet it may well be doubted
whether he ever really mastered the full Hegelian theory, or realised
the futility of many of those generalisations in which German idealism
has been so prolific. It was because Hegel saw life, both the Me and
the Not Me, as a single Whole, and found a place for evil in his
world-purpose, that Whitman hailed him as the one truly "American"
thinker of the age. But in the individualism of Nietzsche is the
partial corrective of Hegel's position; and as I have suggested,
Whitman would have accepted it as such.

       *       *       *       *       *

Perhaps the foregoing very rough and ready comparisons may have
thrown some light on the outstanding features of Whitman's personal
message and influence. But there remains another, which I have already
suggested, and to which for a moment we must return.

Whitman was essentially a prophet-mystic, and while he derived nothing
from most of the men with whom his thought is related, the indirect
influence upon him of George Fox the Quaker is certain.[650]

Fox's distinguishing quality was his intense personal reality; there
are few more vivid figures on any page of history. This seems to be
due to the fulness of life which he realised, and could focus in his
actual consciousness. From this he did not derive "advanced views" but
vital power. And vital power is equally, and perhaps in fuller measure,
characteristic of Whitman, manifesting itself by various signs in his
daily life, and in the phrases of his book.

In Whitman, as in Fox, this was an attractive power of extraordinary
force. Around Fox it created a Society of Friends; and one cannot doubt
that sooner or later a world-wide Fellowship of Comrades will result
from the life-work of Whitman.

Fox's "Friends"--though the meaning of the title may originally have
been "Friends of the Truth"--were real friends; united in a new ideal
of communion. They shared the highest experience in common; meeting for
the purpose of entering together into "the power of the life".

And Whitman also realised that life at its highest is only revealed to
comrades. His view of religion was even less formal than that of the
early Quakers; but he, too, preferred to sit in silence with those he
loved, realising that Divine power and purpose which was one in them.

Quakerism has not unfairly been spoken of as a spiritual aristocracy;
there seems to be something essentially exclusive about it. On the
other hand, it is essentially democratic and would exclude none; but
the methods necessary to its conception of truth do not appeal to the

Similarly, the Fellowship of Whitman's Comrades must be an aristocracy
of overmen--if the words can be divested of all sinister association
and read in their most literal sense.

Whitman recognised that his inner teachings could only be accepted by
the few, and for them he set them forth. But for the many also, he had
a message. And though the actual comrades of Whitman must be able to
rise to his breadth of view and depth of purpose, that purpose embraces
the whole world.

For the possibility of Comradeship is implicit in every soul; and
there is none--no, not the most foolish or perverted or conventionally
good--who is ultimately incapable of entering into it. The fellowship
must be as essentially attractive as was the personality of Whitman
himself; and if few should be chosen to be its members, yet all would
be called.

Once realised as the one end of all individual and social life, such a
Comradeship would transform our institutions and theories whether of
ethics, politics, education or religion. In a word, it would change
life into a fine art. For it could be no Utopian theory, but the most
practicable of gospels. The seed has been already sown, and we may now
await with confidence the growth of a tree through whose branches all
the stars of faith will yet shine, and in whose embracing roots all the
rocks of science will be held together.[651]


[636] W. M. Rossetti in _Anne Gilchrist_.

[637] _Cf._ Saintsbury's _Nineteenth Century Lit._, and Stephen's
_English Thought in Eighteenth Century_, ch. xii.

[638] _Camden's Compliment_, 73.

[639] _Cf._ W. H. Hudson's _Rousseau_, 245, 246.

[640] _Comp. Prose_, 287; Guthrie, _op. cit._, 100, 101.

[641] G. Gilchrist, _op. cit._

[642] Kennedy, 106, 178.

[643] _Cf._ Triggs' _Browning and Whitman_.

[644] Mazzini's _Duties of Man_, etc.; _cf._ Bolton King's _Mazzini_.

[645] See _supra_, 113-6, etc.

[646] Triggs, _op. cit._; Prof. Jones's _Browning_.

[647] Note added to _My Confession_ in 1882.

[648] _A Dream of John Ball_, and _Life of William Morris_, by J. W.

[649] _In re_, 244; _Comp. Prose_, 168, 169, 245; Camden, ix., 172.

[650] See _supra_, ch. i., ii.

[651] Horace Traubel, of Camden, New Jersey, editor of _The
Conservator_, is the secretary of the Walt Whitman Fellowship
(International), which meets annually in New York and issues papers. A
file of these may now be consulted in the British Museum Library.



Emerson and Longfellow died within six months of Whitman's Boston
visit; the former being buried in that graveyard at Sleepy Hollow
where Walt had so recently stood by the green mounds that mark the
resting-places of Hawthorne and of Thoreau.[652] Carlyle had died a
year earlier; Carlyle who so deeply impressed his impetuous pathetic
personality upon all that he handled, and who was one of the principal
literary influences upon Whitman during his later years, as Emerson
had doubtless been an inspiration in the earlier. And while Walt had
been working on the Osgood proof-sheets, James Garfield, the friend who
used to hail him as he passed on Pennsylvania Avenue riding with Pete
Doyle, shouting out some tag from the _Leaves_, and who had now become
President of the United States, died amid the mourning of the nation.

Whitman's daily life had been poorer these last two or three years,
since Mrs. Gilchrist's return to England, but new friends were
continually added to his circle. Among these was Mr. W. S. Kennedy, who
was working for awhile on one of the Philadelphia papers, and has since
published a notable collection of reminiscences and memoranda of his
relations with the Camden poet.

The Christmas of 1882[653] brought him a delightful gift in the
friendship of a Quaker family. Mr. Pearsall Smith was a wealthy
Philadelphia glass merchant, who with his wife had, till recently, been
a member of the Society of Friends. He had had a remarkable career as
an evangelist, both in his own country and in Europe; his eloquence
and magnetic personality having been instrumental in changing the
course of many lives. His wife also was an active worker in the fields
of religion and philanthropy; and their home in Germantown--one of
the suburbs of Philadelphia most remote in every sense from plebeian
Camden--became a meeting-place for men and women interested and engaged
in the work of reform. By this time, however, Mr. Pearsall Smith
himself, finding in human nature more forces than were accounted for in
the evangelical philosophy, had withdrawn from active participation in
its labours.

The elder of his daughters, Miss Mary Whitall Smith, a thoughtful and
enthusiastic college girl, came back from New England, where she was
studying, fired by a determination to meet Walt Whitman. Her parents
discovered with dismay that she had read the _Leaves_, at first with
the consternation proper to her Quaker training, but later with ardour.
Respectable Philadelphians, and especially members of the Society of
Friends, were disposed to regard the poet as an outrageous, dangerous
person, who lived in a low place, among disreputable and vulgar
associates. His works were classed by them with the wares of obscene
book-vendors, as absolutely impossible.

The parents' consternation at their daughter's resolve may well be
imagined. But being wise parents, they were prepared to learn; and Mr.
Smith eventually drove her over in a stylish carriage behind a pair of
excellent horses.


They found Whitman at home. He descended slowly, leaning on his stick,
to the little stuffy parlour where they were waiting; and with a
kindly, affectionate amusement received the girl's homage. Her father
immediately and impulsively asked the old man to drive back and spend
the night with them. This was the spontaneous kind of hospitality
which most delighted Walt, and after a moment's hesitation, in which
he weighed the matter, he decided in favour of his new friends and
their excellent equipage. His sister-in-law quickly produced the boots
and other necessaries, and they set forth. Whitman loved to drive and
to be driven, and as he sat on the back seat by his adoring young
friend, he heartily enjoyed the whole situation. It was indeed enough
to warm an old man's heart.

After listening to her avowals, he recommended Miss Smith to study
Emerson and Thoreau, but was evidently well pleased with her praise.
Genuine devotion he always accepted.

He stayed a couple of days on this occasion; delighting in long drives
along the Wissahickon Creek, and showing himself very much at home
among the young people of the household.

From this time on, and until the family left for England in 1886,
he was their frequent visitor; and in later years--while reverently
remembering Mrs. Gilchrist, who died in 1885--he came to speak of Mary
Whitall Smith as his "staunchest living woman friend". His letters to
her father also are evidences of a close intimacy between the two men.
Thus it seems permissible to speak here at greater length than usual
of their relations, which serve besides to illustrate others not less

Often during the college vacations, when the house was filled with
merry young folk, Whitman would sit in the hall to catch the sounds
of their laughter, enhanced by a little distance; or from his corner,
leaning upon his stick, he would look on for hours together while they
danced. Spirits ran high on these occasions, and all the higher for his
smiling presence. He enjoyed everything, and not least the wholesome
incipient love-making which he was quick to notice, and encourage.

Often he was full of fun; and still, as in the old days, he sang gaily
as he splashed about in his bath, a delighted group of young people
listening on the landing without to the strains of "Old Jim Crow," some
Methodist hymn, or negro melody. At night, before retiring, he would
take a walk under the stars, sometimes alone, sometimes with his girl
friend, who could appreciate the companionableness of silence.

He was always perfectly frank, as well as perfectly courteous; if he
preferred solitude he said so; and if, when at table, his hostess
proposed to read aloud some long family letter, and asked him in an
aside whether he would like to hear it, he would smile and answer, No.

He came to see them usually in his familiar grey suit; but in winter he
wore one of heavier make, which was, however, provided with an overcoat
only; indoors, he then put on the knitted cardigan jacket seen in some
of his portraits. On one occasion, when some local literary people
were invited to meet him, he appeared unaccustomedly conscious of his
clothes. Uncomfortable at the absence of a coat, he tried the overcoat
for awhile; but becoming very hot before the dinner was done, he beat
a retreat into the hall; and there divesting himself of the burden,
returned in his ordinary comfortable dress. Such incidents admirably
illustrate his simple and homely ways.[654]

       *       *       *       *       *

Henceforward, though records are multiplied, the movement of Whitman's
life is less and less affected by outer events, and becomes yearly more
private and elusive.

[Illustration: WHITMAN AT SIXTY-TWO]

There is little to record of 1883, save that shortly after his
sixty-fourth birthday there appeared the biographical study of Whitman
by his Canadian friend. Like the earlier and smaller sketch by John
Burroughs, Dr. Bucke's volume was revised and authenticated by the
poet, and is an invaluable record. Though fragmentary and far from
exhaustive, it is written by one of the very few who can be said to
have caught the real significance of the life and personality of the
author of _Leaves of Grass_. That he fully understood Whitman, neither
he nor his poet friend ever suggested; but then one must add that
Whitman always laughingly asserted he did not by any means understand

As a result of the sales of the Philadelphia edition and the royalties
which they brought him, the old man was now enabled to carry a
long-cherished plan into execution.

On March the 26th, 1884,[656] he left his brother's house, and
removed to a little two-story cottage on Mickle Street, near by.
Here he installed himself, at first with an elderly workman and his
wife, and afterwards under the more efficient _régime_ of Mrs. Mary
Davis, a buxom New Jersey widow of comfortable presence, who brought
into the house that homely atmosphere which Whitman had so long been

Downstairs, in the little front parlour, he carried on what remained
to him of his own publishing--the old autograph editions which he had
not entrusted to Mr. McKay; and over it, upstairs, was his bedroom,
which he liked to compare with a big ship's cabin. In the backyard were
lilacs, which he loved; and a shady tree stood in the side-walk in

He found his little "shack," as he called it, pleasant and restful,
and his own. He was not much worried by the rasping church choir and
the bells, which jangled cruelly loud for such sensitive hearing
every Sunday; nor by the neighbourhood of a guano factory, which was
noticeable enough to the most ordinary nose.[658] Here his friends from
far and near were frequent visitors, Dr. Bucke, John Burroughs and
Peter Doyle among them; and in June came Edward Carpenter from England
on his second visit.[659]

       *       *       *       *       *

Carpenter had now issued his slender green _Towards Democracy_, that
strange, prophetic, intimate book, so unlike all others, even the
_Leaves_ which it most resembles. It was seven years since the two men
had met, and the older had grown thinner and more weary-looking. He had
not been worsted in the long struggle with time and illness, but they
had left their mark upon his body.

The visitor renewed his first impressions of that complex
personality; felt again the wistful affection mingled with the
contradictiousobstinacy; recognised the same watchful caution and
keen perception, "a certain artfulness," and the old "wild hawk look"
of his untameable spirit; but, beneath all, the wonderful unfathomed

Whitman manifestly had his moods, "lumpishly immovable" at times, at
times deliberately inaccessible. He took a certain wilful pleasure
in denial, for the quality of "cussedness" was strong in him. And
his friends admired his magnificent "No," issuing from him naked and
unashamed, just as mere acquaintances dreaded it.

But in other moods he was all generosity, and you knew in him a man who
had given himself body, mind and spirit to Love, never contented to
give less than all.

Among the topics of their conversations was the Labour Movement, in
which Carpenter was actively interested. Whitman professed his belief
in co-operation, at the same time reiterating his deeply-rooted
distrust of elected persons, of officials and committees. He had lived
in Washington; and besides, his feeling for personal initiative, his
wholesome and passionate love of individuality, and its expression
in every field, set him always and everywhere against mere delegates
and agents. Above all things, he abhorred regimentation, officialism
and interference. "I believe, like Carlyle, in _men_," he said with
emphasis. He hoped for more generous, and, as he would say, more
prudent, captains of industry; but he looked for America's realisation
to an ever-increasing class of independent yeomanry, who should
constitute the solid and permanent bulk of the Republic.

Regarding America from the universal point of view, as the
standard-bearer of Liberty among the nations, he thought of Free-trade
as a moral rather than a merely economic question. Free-trade and
a welcome to all foreigners were for Whitman integral parts of the
American ideal. "The future of the world," he would say, "is one of
open communication and solidarity of all races"; and he added, with
a dogmatism characteristic of his people, "if that problem [of free
interchange] cannot be solved in America, it cannot be solved anywhere".

       *       *       *       *       *

In considering Whitman's attitude towards the Social Problem, and
especially the Labour Problem, whose development in America he had been
watching since the close of the war, one must consider the conditions
of his time and country.[660] The Industrial Revolution, which is still
in progress--and which in its progress is changing the face of the
globe, disintegrating the old society down to its very basis in family
life--has revealed itself to us in the last generation, much more
clearly than to Whitman, who grew up seventy years ago in a new land.

We can see now that, though it may prelude a reconstruction of human
society and relations in all their different phases, it is itself
destructive rather than constructive. We recognise that it does not
bring equality of opportunity to all, as its earlier observers had
predicted;[661] but that, on the contrary, it destroys much of the
meaning of opportunity; the control of capital which is the motive
power of modern industrial life, falling more and more into the hands
of a small group of legatees, on whose pleasure the rest of the
community tends to become dependent for its livelihood.

And we see the results of this new economic condition in the character
of the populations of those vast cities into which the Industrial
Revolution is still gathering the peoples of Europe and America.
Among these, the spirit of individual enterprise and initiative
is continually choked by the narrow range of their opportunity.
Their lives become the melancholy exponents of that theory of the
specialisation of industry against which the humanitarians of the age
have all inveighed.

Serious as it was becoming in the New World, the Labour Question had
not yet, in Whitman's time, assumed an aspect so menacing as in the
Old. Even to-day the proportion of Americans engaged in agriculture is
four times as large as that which rules in Great Britain; and except
in the North Atlantic States, the rural population does not seem to be
actually losing ground;[662] though its increase is much less rapid
than that of the urban districts, into which more than a third of
the population is now gathered, as against a fifth at the close of
the war, or an eighth in the middle of the century. At the time of
Whitman's death nearly three-quarters of the total number of American
farmers were the owners of their farms; and it was in these working
proprietors, with the similar body of half-independent artisans who
were owners of their houses, that he placed his social faith. These
were, as we have seen, the men whom he regarded as citizens in the
fullest sense.[663]

In this view he was doubtless influenced by Mill, whose _Principles of
Political Economy_ he seems to have studied soon after its appearance
in 1848. Roughly speaking, Mill had supplemented the teaching of
Adam Smith, that individual liberty is the one sure foundation for
the wealth of nations, by describing the proper sphere of social
intervention in industrial matters. His picture of the future
industry--the association of the labourers themselves on terms of
equality, collectively owning the capital with which they carry on
their operations, and working under managers selected and removable by
themselves--has been quoted as the socialist ideal.[664]

And Mill was deeply influenced by the early Socialists.[665] Their
activity in Europe during the first half of the nineteenth century
was so remarkable that it must have come under the notice of Whitman.
Robert Owen, intoxicated with what was perhaps a rather shallow
conception of the great truth of human perfectibility, had spent his
life and wealth in unsuccessful but most suggestive social experiments.
No less optimistic were his French contemporaries, St. Simon and

In striking contrast with them and their doctrinaire systems, Proudhon,
the peasant, who presents not a few points of agreement with Whitman,
looked forward to voluntarism as the final form of society, and
detested alike the theoretic elaboration and the sexual lubricity of
his amiable but, on the whole, unpractical compatriots.

The failure of the risings of 1848, and the succeeding period of
reaction, checked the socialist movement,[666] and social reform was
left for awhile to middle-class Liberalism, with its philanthropic
ignorance of the real needs of the workers; until, in the last
generation, the demands of labour, the pressure of poverty and the
aspirations of social enthusiasts, have together furnished the motive
power for a further struggle for the collectivist ideal of "intelligent
happiness and pleasurable energy" for all.[667]

This recent movement was at first most unequally yoked with an
unbeliever in the brilliant, fatalistic theory of Karl Marx. Marx was
a year older than Whitman; his acute Hebrew intellect was trained
under the Hegelian system of thought, but he was apparently destitute
of the finer historic sense, as well as of Hegel's idealism.[668] The
humanitarian character of the social movement is now once more sweeping
it far beyond his formulas; but in Whitman's time the Marxian theory
dominated Socialism.

In Long Island and New York, during the period of Whitman's youth,
the social condition was, on the whole, free from serious disorders,
save those incident upon growth and rapid development. The spirit of
Elizabethan enterprise, the practical achievement of brave and ardently
conceived ideas, ruled in that democratic society wherein his habit
of mind was shaped, and of which it was in large degree a natural
product. Whitman's youth and early manhood were little touched by
evidences of any social disease so deep-seated as to encourage ideas
of revolution. It is true that the vested interests of the slave
party made themselves felt in New York; but neither to him nor to the
"Free-soil" party did the anti-slavery movement suggest that other
change which the political title they adopted brings so vividly before
the mind to-day. "Free-soil" had for him no definitely Socialistic

And it was only, as we have seen, after the war that the accentuation
of the labour problem brought it into prominence in the American
cities. Whenever, thereafter, Whitman, leaving the comparative quiet
of his own surroundings, revisited the metropolis, or wandered to some
great western centre of industry, he realised dimly the progressive
approach of the crisis.

The increase in the accumulation of wealth was far outrunning even the
rapid increase in population; but a large proportion of this wealth
was being concentrated in a few hands which threatened to control the
national policy. Manufacture was facilitated by the immense influx
of immigrants who swelled the dependent city populations, and these
immigrants coming more and more from the south-east of Europe, that
is to say, from the most backward, ignorant and turbulent nations,
promised by their presence to create a social problem in the North and
Middle West not less acute if less extensive than that of the negro in
the South.

       *       *       *       *       *

Democracy looks with suspicion on the very poor,[669] quoth Whitman,
meaning that the poverty of the poor incapacitates them for
citizenship. That, I think, is one of the great and final arguments
against the policy of _laissez faire_ under existing circumstances.

Things would go very well if left to themselves, says the philosophic
theorist, and so even Whitman is often inclined to declare.[670] But
just as the organised party of slavery, in the fifty years before
the war, refused to leave things to right themselves, so the party
of property to-day interferes, more or less unconsciously, with the
principle which it so loudly proclaims. It is because of the existence
of innumerable sacrosanct parchments, customs and traditions, and all
the subtly clinging fingers of mortmain, that _laissez faire_ remains
an empty phrase. If we could burn the parchments and loose the fingers,
men might go free. But still for the sake of the nation's health the
poor would need to be assisted to rise out of the helpless condition
into which society has allowed them to be thrust and held.

We have noted Whitman's hearty approval of Canada's benevolent
institutions for the incapable; he fully recognised the duty of society
toward such as these.[671] And however hesitating his declarations
on a subject which he was willing to leave to younger men, the main
principle of his social economy, the right of each individual to be
well born, carries us far from the policy of any party dominant to-day
in our political life.

He recognised this right as far more fundamental than any secondary
privilege which has been accorded to property for social convenience.
And it is because this right continues to be denied to millions of
future citizens, to the most serious peril of the whole Republic,
and apparently for no better reason than that its recognition must
impede the present rate of increase in material development, that the
Socialist party has arisen in America. It is safe to say that it is the
only party which deliberately aims at social amelioration and the equal
opportunity of all citizens; and in this respect it seeks to realise
Whitman's ideal. In so far, however, as it clings to European theories,
and identifies itself solely with a section of the nation, proclaiming
a class-war in the interests, not of America or of Humanity, but of
Labour--large, and inclusive as the term may be--it seems directly to
antagonise that ideal.

Whitman would certainly be belied by the label of "Socialist"; but
"Individualist" would as little describe him. He was, and must always
remain, outside of parties, and to some extent in actual antagonism
to them; for while recognising its purpose and necessity, he was
essentially jealous of government and control. He wanted to see the
Americans managing their own affairs as little as possible by deputy,
and, as far as possible, in their own persons. That, I take it, is the
only form of collectivism or social life which is ultimately desirable;
and all political reform will aim at its practical realisation.
It depends most of all upon the simultaneous deepening of social
consciousness and sympathy and increase of the means and spirit of
individual independence. Only by these simultaneous developments can we
hope to see established that Society of Comrades which was the America
of Whitman's vision.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the practical side of the Labour Question the old man occasionally
expressed his emphatic dislike of certain sides of Trade Unionism,
and probably misunderstood, as he clearly mistrusted the movement.
"When the Labour agitation," he would say, "is other than a kicking of
somebody else out to let myself in, I shall warm up to it, maybe."[672]
And of the workman he added: "He should make his cause the cause of the
manliness of all men; that assured, every effort he may make is all

But he was a poor man himself, judged by modern standards, and he
had a profoundly human and practical sympathy with the lives of the
poor. He knew exactly where their shoe pinched. And thus, whatever his
dislike of Unionism, he was an admirable administrator of charity.
His delight in giving made him the willing almoner of at least one
wealthy Philadelphia magnate,[673] and during severe winters he was
enabled to supply his friends, the drivers of the street cars, with
warm overcoats. In his diary, alongside of the addresses of those who
purchased his books, are long lists of these driver friends, dimly
reminiscent of the hospital lists which he used to keep in Washington.

Walt was always an incurable giver of gifts, and these, one may be
sure, never weakened the manly independence of their recipients. His
admiration for generous men of wealth, like George Peabody, has found
a place in _Leaves of Grass_.[674] For he saw that to love is both to
give and to receive, and in that holy commerce both actions alike are

His interest in social work is shown in a hitherto unpublished letter
written about this time to Mary Whitall Smith, who had married and gone
to England, and who sent him accounts of the work being done among the
poor of the East End through the agency of Toynbee Hall. Of this he
writes at noon on the 20th of July, 1885: "The account of the Toynbee
Hall doings and chat [is] deeply interesting to me. I think much of
all genuine efforts of the human emotions, the soul and bodily and
intellectual powers, to exploit themselves for humanity's good: the
_efforts_ in themselves I mean (sometimes I am not sure but _they_ are
the main matter)--without stopping to calculate whether the investment
is tip-top in a business or statistical point of view.

"These libations, ecstatic life-pourings as it were of precious wine
or _rose-water_ on vast desert-sands or great polluted river--taking
chances for returns _or no returns_--what were they (or are they) but
the theory and practice of the beautiful God Christ? or of all Divine


[652] _Comp. Prose_, 183, 186.

[653] MSS. Diary; MSS. Berenson (_a_).

[654] MSS. Berenson (_a_).

[655] _Cf. In re_, 315.

[656] Kennedy, 11; MSS. Diary.

[657] _In re_, 45, 141, 382; and Johnston.

[658] Donaldson, 69.

[659] Carpenter (_a_), (_b_).

[660] _Comp. Prose_, 247, 325; _Camb. Mod. Hist._, 707.

[661] W. Cunningham, _Western Civilisation_ (ii.), 258-60.

[662] _Camb. Mod. Hist._, 712; _En. Brit. Suppt._

[663] _Comp. Prose_, 215.

[664] Kirkup, _Hist. of Socialism_, 286.

[665] Marshall, _Principles of Economics_, 64.

[666] Kirkup.

[667] Morris and Bax, _Socialism_, 321.

[668] Kirkup, 162.

[669] See _supra_, 240.

[670] _In re_, 379, 380; Carpenter (_b_), etc.

[671] See _supra_, 277.

[672] _In re_, 379.

[673] MSS. Diary and Donaldson.

[674] _L. of G._, 294; fuller in 1876 ed.

[675] MSS. Berenson.



The presidential election of the autumn of 1884 brought the long
Republican _régime_ to an end. During the twenty-four years of its
continuance the old party cries had become almost meaningless, and
the parties themselves ineffective, while political life had grown
increasingly corrupt from top to bottom.[676] The only practical demand
of the hour was for a good government, and this required a change of
party. Whitman, with a number of independent Republicans known as
"Mugwumps," supported the Democrat, Mr. Grover Cleveland. With his
return to the White House the South may be said to have returned to the
Union, after a generation of bitter estrangement.

In the following summer Whitman had a slight sun-stroke, which rendered
walking much more difficult.[677] For several months he was a good deal
confined to his little house, but his friends promptly came to the
rescue with a horse and light American waggon.[678]

He was overcome with gratitude for the gift--driving, as we have seen,
was one of his delights--and he promptly began to make full use of his
new toy. He soon disposed of the quiet steed, thoughtfully provided,
and substituted one of quicker paces, which he drove furiously along
the country roads at any pace up to eighteen miles an hour.[679] Rapid
movement brought him exhilaration, and he displayed admirable nerve
upon emergency.


Though he was getting old, his capacity for enjoyment was as great
as ever. He enjoyed everything, especially now that at sixty-five he
was, for the first time in his life, a householder; he enjoyed his
quarters, his friends, his food, and in a grim way his very suffering.
"Astonishing what one can stand when put to one's trumps,"[680]
he wrote on a black day. While he could rattle along the roads in
his waggon, he was naturally happy enough, and he encouraged all
opportunities for pleasure. He enjoyed his food, and he now relaxed
some of the stricter rules of temperance which hitherto he had followed.

During periods of his life, as a young man and through the years at
Washington, he was practically a total abstainer, and till he was sixty
he only drank an occasional toddy, punch, or glass of beer. After that
he followed the doctor's advice and his own taste, enjoying the native
American wines, and at a later period, champagne.

Stories of heavy drinking were circulated by the gossips, and were
tracked at last to the habits of a local artist, who imitated Whitman
in his garb, and somewhat resembled him.[681] Walt's head was
remarkably steady, and it need hardly be said that he was always most
jealous of anything which could dispute with him his self-control.

In 1885 and several subsequent years[682] a popular caterer on the
river-side, a mile or two below Camden, opened the summer season, about
the end of April, with a dinner to some of his patrons, and Whitman was
one of those who did fullest justice to his planked shad and champagne.
For the latter he would smilingly admit an "incidental weakness".[683]

His temperance had given him a keen relish for fine flavours, and he
enjoyed all the pleasures of the senses without disguise, and with a
frank, childlike response to them. This responsiveness, more almost
than any other thing, kept his physical nature supple and young.
His consciousness was never imprisoned in his brain, among stale
memories and thoughts whose freshness had faded; it was still clean and
sensitive to its surroundings, and found expression in the noticeably
fresh, rich texture of his skin.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was well that he should practise these simple pleasures, for
apart from his own ailments, which increased with time, he was still
troubled with financial difficulties. The purchase of the house had
not been exactly prudent, as it added considerably to his expenses,
and the success of the Philadelphia edition was not long continued.
The royalty receipts soon dwindled to a very little stream, and his
other earnings--though he was well paid for such contributions as the
magazines accepted, and was retained on the regular staff of the _New
York Herald_--were not large.[684]

Word went round among his friends, both in America and in England, that
the old man was hard up again, and a second time there was a hearty
response. A fund, promoted by the _Pall Mall Gazette_ at the end of
1886, brought him a New Year's present of £80,[685] and individual
friends on both sides of the sea frequently sent thank-offerings to him.

Some Boston admirers attempted at this time to secure for him
a Government pension of £60 a year,[686] in recognition of his
hospital work. But Whitman disliked the plan, and though it was
favourably reported upon by the Pensions Committee of the House of
Representatives, he wrote gratefully but peremptorily refusing to
become an applicant for such a reward, saying quite simply, "I do not
deserve it".[687] His services in the Attorney-General's Department
seem to have been adequately paid, and one is glad the matter was not
pressed. The hospital ministry could not have been remunerated by an
"invalid pension"; it was given as a free gift, and now it will always
remain so.


From time to time special efforts were made by his friends to remove
any immediate pressure of financial anxiety. Whitman, who was on the
one hand generous to a fault, and on the other not without a pride
which consented with humiliation to receive some of the gifts bestowed,
manifested a boyish delight in money of his own earning, and it did his
friends good to see his merriment over the dollars taken--six hundred
of them[688]--at his Lincoln lecture of 1886 in the Chestnut Street
Opera House. By way of profit-sharing he insisted on presenting each of
the theatre attendants with two dollars.

The repetition of the lecture in New York the following spring, at the
Madison Square Theatre, before a brilliant company of distinguished
people, including Mr. James Russell Lowell, "Mark Twain," Mr. Stedman,
and Whitman's staunch admirer, Mr. Andrew Carnegie, brought him a
similar sum;[689] while Colonel Ingersoll's lecture for his benefit in
1890 was yet more productive, and the birthday dinners also contributed
something to his funds. But the mention of these financial matters must
not be construed into a pre-occupation with the subject in the old
man's later years; it troubled his friends far more than it troubled

After the gift of the horse and waggon, Mr. W. S. Kennedy and others
planned to provide Whitman with a cottage at Timber Creek.[690] The
idea delighted him; he craved for the pure air and the living solitude
of the woods. But his health became too uncertain for the realisation
of the scheme, and the remainder of his days was spent in Camden.

       *       *       *       *       *

The little house in quiet, grassy Mickle Street,[691] standing modestly
between its taller neighbours, with the brass plate, "W. Whitman," on
the door, and the mounting-stone opposite, was becoming a place of
frequent pilgrimage, and it has often been lovingly described.

During the earlier years, Walt's favourite seat was at the left-hand
lower window, and there the children would call out to him, and
he would answer brightly as they went by to school. The walls and
mantel-shelf were covered with portraits, and as to the books and
papers, so long as he used the room, it was beyond the wit of any woman
to keep them within bounds. But it was afterwards, when he was more
confined to his bedroom, that they fairly broke loose.

He seems to have enjoyed this native disorder, for in the big, square,
three-windowed upper room they occupied not only the shelves and chairs
and table but the floor itself. "His boots," says a friend--who, when
Mrs. Davis was out, used to effect an entrance at the window to save
her host descending the stairs--"his boots would be standing on piles
of manuscript on a chair, a half-empty glass of lemonade or whiskey
toddy on another, his ink-bottle on still another, his hat on the
floor, and the whole room filled with an indescribable confusion of
scraps of paper scrawled over with his big writing, with newspapers,
letters and books. He was not at all eager to have order restored, and
used to grumble in a good-natured way when I insisted upon clearing
things up a bit for him."[692]

He liked to think and speak of the room as his den or cabin; it was
his own place, and bustling with his own affairs.[693] Here were his
old-time companionable books: the complete Scott of his youth, and a
volume of poets which he used in the hospitals; his friend Mr. E. C.
Stedman's _Library of American Literature_; studies of Spanish and
German poets, and Felton's _Greece_; translations of Homer, Dante,
Omar Khayyam, Hafiz, Saadi; Mr. Rolleston's _Epictetus_--a constant
friend--Marcus Aurelius and Virgil; with Ossian, Emerson, Tennyson and
Carlyle, and some novels, especially a translation of George Sand's
_Consuelo_; and last, and best read of all, Shakespeare and the Bible.
The book of Job was one of his prime favourites in the beloved volume
which was always by him in later years.

Perilously mingled with the papers was wood for his stove, over whose
crackling warmth he would sit in the cold weather, ensconced in his
great rattan-seated, broad-armed rocker, with the wolf-skin over it;
his keen scent relishing the odour of oak-wood and of the printer's ink
on the wet proofs which surrounded him.

Visitors usually waited in the room below for his slow and heavy step
upon the stairs. There the canary sang its best, as though to be
caged in Whitman's house was not confinement after all; and a bunch
of fragrant flowers stood on the window-sill. A kitten romped about
the premises, which were inhabited besides by a parrot, a robin, and a
spotted "plum-pudding" dog; not to mention Mrs. Davis, and eventually
her two stepsons. One of these, Warren Fritzinger, who had been a
sailor and three times round the world, afterwards became Walt's nurse,
while his brother Harry called his first child Walt Whitman, to the old
man's delight.

Among the visitors was a young Japanese journalist, who
afterwards published an amusing but ill-advised record of their
conversations,[694] a document which seems to the English mind somewhat
more injudicious than other Whitmanite publications, which certainly
do not err on the side of reticence. After his first visit, Mr.
Hartmann maintains that Walt shouted after him, "come again," and this
injunction from time to time he fulfilled, naïvely recording his own
desperate attempts to cope with the long silences which threatened
to overwhelm his forlorn sallies into all conceivable regions of

The older man would sit absent-mindedly, replying with an ejaculation
or abruptly clipped phrase, or impossible sentence; but chiefly with
his monosyllabic "Oy! oy?" which served, with a slight inflection, for
almost any purpose of response. They say that Whitman grew garrulous,
or at least less laconic, in his old age;[695] but Mr. Hartmann hardly
found him so.

One day, when Mrs. Davis was absent, they lunched together on "canned
lobster" and Californian claret in the kitchen. The sun shone on the
grass in the little back garden, on the pear-tree half-smothered in its
creeper, and the high boarded fence; and on the hens, poking in and out
through the open door, and recalling the old farm life at West Hills.
Whitman talked of the West, and of Denver, his queen-city of the West.

Over another similar meal, he declared his love for the _Heart of
Midlothian_, and his distaste for the gloomy poets from Byron to
Poe. They discussed music among their many topics. Mr. Hartmann
declared himself a Wagnerian, but Whitman confessed his ignorance of
the "music of the future"; Mendelssohn, of course, he knew; and in
later life he had discovered Beethoven as a new meaning in music, and
had been carried out of himself, as he says, seeing, absorbing many
wonders.[696] But he was brought up on the Italians; it was from Verdi
and his predecessors, interpreted by Alboni, Bettini and others, that
he had learnt the primal meanings of music, and they always retained
his affection.

       *       *       *       *       *

About the middle of May,[697] 1887, a sculptor, who had already studied
Whitman in the Centennial year, came on from Washington to Mickle
Street. Mrs. Davis sided some of the litter in the parlour; and the old
man sat for him there as amiably as ten years before in the improvised
studio on Chestnut Street.

They talked much of the President, on a portrait of whom Mr. Morse
had been working. Whitman had a high opinion of Mr. Cleveland, and
displayed a lively interest in all the personal details his friend
could supply.

During the sittings Herbert Gilchrist arrived from England, where his
mother had died of a painful disease some eighteen months earlier; and
he set up his easel also. Callers came from far and near; while dozens
of children entered with a word or message from the street, and older
folk looked in at the window.

Whitman was not very well even for him, and he missed his solitude. But
he was a delightful and courteous host. The three men often lunched
together, while several English visitors--taking Whitman on their tour
even though they missed Niagara[698]--sat down to a bite of beef, a
piece of apple-pie, and a cup of tea poured out by the reverend host in
the hot little kitchen.

Good Mrs. Davis watched her old charge and friend with some anxiety,
as this constant stream of visitors flowed in and out; but she herself
rose more than equal to every emergency. She had for lieutenant a
coloured char-woman, born the same day as Whitman, who felt herself
for that reason responsible in no ordinary degree for the general
appearance of the premises. The sculptor and she often found themselves
in conflict. As for his clay, she disdained it along with the whole
genus of "dirt". She succeeded in white-washing the delightful
moss-covered fence, and would, he felt sure, have liked to treat both
him and his work in the same summary fashion. They debated theological
problems together, to Whitman's amusement, and he would have it that
Aunt Mary came out of these encounters better than the artist.

"How does your Satan get work to do," the latter would ask, "if God
doeth all?"

"Never you fear for _him_," she retorted. "He's allers a-prowlin'
around lookin' fer a chance when God's back is turned. There ain't a
lazy hair on _his_ head. I wish," she added significantly, "I could say
as much for some others."[699]

Beside Aunt Mary other characters appear upon the pages of his friends'
journals; notably a garrulous, broad-brimmed Georgian farmer, who had
served in the Confederate army. He was the father of a large family,
which he had brought up on the _Leaves_. As for himself, he had the
book by heart, and was never so happy as when reciting his favourite
passages at Sunday School treat or Church meeting. He knew Emerson's
writings with almost equal intimacy, but complained that these set his
soul nagging after him, while Whitman's were soothing to it. With Walt
he declared that he loafed and invited his soul; with Waldo, his soul
became importunate and invited him.[700]

Meanwhile, he admitted, his farm ran more to weeds than it should.
Doubtless, during his pilgrimage the weeds prospered exceedingly; for
he stayed long, and sad to say, in the end he went away a "leetle
disappointed". "I have to sit and admire him at a distance," he
complained, "about as I did at home before I came." Walt liked him,
and was amused by his talk, but his advice, his criticism and his
interpretations to boot, were overmuch for a weary man.

There came one day a "labour agitator," who required an introduction
or testimonial of some sort from Whitman; and he also went away
disappointed. In answer to all his loud-flowing, self-satisfied
declarations, Whitman merely ejaculated his occasional colourless
monosyllable; and when at last the discomfited man took his leave,
the poet's absent-minded "Thanks!" was more ludicrously and baldly
opportune than intentional.[701]

Humorous as they appeared at the time, there was another side to
interviews of this character; for it began to be noised about that
Whitman was quite spoilt by his rich friends, and had lost his interest
in and sympathy with the American working-man. This was due, of course,
to a complete misunderstanding. The old fellow who lived in his "little
shack" on Mickle Street, and dined in Germantown in his cardigan
jacket, might have a world-reputation, but he was not forgetful of the
people from among whom he sprang and to whom he always belonged.

At the same time it is true, as we saw, that he did not himself profess
to understand or to approve the party organisation of labour. He was
rather inclined to sit in his corner and have faith, and to listen
to what the younger men had to say. In any case, he saw no remedy for
present troubles in the exploitation of class feeling; he could see no
help in urging the battle between two forms of selfishness.

Generosity and manhood were his constant watchwords, whether for labour
or for the nation. No circumstances, he would say, sitting in his room
broken by the suffering of years, can deprive a hero of his manhood.
But he would add his conviction that the Republic must be in peril as
long as any of her sons were being forced to the wall, and his wish
that each "should have all that is just and best for him".

       *       *       *       *       *

The sculptor and his sitter had many a long evening chat together, the
shadows of the passers-by cast by the street light and moving across
the blind. The old man's mellow and musical, but somewhat uncertain,
voice filled at these times with a confidential charm.

One night he wrote out a tentative statement of his general views,
declaring for Free-trade, and for the acknowledgment of the full
human and political equality of women with men. He regarded the world
as being too much governed, but he was not against institutions in
the present stage of evolution, for he said that he looked on the
family and upon marriage as the basis of all permanent social order.
He seems to have disliked and even condemned the practices of the
American Fourierist "Free-lovers,"[702] though Love's real freedom is
always cardinal in his teachings. Anything like a laxity in fulfilling
obligations, but especially the ultimate obligations of the soul, was
abhorrent to him.

He was not a critic of institutions; and he accepted the work of the
churches and of rationalism as alike valuable to humanity. He added to
his statement various personal details; saying, half-interrogatively,
that he thought if he was to be reported at all, it was right that
he should be reported truthfully. This feeling was undoubtedly very
strong with him from the day when he wrote anonymous appreciations of
the _Leaves_ in the New York press.[703]

Talk turned sometimes to the Washington days, to Lincoln's yearning
passion for the South, to the affectionate admiration felt by the
Union veterans for the men and boys who fought under Lee, and to the
terrible rigidity of the Southern pride. Such talk would often end in
reminiscences of the hospitals; and Whitman told his friend that he
would like him to cut a bas-relief showing Walt seated by a soldier's
cot in the wards. It had been his most characteristic pose, if one may
use the word; and such a study would have shown him at his own work,
the work in which he was most at home, surrounded by the boys who were
his flesh and blood.[704]


[676] _Camb. Mod. Hist._, 651.

[677] Kennedy, 17.

[678] Donaldson, Kennedy, and MSS. Diary.

[679] MSS. Diary.

[680] Kennedy, 64.

[681] Donaldson, 61.

[682] Kennedy, 15, 53; MSS. Diary.

[683] _In re_, 129.

[684] Donaldson, MSS. Diary.

[685] Kennedy, 24.

[686] Donaldson, 170; Kennedy, 23, 24.

[687] MSS. Kennedy.

[688] Donaldson, 109; Kennedy, 6.

[689] Kennedy, 29.

[690] _Ib._, 54.

[691] Johnson, 18; Kennedy; Donaldson; _Comp. Prose_, 520.

[692] MSS. Berenson (_a_).

[693] _In re_, 137, etc.

[694] _Conversations with W. W._, by "Sadakichi," 1895.

[695] Johnston, 92, 93.

[696] _Comp. Prose_, 151; _cf._ Camden, xxxiii.

[697] _In re_, 367.

[698] _In re_, 374.

[699] _Ib._, 375, 376.

[700] _In re_, 376, 377.

[701] _Ib._, 379.

[702] MSS. Johnston.

[703] See _supra_, 109.

[704] _In re_, 390.



During the first years of his sojourn among them, some of the young
men of Camden had founded a Walt Whitman Club;[705] and year by year a
group of intimate friends was springing up about his own door.

Chief of these was Mr. Horace Traubel, whose life became so
inextricably interwoven with Whitman's last years that he has
rightly been called the old poet's spiritual son. He was one of the
first of Walt's Camden acquaintances. How or when they met, neither
could remember; looking back to the summer evenings when the lame,
white-haired man and the fair lad sat together on the steps of the
Stevens Street house, it seemed as though they had always been

Another of the group was Mr. T. B. Harned,[707] Traubel's
brother-in-law, an able lawyer and lover of books, whose house became
a second home for Whitman after the removal from Philadelphia of his
friends the Pearsall Smiths. These two gentlemen, with Dr. Bucke,
eventually became Whitman's executors; better than anything else, this
shows the confidence which their old friend reposed in them.

On his sixty-ninth birthday--Friday, 31st May, 1888--his Camden friends
and others met him at dinner at Mr. Harned's.[708] Two days later he
was there again, and Dr. Bucke, arriving unexpectedly, was of the

Walt had come in his carriage, and afterwards drove the doctor to the
ferry. Thence he made his way to a point where, urging his horse into
the river, he had nothing but water and sky before him, all filled
with the sunset glory. He sat for an hour absorbing it in a sort of

Returning home, he felt that he had been chilled, and recognised
intimations of a paralytic attack--the seventh--[710] as he went to
bed. He quietly resisted this alone. In the morning he had two more
slight strokes, and for the first time temporarily lost the power of

This was Monday, and all through the week he lay close to death. Dr.
Bucke had returned, his friends entertaining no hopes of his recovery.
But the end was not yet.

Even in the midst of the uncertainty he was determined to complete the
work he had in hand. Every day he contrived to get downstairs, and
every evening he turned over the proof-sheets of a new volume, which
Horace Traubel brought with him from the printer's on his way back
from the city. From this time on, Traubel was his daily visitor, his
faithful and assiduous aid.[711]

Slowly the old man began again to improve, but he never regained the
lost ground. His friends found him paler than of old, with new lines
on his face, and a heavier expression of weariness.[712] The horse and
carriage were no longer of service, and had to be sold; in the autumn
a nurse and wheel-chair took their place. The increased confinement
troubled him most of all, so that he became jealous of the tramp with
his outdoor life.


Altogether, as he wrote to his friends, though holding the fort--"sort
o'"--he was "a pretty complete physical wreck".[713] O'Connor, too,
was now paralysed and near his end; the two old friends, similarly
stricken, were once again exchanging greetings, though separated now by
a whole continent. In O'Connor's case, however, the brain itself was
also giving way. Walt followed all the illness of him who had been in
some respects his best comrade with pathetic interest, until, returning
from California to Washington, the broken flesh gave freedom at last to
the man's fiery spirit.[714]

       *       *       *       *       *

Whitman grew somewhat more querulous in these later days, with the
increase of pain and discomfort;[715] for from this time on one may
almost say that he was slowly dying. Not that he complained or was
inconsiderate, but little things caused him greater irritation, though
only for a moment.

Nothing is more notable in Whitman's nature than the short duration of
his fits of quick-flaming wrath.[716] They flashed out from him in a
sudden word, and passed, leaving no trace of bitterness or resentment

An example of this is afforded by his behaviour toward the unexpected
and vehement assault upon him by a former admirer, Mr. Swinburne.
Having once acclaimed Whitman as the _cor cordium_ of the singers of
freedom,[717] he now consigned him to the category of the Tuppers;
opining that, with a better education, he might perhaps have attained
to a rank above Elliott the Corn-Law rhymer, but below the laureate
Southey. According to Mr. Swinburne's revised estimate, Whitman was in
short no true poet; and as for his ideal of beauty, it was not only
vulgar but immoral. The attack roused Whitman to snap out, "Isn't
he the damnedest simulacrum?" but that was all.[718] The affair was
dismissed, and he only regretted that, for his own sake, Swinburne had
not risen higher.

The rather contemptuous reference to Whitman's deficient education
recalls the first criticism passed upon the _Leaves_. Their author was
gravely commended to the study of Addison,[719] and to tell the truth,
this has been about the last word of a large number of academic persons
from that day to this. Their advice, when acted upon, nearly ruined
Robert Burns; it had little effect upon Whitman, though it was not

But Mr. Swinburne's attack reminds one also of something more important
even than "Addison"; the antithesis and opposition which exists between
two great orders of poets, of which his friend Dante Gabriel Rossetti
and Whitman himself may be taken as the types. The _Blessed Damozel_
is in another world from any page of the _Leaves_; and there is almost
nothing which the two poets seem to share. Mr. Swinburne did good
service, in so far as he pointed the contrast; but he confused it by
declaiming against the prophet, and extolling the sonneteer.

The field may not so be limited; the exile of Byron, Emerson and
Carlyle from the brotherhood of poets, though proclaimed by Mr.
Swinburne, can hardly be enforced. For as Whitman has suggested,[720]
there are, inevitably, two kinds of great poetry: one corresponding, as
it were, to the song of the Nightingale, and another to the flight of
the Eagle. He himself has nothing of the infinitely allusive grace of
the former, the sonnet-twining interpreters of the romantic past, the
painters of subtle dream-beauties and fair women whose faces are the
faces of unearthly flowers wrought purely of the passions of dead men.

But they again have nothing of his appeal to the heroic and kingly
spirit that confronts the equally romantic future, grappling with
world-tragedies and creating the new beauty of passions hitherto
unborn. Doubtless the greatest poets unite these two orders,
reconciling them in their own persons; but such are the very greatest
of all time. I do not think that Whitman himself would have admitted a
claim on his behalf to be counted among them.[721]

       *       *       *       *       *

The sheets he had been correcting with Traubel's aid, in the crisis of
his illness, were those of _November Boughs_, a volume composed, like
_Two Rivulets_, of prose and verse. It appeared in November, 1888.
Among its prose papers are sympathetic studies of Burns and of Elias
Hicks, with an appreciation of George Fox.[722] There are also many
reminiscences, notably of the Old Bowery Theatre, and of New Orleans;
and most interesting of all, a biographical study of the origins and
purpose of the _Leaves_ themselves.

This _Backward Glance o'er Travel'd Roads_[723] has far more of modesty
in it than his earlier writings, which were necessarily occupied with
self-assertion. In his old age he shows himself a little alarmed at
his more youthful readiness to take up the challenge which he had seen
Democracy and Science throwing down to Poetry. He recognises with
clearer vision than many of his friends, his own weakness in poetic
technique, and the experimental nature of his work in poetry. But he
does not pretend to doubt its importance; for, as he avers, it is the
projection of a new and American attitude of mind. He is not without
confidence also, that his book will prove a comfort to others, since it
has been the main comfort of his own solitary life--and he believes it
will be found a stimulus to the American nation of his love.

The poems of the new collection are all brief and many of them are
descriptive. For the rest, they are mainly the assertions of a jocund
heart defying the ice-cold, frost-bound winter of old-age, and
waiting for the sure-following spring. Meanwhile, he enjoys the inner
mysteries, and the enforced quiet of these later days, these starry
nights; living, as he quaintly says, in "the early candlelight of
old-age".[724] To him they sometimes seem to be the best, the halcyon
days of all.

    Not from successful love alone,
    Nor wealth, nor honor'd middle age, nor victories of politics or
    But as life wanes, and all the turbulent passions calm,
    As gorgeous, vapory, silent hues cover the evening sky,
    As softness, fulness, rest, suffuse the frame, like freshier,
      balmier air,
    As the days take on a mellower light, and the apple at last hangs
      really finish'd and indolent-ripe on the tree,
    Then for the teeming quietest, happiest days of all!
    The brooding and blissful halcyon days![725]

He often reviews his past, so seemingly purposeless and incoherent,
and yet so profoundly urged from its source within toward the unseen
goal. Still before him, he sees endless vistas of the eternal purpose.
The secret souls of things speak to him; the restless sea betrays the
unsatisfied passion of the Earth's great heart;[726] the rain bears
love back with it to the mountains whence it came.[727] Everything
instructs him, for he remains eager to learn--criticism and rejection
at least as much as acceptance.

       *       *       *       *       *

Sometimes the long process of dying--the painfully prolonged separating
of a Body and Soul which were more intimately wedded than are
others--leaves its mark upon the page; as in a brief note where he
states simply that his solemn experiences at this period are unlikely
to occur in any other human life.[728] He felt himself solitary even
in his pain. But this was a solitude hallowed and supported by the
Everlasting Arms.

       *       *       *       *       *

Though often sleepless and suffering, he kept, upon the whole, a cheery
business about him, working to the end. But silence now predominated
in his days, and his craving for it increased. In the evening, Traubel
would come in and sit beside him, watching his face profiled against
the evening light. He had grown to feel the old man's mood, and had
learnt to say nothing. After an hour or two he had his reward; Walt
would bid him good-bye with a smile, saying, "What a good talk we've
had". For neither of them wanted words.

Through the winter and spring of 1888 to 1889 he remained house-tied,
anchored in his big chair by the fire; "every month letting the pegs
lower," he wrote to his friends.[729] But in June he got out and about
in his wheel-chair, and in August crossed the ferry to be photographed,
immensely delighted at the evidences of gaiety and prosperity which
met him everywhere. America, he would say, is laying great material
foundations; the sky-climbing towers will arise in good time.

[Illustration: WHITMAN AT SEVENTY]

The birthday dinner, which he did not altogether approve,[730] became
this year a public function, and was held in the largest of the Camden
halls.[731] He was seventy, and the day was but doubtfully propitious.
However, he would not disappoint his friends, and arrived when the meal
was over.

He looked weary, as well he might, but the human contact and the
atmosphere of love and fellowship warmed and refreshed him. The
messages of congratulation came from far and from many, from William
Morris among the rest. Walt wore a black coat, which was almost
unprecedented, and hid himself behind a great bowl of flowers, enjoying
their colour and scent, sipping at his champagne, and tapping applause
with the bottle whenever he approved a sentiment. One remembers how
he used to detest and escape from all lionising, and to-night, after
the praises and the enthusiasm were concluded, he said laughingly to
his nurse that it was very well, but there was too much "gush and

That spring he had been too ill to celebrate the Lincoln anniversary,
but in the following, after a struggle with influenza, he delivered it
for the last--the thirteenth--time.

Hoarse and half-blind, he crossed the river,[733] assisted everywhere
by willing hands, and with great difficulty climbed the long stairs to
the room on South Broad Street, where Horace Traubel's Contemporary
Club held its meetings. Refusing introduction, he took his seat on the
platform, put on his glasses, and got immediately to business, reading
with a melodious voice and easy manner.

He was over in the city again for his next birthday celebration, and
after the dinner, Colonel Ingersoll made a long, impassioned tribute to
his friend.[734] The comradeship between them was strong and satisfying
to both; Whitman was always in better spirits after a call from the
colonel. "He is full of faults and mistakes," he said once to an
English friend, "but he is an example in literature of natural growth
as a tree"; adding, "he gives out always from himself."[735]

Their attitude toward questions of religion was often antagonistic, and
on this occasion, after the speech, Whitman made a sort of rejoinder.
While gratefully acknowledging his friend's appreciation of _Leaves of
Grass_, he pointed out that Ingersoll had stopped short of the main
matter, for the book was crammed with allusions to immortality, and was
bound together by the idea of purpose, resident in the heart of all
and realising itself in the material universe. He turned to Ingersoll,
demanding, "Unless there is a definite object for it all, what, in
God's name, is it all for?" And Ingersoll, shaking his head, replied,
"I can't tell. And if there is a purpose, and if there is a God, what
is it all for? I can't tell. It looks like nonsense to me, either way."

From this intellectual agnosticism no argument could dislodge a mind
like Ingersoll's, for noble as it was, it was limited by its own logic,
and to logic alone, working with the material of merely intellectual
knowledge, the universe must inevitably remain a riddle. Whitman,
recognising a more perfect faculty of reason, and cognisant of a field
of transcendent knowledge which Ingersoll had never known, was able to
realise a purpose in this, which to Ingersoll seemed only nonsense.

For the divinely creative imagination, when it is awakened, discovers
in all things the meanings of creative thought. And personality, when
in its supreme hours it transcends the limitations of human knowledge,
and enters the consciousness of the Whole, discovers the meaning of
immortality, and the indestructibility of the soul. Such flights are
naturally impossible to the pedestrian faculties of the mind.

Ingersoll spoke again in Philadelphia, in the same vein and on the
same subject, in October.[736] He had a large audience of perhaps two
thousand persons in the Horticultural Hall, and Whitman was present on
the platform.

Taking up his subject somewhat in the manner of O'Connor in the _Good
Gray Poet_, the orator denounced the hypocrisy and parochialism of
American opinion, and proclaimed the Divine right of the liberator,
genius. He justified "Children of Adam," and gave in his adherence to
the theory of free rhythm which is exemplified in the _Leaves_.

Alluding to the subject of their discussion after the recent dinner at
Reisser's, he declared it impossible for him to make any assertion of
immortality; but admitted that Hope, replying to the question of Love
over the grave, might proclaim that "before all life is death, and
after death is life".

After the fine, but, in cold type at least, the over-florid peroration
descriptive of the atmosphere of Whitman's work, the applause was dying
away, and the people rising to go, when the old poet signalled for them
to be detained, and saying that he was there himself to offer the final
testimony to and explanation of his writings, if they would look at him
and understand, he gave thanks to them and to the orator, and bade them
all farewell.


The whole scene presents a curiously suggestive picture. And Whitman's
situation was a most singular one. His friends had arranged a benefit
lecture on the _Leaves_ by the most eloquent eulogist in America. It is
true the book is not identical with Whitman, but it would be difficult
to separate the _Leaves_ from the man. And here was the man, apparently
of his own free will, receiving the eulogy and applause in person and
the gate-money by deputy.

The pious Philadelphians had expressed their disapproval of the
lecturer,[737] his iconoclastic fervour and agnosticism, by refusing
him the use of the most commodious hall, and their opposition had
encouraged Walt to stand at his friend's side. But apart from this, his
presence illustrates some of the characteristics of his nature, his
child-like and sometimes terrible love of directness in the relations
of life, and his frank eagerness for appreciation.

We have seen already that he could learn from criticism, and there is
a story of Dr. Bucke's which is too good to omit, though it entails a
slight digression. It was against the awkwardness, not the severity, of
his literary surgeons that he would protest with a quiet humour. After
one of their operations, more painful than usual, in his slow, slightly
nasal drawl, he related how a Quaker was once set on by a robber in
a wood. The fellow knocked his passive victim to the ground, rifled
him thoroughly, and "pulling out a long knife proceeded to cut his
throat. The knife was dull, the patience of the poor Quaker almost
exhausted. 'Friend,' said he to the robber, 'I do not object to thee
cutting my throat, but thee haggles.'"[738]

But while accepting blame with serenity, he yet preferred praise;
understanding praise above all, though even ignorant praise was hardly
unwelcome. Praise not directly of himself, be it understood--that often
made him uncomfortable;[739] but of the book, his _alter ego_, his
child. For the book was, besides, a Cause, and that the noblest; and
even vain applauding of it sounded, in the old man's ears, like the
tramp of the hosts of progress; in whose ranks there must needs follow,
let us admit, a number of enthusiastic fools.

Of such, certainly, Ingersoll was not one. He saw in the book much of
what Whitman had put there; and especially he understood how it had
been written under the stress of an emotion which finds its symbol in
that banner of the blue and stars, which he so happily described as
"the flag of Nature".[740]

Other men have given themselves out to be a Christ, or a John the
Baptist, or an Elijah; Whitman, without their fanaticism, but with a
profound knowledge of himself, recognised in a peasant-born son of
Mannahatta, an average American artisan, the incarnation of America
herself. "He is Democracy," quoth Thoreau;[741] and when he sat with
a pleased indifference under the eloquent stream of Ingersoll's
panegyric, he was only testifying anew to his whole-hearted, glad
willingness to give himself, body and mind, for the interpretation
of America to her children. But none the less, it was a singular
situation; and, doubtless, Whitman, who was not by any means obtuse,
felt it to be such.

       *       *       *       *       *

His last birthday dinner was held in the lower room at Mickle Street
after a winter of illness--"the main abutments and dykes shattered and
threatening to give out"[742]--broken by an occasional saunter in his
wheelchair with the welcome sight of some four-masted schooner on the
river, and by the visits of his friends.

He was still himself, however. An English admirer had recently been
astounded to find the irrepressible attractive power of the old
man.[743] He was brought downstairs, weak, after a bad day, to meet
some thirty of his friends.

Walt himself started the proceedings with a toast to the memory of
Bryant, Emerson and Longfellow, and to Tennyson and Whittier, living
yet;[744] for the fact that Whittier strongly disapproved of the
_Leaves_ in no way separated him from Whitman's affectionate esteem.
Rejoicing over his big family gathering, he wistfully remembered the
absent. Doyle had not been to the house for many months.[745] Perhaps
he was a little jealous of new friends, and resented even being thought
of as a stranger by Mrs. Davis. O'Connor was dead, and so was Mrs.
Gilchrist, and there were many others not less dear. Some who were far
away sent their greetings, Tennyson and Symonds among the rest; and
there were the usual warm congratulatory speeches.

The host was sometimes absent-minded, and sometimes, according to the
record, oddly garrulous. But the talk about the table was often of
the deepest interest. Dr. Bucke was present, and Whitman and he had a
friendly bout over _Leaves of Grass_. The poet would not accept the
doctor's interpretation, or indeed, any other's, saying that the book
must have its own way with its readers. It was simply the revelation of
the man himself, "the personal critter," as he would phrase it.

Dr. Bucke made some interesting reference to the elements of evil
passion which he detected in his old friend's make-up; "the elements of
a Cenci or an Attila". And Whitman quite simply admitted that he was
not sure that he understood himself.

A touch of humour was never long absent where Whitman was found. Some
audacious devotee asked him why he had never married; and Walt rambled
off into an explanation, which, after alluding to the "Nibelungen--or
somebody--'s cat with an immensely long, long, long tail to it,"
and again to the obscurities that confront the biographer of Burns,
concluded that the matter in question was probably by no means
discreditable, though inexplicable enough, except in the light of his
whole life.

The questioner remained standing--he was very enthusiastic--and had
more to follow. But as he began to recite "Captain! my Captain!" a
stray dog which had entered at the open door provided a melancholy
and irresistible accompaniment, convulsing those present in their own
despite until the tears ran down their cheeks.[746]

Finally, Whitman made an interesting political statement. He condemned
as false the protectionist idea of "America for the Americans"; and
asserted as the basic political principle, the interdependence of all
peoples, and their openness to one another for purposes of exchange.
The common people of all races are embarked together like fellows on a
ship, he said; what wrecks one, wrecks all. The ultimate truth about
the human race is its solidarity of interest. Then he was tired, and
calling for his stick and his nurse, he blessed them all and went
slowly upstairs.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was the last of his birthday dinners. He was seventy-two, very old
in body, and very weary. But he was still bright and affectionate
toward the friends who continued to come great distances to greet him.
A group at Bolton sent two representatives in the years 1890 and 1891,
whose records of their visits are suffused with wonder at the old
poet's courtesy and loving consideration and comradely demonstrations
of personal feeling.[747] He was a little anxious lest his English
friends should misapprehend his character: "Don't let them think of me
as a saint or a finished anything," was the burden of his messages to
them, always accompanied by his love.

He spoke warmly of the English, comparing them favourably at times with
their cousins across the sea, and saying that they represented the
deeper and more lasting qualities of the Anglo-Saxon race; they were
like the artillery of its army.[748] The welcome from English readers
had astonished and delighted him. In 1887 he contemplated a visit to
Great Britain;[749] and he sometimes seems even to have toyed with
the idea of an English home. One can be more Democratic there than in
America, he had once declared.[750]

Of his own later years, he said to Mr. J. W. Wallace, who called
frequently during the late autumn of 1891, "I used to feel ... that I
was to irradiate or emanate buoyancy and health. But it came to me in
time, that I was not to attempt to live to the reputation I had, or to
my own idea of what my programme should be; but to give out and express
what I really was; and, if I felt like the devil, to say so; and I have
become more and more confirmed in this."[751] Whitman has so often been
accused of a self-conscious pose, that this partial acknowledgment that
such a pose had existed is full of interest; an interest accentuated by
the statement that he deliberately abandoned it in his later years.

Talking was at this time often an effort; the heavy feeling in his
head, which had become more and more frequent since his first illness,
increased till he compared his brain to "sad dough," or "an apple
dumpling". At times, when he was really prostrated, his head was "like
ten devils".[752]

The portrait prefixed to his last little book, is that of some
patriarch, bent under a world-weight of experience. The volume,
_Good-bye, my Fancy_, appeared in the winter--sixty pages of
fragmentary notes and rhythms of pathetic interest. He called them
his "last chirps".[753] It opens on a rather deprecatory note, but is
touched here and there with wistful humour.


The preface,[754] written two summers before, describes him as moved
by the sunshine to the playfulness of a kid, a kitten or a frolicsome
wave. He finds a grim satisfaction even in his present state, counting
it as a part of his offering to the cause of the Union and America, for
he has no doubt of its origin in the strain of the war-years. Of the
war, and of his part in it, he now sees all his _Leaves_ as reminiscent.

The prose memoranda are principally memorial of old friends, and
familiar books and places, and are full of those generous appreciations
which were a delightful feature of his later life. Among others, are
tributes to Queen Victoria, to his friend Tennyson, and to the great
American poets.[755]

He returns again to his gospel of health,[756] as the message most
needed in the world to-day; a message which would contrast with the cry
of Carlyle or of Heine, or of almost any of the dwellers in that Europe
which he sees afar off, as a sort of vast hospital or asylum ward. It
has been his own single purpose to arouse the soul, the essential giver
of Divine health, in his readers. His aim has always been religious;
he foresees the coming of a new religion which shall embrace both
the feminine beauty of Christianity and the masculine splendour of

The poems are still in the vein of _November Boughs_. They are the
utterance of certain belated elements in his life-experience, without
which his book would be incomplete. Some review his past; others
anticipate his future.

The most important is the poem "To the Sunset Breeze,"[758] which is
perhaps the highest expression of his mystical attitude toward nature.
The breeze brings to this lonely, sick man, incapable of movement,
the infinite message of God and of the world; it comes to him as a
loving and holy companion, the distillation and essence of all material
things, the most godly of spirits:--

    Thou, messenger-magical strange bringer to body and spirit of me,
    (Distances balk'd--occult medicines penetrating me from head to
    I feel the sky, the prairies vast--I feel the mighty northern lakes,
    I feel the ocean and the forest--somehow I feel the globe itself
      swift-swimming in space;
    Thou blown from lips so loved, now gone--haply from endless store,
    (For thou art spiritual, Godly, most of all known to my sense),
    Minister to speak to me, here and now, what word has never told,
      and cannot tell,
    Art thou not universal concrete's distillation? Law's, all
      Astronomy's last refinement?
    Hast thou no soul? Can I not know, identify thee?

One cannot doubt the feeling behind these passionate lines, or question
the soul-contact which the old poet felt with the things we are
complacently and ignorantly contented to regard as mere automata, moved
by mechanical force. For Whitman, Nature was a soul; a soul, though
strange and often seeming-hostile, yet beloved and really loving; a
soul, whose infinite life is, without exception, seeking and groping
after its divine source. He deliberately enumerates a catalogue of
things evil to make the significance of his meaning clear.

The title of the book is related, on the last page, to a curious
thought which occupied his mind at this period. While the imagination
which has prompted all his poems has not been exactly himself, it has
become so intimately related to him that he cannot now conceive of
himself existing after death unaccompanied by it; hence his _Good-bye,
my Fancy_ is but a new welcome, a _vale atque ave_.[759]

There are two more poems, not included in this volume, which seem to
close his work. One, the last thing that he composed, was a final
greeting to Columbus, who had become in his mind a type of the poet of
the future.[760]

The other, the last that I can note of these "concluding chirps,"[761]
as he would call them, is a beautiful correction of the popular
picture of death's valley. Before Whitman--and he of all men had a
right to speak upon the subject, because he knew Death, as it were,
personally--there spread out a very different landscape:--

    Of the broad blessed light and perfect air, with meadows, rippling
      tides, and trees and flowers and grass,
    And the low hum of living breeze--and in the midst God's beautiful
      eternal right hand,
    Thee, holiest minister of Heaven--thee, envoy, usherer, guide at
      last of all,
    Rich, florid, loosener of the stricture-knot call'd life,
    Sweet, peaceful, welcome Death.

As his book-making thus drew to a finish, he occupied himself with
his own tomb. This was being erected through the autumn of 1891 among
the young beeches and hickories of a new cemetery, a few miles out of
Camden. It was built of grey granite into the bank, and framed after a
well-known design of Blake's.[762]

At once plain but impressive, it is strikingly different from the
poor little cottage in which he died. And the fact illustrates again
Whitman's simple acceptance of realities. He knew that his grave must
be a place of pilgrimage; and having brought the bones of his father
and mother to lie beside his own, he gave all possible dignity, for the
sake of the book and the cause, to this his last resting-place.

While he was thus spending a considerable sum upon his tomb, the
extra expenses entailed by his prolonged illness were being met,
unknown to him, by the generosity of his Camden friends. After his
death, his executors were surprised to find that there was in the bank
a considerable reserve,[763] amounting to several hundred pounds,
available for distribution between his sisters and his brother Edward,
according to the terms of his will.

       *       *       *       *       *

In mid-December, 1891, Whitman's right lung became congested, and when
Dr. Bucke arrived on the 22nd the death-rattle had already been heard,
and his immediate passing was anticipated.[764]

At Christmas, John Burroughs came over, and found such an unconquered
look upon the sufferer's face that the thought of death's nearness
seemed impossible.[765] From St. Louis came Jessie Whitman, her father,
Jefferson, having died a year earlier; and the colonel brother, who
seems now to have removed from Camden, spent at least one anxious night
in the little house. Mr. Johnston also came over from New York for
a last sight of his old friend. But even with those nearest to him,
interviews became more and more difficult. He longed for the solitude
and silence which their love found it hardest to give.

The wintry days at the junction of the years went by in suffering and
patience. Walt was affectionately grateful for the intimate services of
his nurse and of Horace Traubel; writing of the latter as "unspeakably
faithful".[766] Though he was generally calm he was longing for
death. He had dreadful hiccoughs, and grew colder and more emaciated.
The suffering had become terrible, and the anticipation of its long
continuance brought fear for the first time to his strong heart.


In mid-January, however, he rallied. The Fritzinger baby was born and
called after him, and Walt had it brought in to be fondled upon his
breast.[767] Colonel Ingersoll called, and his magnetic spontaneous
presence and words of profound affection comforted and sustained his
friend. Then, to his great satisfaction, the tenth edition of his
works appeared,[768] and special copies were forwarded to his friends.
He contrived to write brief notes to Dr. Bucke and to his favourite
sister, telling them of the publication and of his condition.

On the 6th and 7th of February he wrote a last pathetic letter, which
was lithographed and sent out to many correspondents. The "little spark
of soul" which, according to his own quaint version of a favourite
saying of Epictetus, had during all these months been "dragging a
great lummux of corpse-body clumsily to and fro around," was still
glimmering. His friends were ever faithful, he says, and for his bodily
state, "it is not so bad as you might suppose, only my sufferings
much of the time are fearful". And he added, as a last dictum, the
substance of his latest public thoughts--for he read the newspapers
constantly to the last--"more and more it comes to the fore, that the
only theory worthy our modern times, for great literature, politics and
sociology, must combine all the best people of all lands, the women not

His friend over-sea, Addington Symonds, was ill and depressed,[770]
and George Stafford passed away at Glendale. He became yet more
silent; looked over his letters and the journals; took and relished
his brandy-punch and slept. Almost daily his pain increased, and the
choking mucus. He was often in terrible exhaustion, and the long nights
were almost unbearable. "Dear Walt," said his faithful friend, as he
bent down and kissed him, "you do not realise what you have been to
us"; and Walt rejoined feebly, "nor you, what you have been to me".[771]

All through March the restlessness and agony increased. There seemed to
be no parcel of his emaciated body which was not the lurking place of
pain. The stubborn determination of his nature suffered the last throes
of human agony before it would surrender. Thus he learnt the lesson of
death as few have ever learnt it.

Those who watched could do little but love him, and for that his
dim eyes repaid them a thousandfold to the end. Without, the days
were dismally bleak; snow lay heavily upon the earth, but in the big
three-windowed room winter seemed still more fierce and dread.

On the night of the 24th he was moved on to a water bed, which eased
him. He tried to laugh when, as he turned him upon it and the water
splashed around, Warry, the sailor-nurse, said it sounded like the
waves upon a ship's flanks. The thought was full of suggestions and
chimed with his own; but the mucus choked him into silence.

Next day he was terribly weak, but restful, and that night he slept and
seemed easier. On the following afternoon they saw that at last he was
surrendering. He smiled and felt no longer any pain.[772] Warry moved
him for the last time about six o'clock, and Walt acknowledged the
change with gratitude. Half an hour later, holding Traubel's hand in
his, he lapsed silently into the Unknown.

It was growing dark, and the rain fell softly bearing its burden of
love to the earth, and dripping from the eaves upon the side-walk. The
noble ship had slipt its cable and gone forth upon "the never-returning

       *       *       *       *       *

Whitman died on a Saturday night. On the Wednesday following, from
eleven to two, the Mickle Street house was invaded by thousands of
people of every age and class, who had come to take a last look at the
familiar face. "It was the face of an aged, loving child," said one of

Among the rest came an old Washington comrade,[774] who was
unrecognised by the policeman keeping order at the little door. No,
said he, it is late, and the house is full already. With a bitter and
broken heart, he was turning away bewildered from the place, when one
of the others saw him and, heartily calling his name, led him in.

How many, many thoughts surged through his brain, as he looked on
that dear face, and poignantly remembered again the old days! How
he reproached himself for the long lapses that had crept of late,
half-observed, into their intimacy! Why had he not been here these
months past, nursing and caring for one who had been dearer to him than
his father? Why had he left him in his last agonies to hired helpers,
however kind, and to new friends. Surely, he thought, the old are
dearer--if they be true.

He went out with the crowd to Harleigh, saw the strange ceremony, and
heard, without understanding them, the fine words spoken. And then,
refusing to be comforted, he escaped, walking home alone along the
dusty roads--alone forever now--the tears coursing down his cheeks.

But come! he would no longer waste the hours in vain reproaches. Walt,
after all, understood. He had always understood, and felt the depth of
love that sometimes seeks so false an expression in jealousy. Come now,
he will live henceforward by the thought and in the unclouded love of
his old Walt, once his and his now forever.

Of course, he had not understood Walt, not as these scholars, these
writers and poets understood him. But he had been "awful near to him,
nights and days". And those letters of his! Sometimes he thought that
in the passion of his young plain manhood, he had come nearer, yes,
nearer than any other, to that great loving soul. And for my part, I am
not sure that he was mistaken.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile, in the new cemetery, out along Haddon Avenue beyond the
Dominican Convent where dwell the Sisters of the Perpetual Rosary, they
had buried the remains of Walt Whitman's body. The hillside above the
pool had been covered with folk; and up on the beech-spray over the
tomb, the first blue-bird had sung its plaintive-sweet promise of the
breaking spring.[775]

In the palm-decked white pavilion, with its open sides, the words of
the old poet's Chant of Death had mingled with those of the Christ and
of the Buddha, and with the half-choked sentences of living lovers and
friends. "I felt as if I had been at the entombment of Christ," writes
one; and another murmured, "We are at the summit".

But the last words had been spoken by Ingersoll--"I loved him living,
and I love him still".[776]


       *       *       *       *       *

"To tell you the truth," writes one who knew him intimately, "I have
never had the feeling that Walt Whitman was dead. I think of him as
still there, capable of writing to me at any time, and my thoughts
often turn to him for his friendly sympathy."[777]

It is incredible that any being who has consciously entered upon that
life of love which approves itself to the soul as God's own life, can
be fundamentally affected by death. What our life is we know not, nor
may we speak with any confidence of the nature of the change which we
call death; but love we know, and in it, as Ingersoll rightly guessed,
is the key to the riddle of mortality.



[705] Bucke, 53 n.

[706] _In re_, 111.

[707] _Ib._, 387.

[708] _Ib._, 119; Kennedy, 31.

[709] _In re_, 120; Kennedy, 32.

[710] Undated news-cutting.

[711] _In re_, 119; Kennedy, 58.

[712] Kennedy, 32.

[713] MSS. Carpenter.

[714] Kennedy, 63; _Comp. Prose_, 511 n.

[715] Johnston, 88.

[716] _Cf._ Calamus, 29.

[717] _Songs before Sunrise_, and _Blake, a Critical Essay_; _cf._
_Fortnightly_, xlii., 170.

[718] Kennedy, 29; Burroughs (_a_), 54.

[719] MSS. Wallace.

[720] _L. of G._, 425.

[721] I cannot omit some reference to the brilliant and interesting
criticism of Whitman by Mr. George Santayana, especially that contained
in his _Poetry and Religion_, pp. 175-87, etc., though it is somewhat
outside my proper field.

Mr. Santayana, if I understand him aright, regards all mysticism
as a form of spiritual loafing; he heartily discounts the more
primal emotions as being "low" in the scale of evolution, and sets
a correspondingly high premium upon all that is subtle and complex.
Though he seeks to be just to his victim, his lack of sympathy is
clearly evidenced in the cleverly rhetorical but quite unworthy passage
(p. 180) wherein Whitman is described as having "wallowed in the stream
of his own sensibility, as later, at Camden, in the shallows of his
favourite brook". Such phrases may be funny, but I trust the preceding
pages have shown that they are not true to the facts of Whitman's life.
To reply to Mr. Santayana is obviously beyond my scope; and, even
if I could undertake the task, it would entail upon the reader many
laborious pages devoted to the study of æsthetic values. For I suspect,
that, whichever of us may be right, our difference goes back to the

[722] _Comp. Prose_, 426, 439, 457, 474.

[723] _L. of G._, 488.

[724] _L. of G._, 433.

[725] _Ib._, 388.

[726] _Ib._, 392.

[727] _Ib._, 399.

[728] _Ib._, 403 n.

[729] Kennedy, 62; MSS. Berenson, etc.

[730] MSS. Carpenter.

[731] _Camden's Compliment._

[732] Donaldson, 101.

[733] _Comp. Prose_, 508; Kennedy, 35.

[734] _In re_, 349-51; _Comp. Prose_, 509.

[735] MSS. Wallace.

[736] "Liberty in Literature," by R. G. I., 1891; Kennedy, 66; _In re_,

[737] Kennedy, 38, 66.

[738] _Whit. Fellowship_ (Bucke), _Memories of W. W._

[739] _Cf._ Symonds, 3.

[740] "Liberty in Literature."

[741] Bucke, 188.

[742] Kennedy, 67.

[743] Johnston, 27.

[744] _In re_, 297, 327.

[745] MSS. Wallace.

[746] Donaldson, 91.

[747] Johnston and MSS. Wallace.

[748] MSS. Wallace; Johnston, 85; _In re_, 425.

[749] News-cutting, 1887.

[750] G. Gilchrist, _op. cit._

[751] MSS. Wallace.

[752] _Ib._

[753] MSS. Carpenter.

[754] _L. of G._, 408.

[755] _Comp. Prose_, 488; _cf._ _L. of G._, 402 (to Emp. William I.).

[756] _Comp. Prose_, 493, 502.

[757] _Ib._, 524, 525.

[758] _L. of G._, 414.

[759] _L. of G._, 422.

[760] _Ib._, 429.

[761] _Ib._, 428.

[762] G. Gilchrist, _op. cit._

[763] Donaldson, 28; Kennedy, 48.

[764] _In re_, 413.

[765] Burroughs (_a_), 53.

[766] Kennedy, 56.

[767] _In re_, 417.

[768] _Ib._, 422.

[769] _In re_, 422 n.

[770] He died soon after Whitman.

[771] _In re_, 429.

[772] _In re_, 433, 434.

[773] M. D. Conway; Burroughs (_a_), 55.

[774] See _supra_, 230.

[775] Dr. Bucke in _Whit. Fellowship_.

[776] _In re_, 437.

[777] MSS. Berenson.



Whitman himself has described his grandmother, Naomi Williams, as
belonging to the Quaker Society, but upon inquiry it does not appear
that she was ever a member. She was one of seven sisters; her father,
Captain John Williams, and his only son, died at sea. He had been
part-owner of his vessel, a schooner in the East Indian trade, plying
between New York and Florida, and in 1767 he was married at Cold
Spring, where his father, Thomas Williams, also a seaman, was living at
the same time.

The name of Thomas Williams occurs elsewhere in the old records of this
district. In 1759 one of this name, who had a son John, was at Cove
Neck, having removed there from Cold Spring. This Thomas one inclines
to identify with the sea-going grandfather of Naomi, and he was the son
of John Williams and Tamosin Carpenter, of Musketa Cove, whose name
occurs in a document of 1727. I understand that this John and his son
Thomas were Quakers.

Another Captain Thomas Williams, described as "of Oyster Bay," was in
1758 first captain of the Queen's County recruits. Twenty-one years
later, a John Williams and a Daniel van Velsor were serving as privates
in a Long Island troop of horse, but they do not concern us.

In the absence of any definite information, and in view of the
frequency of the name of Williams throughout this district--owing
to the fact that Robert and Richard Williams (Welshmen) settled
hereabouts in the middle of the seventeenth century--one can only
surmise the cause which severed the family of Naomi Williams from the
Society. It is possible that her father married out, thus forfeiting
his membership, according to the old laws of the Society concerning
marriage with a non-member. Or the War of Independence may have
claimed his active participation and thus snapped the bond. Or,
again, circumstances connected with his profession, or difficulties
in attending the meetings for worship, may have caused his name to be
dropped from the lists of membership. There would seem to be no doubt,
however, that his daughter's sympathies remained with the Friends.


[778] Material supplied by Benj. D. Hicks; _cf._ Onderdonck's _Queen's
County_; Thompson's History, 486 n., etc., etc.



Edward Carpenter wrote in the _Reformer_, February, 1902, p. 89: "In a
letter to J. Addington Symonds (19th August, 1890),[779] he [Whitman]
mentioned that he had six children. Symonds, writing to me in 1893,
quoted the passage in question from this letter of Whitman's, and it
runs as follows: 'My life, young manhood, mid-age, times South, etc.,
have been jolly bodily, and doubtless open to criticism. Tho' unmarried
I have had six children--two are dead--one living, Southern grandchild,
fine boy, writes to me occasionally--circumstances (connected with
their fortune and benefit) have separated me from intimate relations.'"

In a letter to Carpenter, further attested in conversation with myself,
Horace Traubel says: "Walt frequently in his later years made allusions
to the fact of his fatherhood. That is, to me. One night, just previous
to his death, I went with Harned to Walt's room, at Walt's request, to
get a sort of deposition in the matter, its detail, etc., etc.... But
he was taken sick in our presence and was unable to proceed. There the
thing rested ... he ... could never resume the subject. He wished to
have the recital 'put away in Harned's safe,' as he said, 'in order
that some one should authoritatively have all the facts at command
if by some misfortune a public discussion of the incident were ever
provoked'.... He did not wish the matter broached. He felt that it
would indisputably do a great injury to some one, God knows who (I do
not). During Walt's last sickness his grandson came to the house. I
was not there at the time. When W. mentioned the occurrence to me I
expressed my regret that I had missed him. 'I wish I might see him.'
'God forbid!' [said Whitman]...."

I was informed in Camden that there were _two_ Southern (?) ladies,
one of whom had died. There was an impression among my informants
that Whitman was explicitly pledged, by the family of one if not both
of these ladies, never to hint at his relationship to the children.
He told Traubel that this enforced separation was the tragedy of his
life. There is a love-letter extant, signed with a pseudonym, dated
from New York in 1862, evidently written by a cultivated woman. If the
grandchild who called at Mickle Street in 1891 was from the South--the
correspondent of Symond's letter, as one may suspect--it is difficult
to put the birth of his father or mother much later, I think, than
1850. It is noticeable that Whitman destroyed the references among
his papers to the New Orleans visit, beyond those already printed in
his prose works. In a book of memoranda referring to his early years,
now in the possession of Mr. Harned, I have noted the tearing out of
several leaves after the entry of his starting for New Orleans. The
specification of "one living Southern grandchild," and of four children
still living in 1890, suggests the probability that the second lady was
not living in the South.


[779] Of which I have seen the original draft.


  Abandonment, capacity for self-, 52.

  Abolition sentiment, Lincoln and, 182.
    See Slavery.

  Abolitionism, 81;
    and the South, 235.

  Abolitionist, W. an, 39.

  Abolitionists, 134;
    in Democratic party, 27.

  Actors, W. at home with, 191.

  Adam, W. as, 160-2.

  Adams, President John, 23, 24.

  Addison, W. advised to study, 328.

  Æschylus, W. reads, 57.

  Affirmations of modern thought, 62.

  Agnosticism and reason, 333.

  Agricultural interest in America, 308.

  Alboni, Marietta, her influence on W., 86, 131, 320.

  Alcott, A. Bronson, his relations with W., 112, 138, 282.

  Alexandria, Va., 195, 199.

  Ambition, W. a youth of, 33.

  America, romance of, xix-xxiii;
    Elizabethan character of, xxi;
    its development, xxvi;
    changes in, 79.

  America, and W., 87, 149, 180;
    W. an incarnation of, xxviii, 132, 335;
    an average American, 64;
    his passion for, 63;
    describes, 95;
    his symbol for, 122;
    symbolic character of, 124;
    call to citizenship, 125;
    need for comradeship in, 163;
    Emerson's view of W.'s message to, 145-6;
    W.'s criticism of, 124, 236-42;
    W. the poet of, 249, 292 (see American poet);
    her need for the war, 206-8;
    A. and the soul, 255;
    and death, 266;
    and free-interchange, 306-7;
    and labour-problem, 307-13;
    W.'s ideal for, 312;
    "material foundations," 331;
    A. and solidarity, 337.

  American art, xxiv.

  American Bible, W. wishes to write an, 55.

  American character, the, xxi;
    its idealism, xxi, xxiii, 80-1, 177;
    its power of assimilation, xxiv.

  American character of _L. of G._, 109.

  American cynicism, 264.

  American literature, W. and, 60.

  American opinion hostile to _L. of G._, 214, 333.

  American poet, the, Emerson's dictum, 94;
    general expectancy of an, 94;
    W.'s prophecy of an, 95-6;
    W. as the, 133 _n._

  American poets, W. and the, 104, 279;
    need for, 97.

  _American Review_, W. writes for, 37.

  Anger of W., sudden, 216, 236, 327.

  Animals, W.'s feeling of kinship with, 99.

  "Answerer, Song of the," 103.

  Anthony, Susan B., 126.

  Antietam, battle of, 182-3.

  Anti-Nebraska men, 134.

  Anti-slavery party, 45.

  Appearance, W.'s, 276, 283, 289, 326.
    See Portraits.

  "Appearances, Of the terrible doubt of," 164.

  _Arabian Nights_, W. reads, 19.

  Aristocrat, poem on an, 53.

  Armory Square Hospital, W. at the, 190, 194, 203.

  Arrangement of _L. of G._, 286-7.

  Art, its meaning first shown to W., 22;
    popular, 43;
    in N.Y., 84.

  "As a strong bird on pinions free". See "Thou Mother," etc.

  "As I ebb'd with the ocean of life," 154-6.

  "As I ponder'd in silence," 208.

  "As the time draws nigh," 169.

  Asceticism, 71.

  Ashton, J. Hubley, describes a visit of W.'s, 192;
    and Harlan incident, 214.

  Ashton, Mrs., 234, 248.

  _Athenæum, The_, and W., 259.

  Attila, 336.

  Attorney-General's Office, W. in the, 214.

  Aurelius, Marcus, 224, 262, 318.

  _Aurora, The_, W. edits, 37.

  Average American, W.'s life to be that of an, 64.

  Babylon, L. I., W. at, 28, 33;
    described, 28-9.

  Bacchus, W.'s engraving of, 111.

  "Backward Glance o'er travel'd roads, A," 329-30.

  Baldwin, the engine, 271.

  "Barnburners," Van Buren men, become Free-soil Democrats, 44, 134.

  Barnum, P. T., 85.

  Bathing, W.'s love of, 40.

  Bayne, Peter, 258.

  "Beat! Beat! Drums!" 207.

  Beauty, W. indifferent to formal and static, 59.

  Beecher, Ward, 112.

  Beethoven, 267, 293, 320.

  Beggars, W. and, 219.

  Bell, Governor, 172.

  Berenson, Mrs., her friendship with W., 302-4, 313, 318, 346.

  Bernard, St., 146.

  Bettini, 85, 320.

  _Bhagavad-Gitá_, _L. of G._ compared with, 115.

  Bible, W.'s wish to write an American, 55;
    W. studies the, 57, 224, 318.

  Biographies of W. See J. Burroughs, Dr. Bucke, and Preface.

  Birthday dinners, 317, 325, 331-2;
    last, 335-7.

  Blake, 124, 225, 263, 290, 341;
    his mystic sight, 66, 118;
    W. and, 59.

  "Blood-money," 39, 46, 103.

  Body, W. and the, 99, 102, 159-62;
    "a spiritual body," 152-3;
    "enamoured" body, 162;
    and soul, 125.

  "Body Electric, I sing the," 102, 145, 160.

  Boehme, 121, 146.

  Bohemians of New York, W. and the, 138.

  Bolton group of Whitmanites, 337.

  Books, W.'s method of reading, 57;
    his favourite books, 58-9, 318.

  Booth, the elder, effect of his acting on W., 22.

  Boston, 81, 138;
    W.'s dislike of, 103, 279;
    W. at, 136, 142-7;
    second visit, 278-83.

  "Boston Ballad, A," 103.

  Boston Common, 144, 147, 281.

  _Boston Intelligencer_, criticism of W., 108.

  Botticelli, 102, 226.

  Bowery Theatre, the (now the Thalia), 22, 329.

  Bowne, John, a L. I. Quaker, 4.

  Bragg, General, 187.

  Breckinridge, J. C., 172.

  Bremer, Frederika, and Emerson, 94.

  "Broad-axe, Song of the," 122, 274.

  Broadway, W. and, 41, 83, 87, 138, 219, 266.

  _Broadway Journal_, W. writes for, 37.

  "Broadway Pageant, A," 205.

  Brooklyn, 1-3, 10-11;
    W. in, 56-7, 86, 110, 203-4, 210, 219, 232;
    leaves, 183;
    secures Fort Greene to town, 43.

  Brooklyn, battle of, 5.

  _Brooklyn Daily Eagle_, W. edits, 42-4;
    a correspondent of, 196.

  Brooklyn Ferry, 11, 40, 85.

  "Brooklyn Ferry, Crossing," 120.

  _Brooklyn Times_, W. and the, 109.

  Brown, John, different views of, and influence on America, 136, 159;
    O'Connor and, 190.

  Brown, Madox, 225.

  Browning, R., 62, 92, 291;
    and W., 293-5.

  Bruno, Giordano, 224.

  Brush, Major, 5;
    his niece, 5-6.

  Bryant, W. C., 40, 59, 172, 336;
    friendship for W., 42.

  Buchanan, President, 135, 175.

  Buchanan, Robert, his letter on W., 258-9.

  Bucke, Dr. R. M., 263, 305, 325-6, 334, 336, 341, 342;
    visits W., 269;
    account of, 269-70;
    his _Cosmic Consciousness_, 270;
    visited by W., 274-7;
    goes with W. to L. I., 280;
    his life of W., 304.

  Buddha, the, 121, 345.

  Bull Run, battle of, 182.

  Buonarotti, Michael Angelo, 102, 265.

  Burke, E., 290.

  Burns, Anthony, 81, 103.

  Burns, R., 289, 328, 337;
    W. and, 59;
    W. on, 329.

  Burnside, General, 182, 183.

  Burr, Aaron, W. and, xxv.

  Burroughs, J., in Washington, 191, 215;
    notes on W., 221, 304;
    walks with W., 233, 262;
    nurses W., 247-8; visits W., 251, 256, 258, 305, 342;
    W. visits, 231, 266, 270.

  Burroughs, Mrs., 234.

  "By Blue Ontario's Shore," 123, 209.

  Byron, 91, 320, 328; W. and, 59, 292-3.

  Calamus, meaning of the word, 162.

  _Calamus_ (poems), 162-7, 253;
    most esoteric of W.'s poems, 162;
    political significance, 163;
    personal revelation in, 165;
    underlying philosophy of, 166-7;
    vindicated, 194;
    J. A. Symonds and, 224.

  Calhoun, J. C., 24, 79, 175.

  California, 43, 63-4.

  Californian redwood tree, 255.

  Calvin, 121.

  Camden described, 246;
    W. in, xxvii, 248, 278, 315;
    loneliness there, 250;
    at 322, Stevens St., his life there, 250-1;
    removes to 431, Stevens St., 256;
    friends there, 257, 325;
    literary work, 257.
    See Mickle St.

  Canada, 311;
    W. plans to lecture in, 129;
    goes to, 274-7;
    interest in, 276-7.

  Canary, W.'s, 319.

  Capital punishment, W. opposes, 33, 42.

  Capitol, W. often at the, 201-2.

  "Captain! my Captain!" 337.

  Carlyle, Thos., 35, 84, 91, 92, 121, 263, 291, 294, 296, 306, 318,
      328, 339;
    death of, 301;
    and _L. of G._, 171;
    his _Shooting Niagara_, 234, 236;
    W. and, 41, 59, 293.

  Carnegie, Andrew, 317.

  _Carpenter, The_, by O'Connor, 191, 227-9.

  Carpenter, Edward, 263;
    visits W., 266-9;
    account of, 266-7;
    his _Towards Democracy_, 267;
    his account of W., 267-9;
    second visit to W., 305-7;
    his _Art of Creation_, qu., 167;
    on W.'s children, 349-50.

  Carpenter, Tamosin, 347.

  Carpentering, W. takes up, 57;
    helpful to him, 85;
    gives up, 87.

  Carpenters, 122.

  Cass, Lewis, 44.

  Catalogues in _L. of G._, 84, 160, 222.

  Caution, highly developed in W., 68, 163.

  Cenci, 336.

  Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, 265.

  Champagne, W.'s taste for, 315.

  "Champion of America," 131-2.

  Chancellorsville, battle of, 184.

  "Chanting the Square Deific," 212.
    See Satan.

  "Chants Democratic," 150.

  Charity, W. and, 312-3.

  Chattanooga, battle of, 187.

  Chestnut St. Opera House, Philadelphia, 317.

  Chicago, W. visits, 54.

  Child, in W.'s nature, the, 78, 344;
    dreams of a, 55.

  _Children of Adam_, 126, 144-7, 159-62, 284-6;
    difficulty of discussing, 160-1;
    Mrs. Gilchrist and, 225, 264.

  Children, W.'s, 51, 186, 230-1, 252, 349-50;
    W. and, 234, 273, 318, 320.

  China, W. talks of, 265.

  Chinese proverb, xxiii.

  Christ, 313, 345.
    See Jesus.

  "Christ-portrait" of W., 67.

  Christianity, W. and, 75-7, 168, 297, 339.

  _Chronicle, The_, W. M. Rossetti writes on W. in, 222.

  Church, W. in a Brooklyn, 68.

  Churches, W. and the, 42, 75-6, 142, 241, 280, 323.

  Cincinnati Society, 38.

  Citizenship and the soul, 208;
    for all, 240.

  City-life, attraction for W., 114;
    modern, xxviii.

  City-populations, 307.

  Clare, Ada, 139.

  Class-feeling, W.'s dislike of, 323.

  Classical allusions avoided in _L. of G._, 109.

  Clay, Henry, 23, 40, 42, 79, 134.

  Cleanthes, Hymn of, 224.

  Clements, Mr., W. apprenticed to, 19-20.

  Cleveland, President, 314, 320.

  Clothes, W.'s, 83, 110, 140, 304, 331.

  Cole, Mary, 234.

  Coleridge, S. T., 91, 119, 290.

  Colonna, Vittoria, 265.

  _Columbian Magazine_, W. writes for, 37.

  Columbus, xx-xxi, 243.
    See _Prayer of C._

  "Columbus, A thought of," 340.

  Common people, W.'s love of the, 114.

  Companions, the Great, 168.

  _Complete Prose_, qu., 47-8.
    See Footnotes.

  "Compost, This," 122.

  Comrade, W. as a, 67;
    God the perfect, 244.

  Comrades, a society of, 312.

  Comradeship, _Calamus_ poems of, 162;
    political significance of, 163;
    W. institutes a rite of, 165;
    philosophy of, 167;
    W. creates a, 179;
    _L. of G._ brings to Symonds, 224;
    universal possibility of, 299-300;
    W.'s, 133, 149, 168, 196, 228, 232-3, 253, 275, 297.

  Comte, A., 62, 263.

  Concord, W. at, 281-2.

  Concrete, W.'s love for the, 60;
    quality, W.'s, 198.

  Coney Island Beach, W. goes to, 40, 57, 154.

  Confederacy of Southern States adopts a constitution, 175.

  Consciousness, the unfolding of, 69;
    the double nature of, 73-4;
    superhuman elements in, 228; W.'s, 316.
    See also "Cosmic consciousness".

  _Conservator_ (Philadelphia), _The_, 300 _n._

  Conservative quality of W., 64.

  Constitution of U.S., xxiii, xxv, 23.

  Contemporary Club, the, 332.

  _Contemporary Review_ and W., 258.

  Conversion, W.'s experience compared with, 70, 72.

  Conway, Moncure, 93, 110-2, 344.

  Coolness, W.'s, 66.

  Cooper, Fenimore, 42, 59;
    W.'s love for the novels of, 19.

  "Copperheads," 185.

  "Cosmic consciousness," W.'s, 52, 117, 119, 168, 224, 333;
    W.'s experience of, 72-3;
    influence on style, 150-1, 153-4;
    Dr. Bucke on, 270.

  Cotton in the South, 24, 25.

  Cowper, W., 290.

  _Crescent, The_, New Orleans, 46.

  _Criterion, The_, criticism of W., 108.

  _Critic, The_, criticism of W., 108.

  Criticisms of Whitman, 171, 222, 224-5, 327-8, 329 _n._, 334-5;
    by W. 109, 329.

  Cromwell, O., 121.

  Croton Water-works, N.Y., 42.

  "Crucified, To him that was," 167-8, 227.

  Culpepper, Va., W. visits, 202.

  Cuba annexation desired, 135.

  Cuvier, 122.

  _Daily News_ and W., 258.

  Dana, C. A., 127.

  Dancing, W. approves, 43.

  Dannville, 209.

  Dante, 57, 109, 164, 226, 318.

  Dartmouth College, N.H., W. visits, 245.

  Darwin, C., 62.

  Davis, Jefferson, 79, 188.

  Davis, Mary, 305, 318-21, 336.

  Death, W. and the idea of, 9, 12, 101, 102, 158, 168-9, 242-3, 249,
      266, 281, 287, 340-1;
    immortality and, 152-3, 155;
    welcome to, 152;
    W. learns lesson of, 249, 343;
    in shadow of, 253-4;
    W.'s, 344;
    reported, 247.

  "Death's Valley," 340-1.

  Declamation, _L. of G._ written for, 98.

  Declaration of Independence, xxiii, 23.

  Deliberate way of W. in hospitals, 196;
    character of W., 204.

  Democracy in New York, 83.

  Democracy, W. as, 335.

  Democracy, dangers of. See _Dem. Vistas_.

  _Democrat_, W. edits, 37.

  Democratic party, 13, 23, 40, 79, 82, 136, 172.

  _Democratic Review_, W. writes for, 33.

  _Democratic Vistas_, W. at work on, 234;
    America's need for national literature, 236;
    reasons for his criticism, 237;
    vast task of America, _ib._;
    fears for her, 238, 238-9 _n._;
    her need for religion, 238,
    and for great men, 239;
    too much "culture," 241;
    need of personality, of religion and of literature, 242, 245, 248.

  Denver, 272, 320.

  Depression, W.'s, during illness, 249.

  "Devil, If I felt like the," 338.
    See Satan.

  Dickens in America, 35, 42.

  Dix, Dorothea, 195.

  Dixon, Thomas, and _L. of G._, 171, 223.

  Dog, W.'s, 257.

  Don Quixote, W. reads, 58.

  Doubt, W. and, 100, 155, 164.

  "Dough-faces," 27, 39.

  "Dough-face Song, A," 39.

  Douglas, S. A., 44, 80, 134, 135, 172, 174, 176.

  Dramatic gift, W. has not the, 73.

  Dreams, W. on, 102.

  Doyle, Peter G., 210, 215, 258, 301, 305, 336, 344-5;
    account of, 230;
    and W., 231-4;
    nurses W., 247-8;
    letters to, 250, etc.;
    baggage-master, 257.

  Dred Scott decision, 135.

  Dress. See Clothes.

  Driving, W.'s love of, 303, 314.

  _Drum-taps_, published, 205;
    recalled, 212.
    See _L. of G._

  Dutch, on Long Island, 3;
    realism, W.'s, 85.

  Dying, W.'s long, 330.

  Early tales, W.'s, 33-5, 286;
    early verses, W.'s, 39, 47-8, 290.

  Earth, W.'s conception of the, 117-9, 330;
    and evil, 122.

  Editor, W. as an, 37.

  Education, W.'s, 28.

  Edward VII. See Prince of Wales.

  Egoism, a divine, 90;
    of _L. of G._, 91.

  Egoist, W. not an, 53.

  Eldridge, C. (see also Thayer and Eldridge), 191, 247-8, 251.

  Election, methods of presidential, 174.

  Elizabeth, Queen, xx-xxi.

  Elliott, E., W. and, 327.

  Emancipation, Proclamation of, 183.

  Emerson, R. W., xxiii, 59, 62, 81, 108, 110, 129, 136, 151, 176, 258,
      263, 291, 293, 303, 318, 328, 336;
    position in American letters, 91-3;
    and free rhythm, 92-3;
    Emerson and Whitman, 59, 91-4, 106-7, 112, 114-5, 137, 143-7, 148,
      159, 163, 171, 322;
    his letter to W., 92-3, 127-8;
    W.'s letter to E., 127, 179;
    discussion between, 145-7, 159, 223;
    helps W. to get funds for hospitals, 198;
    W. revisits, 281-2;
    their friendship, 146, 163, 282-3;
    contrast of his and W.'s temperaments, 294;
    death of, 301.

  Emotional, atmosphere of poetry, 290-1;
    character of W.'s mysticism, 70-1.

  _Enfans d'Adam._ See _Children of Adam_.

  English, demand for _L. of G._, 257;
    fame of W., 223, 245;
    friends help W., 258-9, see Friends;
    habit of compromise, 208;
    language, W. and the, 97;
    readers of _L. of G._, 171;
    Reviews, W. reads, 57;
    W.'s appreciation of the, 338.

  England and America compared, xxii;
    dispute between, 43;
    W.'s idea of a home in, 338.

  Enjoyment, W.'s power of, 314-5.

  _En-masse_, frequent use by W. of, 216-7.

  "Ensemble," W.'s use of, 255.

  Epictetus, 318, 342-3.

  Equality, doctrine of, accepted in the South, 25;
    W.'s doctrine of, 102, 297.

  Erie Canal opened, 11.

  Euripides, 58.

  "Europe, the 72nd and 73rd year of these States," 103.

  Europe, its lack of sanity, 339.

  Evangelical, W. an, 77.

  _Evening Mail_ (_New York_), 245.

  Evil, W. and the problem of, 122, 124, 157, 212, 294-5, 340;
    evil in W.'s nature, 336.

  Evolution, W.'s doctrine of, 99, 100.

  Evolutionists, the, 224.

  Exhibition, International, 1853, 83-4.

  "Exposition, Song of the," 245, 248.

  Expression, need for, 89-90.

  Expurgation, W. agrees to, 285.

  "Faces," 102.

  "Facing West from California's shores," 162.

  Facts, W.'s love for, 60, 63.

  Fairfax Seminary Hospital, 194, 198.

  Faith, W.'s, 99, 100, 155, 244, 254-5.

  Falmouth, Va., 183-4.

  Farragut, Admiral, 182.

  Federal sentiment aided by steam-transit, 27.

  Federalists, 23.

  Fellowes, Col., 38.

  Fellowship, as an answer to doubt, 164;
    Morris's gospel of, 296;
    philosophy of, 166-7.

  Fellowship, W.'s, its character, 114, 299-300;
    with nature, 261-2;
    W.'s ideal of, 142.

  Fellowship, the Walt Whitman, 300 _n._

  "Felons on trial in courts, You," 156.

  Ferries, W. and, 250-1, 266.
    See Brooklyn Ferry.

  Ferry-boat, W. steers a N.Y., 137.

  Fire-Island Beach, L. I., 29.

  "First, O songs, for a prelude," 206.

  "For you, O Democracy," 163.

  Forrest, Edwin, 21.

  _Fortnightly Review_, M. Conway's article on W. in, 110.

  Fourier, 309.

  Fourierists, W. and the, 323.

  Fowler, Mr., 67.

  Fowler & Wells, 87, 109, 129.

  Fox, George, 121, 173;
    his mystical experience, 72-3;
    in L. I., 4;
    and W., 298-300;
    W.'s essay on, 329.

  France, _L. of G._ in, 245;
    W. and the people of, 280.

  Francis of Assisi, 74, 152, 164, 169, 227.

  _Franklin Evans_, 46 _n._, 52;
    described, 35-7.

  Fredericksburg, battle of, 183.

  _Freeman, The_, W. founds, 56, 63.

  Frémont, J. C., 63, 134.

  Free-soil Democrats, 40, 44-5, 56, 134;
    W. and the, 40, 310.

  Free-trade, 177;
    W. and, 306-7, 323, 337.
    See also Tariffs.

  Friends, W.'s older men, 28;
    and women, 31;
    in N.Y., 137-9;
    in Washington, 190-2;
    circle of, 245;
    in Camden, 256-7, 325, 341, 342;
    English, assist W., 258-9, 316-7;
    dissimilarity among, 233;
    his need of, 165, 250-1;
    a city of, 165.

  Friends, Society of. See Quakers.

  Friends, Fox's, 298-9.

  Fritzinger, Harry, 319.

  Fritzinger, Warren, 319, 342, 343, 344.

  Fritzinger, W. W., 342.

  Fugitive Slave Bill, 79.

  "Full of life now," 166.

  Fuller (Ossoli), Margaret, 126.

  Funeral, W.'s, 344-6.

  Future, poet justified by, 97.

  Future, W.'s attitude towards the, 206.

  Games, W.'s love of, 30, 32.

  Garfield, President, 301.

  Garibaldi visits America, 173.

  Garrison, W. L., 81.

  Gentleman, Thoreau thinks W. a, 113.

  Georgian farmer, a, 321-2.

  German immigrants, 82.

  Germany, _L. of G._ in, 245.

  _Germ, The_, 97, 221-2.

  Gettysburg, battle of, 184, 187;
    Lincoln's speech at, 184.

  Gilchrist, Anne (Mrs. Alexander), 265, 267, 268, 301, 336;
    reads _L. of G._, 225;
    views of _C. of Adam_, 225-7, 284;
    letters published, 225;
    goes to Philadelphia, 263;
    account of, 263-6;
    W. visits, 266;
    death of, 303, 320.

  Gilchrist, Grace, quoted, 268, etc.

  Gilchrist, Herbert H., 320.

  Girls, attitude toward, 30.

  Glendale, W. at, 280, 286.

  Godiva, Lady, 264.

  God, W.'s idea of, 75, 76, 101, 243-4, 253-4.

  God latent in humanity, 100.

  Goethe, 58, 62, 121, 222, 224, 289, 292.

  _Good-bye, my Fancy_, described, 338-40;
    title explained, 340.

  _Good Gray Poet, The_, by O'Connor, 191, 214, 227, 333.

  Government, purpose of all, 240.

  Grant, Gen., 182;
    takes Vicksburg, 185;
    at Chattanooga, 187;
    faith of North in Grant, 188;
    ends war, _ib._;
    President, 235;
    and the West, 272;
    W.'s belief in, 203;
    W. appeals to, 209.

  "Great are the Myths," 104.

  Great Eastern Steamship, 173.

  Great men, W. values, 239.

  Greek, W. a, 279.

  Greeley, Horace, 39.

  Guyot, 263.

  Hafiz, 318.

  "Halcyon Days," 330.

  Hale, E. E., 108.

  Halleck, Fitz-Green, 42.

  Hamilton, Alex., xxv, 23.

  "Hand-Mirror, A," 124.

  Happiness, the purpose of things, 101;
    of old age, 330.

  Harlan, James, 219, 223, 227;
    dismisses W., 213-4.

  Harleigh Cemetery, 345.

  Harned, T. B., relations with W., 325, 349.

  Harper's Ferry, 136.

  _Harrington_, by W. D. O'Connor, 190.

  Harrison, President, 38.

  Hartmann, S., 319-20.

  Hawthorne, N., 34, 301.

  Health, a fine art, 241;
    spiritual basis of, 204, 339;
    open-air and, 340.

  Health, W. proud of his, 68-9;
    W. to irradiate, 101, 338;
    W.'s, 28;
    and mystical experience, 69;
    W.'s in Washington, 193;
    hurts his hand, 194;
    careful of his, 196;
    effect of heat upon, 200;
    first illness, 202-4;
    h. seems to be good again, 216;
    feels extremes of climate, 218;
    Rossetti thinks health affects W.'s philosophy, 222;
    partial paralysis, 232;
    illness, 246;
    details recounted, 247;
    relapse, 248;
    depression accompanies illness, 249;
    consideration of causes, 252-3;
    illness, poems in, 253-4;
    convalescence, 258;
    help derived from Nature, 260-2;
    h. improved, 270;
    ill in St. Louis, 273;
    in Canada, 275-6;
    better in Boston, 283;
    has a sunstroke, 314;
    increasing uncertainty, 317;
    paralysis, 326.

  Hegel, 62, 289, 309;
    limit of W.'s agreement with, 296-8.

  Heine, 339.

  Heretic, W. a, 143.

  Hero-worship, W.'s, 293.

  Heyde, Hannah (Whitman), 12, 86, 88, 342;
    W. visits, 246.

  Hicks, Elias, 4, 5, 6, 121, 142;
    account of, 14-5;
    preaches at Brooklyn, 15-7;
    his death, 17;
    effect on W., 16-9;
    W.'s essay on, 329.

  "Historian, To a," 153.

  Hodgson, Robert, an English Quaker, 4.

  Home-life, W.'s happy, 65-6.

  Homer, 57, 318.

  Hooker, General, 182, 184.

  Hospitals, W. at the old New York H., 137-8;
    W. commences to visit Washington, 184;
    service in them, 186;
    W. at the Armory Square H., 190;
    W. at the Washington, 192, 198, 318, 324;
    he needs money for work there, 192;
    there daily, 194;
    extent of hospitals, _ib._;
    nursing in, 195;
    need for affection in, _ib._;
    W.'s efficient service in, 196-8;
    effect on W., 199-200;
    conditions grow worse, 202-3;
    visits hospitals at Brooklyn and N.Y., 209;
    Sundays at Washington hospitals, 215;
    influence on W., 217;
    causes illness, 252-3, 339;
    pension proposed for service in, 316.

  Houghton, Lord, 112.

  House-building, 85.

  Householder, W. a, 315.
    See Mickle St.

  Houston, the filibuster, 43.

  Howells, W., and W., 138-9.

  Hugo, Victor, 138, 293.

  Humanity, W.'s love for, well founded, 41-2.

  Humility, W. and, 76, 154.

  Humour, W.'s, 303, 336-9.

  "Hunkers," 44.

  Hunt, Leigh, 109.

  Huntington, L. I., described, 2-3;
    W. at, 31;
    W. visits, 86.
    See West Hills.

  "Hush'd be the Camps to-day," 212.

  "Husky-haughty lips, With," 330.

  Idealism. See Mysticism.

  Idealism of America. See "American character".

  Identity, W.'s sense of, 74.

  Idiots, W. and, 274.

  "I dream'd in a dream," 165.

  _Iliad_, Pope's translation, 58.

  Illness, W.'s, see Health;
    originates in hospital-work, 339;
    features of last, 338, 341-4.

  Illumination, W.'s mystical, 69-78.

  Immanence, idea of, central in modern thought, 62.

  Immigration and N.Y., 81-2.

  Immigration and the labour problem, 310.

  Immortality, 152-3, 255, 332-3.
    See Death.

  Impersonal quality in W., 73, 293.

  Inconsistency, W.'s, 237.

  India used symbolically, 243-4.
    See "Passage to I."

  Indian Bureau, W. a clerk in, 210;
    Indians on L. I., 1-2;
    W.'s relations with Indians, 210.

  Industrial revolution, the, 307.

  Ingersoll, R. G., and W., 274;
    lectures on Whitman, 317;
    tribute to W., 332;
    W.'s view of I., _ib._;
    his agnosticism, 333;
    lecture on W., 333-5;
    visits W., 342;
    at the funeral, 346.

  "Inner Light," doctrine of, 16, 17.

  Institutions, W. and, 165, 323.

  "Ireland, Old," 205.

  Irish immigration, 82.

  Irving, Washington, 93.

  Israel, prophets of, 238, 241, 291.

  Italy and America, xx;
    rise of a new, 205-6.

  "I was looking a long while," 153.

  Jackson, President, 13, 23, 27, 38, 174.

  Jamaica Academy, L. I., W. at, 33.

  Japan, W. talks of, 268.

  Japanese Embassy, first, 172, 205.

  Jayne's Hill, 2.

  Jefferson, President, 13, 23, 25, 26, 38, 136.

  Jesus, 74;
    W.'s relation to, 76, 227-9;
    W.'s poem to, 167-8;
    and Humanity, 229.
    See Christ.

  Jingoism in America, 43-4.

  Job, 318.

  Johnson, President, 189, 235.

  Johnston, Col., 257.

  Johnston, Gen., 182.

  Johnston, Mrs. Alma C., 280, 282.

  Johnston, J., 336.

  Johnston, J. H., 342;
    W. visits, 266, 270, 280.

  Journalist, W. as a, 33-45.

  Journeys, W.'s, extent of, xxvii.
    See South, West, Canada.

  Joy, the note of _L. of G._, 90-1.

  Judiciary Square Hospital, 194.

  Kansas, 80, 134-5.

  Keats, J., 59, 91.

  Kennedy, W. S., 317;
    W.'s letter to, 282;
    his reminiscences, 301.

  "Knowledge alone, Long I thought that," 132-3.

  "Know-nothing" party, 134-5.

  Kossabones, W.'s ancestors, 31.

  Labour agitator's disappointment with W., a, 322.

  Labour problem, W. and the, 306-13, 322-3;
    in America, 308;
    in Europe, 308-9;
    in Long Island and N.Y., 309;
    in America after the war, 310;
    problem of immigration, _ib._;
    _laissez-faire_, 310-1;
    the socialists, 311;
    W. and Trade-Unionism, 312;
    W. and Toynbee Hall, 313.

  Lafayette, Gen., revisits America, 11.

  _Laissez-faire_, 310-1.

  Laurel Springs, 260.

  Lamarck, 62.

  Laws, W. and the, 292.

  "Laws for Creations," 153.

  Laziness, W.'s, 30-1.

  _Leaves of Grass_, title explained, 72;
    character of various sections, 286-7;
    unity as a whole, 287-8;
    style of, 84, 92, 98, 104-7, 150-1, 244, 273, 289-91, 328;
    genesis and evolution, 329;
    W. and, 330, 335;
    O'Connor and, 191;
    Ingersoll and, 332-5;
    Bucke and, 336;
    the war and, 339;
    conception, 55;
    gestation, 85-7.
    First edition, 87-8;
      attitude of family to, 88;
      own view, an expression of himself, 89-90;
      the keynote, joy, 90-1;
      Emerson's appreciation, 91-2;
      book described, 95-104;
      religious emotion in, 105-6;
      compared with Emerson's writings, 106-7;
      reception of, in America and England, 108-9;
      writes notices of, 109;
      its American character emphasised, _ib._;
      occupies W.'s time, 111;
      Emerson's dictum on, 115;
      spirit of revolt in this edition, 296-7;
      see also 148, 217.
    Second edition (1856), 116-129, 148;
      open letter to Emerson in appendix, 127-8;
      rapid sale, 128-9.
    Third edition, xxvi-xxvii, 132-3, 141-2, 218, 284-6;
      described, 148-170;
      personal note dominant in, 148-9;
      importance of this edition, 149-50;
      unity of volume, its optimism and mysticism, 151-2;
      welcome to death characteristic of, 152-3;
      his work a beginning, 154;
      _Children of Adam_, 159-62;
      _Calamus_ group, 162-7;
      poem to Jesus, 167-8;
      poems of death, 169-70;
      its circulation, 171;
      in England, 172;
      and the war, 180.
    _Drum-taps_, 205-9;
    "When lilacs last," 211;
    is read by students, 217;
    written under strong emotion, 220.
    Fourth edition (1867), 219, 221;
      W.'s views of, _ib._;
      Rossetti's selections, 221-2;
      the book in England, 223;
      Mrs. Gilchrist and, 225-7, 264.
    Fifth edition (1871), 242;
      _Passage to India_, 243;
      style of, 244;
      read in Europe, 245;
      poems of illness and death, 253-5.
    Centennial edition (1876), 259, 265, 286;
      sells well, 266;
      preface to, 267;
      and the Rocky Mountains, 273.
    Second Boston edition, 283-4, 286-8, 301;
      attacked by District Attorney, 284-5;
      sales, 305;
      diminution of, 316;
      re-published by McKay, 285;
      Worthington and, 286.
    _Sands at Seventy_, 329-30;
    latest poems, 338-41.
    Tenth edition, 342.

  _Leaves of Grass_, a section of third edition, 150.

  Lectures, W.'s, 129, 193, 270;
    to supplement _L. of G._, 129-30;
    a course on Democracy undelivered, 132.
    See Lincoln lecture, and Oratory.

  Lee, General, 182, 184, 187, 188, 324.

  Leibnitz, 62.

  Liberty, immortal, 103.

  Liberty party, 79.

  Libraries, 153.

  Life and Death, 104.

  Lilacs, 305.

  "Lilacs last in the Door-yard bloom'd, When," 211-2.

  Lincoln, President, xxiii, 5, 80, 121, 132;
    described, 134;
    protests against Dred Scott decision, 135;
    senatorial contest with Douglas, _ib._;
    attitude toward slavery, 136-7, 181-2;
    in N.Y., 172;
    election of (1860), 172, 174;
    interregnum before inauguration, 175;
    passes through N.Y., 175-6;
    his inaugural address, 176;
    and the war, 177, 179;
    call for troops, 178;
    his first tasks, 181-2;
    proclamation of emancipation, 183;
    speech at Gettysburg, 184;
    and abolition, 181-2, 187;
    enters Richmond, 188;
    re-election and assassination, 189, 210, 264-5;
    nature of his relation to America, 189;
    is denounced by W. Phillips, 191;
    American suspicion of his policy, 211;
    effect of his death, 211-2;
    and the South, 189, 324;
    and the West, 271;
    W. and, 234, 278;
    W. often meets, 201;
    W.'s faith in, 203;
    at last levee, 210;
    L.'s dictum on W., _ib._;
    W. and L.'s death, 278.

  "Lincoln's burial hymn, President." See Lilacs last.

  Lincoln lecture, W.'s, 270, 278, 317, 332.

  Lind, Jenny, 85, 86.

  Linton, W. J., 257.

  Lionising, W. and, 332.

  Literary circle, W.'s dislike of, 144.

  Literature necessary for national life, 236-242.

  "Live-oak growing, I saw in Louisiana a," 163, 250.

  Loafing of W., 141.

  Locomotive first enters N.Y., 42.

  "Locomotive in Winter, To a," 271.

  London, Ont., W. at, 270.

  Longfellow, H. W., 59, 88, 94, 138, 301, 336;
    and W., 278-9.

  "Long I thought that Knowledge alone," 132-3;
    Symonds and, 224.

  Long Island described, 1-3, 28-9;
    W. and, 31, 85, 89, 280.

  _Long Island Patriot_, W. and the, 20.

  _Long Island Star_, W. and the, 20.

  _Long Islander, The_, 56;
    W. founds the, 31-2.

  Love, the divine, 119;
    "the kelson" of the Universe, 72, 98;
    the one essential, 125;
    the passion of, 127;
    W. recognises power of, 35;
    W.'s religion one of, 77;
    love of Nature, W.'s, 260-1.

  Lowell, J. R., 59, 94, 317.

  Luther, 146.

  Lynching, W. denounces, 42.

  Lyrical ballads, 290.

  Lytton, Lord, 35, 247.

  Madison Sq. Theatre, N.Y., W. at, 317.

  "Magnet South," 235.

  Man, _L. of G._, not a book but a, 158.

  "Man-o'-War Bird, The," 259.

  Mannahatta, early name for N.Y., 20.
    See N.Y.

  Manual work, its value to W., 85.

  Maretzek, 85.

  Marriage, W. and, 50-3, 323, 336-7.

  "Mary, Aunt," 321.

  Mary and Martha, 164.

  Marx, Karl, 309.

  Mazzini, 62, 173;
    and W., 293-4.

  McClellan, Gen., 182, 189, 211.

  McKay, David, 285, 305.

  McKnight, Mrs., 234.

  Meade, Gen., 184-5.

  Mendelssohn, 320.

  Menken, Adah Isaacs, 49.

  Meredith, G., 60, 225, 291.

  _Messenger Leaves_ (section of _L. of G._), 167-9.

  Meteors in 1860, 173.

  Methodist vote, Mr. Harlan and the, 213.

  Mexican War, W.'s attitude towards, 43.

  Mickle Street, house in, described, 305, 317-9, 320.

  Mill, J. S., W. and, 308.

  Miller, "Joaquin," 64, 270.

  Millet, J. F., W. and, 84, 279-80, 293.

  Milton, 58, 121.

  Millwell. See West Hills.

  Mississippi, W. descends the, 47;
    ascends, 53;
    W. and the, 54, 270-1, 273.

  Missouri Compromise, 26, 134;
    River, 54;
    State, 271.

  Modesty, W.'s, 329.

  Money, W.'s indifference to, 65, 87;
    need for, 193, 198;
    income, 218-9;
    difficulties, 257-9, 316-7;
    see also 285, 341.

  Montauk Point, 1.

  Montgomery, Ala., 175.

  Moralist _versus_ mystic, 152;
    W. as a, 237, 292.

  Morris, W., 293, 331;
    W. compared with, 296.

  Morse, Sidney, makes a bust of W., 265, 320;
    discussions with "Aunt Mary," 321;
    with W., 322-3.

  Mount Vernon, W. visits, 215.

  "Mugwumps," 314.

  Murray and Byron, Mr., 285.

  "Music always round me, That," 164-5.

  Music, Mrs. Gilchrist and Carpenter's attitude towards, 267;
    W. and, 85-6, 320.

  Myers, F. W., 224.

  Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn, W. at, 56.

  Mysticism and materialism, xxiii;
    various forms of, 70, 121;
    Whitman's, 69-78, 117-121, 149, 152-67, 254, 298-300;
    and nature, 261-2, 339-40;
    and oratory, 130-1;
    and Quakerism, 180;
    and sex, 226;
    and war, 180-1, 207-8;
    philosophy of, 166-7.

  Myths, reverence for, 104.
    See Great are the M.

  Name, the power of the, 158.

  Napoleon, 289.

  "Native Moments," 161.

  Natural history, W.'s ignorance of, 230, 260-2.

  Nature and soul-life, 340;
    W.'s love of, 260-2.

  Negroes, W. doubts if they are worth cost of war, 186-7;
    W. and negro citizenship, 187;
    O'Connor and W. disagree about, 191;
    W. and negro problem, 235-6.

  New Amsterdam. See New York.

  New England, W. visits, in 1868, 234.

  New Orleans of '48 described, 48-50;
    W. goes to, 44, 46-53, 349-50;
    reminiscences of, 329.

  _New World, The_ (N.Y.), W. and, 33-7.

  New York described, 11, 20-22, 80-86, 139-40;
    art collections of, 279;
    sympathy with South, 24, 178;
    attitude towards Lincoln, 175-6;
    during war, 185, 206;
    W. and, xxvi-viii, 41-2, 64, 111, 245, 266, 270, 280;
    W. criticises, 236;
    he leaves, 183.

  _New York Evening Post_, W. writes for, 42.

  _New York Herald, The_, 115, 316.

  _New York Saturday Press_, W. and the, 138-9.

  _New York Sun_, W. writes for, 37, 127.

  _New York Times_, 184, 209.

  _New York Tribune_, the, 39, 40, 87, 108, 259, 285;
    W.'s poems in, 46.

  Newspapers, W. and, 62-3.

  Niagara, W. at, 54, 274.

  Nibelungenlied, 58, 337.

  Nietzsche and Whitman, 213, 293, 296-8.

  Nonconformity, W.'s, 99.

  North, its interests antagonistic to the South, 24-5;
    becomes identified with Federalism, 26;
    not united, 176;
    idealism of, 177;
    and protection, _ib._

  _North American Review_, 108.

  _November Boughs_, 329-30, 339.

  "Now Finalé to the Shore," 243.

  Nurse, W.'s, 326.

  "Occupations, Song for," 101.

  O'Connor, W. D., W. visits and boards with, 190, 201, 215, 225;
    described, 190-1;
    and Harlan, 214;
    his _The Carpenter_, 227-9;
    W.'s quarrel with, 236, 248, 250, 258;
    and Messrs. Osgood, 285;
    dies, 326-7, 336.
    See also _Good Gray Poet_.

  O'Connor, Mrs., 234, 248.
    See also W. D. O'C.

  Officials, W.'s dislike of, 306.

  Old-age, W.'s view of, 330.

  "Old Jim Crow," W. fond of, 303.

  Omar Khayyam, 159, 318.

  "On the Beach at Night alone," 120.

  "Once I passed through a populous City," 51.

  Open-air, cure, W. tries, 260;
    W.'s love for, 199;
    W. writes in the, 101.
    See Nature.

  "Open Road, Song of the," 116, 119-20.

  Opera, W. at, 88, 178.

  Optimism, W.'s, 41-2, 91, 151, 200;
    false popular, 237-8.

  Oratory, W.'s love for, 33;
    his conception of, 129-31, 135, 143.
    See also Lectures.

  Oregon, dispute over boundary of, 43.

  Oriental writers, W.'s interest in, 115.

  Orsini, 136.

  Osgood & Co., 280, 285, 301.

  Ossian, 58, 289, 318.

  "Our old Feuillage," 150.

  "Out of the Cradle," 12, 158, 211, 281.

  "Outlines for a Tomb," 313.

  "Overmen," doctrine of, 297, 299.

  Owen, Robert, 308-9.

  Paine, Thomas, xxv, 5, 16, 25, 38.

  Painting, W.'s appreciation of, 84, 279-80.

  Paley, 62.

  _Pall Mall Gazette_ fund, 316.

  Pan, W. compared with, 112.

  Paralysis, W. begins to suffer from, 232.
    See Health.

  Parker, T., 143.

  Parodi, 85.

  Parties, W. outside political, 312.

  _Passage to India_ (booklet), 242-244;
    poem, 243-4, 249, 266, 287.

  Passion, W. and, 161-2, 206.

  Passionate element in W., 13, 68.

  Past, the, still present, 153, 256.

  Patent Office, Washington, used as hospital, 194;
    ball, 210.

  Paternity, redemption of, 127, 241.

  Patriotism, W.'s, aroused, 54-5.

  Paumànackers, 3.

  "Paumanok," nom-de-plume of W., 39.

  Peabody, George, 313.

  Peace, efforts towards, 185, 188;
    need for heroic idea of, 206-9.

  Penn, William, 5.

  Pension, proposed, 316.

  Personal note in _L. of G._, 158.

  Personality, Carpenter's account of W.'s, 268, 306;
    the source of power, 169;
    W.'s doctrine of, 239-40;
    W. retains sense of own, 74;
    W.'s, influence of, 30.

  Pessimism, Tolstoi's, 295-6;
    Morris and Ruskin's, 296.

  Pfaff's Restaurant, N.Y., 138-40.

  Philadelphia, W. in, 251, 331-5.
    See Camden.

  Phillips, Wendell, on Lincoln, 191.

  Philosophy, W.'s interest in, 60-62.

  Phrenological estimate of W.'s character, 67-8.

  Pierce, President, 80, 103, 135.

  "Pioneers! O Pioneers!" 205.

  Pittsburg, W. at, 271.

  Plato, 58, 121, 126, 239, 240, 282;
    and W., 224, 291-2.

  Plotinus, 121.

  Poe, E. A., 37, 59, 258, 320;
    W. meets, 42.

  Poet, W. describes his ideal, 95-7, 103, 117-8, 123-4;
    need of the poet for expression, 89-90;
    alone realises unity of all, 243;
    W. as a, 328-9.

  Poets, two orders of, 328-9.

  "Poets to Come," 154.

  Poetry, W.'s view of, 59-61, 109;
    W. reads by the sea, 60;
    changes in modern English, 289-290.

  Polk, President, 40, 43.

  Poor, a menace to Democracy, the very, 240, 310-1.

  Pope, A., W. compared with, 151, 289.

  Population of America, xxv, 176, 308.

  Portraits of W. in 36th year, 66-7;
    _L. of G._ portrait, 110;
    "gentle shepherd," 218;
    others, 140-1, 148, 230, 257, 331, 338.
    See list of illustrations.

  Pose, W.'s, 338.

  Potter, Dr. J., on W., 229-30.

  Prairies, W. and the, 271.

  Praise, W.'s love of, 303, 335.

  Prayer, W. and, 76.

  "Prayer of Columbus," 253;
    described, 254-5.

  Pre-existence, W.'s doctrine of, 101.

  _Preface_ of 1855 used for poems, 116;
    omitted, 129;
    in selections, 223.

  _Preface_ to 1871 ed., 243.

  _Preface_ to 2nd Annex, 339.

  Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, 97.

  Price, Mrs. Abby, 139, 219-20.

  Price, Miss, qu., 219-20.

  Pride, W.'s, 156, 317.

  Printer, W. as a, 19-20, 56.

  Prisons of the South, 187;
    W. visits prisons, 111-2.

  Property, W. and private, 240;
    rights of, 311.

  Prosecution of W. proposed in 1856, 127;
    in 1882, 284-5.

  "Prostitute, To a Common," 168.

  Proudhon, 309.

  Publisher, W. as his own, 219, 258, 259, 285, 305.

  Punishment, method of, 30.

  "Pupil, To a," 169.

  Puritanism, W. free from, 19.

  _Putnam's Monthly_, 108.

  Quaker traits in W., 112;
    W.'s story of a, 334-5.

  Quakeresses in hospitals, 195.

  Quakers, 121;
    on L. I., 4-5;
    a crisis among American, 14, 15;
    attitude to war, W. and the, 206;
    doctrine of Inner Light, 16, 17;
    doctrine of revelation, 55;
    essential character of their faith, 18;
    W.'s relation to, 75-6, 180, 206, 298-9, 301-2;
    Williams family and the, 347-8.

  Quebec, W. at, 276.

  _Radical, The_ (Boston), publishes Mrs. Gilchrist's letters, 225.

  "Rain, The voice of the," 330.

  Ramsay, A., 290.

  Rand and Avery, 283.

  Realisation, W.'s power of, 99.

  Reality, evil necessary to, 212.

  Recitations, W.'s in hospitals, 197.

  Redpath, James, 198.

  "Redwood Tree, Song of the," 253;
    described, 255-6.

  Refinement, W. disclaims, 113.

  _Reformer, The_, 349.

  Rejected passages, 286.

  Religion, W.'s, 18-19, 70-8, 149, 241-4, 254, 299;
    and poetry, 61;
    new, 339;
    importance of, for America, 238, 241.
    See Mysticism.

  Religious emotion in _L. of G._, 105-6.

  Renaissance in America, xxiv.

  "Renfrew, Baron," 173.

  Republic, W.'s idea of, 292.
    See America.

  Republican becomes Democratic party, 13;
    new party formed, 132, 134;
    and the South, 189, 235;
    and corruption, 314.

  Respectable, W. seems to be growing, 216, 218.

  "Respondez," 124.

  "Return of the Heroes, The," 209.

  Reviews himself, W., 109, 323-4.

  Revolt, W.'s, against bondage, 296-7.

  Rhythm, changes in rhythm of poetry, 290-1;
    various emotional values of, 291;
    W.'s feeling for sea, 60;
    free, Emerson studies, 93;
    W.'s view of, 96-8.

  Rich, W. in danger of becoming, 57.

  "Rich Givers, To," 169.

  Richmond, the Confederate capital, 182;
    surrenders, 188.

  "Rise, O Days, from your fathomless Deeps," 206.

  Robespierre, 289.

  Rock Creek, W. at, 201.

  Rocky Mountains, W. in the, 272-3.

  Rodin, A., 130.

  Rolleston, T. W., his _Epictetus_, 318.

  "Rolling Earth, Song of the," 117-9.

  Romance of America, the, xix-xxiii.

  Rome, Andrew, printer, 88.

  Romney, 264.

  Roosa, D. B. St. J., qu., 137-8.

  "Roots and leaves themselves alone," 165.

  Rossetti, W. M., 97, 171, 259, 263-4;
    his selections from _L. of G._, 221-3, 227, 245;
    criticism of _L. of G._, 222;
    relations with W., 223, 259;
    and Mrs. Gilchrist's letters, 225.

  Rossetti, D. G., 222, 223, 263-4, 328.

  Rossi, 284.

  "Roughs," W. "one of the," 114.

  "Rounded Catalogue, The," 340.

  Rousseau, J. J., 23, 58, 97, 108, 263, 289, 292.

  Royce, Josiah, his _World and the Individual_, 166.

  Rumford, Count (Colonel Thompson), 2.

  Ruskin, J., 62, 171, 263, 296.

  Rynders, Isaiah, 82.

  Saadi, 318.

  Saint, W. no, 76, 337.

  St. Lawrence River, W.'s view of the, 276.

  St. Louis, W. visits, 53, 271, 273, 286.

  St. Simon, 309.

  Saguenay, W. on the, 276.

  "Salut au Monde," 116, 158.

  Sanborn, F. B., W. visits, 281-2.

  San Francisco, 63.

  Sand, George, 293, 318.

  Sanity, W.'s, 297.

  Santayana, George, his criticism of W., 329 _n._

  Satan, 212, 298, 297, 321.

  "Scented herbage of my breast," 167.

  Science, W. and, 60-2, 96, 242;
    Mrs. Gilchrist and Carpenter's attitude toward, 267.

  Scott, Sir Walter, 57, 91, 318, 320;
    W. reads, 19.

  Scott, W. Bell, 171, 223.

  Sea, W. and the, 9, 31, 58, 60, 154-5.

  Secession, South Carolina proposes, 24;
    proclaims, 175;
    not desired by America, 176;
    soldiers, W. nurses, 199;
    talk in New England, 27.

  Self, the, 74, 166;
    and the Other, 61;
    the electric, 154.

  Self-assertion, W.'s doctrine of, 76, 297.

  Self-consciousness of W., 128.

  Self-realisation, gospel of, 148, 253.

  Self-revelation of W., 264.

  Semele, 275.

  Seward, W. H., 79, 172, 175.

  Sex, W. and, 144-7, 159-62, 167;
    W.'s expanded conception of, 226;
    Thoreau puzzled by W.'s view, 115;
    W.'s experience of, 71;
    and religion, 70-1;
    basic in life, 126-7.

  Shakespeare, xxi, 57, 318.

  Shelley, P. B., W. indifferent to, 59;
    compared with, 107-8;
    also 91, 97, 290, 295.

  Sherman, Gen., 187;
    his march to the sea, 188.

  Ships, W.'s love of, 60, 335-6, 343-4;
    Yankee clipper, 64.

  Sin, W.'s attitude toward, 18, 124-5, 151, 156, 161, 255.

  Skin, rich texture of W.'s, 316.

  Slavery, 79-81, 135-7;
    divides North from South, 25;
    W. and, 103;
    and Democratic party, 82, see Abolitionism, etc.;
    S. party and election of 1860, 173-4;
    and the war, 177;
    in N.Y., 310-1.

  Slave-trade, 140.

  Sleep, W. on, 102.

  "Sleepers, The," 102, 274.

  Sleepy Hollow, 301.

  Smith, Adam, 308.

  Smith, Mary Whitall. See Mrs. Berenson.

  Smith, R. Pearsall, 297;
    relations with W., 301-4;
    leaves Philadelphia, 325.

  Smoking, 32.
    See Tobacco.

  Social functions, W.'s interest in, 40.

  Social problem in N.Y., 139-40.

  Socialism, W. and, 239, 312.

  Socialist, ideal, the, 308-9, 312;
    party in America, 311;
    Socialists, early, 308.

  Solidarity, of the nation, felt in war-time, 207;
    of the peoples, 205-6;
    W.'s feeling for, 239-40, 242-3, 306-7, 337, 343.

  Solitude, W.'s, 233, 331, 342;
    compared with Thoreau and Emerson's, 113-4.

  "So Long," 169.

  "Sometimes with one I love," 164.

  "Song of Myself," 122, 243, 286;
    analysed, 98-101;
    qu., 72 _n._;
    called "Walt Whitman," 150.

  Sophocles, 57.

  Soul, the flesh and the, in modern religion, 61;
    and Science, 96, 242;
    in Nature, 102, 340;
    W.'s view of the, 98, 120, 149.

  South, its interests antagonistic to those of the North and West,
    similarity of interest with N.Y., 25;
    policy, 26, 43;
    and the war, 82-3, 176-7, 187, 235;
    slavery and the, 25, 80-1;
    pride of the, 187, 324;
    Lincoln and, 189;
    and the Union, 180, 314;
    W. and the, 46-55, 180, 235, 237, 349-50.

  South Carolina, and Federal tariff, 24, 27.

  Southey, R., 327.

  "Sovereign States," doctrine of, 26.

  _Specimen Days_, 262, 266.

  _Specimen Days and Collect_, 286.

  Spectacles, W. begins to wear, 245.

  Speech, W.'s manner of, 98;
    W.'s style and, 291.

  Spencer, Herbert, 62, 263.

  Spirits, W. and, 149.

  Spiritualistic woman and W., 234.

  "Spontaneous Me," 127.

  Spooner, Alden J., 20, 22, 30-1.

  _Springfield (Mass.) Republican_, 259.

  Square Deific. See "Chanting the S. D."

  "Squatter Sovereignty," 44, 79, 80, 134.

  Stafford family, 260;
    George, 260-2, 266, 280, 343.

  Stage-driver, W. as a, 137;
    stage-drivers of N.Y., 138.
    See Broadway.

  Stanton, Mrs. E. C., 126.

  Stars and Stripes, the, xx, 335.

  "Starting from Paumanok," 148.

  Staten Island, N.Y., 140.

  _Statesman, The_, W. edits, 37.

  Stay-at-home, W. a, 64.

  Steam-transit and Federal sentiment, 27.

  Stedman, E. C., 191, 317-8.

  Stockton, Commodore, 63.

  "Stranger, To a," 165.

  Strength, W.'s great physical, 68.

  Stubborn quality in W., 251.

  Style of _L. of G._, 84, 92, 104-5, 150-1, 244, 289-91.
    See under _L. of G._

  Subjective character of W.'s genius, 105.

  Suggestiveness of _L. of G._, 269.

  Sumter, Fort, 178.

  "Sunset Breeze, To the," 339, 340.

  "Sunset, Song at," 152.

  Sunstroke, an early, 200-1;
    another, 314.

  Superhuman quality in W., 228;
    noted by M. Conway, 111;
    by Thoreau, 115.

  Swayne, bookseller, 87.

  Swinburne, A. C., 60, 223-5, 245, 327-9.

  Swinton, John, 138.

  Symbolism, W.'s, 117-8, 120;
    example of the broad-axe, 122.
    See Mysticism.

  Symonds, J. A., W.'s letter to, 51, 349-50;
    and _L. of G._, 172, 224-5;
    account of, 223-4, 245, 267, 291, 336, 343.

  Sympathy, W.'s yearning for, 267.

  Tammany Hall, 38, 82, 178.

  Taney, R. B., 135.

  Tariffs, 24.
    See Free-trade.

  _Tattler_, W. edits, 37.

  Taylor, Father, as described by W., 142-3;
    death, 283.

  Taylor, President, 45, 50.

  Teacher, W. as a, 28-33, 233;
    method of punishment, 30.

  Teetotalism, W.'s support of, 33, 35-7.
    See Temperance.

  Temperance, W.'s, 122, 159-60, 315.

  Tennyson, A., Lord, 35, 92, 109, 223, 245, 283, 290, 318, 336;
    W. enjoys, 59;
    W. reads aloud, 275;
    regards W. as "a great big something," 115;
    and W., 339.

  Texas admitted to Union, 43.

  Thayer & Eldridge, publishers, 141-2, 171, 190.

  Theatres of N.Y., W. goes to, 85-6, 19, 41, 270, 284.

  Theory, W. no adept in, 75.

  "There was a child went forth," 103.

  "These I singing in spring," 163.

  "Think of the soul," 125.

  Thoreau, H. D., 129, 171, 282-3, 301, 303, 335;
    visits W., 112-6;
    and J. Brown, 136,159;
    W. solitary as, 233.

  "Thou Mother with thy equal brood," 245.

  Timber Creek, W. visits, 259-61, 268, 281;
    descriptions of, 260-1;
    W. to have a cottage at, 317.

  Tippecanoe, fight at, 38.

  Tobacco, W. distributes in hospitals, 197.

  Tolstoi, L., 293;
    W. compared with, 295-6.

  Tomb, W.'s, 341.

  "To one shortly to die," 168.

  "To soar in Freedom," 328.

  "To think of Time," 102.

  _Towards Democracy_, E. Carpenter's, 267, 305.

  Toynbee Hall, W. and, 313.

  Trade-Unionism, W. and, 312.

  Tragedy, W.'s predilection for, in earlier writings, 34-5.

  Tramp, W. envies the, 326.

  Traubel, Horace, relations with W., 325, 326, 329, 331, 332, 342,
      343, 344;
    quoted, 349-50;
    sec. of W. Fellowship, 300 _n._

  Treasury Building, W. at, 190, 215, 233, 247.

  _Tribune, New York._ See _N. Y. T._

  "Trickle Drops," 165.

  Tri-Insula, a republic, 178.

  Trowbridge, J. T., 142.

  Tuft's College, Mass., 255.

  Tupper, M. F., W. compared with, 327.

  "Twain, Mark," 317.

  "Two Rivulets" described, 266.

  Tyler, President, 38.

  Ulysses' return, 276.

  _Uncle Tom's Cabin_, 81, 187.

  Unitarianism, W.'s relation to, 76.

  Union, W. and the idea of the American, 55.

  Unity, W.'s doctrine of the universal, 120;
    of _L. of G._, 221.

  "Universal, Song of the," 253;
    described, 255.

  Untidiness, W.'s, 318.

  Van Buren, 44;
    W. supports, 33, 38.

  Van Velsor, Major C., 4, 10;
    family, 347.

  -- Louisa. See L. Whitman.

  -- Naomi. See Williams.

  Verdi, 320.

  Verse, W. writes, 47.

  Vice, Society for the Suppression of, 284, 285.

  Victoria, Queen, W. and, 339.

  Vicksburg taken by Grant, 185.

  Virgil, 318.

  Virginia, xx, 26, 188.

  "Vocalism," 157.

  Voice, W.'s, described, 98;
    W. and the, 154, 157.

  Vow, Whitman's (1861), 181, 204, 216.

  Wagner, R., 293, 320.

  Wales, Prince of, and W., 173.

  Walks at Washington, W.'s, 215, 233.

  Wallace, A. R., 62.

  Wallace, J. W., visits W., 338.

  "Walt," W. calls himself, 141.

  Walt Whitman Club, 325;
    fellowship, 300 _n._

  War, W.'s attitude towards, 43, 202-3, 205-9;
    and "a divine war," 206;
    his mysticism of, 207-8;
    must be followed by nobler peace, 208-9.

  War of 1812, 10.

  War of 1861-65, 182-203;
    causes of, 82, 208;
    inevitableness, 177;
    not for abolition, 187;
    W. and the, xxvi, 178-209;
    ready to share in, 202.

  Washington, President, xxv, 5, 10, 38, 289;
    W. compares himself with, 131.

  Washington, condition of, during war, 194-8, 216.

  Washington, W. in, xxvii, 184-248, 301, 306;
    its influence on W., 150, 245;
    W. visits hospitals, see H.;
    W.'s manner of life in, 190, 193, 215;
    W. fond of, 201-2;
    why he remains, 218-9;
    walks at, 233;
    W. and negro problem in, 235;
    hopes to return, 252;
    discharged from post, 257;
    visit to, 258.

  Wealth of America becoming concentrated, 310.

  Webster, Daniel, 42, 79.

  Wesley, J., 290.

  West, the, its interests, 24;
    its settlement threatens the South, 26;
    problem of, 79;
    W. and the, xxvii;
    first sees, 54;
    contemplates settlement in, 183;
    journey, 271-4.

  West Hills, the Whitman homestead, 5, 103, 260, 320;
    described, 7-9;
    holidays at, 12;
    W. visits, 280.

  "What am I after all," 158.

  Whigs, the American, 23, 24, 44.

  Whitehorse, the hamlet of, W. stays at, 259-60.
    See Timber Creek.

  Whitman, Abijah, 5.

  -- Andrew, 13, 86, 193, 256.

  -- Edward, 86, 256, 341.

  -- George, 13, 86, 182, 185, 246, 248, 250, 256, 257, 266, 342;
    view of _L. of G._, 88;
    volunteers, 178-9;
    wounded, 183;
    anxiety about, 203;
    a prisoner, 209-10;
    in Brooklyn, 218;
    in Camden, 246;
    W. leaves his house, 305.

  Whitman, Hannah. See Heyde.

  -- Iredwell, 280.

  -- Jefferson, 13, 50, 53, 86, 88, 185, 193, 251, 256, 273;
    goes to St. Louis, 218;
    W. visits there, 265-5;
    death of, 342.

  -- Jesse (W.'s grandfather), xxv, 5, 6, 8.

  -- Jesse (W.'s brother), 11, 65, 86, 256.

  -- Jessie, 342.

  -- Joseph, 5.

  -- Lieutenant, 5.

  -- Louisa (van Velsor), 4, 65, 103, 112;
    described, 6-7;
    and W., 12-3;
    illness, 19-20;
    and _L. of G._, 88;
    letters of W. to, 202, 233, 247, etc.;
    age and failing health, 210;
    a link with W.'s youth, 233;
    goes to Camden, 246;
    death, 248;
    effect on W., 249, 250, 252, 258;
    her tomb, 341.

  -- Louisa (Mrs. George W.), 250, 269.

  -- Mahala, 280.

  -- Martha, 248.

  -- Mary, 11, 86.

  -- Walt, Dutch element in, 3;
    born, 6;
    at West Hills, 7-9;
    at Brooklyn, 10-3;
    hears Hicks, 15-8;
    amusements and education, 19;
    as a lad, 19-20;
    sees Booth, 22;
    and politics, 22, 33;
    at seventeen, 28;
    as a teacher, 28-33;
    games, 30;
    his idleness, 20, 30-1;
    and _Long Islander_, 31-2;
    wholesomeness, 32;
    a journalist, 33-7;
    _Franklin Evans_, 35;
    an editor, 37;
    political views, 39, 40, 44;
    love of society, 40;
    and of New York, 20, 41-2;
    the _Eagle_, 42-4;
    public work, 43;
    goes to New Orleans, 46, 49-53;
    returns _via_ St. Louis, 54;
    his idea of America, 55;
    becomes a carpenter, 56;
    his reading, 57-61;
    attitude to American writers, 59-60;
    and to science, etc., 60-2;
    passion for America, 63;
    inner development, 65, 69-78;
    W. at 35, 66-8, 83;
    in N.Y., 82-6;
    hears Alboni, 86;
    indifference to money, 87;
    begins _L. of G._, 87;
    publishes it, 88;
    daily habits, 65, 88;
    holidays, 86, 89;
    power of joy, 91;
    compared with Emerson, 94;
    view of the poet, 95-7;
    describes his childhood, 103-4;
    religious quality of W., 105-6;
    relation to Emerson, Rousseau, Shelley, 106-8;
    reviews _L. of G._, 109;
    visit from Conway, 110-2;
    appearance in '55, 111;
    visit from Alcott and Thoreau, 112-5;
    love of city-life, 114;
    publishes second edition _L. of G._, 116;
    symbolism of W., 117-22;
    W. as the American poet, 123;
    W. and evil, 124-5;
    and women, 126-7;
    in danger of prosecution, 127;
    publishes Emerson's letter, 127-8;
    his letter to E., 128;
    idea of lecturing, 129-31;
    and of political life, 131-2;
    need for comrades, 132-3;
    becomes a Republican, 134;
    W. and J. Brown, 136;
    W.'s N.Y. friends, 137;
    in N.Y., 138-40;
    appearance in 1860, 140;
    rarely laughs, 142;
    at Boston, 142-3;
    with Emerson, 143-7;
    his optimism, 151;
    humility, 154;
    mystic experience, 155;
    pride, 156;
    evil qualities, 156;
    attitude toward sex, 159-62;
    his temperance, 160;
    as Adam, 162;
    on comradeship, 163;
    W. and Jesus, 167-8;
    and death, 169;
    W. in N.Y., 172;
    and P. of Wales, 173;
    sees Lincoln, 175-6;
    W. and the outbreak of war, 178-81;
    goes to front, 183-4;
    home-troubles, 185-6, 193;
    life in Washington, 190, 193, 201;
    friends there, 190-2;
    appearance, 192;
    occupation, 192-3;
    health, 193;
    thinks of lecturing, 193-4;
    in hospitals, 194-200;
    meets Lincoln, 201;
    first illness, 202, 203-4;
    willing to share in war, 203;
    in Brooklyn, 203-5, 209;
    prepares _Drum-taps_, 205;
    attitude to war, 205-9;
    seeks release of George W., 209-10;
    clerk in Indian Bureau, 210
    W. and Lincoln's death, 211-2;
    Harlan incident, 213-4;
    as a clerk, 216;
    gentler, 217;
    decreasing vitality, 218;
    visits Mrs. Price, 219-20;
    relations with W. M. Rossetti, 223;
    with Symonds, 223-5;
    Mrs. Gilchrist's letters, 225;
    W. and sex, 226;
    legendary element in story of W., 227;
    outcome of his personality, 228-9;
    W. and P. Doyle, 231-3;
    W.'s solitude, 233;
    W. and women, 234;
    supports Grant, 235;
    quarrel with O'Connor, 236;
    his _Democratic Vistas_, 236-42;
    publishes fifth edition of _L. of G._, 242;
    W. a careful writer, 244;
    public recitation of poems, 245;
    illness, 247-57;
    goes to Camden, 248;
    effect of mother's death, 249;
    loneliness in Camden, 250;
    poems at this juncture, 253-5;
    his residence, 256;
    discharged from post, 257;
    poverty and help from England, 258-9;
    visits Timber Creek, 260-2;
    Mrs. Gilchrist comes to Phila., 263-5;
    W. sits for bust, 265;
    Carpenter's visit and account of W., 267-9;
    Dr. Bucke's do., 270;
    W.'s journey West, 271-4;
    and to Canada, 274-7;
    goes to Boston, 278-82;
    sees Emerson, 282;
    _L. of G._ troubles, 284-6;
    W. and other prophetic writers, 289-300;
    puts himself into his rhythm, 291;
    universality of W., 295;
    and vital power, 298;
    his friendship with Pearsall Smith, 301-4;
    W. takes the Mickle St. house, 305;
    second visit of Carpenter, 305-7;
    W. and labour problems, 306-13;
    was he a Socialist? 311-2;
    W. a "mugwump," 314;
    his household, 317-9;
    visitors, 319-24;
    his politico-social views, 323-4;
    serious illness, 326;
    more querulous, 327;
    Swinburne's attack, 327;
    increased need for silence, 331;
    birthday dinners, 331-2;
    Ingersoll's lecture, 333-5;
    W. and _L. of G._, 335-6;
    his views of health, 338-40;
    his tomb, 341;
    last illness, 341-4;
    last letter, 342;
    death, 344;
    funeral, 344-6;
    note on visit to New Orleans, etc., 349-50.

  Whitman, his characteristics, described by phrenologist, 67-8.
    See also 303-4, 334, and under Anger, Coolness, Elemental quality,
      Evil in, Humility, Humour, Mysticism, Pride, Sanity, Wonder, etc.

  -- Walter (father of W.), 56, 103;
    described, 6, 13-4;
    moves to Brooklyn, 10;
    relations with W., 12, 65;
    death, 86, 88;
    tomb, 341.

  -- Zechariah, 5.

  Whitman, burying ground, West Hills, 9;
    family, and Hicks, 14;
    and _L. of G._, 88;
    homestead at West Hills, 2.
    See W. H.

  Whitmanites, 218.

  Whitman's America, Introd.;
    W. owes much to A., xxv;
    its development, xxvi;
    extent of W.'s journeys, xxvii;
    W. a metropolitan American, and a type of America, xxvii-viii.

  "Whitman's hollow," 5.

  Whittier, J. G., 59, 336.

  "Whoever you are holding me now in hand," 163.

  Whole, the idea of the, W.'s love for, 60-1.

  "Who learns my lesson complete?" 104.

  Wholesomeness, W.'s, 32.

  Wickedness, W.'s attitude to, 104.

  Williams, family of, 31, 347-8.

  -- Naomi, 4, 347-8.

  -- Roger, 4.

  Wilmot proviso, the, 43, 44.

  Wisconsin, State of, W. in, 54.

  Wisdom found in fellowship, 164.

  "Woman waits for Me, A," 126.

  Woman, W. and, 102, 125-7, 148, 225-6, 240, 274.

  Women, W.'s relations with, 51-3, 71, 139, 160, 234, 263, 303, 323,

  Women of America, 122;
    of Boston, 279.

  Women's suffrage, 240;
    W. and, 125-6.

  Wonder, W.'s capacity for, 78.

  Wood, Fernando, 82, 178, 185.

  Wood, Silas, 7.

  Woodfall and Junius, 285.

  "Word out of the Sea, A." See "Out of the Cradle".

  Words, W.'s idea of, 96, 117-9;
    W. invents, 212.

  Wordsworth, W., 91, 97, 290;
    W. and, 59.

  Work, W.'s power of, 32.

  Working-man, American, W. and the, 312, 322.

  Worship, W. feels this is for solitude, 142.

  Worthington, Mr., 285-6.

  Yankee, W. dislikes the, 103.

  "Years of the Modern," 205-6.

  Yeomen as citizens, 306, 308.

  Young people, W. and, 275, 303.

  Youth, America the land of, xx-xxii.









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  =Barker (Aldred. F.).= See Textbooks of Technology.

  =Barnes (W. E.)=, D.D. See Churchman's Bible.

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  =Batson (Mrs. Stephen).= A BOOK OF THE COUNTRY AND THE GARDEN.
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  =Bona (Cardinal).= See Library of Devotion.

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  =Bulley (Miss).= See Social Questions Series.

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    numerous Illustrations. _Crown 8vo. 3s._

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  =Burke (Edmund).= See Methuen's Standard Library.

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  =Burton (Alfred).= See Illustrated Pocket Library.

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  =Butler (Joseph).= See Methuen's Standard Library.

  =Caldecott (Alfred)=, D.D. See Handbooks of Theology.

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  =Canning (George).= See Little Library.

  =Capey (E. F. H.).= See Oxford Biographies.

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  =Cicero.= See Classical Translations.

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  =Combe (William).= See Illustrated Pocket Library.

  =Cook (A. M.)=, M.A. See E. C. Marchant.

  =Cooke-Taylor (R. W.).= See Social Questions Series.

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  =Cowley (Abraham).= See Little Library.

  *=Cowper (William)=, THE POEMS OF. Edited with an Introduction and
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  =Cox (Harold)=, B.A. See Social Questions Series.

  =Crabbe (George).= See Little Library.

  =Craigie (W. A.).= A PRIMER OF BURNS. _Crown 8vo. 2s. 6d._

  =Craik (Mrs.).= See Little Library.

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  =Crump (B.).= See A. L. Cleather.

  =Cunliffe (F. H. E.)=, Fellow of All Souls' College, Oxford. THE
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  =Cutts (E. L.)=, D.D. See Leaders of Religion.

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  =Danson (Mary C.)= and =Crawford (F. G.).= FATHERS IN THE FAITH.
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  =Dante.= LA COMMEDIA DI DANTE. The Italian Text edited by PAGET
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  =Darley (George).= See Little Library.

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  =Davenport (Cyril).= See Connoisseur's Library and Little Books on

  *=Davis (H. W. C.)=, M.A., Fellow and Tutor of Balliol College,
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  =Deane (A. C.).= See Little Library.

  =Delbos (Leon).= THE METRIC SYSTEM. _Crown 8vo. 2s._

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  =Dickinson (Emily).= POEMS. First Series. _Crown 8vo. 4s. 6d. net._

  =Dickinson (G. L.)=, M.A., Fellow of King's College, Cambridge. THE
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  =Dilke (Lady).= See Social Questions Series.

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  =Dryhurst (A. R.).= See Little Books on Art.

  =Duguid (Charles).= See Books on Business.

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  =Earle (John)=, Bishop of Salisbury. MICROCOSMOGRAPHIE, OR A PIECE OF

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  =Edwards (Clement).= See Social Questions Series.

  =Edwards (W. Douglas)=. See Commercial Series.

  =Egan (Pierce).= See Illustrated Pocket Library.

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  =Ellaby (C. G.).= See The Little Guides.

  =Ellerton (F. G.).= See S. J. Stone.

  =Ellwood (Thomas)=, THE HISTORY OF THE LIFE OF. Edited by C. G.
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  =Engel (E.).= A HISTORY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE: From its Beginning to
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  =Ferrier (Susan).= See Little Library.

  =Fidler (T. Claxton)=, M.Inst. C.E. See Books on Business.

  =Fielding (Henry).= See Methuen's Standard Library.

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  =Fulford (H. W.)=, M.A. See Churchman's Bible.

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  =Gallichan (W. M.).= See The Little Guides.

  =Gambado (Geoffrey, Esq.).= See Illustrated Pocket Library.

  =Gaskell (Mrs.).= See Little Library.

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  MEMOIRS OF MY LIFE AND WRITINGS. Edited, with an Introduction and
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    See also Methuen's Standard Library.

  =Gibson (E. C. S.)=, D.D., Lord Bishop of Gloucester. See Westminster
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  =Gilbert (A. R.).= See Little Books on Art.

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  =Godley (A. D.)=, M.A., Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford. LYRA
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  =Goodrich-Freer (A.).= IN A SYRIAN SADDLE. _Demy 8vo. 7s. 6d. net._

  =Goudge (H. L.)=, M.A., Principal of Wells Theological College. See
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  =Graham (P. Anderson).= See Social Questions Series.

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Little Library, The

With Introductions, Notes, and Photogravure Frontispieces.

_Small Pott 8vo. Each Volume, cloth, 1s. 6d. net; leather, 2s. 6d. net._

A series of small books under the above title, containing some of
the famous works in English and other literatures, in the domains of
fiction, poetry, and belles lettres. The series also contains volumes
of Selections in prose and verse.

The books are edited with the most sympathetic and scholarly care. Each
one contains an introduction which gives (1) a short biography of the
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Each volume has a photogravure frontispiece, and the books are produced
with great care.


  =Austen (Jane).= PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Edited by E. V. LUCAS. _Two


  =Bacon (Francis).= THE ESSAYS OF LORD BACON. Edited by EDWARD WRIGHT.

  =Barham. (R. H.).= THE INGOLDSBY LEGENDS. Edited by J. B. ATLAY. _Two


  =Beckford (William).= THE HISTORY OF THE CALIPH VATHEK. Edited by E.

  =Blake (William).= SELECTIONS FROM WILLIAM BLAKE. Edited by M.

  =Borrow (George).= LAVENGRO. Edited by F. HINDES GROOME. _Two



    CANNING'S additional Poems. Edited by LLOYD SANDERS.

  =Cowley (Abraham).= THE ESSAYS OF ABRAHAM COWLEY. Edited by H. C.

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  =Dante (Alighieri).= THE INFERNO OF DANTE. Translated by H. F. CARY.
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  THE PURGATORIO OF DANTE. Translated by H. F. CARY. Edited by PAGET
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  THE PARADISO OF DANTE. Translated by H. F. CARY. Edited by PAGET
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  =Ferrier (Susan).= MARRIAGE. Edited by A. GOODRICH-FREER and LORD
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  THE INHERITANCE. _Two Volumes._

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  =Keats (John).= POEMS. With an Introduction by L. BINYON, and Notes
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  =Kinglake (A. W.).= EOTHEN. With an Introduction and Notes.

  =Lamb (Charles).= ELIA, AND THE LAST ESSAYS OF ELIA. Edited by E. V.

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  =Sterne (Laurence).= A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY. Edited by H. W. PAUL.

    Edited by J. CHURTON COLLINS, M.A.




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EDITED BY SIDNEY LEE. _In Sixpenny Volumes._

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    VOL. I.--Sense and Sensibility.


    Vol. I.--Essays and Counsels and the New Atlantis.



  THE WORKS OF BEN JONSON. In about 12 volumes.

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    Vol. I.--Reflections on the French Revolution.


    Vol. I.--Tom Jones. (Treble Volume.)


    *Vol. I.--Miscellaneous Poems.

  *THE LIFE OF NELSON. By Robert Southey.


      Gibbon. In 7 volumes.

    The Notes have been revised by J. B. Bury, Litt.D.


    *Vol. I.--Tamburlane the Great; The Tragical History of Doctor



    *Vol. I.--Alastor; The Daemon of the World; The Revolt of Islam,

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  *THE LITTLE FLOWERS OF ST. FRANCIS. Translated by W. Heywood.


    *Vol. I.--Religio Medici and Urn Burial.


    *Vol. I.--Paradise Lost.

    *Vol. II.--Miscellaneous Poems and Paradise Regained.


    *Vol. I.--Utopia and Poems.



    Vol. I.--The Duke of Milan; The Bondman; The Roman Actor.

  *THE POEMS OF JOHN KEATS. In 2 volumes.

  *THE REPUBLIC OF PLATO. Translated by Taylor and Sydenham.

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  HOLY MATRIMONY. _Second Edition. Crown 8vo. 6s._

  MADE OF MONEY. _Crown 8vo. 6s._

  THE BRIDGE OF LIFE. _Crown 8vo. 6s._

  *THE IMPROBABLE IDYLL. _Crown 8vo. 6s._

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  =Hichens (Robert).= THE PROPHET OF BERKELEY SQUARE. _Second Edition.
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  TONGUES OF CONSCIENCE. _Second Edition. Crown 8vo. 6s._

  FELIX. _Fourth Edition. Crown 8vo. 6s._

  THE WOMAN WITH THE FAN. _Sixth Edition. Crown 8vo. 6s._

  BYEWAYS. _Crown 8vo. 3s. 6d._

  THE GARDEN OF ALLAH. _Eleventh Edition. Crown 8vo. 6s._

  THE BLACK SPANIEL. _Crown 8vo. 6s._

  =Hobbes (John Oliver)=, Author of 'Robert Orange.' THE SERIOUS
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  =Hope (Anthony).= THE GOD IN THE CAR. _Tenth Edition. Crown 8vo. 6s._

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  A CHANGE OF AIR. _Sixth Edition. Crown 8vo. 6s._

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  SIMON DALE. Illustrated. _Sixth Edition. Crown 8vo. 6s._

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  =James (Henry).= THE SOFT SIDE. _Second Edition. Crown 8vo. 6s._

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    BUTTERFLY. _Crown 8vo. 3s. 6d._

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  =Lyall (Edna).= DERRICK VAUGHAN, NOVELIST. _42nd Thousand. Cr. 8vo.
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  =Mann (Mrs. M. E.).= OLIVIA'S SUMMER. _Second Edition. Crown 8vo. 6s._

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  =Marriott (Charles)=, Author of 'The Column.' GENEVRA. _Second
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  A DUEL. _Crown 8vo. 6s._

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  CUNNING MURRELL. _Crown 8vo. 6s._

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  I CROWN THEE KING. With Illustrations by Frank Dadd and A.
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  =Sergeant (Adeline).= ANTHEA'S WAY. _Crown 8vo. 6s._

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  =Shannon (W. F.).= THE MESS DECK. _Crown 8vo. 3s. 6d._

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  =Sonnichsen (Albert).= DEEP SEA VAGABONDS. _Crown 8vo. 6s._

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  =Urquhart (M.).= A TRAGEDY IN COMMONPLACE. _Second Ed. Crown 8vo. 6s._

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  =Wells (H. G.).= THE SEA LADY. _Crown 8vo. 6s._

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    A Romance of the Free Trail. _Second Edition. Crown 8vo. 6s._

  =White (Percy).= THE SYSTEM. _Third Edition. Crown 8vo. 6s._

  THE PATIENT MAN. _Crown 8vo. 6s._

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  =Williamson (C. N. and A. M.).= THE LIGHTNING CONDUCTOR: Being the
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  MY FRIEND THE CHAUFFEUR. With 16 Illustrations. _Second Ed. Crown
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  *=Wyllarde (Dolf)=, Author of 'Uriah the Hittite.' THE FORERUNNERS.
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Methuen's Strand Library

_Crown 8vo. Cloth, 1s. net._

Encouraged by the great and steady sale of their Sixpenny Novels,
Messrs. Methuen have determined to issue a new series of fiction at a
low price under the title of 'METHUEN'S STRAND LIBRARY.' These books
are well printed and well bound in _cloth_, and the excellence of their
quality may be gauged from the names of those authors who contribute
the early volumes of the series.

Messrs. Methuen would point out that the books are as good and as long
as a six shilling novel, that they are bound in cloth and not in paper,
and that their price is One Shilling _net_. They feel sure that the
public will appreciate such good and cheap literature, and the books
can be seen at all good booksellers.

The first volumes are--

  =Balfour (Andrew).= VENGEANCE IS MINE.





  =Barlow (Jane).= Author of 'Irish Idylls.' FROM THE EAST UNTO THE



  =Barr (Robert).= THE VICTORS.

  =Bartram (George).= THIRTEEN EVENINGS.

  =Benson (E. F.)=, Author of 'Dodo.' THE CAPSINA.

  =Besant (Sir Walter).= A FIVE-YEARS' TRYST.

  =Bowles (G. Stewart).= A STRETCH OFF THE LAND.

  =Brooke (Emma).= THE POET'S CHILD.

  =Bullock (Shan F.).= THE BARRYS.




  =Burton (J. Bloundelle)=. ACROSS THE SALT SEAS.



  =Chesney (Weatherby).= THE BAPTIST RING.




  =Clifford (Mrs. W. K.).= A FLASH OF SUMMER.

  =Collingwood (Harry).= THE DOCTOR OF THE 'JULIET.'

  =Cornfield (L. Cope).= SONS OF ADVERSITY.

  =Crane (Stephen).= WOUNDS IN THE RAIN.


  =Dickson (Harris).= THE BLACK WOLF'S BREED.

  =Embree (E. C. F.).= THE HEART OF FLAME.

  =Fenn (G. Manville).= AN ELECTRIC SPARK.

  =Findlater (Mary).= OVER THE HILLS.

  =Forrest (R. E.).= THE SWORD OF AZRAEL.

  =Francis (M. E.).= MISS ERIN.

  =Gallon (Tom).= RICKERBY'S FOLLY.

  =Gerard (Dorothea).= THINGS THAT HAVE HAPPENED.

  =Glanville (Ernest).= THE DESPATCH RIDER.



  =Gordon (Julien).= MRS. CLYDE.



  =Hales (A. G.).= JAIR THE APOSTATE.

  =Hamilton (Lord Ernest).= MARY HAMILTON.

  =Harrison (Mrs. Burton).= A PRINCESS OF THE HILLS. Illustrated.

  =Hooper (I.).= THE SINGER OF MARLY.

  =Hough (Emerson).= THE MISSISSIPPI BUBBLE.

  ='Iota' (Mrs. Caffyn).= ANNE MAULEVERER.

  =Kelly (Florence Finch).= WITH HOOPS OF STEEL.

  =Lawless (Hon. Emily).= MAELCHO.

  =Linden (Annie).= A WOMAN OF SENTIMENT.

  =Lorimer (Norma).= JOSIAH'S WIFE.

  =Lush (Charles K.).= THE AUTOCRATS.

  =Macdonnell (A.).= THE STORY OF TERESA.

  =Macgrath (Harold).= THE PUPPET CROWN.

  =Mackie (Pauline Bradford).= THE VOICE IN THE DESERT.

  =M'Queen Gray (E.).= MY STEWARDSHIP.

  =Marsh (Richard).= THE SEEN AND THE UNSEEN.





  =Mayall (J. W.).= THE CYNIC AND THE SYREN.

  =Meade (L. T.).= OUT OF THE FASHION.

  =Monkhouse (Allan).= LOVE IN A LIFE.


  =Nesbit (Mrs. Bland).= THE LITERARY SENSE.

  =Norris (W. E.).= AN OCTAVE.

  =Oliphant (Mrs.).= THE PRODIGALS.




  =Penny (Mrs. F. A.).= A MIXED MARRIAGE.

  =Phillpotts (Eden).= THE STRIKING HOURS.


  =Randal (J.).= AUNT BETHIA'S BUTTON.

  =Raymond (Walter).= FORTUNE'S DARLING.


  =Rickert (Edith).= OUT OF THE CYPRESS SWAMP.

  =Roberton (M. H.).= A GALLANT QUAKER.

  =Saunders (Marshall).= ROSE A CHARLITTE.

  =Sergeant (Adeline).= ACCUSED AND ACCUSER.








  =Shannon (W. F.).= JIM TWELVES.

  =Strain (E. H.).= ELMSLIE'S DRAG NET.

  =Stringer (Arthur).= THE SILVER POPPY.

  =Stuart (Esmé).= CHRISTALLA.

  =Sutherland (Duchess of).= ONE HOUR AND THE NEXT.

  =Swan (Annie).= LOVE GROWN COLD.

  =Swift (Benjamin).= SORDON.

  =Tanqueray (Mrs. B. M.).= THE ROYAL QUAKER.

  =Trafford-Tannton (Mrs. E. W.).= SILENT DOMINION.

  =Waineman (Paul).= A HEROINE FROM FINLAND.

  =Watson (H. B. Marriott-).= THE SKIRTS OF HAPPY CHANCE.

Books for Boys and Girls

_Crown 8vo. 3s. 6d._

  THE GETTING WELL OF DOROTHY. By Mrs. W. K. Clifford. Illustrated by
    Gordon-Browne. _Second Edition._

  THE ICELANDER'S SWORD. By S. Baring-Gould.

  ONLY A GUARD-ROOM DOG. By Edith E. Cuthell.

  THE DOCTOR OF THE JULIET. By Harry Collingwood.

  LITTLE PETER. By Lucas Malet. _Second Edition._


  THE SECRET OF MADAME DE MONLUC. By the Author of "Mdlle. Mori."

  SYD BELTON: Or, the Boy who would not go to Sea. By G. Manville Fenn.

  THE RED GRANGE. By Mrs. Molesworth.


  HEPSY GIPSY. By L. T. Meade. _2s. 6d._




The Novels of Alexandre Dumas

_Price 6d. Double Volumes, 1s._

  THE THREE MUSKETEERS. With a long Introduction by Andrew Lang. Double

  THE PRINCE OF THIEVES. _Second Edition._

  ROBIN HOOD. A Sequel to the above.




  TWENTY YEARS AFTER. Double volume.








    Part I. Louis de la Vallière. Double Volume.

    Part II. The Man in the Iron Mask. Double Volume.



  NANON; OR, THE WOMEN'S WAR. Double volume.











  *THE REGENT'S DAUGHTER. A Sequel to Chevalier d'Harmental.

Illustrated Edition.

  THE THREE MUSKETEERS. Illustrated in Colour by Frank Adams. _2s. 6d._

  THE PRINCE OF THIEVES. Illustrated in Colour by Frank Adams. _2s._

  ROBIN HOOD THE OUTLAW. Illustrated in Colour by Frank Adams. _2s._

  THE CORSICAN BROTHERS. Illustrated in Colour by A. M. M'Lellan. _1s.

  THE WOLF-LEADER. Illustrated in Colour by Frank Adams. _1s. 6d._

  GEORGES. Illustrated in Colour by Munro Orr. _2s._

  TWENTY YEARS AFTER. Illustrated in Colour by Frank Adams. _3s._

  AMAURY. Illustrated in Colour by Gordon Browne. _2s._

  THE SNOWBALL, and SULTANETTA. Illustrated in Colour by Frank Adams.

  THE VICOMTE DE BRAGELONNE. Illustrated in Colour by Frank Adams. _3s.

  *CROP-EARED JACQUOT; JANE; Etc. Illustrated in Colour by Gordon
    Browne. _1s. 6d._

  THE CASTLE OF EPPSTEIN. Illustrated in Colour by Stewart Orr. _1s.

  ACTÉ. Illustrated in Colour by Gordon Browne. _1s. 6d._

  *CECILE; OR, THE WEDDING GOWN. Illustrated in Colour by D. Murray
    Smith. _1s. 6d._

  *THE ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN PAMPHILE. Illustrated in Colour by Frank
    Adams. _1s. 6d._

  *FERNANDE. Illustrated in Colour by Munro Orr. _2s._

  *THE BLACK TULIP. Illustrated in Colour by A. Orr. _1s. 6d._

Methuen's Sixpenny Books

  =Austen (Jane).= PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.

  =Baden-Powell (Major-General R. S. S.).= THE DOWNFALL OF PREMPEH.

  =Bagot (Richard).= A ROMAN MYSTERY.

  =Balfour (Andrew).= BY STROKE OF SWORD.

  =Baring-Gould (S.).= FURZE BLOOM.







  A BOOK OF FAIRY TALES. Illustrated.








  =Benson (E. F.).= DODO.

  =Bloundelle-Burton (J.).= ACROSS THE SALT SEAS.

  =Brontë (Charlotte).= SHIRLEY.

  =Brownell (C. L.).= THE HEART OF JAPAN.

  =Caffyn (Mrs.), 'Iota.'= ANNE MAULEVERER.

  =Clifford (Mrs. W. N.).= A FLASH OF SUMMER.


  =Connell (F. Norreys).= THE NIGGER KNIGHTS.

  *=Cooper (E. H.).= A FOOL'S YEAR.

  =Corbett (Julian).= A BUSINESS IN GREAT WATERS.

  =Croker (Mrs. B. M.).= PEGGY OF THE BARTONS.




  =Dante (Alighieri).= THE VISION OF DANTE (CARY).

  =Doyle (A. Conan).= ROUND THE RED LAMP.

  =Duncan (Sarah Jeannette).= A VOYAGE OF CONSOLATION.


  =Eliot (George).= THE MILL ON THE FLOSS.


  =Gallon (Tom).= RICKERBY'S FOLLY.

  =Gaskell (Mrs.).= CRANFORD.



  =Gerard (Dorothea).= HOLY MATRIMONY.


  =Gissing (George).= THE TOWN TRAVELLER.


  =Glanville (Ernest).= THE INCA'S TREASURE.


  =Gleig (Charles).= BUNTER'S CRUISE.

  =Grimm (The Brothers).= GRIMM'S FAIRY TALES. Illustrated.

  =Hope (Anthony).= A MAN OF MARK.





  =Hornung (E. W.).= DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES.

  =Ingraham (J. H.).= THE THRONE OF DAVID.



  =Lyall (Edna).= DERRICK VAUGHAN.

  =Malet (Lucas).= THE CARISSIMA.


  =Mann (Mrs. M. E.).= MRS. PETER HOWARD.



  =Marchmont (A. W.).= MISER HOADLEY'S SECRET.


  =Marryat (Captain).= PETER SIMPLE.


  =Marsh (Richard).= THE TWICKENHAM PEERAGE.



  =Mason (A. E. W.).= CLEMENTINA.

  =Mathers (Helen).= HONEY.



  =Meade (Mrs. L. T.).= DRIFT.

  =Mitford (Bertram).= THE SIGN OF THE SPIDER.

  =Montrésor (F. F.).= THE ALIEN.

  =Moore (Arthur).= THE GAY DECEIVERS.

  =Morrison (Arthur).= THE HOLE IN THE WALL.

  =Nesbit (E.).= THE RED HOUSE.

  =Norris (W. E.).= HIS GRACE.






  =Oliphant (Mrs.).= THE LADY'S WALK.


  =Oppenheim (E. Phillips).= MASTER OF MEN.

  =Parker (Gilbert).= THE POMP OF THE LAVILETTES.



  =Pemberton (Max).= THE FOOTSTEPS OF A THRONE.


  =Phillpotts (Eden).= THE HUMAN BOY.


  =Ridge (W. Pett).= A SON OF THE STATE.



  =Russell (W. Clark).= A MARRIAGE AT SEA.



  =Sergeant (Adeline).= THE MASTER OF BEECHWOOD.



  =Surtees (R. S.).= HANDLEY CROSS. Illustrated.


  ASK MAMMA. Illustrated.

  =Valentine (Major E. S.).= VELDT AND LAAGER.

  =Walford (Mrs. L. B.).= MR. SMITH.


  =Wallace (General Lew).= BEN-HUR.


  =Watson (H. B. Marriot).= THE ADVENTURERS.

  =Weekes (A. B.).= PRISONERS OF WAR.


      *      *      *      *      *      *

Transcriber's note:

In order to preserve the experience of the book, some obcure,
inconsistent and archaic words and spellings were maintained,
especially in the catalog.

The entries in the List of Illustrations does not match the
wording of the captions, however if the reader compares them,
it will be apparent that the meanings correspond.

Throughout the book, some obvious errors were corrected. These and
other notes are listed below.

  Page xvii
  In this book: _Good-bye and Hail_ = _Good-bye and Hail, W. W._, 1892.
  Originally:   _Goodbye and Hail_ = _Goodbye and Hail, W. W._, 1892.

  Page 23
  In this book: election,[53] an Adams of Massachusetts was returned
  Originally:   election,[53] Adams of Massachussetts was returned

  Page 46
  In this book: as strange and fascinating to the son of Mannahatta as
  Originally:   as strange and fascinating to the son of Mannhatta as

  Page 55
  In the original book, the only footnote on the page was numbered "4"
  but the anchor was numbered "1".

  Page 62
  In this book: suggest, at any rate, a theory for his attitude toward
  Originally:   suggest, at anyrate, a theory for his attitude toward

  Page 122
  In this book: the Broad-axe as the true emblem of America, Whitman's
  Originally:   the Broadaxe as the true emblem of America, Whitman's

  Page 178
  In this book: of a new island republic of New York? "Tri-Insula"
  Originally:   of a new island republic of New York? "Tri-insula"

  Page 188
  In this book: from Chattanooga through Atlanta to the
  Originally:   from Chattanooga through Atalanta to the

  Footnote 398
  In this book: _Recollections of Washn. in War Time_
  Because of the odd abbreviation of Washington, I looked for this
  book. The only book I found with a similar title by A. G. Riddle
  was _Recollections of War Times--Reminiscences of Men and Events in
  Washington, 1860-1865_.

  Footnote: 436
  In this book: _Wound-Dresser_, 139.
  Originally:   _Wound-Dresser_, 189.

  Page 215
  In this book: He went on great walks, especially by night,
  Originally:   He went great walks, especially by night,

  Page 260
  In this book: former is now circled with a wooden seat; but the kecks
  Originally:   former is now circled with a wooden seat; but the keks

  Page 274
  In this book: the "Song of the Broad-axe"--the best-beloved,
  Originally:   the "Song of the Broadaxe"--the best-beloved,

  Page 338
  In this book: The volume, _Good-bye, my Fancy_, appeared in the
  Originally:   The volume, _Goodbye, my Fancy_, appeared in the

  Page 340
  In this book: his _Good-bye, my Fancy_ is but a new welcome,
  Originally:   his _Goodbye, my Fancy_ is but a new welcome,

  Page 352
  In this book: Barnum, P. T., 85.
  Originally:   Barnum, T. P., 85.

  Page 352
  In this book: "Broad-axe, Song of the," 122, 274.
  Originally:   "Broadaxe, Song of the," 122, 274.

  Page 359
  In this book: Lafayette, Gen., revisits America, 11.
  Originally:   Lafayette, Gen., re-visits America, 11.

  Page 362
  Entries starting with "Op" followed entries starting with "Or". They
  have been alphabetized.

  Page 365
  In this book: example of the broad-axe, 122.
  Originally:   example of the broadaxe, 122.

  Page 6
  In this book: AND ANGEVINS: 1066-1272. With
  Originally:   AND ANGEVINS: 1066-1072. With

  Page 27
  In this book: =Crashaw (Richard).= THE ENGLISH
  Originally:   =Crawshaw (Richard).= THE ENGLISH

  Page 27

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