79 Facts About Walt Whitman


Walt Whitman is considered one of the most influential poets in American history.


Walt Whitman's work was controversial in his time, particularly his 1855 poetry collection Leaves of Grass, which was described by some as obscene for its overt sensuality.


Walt Whitman was born in Huntington on Long Island, and lived in Brooklyn as a child and through much of his career.


Walt Whitman worked as a journalist, a teacher, and a government clerk.


Walt Whitman continued expanding and revising Leaves of Grass until his death in 1892.


Walt Whitman has expressed that civilization, 'up to date,' as he would say, and no student of the philosophy of history can do without him.


Walt Whitman was immediately nicknamed "Walt" to distinguish him from his father.

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At the age of four, Walt Whitman moved with his family from West Hills to Brooklyn, living in a series of homes, in part due to bad investments.


Walt Whitman looked back on his childhood as generally restless and unhappy, given his family's difficult economic struggles.


At the age of 11, Walt Whitman ended his formal schooling and sought employment to assist his family, which was struggling economically.


Walt Whitman was an office boy for two lawyers and later was an apprentice and printer's devil for the weekly Long Island newspaper the Patriot, edited by Samuel E Clements.


Walt Whitman's family moved back to West Hills, New York on Long Island, in the spring, but Whitman remained and took a job at the shop of Alden Spooner, editor of the leading Whig weekly newspaper the Long-Island Star.


At the age of 16 in May 1835, Walt Whitman left the Star and Brooklyn.


Walt Whitman moved to New York City to work as a compositor though, in later years, Whitman could not remember where.


Walt Whitman attempted to find further work but had difficulty, in part due to a severe fire in the printing and publishing district, and in part due to a general collapse in the economy leading up to the Panic of 1837.


Walt Whitman taught intermittently at various schools until the spring of 1838, though he was not satisfied as a teacher.


Walt Whitman served as publisher, editor, pressman, and distributor and even provided home delivery.


Walt Whitman left shortly thereafter, and made another attempt at teaching from the winter of 1840 to the spring of 1841.


One story, possibly apocryphal, tells of Walt Whitman's being chased away from a teaching job in Southold, New York, in 1840.


Biographer Justin Kaplan notes that the story is likely untrue, because Walt Whitman regularly vacationed in the town thereafter.


Walt Whitman continued working for short periods of time for various newspapers; in 1842 he was editor of the Aurora and from 1846 to 1848 he was editor of the Brooklyn Eagle.


Walt Whitman lost his position at the Brooklyn Eagle in 1848 after siding with the free-soil "Barnburner" wing of the Democratic party against the newspaper's owner, Isaac Van Anden, who belonged to the conservative, or "Hunker", wing of the party.


Walt Whitman was a delegate to the 1848 founding convention of the Free Soil Party, which was concerned about the threat slavery would pose to free white labor and northern businessmen moving into the newly colonized western territories.


In 1858, Walt Whitman published a 47,000 word series called Manly Health and Training under the pen name Mose Velsor.


Walt Whitman claimed that after years of competing for "the usual rewards", he determined to become a poet.

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Walt Whitman first experimented with a variety of popular literary genres that appealed to the cultural tastes of the period.


Walt Whitman intended to write a distinctly American epic and used free verse with a cadence based on the Bible.


Walt Whitman paid for the publication of the first edition of Leaves of Grass himself and had it printed at a local print shop during their breaks from commercial jobs.


The book received its strongest praise from Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wrote a flattering five-page letter to Walt Whitman and spoke highly of the book to friends.


Walt Whitman embossed a quote from Emerson's letter, "I greet you at the beginning of a great career", in gold leaf on the spine of the second edition, effectively inventing the modern book blurb.


On July 11,1855, a few days after Leaves of Grass was published, Walt Whitman's father died at the age of 65.


Several well-known writers admired the work enough to visit Walt Whitman, including Amos Bronson Alcott and Henry David Thoreau.


Walt Whitman left the job in 1859, though it is unclear whether he was fired or chose to leave.


Walt Whitman made his way south immediately to find him, though his wallet was stolen on the way.


Walt Whitman, profoundly affected by seeing the wounded soldiers and the heaps of their amputated limbs, left for Washington, DC, on December 28,1862, with the intention of never returning to New York.


Walt Whitman then contacted Emerson, this time to ask for help in obtaining a government post.


That month, Walt Whitman committed his brother Jesse to the Kings County Lunatic Asylum.


Walt Whitman's spirits were raised when he finally got a better-paying government post as a low-grade clerk in the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the Department of the Interior, thanks to his friend William Douglas O'Connor.


Walt Whitman began the new appointment on January 24,1865, with a yearly salary of $1,200.


Effective June 30,1865 Walt Whitman was fired from his job.


Walt Whitman's dismissal came from the new Secretary of the Interior, former Iowa Senator James Harlan.


O'Connor, though, was still upset and vindicated Walt Whitman by publishing a biased and exaggerated biographical study, The Good Gray Poet, in January 1866.


In February 1868, Poems of Walt Whitman was published in England thanks to the influence of William Michael Rossetti, with minor changes that Whitman reluctantly approved.


Walt Whitman spent much of 1872 caring for his mother, who was now nearly eighty and struggling with arthritis.


Walt Whitman traveled and was invited to Dartmouth College to give the commencement address on June 26,1872.

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Walt Whitman remained at his brother's home until buying his own in 1884.


Walt Whitman was last fully physically active in this house, receiving both Oscar Wilde and Thomas Eakins.


Walt Whitman was a neighbor, boarding with a family in Bridge Avenue just a few blocks from Mickle Street.


Walt Whitman moved in with Whitman on February 24,1885, to serve as his housekeeper in exchange for free rent.


Walt Whitman brought with her a cat, a dog, two turtledoves, a canary, and other assorted animals.


Walt Whitman died on March 26,1892, at his home in Camden, New Jersey at the age of 72.


Walt Whitman's work broke the boundaries of poetic form and is generally prose-like.


Walt Whitman is often labeled the father of free verse, though he did not invent it.


Walt Whitman emphasized this connection especially in "Song of Myself" by using an all-powerful first-person narration.


Walt Whitman was a vocal proponent of temperance and in his youth rarely drank alcohol.


Walt Whitman once stated he did not taste "strong liquor" until he was 30 and occasionally argued for prohibition.


Walt Whitman's first novel, Franklin Evans, or The Inebriate, published November 23,1842, is a temperance novel.


Walt Whitman wrote the novel at the height of the popularity of the Washingtonian movement, a movement that was plagued with contradictions, as was Franklin Evans.


Years later Walt Whitman claimed he was embarrassed by the book and called it "damned rot".


Walt Whitman dismissed it by saying he wrote the novel in three days solely for money while under the influence of alcohol.


Walt Whitman denied any one faith was more important than another, and embraced all religions equally.


God, to Walt Whitman, was both immanent and transcendent and the human soul was immortal and in a state of progressive development.


Walt Whitman had intense friendships with many men and boys throughout his life.


Doyle was a bus conductor whom Walt Whitman met around 1866, and the two were inseparable for several years.


The manuscript of his love poem "Once I Pass'd Through A Populous City", written when Walt Whitman was 29, indicates it was originally about a man.

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Duckett was 15 when Walt Whitman bought his house at 328 Mickle Street.


Walt Whitman gave Stafford a ring, which was returned and re-given over the course of a stormy relationship lasting several years.


Walt Whitman still had a photograph of her decades later, when he moved to Camden, and he called her "an old sweetheart of mine".


Walt Whitman was an adherent of the Shakespeare authorship question, refusing to believe in the historical attribution of the works to William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon.


Walt Whitman is often described as America's national poet, creating an image of the United States for itself.


Walt Whitman did not, at least not consistently; nonetheless his poetry has been a model for democratic poets of all nations and races, right up to our own day.


How Walt Whitman could have been so prejudiced, and yet so effective in conveying an egalitarian and antiracist sensibility in his poetry, is a puzzle yet to be adequately addressed.


Walt Whitman has been claimed as the first "poet of democracy" in the United States, a title meant to reflect his ability to write in a singularly American character.


Walt Whitman has expressed that civilization, 'up to date,' as he would say, and no student of the philosophy of history can do without him.


Lawrence Ferlinghetti numbered himself among Walt Whitman's "wild children", and the title of Ferlinghetti's 1961 collection Starting from San Francisco is a deliberate reference to Walt Whitman's Starting from Paumanok.


Walt Whitman's poetry influenced Latin American and Caribbean poets in the 19th and 20th centuries, starting with Cuban poet, philosopher, and nationalist leader Jose Marti, who published essays in Spanish on Walt Whitman's writings in 1887.


Walt Whitman influenced Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, and was a model for the character of Dracula.


Walt Whitman's poetry has been set to music by more than 500 composers; indeed it has been suggested that his poetry has been set to music more than that of any other American poet except for Emily Dickinson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.


Walt Whitman was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2009, and, in 2013, he was inducted into the Legacy Walk, an outdoor public display that celebrates LGBT history and people.