Walt Whitman Research Paper

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Walt Whitman, the “‘bard’ of American democracy” (Reynolds, Walt Whitman: Lives and Legacies ix) was born on May 31, 1819 in the Long Island village of West Hills, some fifty miles east of Manhattan. The poet’s mother was Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and his father, Walter Whitman. Walt’s ancestors were two branches of early American settlers, English on his father’s side and Dutch on his mother’s (1).
The poet’s father was a “taciturn man with a knack for ill success and possibly a drinking problem” (3). Some believe that he is the subject of these famous lines in “There Was a Child Sent Forth”:
The father, strong, self-sufficient, manly, mean, anger’d, unjust,
The blow, the quick loud word, the tight bargain, the crafty lure. (“There was a
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Clark & Son law firm to earn some money on his own to support the family (Oliver 8). The elder Clarke provided the young Walt with a subscription to a circulating library that opened up the world of literature to him (Reynolds Walt Whitman: Lives and Legacies 6). However, Eiselein believes that it was the younger Clarke, Edward, who “provided Whitman with a library membership, which allowed him to read and revel in the Arabian Nights and Walter Scott” (Eiselein 12). He worked with the Clarkes for a year. According to Eiselein, Walt also worked as an office boy for a local doctor (12). Then he was hired as a newspaper apprentice to Samuel E. Clements, editor of the Democratic weekly the Long Island Patriot. A scandalous lawsuit made the editor to lose his position. He was replaced by the paper’s foreman printer, William Hartshorne. He was a “sedate old man who had known Washington and Jefferson” and he taught the young Walt the rudiments of printing. (Reynolds Walt Whitman: Lives and Legacies 6). “The education in printing led to a succession of newspaper jobs and a lifelong appreciation for the materiality of printed pages” (Eiselein 12). He “worked in paid positions for 28 newspapers between 1831 and 1859, mostly as a reporter or editor, and he would publish nearly 3,000 articles or editorials in 80 different papers during his lifetime” (Oliver …show more content…
For three years he worked for Spooner. “These printing jobs instilled in him a lifelong appreciation for the physical process of making books” (Reynolds Walt Whitman: Lives and Legacies 6). He contributed to formatting and typesetting the famous 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass, and he contributed significantly to printing later editions of the volume. “I like to supervise the production of my books,” he would say, adding that an author “might be the maker even of the body of his book—set the type, print the book on a press, put a cover on it, all with his own hands” (qtd. in Reynolds Walt Whitman: Lives and Legacies 6). While Eiselein believes, it was in Long Island Patriot that Walt wrote his first published work (Eiselein 12), Oliver refers to “In Olden Times” for the New-York Mirror: A Weekly Journal Devoted to Literature and Fine Arts (November 29, 1834) as the first publication known to be written by Whitman (Oliver

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