A Critical Review of "Leaves of Grass"
By Walt Whitman
Azad University of Kerman
Instructor: Dr. Khozaei
Walter Whitman, the poet known as the American bard was born in West Hills, Long Island
in New York on May 31, 1819. His mother, Louisa, immigrated from Holland and his father,
Walter, from England. Whitman's father worked mostly with his hands as a carpenter and a
house builder and Whitman himself would pursue on trades early in his life. Shortly after
Whitman was born, his family moved to Brooklyn, where Whitman would receive his
schooling. As a young man, he held various jobs: he set type in a printing office, and he
worked as a schoolteacher.
By 1841, Whitman was beginning to focus his career on writing, first in the form of
journalism. He became something of an accomplished journalist in his own right, reporting
for and editing several newspapers and periodicals. Bettina Knapp notes that Whitman
completed a "temperance novel, Franklin Evans; or The Inebriate, in 1842 to secure funds
for Leaves of Grass. He later disavowed this novel due to its poor quality." It was then, after
a brief occupation as a carpenter that Whitman finally determined to dedicate his time to
writing poetry, though he had begun to formulate ideas about what a new American literature
would look like much earlier. His vision stems, in part, from his experiences during a trip
across America that he undertook in 1848. As he traveled from New York to Louisiana,
Whitman was deeply affected by the people and places he saw. These images became a
collage of America and a source for his writing.
Whitman's Leaves of Grass had a lifespan of several editions and 37 years, for Whitman was
constantly in the act of revising and augmenting his collection of poems, finally conceiving
of it as a "single poem." Leaves of Grass first appeared in 1855, a thin volume of a dozen
poems. By the final impression in 1891-1892 (sanctioned the "deathbed" edition), the
volume had expanded into the text we study today.
Throughout his lifetime, Whitman published reviews of Leaves of Grass that he wrote
himself. He included these as appendices to the book itself. "And since he had the prescience
to grasp the first axiom of modern celebrity culture, that there is no such thing as bad
publicity, he threw into the mix, as Loving puts it, ''just enough negative criticism to make it
sound less like a puff,'' including one shocked review that alluded, discreetly in Latin, to his
Whitman printed the first edition of Leaves of Grass without the author's name on the title
page. He used an engraving of himself in laborer's clothes as the frontispiece. Known as "the
carpenter," the image is an icon of the American poet as "one of the roughs," or Everyman.
Subsequent editions of Leaves depicted different Whitmans, ever more sophisticated and
venerable. The elderly Whitman in 1891 reverted to an image of a young and urbane self,
taken in Boston when he was...