Walt Whitman was an American poet and journalist. A humanist, he was a part of the transition between transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon called the father of free verse, his work was controversial in its time his poetry collection Leaves of Grass, described as obscene for its overt sensuality. Whitman's own life came under scrutiny for his presumed homosexuality. Born in Huntington on Long Island, Whitman worked as a journalist, a teacher, a government clerk. At age 11, he left formal schooling to go to work; as a child and through much of his career he resided in Brooklyn. Whitman's major work, Leaves of Grass, was first published in 1855 with his own money; the work was an attempt at reaching out to the common person with an American epic. He continued expanding and revising it until his death in 1892. During the American Civil War, he went to Washington, D. C. and worked in hospitals caring for the wounded.
His poetry focused on both loss and healing. Two of his well known poems, "O Captain! My Captain!" and "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd", were written on the death of Abraham Lincoln. After a stroke towards the end of his life, Whitman moved to Camden, New Jersey, where his health further declined; when he died at age 72, his funeral was a public event. Whitman's influence on poetry remains strong. Mary Smith Whitall Costelloe argued: "You cannot understand America without Walt Whitman, without Leaves of Grass... He has expressed that civilization,'up to date,' as he would say, no student of the philosophy of history can do without him." Modernist poet Ezra Pound called Whitman "America's poet... He is America." Walter Whitman was born on May 31, 1819, in West Hills, Town of Huntington, Long Island, to parents with interests in Quaker thought and Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. The second of nine children, he was nicknamed "Walt" to distinguish him from his father. Walter Whitman Sr. named three of his seven sons after American leaders: Andrew Jackson, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson.
The oldest was named Jesse and another boy died unnamed at the age of six months. The couple's sixth son, the youngest, was named Edward. At age four, Whitman moved with his family from West Hills to Brooklyn, living in a series of homes, in part due to bad investments. Whitman looked back on his childhood as restless and unhappy, given his family's difficult economic status. One happy moment that he recalled was when he was lifted in the air and kissed on the cheek by the Marquis de Lafayette during a celebration in Brooklyn on July 4, 1825. At age eleven Whitman concluded formal schooling, he sought employment for further income for his family. There, Whitman learned about typesetting, he may have written "sentimental bits" of filler material for occasional issues. Clements aroused controversy when he and two friends attempted to dig up the corpse of the Quaker minister Elias Hicks to create a plaster mold of his head. Clements left the Patriot shortly afterward as a result of the controversy.
The following summer Whitman worked for Erastus Worthington, in Brooklyn. His family moved back to West Hills 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. While at the Star, Whitman became a regular patron of the local library, joined a town debating society, began attending theater performances, anonymously published some of his earliest poetry in the New-York Mirror. At age 16 in May 1835, Whitman left the Brooklyn, he moved to New York City to work as a compositor though, in years, Whitman could not remember where. He attempted to find further work but had difficulty, in part due to a severe fire in the printing and publishing district, in part due to a general collapse in the economy leading up to the Panic of 1837. In May 1836, he rejoined his family, now living in Long Island. Whitman taught intermittently at various schools until the spring of 1838, though he was not satisfied as a teacher.
After his teaching attempts, Whitman went back to Huntington, New York, to found his own newspaper, the Long-Islander. Whitman served as publisher, editor and distributor and provided home delivery. After ten months, he sold the publication to E. O. Crowell, whose first issue appeared on July 12, 1839. There are no known surviving copies of the Long-Islander published under Whitman. By the summer of 1839, he found a job as a typesetter in Jamaica, Queens with the Long Island Democrat, edited by James J. Brenton, he left shortly thereafter, made another attempt at teaching from the winter of 1840 to the spring of 1841. One story apocryphal, tells of Whitman's being chased away from a teaching job in Southold, New York, in 1840. After a local preacher called him a "Sodomite", Whitman was tarred and feathered. Biographer Justin Kaplan notes that the story is untrue, because Whitman vacationed in the town thereafter. Biographer Jerome Loving calls the incident a "myth". During this time, Whitman published a series of ten editorials, called "Sun-Down Papers—From the Desk of a Schoolmaster", in three newspapers between the winter of 1840 and July 1841.
In these essays, he adopted a constructed persona, a technique he would employ throughout his career. Whitman moved to New York City in May working a low-level job at the New World, working under
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