Walt WhitmanWalt Whitman
Walt Whitman was born on May 31, 1819, in West Hills, Long Island, New York. He was the second of six children. From 1825-1830, he attended public school in Brooklyn. After his years of education, Walt Whitman experimented with many different jobs. From 1836-1838, Whitman taught at several schools in Long Island. After teaching, Walt Whitman returned to printing and editing in New York. During this time he edited many papers such as the Aurora (daily newspaper), Evening Tattler, Brooklyn Weekly Freeman, Brooklyn Daily Eagle and the Brooklyn Times. In addition to editing, he also wrote for the Long Island Star. From 1850-1854, Whitman owned and operated a printing office and a stationary store. During this time , he also began to build houses and do some carpentry.
In 1855, Walt Whitman published his first edition of Leaves of Grass. However, at the time, Whitman did not reveal to the public the name of the author or the publisher. Whitman continued writing new editions of Leaves of Grass. Before he passed away, in 1892, Whitman published eleven volumes of Leaves of Grass.
In addition to writing eleven volumes of Leaves of Grass, Whitman also wrote a volume of poetry titled “Drum-Traps” which was published in 1865. Whitman was inspired to write these poems after spending a lot of time with many soldiers who were wounded in the Civil War. Many of these books did not begin to sell until the war was over.
Not long after that, in 1873, Whitman suffered the first of many paralytic attacks. These attackleft him an invalid. Walt Whitman decided to live the rest of his life in Camden, New Jersey. This town was located near the river ferries which he loved to watch. He enjoyed the many visitors who came to honor him. In 1888, the paralysis increased. This caused his death on March 26, 1892. He is now buried in a tomb in Hurleigh Cemetery.
How and Why did the themes of WaltWhitman’s writing change over time?In 1855, Walt Whitman published his first piece of literature, Leaves of Grass. During his life, he wrote on a number of different subjects. The year of 1861 brought many changes in his life. This year and the years that followed, changed Whitman’s life and the poetry that he wrote for two major reasons.
“Clearly 1861, with coming of the Civil War, marked a turning point for Whitman: he shed his past and began a new career with new poetry and new themes” (Walt Whitman, pg.18). Although Walt Whitman did not see the Civil War coming, he was very interested in it. At this time
Whitman was forty-one years old and was obviously beyond the age of enlistment. Besides being to old, Whitman also had to remain at home and take care of his mother (he had been taking care of her since his fathers death in 1855). Although Whitman was to old, he was determined to be involved in the war. In 1862, Whitman heard the new that his brother had been hurt near Fredricksburg, Virginia. As a result, Whitman traveled to Virginia to help his brother. Although his brother was never wounded, this trip changed Whitman’s life. Walt Whitman had finally found his place to get involved in the war. Upon learning the news that his brother was not wounded, Whitman decided to travel back to Washington DC. When Whitman was traveling to Fredricksburg, VA, he saw so many wounded soldiers in Washington DC, who he wanted to help. So, he spent at least a couple of hours each day bringing material goods to the wounded soldiers. Many times these goods would be writing paper or magazines. As a result of volunteering for a couple hours each day, the themes of Whitman’s poems had dramatically changed.
In 1873, a couple more changes occurred in Whitman’s life. At the beginning of the year , he became an invalid. This was a result of two things: a minor stroke along with the death of his mother in May of 1873. Whitman and his mother had a very close relationship. One poem that Whitman wrote was titled, Starting from Paumanok. The opening lines of this poem shows some of the admiration that