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Whitman and the Irish

Joann P. Krieg

Publication Year: 2000

Though Walt Whitman created no Irish characters in his early works of fiction, he did include the Irish as part of the democratic portrait of America that he drew in Leaves of Grass. He could hardly have done otherwise. In 1855, when the first edition of Leaves of Grass was published, the Irish made up one of the largest immigrant populations in New York City and, as such, maintained a cultural identity of their own. All of this “Irishness” swirled about Whitman as he trod the streets of his Mannahatta, ultimately becoming part of him and his poetry. As members of the working class, famous authors, or close friends, the Irish left their mark on Whitman the man and poet. In Whitman and the Irish, Joann Krieg convincingly establishes their importance within the larger framework of Whitman studies.

Focusing on geography rather than biography, Krieg traces Whitman's encounters with cities where the Irish formed a large portion of the population—New York City, Boston, Camden, and Dublin—or where, as in the case of Washington, D.C., he had exceptionally close Irish friends. She also provides a brief yet important historical summary of Ireland and its relationship with America.

Whitman and the Irish does more than examine Whitman's Irish friends and acquaintances: it adds a valuable dimension to our understanding of his personal world and explores a number of vital questions in social and cultural history. Krieg places Whitman in relation to the emerging labor culture of ante-bellum New York, reveals the relationship between Whitman's cultural nationalism and the Irish nationalism of the late nineteenth century, and reflects upon Whitman's involvement with the Union cause and that of Irish American soldiers.

Published by: University of Iowa Press


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-v


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p. vii

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pp. ix-xvii

On May 27, 1846, just four days short of his twenty-seventh birthday, the editor of the Brooklyn Eagle, Walter Whitman as he was known then, informed his readers that “‘Valentine M’Clutchy, the Irish Agent’ . . . a well-printed book . . . from the pen of one of the most popular Irish writers, the author of ‘Fardorougha, the Miser,’” was...

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1. Historical Background

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pp. 1-11

Ask most Americans at what point their nation’s history first touched Ireland’s and the answer will likely be, “At the time of the Irish famine when all the immigrants came here.” Few realize the Irish were in America before the American Revolution and that many were involved in the revolution. In fact, countless episodes of Irish history...

2. Time Line

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pp. 12-15

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3. New York City

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pp. 16-74

Although the events of 1871 are not especially memorable in American history, the year offers a good starting place for a consideration of relationships between Walt Whitman and the Irish. Essential to this consideration are two letters written by Whitman in the summer of that year, each of which suggests he had found in New York’s Irish...

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4. Boston, 1860

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pp. 75-102

In February 1860, with no apparent instigation on his part, Walt Whitman received a letter from the Boston publishers Charles Eldridge and William Thayer proclaiming, “We want to be the publishers of Walt Whitman’s poems.”1 The tone of the letter was exciting, with a kind of electric quality about it that appealed to Whitman. The...

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5. Washington, D.C.

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pp. 103-128

Walt Whitman came to the nation’s capital driven by the necessity of war, as were many other Americans in the years 1861 to 1865. He came not in a uniform or carrying a government-issued rifle but with empty pockets and a fearful heart. It was December of 1862, his brother George’s name had appeared (though misspelled) on a list...

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6. Boston, 1881

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pp. 129-162

The Civil War took its toll on Whitman, physically and emotionally, as it did on many who found themselves drawn into it in one way or another. But like the Irish, he came out of it better off in some ways, especially for the friendships he had formed and the depth of emotion he had found himself capable of expressing in actions...

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7. Camden & Eminent Visitors

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pp. 163-189

On the afternoon of January 18, 1882, the front door of the house at 431 Stevens Street, Camden, New Jersey, was opened either by the Irish maid or by the woman of the house, Louisa Whitman, sister-in-law of Walt Whitman. The visitors on the doorstep were expected, indeed had been invited, by the aging and infirm poet who sat waiting...

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8. Dublin

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pp. 190-231

Unfortunately, Walt Whitman never visited Dublin, though he was invited to do so by more than one of his admirers in that city. In 1872 Whitman’s good friend John Burroughs wrote to William Michael Rossetti in London and to Edward Dowden at Trinity College, Dublin, suggesting that Whitman make a visit to their cities to offer public readings...

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9. Coda

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pp. 232-238

On more than one occasion while writing this book colleagues or friends, after learning that my subject was Whitman and the Irish, have immediately asked the question: “Did he like them?” Some asked because they were aware of the Aurora editorials, which led them to think the answer might be a straightforward “no.” Others,...


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pp. 239-265


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pp. 267-273

E-ISBN-13: 9781587293412
E-ISBN-10: 1587293412
Print-ISBN-13: 9780877457305
Print-ISBN-10: 0877457301

Page Count: 294
Publication Year: 2000

Edition: 1

OCLC Number: 50320943
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Whitman and the Irish

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Subject Headings

  • Whitman, Walt, -- 1819-1892 -- Friends and associates.
  • Ireland -- Biography.
  • Whitman, Walt, 1819-1892 -- Knowledge -- United States.
  • Whitman, Walt, 1819-1892 -- Knowledge -- Ireland.
  • Poets, American -- 19th century -- Biography.
  • Irish Americans -- Biography.
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