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A Whitman Chronology

Joann P. Krieg

Publication Year: 1998

All Whitman scholars have encountered the frustration of trying to track down an event in Whitman's life—the last time he saw Peter Doyle, when he moved to his own home on Mickle Street in Camden, when he met Oscar Wilde. The records of these events in Whitman's long life are buried in seven volumes of his abundant correspondence, in nine volumes of his conversations with Horace Traubel, in nine volumes of his notebooks and manuscripts, and in countless writings produced by his friends and admirers. To fulfill a long-felt need for order among this embarrassment of riches, Joann Krieg has crafted this detailed chronology of Whitman's life.
A Whitman Chronology clarifies the facts of Whitman's life by offering a year-by-year and, where possible, day-by-day account of his private and public life. Where conflicting interpretations exist, Krieg recognizes them and cites the differences; she also directs readers to fuller descriptions of noteworthy events. She offers brief synopses of Whitman's fiction and of his major prose works, giving distinguishing information about each of the six editions of Leaves of Grass. By intertwining the events of his life and work—but without cumbersome layers of speculation—she reveals the close alliance between Whitman's personal involvements and his literary achievements.

Published by: University of Iowa Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-v


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xii

For the scholar or general reader interested in the life and work of a particular writer, two circumstances can be equally daunting. One is finding very little material available; the other is finding what might be considered too much. In the case of Walt Whitman, we can only rejoice at the richness...

Significant Dates

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pp. xiii-xvi

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Biographical Notes on Significant Persons

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pp. xvii-xx

Walter Whitman Sr. (1789-1855) was of English descent. His forebears had large landholdings in Huntington Township on Long Island, New York. His father was Jesse Whitman, and his mother was Hannah Brush. He was a carpenter and house builder in the Huntington area and in Brooklyn and built the house in which Walt was born. ...


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pp. xxi-xxii

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1. 1819–1854

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pp. 1-25

Walter Whitman Jr. (later Walt) is born on 31 May 1819 in West Hills, in Huntington Township on Long Island, New York, in a farmhouse reputedly built by his father. His parents, Walter and Louisa (Van Velsor), are of families whose ancestors—his English, hers Dutch and Welsh—had settled in the region two centuries earlier. ...

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2. 1855–1859

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pp. 26-39

The year 1855 is pivotal in Whitman's life. With the publication of Leaves of Grass, the thirty-six-year-old Whitman bursts upon the local and national scene in a way no other writer in America had. In an unhappy coincidence, Walter Whitman Sr. dies within a week of the publication. ...

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3. 1860–1863

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pp. 40-60

"Quicksand years that whirl me I know not whither," Whitman writes in the opening line of an 1861 poem. The term "quicksand" aptly describes the turbulence of these years, which begin with the unexpected appearance of a publisher for Leaves if Grass. The Boston firm of Thayer & Eldridge allows Whitman...

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4. 1864–1867

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pp. 61-80

Despite the demands of family and his hospital service, Whitman has not forgotten his poetry: in November 1863 he returns to Washington with the manuscript of Drum-Taps, which earlier he had left behind in Brooklyn. In 1864 Whitman visits Virginia battlefields, and by winter's end his physical and emotional condition is such that he longs...

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5. 1868–1875

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pp. 81-106

The years 1868-1875 include some of Whitman's best and, undoubtedly, some of the worst times. Though discouraged by Reconstruction politics and the practice of democracy in the United States, he takes up the defense of democratic principles, first in "Democracy" and later in Democratic Vistas (1871). ...

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6. 1876–1880

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pp. 107-128

The nation's centennial year brings a reprint of the 1871-1872 edition of Leaves of Grass accompanied by a second volume, Two Rivulets. The year begins, however, with Whitman stirring a controversy over his supposed neglect and impoverishment. Hottest in England, where his friends raise a wide subscription to the new edition, the controversy...

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7. 1881–1887

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pp. 129-157

As his health and energy decline, Whitman is more dependent upon others but continues working on "the principal object" in his life, Leaves of Grass. His friends, including the long-estranged William O'Connor, rally when the 1881 edition is banned in Boston in 1882; reissued by a Philadelphia...

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8. 1888–1892

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pp. 158-177

Trials of old age and illness fill the final years of Whitman's life, but there is activity still. Thomas Eakins finishes his portrait in 1888 before the poet's devastating stroke in June. The stroke brings major changes in Whitman's life: the horse and buggy are sold—to be superseded in the next year by a wheelchair...

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Epilogue: 27-29 MARCH 1892

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pp. 178-179

27 MARCH. Thomas Eakins, Samuel Murray, and William O'Donovan take Whitman's death mask and a cast of one hand; close friends begin to gather. THAT EVENING. An autopsy is performed in the Mickle Street house by Drs. Cattell, Dercum, Longaker, and McAlister, with Horace Traubel present. ...

Works Cited

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pp. 181-186


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pp. 187-207

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781587292880
Print-ISBN-13: 9780877456544

Page Count: 176
Publication Year: 1998