Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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CONTENTS

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p. vii

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FOREWORD

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pp. ix-xiv

This reprinting of Roger Asselineau's classic critical work is a culminating moment in the University of Iowa Press's ongoing commitment to Whitman scholarship. In the late 1980s, when I began to work with the University of Iowa Press to gather a group of outstanding books about Walt Whitman, one ...

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INTRODUCTION

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pp. 3-15

On this occasion of the reprinting of The Evolution of Walt Whitman—forty-five years after its first appearance in French and nearly forty years after its translation into English—the appropriate moment has arrived for me to reminisce about my sixty-year journey with Walt Whitman. It was not as easy as ...

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FOREWORD to The Creation of a Personality

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pp. II-iv-II-vii

THE French edition of this book having been warmly received in English-speaking countries and several reviewers having expressed the wish that it should be translated,* I have tried to satisfy their demands, and this is the result of my efforts. But I would never have carried out such a task without the help ...

CONTENTS to The Creation of a Personality

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pp. II-viii

THE CREATION OF A PERSONALITY

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pp. II-x

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INTRODUCTION

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pp. II-1-II-16

The idea of writing this book came to me during the gloomiest years of the German Occupation of France. Nothing could have been more natural at that time, when every Frenchman was a prisoner in his own country, than to try to escape from that world of concentration camps into the vast spaces of Whitman's universe ...

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CHAPTER I YOUTH - THE UNSUCCESSFUL QUEST

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pp. II-17-II-46

Before arriving at the crucial years which saw the birth of Leaves of Grass it will be well to examine briefly the youth of the poet in order to bring out certain elements which will contribute to a better understanding of his work — and project an indirect light upon it, clarifying some of its aspects, without, ...

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CHAPTER II THE 1855 EDITION - BIRTH OF A POET

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pp. II-47-II-79

On or about July 4, 1855, there appeared simultaneously in New York and Brooklyn a strange book entitled Leaves of Grass. Even its dimensions were unusual, for it was a quarto similar to those of the Elizabethan period. The cover was no less startling, not because of its deep green color, but because of its curious ornamentation. ...

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CHAPTER III THE 1856 EDITION

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pp. II-80-II-91

In June of 18561 there appeared in Brooklyn and New York a small sextodecimo of nearly four hundred pages entitled Leaves of Grass. The thin quarto of 1855 had thus undergone a curious metamorphosis. On the outside, except for the color, the two books were completely different. Not only was the format greatly reduced, ...

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CHAPTER IV NEW UNCERTAINTIES: CONTEMPLATION OR ACTION? JOURNALISM OR POETRY?

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pp. II-92-II-114

This unpremeditated page tells us many things — first of all, Whitman's total indifference to his environment. (This was one of the constants of his life and explains in particular how he was able to spend his old age in Camden without suffering from the ugliness of that industrial city with its dirt and smoke.) ...

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CHAPTER V THE 1860 EDITION

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pp. II-115-II-136

The 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass represented for Whitman a double victory, for not only did he emerge successfully from a lacerating crisis, but again he won an unexpected victory over circumstances. For the first time his book had been brought out by a publisher and not by himself. This was a dream which ...

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CHAPTER VI THE WOUND DRESSER

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pp. II-137-II-176

It is probable that after his return from Boston in June 1860 Whitman resumed his indolent existence and divided his time between Brooklyn, where he continued to live with his family, and New York, where he rejoined his friends at Pfaff's. But we know absolutely nothing for certain concerning this period of his life. ...

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CHAPTER VII HAPPY BUREAUCRAT AND TORMENTED POET

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pp. II-177-II-211

One day, during the war, a New York newspaper correspondent named Swinton, finding Whitman on time for an appointment, exclaimed: "Well, Walt, I have known you dozens of years, and made hundreds of appointments with you, but this is the first time that I ever knew you to keep one. I thought that I saw signs of decay."1 ...

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CHAPTER VIII THE HEROIC INVALID (1873-1876)

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pp. II-212-II-227

On January 23, 1873, Whitman woke up paralyzed on the left side and threatened with death if another attack should occur. But instead of sinking into despair, he accepted the tragic situation,1 and without complaining or lamenting, clung with all his strength to what life remained in him. Slowly, very slowly, ...

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CHAPTER IX NEW VICTORIES (1876-1882)

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pp. II-228-II-251

In September 1876, someone arrived in Philadelphia, who, if Whitman had been prepared, would have changed the course of his life. This person was his great English admirer, Mrs. Anne Gilchrist. When she first read Leaves of Grass in 1869 she had been immediately overcome. In the distracted cry of the mockingbird ...

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CHAPTER X THE DECLINE (1883-1890)

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pp. II-252-II-262

Though he thought for a time of leaving Camden,1 Whitman finally decided to remain; but, in order to keep his independence, he bought in March 1884, with the money which the Philadelphia edition had brought him, a small twostory wooden house at 328 Mickle Street.2 This was the first time that he had owned a house, ...

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CHAPTER XI LAST MONTHS AND DEATH (1891-1892)

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pp. II-263-II-270

On June 4, 1890, three days after his seventy-first birthday, a newspaper announced that Whitman's death was imminent.1 The report was exaggerated, but certainly his strength was declining. He no longer went out of doors and only rarely left his room. In the summer, when the heat was stifling, he was forced to wait ...

NOTES

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pp. II-271

ABBREVIATIONS USED IN THE NOTES

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pp. II-272

NOTES

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pp. II-273-II-362

GENERAL INDEX

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pp. II-363-II-370

INDEX OF POEMS AND PROSE-WRITINGS

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pp. II-371-II-376

THE CREATION OF A BOOK

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pp. III-i

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FOREWORD

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pp. III-iii-III-iv

This volume corresponds to the second part of my book on L'Evolution de Walt Whitman. As the subtitle indicates, its subject is "the creation of a book," namely, Leaves of Grass, whereas the first volume was devoted to the "creation" of Whitman's personality. After a study of the events of Whitman's life with ...

CONTENTS

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pp. III-v-III-vi

PART ONE THE MAIN THEMES OF LEAVES OF GRASS

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pp. III-1

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CHAPTER I MYSTICISM AND THE POETRY OF THE BODY

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pp. III-3-III-20

Whoever reads in the text of the 1855 edition cannot avoid being struck by the importance which Whitman gives to the body. He continually takes pleasure in evoking naked men and women and in singing their beauty, their vigor, and the violence of their desires. ...

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CHAPTER II THE IMPLICIT METAPHYSICS

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pp. III-21-III-77

All poetry, in order to be valid, must be the expression of a Weltanschauung, and Whitman's verse offers no exception. It continually implies a confused and complex metaphysic upon which, at first, it seems impossible to impose an order. Doesn't he himself boast of his own contradictions? ...

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CHAPTER III THE ETHICS

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pp. III-78-III-90

At first sight this title is surprising. Can one, indeed, speak of an ethical philosophy in the case of a pantheist who deifies life in its totality, evil included, who attributes to evil the same value as to good and believes it necessary to the becoming of the world? ...

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CHAPTER IV THE FUNDAMENTAL AESTHETICS

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pp. III-91-III-107

Whitman's aesthetics derives quite naturally from his mysticism. For, in poetry, he saw above all the expression of the supreme truths which had been revealed to him. So, though he took pleasure in reading Homer, Shakespeare, and Walter Scott's narrative poems, he conceived no other poetry but lyric poetry. ...

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CHAPTER V SEX LIFE: "The Love that dare not speak its name."

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pp. III-108-III-128

Up to here we have studied but a single source of Whitman's poetic inspiration, namely, his mysticism. We have examined its influence in turn on his metaphysics, his ethics, and his aesthetics; we have seen from what profound regions of his subconscious this mysticism sprang and how closely connected it was, ...

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CHAPTER VI "THESE STATES" — EGOCENTRISM AND PATRIOTISM

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pp. III-129-III-144

If the first Leaves of Grass sing principally the "Song of Myself," the preface to the 1855 edition is, on the contrary, in many places a hymn to the United States, which, Whitman tells us, "themselves are essentially the greatest poem."1 Above all, he admires their immensity which makes them a subject worthy of ...

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CHAPTER VII DEMOCRACY — "MYSELF" AND MAN "EN-MASSE"

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pp. III-145-III-178

One might be tempted, as Newton Arvin was in particular,1 to exaggerate the influence of the Civil War on Whitman's evolution and to see there a break in his life. True, it would be interesting to contrast the mystical individualist of the years 1855 to 1860 with the fervent democrat of the post-bellum period, ...

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CHAPTER VIII DEMOCRACY AND RACIALISM — SLAVERY

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pp. III-179-III-191

Until 1862, American democracy presented a singular anomaly: while the Constitution promised "the blessings of liberty" to the inhabitants of the Union and to their posterity, the colored population of the South was reduced to slavery. This scandal tormented many consciences, but the problem was much more complex ...

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CHAPTER IX INDUSTRIAL CIVILIZATION

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pp. III-192-III-204

That reminder was quite appropriate. Had not the nineteenth century seen the United States pass from an agricultural to an industrial era with extraordinary rapidity? And no poet was more alive to that prodigious growth than Walt Whitman. In 1871, he rapturously proclaimed in Democratic Vistas: ...

PART TWO THE PROGRESS OF HIS ART

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pp. III-205

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CHAPTER X STYLE: FROM MYSTICISM TO ART

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pp. III-207-III-224

Emerson one day confided to a friend that Leaves of Grass reminded him at one time of the Bhagavad-Gita and the New Yark Herald.1 Its style is indeed most incongruous. Lyrical flights are to be found side by side with prosaic banalities, mystical effusions with the most familiar expressions from the spoken language. ...

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CHAPTER XI LANGUAGE: INNOVATIONS AND TRADITIONS

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pp. III-225-III-238

And indeed an analysis of the language which he used in his poems reveals the same mixture of heterogeneous elements as his style. Archaic words are found side by side with neologisms, abstruse terms next to slang words, and foreign words close to Americanisms. Ezra Pound has strongly reproved him for the heteroclite ...

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CHAPTER XII PROSODY: ORDER WITHIN DISORDER

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pp. III-239-III-252

If Whitman attached to form — especially at the beginning of his career — only a secondary importance, his indifference to music was even greater. Long before he had started writing Leaves of Grass he already thought that "whatever touches the heart is better than what is merely addressed to the ear." 1 ...

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CONCLUSION

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pp. III-253-III-260

This double study of Whitman the man and of Whitman the poet during the forty-odd years during which Leaves of Grass germinated and grew reveals that he increasingly understood and used the potentialities present in him from the beginning of his poetic career. Whitman realized it himself in 1888: ...

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

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pp. III-261-III-271

ABBREVIATIONS USED IN THE NOTES

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pp. III-272

NOTES

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pp. III-273-III-380

GENERAL INDEX

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pp. III-381-III-387

INDEX OF POEMS AND PROSE-WRITINGS

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pp. III-388-III-392