Walt Whitman was born to Walter Whitman, a housebuilder, and Louisa Van Velsor. He was born on the 31st of May in 1819 in West Hills, New York. Soon after his birth, the family moved to Brooklyn, where his father worked as a carpenter. His childhood was not an ideal one as his parents moved from one place to another to make both ends meet. Unfortunately, his father died on June 11, 1855, and his mother met her end on May 23, 1873.
Since his family moved to Brooklyn soon after his birth, where he attended public schools for a few years. He proved a brilliant student and an excellent reader at an early age. However, sadly his formal education was over in 1830. Then he learned the trade of printing for the next five years. At the beginning of 1836, he served as a teacher in Long Island. Despite having a series of challenges in life, he did not give up writing. Walt kept on polishing his writing skills and published his first novel in 1842.
Although this prolific poet led a life full of trials, he successfully attained a respectable place in the world of literature. He could not obtain formal education due to the financial crisis as he had to leave school to feed his family. He worked as an editor, journalist, teacher and freelance writer. He also continued pursuing his interest in reading and writing. In 1870, he suffered from depression and faced two severe strokes in his life resulting in paralysis.
In spite of Walt’s traumatic life, he continued his efforts and kept on writing masterpieces throughout his life. This iconic figure breathed his last on the 28th of March in 1892 at Mickle Street.
Some Important Facts of His Life
- He was largely a self-taught man as he left school at the age of eleven to support his family.
- He worked as a male nurse in an army hospital during the American Civil War.
- He is buried in a tomb that he built and designed for himself.
- He published 795 copies of the first edition of “Leaves of Grass” on his own in 1885.
- In his life, he published eight editions of “Leaves of Grass”, which remains one of the classics in the literary world.
Walt managed to excel in his writing talent without formal education. Therefore, after finishing formal schooling, he learned the printer’s trade at the age of twelve. Then developed a profound affection toward reading. He greatly admired the works of Shakespeare, Homer, and Dante. In 1841, he set his sights on journalism and did a lot of editing in different newspapers. In 1842, his first novel, “Franklin Evans” hit the shelves and became commercially popular. Later, in 1855, he published the first edition of his book, “Leaves of The Grass” on his own. The second edition was published in 1856. He published his book Drum-Taps in which he gives accounts of the sufferings of war soldiers. In 1870, he published his two collections, “Democratic Vistas” and “Passage to India.” Throughout his writing career, he kept on working on his renowned book “Leaves of Grass”.
After establishing his career, first as a journalist and then as a poet, he added more to the world of literature. Despite having challenges in life, he secured a noteworthy place in the list of great poets on account of his lucid style and thoughtful ideas. The demise of his parents and the cruelty of the Civil war provided him with an insight to feel the irreparable loss of life. Therefore, he elaborated on the ideas of loss, death, suffering in his poetry. The notable themes in most of his poems are love, freedom, beauty, man and the natural world. Regarding literary devices, he often turns to visual imagery, similes, metaphors and sound devices. Besides these devices, he successfully used the cataloging technique in his texts to display his great insight into the consciousness of human thought.
Walt Whitman’s Works
- Best Poems: He was an outstanding poet, some of his best poems include: “Song of Myself”, “I Sing the Body Electric”, “A Noiseless Patient Spider”, “O Captain! My Captain!”, “Calamus” and “Song of the Open Road.”
- Other Works: Some of the other notable works he produced include: Franklin Evans, Drum-Taps, “Leaves of Grass”, Specimen Days, Manly Health and Training, Democratic Vistas and Life and Adventures of Jack Engle.
Walt Whitman’s Impact on Future Literature
Walt Whitman was an iconic writer who started writing at his young age and became popular in his life on account of his diverse and self-conscious writing style. His unique way of expression and literary qualities have added enough into the world of literature. Also, he had a significant influence on a diverse range of writers and critics. One of the famous American Critics, Benjamin de Casseres, lauded him as one of the true fathers of the futurists and cubists. His works are widely anthologized and taught in different curriculums across the world. In fact, he expresses his ideas in his poems so well that even today writers tend to imitate his style. Many consider him a role model for writing prose and poetry.
- Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you.
You must travel it by yourself.
It is not far. It is within reach.
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know.
Perhaps it is everywhere – on water and land.” (Leaves of Grass)
- “I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.” (Song of Myself)
- I say these are not the parts and poems of the body only, but of the soul,
I say now these are the soul! (I Sing the Body Electric)