IHAS: Poet
Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
IHAS header
Return to Profiles Menu


A Biographical Chronology

Walter Whitman born May 31, West Hills Township, Huntington, L.I., the second of seven surviving children of Walter, Sr., a housebuilder, and Louisa Van Velsor.
Walter Whitman, Sr.
moves family to Brooklyn.

Marquis de Lafayette visits Brooklyn and, according to the boy Whitman, embraces him.

Whitman learns printing trade on BROOKLYN PATRIOT and STAR; he remains in New York City, after family returns to Long Island and works briefly as a printer.
After a fire destroys most of the NY presses, Whitman moves back to Long Island to teach school in several rural communities, found a weekly newspaper, and write his first short stories and verse.

Whitman moves to New York City, works as a compositor for NEW WORLD, and later as a journalist and printer for AURORA and THE EVENING TATTLER. He publishes his first stories, among them DEATH IN THE SCHOOL ROOM (1841), and a temperance novel, FRANKLIN EVANS (1842).

Whitman moves back to Brooklyn, begins his theatre, music, and literary criticism for THE BROOKLYN EAGLE, and becomes a devotee of opera.

Whitman goes to new Orleans with brother Jeff to work for NEW ORLEANS CRESCENT, where he stays only three months; he returns to edit the Brooklyn Freeman, a paper with Free-soil politics.

Whitman works as a printer, freelance journalist, housebuilder, and publishes four poems which will later appear in LEAVES OF GRASS.

Whitman self-publishes first edition of LEAVES OF GRASS (795 copies, 12 poems and a preface); Emerson writes an exuberant letter of support.

Whitman publishes second edition of LEAVES OF GRASS (33 poems, Emerson's letter and Whitman's response).

Henry David Thoreau and Bronson Alcott visit Whitman in Brooklyn.

Whitman edits BROOKLYN TIMES

Whitman frequents Pfaff's, a bohemian literary hangout; he haunts the docks, ferries, and baths of lower Manhattan and Brooklyn; he goes to Boston to oversee third edition of LEAVES OF GRASS, published by Thayer & Eldridge, refusing to omit CHILDREN OF ADAM poems.


At outbreak of Civil War, Whitman devotes himself to nursing the dying and the injured, first in New York hospitals and then in the battlefield hospitals in Virginia, where in 1862 he had traveled to find his wounded brother George.

Whitman receives an appointment as a clerk in the Bureau of Indian Affairs until he is discharged by James Harlan for being the author of the "indecent" LEAVES OF GRASS; he is re-hired by Attorney General's Office; he publishes DRUM TAPS about his Civil War experiences; he meets and forms close relationship with Peter Doyle, a Washington streetcar conductor.

Whitman publishes the fourth edition of LEAVES OF GRASS, as well as part I of DEMOCRATIC VISTAS.

William Rosetti publishes a selection of Whitman's verse in England; the poet publishes part II of DEMOCRATIC VISTAS.

Whitman publishes the fifth edition of LEAVES OF GRASS, DEMOCRATIC VISTAS, and PASSAGE TO INDIA (dated 1871); English author, friend of Rossettis and widow of Blake's biographer, Anne Gilchrist publishes A WOMAN'S ESTIMATE OF WALT WHITMAN, a feminist defense, in BOSTON RADICAL.

Anne Gilchrist writes to Whitman her first love letter.

Whitman suffers a paralytic stroke in January; his mother dies in May, and he goes to live with brother George in Camden, NJ.

Whitman publishes A PRAYER OF COLUMBUS and SONG OF THE REDWOOD TREE; he is discharged from his government clerkship.

Whitman publishes the sixth edition of LEAVES OF GRASS; (a reprint of the 1871 edition, designated the Centennial Edition), and meets his amuensis, Horace Traubel; he begins the last of relationships with young men with Harry Stafford and passes days at the Stafford home at Timber Creek, NJ; Anne Gilchrist comes to Philadelphia in hopes of marrying Whitman, only to return to England in 1879 after it becomes apparent their bond is platonic.

Whitman undertakes a lecture tour, traveling as far west as Colorado.

Whitman journeys to Canada to visit his admirer and future biographer, the psychiatrist R.M. Bucke.

Whitman supervises a seventh edition of LEAVES OF GRASS by Boston firm of James R. Osgood (293 poems); he visits Emerson in Concord.

Whitman withdraws LEAVES OF GRASS from Osgood, after the Boston District Attorney threatens the edition with the obscenity statute, and turns publication over to David McKay in Philadelphia; he also publishes his prose works, SPECIMEN DAYS and COLLECT.

Whitman buys his first home on Mickle Street in Camden.

Whitman publishes the eighth edition of LEAVES OF GRASS (Complete Poems and Prose) and NOVEMBER BOUGHS; he suffers another stroke.

Using funds donated by his English friends, Whitman designs a tomb based on a William Blake engraving and supervises its construction in Camden's Harleigh Cemetery.

Whitman publishes GOODBYE, MY FANCY and the ninth edition of LEAVES OF GRASS, called the "Deathbed Edition;" he dies March 26 at Mickle Street and is buried on March 30 at Harleigh, where he leaves the injunction that the tomb door should be left adjar at twilight so his spirit can stroll abroad.

Return Home Top of the page
[ Home | Profiles | Timeline ]

[ wNetStation ]       [ PBS Online ]

tml"> PBS Online ]       [ wNetStation ]