BARD OF DEMOCRACY
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,
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.1857-59
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
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
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
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.