Walt Whitman

The first edition of Leaves of Grass, published in 1855, heralded a new voice in American letters. Walt Whitman’s muscular sensuality freed poetry from the bounds of meter to celebrate the freedom of nature, sexuality, and the self. Whitman continued to rework and reprint his verse under this title until his death in 1891. The earliest surviving manuscript is the 1860 edition in which the Calamus poems appeared for the first time.

While searching for his wounded brother in 1862, Walt Whitman found a mission. For the remainder of the conflict, he volunteered at military hospitals around Washington. Whitman wrote letters for patients, offered comfort, and brought small gifts of food, paper, pens, and books. His letters to friends and family conveyed his profound admiration and love for the wounded, sick, and dying men of the wards.

More about Whitman and his work:
http://www.whitmanarchive.org/

view large image

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass.

Brooklyn, New York: [Walt Whitman], 1855. Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History (A 1855 .W34 L4)

view large image

“Calamus 8” from the manuscript of Leaves of Grass, ca. 1860.

Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature (MSS 3829)

view large image

Letter from Walt Whitman, Washington, D.C., to Nathaniel Bloom and John Frederick S. Gray, [New York, New York], 19 March 1863.

Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature (MSS 3829-a)

view large image

Pocket notebook of Walt Whitman in which he made notes of his visits with patients in Civil War hospitals. Entry for 11 May 1863.

Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature (MSS 3829)

view large image

Portrait of Walt Whitman. Inscribed on back: Given to a Comrade as a Memento in Washington City, June 29, 1865.

Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature (MSS 3829-h)