Whitman In Washington

Another article discussing Walt Whitman on his bicentennial, this one from the perspective of his years in the capital. There is also a list of commemorative events happening in the city to browse for anyone who’ll be in the area.

Like many Washingtonians with creative passions, Whitman held down three government jobs to pay the bills. He was first a clerk with the army paymaster’s office, then the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

When the Secretary of the Interior realized that it was that Walt Whitman who worked for him, Whitman was unceremoniously let go. “He was a bit of a prude,” said Murray of Whitman’s boss, who didn’t approve of the emphasis on love between men that permeated Leaves of Grass.

Whitman’s friends rallied around him and soon found him a new clerking job in the Attorney General’s office.

Source: How Walt Whitman’s Decade In Washington Changed His Life — And His Poetry | WAMU

Rare Walt Whitman Artifacts Go on View

Happy 200th birthday, Walt Whitman! To celebrate the poet’s bicentennial, the Library of Congress has a special exhibition of some of his belongings and notebooks. If you’re in Washington DC this summer, stop in for a visit.

On June 3, the notebook will join a pair of partly frosted eyeglasses and a walking cane given to the poet by naturalist John Burroughs, among other rare artifacts, in a display hosted by the LOC’s Jefferson Building. The event is tied to a larger Whitman bicentennial display that opened earlier this month and runs through August 15.

Topics addressed in the display include Whitman’s likely romantic relationship with streetcar conductor Peter Doyle, his traumatizing Civil War battlefield experiences, and his firsthand involvement in the design and publication of Leaves of Grass. Continually revised between 1855 and Whitman’s death in 1892, Leaves of Grass started out as a set of 12 untitled poems. But by the text’s second edition, the number of featured poems had multiplied to 33; ultimately, its final form constituted 383 poems spread out across 14 sections.

Also on the agenda are a history talk hosted in Culpeper, Virginia—where Whitman spent two months while serving as a volunteer in nearby field hospitals during the Civil War—and a June 3 open house featuring artifact selections and a documentary showing. A complete list of events can be found on the LOC press release.

Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/how-library-congress-marking-walt-whitmans-200th-birthday-180972242/#xstysi3O1DiscuGs.99
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Source: Rare Walt Whitman Artifacts Go on View at Library of Congress for Poet’s 200th Birthday | Smart News | Smithsonian

Walt Whitman’s Notebook

Walt Whitman, through his voluminous memoirs and presence in Washington at the time, has become the poet laureate of the Civil War.  Here, the New York Times investigates one of his notebooks. The interpretation wasn’t terribly compelling, but I did find this fact very intriguing.

Whitman was weathering private storms of his own as he scribbled these lines, which seem to hint at his unfolding midlife crisis. The third edition of “Leaves of Grass” had appeared in the spring of 1860 and received scathing reviews on both sides of the Atlantic. Another book – to be titled “The Banner at Day-Break” – was set to appear early in 1861. But sometime in the second week of December, a letter arrived informing Whitman that his publishers were going bankrupt.

“An alarming number of American publishers went out of business around the start of the Civil War,” Folsom says. “The market disappeared – people stopped reading books and started reading newspapers obsessively.” Whitman would publish no books, and just three short poems, until the end of the war.

Disunion: Inside Walt Whitman’s Notebook.

Referential Trifecta

Here’s a post that brings together three recent references made on this blog: Civil War hospitals, Washington DC in the war, and Walt Whitman.

Yet Whitman made a much different mark on our country during the Civil War, as a nurse’s aide and hospice caregiver. His kindnesses touched hundreds of injured, wounded and dying soldiers in army hospitals in Virginia and the District of Columbia after the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.

My great-great grand-uncle, Ephraim Miner, of Somerset County, was one soldier whose path crossed Whitman’s. He kept wartime diaries — likely in notebooks provided by Whitman himself — and I published them last year. While my uncle does not write about the poet, the overlap of their experiences suggests they knew each other briefly, and that this resulted in a rich written Civil War legacy from an otherwise very private farmboy.


The Walt Whitman Archive

I was looking for the source of Walt Whitman’s war reminiscences, and happened upon the Walt Whitman Archive. Not only does it have the published anecdotes, it also offers all his poetry and a trove of letters, too.

Whitman’s writing is very readable. I planned to leaf through some of the Memoranda, and wound up reading almost the entire collection. It’s a fantastic resource they’re offering, here.