Synopses & Reviews
This Library of America edition is the most comprehensive volume of the work of Walt Whitman (18191892) ever published. It includes all of his poetry and what he considered his complete prose. It is also the only collection that includes, in exactly the form in which it appeared in 1855, the first edition of Leaves of Grass
. This was the book, a commercial failure, which prompted Emerson's famous message to Whitman: "I greet you at the beginning of a great career." These twelve poems, including what were later to be entitles "Song of Myself" and "I Sing the Body Electric," and a preface announcing the author's poetic theories, were the first stage of a massive, lifelong work. Six editions and some thirty-seven years later, Leaves of Grass
had become one of the central volumes in the history of world poetry.
Each edition involved revisions of earlier poems and the incorporation of new ones. In 1856, for example, he added such poems as "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" and "Spontaneous Me;" in the third edition (1860), "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" and two new sections, "Calamus" and "Children of Adam." In the fourth (1867), he incorporated the Civil War poems published a few years earlier as Drum-Taps and Sequel to Drum-Taps, including the poems on the death of Lincoln, notably "When Lilacs Last in the Door Yard Bloom'd." As it progressed, it was hailed by Emerson, Thoreau, Rosetti and others, but was also, as with the sixth edition in 188182, beset by charges of obscenity for such poems as "A Woman Waits for Me." Printed here is the final, great culminating edition of 189192, the last supervised by Whitman himself just before his death.
Whitman's prose is no less extraordinary. Specimen Days and Collect (1882) includes reminiscences of nineteenth-century New York City that will fascinate readers in the twenty-first, notes on the Civil War, especially his service in Washington hospitals, and trenchant comments on books and authors. Democratic Vistas (1871), in its attacks on the misuses of national wealth after the Civil War, is relevant to conditions in our own time, and November Boughs (1888) brings together retrospective prefaces, opinions, and random autobiographical bits that are in effect an extended epilogue on Whitman's life, works, and times.
Here it all is, the complete Whitman elegiac, comic, furtive, outrageous the most innovative and original of American authors.
"Beautiful and authoritative...the most comprehensive volume ever published of the works of Whitman." The New York Times
"Out of the book springs the man, always interesting and substantial, with a consistent strength and richness of mind and identity....His candor, idealism and innocence burn brightly, and yet at the same time he shows himself to be skeptical, objective and knowing. The result is one of great aesthetic intensity." Gwyneth Cravens, The Nation
"Between these covers, a singing voice apprehends the universe faithfully as a place where vast and indwelling laws of compensation abide, where the divine within each of us awaits the full recognition that will lead us to love and peace at last." Newsday
About the Author
Justin Kaplan, volume editor, is a writer whose works include Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain, which won a Pulitzer Prize in biography and a National Book Award. His Walt Whitman: A Life won the 1981 American Book Award for Biography.
Table of Contents
Leaves of grass (1855)
Leaves of grass (1891-92)
Complete prose works (1892)