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This Library of America edition is the biggest and best edition of Walt Whitman's writings 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 entitled “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 became one of the central volumes in the history of world poetry.
Each edition involved revisions of earlier poems and the incorporation of new ones. As it progressed, it was hailed by Emerson, Thoreau, Rosetti and others, but was also, as with the sixth edition in 1881–82, beset by charges of obscenity for such poems as “A Woman Waits for Me.” Printed here is the final, great culminating edition of 1891–92, 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.
LIBRARY OF AMERICA is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nation’s literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, America’s best and most significant writing. The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries.
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The Library of America is an award-winning, nonprofit program dedicated to publishing America's best and most significant writing in handsome, enduring volumes, featuring authoritative texts. Hailed as "the most important book-publishing project in the nation's history" (Newsweek), this acclaimed series is restoring America's literary heritage in "the finest-looking, longest-lasting edition ever made" (New Republic).About the Author:
Walt Whitman (1819-1892) was born on Long Island and educated in Brooklyn, New York. He served as a printer's devil, journeyman compositor, itinerant schoolteacher, editor, and unofficial nurse to Northern and Southern soldiers and is widely considered the greatest American poet of the nineteenth century.
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.
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