Birthday from the vault: Walt Whitman
by Kevin Murphy
Walt Whitman, one of America’s greatest poets, was born on this day in 1819. That would make him how old …? Doesn’t matter, his poetry lives on, and like any great work of art remains as fresh and alive today as it did when it was first published.
To celebrate, here’s a smattering of handwritten notebook pages, audio clips, photographs, and more, all compliments of The Walt Whitman Archive and the Library of Congress.
The above, taken between February and May, 1848, is a daguerreotype made in New Orleans during Whitman’s residence there, while he edited the New Orleans Crescent.
This audio clip is a wax-cylinder recording of Walt Whitman reading four lines from his late poem “America” from 1889 or 1890.
“Earliest and most important notebook of Walt Whitman” c. 1850
“I am the poet of strength and hope” from the Talbot Wilson notebook, some of Whitman’s earliest proto-lines for “Song of Myself.”
This black and white photograph, housed at the Library of Congress, was taken sometime in the early 1860s by Matthew Brady.
Leaves of Grass, 1855
At Whitman’s tomb, c. 1893
In honor of Whitman’s birthday, we’re offering three books from our New York Poets Series for 30% off the retail price. Go here for more information.
Kevin Murphy is the digital media marketing manager of Melville House.