Abraham Lincoln read it with approval, but Emily Dickinson described its bold language and themes as "disgraceful." Ralph Waldo Emerson found it "the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet produced." Published at the author's expense on July 4, 1855, Leaves of Grass inaugurated a new voice and style into American letters and gave expression to an optimistic, bombastic vision that took the nation as its subject. Unlike many other editions of Leaves of Grass, which reproduce various short, early versions, this Modern Library Paperback Classics "Death-bed" edition presents everything Whitman wrote in its final form, and includes newly commissioned notes.
About the Author
Walt Whitman was an American poet and writer born in New York in 1819. Despite his family's financial troubles, Whitman attended school and, after graduating at age eleven, worked in a lawyer's office before becoming a printer's apprentice. Before he had even turned sixteen Whitman began anonymously publishing his poetry at the Long Island Star, where he worked. After leaving the Star, Whitman moved through several jobs including teaching, publishing and typesetting. Eventually, though, Whitman determined to make his living writing poetry, and paid for the first publication of Leaves of Grass himself when he was thirty-seven. At the time of its publication, Leaves of Grass was met with controversy and was criticized for its overtly sexual themes, however, but it has since come to be one of the most important works in early American literature and a product of the transcendentalist movement. Whitman died in 1892 at the age of seventy-two.
"Whitman's best poems have that permanent quality of being freshly painted, of not being dulled by the varnish of the years."