SOLITARY SINGER: Biography of Walt Whitman by Gay Wilson Allen

SOLITARY SINGER: Biography of Walt Whitman

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1955 marks the hundredth anniversary of the publication of Leaves of Grass, probably the most controversial book of poetry ever to appear in America. This accents the publication of a new biography, despite the number that have appeared through the years. This is good biography, the result of twenty five years work on the part of the biographer. It is sound, sane, accurate, well balanced, neither condemnatory nor unduly adulatory, but with due emphasis on his childhood, family influences, his later ""solitary life"", his friendships with men and women, it above all gives with considerable crucial insight into the relation between the poems and Whitman's life and growth. The book makes the poems seem less wordy, and brings structure and meaning into the apparently tiresome lists. And of course it is fully appreciative of such masterpieces as the world has accepted. But does it now read? Whitman in these days of steel, glass, electronics and fission is no longer a prophet. His was the spirit of America of the 1860's. He was a son of nature and a humanitarian. Instinct and emotion, not intellectual attainments, were his gifts. He belonged to a frontier country. It is therefore questionable whether there will be great demand for this new biography, except for college library reference shelves.

Publisher: Macmillan