Born on Long Island and raised in Brooklyn, Walt Whitman spent his childhood and early adulthood amid the sights and sounds of New York City and its environs. As a young man Whitman worked as a journeyman printer for several New York newspapers, before ultimately becoming a journalist and editor in his own right. Before committing himself to poetry, Whitman also worked intermittently as a schoolteacher, a carpenter, and a writer of sensational prose fiction. In 1855, Whitman self-published Leaves of Grass, the book of poems that defined his career as a poet; he hoped that Leaves of Grass would take the literary world by storm. While there was a flurry of attention that surrounded the initial publication of his book--including positive appraisals by such luminaries as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Charles Eliot Norton--Whitman did not achieve the immediate fame that he had hoped for. When he released a second and expanded edition of Leaves of Grass the following year that similarly did not catapult him to immediate literary stardom, he withdrew from the public eye for a number of years before releasing the third edition of Leaves of Grass in 1860.
It is during this period of Whitman's life that he began frequenting Pfaff's bar and fraternizing with bohemians such as Henry Clapp, George Arnold, and Ada Clare. If the literary mainstream failed to recognize Whitman's genius, the Pfaff's bohemians made up for that lack tenfold. In the pages of the Saturday Press Whitman was lionized as "The New Nebuchadnezzar" of American poetry (May 26, 1860) and made the focus of more media attention than any other writer mentioned in the Press. This critical appraisal from the bohemian group wasn't unanimous, however. Reminiscing about his time at Pfaff's, artist Elihu Vedder recalls that it was, "[t]here I saw Walt Whitman; he had not become famous yet, and I then regarded many of the Boys as his superiors, as they did themselves" (Digressions 226). Moreover, Thomas Gunn, an occasional visitor to Pfaff's, noted that Whitman had somewhat of a reputation for being miserly among the Bohemians as he was "voted mean as he never stands drinks or pays for his own if it's possible to avoid it" (vol. 13, 121).
In one of his many accounts of the time he spent at Pfaff's Whitman said, "I used to go to Pfaff's nearly every night. . . after taking a bath and finishing the work of the day. When it began to grow dark, Pfaff would politely invite everybody who happened to be sitting in the cave he had under the sidewalk to some other part of the restaurant. There was a long table extending the length of this cave; and as soon as the Bohemians put in an appearance, Henry Clapp would take a seat at the head of the table. I think there was as good talk around that table as took place anywhere in the world. Clapp was a very witty man" ("A Visit to Walt Whitman" 10).
According to A. L. Rawson, "Walt Whitman was a caller [at Pfaff's] before and after the war, and no one was ever welcomed more heartily. Clapp once said: 'Here we have the poet of two hemispheres--for his humanity is too big for one'; and another time: 'Walt, your barbaric yawps have become musical in six languages'; and again 'Come, Whitman, you savage, open a page of nature for us'; and the poet would talk--oh, so earnestly and well! It was the general conviction of the coterie that Whitman had torn off the conventional gewgaws from human nature and glorified man. Whitman was impulsive and prompt in his kindness. He one day met an outcast young woman far down Broadway and walked with her all the long way up to Forty-second Street to commend her to Ada Clare's good graces, on the idea that she was the friend and patron of all sorts of misfortunes" (106).
Whitman, like several other bohemians, experimented with the boundaries of human sexuality while at Pfaff's. As Ed Folsom and Ken Price write in their biography of Whitman, "It was at Pfaff's, too, that Whitman joined the 'Fred Gray Association,' a loose confederation of young men who seemed anxious to explore new possibilities of male-male affection" (Re-Scripting 62).
Whitman left New York and Pfaff's in 1862 to work in the hospitals of the Union Army in Washington, D.C., during the U.S. Civil War. He lived in Washington in the years following the War and eventually settled across the river from Philadelphia in Camden, New Jersey, where he spent his twilight years receiving visits from fans and admirers of his poetry. On an August day in 1881, however, Whitman returned to Pfaff's--now relocated uptown on twenty-fourth street--to visit with Charles Pfaff and reminisce about the bohemian days. When Whitman arrived at Pfaff's he said that the proprietor "quickly appear'd on the scene to welcome me and bring up the news, and, first opening a big fat bottle of the best wine in the cellar, talk about ante-bellum times, '59 and '60, and the jovial suppers at his then Broadway place, near Bleecker Street" (Specimen Days and Collect 188).
This brief interview with Whitman discusses the poet's early career, his time with the Pfaff's bohemians, and his later life in the 1880s.[pages:10]
Whitman is mentioned as one of the "bright spirits" who met at Pfaff's.[pages:10]
The author refers to scholarship by Schyberg and Binns about the Pfaff's period that speculates on a failed romance for Whitman during this time. Allen quotes from Binns a notebook entry by Whitman wherein the poet speaks of dedicating himself to a new stage of life that would give him "a purged, cleansed, spiritualized, invigorated body."[pages:40-41]
Allen's book traces Whitman's life and career. Allen discusses in detail Whitman's associations at Pfaff's and his publications and support for Leaves of Grass in the Saturday Press.[pages:228 and passim]
Whitman's affiliation with Pfaff's is mentioned. Asselineau writes that "though Whitman never went to Paris, he often lived there in imagination and even identified himself with a number of Parisian writers" (273). These writers include Henri Murger, Victor Hugo, and Beranger.[pages:272-3]
Baker discusses Whitman's relationship to the Atlantic Monthly and his reception in Boston literary circles.[pages:283-301]
Belasco discusses Whitman's relationship to nineteenth-century periodicals; between 1838 and 1892 he published about 150 first printings of his poems in about 45 periodicals (247).
Belasco argues that Whitman continued the theme of creating a "Home Literature" that he called for in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (July 11,1846) in an unsigned article that appeared in the New York Saturday Press in 1860. Belasco uses Whitman's quote from this article that states that Americans should "compose 'Our own song, free, joyous, and masterful,' exhorting his countrymen to discover American writers: 'You, bold American! And ye future two hundred millions of bold Americans, can surely never live, for instance, entirely satisfied and grow to full stature, on what the importations hither of foreign bards, dead or alive, provide--nor on what is echoing here the letter and spirit of the foreign bards'" (248-9).
Between December 1859 and June 1860, Whitman published nine new poems in periodicals. These publications were part of Whitman's effort to promote the third edition of Leaves of Grass, published May, 1860. In the New York Saturday Press, Whitman published "A Child's Reminiscence ("Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking") and "You and Me and To-day." Belasco cites Jerome Loving's observation that "the Press published a total of seven poems that would be a part of the 1860 edition, including some of the Calamus poems." Belasco continues, "Few of these have been noted in bibliographies or studied in their original context. Whitman also published another poem from the 1860 edition, 'Bardic Symbols' (later 'As I Ebb'd with the Ocean of Life'), in the Atlantic Monthly. Finally, just after the 1860 edition appeared, he published 'The Errand-Bearers,' in the New York Times; he eventually revised the poem for inclusion in Drum Taps (1865). Publishing in these venues, especially the Saturday Press and the Atlantic Monthly, was something of a coup for Whitman--both were powerful literary magazines that published new American writers" (251).
Belasco notes that both Clapp and Whitman felt that "any publicity was good publicity" for Leaves of Grass (251).
"A Child's Reminiscence" (later "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking") was published December 24, 1859, on the first page of the Saturday Press (252).
In response to the first-page printing of "A Child's Reminiscence" in the December 24, 1859, edition of the Saturday Press, the poem was attacked in the Cincinnati Daily Commercial. The Saturday Press reprinted the attack and Whitman's anonymous response "All about a Mockingbird," which defended his poetry and promoted the third edition of Leaves of Grass. "We are able to declare that there will also soon crop out of the true Leaves of Grass, the fuller-grown work of which the former two issues were the inchoates--this forthcoming one, far, very far ahead of them in quality, quantity, and in supple lyric exuberance" (252).
Bellew discusses Emerson's reactions to other works of literature and recalls the day Emerson "drew my attention to an unbound volume of poems he had just received from New York, over which he was in raptures. It was called 'Leaves of Grass,' by Walt Whitman. 'I have just written off post-haste to thank him,' he said, 'It is really a most wonderful production, and gives promise of the greatest things, and if, as he says, it is his first writing, seems almost incredible. He must have taken a long run to make such a jump at this'" (49). Bellew recalls that Emerson "read me some passages, raising his eyebrows here and there, remarking that it was hardly a book for the seminary or parlor table." Bellew mentions that he took a leave of Emerson for two months, after which Emerson was "still enthusiastic over 'Leaves of Grass'" (49).[pages:49]
Whitman is mentioned throughout the book, with his time at Pfaff's treated specifically in a section of chapter two.[pages:61-63]
Boyton remarks, "To Whitman respect is paid because he is so essentially American in his subject matter and point of view" (173). Boyton also states on the subject of "American" writers that "Walt Whitman (1819-1892) and Mark Twain are the two authors whom the rest of the world have chosen to regard as distinctively American" (362). Boyton provides a comparison of these two writers(407-408).
"[...] [Thoreau had] eager friendship for two of the most strikingly unconventional men of his day- Walt Whitman and John Brown 'of Harper's Ferry.' Of Whitman he wrote, when few were reading him and few of these approving: 'I have just read his second edition (which he gave me), and it has done me more good than any reading for a long time....I have found his poems exhilarating, encouraging....We ought to rejoice greatly in him. He occasionally suggests something a little more than human. You can't confound him with the other inhabitants of Brooklyn or New York. How they must shudder when they read him!...Since I have seen him, I find I am not disturbed by any brag or egoism in his book. He may turn out the least of a braggart of all, having a better right to be confident'" (232).
"At thirty-one he was a natural Bohemian, independent enough not even to do the conventional Bohemian things like drinking and smoking, but he had shown no marked promise of achieving anything more than his own personal freedom. His writing and public speaking had been commonplace, and his journalistic work respectably successful. Then in 1855 came the evidence of an immensely expansive development, a development so great and so unusual that it met the fate of its kind, receiving from all but a very few neglect, derision, or contempt" (364).
"The flight of birds, the play of waves, the swaying of branches, the thousandfold variations of motion, are easy to reproduce and easy to perceive, but Whitman went far beyond these to the innate suggestions of things and of ideas" (369).
"The most violent objections launched at Whitman were based on his unprecedented frankness in matters of sex [...] So Whitman was made a scapegoat [...]" (370).
"For the carrying out of such a design the only fit vehicle is the purest sort of democracy; all other working bases of human association are only temporary obstacles to the course of things; and as Whitman saw the nearest approach to the right social order in his own country, he was an American by conviction as well as by the accident of place. Governments, he felt, were necessary conveniences, and so-called rulers were servants of the public from whom their powers were derived. The greatest driving power in life was public opinion, and the greatest potential molder of public opinion was the bard, seer, or poet. This poet was to be not a reformer but a preacher of a new gospel; he was, in fact, to be infinitely patient in face of 'meanness and agony without end' while he invoked the principles which would one day put them to rout" (374).
"Whitman was not in the usual sense a 'nature poet.' The beauties of nature exerted little appeal on him. He had nothing to say in detached observations on the primrose, or the mountain tops, or the sunset. But nature was, next to his own soul, the source of deepest truth to him, a truth which science in his own day was making splendidly clear. The dependence of biological science on the material universe did not shake his faith in immortality. He simply took what knowledge science could contribute and understood it in the light of his faith, which transcended any science. Among modern poets he was one of the earliest to chant the paean of creative evolution" (376).[pages:49(note), 137, 173, 232, 279, 295, 328, 334, 339, 340, 362-379, 405, 407, 408, 414, 419, 453]
Describing the friendship, Burroughs states that "I loved him as I never loved any man. We were companionable without talking. I owe more to him than to any other man in the world. He brooded me; he gave me things to think of; he taught me generousity, breadth, and an all-embracing charity" (Vol. 1 113).[pages:113]
Burroughs cites Whitman's poetic descriptions of various natural phenomena in his natural history essays.[pages:10,205]
Carpenter discusses Whitman's real-life and literary personas and claims that Whitman was more of "a reformer than a bohemian." Carpenter also claims that Whitman's self-written biography for Burroughs' biography was an important fictional creation of Whitman's literary persona.[pages:534-545]
Shively's text explores Walt Whitman's identity as a homosexual man and his numerous friendships and/or sexual relationships with boys and young men.
Clapp tells Whitman how much he enjoys his poetry and informs him of his plans to support the new 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass in the pages of the Saturday Press.
Umos discusses his thoughts on Whitman's Leaves of Grass, emboldened by the publication of a review from the Cincinnati Commercial printed in the Saturday Press (2).[pages:2]
Umos discusses how a pun he made about Whitman's Leaves of Grass the previous week was corrected by the typesetter as a spelling mistake (2).[pages:2]
Clare writes that "Whitman's 'A Child's Reminiscence' could only have been written by a poet, and versifying would not help it. I love the poem" (2).[pages:2]
Clare discusses her admiration of Whitman's "Child's Reminisence" and claims that it "could only have been written by a poet" (2).[pages:2]
Identifies a Whitman scrapbook in the Oscar Lion Collection of the New York Public Library ("Scrap Book 1860-1882") containing Whitman's poem "You and Me and To-Day" and an 1860 poem from the Saturday Press by Saerasmid titled "Yourn and Mine, and Any-Day" next to which Whitman wrote "Guardettes [sic] Burlesque" (260).[pages:259-262]
Walt is mentioned as having frequented a Boston bookstore where Clapp worked as a clerk when he was a young man.[pages:3]
Whitman is described as "staid"; the influence of the bohemians is said to have accorded him "a distinct personality -- one not to be seen again." Donaldson speculates that Whitman most likely seemed dull at Pfaff's but notes that Whitman was a figure there and was asked for and upon by other visitors. Donaldson also speculates that Whitman's appearance and manner made him attract others and discusses Whitman's interest in the stage drivers.
Donaldson includes references to "Specimen Days and Collect" and identifies some of the persons mentioned. Also included is a long Whitman-written description of his last visit to Pfaff's (Aug. 16, 1881), at what he calls the "New Pfaff's."[pages:201-09]
The letter is written from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Walt Whitman.[pages:66]
The letter is written from R. W. Emerson to Walt Whitman.[pages:41]
Epstein mentions that Whitman was never reported as being seen drunk at Pfaff's and that his regular table was along the back wall. Epstein states here that Whitman compared the size of Pfaff's to his bedroom on Portland Ave (other sources note that this comparison was made to Whitman's bedroom at Mickle St.).
Epstein remarks that everyone knew in 1861 that Whitman could be found at Pfaff's, where he was admired by the gathered artists. Epstein also discusses Whitman's meetings with the Fred Gray Association and claims he was Jovian and in his element at Pfaff's.[pages:29,51,53-57,310,314]
Whitman is identified by Eytinge as part of the group who met at Ada Clare's house on West 42nd Street on Sunday evenings. She characterizes these meetings with the phrase "this was Bohemia" (22).[pages:22]
Figaro suggests printing something from Whitman's "Drum Taps" to give the Feuilleton humorous material. He also notes that "a friend at my elbow, who sometimes gets off a good thing" claims that the poems "are written in vexameters" (200).[pages:200]
Whitman's connection with Pfaff's is mentioned on pages 61, 62, and 87.[pages:61,62,87]
Identified as one of "The group of men at that table [who] constituted the Bohemia of a quarter of a century ago, the most notable gathering of its kind that one city has ever known."
Whitman is mentioned as one of "the best know writers who frequented that cozy corner [Pfaff's]."[pages:9]
Whitman is mentioned as one of the Bohemians at Pfaff's "gossiped" about by Rufus B. Wilson in a "reminiscent letter to the Galveston News."[pages:479]
Whitman used the pseudonym "Velsor Brush" to publish poetry in The New York Leader in 1862.
Glicksberg traces Whitman's writing and whereabouts during 1862.[pages:264-82]
Whitman is mentioned as one of the older men Aldrich knew in New York. Greenslet indicates that the young Aldrich met Whitman several times during his experiences in "Literary Bohemia" in New York, but that the records indicate that the meetings were "not of the most sympathetic nature" (38).
Aldrich wrote a letter (Nov. 20, 1880, from Ponkapog, Mass.) to Stedman discussing a "paper" Stedman wrote on Walt Whitman. Aldrich's response to Whitman's work was as follows: "You seemed to think that I was going to take exception to your paper on Walt Whitman. It was all admirably said, and my own opinion did not run away from yours at any important point. I place less value than you do on the indorsement of Swinburne, Rossetti and Co., inasmuch as they have have also indorsed the very poor paper of ---. If Whitman had been able (he was not able, for he tried it and failed) to put his thought into artistic verse, he would have attracted little or no attention, perhaps. Where he is fine, he is fine in precisely the way of conventional poets. The greater bulk of his writing is neither prose nor verse, and certainly it is not an improvement on either. A glorious line now and then, and a striking bit of color here and there, do not constitute a poet -- especially a poet for the People. There never was a poet so calculated to please a very few. As you say, he will probably be hereafter exhumed and anatomized by learned surgeons -- who prefer a subject with thin shoulderblades or some abnormal organ to a well-regulated corpse. But he will never be regarded in the same light as Villon. Villon spoke in the tone and language of his own period: what is quaint or fantastic to us was natural to him. He was a master of versification. Whitman's manner is a hollow affectation, and represents neither the man nor the time. As the voice of the 19th century, he will have little significance in the 21st. That he will outlast the majority of his contemporaries, I haven't the faintest doubt -- but it will be in a glass case or a quart of spirits in an anatomical museum" (138-9).
Stedman responded to Aldrich: "I do not see but we perfectly agree on Whitman. My estimate of him was based, not, as you seem to half suspect, on the recollection of his early barbaric yawps, but on a careful study of his complete works. Awhile ago I invested ten dollars in two solid volumes which I should be glad to let any enthusiastic Whitmaniac have at a very handsome reduction. I admire his color and epithets and lyrical outbreaks when I can forget the affectation that underlies it all. There was always something large and sunny in Wordsworth's egotism. There is something unutterably despicable in a man writing newspaper puffs of himself. I don't believe a charlatan can be a great poet. I couldn't believe it if I were convinced of it!" (140).[pages:38,70,138-139,140]
Gunn mentions that Fitz-James O'Brien discussed Whitman's poetry (among other topics) with a group of friends: "Talk of Walt Whitman's poem, politics, and miscellanous matters."[pages:208]
Gunn describes meeting Walt Whitman: "I have met Walt Whitman at [Sara Willis] Partons [aka Fanny Fern], and he has called on me, subsequently. I like the man immensely, and must put him in pen and ink hereafter. My brain is too troubled to do it, now" (13).
Gunn describes his visits to Fanny Fern and James Parton, where he encounters Walt Whitman and Oliver Dyer: "Parton and his wife have just moved to Brooklyn, where she has purchased a house. I used, as wont to drop in at the Waverly on Saturday nights, always finding Walt Whitman there, and sometimes Oliver Dyer. The latter, editor of 'the Ledger,' and the 'John Walter' of Fanny's 'Ruth Hall', is a light haired, dogmatic, conceited man, addicted to talking in a damnably opinionative [sic] man. Walt Whitman is six feet high, nearer forty than thirty, I should say, very much sunburned and rough handed. He is broad in proportion to his height, has a short, partially gray beard and moustache [sic], and a neck as brown as a berry. His face is very manly and placid. He wears a wide brimmed low crowned felt hat, a rough, loose coat, striped shirt (with perceptible red flannel one under it,) no vest, loose short pants, and big thick boots. Thus accoutered I find him lounging on the sofa beside Fanny Fern, his legs reposing on a stool or chair. She is, as usual, very brightly dressed, never in precisely the same costume as the one you last look on. Parton seated in an arm chair, in short, brown, loose in-doors coat, white pants and low shiny shoes, listens, leaning forwards to Walt's talk. Parton has a thin face, sallow complexion, acquiline [sic] nose and darkish hair, which he wears rather long. One of his eyes, too, has a peculiar expression which I take to be partly wall, partly strabismus. He looks a student. Dyer will probably be sitting 'tother side of Fanny, perhaps with his arm resting on the sofa behind her. In the rear, Fanny's elder daughter Grace (Eldridge) will be reading. She is a tall, fair haired girl of 16 or so, with an innocentish face, – very fond of reading. Nelly, the younger is fair and fat, but has moles on her face, and a resentful, wilful [sic] way with her. Fanny has been a handsomish woman, and looks well now but haggard. She is light haired, and when animated her face flushes. Only a triangular bit of her forehead is perceptible, her manner of wearing her hair concealing the rest. Parton appears very fond of her. / He, however, isn't jealous of Walt's kissing her, which he always does on quitting.) Walt talks well – but occasionally too much, being led by the interest with which his remarks are received into monopolizing the converse. I, as a rule, would prefer to play listener, yet it is a violation of good taste to find yourself constrained to become one. And nobody wishes to become a bucket to be pumped into, let the stream be ever so nutritious. He, Walt Whitman is equally a disbeliever in the divinity of Christ, as is Parton. (I put this down simply as a fact, sans depreciation of faith or lack of it.) I have met Fry there, one of the Tribune men" (16-19).
A newspaper engraving of Walt Whitman (18).
Gunn describes his evening with Walt Whitman: "Met Walt Whitman in Nassau Street, and at my suggestion, to a Lager bier cellar, where we found Welden, Strong and another. Talked awhile, till they left. Anon we followed, crossed to Brooklyn and had a swim at Gray's bath" (32).
Gunn recalls walking with Walt Whitman: "Looked in at the Pic Office; met Walt Whitman near Fowler and Wells, walked awhile with him, then on. Passing by Greene St was beckoned in by Selina Jewell" (74).
Gunn describes his talk with Welden; Walt Whitman comes up: "Met Welden farther on, closely shaved, as has been his custom of late, and rather drunk. He began to talk of Walt Whitman and 'that nasty, beastly w___e house book of his,' and pronounced him deserving of being whipped on his bare back 'till the blood ran down!' Back to my cold bed by 11 1/2" (80).
Gunn learns that Whitman owes Parton money: "Whitman has borrowed $300 of Parton and failed to meet his note for it. The money was lent with especial understanding that it was to be refunded at a certain date – since which something like twelve days has elapsed. Walt has been written to sans response. It would appear there's reason for suspecting the great 'Kosmos' to be a great scoundrel" (152-153).
Gunn explains that Parton is going to sue Whitman for his $200: "Plenty of persons were anxious to go, so Bellew, 'Doesticks' and I stood looking on awhile, till the close, when Doesticks entered a carriage (at little Edge's solicitation,) Bellew went off for a walk, and I returned to my chamber with Parton, who had been with us for the last five minutes or so. We talked an hour away, principally of
Levison. (Parton's apprehensive Haney may propose to the widow.) Walt Whitman has called on Parton, and appears shuffling. Parton is going to sue for his $200" (159).
Gunn regrets relying on Haney's judgment of Whitman: "There's something inherently untrue all through American life and character. Parton supposed Haney likely to marry that woman – knowing, too, that Haney knows what her nature it. I was carried away by his judgment of Walt Whitman, despite my own thoughts. When Walt told him, 'on his honor', that he – the Author of 'Leaves of Grass' – had lived a perfectly chaste life, that staggered my faith. I had doubts before. Now I know that I should have held to my own judgment. By Jove, I'll do so hereafter uninfluenced by the whole crowd of them. And I'll believe no better of their intellects or natures than they deserve. I can stand on my feet as firmly as any of them. I know as much, and am as good" (162).[pages:13, 16-19, 18(ill.), 32, 74, 80, 152-153, 159, 162]
Gunn recalls Banks idolizing Whitman's book, "First O'Brien came up and adjourned to Whelpley's, over the way. Then Banks came. He sat himself down on the bed, as usual; wanted to know whether I'd come out and call on some agreable [sic] fellows of his acquaintance; said he had lived a very hard life – in the American sense – during the past year, seldom getting to bed before three o'clock; declared that Walt Whitman's book was the greatest production that the world contained, not at all excepting Shakspere [sic], with regard to whom he, Banks, was above being humbugged by the common cant, for if Gifford hadn't brought him to light, nobody would ever have heard of the author of Hamlet! He also spoke of larger literary labor to which he was devoting himself and, in short was the old, unmatchable, original and asinine Banks, sans mitigation. Finally he wanted to know whether I had a copy of my book by me – to which, receiving a polite negative, he took himself off."[pages:15-16]
Gunn wonders aloud how Whitman manages to support himself: "Monday. To New York again – passing the 'kosmos' Walt Whitman by the way. How does that man – a unique character in his own way – live? He has a mother, an industrious brother and one idiotic. I sup[pose] the second maintains the family. Then too, there is or was some middle aged Philadelphia lady a widow of indifferent character, who admired him and whom he spunged from. And [Sara Willis] Partons [aka Fanny Fern] $200 might have sufficed to let him 'loaf and lie at his case' for a long time" (79).
Gunn describes seeing Whitman: "Down town with it after dinner &c. Saw Walt Whitman at Brady's entry, with another. Hardly knew the 'Kosmos' who had partly shaven himself. His pale grey eyes looked more protuberant than usual" (231).[pages:79, 231]
Walt Whitman is mentioned when Gunn is discussing the Saturday Press: "Sunday. Shepherd up, in my room with Cahill and Billington. Talk about the 'Saturday Press'. Clapp has secured another partner, about the eleventh 'third' of the paper that has been sold, as the fellows say. They call him the 'Permanent Basis' and his name appears in conjunction with H. C. Junior. Long incomprehensibility by Walt Whitman in this last week's number, who after subsiding for three years' threatens to keep on the surface again" (13).
Gunn describes an encounter between Whitman and Briggs: "Monday. To Blakeman's. Downtown, to 'Courier' Office. Walt Whitman came in, made a row about Briggs' attaching his (Whitman's) name to an article purchased of him, 85 M. Besnard. denounced Briggs as a trickster, a 'son of a b___h', and talked about licking both him and Smith, finally modified his language, indeed withdrew it with respect to the latter" (97-98).[pages:13, 97-98]
Whitman is described at being present at Pfaff's the night of the row, "As, disappointed, he turned his head, George Arnold, with scarcely room to do it, put his thumb to his nose and gyrated his fingers. It was very ludicrous. Gayler and
another man were there; they came in after me. The triumvirate trooped off, and so did I, up-townwards. Walt Whitman, Winter, Mullen, a friend of Wilkins and others were present at Pfaffs on the night of the row, besides the persons I have mentioned. Frank Wood didn't happen to be there" (85).
Gunn describes seeing Whitman and Mullen in the Bohemian cellar, "At Pfaffs, 745 and Elsewhere. to find George Arnold, Bob Gun hoping to get Yewell's Parisian address from him, I having written Gun a letter of introduction. Arnold was there, in the "Bohemian" cellar, with Walt Whitman and Mullen, whom I saw for the first time – a coarse-looking young fellow, with his coat off, in deference to the sultriness of the evening. I left soon and went to 745" (87).
Gunn says that Whitman was voted mean, "The Bohemians tell this as a good story among themselves. Walt Whitman is voted mean as he never stands drinks or pays for his own if it's possible to avoid it" (121).
Banks tells Gunn about his row with Whitman, "Out in the afternoon, down town. Met Welden and anon Banks. A rainstorm drove the latter and myself into a lager-bier place, where Banks talked for an hour, among other things giving me particulars of a row he had, at Pfaff's, with Walt Whitman" (169).[pages:85, 87, 121, 169]
Whitman is mentioned in a newspaper clipping.[pages:99]
Walt Whitman is mentioned in a newspaper clipping of Francis Bellew's death.[pages:261]
Hahn says he was a regular.[pages:21]
Hemstreet notes that Howells dined with Whitman at Pfaff's (218).[pages:218]
Hollis disscusses his relationships with John and William Swinton. Hollis explores Whitman's ties to William Swinton and their collaborative writing. Hollis also talks about Whitman's possible ghost-writing of W. Swinton's Rambles Among Words.[pages:425-449]
Holloway reprints an editorial from 1858 that blames bohemianism for making men bad husbands.
Holloway feels that Whitman's Pfaff's associations helped comfort him during the "quicksand years." Holloway also feels Whitman was most likely appreciated as a poet and shared a cultural background and intellectual dreams with the others. Whitman drank beer at Pfaff's but seems to have liked Washington beer better. He is sometimes addressed in letters as "Prince of Bohemia." Holloway also claims that Whitman worked at the New York Leader at the same time as Ada Clare.
The group at Pfaff's did not remain unaffected by the war, and this created irreparable problems in the dynamics of the group.[pages:88,109-111,113-116,118, 191(n26)]
Pfaff's was Whitman's evening spot. Holloway suggests that Whitman would go there to observe others after visiting events such as ball games or prayer meetings. Whitman would sometimes visit Pfaff's with the young doctors at Bellevue. Holloway claims that "The Vault at Pfaff's" was written in a moment of melancholy at the bar. Whitman's routine continued after his visit to Boston to promote/publish Leaves of Grass.
Whitman's last meeting at Pfaff's involved a political/patriotic debate with Arnold that involved Arnold grabbing him by the hair. Whitman did not return to Pfaff's for twenty years.
Holloway mentions that the New York correspondents that Whitman knew from Pfaff's helped to ease his loneliness in Washington during the war.[pages:157-158,162,179,193,200]
Holloway discusses a letter Whitman received at Pfaff's signed by "Ellen Eyre," whose real identity is unknown.[pages:1-11]
This April 1860 issue of The Atlantic Monthly features Whitman's "Bardic Symbols," which Howells reviews.
Howells discusses Clapp's relationship to Whitman: "He was kind to some neglected talents, and befriended them with a vigor and a zeal which he would have been the last to let you call generous. The chief of these was Walt Whitman, who, when the Saturday Press took it up, had as hopeless a cause with the critics on either side of the ocean as any man would have" (65). Howells also states that "It was not till long afterward that his English admirers began to discover him, and make his countrymen some noisy reproaches for ignoring him; they were wholly in the dark concerning the Saturday Press, which first stood as his friend, and the young men who gathered about it, made him their cult" (65).
Howells claims "No doubt he was more valued because he was so offensive in some ways than he would have been if he had been in no way offensive, but it remains a fact that they celebrated him quite as much as was good for them" (65).
Howells claims that Whitman was present the night he visited Pfaff's and was "the chief fact of my experience." Howells recounts, "I did not know he was there till I was on my way out, for he did not sit at the table under the pavement, but at the head of one further into the room. There, as I passed, some friendly fellow stopped me and named me to him, and I remember how he leaned back in his chair, and reached out his great hand to me, as if he were going to give it me for good and all. He had a fine head, with a cloud of Jovian hair upon it, and a branching beard and mustache, and gentle eyes that looked most kindly into mine, and seemed to wish the liking which I instantly gave him, though we hardly passed a word, and our aquaintance was summed up in that glance and the grasp of his mighty fist upon my hand. I doubt if he had any notion who or what I was beyond the fact that I was a young poet of some sort, but he may have possibly remembered seeing my name printed after some very Heinsesque verses in the Press. I did not meet him again for twenty years, and then I had only a moment with him when he was reading some proofs of his poems in Boston. Some years later I saw him for the last time, one day after his lecture on Lincoln, in that city, when he came down from the platform, to speak with some hand-shaking friends who gathered about him. Then and always he gave me the sense of a sweet and true soul, and I felt in him a spiritual dignity which I will not try to reconcile with his printing in the forefront of his book a passage from a private letter of Emerson's, though I believe he would not have seen such a thing as most other men would, or thought ill of it in another" (65).
Howells says that he "will make sure only of the greatest benignity in the presence of the man." And states that Whitman was "the apostle of the rough, the uncouth, was the gentlest person; his barbaric yawp, translated into terms of social encounter, was an address of singular quiet, delivered in a voice of winning and endearing friendliness" (65).
Howells gives a less shining critique of Whitman's work.
Howells mentions that when he met William D. O'Connor "he had not yet risen to be the chief of Walt Whitman's champions outside of the Saturday Press" (70). Howells also mentions that Boston publisher of Leaves of Grass was present at this gathering and that he had issued "a very handsome edition of Leaves of Grass, and then failed promptly if not consequently" (70).[pages:65, 67(ill.), 70]
The obituary identifies him as one of the "Knights of the Round Table" of the "lions of Bohemia."[pages:2]
Katz discusses Whitman's relationships.[pages:123-125,151]
Lalor writes that his "present study does not suggest that Whitman was typical of the Bohemian experience. Yet, based on his own testimony and that of others, he was clearly a member of the group, easily its most illustrious member, who enhanced the significance of that circle of artists. In turn, he incurred various debts to individuals and to Bohemia collectively" (131).
According to Lalor, Gay Wilson Allen has stated that it is not clear when exactly Whitman began visiting Pfaff's, but he became a regular after he stopped editing the Brooklyn Times in 1859. There is also evidence that Whitman was there well into September 1861, and may have been a visitor until the fall of 1862. The earliest date that establishes that Whitman was aware of the Bohemians is September 8, 1858, when his editorial criticizing "Bohemianism in Literary Circles" appeared in the Brooklyn Times. Concrete proof of his awareness of the Bohemians is the publication of "A Child's Reminiscence" in the December 24, 1958 edition of the Saturday Press (132). Lalor claims that while Bohemia was not Whitman's sole concern during his period at Pfaff's, he was "feted as Bohemia's most renowned member." According to Lalor, "Pfaff's and his retinue there fulfilled a need for Whitman, according him its reverence, as he fulfilled a need for them in his auspicious presence which added to their New York literary distinction. But he was wary enough not to entangle himself inextricably with Bohemia, and with one notable exception, sought to minimize his involvement there" (132). According to Lalor, while some biographers maintain that Whitman kept a reserved pose during his period at Pfaff's (which they also cite as an abberation - Lalor cites Parry on this), accounts such as Howells's contradict this depiction of Whitman. Lalor does concede, however, that Whitman most likely did not engage in heated debates with the other regulars every evening (133). Lalor writes that "at Pfaff's, he [Whitman] was a living shrine, a figure whom Henry Clapp, the recognized 'King of Bohemia,' would have liked to consider the ultimate Bohemian, whose success and artistry dictated adulation and deference" (133). Lalor cites Whitman's casual dress, manner, and enjoyment of life as the "epitome" of Bohemianism while also pitting him as the "antithesis" of the group in his accomplishment, quietness, and work ethic (133). Lalor is also careful to note that Whitman was not universally adored (or even always liked) at Pfaff's (135).
Lalor writes that "During his Bohemian period, Whitman was mainly involved in consolidating his reputation, and his very attendance at Pfaff's contributed to this. Here in the center of New York's most dynamic artists he could be found by admirers such as Howells and could receive their homage." Whitman also worked extensively on the third edition of Leaves of Grass, published in the New York Leader and was very involved in the Saturday Press in 1860. "It is a gross exaggeration, therefore, to say that Whitman's years in Bohemia were lost years of misadventure, though it was a time more of promise than of production" (134). Lalor also writes that "Bohemia afforded Whitman the opportunity to view and experience a novel form of life, to be extolled as the great new voice in American literature, and to witness some brilliant wits discussing and dissecting contemporary letters. These were amorphous quantities, impossible to judge for the degree of their effect on Whitman. However, there were more concrete debts that he owed to his Bohemian interlude, debts principally owed to Henry Clapp, the editor-publisher of the Saturday Press" (137). Lalor infers that Clapp and Whitman met, Clapp introduced Whitman to Bohemia, and the two men worked together to publicize Leaves of Grass and Whitman; "Whitman seems to have had a sympathetic if somewhat aloof attitude towards his champion. However their initial meeting came about, it was certainly fortuitous for Whitman" (137). Lalor quotes Mabbott's estimation of the Saturday Press as "a smart New York paper" and Clapp as "brilliant and humorous, understood much of significance of Whitman" (138). Lalor also cites Emily Hahn: "if it hadn't been for Emerson's warm praise and Clapp's stubborn faith, even Whitman's self-confidence might have suffered. As it was, the staff of the Saturday Press made him a cause, publishing his work and declaring his genius" (138). Lalor also quotes Parry and Allen for perspectives about the influence of Clapp and the Press on Whitman's career (138).
Lalor cites an "infamous indicent at Pfaff's" between Whitman and the "young poet-satirist" Arnold in 1862; "None of the participants emerged with much dignity":
"They were sitting opposite each other at the table, George was for rebellion and Walt was opposed...words grew hot. Walt warned George to be more guarded in his sentiments. George fired up more and more. Walt passed his 'mawler' toward George's ear. George passed a bottle of claret toward the topknot of the poet's head. Pfaff made a jump and gave a yell of 'Oh! mine gots, mens, what's you do for a dis?' Clapp broke his black pipe while pulling at Arnold's coat-tail; Ned Wilkins lost the power of his lungs for five minutes after tugging at the brawny arm of Walt; and we all received a beautiful mixture of rum, claret, and coffee on the knees of our trousers. Everything was soon settled, and Walt and George shook hands, and wondered much that they were so foolish" (135-136).
Whitman's relationship with Clapp appears to have ended in 1862, when Whitman left Bohemia. It does not appear that the two continued to correspond during the Civil War, while Whitman went on to the war and "the editor to slay other dragons and to puff other aspirants for literary fame." However, when Clapp revived the Saturday Press in 1865-1866, he paid Whitman tribute twice (141).[pages:131-45]
Whitman is called "the temporary Bohemian."[pages:5,11,19,21,22,24-25,35-63]
Whitman is mentioned as a member of the "'Pfaff group,' which assisted in the publication of the Saturday Press.[pages:832]
President Lincoln's assassination deeply impacted many of the bohemians, including Walt Whitman, whose "O Captain! My Captain!" and "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed" articulated the national grief (115).
Whitman was an old friend of Henry Clapp's, and he remains the most famous of the old bohemians. By 1881, the seventh edition of Leaves of Grass was quite large and "did well enought to allow Whitman to purchase a home in Camden, New Jersey. After a long and very well-documented old age, he died on March 26, 1892" (119).
Whitman "embodied the importance of Pfaff's for the future of American letters." He began making his way into Pfaff's when he was nearly forty years old, and had attained enough of a reputation by then to inspire a mixture of jealousy as well as respect. Even into his old age, Whitman spoke of how important Pfaff's had been to him, saying "'You will have to know something about Henry Clapp if you want to know all about me'" (53).
When Henry Clapp arranged to have a woman from upstate review Whitman's work, Whitman said "'the girls have always been my sturdiest defenders, upholders'" (87).[pages:88, 102, 105, 112, 113, 115, 119, 18-19, 53, 61, 49-52, 59-60, 80-81, 87, 116-118]
Levin notes that Whitman composed an unfinished poem about Pfaff's which drew on the literal location, combined with the urban geography, ultimately placing Pfaff's as a safeguard for the values for which "America" stands but the commercial marketplace denies (20).
Whitman provides a direct link between antebellum reform and Bohemia through his numerous temperance writings which represent "the sort of 'return of the repressed' counterdiscourse that adumbrated his later Bohemianism" (22-23).
Whitman reported that women, such as Ada Clare and Ada Isaacs Menken, had been some of his most devoted readers (43).
Whitman looked upon the United States as an "ideal microcosm of a cosmopolitan community," allowing him to reconcile his nationalism and internationalism (46).
Levin observes that as the nation approached the Civil War, Whitman's sense of himself as the "poet of American democracy" began to fracture along with the Union (49).[pages:5, 12, 20, 22-26, 29, 34, 36, 46-48, 43, 49-52, 54, 55, 66-68, 47-56]
Whitman is mentioned as one of the "disparate writers" who discuss "Bohemia" in their works (4). Levin cites Whitman's "The Vault at Pfaff's" as one of the Pfaffians' "self-descriptions" (7). Levin suggests that this unfinished poem describes "the precarious position of Bohemia within and without the national marketplace" (20). According to Levin, both Clapp and Whitman provide "direct links" in the discussion of the emergence of Bohemianism "in the wake of antebellum reform movements and experimental utopian communities" (23).
Levin notes that through much of the "American Renaissance," Whitman was thought of as "one of the most indecent writers who ever raked filth into sentences" (21).[pages:iv,4,6,7,20-21,22,23,25-30,42,45-46,49,55-56,59-60,62-72,85,86,89,91,95n10,109,151,179,256]
Loving describes Whitman as resuming drinking and spending much time in New York during 1857. Among other activities, Whitman is described as "sitting alone with a glass of beer against the back wall of Pfaff's cellar restaurant and saloon." He was often accompanied by an unknown doctor. Whitman compared the size of Pfaff's to his Mickle Street bedroom. Loving reports by hearsay that Whitman was never seen as "tipsy," and was most likely never completely comfortable as a drinker or a bohemian.
Leaves of Grass was often made light of by other regulars. Whitman most likely went along with and enjoyed the jokes at his expense.[pages:233-237,241-246,274, 351-352, 371]
He is described as "one of the place's most frequent habitues." Maurice notes that Howells' Literary Friends and Acquaintances describes the first meeting of Howells and Whitman.[pages:396]
While discussing the value of American theatrical drama, Whitman suggests that "anything appealing to the honest heart of the people, as to the peculiar and favored children of freedom -- as to a new race and with a character separate from the kingdoms of other countries -- would meet with a ready response, and strike at once the sympathies of all true men who love America, their native or chosen land" (vi).
Whitman worked as an editor for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle from 1846-1848, during which time he continuously called for American theaters to hire American performers rather than import actors like Charles Kean and Ellen Tree (7-8).
Whitman also calls for reforms of the theatrical reviewing process: "There is hardly anything more contemptible, and indeed unprofitable in the long run, than this same plan of some paid personage writing laudatory notices to the newpaper, to be printed as spontaneous opinions of the editors" (8).[pages:vi, 7, 8, 16, 25, 34, 39, 40, 70, 76, 93, 132, 146, 149, 150]
Whitman is cited as a writer for The Saturday Press.[pages:39]
O'Higgins makes a mention of Whitman's involvement with a pre-Pfaff's group of bohemians. O'Higgins, quoting one of Whitman's unnamed friends, writes that Whitman wrote his novella Franklin Evans; or The Indbriate "mostly in the reading room of Tammany Hall, which was a sort of Bohemian resort, and he afterwards told me that he frequently indulged in gin cocktails, while writing it, at the 'Pewter Mug,' another resort for Bohemians around the corner in Spruce Street" (13).
O'Higgins also includes a discussion of Whitman's sexual orientation and says that Whitman "was arrested in his sexual development very near the homosexual level, as several of his poems show" (35).[pages:13,35,39]
The "Obituary" mentions that "Leaves of Grass" "shocked and attracted critics." At the time of Clapp's death, Whitman "is, or has recently been, an invalid, and save now and then a characteristic screed, he is unheard of."[pages:7]
Whitman is mentioned as a poet who sat "at the dripping round-table" and "read his Yawps" He is included among those "happy, careless children of Bohemia" who attended the "carnivals in Pfaff's cellar" (5).[pages:5]
Parry writes that part of the significance of the first Bohemian movement in New York is because it provides a "transitory background" for Whitman that has been underexplored (xiii). Parry mentions that Whitman was one of several frequenters of Pfaff's who wrote poetry about the saloon (24). Parry also writes about the Saturday Press's role in helping to promote Whitman; "The Saturday Press began its career by pioneering the praise of Walt Whitman into the sceptical ears of his contemporaries" (24-25). Parry also writes that Whitman did not rejoin the group after the Civil War; Parry claims he was "too saddened by his hospital service to return to Bohemian merriment" (32). Parry does a brief review of what Boynton and Rickett have said about Whitman's Bohemianism and his time at Pfaff's. Parry also mentions that while in Washington Whitman often reflected upon Pfaff's fondly and wrote to friends to ask about Pfaff and other friends from that group. Parry notes, however, that the Pfaffian who made the most valuable and lasting impression on Whitman was Clapp and quotes Whitman's remarks to Traubel about Clapp (42-43). Parry also mentions that "Walt Whitman probably drank nothing stronger than buttermilk in Charlie's basement" (68).
Parry mentions Whitman's admiration of Ada Clare and his estimation of her as the "New Woman born too soon." Parry also notes that she was among the group of women who were Whitman's "sturdiest defenders and upholders" and about whom Whitman also said that "Some would say that they were girls little to my credit, but I disagree with them" (14). Parry also mentions Whitman's anger at Ada Clare when her romantic affairs became more public and her behavior became more scandalous and widely discussed (27). Parry claims that Ada Clare is the first person Whitman and Pfaff toasted when they drank to the memories of the departed Bohemians when he visted Pfaff's Twenty-fourth Street restaurant in August 1881 (37).
Parry writes that at Pfaff's, rather than seat himself in the niche under the vaulted ceiling that Pfaff set up for his literary customers, Whitman often sat in the main room of the restaurant with the "uninitiated." Parry writes that here Whitman sat "slightly withdrawn from the exalted, better to watch them, or to have an intimate talk with one or another of them, unhampered" (22).
Parry writes that at Pfaff's Whitman "was indisputably part of the scene, but he only sat, watched, and was worshipped; no one thought of designating him chief of the Bohemians" (38). Parry also writes of Emerson's visit to Pfaffs's with Whitman during which Emerson "called them noisy and rowdy firemen and could not understand what bonds they claimed with Walt" (38). Parry notes that "Emerson did not know that Walt was aware of his superiority to all these ruffians, but that he loved adulation and found plenty of it at Pfaff's. There he was the shrine to which Clapp brought the faithful" (38). Parry also mentions that Whitman "mistook Howells for a member of the faithful and warmly shook his hand as the chaste young Ohioan was angrily leaving the cellar" (38). Parry notes that this was not an unusual pose for Whitman to take as "he liked to play his role of a benevolent celebrity and shake strangers' hands with hearty magnificence." Parry continues, "A legend has it that once, at Pfaff's, espying a young man who worshipped him from a distance, he crossed the floor to the stranger's table and allowed majestically: 'You may speak to me if you wish'" (38). Parry also mentions that there are portraits of Whitman, "as he patron-sainted it at Pfaff's" (38).
Parry writes that Whitman desired all of his friends to visit him at Pfaff's, most likely to show off his personal celebrity at the saloon. Parry claims that this is most likely why Whitman often brought young house-surgeons he met while visiting at New York Hospital down to Pfaff's with him in the evenings. Parry also writes that Clapp was especially good at maintaining and supporting Whitman's celebrity (and his self-image of his celebrity) at Pfaff's and among the Bohemians (39). Parry writes that Clapp often made jokes at Whitman's expense, but that they were often in good humor. Parry also mentions that Clapp and the Saturday Press "brought upon themselves the ire and admiration of the day for their insistence that Whitman was greater than Longfellow" (39-40). Parry discusses the support Whitman got from the Saturday Press through the reviews, articles, parodies, and poems printed by Clapp. Parry also mentions that Clapp often confided his worries about the paper's finances to Whitman in their correspondence (40).
Whitman met Burroughs through Clapp and the Saturday Press. Burroughs first took notice of Whitman when the Saturday Press published "A Child's Reminiscence" on December 24, 1859. The two men were introduced by Clapp at Pfaff's (40-41). Parry also mentions that Whitman made enemies in Aldrich, Witner, Stedman, Stoddard, and Taylor through his comments to them or his behavior (41).
Parry writes about the argument at Pfaff's between Whitman and Arnold: "One night at Pfaff's he [Arnold] made the error of toasting the Southern arms. Walt sprang up. For the moment he forgot his godlike benignity and broke out with a speech of patriotic vehemence. Arnold retailiated by bending his form over and across the table and pulling hard at that Jovian brush which Howells like the best of all the Pfaffian scenery. The rivals were separated, and it was about then that Whitman shook the Pfaffian part of Broadway's dust from his soles forever. Years later he was to say about his role at Pfaff's: 'I was much better satisfied to listen to a fight than take part in it'" (41-42).
Parry writes that while O'Brien was dying of his badly bandaged wound that would result in lockjaw, "Walt Whitman was not yet a war nurse; he still rode with the stage-drivers of Manhattan and viewed life from Pfaff's basement...there was no one, kind and understanding, to take care of the dying Bohemian in his blood-stained uniform" (54).[pages:xiii,14,22,24-25,27,28,32,37,38-43,38(ill.),54,59,68,82,134,157,165,308,309(ill)]
Personne reports that it appeared Walt Whitman was the only person "who does nothing as nobody ever did it before" (3).[pages:3]
Personne makes a brief mention of Whitman.[pages:3]
Personne discusses Whitman and other critics' reviews of Keene's The Heart of Mid-Lothian (3).[pages:3]
Quelqu'un asks Whitman's pardon when he claims that "ordinary every-day love-making...is as tame and upoetical as haymaking" in comparison to the way romance is portrayed by actors like Miss Cushman and Edwin Forrest (3).[pages:3]
The author mentions Whitman's visits to Pfaff's (106).[pages:100,103,106]
Whitman is mentioned throughout the book, but his connection to the Pfaff's period is limited to pages 15-16.[pages:15-16]
Reynolds describes Whitman in 1859 as "disaffected and drifting, a perfect candidate for bohemia."
In Whitman's words,"My own greatest pleasure at Pfaff's was to look on - to see, talk little, absorb. I was never a great discusser, anyway." Whitman read a draft of "Beat! Beat! Drums" at Pfaff's on September 27,1861.[pages:375-382,387,407,453-454, 536]
The entire book is about Whitman, but chapter 15 (pages 197-210) deal with Pfaff's. There is a fanciful description of Whitman quoting Shakespeare at Pfaff's after spending a day tending to sick and disabled stage-coach drivers (200-01).[pages:197-210,295-7]
Whitman was a regular visitor to Pfaff's whose status as an object of admiration kept him from truly being a member of the bohemian circle.[pages:142]
Whitman is mentioned throughout the book. Shephard discusses Whitman's relationship to the character Valerio from George Sand's novel The Mosaic Workers on pages 246-47.[pages:246-47]
Stansell claims that Whitman began spending time at Pfaff's after losing his job at the Brooklyn Daily Times in 1859. The restaurant became Whitman's "chief source of social intercourse" during the "long period of critical silence that followed the second edition of Leaves of Grass. Whitman's tenure at the restaurant lasted about three years, ending in 1862, when Whitman left for Washington after receiving notification that his brother had been wounded. Stansell also includes Whitman's own quote to Horace Trauble about how he enjoyed being more of an observer than a participant in the activities and conversation at Pfaff's. She also notes that in 1860, those who were looking for Whitman could find him at Pfaff's, and that aside from associating with his literary acquaintances ("New York writers now entirely forgotten"), he would bring young doctors he had met while visiting the ill at New York Hospital to the bar and regularly associated with the "Fred Gray Association" (107). According to Stansell, "Whitman apparently took little part in what he called the 'rubbings and drubbings' at Pfaff's." She notes, however, that his recollections of evenings with the Fred Gray Association tended to be more active and involved stories (118).
Stansell seeks to answer the question "What was Whitman doing at Pfaff's?" in light of the biographical evidence that shows that "the late night carousing and tipsy badinage of the bohmeian years seem out of character" (108). Stansell reviews the popular viewpoints on this matter adding to Paul Zweig's theories the argument that "there are also suggestions that bohemia was the setting for more fruitful encounters which helped the poet gather his powers and emotional resources for the third edition of Leaves of Grass and a successful entry into the national literary scene" (108). Stansell also highlights Justin Kaplan's observation that the bar proved an insiprational place for writing poetry and observes that while Whitman referred to this period for him as his "New York stagnation," it was during this period that he produced a "remarkable surge of new poetry" and became a public figure on a small scale with the Boston publication of Leaves of Grass (108). Stansell notes that despite the publication of some of his fiction in the Democratic Review, Whitman was regarded as a "minor feuilletoniste, a virtual outsider in the profession of 'literariness'" in the 1850s (116). Stansell notes that the publication of the first edition of Leaves of Grass in 1855 earned Whitman some minor acclaim, but in 1858, when he began going to Pfaff's, he appeared to be headed back towards the "swarm of collegues" in New York (116). To revise the poetry, Whitman had to forgo most other work and had to live at home with his family, depriving him of an "active audience" as he had no poet friends in New York and his family was fairly disinterested in his work (116). Stansell writes that "It was at this juncture that bohemia played a crucial role in reanimating a faltering creative venture. In gravitating to Pfaff's, Whitman put himself for the first time in a daily relationship with writers who aspired to be a kind of work beyond Grub Street. He participated -- probably for the first time -- in self-consciously literary discussion" (116-117). Stansell notes that one of the political fights that occured at Pfaff's was between Whitman and Arnold; the two men had a falling-out over some pro-Southern remarks Arnold made. Whitman would also get into a poltical argument "for defending, in his determinedly world-encompassing fashion, Queen Victoria" (117). Stansell notes that Whitman's association with other writers at Pfaff's led to an increase in "professional certainty from his new literary friendships" that were shown in 1860 when his "dealings with editors showed a new self regard and assertiveness" (118). According to Stansell, "For a writer who was fundamentally an outsider, that older mode of patronage proved unreliable. Pfaff's taught him new ways to insert himself into the stream of national literary commerce, methods and strategies that did not depend on the moral approbation of the Boston literatie and that accorded better with the sensibilities of the New York pressrooms and streets" (118-119).
Stansell notes Ezra Greenspan's argument about "the ways in which in the 1850s an economic and technological revolution in 'all the factors involved in the creation, manufacture, marketing, and consumption of printed works' reshaped literary culture and in particular, 'its most vociferous champion, Walt Whitman'" (113).
In discussing the newspaper trade, Stansell notes that Whitman started his career as a printer. She also notes that by 1845, when Whitman was 26, he had worked for ten different papers due to the constant opening and closing of the penny newspapers. Stansell also notes Greenspan's observation of "how fluid the boundaries were for Whitman and his peers between literary professional roles -- printer, reporter, editor, freelancer, periodical poet, story writer, bookseller, publisher" (114). As one of the "Pfaffian regulars" who did "serious writing along with journalism", Whitman wrote poetry (114).
Stansell writes that "Whitman's strongest memory of Pfaff's was of 'hearing the truth' about Leaves of Grass as it came straight from Printing House Square one night. While the printers and writers had waited around one Saturday evening for their pay, one of them, to pass the time, had pulled out a copy of Leaves of Grass and had given a mocking reading to the assemblage: 'read it, made light of it: the others, too; the strokes bright, witty, unsparing.' Someone then took the joke over to Pfaff's to regale the crowd there. By the time Whitman recounted the story to Traubel he was the Good Gray Poet, above vanity and resentment; he took care to assure his disciple there was no harm done...Recast, the incident became a tribute to Whitman as a 'comerado.' At the time, it must have hurt" (118).
Stansell suggests that Clapp is the party who introduced Whitman to the politics of free-love groups and their ideas; he was already familiar with several reform groups' ideas, but this new ideological set may have been a good fit for Whitman (120).
According to Stansell, during the 1850's, the publishers and writers of New York "were just beginning to take advantage of the possibilities the new markets offered for a publishing business free of the dominance of the Boston critics and publishers. Clapp was a leader in this process, and Whitman would in some ways be its first great success. Clapp's prescience lay in his comprehension of how publicity and celebrity could, within a changing literary market, obviate the need for critical and moral approval. Whitman seemed to have something of this in mind when he noted that Clapp was the writers' avant-garde, 'our pioneer, breaking ground before the public was ready to settle.' At a moment when some gentleman writers still shied away from advertising their books, Clapp fully grasped the democratizing features of the market. 'It is a fundamental principle in political economy,' he instructed Whitman in 1860, 'that everything succeeds if money enough is spent on it'" (121-122).[pages:107-23]
Of the scene at Pfaff's, Starr writes: "If New York was not dancing on Doomsday, the Cave at 653 Broadway belied it." For one supporting example, Starr quotes Whitman, who "celebrated" "the vault at Pfaff's where the drinkers and laughers meet to eat and drink and carouse" (4).
Whitman "hailed" Ada Clare as "the New Woman" (5).
Arnold's columns written under the name "McAroni," which were "burlesques on war correspondence" where Arnold took the position of "one of 'the chivalry' defending the Southern cause," would prompt an argument between Whitman and Arnold as tensions rose among the excited group at Pfaff's immediately before the Civil War (8).
Whitman worked with Richardson to lobby Congress and Gen. Grant to relax restrictions regarding prisoner exchanges and prison camps in the last few months of the war (192).
Starr quotes Whitman's description of Charles Dana during his tenure as the managing editor of the Tribune p. 15-16. Whitman often saw Dana walking to work across the park from his home 90 Clinton Place to the Tribune offices (15-16).
During the Wilderness campaign in 1864, Whitman wrote his mother his thoughts on the press: "The fighting has been hard enough, but the papers make lots of additional items, and a good deal they just entirely make up. There are from 600 to 1000 wounded coming in here -- not 6 to 8000 as the papers have it...They, the papers, are determined to make up just anything" (245).
Echoing the sentiments of others who felt that the "real" war would never be reported upon, Whitman wrote: "the real war will never get in the books...The actual soldier of 1861-5, North and South, with all his ways, his incredible dauntlessness, habits, practices, tastes, language, his fierce friendship, his appetite, rankness, his superb strength and animality, lawless gait, and a hundred unnamed lights and shades of camp, I say, will never be written" (264).[pages:4,5,8,15-16,192,245,264]
Stovall discusses the early reviews of Leaves of Grass and the notices of publication of his poems in The Saturday Press. Stovall also mentions that Whitman was in contact with regulars at Pfaff's and may have had assistance getting published in some New York papers. Stovall notes that Whitman had grown tired of newspaper editors' politics, disliked housebuilding, and found Pfaff's stimulating to his sense of aesthetics.[pages:3 (n.),4-5, 6, 7, 14, 38, 223]
The author recalls his discussions and conversations at Pfaff's. In one letter, a Boston friend reminds Whitman of an earlier aquaintance with Jack Law. Whitman recalls early days in New York "and the faces and voices of 'the boys.'" He also recalls Pfaff's ability to pick good wines and his belief that Pfaff could not pick a bad liquor.[pages:45, 98-99,133,147-148,245]
"Of Whitman in his early days, before he became famous, and when he was only known as a 'good fellow' among the wild set of Bohemians who, a generation ago, constituted the literary society of New York,-of the Whitman of those days an interesting glimpse is afforded in the follwing article contributed by 'Jay Charlton' to the Danbury News upon BOHEMIANS IN AMERICA[...]" (161).
"[...] Walt Whitman said, 'The reason I like to drive a stage-coach on Broadway, I feel that the strength of the horses passes into my veins, my muscles, and after that I can give strength to my poetry.' Walt had great admiration for everything big, whether animate or inanimate" (163).
"[Whitman] occasionally suggests something a little more than human. Wonderfully like the Orientals, too, considering that when I asked him if he had read them, he said, 'No: tell me about them.' He is apparently the greatest democrat the world has ever seen" (177).[pages:161-177]
Andrews is compared to Walt Whitman, one of the "pioneers" of New York's Bohemia.
In discussing criticism and American literature, Winter states: "The complaint,--which is one that more or less touches all American literature,--proceeds now, as it has all along proceeded, from an irrational disposition, first to revert to the berserker state of feeling, and then to exact, from a new country, new forms of speech. Thus, for example, literary authorities in England, some of them conspicuous for station and ability, have accepted, and, in some cases, have extolled beyond the verge of extravagance, one American writer, the eccentric Walt Whitman, for no better reason than because he discarded all laws of literary composition, and, instead of writing either prose or verse, composed an uncouth catalog of miscellaneous objects and images, generally commonplace, sometimes coarse, sometimes filthy. That auctioneer's list of topics and appetites, intertwisted with a formless proclaimation of carnal propensities and universal democracy, has been hailed as grandly original and distinctively American, only because it is crude, shapeless, and vulgar. The writings of Walt Whitman, in so far as they are anything, are philosophy: they certainly are not poetry: and they do not possess even the merit of an original style; for Macpherson, with his 'Ossain' forgeries; Martin Farquhar Tupper, with his 'Proverbial Philosophy,' and Samuel Warren, with his timid 'Ode,' were extant long before the advent of Whitman. Furthermore, Plato's writings were not unknown; while the brotherhood of man had not been proclaimed in Judea, with practical consequences that are still obvious. No author has yet made a vehicle of expression that excels, in any way whatever, or for any purpose, the blank verse of Shakespeare and Milton. In the hands of any artist who can use them the old forms of expression are abundantly adequate, and so, likewise, are the old subjects; at all events, nobody has yet discovered any theme more fruitful than the human heart, human experience, man in his relation to Nature and to God" (29-31).
He is listed by Winter as one of the Bohemians who frequented Pfaff's Cave (88). Of his appearance there, Winter writes: "Walt Whitman was often there, clad in his eccentric garb of rough blue and gray fabric,--his hair and beard grizzled, his keen steel-blue eyes gazing, with bland tolerance, on the frolicsome lads around him" (64).
Winter describes Howell's first meeting with Whitman at Pfaff's. "Mr. W. D. Howells, now the voluminous and celebrated novelist,--...,--came into the cave, especially, as afterward was divulged, for the purpose of adoring the illustrious Whitman. Mr. Howells, at that time, was a respectable youth, in black raiment, who had only just entered on the path to glory, while Whitman, by reason of that odiferous classic, the 'Leaves of Grass,' was in possession of the local Parnassus. The meeting, of course, was impressive. Walt, at that time, affected the Pompadour style of shirt and jacket,--making no secret of his brawny anatomy,-- and his hirsute chest and complacent visage were, as usual, on liberal exhibition: and he tippled a little brandy and water and received his admirer's homage with characteristic benignity. There is nothing like genius--unless possibly it may be leather" (89-90).
In discussing the true nature of Bohemia and celebrations at Pfaff's Cave in response to Howells's recollection of the "orgy" he witnessed, Winter discusses a birthday celebration for Clapp in which Whitman was called upon to give the toast: "I have regretted the absence of Mr. Howells from a casual festival which occurred in Pfaff's Cave, much about the time of his advent there, when the lads (those tremendous revellers!) drank each a glass of beer in honor of the birthday of Henry Clapp, and when he might, for once, have felt the ravishing charm of Walt Whitman's collossal eloquence. It fell to the lot of that Great Bard, I remember, to propose the health of the Prince of Bohemia, which he did in the following marvellous words: 'That's the feller!" It was my privilege to hear that thrilling deliverance, and to admire and applaud that superb orator. Such amazing emanations of intellect seldom occur, and it seems indeed a pity that this one should not have had Mr. Howells to embroider it with his ingenious fancy and embalm it in the amber of his veracious rhetoric" (91-92).
Winter states, "In my Bohemian days it was my fortune -- or misfortune, as the case may be -- to meet often and know well the American bard Walt Whitman. It is scarcely necessary to say that he did not impress me as anything other than what he was, a commonplace, uncouth, and sometimes obnoxiously course writer, trying to be original by using a formless style, and celebrating the proletarians who make the world most unihabitable by their vulgarity" (140).
Winter briefly mentions Whitman's estimation of him: "With reference to me Walt's views were expressed in a sentence that, doubtless, he intended as the perfection of contemptuous indifference. 'Willy,' he said, 'is a young Longfellow'" (140).
Winter also discusses the relationship between Whitman and Aldrich. "But I remember one moment when he contrived to inspire Aldrich with a permanent aversion. The company was numerous, the talk was about poetry. 'Yes, Tom,' said the inspired Whitman, 'I like your tinkles: I like them very well.' Nothing could have denoted more distinctly both complacent egotism and ill-breeding. Tom, I think, never forgot that incident" (140-141).
Winter then presents a discussion of the "Poet" as defined by both Aldrich and Whitman. For Aldrich, Winter reprints a poem where he defines and discusses the Poet. For Whitman, Winter relates a conversation on the subject that occurred between them: "In those Bohemian days I participated in various talks with Walt Whitman, and once I asked him to oblige me with his definition of 'the Poet.' His answer was: 'A poet is a Maker.' 'But, Walt,' I said, 'what does he make?' He gazed upon me for a moment, with that bovine air of omniscience for which he was remarkable, and then he said: 'He makes Poems.' That reply was deemed final. I took the liberty, all the same, of suggesting to him that no person, poet or otherwise, can do more than disclose and interpret what God has made;--seeing that everything in Nature existed,--even the most minute and delicate impulses of the spirit that is in humanity,--before ever man began to make poems about anything. The words of the poet occasionally take a form that is inevitable,--seeming to have been intended from the beginning of the world: there are examples of that felicity of form in Shakespeare, in Wordsworth, in Byron's 'Childe Harold,' and in Shelley's 'Adonais'; but the word 'creative' has been, and continually is, too freely used. Nature is creative, and the Poet is the voice of Nature. It was a raucous voice when it issued from Whitman: it pipes, like a penny whistle, when it issues from his paltry imitators" (141-142).
When discussing differences of opinion among writers as to who has talent, Winter remarks, "Emerson, usually centered in himself, was able to perceive poetry in Whitman" (154).
Of the poets associated with the Bohemian period, Winter states that Whitman's name is one among a list of "names that shine, with more or less lustre, in the scroll of American poets, and recurrence to their period affords opportunity for correction of errors concerning it, which have been conspicuously made" (292).
Whitman was one of the few members of the Bohemian circle with whom Stedman was acquainted (293).[pages:29-31,64,88,89-90,91-92,140-142,154,292,293]
The final chapter, "A Day with the Good Gray Poet," briefly discusses Whitman's relationship with fellow Pfaffian George Arnold.[pages:201-17 (esp. 210)]
Wolle cites Thomas Donaldson's Walt Whitman the Man for a Whitman quotation about exactly how he felt about Bohemia and his time at Pfaff's. Other descriptions of Whitman's experience at Pfaff's are found throughout the book.[pages:1, 98, 125]
Zweig makes a note of Whitman's silence at Pfaff's. Zweig claims Pfaff's was not "America" to Whitman and contends that Whitman's size and silence made him a dominant presence at the bar.[pages:159,165,218,263-265, 310, 313-314,322-323,325]
The Vault at Pfaff's
27 Memorial Drive West, Bethlehem, PA 18015