Whitman in His Own Time
“A wide-ranging and illuminating set of perspectives revealing Whitman as he was perceived by his contemporaries. ” —Nineteenth-Century Literature
“For the first time in our time important and attractive primary sources for the study of Whitman's life are made easily available to student, specialist, and general reader alike. At a juncture when the volume, not to mention the ingenuity, of critical commentary on Whitman is threatening to get out of hand, it is refreshing to be given a book that is plainly serviceable and indubitably worth the paper on which it's printed. ” —Walt Whitman Quarterly Review
“Fresh, vivid impressions …are often encountered in the reminiscences and commentaries in Whitman in His Own Time, for Myerson has discerningly resurrected 35 accounts authored by those who knew the poet firsthand, by contemporaries both obscure and famous…an important acquisition. ” —Choice
Few American writers were as concerned with their public image as was Walt Whitman. He praised his own work in unsigned reviews; he included engravings or photographs of himself in numerous editions of his work; and he assisted in the writing of two biographies of himself. Whitman was also written about extensively by others throughout his lifetime. Whitman in His Own Time is a collection of these contemporary accounts of the "good gray poet."
The interviews with and recollections of Whitman collected by Joel Myerson represent a wide spectrum of accounts—visitors from America and abroad; newspaper interviewers; Whitman's doctor and nurse during his final illness; his literary executors; a student from his early schoolteaching days; and such well-known authors as Bronson Alcott, John Burroughs, and Henry David Thoreau. The selections also paint a well-rounded picture of Whitman, from his early days as a schoolteacher to the moment of his death, and demonstrate a varying range of attitudes toward the poet. Yet throughout the entire collection, Whitman himself holds center stage, and he is seen as vividly today as he was over one hundred years ago. Myerson's introduction to this expanded edition places these accounts of Whitman within the context of the time and discusses new scholarship on Whitman's life.