Walt Whitman's Champion: William Douglas O'Connor

Overview

In 1865 Walt Whitman was dismissed from his clerkship in the Department of the Interior because Secretary James Harlan judged Leaves of Grass indecent, unfit to be read aloud "by the evening lamp." Most eloquent among Whitman's defenders was William Douglas O'Connor, whose pamphlet The Good Gray Poet, a panegyric to Whitman and an attack on literary censorship in general and Harlan in particular, was the first of his many heroic if sometimes excessive efforts in Whitman's behalf. A gifted polemicist and a stout ...

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Overview

In 1865 Walt Whitman was dismissed from his clerkship in the Department of the Interior because Secretary James Harlan judged Leaves of Grass indecent, unfit to be read aloud "by the evening lamp." Most eloquent among Whitman's defenders was William Douglas O'Connor, whose pamphlet The Good Gray Poet, a panegyric to Whitman and an attack on literary censorship in general and Harlan in particular, was the first of his many heroic if sometimes excessive efforts in Whitman's behalf. A gifted polemicist and a stout though not always judicious advocate of causes (he wrote several screeds favoring Bacon as the author of Shakespeare's works), O'Connor devoted much of his literary life to establishing Whitman and Leaves of Grass in the world of American letters. Whitman considered O'Connor his staunchest "literary believer and champion from the first and throughout . . . for twenty-five years," and indeed, despite a personal estrangement between the two men, O'Connor's support of Whitman the poet never wavered. O'Connor's own literary efforts may command little interest today, but his championship of Whitman as a great, original American poet rendered lasting service to literature. Appropriately, this study of his career is complemented by carefully annotated texts of six of his Whitman essays, including The Good Gray Poet. A complete O'Connor bibliography is also included.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781585440856
  • Publisher: Texas A&M University Press
  • Publication date: 12/1/1978
  • Pages: 284
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations xi
Abbreviations xiii
Preface xv
Acknowledgments xix
Part I. A Literary Biography
Chapter 1. The Literary Career of William Douglas O'Connor, 1850-1862 3
Chapter 2. Whitman and O'Connor: A Decade of Companionship 50
Chapter 3. The Literary Battles of 1876 and 1882 103
Chapter 4. The Final Years 139
Part II. The Whitman Essays
Chapter 5. "The 'Ashton' Letter" (July 21, 1865) 149
Chapter 6. The Good Gray Poet (1866) 157
Chapter 7. "Walt Whitman: Is He Persecuted?" (1876) 204
Chapter 8. "Suppressing Walt Whitman" (1882) 217
Chapter 9. "Emerson and Whitman" (1882) 226
Chapter 10. "Mr. Comstock as Cato the Censor" (1882) 233
Appendix A. Alterations Allowed by O'Connor in the 1883 Edition of The Good Gray Poet 237
Appendix B. O'Connor and the Whitman Introduction to the Rossetti Edition 239
Bibliography of William Douglas O'Connor 243
Index 247
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