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This richly illustrated edition presents a selection of Whitman's greatest and most beautiful lyrics, from sprawling masterpieces like "Song of Myself" to little-known gems like "Fancies at Navesink." With poems drawn from each of the "clusters" with which Whitman brought structure and coherence to his work, this volume follows the ordering established by the poet for the so-called "Death-Bed Edition" (1891-92) of Leaves of Grass. Also included are four of Whitman's superbly poetic essays, among them the landmark preface to the first edition of Leaves of Grass. Enhanced by treasures from the archives of the New York Public Library, including handwritten poems and letters and a stunning array of portraits and illustrations, this Collector's Edition allows readers a rare opportunity to experience the poet and his world.
Before the age of thirty-six there was no sign that Walt Whitman would become even a minor literary figure, let alone the major poetic voice of an emerging America. Born in 1819 on Long Island, he was the second son of a carpenter and contractor. His formal schooling ended at age eleven, when he was apprenticed to a printer in Brooklyn. He became a journeyman printer in 1835 and spent the next two decades as a printer, free-lance writer, and editor in New York. In 1855, at his own expense, he published the twelve long poems, without titles, that make up the first edition of Leaves of Grass. The book, with its unprecedented mixture of the mystical and the earthy, was received with puzzlement or silence, except by America's most distinguished writer, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Whitman lost no time in preparing a second edition, adding "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" and nineteen other new poems in 1856. With the third edition (1860), the book had tripled in size. Whitman would go on adding to it and revising it for the rest of his life. Whitman's poetry slowly achieved a wide readership in America and in England. He was praised by Swinburne and Tennyson, and visited by Oscar Wilde. He suffered a stroke in 1873 and spent the remainder of his life in Camden, New Jersey. His final edition of Leaves of Grass appeared in 1892, the year of his death.