This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
 [and Weekly] Brooklyn Eagle, a connection which extended from February, 1846, to January, 1848, when a ‘row with the boss,’ on account of Whitman's unreliability, and with ‘the party,’ on account of his progressive Barnburner politics, made it necessary for him to shift for a new position. This was readily found on The daily Crescent, a paper about to be launched in New Orleans. The trip which, with his favourite brother Jeff, Whitman made in the spring of 1848 by rail, stage, and Mississippi steamboat to New Orleans, his residence in that city for three months, and his return by way of the Mississippi and the Great Lakes1 were rather less important than has commonly been supposed. It is doubtful whether the experience brought into his life a great but secret romance,2 and it appears certain that he was not by it first made conscious of his mission as a poetic prophet. But the journey did give him a new and permanent respect for the undeveloped possibilities of his country, especially in the South and West, and it gave him opportunities for the study of the French and Spanish elements in New Orleans; while his observation of the South's ‘peculiar institution’ caused him to remain, though a radical Free-Soiler, one careful not to be classed with the Abolitionists. But if this journey was of only measurable importance, perhaps others were of greater; for, though details are almost entirely unknown, it is practically certain that he made still other visits to the South.3 Notwithstanding the attractiveness that the new atmosphere had for all that was Southern in Whitman's temperament, he soon haughtily resigned his position, because of a
1 Whitman's fullest and best account of the trip south was printed in the early numbers of the Crescent. This was not preserved in his collected prose editions, but a considerable portion of it was reprinted in The Yale review, September, 1915.
2 Whitman never married. In old age he confided to John Addington Symonds the information that, though unmarried, he had had six children, from intimate relations with whom he had been prevented by circumstances ‘connected with their fortune and benefit.’ For a fuller discussion of this confession and the questions arising out of it than is here possible the reader is referred to the biographies by Binns, Perry, Edward Carpenter, Bazalgette, De Selincourt, and Traubel.
3 Several lines of evidence point to this conclusion. Here it will be sufficient to refer to Whitman's autobiographical note published in The critic, 28 February, 1885, over the pseudonym ‘George Selwyn.’ See Bibliography.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.