Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

The 1855 Frontispiece

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

The 1855 Frontispiece

Article excerpt

The first edition of Leaves of Crass appeared with no author name on the title page, so readers had only this image by which to identify the author. For its era, it was shocking. Readers were used to formal portraits of authors, usually in frock coats and ties. Very often they were posed at reading tables with books spread open before them or holding a thick volume in their hands. The rebellious, open-collared pose presented here was designed to stand in stark contrast. The first review in the New York Tribune proclaimed:

From the unique effigies of the anonymous author of this volume which graces the frontispiece, we may infer that he belongs to the exemplary class of society sometimes irreverently styled "loafers." He is therein represented in a garb, half sailor's, half workman's, with no superfluous appendage of coat or waistcoat, a "wideawake" perched jauntily on his head, one hand in his pocket and the other on his hip, with a certain air of mild defiance, and an expression of pensive insolence in his face which seems to betoken a consciousness of his mission as the "coming man."

Many years later, Whitman worried the frontispiece was too audacious. "The worst thing about this," he told Horace Traubel, "is, that I look so damned flamboyant-as if I was hurling bolts at somebody-full of mad oaths-saying defiantly, to hell with you! …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.