"LITERATURE, strictly considered, has never recognized the people, and whatever may be said, does not today. It seems as if, so far, there were some natural repugnance between a literary and professional life, and the rude rank spirit of the democracies. . . . I know nothing more rare, even in this country, than a fit scientific estimate and reverent application of the People -- of their measureless wealth of latent worth and capacity, their vast artistic contrasts of lights and shades." Thus, in DEMOCRATIC VISTAS, wrote Walt Whitman , in whom the people, with their conflicting expressions of faith, doubt, and democracy, found a confident voice.
He was born Walter Whitman, May 31, 1819, at West Hills, near Huntington, Long Island, of a family of workers. His mother's people were Dutch Quakers, and his maternal grandfather had been a horse breeder. His paternal ancestors had been farmers, but his father turned carpenter and moved his family to Brooklyn, New York. Here the country child became a town boy. He roamed about the docks, explored the alleys, loved the sharp wood smell of his father's shop and the exciting noises of the streets. There were no uneventful days. One Fourth of July, when a library cornerstone was being laid, he was singled out and embraced by Lafayette.
At eleven the young Whitman went to work as an errand boy. At twelve he learned to set type, and at fourteen he was in the composing room of THE LONG ISLAND STAR. For the next twenty years he