What was it about Walt Whitman and Oscar Wilde that compelled them
to search for new ways of coming to terms with identity and individualism?
What restless spirit imbued their souls---that pierced their identities so
deeply--- that they struggled to reach a purer understanding of the riddles
of human individualism and identity? What made them want to
celebrate, as Whitman would say, the individual soul.
The nineteenth century in western civilization may be understood as an
attempt to work out the relationship between the individual and society. From
the revolutions of the late 1840s in Europe to the American Civil War at
mid-century to the Boer War at the fin-de-siecle, this century, like no other
before it, witnessed extraordinary change that seemed to some to threaten
the very foundations of western culture itself. For others, these changes
marked the path towards fulfillment of the promises of individualism.
The process of modern nation-state development in both Europe and
America---and the role of the individual in the nation-state---was still e
volving in 1819 when Walt Whitman was born in Huntington, Long Island.
As he himself later noted: "The ancestors of Walt Whitman,
on both the paternal [from England] and maternal [Dutch descent] sides,
kept a good table, sustain'd the hospitalities, decorums, and an excellent
social reputation in the county, and they were often of
mark'd individuality." Individuality meant "...the pride and centripetal
isolation of a human being in himself---identity--- personalism." And for
Whitman, as he says in Democratic Vistas, the growth of of the nation was
analogous to the development of the individual.
The purpose of democracy...is, through many transmigrations,
and amid endless ridicules, arguments, and ostensible failures,
to illustrate, at all hazards, this doctrine or theory that man
properly train'd in sanest, highest freedom, may and must
become a law, and series of laws, unto himself, surrounding and
providing for, not only his own personal control,
but all his relations to other individuals, and to the
But Whitman's doctrine of individualism was sometimes more welcome
abroad than at home; an 1872 letter from Whitman to a Dutch reader, for
instance, noted that his work was not "....cordially accepted in the United
Just five percent of Whitman's gross income in 1885 was from American
royalties, although slightly more than half (51.4 %) was derived
from Great Britain. Ironic that the American upstart poet of democracy
and individuality should be preoccupied with tracing his lineage back to Europe,
while Wilde, the Irish author and wit, traveled to the United States on a public
lecture tour in 1882 preaching his gospel of aestheticism and regeneration
through art. It was unclear whether classical liberalism, the
democratic theory espousing individualism, and the association of poets
and other artists, like Whitman and Wilde, with the doctrine of individualism,
would prevail in western life, or whether conservatism, and the cultural and
social critics of modernism, like Max Nordau and Anthony
Comstock, would ultimately triumph.
Indeed, as countries nationalized and consolidated state power the
reconciliation of the individual and society became all the more urgent.
For example, although Victor Emmanuel was crowned King of Italy in
1861, Rome was not designated as its capital until the early 1870s.
Germany did not unify until the 1870s in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian
War under the leadership of Bismarck. Wilhelm I of Prussia was
elevated by the German princes to Kaiser of the Germans on January 18, 1871.
Following her defeat in the war against Prussia, the government of Napoleon III
capitulated and was replaced by the Third Republic. And, the United States
fought a bitter and bloody conflict from 1861 to 1865 against the southern states to establish the supremacy of central authority
in the American federal system.
Society itself was still experiencing widespread social displacement and
economic dislocation resulting from the process of industrialization leading to urbanization
and the weakening of traditional foundations and institutions of society as the world around
it changed. For example, overall European population growth rose from 190 million in 1800 to
about 260 million at mid-century to 460 million in 1914. By 1850 the population of London
was almost 2 million while from 1850 to 1870 the populations of Berlin and Paris
doubled in size. In 1800 the population of New York City was some 70 thousand. By
1850 New York City residents numbered around half a million.
The use of steam power to drive the engine of commercial progress fueled
economic growth in the nineteenth century: in 1815, just four years before Whitman was
born, Great Britain was producing some 16 million tons of coal per annum. By 1856, the
year that the second edition of Leaves of Grass appeared, the level of British coal
production had skyrocketed to approximately 65 million tons per year. And after 1870 new
sources of power were developed as the manufacturing economy of the west continued to
The first half of the nineteenth century also witnessed remarkable progress in
communications technology. Prior to 1840, communications had to be either within sight
or within hearing distance. In 1844 the first communication was sent via telegraph from
Baltimore to Washington, D.C. The first underwater cable was laid under the English
channel by 1851 and, by 1866, a year after the end of the Civil War a transatlantic cable
was fully functional.
Cultural, economic, political, social, and technological change swept through
western society during the nineteenth century. And, along with those changes, came an
evolving set of limits of civilization whose contours themselves were being remolded as
these broader cultural trends began to take root in the civilization. But one thing was
certain: the fate "...of the individual, of the nation, and of spiritual possibility" was, for
both Whitman and Wilde at least, intertwined.
As Whitman says in Song of the Exposition:
With latest connections, works, the inter-transportation of the
Steam-power, the great express lines, gas, petroleum,
These triumphs of our time, the Atlantic's delicate cable,
The Pacific railroad, the Suez canal, the Mont Cenis and
Gothard and Hoosac tunnels, the Brooklyn
This earth all spann'd with iron rails, with lines of steamships
threading every sea,
Our own rondure, the current globe I bring.
The international, transatlantic character of this cultural shift towards greater
individualism lent an interesting dynamic to the movement. And the conversations that
surrounded it adds another dimension of understanding to these wider changes in society.
There was the language of liberty, progress and individualism, on the one hand, and the
language of illiberality, reaction and social tradition, on the other. And central to this shifting
paradigm was the role of the individual in society. This basic question led to other questions about
identity, inclusion, equality, freedom, morality, and aesthetics. The international debate about the
nature of individualism in the West paralleled nation-building and was fueled by technological
innovations that unified space and time and eradicated distance. But while technology moved
towards the standardization of real time and the shortening of distances, facilitating the cross-seas
conversation about individuality, the world was still not united culturally and ideologically. So
ultimately, these sometimes disparate views---promoting the rights of the individual or preserving
the rights of the state over and above the individual---came into increasingly sharp relief.
Whitman and Wilde both play an important role in the development of a new language
about identity and individualism in the latter half of the nineteenth century. And the reactions
and criticisms of them---both critical and personal---occupy an equally important place in the
development of a language of repression and social activism that in some cases was based on the
evolving terminology of biological and social Darwinism. Hence, Max Nordau's conception of
degeneration. Considering a few examples of the kinds of language both the proponents and
opponents of individualism employed helps to illuminate this debate and the cultural underpinnings
that supported it. One approach is to look at Whitman as marking one point on a historical spectrum
of individualism with Wilde marking the endpoint, or limits of individualism.
Whitman and Wilde can be viewed as poles of a continuum of individualism that
was developing throughout the nineteenth century. Their voices were part of this larger
discourse about the relationship between the individual and the state. Both, no doubt, would have
preferred the poetic response. The allure of words, writing, wit motivated them. Wilde talks
about it time and again in the "Critic as Artist" or "The Soul of Man Under Socialism."
One of Whitman's projects in Leaves of Grass is to describe the individual soul. Whitman
and Wilde's representations of individualism are mediated through their identities as poet and
person provoking different responses to their conceptions of personhood and self in the latter
half of the nineteenth century. There are significant historical reasons, a cultural milieu, which
helps explain their treatment and outcome within the context of mid- to late Victorian society.
The comparison may strike one as odd; that the unacknowledged American poet
laureate, Walt Whitman, and the British social critic par excellence, Oscar Wilde, might
be analyzed side-by-side, compared and contrasted, and linked through a number of
parallelisms and contingencies. If this appears an unlikely project at first thought, on
closer examination the similarities and differences take form and shape a perspective on
From the point of view of literary historicism, enthusiasm for Whitman and Wilde
studies has been generated for a number of reasons. First, anniversaries of important
events in both authors' lives have brought various commemorations, conferences,
performances, and publications. The turn of the century, especially for Wilde scholars,
was a significant milestone in Wildean research, marking a century since his ignominious
death in 1900.The persistent desire to find similarities in both the fin-de-siecle and the
turn of the twentieth century has attracted a locus of academic interest in Wilde's life and
work. Second, queer theorists and the development of what has come to be known as Gay
& Lesbian studies has also contributed to a renewal of interest in Whitman and Wilde.
Pink partisans appropriate both authors as exemplars of homosexual achievement and
offer fresh interpretations of their work adding yet another dimension to literary
scholarship. And finally, there are no doubt anxious opponents of their work today just as
there were during their lifetimes.
Good, solid, factual, well-researched biographies are extant for both authors.
Whitman studies, for example, have a distinguished academic history: from Gay Wilson
Allen doing research in the post-World War Two era to contemporary scholars like Gary
Schmidgall, David S. Reynolds, Michael Moon, and Justin Kaplan. More recent
treatments of Whitman run the gamut of literary theory from post-modernism and cultural
history to post-colonialism and deconstruction. Some researchers---like Schmidgall---
bridge both fields of expertise having written biographies of both Whitman and Wilde.
Walt Whitman and Oscar Wilde met at Whitman's brother's house in Camden,
New Jersey in January, 1882. Whitman moved in with his brother, the Civil War
veteran, George Whitman, in 1873 on Stevens Street in Camden to be nearer his then
failing mother, and since suffering a stroke himself while in Washington D.C. in that
same year. There is some speculation that Whitman and Wilde actually met twice at the
Stevens Street house in Camden during Wilde's American tour. First, in January 1882,
and then again in May of 1882. Whatever the number of visits, the two great literary
souls, despite being dissimilar in important respects, had an extraordinary number of
parallels in their lives. Their meeting is also evidence of the sort of transatlantic character
of western intellectual and literary trends. Technological developments in the nineteenth
century---like the trans-oceanic telegraph cable and steamships---made the facility of
such conversations all the more possible.
Walt Whitman was a largely self-taught American poet whose writings celebrated
the individual, the organization of the United States, spanned the limits of American class
and sex distinctions, and encapsulated in free form prose the hopes and dreams of
common Americans. Oscar Wilde, the Oxford-educated wit, playwright, novelist, poet,
and social critic, parodied the class divisions in British society, especially in his stage
dramas, while advocating a form of individualism compatible with English society,
particularly in his essays and prose writings. Both Wilde and Whitman viewed the artist,
or wordsmith, as occupying a peculiarly important place in society, and their writing
reflected this appreciation of the poet. Wilde and Whitman also wrote either about or for
children showing a concern for future generations of society and their welfare. Both
experienced life-altering events that would influence their future artistic direction, and
that delineated distinct periods in their work. Whitman and Wilde both encountered the
outer limits of individualism and the law in what amounted to, in both cases, critical
attacks on their literary works, and, particularly in Wilde's case, vicious cultural and
political attacks on their person and character. And finally, there was the tete-a-tete in
Camden. The literary equivalent of Raphael's School of Athens, the Last Supper or the
meeting of Grant and Lee at Appomattox concluding the war that so significantly
The analysis here focuses on the cultural and historical milieu that influenced
Whitman and Wilde's thought and ideology as expressed in their writing displacing
the critical preoccupation on the poet-as-person (biographical approach) and zeroes in on
the poet-as-poet (literary-historical approach). From a philosophical point of view,
Whitman and Wilde's aesthetics were very different, although their fundamental views
concerning individualism may have been based on a similar political and theoretical
foundation. Max Nordau presents the traditional critique of Whitman and Wilde. In
important ways all their works may be read as a part of a larger conversation about the
role of the individual in western society, a kind of transatlantic dialect.
The nineteenth century, as previously mentioned was a time of transformation.
The development and growth of industrial economies, the defining of the limits of
the modern nation-state, and the debate over individual rights and duties
approaches to these questions can be formulated: the conflict of civilizations
model and the cultural exchange or transactional model. These competing
theories of cultural change evoked different outlooks and worldviews, or, as the Germans
would say, weltanschauung. The divide may not be so different from past social divisions
like those between the Ancien Regime and the Regime Nouveau. But there is little doubt
that the fissure was of a cultural and political nature and the level of anxiety produced
could be palpable.
Max Nordau, author of Entartung, a treatise on the degeneration of western
civilization, represented the conflict model along with various other moralists, social
reformers, and concerned persons worried about the erosion of etiquette, manners, values,
and all sorts of other conventions of polite society. Nordau complained that "[t]his style
of decadence is the last effort of the Word (Verbe), called upon to express everything,
and pushed to the utmost extremity. We may remind ourselves, in connection with it, of
the language of the Late Roman Empire, already mottled with the greenness of
If Nordau looked to the past as the criterion from which to judge the present,
Whitman looked to the future: in Song of the Redwood-tree he says "...I too have
consciousness, identity..." For Whitman, the individual "...'Soul' is a part of the
'World-Soul,'" or weltgeist. The intersection of past, present, and future was not so much
a temporal conflict as it was a crucible of Time, an exchange or temporal transaction,
incorporating the past while remaining in the present and looking forward to the future.
yet long prepared,
I see the genius of the modern,
child of the real and ideal,
Clearing the ground for broad humanity,
the true America, heir of the past so grand,
To build a grander future.
Wilde used characteristically wry wit to describe his rather skeptical view of the
past: "The one duty we owe to history is to rewrite it. That is not the least of the tasks in
store for the critical spirit. When we have fully discovered the scientific laws that govern
life, we shall realize that the one person who has more illusions than the dreamer is the
man of action. He, indeed, knows neither the origin of his deeds nor their results. From
the field in which he thought that he had sown thorns, we have gathered our vintage, and
the fig-tree that he planted for our pleasure is as barren as the thistle, and more bitter. It is
because Humanity has never known where it was going that it has been able to find its
way." The moderne represented the cutting-edge, the avant-garde, optimism, and the
hope of renewal. The Victorian represented tradition and unease over an unpredictable
and uncertain future in the waning light of a quickly receding, romanticized past.
Where Whitman was both poet and prophet of this new modernist ideal of
individualism, Wilde was more of a transitional, boundary-breaking figure personally
constrained and limited in ways that Whitman avoided. Whitman had lived through the
tumultuous American Civil War and its aftermath fought on home soil to determine the
destiny of the Union. Although he did not live to see its conclusion, Wilde lived
through the beginning of the Boer War fought on foreign soil to signal the fate of the
British Empire. While perhaps in 1865 the Civil War could still be imagined as a
romantic war where the will of heroes was tested on the battlefield, the Boer War fought
on South African soil between British and Dutch colonialists generated no such illusions
in 1899. The Boer War (1899-1902) exposed the kind of weakness and vulnerability of
the empire that Nordau and his conflict theorists saw expressed in the "...insufficiently
healthy and robust military recruits amongst the population of London..." He would
probably be equally quick to point out that some percentage of the blame for the
degeneracy of London's youth was directly proportional to Wilde's consorting with many
of those very young men. "Wilde obtained," Nordau notes, "...a notoriety in the whole of
the Anglo-Saxon world that his poems and dramas would never had acquired for him."
He concludes his indictment of the Irish author with this observation: "Oscar Wilde
apparently admires immorality, sin and crime." And Whitman's morals and his
corrupting effects on the young of New York would be similarly suspect in the
fantastically illicit mind of not only Nordau, but Anthony Comstock and his compatriots
Whitman, while not unaware of the excesses, faults, and problems of nineteenth-
century urbanism, poverty, and industrialization, nevertheless had a much more hopeful
view. Cultural transaction theorists are more assimilative, or ameliorative, to use a
more Whitmanesque term. They can envision a future that incorporates the best of the
past with the best of the contemporary. Whitman catches this encapsulation in On the
Beach at Night Alone:
As I watch the bright stars shining, I think a thought of the
clef of the universes and of the future.
All souls, all living bodies though they be ever so different,
or indifferent worlds,
All nations, colors, barbarisms, civilizations, languages,
All identities that have existed or may exist on this globe,
or any globe
All lives and deaths, all of the past, present, future,
This vast similitude spans them, and always has spann'd,
And shall forever span them and compactly
hold and enclose them. 
Whitman, Wilde, and Nordau, then, each represent a unique position in relation
to temporality. Nordau and his crowd represents longing for a romanticized, ideal past
and scorn, even contempt, for the modern. Wilde acknowledges the past, but embraces
the present in his desire to celebrate art-for-art's sake. And Whitman immerses the
past, present and future into the transcendental; that is, his notion of World-Soul, or
During the last quarter of the nineteenth century socio-economic growth was met
by numerous new sciences---the social sciences---that sought to apply the laws of
Darwin, Mendel, and other natural sciences to human society and the individual.
Consequently, there was a rise in various pseudo-sciences such as phrenology, sexology,
and eugenics. Late Victorian psychiatry and psychology, crude as they were, identified
double-consciousness, hysteria, and a myriad of other diseases of the mind. A multitude
of sexual matrices were developed to distinguish the morally immaculate from the
corrupted and perverse. And personal identity was grounded in a racialized, eugenic view
of human origins and evolution. These new discourses attempted to limit individualism
in late Victorian society on the basis of social decadence, moral probity, and cultural
Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass is a celebration of the individual in modern
society. Individualism, according to Whitman, is tied to identity and the soul. Whitman's
individualism is also expressed as an uniquely American identity. His poetry itself---like
the nation---was an experiment in freedom and democracy. In fact, his brother George
once referred to Whitman's poetry as a "language experiment."
If Whitman's individualism is expressed in his poetry, then those representations
are mediated by his identity as national poet, cosmic poet, and sexual poet. Whitman's
identification with the development and manifest destiny of the nation colors his vision of
individualism and America as progressive, expansive, and generative. Wilde's position in
the highly stratified British society, an Irishman in London, a homosexual in a
heterosexual world, an effete in an elite culture, shaped his view of individualism as
regenerative, circumscribed, and punishable. While Whitman was largely successful in
casting his poetry about individualism in the language of patriotism and within the
context of nationalization, Wilde's literature becomes inextricably implicated with his
person, conduct, and the state police power leading to his eventual arrest, trial, and
imprisonment thus more nearly approximating the limits of the individual in society
and resulting in his professional and personal demise.
Whitman identified the growth of Leaves of Grass with the growth of the nation.
This sentiment was expressed by Whitman in a postcard that he attached to the 1888
Edition of Leaves of Grass that he sent to his friend, William Douglas O'Connor in
March of 1889:
I can hardly tell why, but feel very positively that if anything can
justify my revolutionary attempts & utterances, it is such ensemble
---like a great city to modern civilization & a whole combined
clustering paradoxical identity...
Even in his 1856 Preface---the correspondence with Emerson---he "[calls] for identity,
for national character, and individuality." The purpose of Leaves of Grass, Whitman
wrote in A Backward Glance O'er Travel'd Roads, was "...to bear upon American
individuality and assist it---not only because that is a great lesson in Nature, amid all her
generalizing laws, but as a counterpoise to the leveling tendencies of Democracy." He
claimed that "[a]n individual is as superb as a nation when he has the qualities which
make a superb nation." This equation or juxtaposing of national identity with self-
identity is a fusion, of the individual and the nation as a unity, equality, inclusion,
democracy, and union.
In Starting From Paumanok Whitman describes an American point of view and
announces or sings for a new religion of "Love and Democracy." This "melange" of
incongruous elements: equality, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the rights of
common people. These democratic principles are embodied in the poem: "O such
themes---equalities! O divine average." The idea that democracy operates by the laws
of probability as in nature, and that this average or mean tempers the human bent
towards egotism and apportions the balance between the individual, self-interest, and the
social, public interest. And, in Song of Myself Whitman equates his person and
citizenship with the poem and country. In that respect, Song of Myself is not just a poem
about the self, nor the nation only, but is "...through Atlantica's depths pulses/American
Europe reaching, pulses of Europe /duly returned..." This international announcement
heralds democracy and individualism from the New World to the Old World. This is the
poetic call around the globe that alarmed so many poets, popes, and politicians alike.
Whitman the cosmic poet spoke to those universal aspirations and transcendent
qualities of the human soul.
I have said that the soul is not more than the
And I have said that the body is not more
than the soul,
And nothing, not God, is greater to one
than one's self is,
Whitman's frequent cataloging allows him to name or identify the particular individuals
who together comprise the universal whole. These individuals, en masse, form the
population from which the divine average will be drawn. "These are really the thoughts
of all men in all ages and lands," he says, "If they are not yours as much as mine they are
nothing, or next to nothing." The cosmic consciousness realizes that "[a]ll truths wait in
all things, /[t]hey neither hasten their own delivery nor resist it." This invitation to
action and movement towards self-fulfillment and realizing human potential defies "logic
and sermons." Reason nor religion can contain the soul: "My faith is the greatest of
faiths and the least of faiths." The cosmic identity is not discrete, but is a constellation
of differing, often contradictory, impulses, needs, desires, and feelings shifting across and
within categories. He concludes Song of Myself with this universal truth: "Do I
contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain
"For the great idea, the idea of perfect and free individuals," Whitman writes in
By Blue Ontario's Shore, "[w]ithout extinction is Liberty, without retrograde is
Equality." The cosmic poet declares: "Underneath all, individuals, /I swear nothing is
good to me now that ignores individuals, /The American compact is altogether with
individuals,.../The whole theory of the universe is directed unerringly to one single
individual---namely to You." The cosmic reach of American democracy would
transcend the boundaries of geography, nationality, race, language, culture. The
weltschauung will be imbued with the spirit of democracy: "World of the soul, born by
the world of the real alone, led to identity, body, by it alone." The materiality of the
soul gives form to identity. "It is not to diffuse you that you were born of your mother
and father, it is to identify you, /It is not that you should be undecided, but that you
should be decided." The cosmic reality of a world of individuals radiating outward from
America, the promised land, was exclaimed by the poet, although it had not yet been
fully realized. The promise would be kept in the future as positive individualism, self-
directed, and assured. Until that time comes, "...the great pride of man in himself..." is a
negative individualism, nihilistic, and selfish.
Whitman the sexual poet strayed beyond the literary conventions of Victorian and
nineteenth-century American propriety in speaking about human sexuality. His work in
important ways is a manifesto to disobey social mores, and especially religious strictures,
and treat sexuality as a natural part of being human.
By silence or obedience the pens of savans, poets, historians, biographers, and the rest, have long
connived at the filthy law, and books enslaved to it,
that what makes the manhood of a man, that sex,
womanhood, maternity, desires, lusty animations,
organs, acts, are unmentionable and to be ashamed
of, to be driven to skulk out of literature with whatever
belongs to them. This filthy law has to be repealed---
it stands in the way of great reforms.
When Whitman first published Leaves of Grass in 1855, the language used to
identify human sexuality was still ambiguous, evolving, fluid, and polymorphic.
The categories of heterosexual and homosexual were nonexistent before the 1870s and do
not come into widespread use until the 1890s. There was other historical terminology
referring to male homosexuality and sexual freedom, but there were no direct references
to same-sex attraction, desire, and sexual activity between men. Terms like dandy, fop,
free thinker and free spirit, libertine, molly, rake, roue, and sodomite were sometimes
used, however, they could also be connoted in other ways not specifically referring to
Despite the imprecision of the language, Whitman managed to communicate his
ideas about sexuality and identity quite successfully. Especially in the first few editions
of Leaves of Grass, Whitman was clearly much more expansive than any of his American
literary predecessors. In Song of Myself he celebrates the sexuality of the body in less
than opaque terms:
Always the procreant urge of the world.
Out of dimness opposite equals advance,
and increases, always sex, Always a knit of identity, always distinction,
always a breed of life.
Whitman clearly thought that desire and sexuality were primary motivating
human forces, when in A Backward Glance O'er Travel'd Roads he says:
From another point of view "Leaves of Grass" is avowedly
the song of Sex and Amativeness, and even Animality---
though meanings that do not usually go along with those
words are behind all, and will duly emerge; and all are sought
to be lifted into a different light and atmosphere. Of this
feature, intentionally palpable in a few lines, I shall only say
the espousing principle of those lines so gives breath of life
to my whole scheme that the bulk of the pieces might as well have been left unwritten were those lines omitted. Difficult as it will be,
it has become, in my opinion, imperative to achieve a shifted
attitude from superior men and women towards the thought and fact of sexuality, as an element in character, personality, the
emotions, and a theme in literature. I am not going to argue the
question by itself; it does not stand by itself. The vitality of it
is altogether in its relations, bearings, significance---like the clef
of a symphony. At last analogy the lines I allude to, and the spirit in which they are spoken, permeate all "Leaves of Grass," and
the work must stand or fall with them, as the human body and soul must remain as an entirety.
Whitman's view of sexuality as generative, natural, and vital was a refreshing
reprieve from Victorian notions of sex as shameful, prurient, and degenerate. Gay Wilson
Allen observed that Whitman believed "...that sex must be brought out of concealment
into the open in order to foster a sane, healthy attitude toward this important phase of life.
In the twentieth century this argument is readily acceptable; and one of Whitman's most
lasting achievements was his contribution toward the breaking down of prudery and
taboos against sex in literature." Whitman's poems about sexuality have generally been
divided into two broad groupings: those dealing with amativeness (heterosexuality) in the
Children of Adam and the collection dealing with adhesiveness (homosexuality) in
Calamus. Not everyone, however, was as enthusiastic as Whitman about his frank
openness about human sexuality. His brother, George, for example, charged that "...
'Children of Adam', were 'of the whorehouse order' and had brought him the worst kind
of notoriety..." And George's criticism was not the only attack on his use of sexual
imagery as will later be shown.
Unmistakably, Whitman's poetry did self-consciously bring sunlight to the
issue of human sexuality. In Song of Myself he declares:
Through me forbidden voice,
Voices of sexes and lusts, voices veil'd and I
remove the veil,
Voices indecent by me clarified and transfigur'd
The explicitness and directness of Whitman's sexual imagery has the effect of "...bathing
[his] songs in Sex..." This kind of lusty language reverberates throughout Whitman's
verse and is metaphorically captured in these lines from Crossing Brooklyn Ferry:
What is more subtle than this which ties
me to the woman or man that looks in my face?
Which fuses me into you now, and pours
my meaning into you?
Just as the ferry approaches Brooklyn in the poem, so too does the body (literally) and the
soul (figuratively) approach the body and soul of the beloved.
Additionally, Whitman's vision of human sexuality is grounded in an equality of
the sexes: male and female. In Song of the Broad-Axe he envisions an America "...where
women walk in public processions in the street the same as men, /where they enter the
public assembly and take places the same as men..."
In an age where women largely were expected to belong to hearth and home, the
cult of domesticity, and where their public role in society was confined to republican
motherhood and virtue, Whitman's allusion to women joining men in public assemblies
and processions is at least progressive. And again, in the 1855 Preface, he praises "...free
American workmen and workwomen....the perfect equality of the female with the
male..." In To A Common Prostitute he exclaims, "I am Walt Whitman, liberal and
lusty as Nature," and he defends prostitutes in You Felons On Trial In Courts: "You
prostitutes flaunting over the trottoirs or obscene in your rooms, /Who am I that I should
call you more obscene than myself?"
Whitman's treatment of homosexuality is most apparent in the Calamus sequence,
although his egalitarian attitude towards sexuality in general would suggest nothing less.
the unique experiences of people today. The Calamus chants span the range of
challenges, emotions, issues, joys, problems, and sentiments that persons experience
in their lives from coming out to passing to loving someone of the same sex.
When I Heard At The Close Of The Day, a clearly homoerotic poem, is a reflection of the
romantic rendezvous between two male lovers at the beach.
When I wander'd alone over the beach, and undressing bathed,
laughing with the cool waters, and saw the
And when I thought how my dear friend my lover was on his
way coming, O then I was happy,
To A Stranger is an equally compelling description of two men cruising one
another; probably, on a street in Manhattan. The plaintive opening, "Passing Stranger!
you do not know how longingly I look upon you," also suggests the public anonymity of
the encounter as well as the double entendre of the reference to passing. "I am not to
speak of you, I am to think of you when I sit alone or wake at night alone," is an
intriguing peek at the illicitness and secretive nature of the love–that-dare-not-speak-its-
I Hear It Charged Against Me is an eloquent defense of homosexuality
against an indictment of somehow being a danger or harm to traditional institutions, like
marriage. The speaker in the poem may be the author writing in the first-person; it may
be some unknown person; or, it may be the so-called "collective 'I'." S/he is reflecting on
charges made against the speaker of seeking to destroy institutions. The speaker is being
directly implicated in the destruction of these institutions whose nature is unclear.
However, the speaker is, in reality, indifferent to them. S/he seems to be claiming
that there is nothing the speaker has in common with these institutions and, therefore,
would have no reason to want to destroy them. The speaker seems to adopt a defiant and
self-confident attitude in the last stanzas of the poem: the speech is declarative, qualified,
sweeping. S/he declares that the speaker, and only the speaker, will establish an
"institution of the dear love of comrades" in all the American cities and "fields and
woods." This "institution of the love of dear comrades" will have no "edifices or rules or
trustees or any argument." It will be self-governed (rules), self-administered (trustees),
beyond reproach (argument), and without pretense (edifice). The poem strikes one as
appealing to the new, or modern, and rejecting tradition in so far as the institutions
referred to in the poem represent the established order, social norms, and customary
cultural mores. But it is not a complete rejection of institutions because the
speaker calls for creating a new "institution of the love of dear comrades." It appears to
be a call for the construction of a new social order based on new, non-traditional or
modern values. The poem takes on added meaning when contextualized within the text: it
is in the Calamus sequence which is commonly thought of as a collection of Whitman's
homoerotic poems. Given the positioning of the poem in the text, what institutions might
the speaker be referring to here? Perhaps marriage, adoption, inheritance laws, public life,
political participation, religion, and so forth.
If the publication of the First Edition of Leaves of Grass in 1855 celebrated
"...the great actual Individualism latent and potential in mankind generally...", then the
publication of Oscar Wilde's The Ballad of Reading Gaol in 1898 marks the limits of
individualism in western civilization during the nineteenth century. Wilde, as poet and
artist, was martyred on the threshold of bourgeois respectability for social transgressions
that violated late Victorian norms of traditional values. The conservative reaction against
him---as both an artist and a person---was brutal, swift, and vile.
On April 4, 1895, during the course of Wilde's trials on charges of sodomy and
gross indecency at the Central Criminal Court, Oxford, Edward Carson, lead counsel for
the villainous John Sholto Douglas, Marquess of Queensbury, against whom Wilde had
regrettably brought charges of libel, and who accused Wilde of "posing as a sodomite,"
extensively quoted from Wilde's 1891 novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray and referred to
J.-K. Huysmans' A Rebours (1884), implying that literature and writing itself were on
trial as much as any allegedly criminal act that the poet may have committed.
Carson, opening the case for the defense, addressed the jury:
Gentlemen...Mr Wilde's character became known to Lord
Queensberry - the character which he had gained from his
writings, to which I will call attention in a moment; scandals
in connection with the Savoy Hotel, which you will have proved
before you before the case is over; the general character,
which a man in Mr Wilde's position must necessarily have
won for himself when he was leading the kind of life which
even he has confessed to, and it is only a small portion of
it in evidence. He had been going about with men – young men
who were not his co-equals in station, who were not his coevals
in age. He had been associating with men, who, I think it will
be proved before this case is over beyond all doubt, were well-
known as some of the most immoral characters in London. I refer
above all to Taylor – a notorious character as the police will tell
you; and I must remind you of the fact that at an early hour today
I put the question direct to Mr Wilde as to whether Taylor's
house was anything more than a mere den for introducing men
to these lads for sodomitic purposes....
As regards literature his standard was a very high one. His works
were not written for the Philistines nor for the illiterate. His works
could really only be understood by the artist and he was indifferent
as to what the ordinary individual thought of them or how the ordinary
individual might be influenced by them. He took such a high standard
of art as an artist in that box yesterday, that whenever anything corrupt
was pointed out to him in these various books he said, 'Oh, you
may put that meaning upon it, but then an artist would under-
stand it in a different sense.' In relation to his books he was a
complete artist. In relation to his books he wrote only in the language
of an artist for artists. Gentlemen of the jury, contrast that with
the position he takes up as regards these lads...[W]hen you
come to confront him with these curious associates of a man of
high art, which no one can understand but himself and the
artistic, but his case is that he has such a magnanimous, such a
noble, such a democratic soul (laughter) that he draws no social
distinctions, and it is exactly the same pleasure to him to have a
sweeping-boy from the street – if he is only interesting – to lunch
with him or to dine with him, as the best educated artist or the
greatest litterateur in the whole kingdom...
Gentlemen of the jury, I think if we rested this case alone on Mr
Wilde's literature we would have been absolutely justified
in the course we have taken.
By the last quarter of the century, the reactionary voices of restriction and
intolerance were well-positioned and well-organized to denounce the vice and immorality
of the individuals whom they saw as signs of society's descent into decadence and
degeneracy. As states continued the process of centralization and nationalization, these
moral reformers, opponents of alleged vice, and the self-appointed upholders of standards
of decency sought to marry the state's police powers to their own constricting codes
of acceptable conduct, behavior, and aesthetic purity.
Case in point were the statutes used to prosecute Wilde. Great Britain, in the
aftermath of a series of various sex scandals beginning with the 1870 arrest and trial of
Ernest Boulton and Frederick Park for conspiracy to commit sodomite acts, and out of
possible concern for the licentiousness that might accompany the removal of sodomy
from the list of English capital offenses in 1861, sought to codify homosexuality as
criminal behavior. In 1885 the Criminal Law Amendment Act, or "An Act for the
provision for the Protection of Women and Girls, the suppression of brothels, and other
purposes" was enacted by Parliament to legally classify and normalize acceptable and
unacceptable forms of human sexuality in the criminal code. This legal and linguistic turn
from criminalizing an act (sodomy) to the criminalization of the actor (gross indecency)
broadened the net which law enforcement authorities and the courts could cast to arrest,
prosecute, and imprison homosexuals and other supposed degenerates who threatened the
social, racial, and cultural purity of the nation.
At the end of Oscar Wilde's trials in 1895 he was convicted and sentenced to two
years hard labor as retribution to the state. After his release from prison on May 19,
1897, Wilde left England for France living under the pseudonym Sebastian Melmoth and
travelling around the Continent until his death on November 30, 1900. While in Europe
Wilde published The Ballad of Reading Gaol in February of 1898. 
The Ballad of Reading Gaol is an inmate's reminiscence of another prisoner who
had been sentenced to death by hanging. The poem is a forceful and severe criticism of
the cruelty, debasement, and humiliation of prison life. The prison represents the
individual's captive, tortured soul.
We were as men who through a fen
Of filthy darkness grope:
We did not dare to breathe a prayer,
Or to give our anguish scope:
Something was dead in each of us,
And what was dead was Hope.
Wilde's tenor and tone is more pessimistic, gloomy, and forlorn where Whitman's
outlook is more bright, celebratory, expansive, and optimistic. While Whitman
commemorates and honors individualism, Wilde defines the limitations of individualism:
even the death of individualism in the service of the state.
In Reading gaol by Reading town
There is a pit of shame,
And in it lies a wretched man
Eaten by teeth of flame,
In a burning winding-sheet he lies,
And his grave has got no name.
Here literally is a description of an individual condemned to death by the state.
The adjudged prisoner is literally shamed and buried in a grave with no name
symbolizing the complete annihilation and destruction of the individual. The power of the
modern nation-state reigns supreme over and above the sovereign self. The
authority of the state, the power of its laws and regulations, can not be defied by the
individual. If the individual commits any transgressions against the laws of the nation,
then the guilty person will be subject to the rational, scientific dispensation of justice.
The Governor was strong upon
The Regulations Act:
The Doctor said that Death was but
A scientific fact:
And twice a day the Chaplain called,
And left a little tract.
The condemned, imprisoned soul, upon which the judgement of the state has been passed,
awaits its ugly appointment with death.
Right in we went, with soul intent
On Death and Dread and Doom:
The hangman with his little bag,
Went shuffling through the gloom:
And I trembled as I groped my way
Into my numbered tomb.
The anonymity of the dead individual is signified by a numbered tomb: without
face, or personality, or any hint of self. Thus the authority of the state over the individual
is total and complete. The numbered corpse marks the non-individual, subservient to the
will of the nation and whose personhood is submerged beneath the needs of the society.
The jurisdiction of the government can crush individual freedom and an occasional
demonstration of that absolute power by the state serves to deter other persons from legal
infractions: "But in the heart of everyman /Terror was lying still."
Yet, despite all the weight that the government brings to bear on circumscribing
personal liberty, the nineteenth-century individual could still resist the limits imposed on
human beings to keep them organized in highly complex social units like the nation-state.
Wilde observed in "The Soul of Man Under Socialism" that "[a]fter all, even in prison, a
man can be quite free. His soul can be free. His personality can be untroubled. He can be
at peace." The promises of individualism can not be broken by society as is evident,
even in Reading Gaol, as when "the soul in pain" still sees "that tent of blue which
prisoners call the sky..."
Ultimately individuality exudes from the soul. If the state is unjust or oppressive,
the individual soul yet remains free. "It has been found out. I must say it was high time,
for all authority is quite degrading. It degrades those who exercise it, and it degrades
those over whom it is exercised." Imprisonment is dehumanizing and misguided,
according to Wilde in an extremely far-sighted comment, "The less punishment, the less
crime. When there is no punishment at all, crime will either cease to exist, or, if it occurs,
will be treated by physicians as a very distressing form of dementia, to be cured by care
and kindness." The deep divisions in and sharp stratification of British class society
might have tolerated the individualism of a peer by excusing irrational behavior as
eccentric, but for the commoner mental health issues were criminal and, therefore,
punishable. In order for all the English, not just the aristocracy, to achieve true
individuality, Wilde believed that basic human needs are necessarily to be met. "The
State is to make what is useful," he remarked. "A man cannot always be estimated by
what he does. He may keep the law, and yet be worthless. He may break the law, and yet
be fine. He may be bad, without ever doing anything bad. He may commit a sin against
society, and yet realize through that sin his true perfection."
Each person is to be, as far as possible, free of hindrances and encumbrances on
individualism that the state is capable of wielding. "There is no one type for man. There
are as many perfections as there are imperfect men. And while to the claims of charity a
man may yield and yet be free, to the claims of conformity no man may yield and remain
free at all." The state of freedom; that is, equality among individuals, is successfully
accomplished when the playing field is leveled and the necessary conditions for life
are ascertained. "When each member of the community has sufficient for his wants, and
is not interfered with by his neighbor, it will not be an object of interest to him to
interfere with any one else." When there are constraints and limits placed on freedom
there will be rebellion: "Wherever there is a man who exercises authority, there is a man
who resists authority." In Wilde's 1877 poem, Apologia, he notes:
Many a man hath done so; sought to fence
In straitened bonds the soul that should be free,
Trodden the dusty road of common sense,
While all the forest sang liberty.
For Wilde freedom from government intrusion and restrictions is necessary for
the perfection of the soul, or, to put it another way, to fulfill individual human potential.
He writes that "...man reaches his perfection, not through what he has, not even through
what he does, but entirely through what he is." And, there are as many perfections as
there are individuals: "It does not matter what [man] is, as long as he realizes the
perfection of the soul that is within him."
No doubt Walt Whitman would have, at least in part, agreed with Wilde. As he
said in an editorial for the Brooklyn Eagle:
It is only the novice in political economy who thinks it is the duty of
government to make its citizens happy. -- Government has no such office.
To protect the weak and the minority from the impositions of the strong
and the majority – to prevent any one from positively working to render
the people unhappy, (if we may so express it,) to do the labor not of an
officious inter-meddler in the affairs of men, but of a prudent watchman
who prevents outrage – these are rather the proper duties of a government.
Under the specious pretext of effecting 'the happiness of the whole community,'
nearly all wrongs and intrusions of government have been carried through.
The legislature may, and should, when such things fall in its way, lend its
potential weight to the cause of virtue and happiness...; but to
legislate in direct behalf of those objects is never available, and rarely
effects any even temporary benefit.
Both Whitman and Wilde envisioned the individual poet or artist as occupying an
essential and significant role in society. Moreover, their visions of the poet are colored by
their individual projects and their poetics. Judging from the reaction to their work from
critics like Nordau, their detractors also believed that poets and authors held a
disproportionate sway over the public imagination.
Whitman saw the role of the poet as intricately interwoven with the content and
mission of his poetry. Bradley and Blodgett write that "...this poet's creative intent [was]
to improve and transform life (the poet as maker and reformer), to discern and set forth
its miraculousness (the poet as celebrator), and to sing the transcendence of human love,
envisioned as divine (the poet as lover)." The first three editions of Leaves of Grass
focus on a variety of broad themes ranging from the common workingman, and time
and death, to human psychology and the imagination. In the post-1865 editions there was
a distinct poetic turn following the tumultuous impact of the Civil War. And the final
editions are being constantly reworked and rearranged culminating in the author's
definitive so-called Death-bed Edition.
Early on Leaves of Grass was recognized by some as being well ahead of its time.
Emerson writes in his letter to Whitman, and commonly referred to as the Preface to the
Second Edition (1856): "I give you joy of your free and brave thought. I have great joy in
it. I find incomparable things said incomparably well, as they must be. I find the courage
of treatment which so delights us, and which large perception only can inspire." But not
all American writers were equally exuberant about Whitman's poetry; William Dean
Howells and Henry James were both largely unimpressed in their reviews of Drum-
Perhaps Whitman can correctly be identified as the first American poet by virtue
of the fact that his poetry breaks with traditional poetic conventions such as rhyme,
meter, and cadence. Yet in doing so, he establishes a unique American vernacular and
poetics emphasizing free form verse and an egalitarian structure that itself reflects the
identity of its author. Whitman's free form and constant rearrangements of the text of
Leaves of Grass suggests an aesthetic method, a means of individual interpretation, that
hints of a more subtle, pervasive, underlying poetic paradigm perhaps largely
unrecognized by many of his contemporaries. The changing nature, pattern, and shape of
the text through its many editions parallels the construction, deconstruction, and
reconstruction of the nation and American identity as well as the poet's own personal
identity and search for a place for the national poet in American society.
more questions than it answers, or just as the voluminous output of Leonardo da Vinci is
better judged in its full corpus rather than by only one 'unfinished' work, so Whitman's
literary achievement is better understood when viewed in its many perspectives instead of
through any single point of view. Defining Whitman's idea of individualism as positive
freedom; that is, freedom to fulfill one's potential, to satisfy one's needs and desires
underscores the problem of the critic and analyst who, because of the
referential nature of criticism, always retains its being only in relation to something
outside itself. Criticism, unlike poetry, stands without firm foundation alone. Great works
of art stand independently of everything that refers to it because they are acts of creation
spontaneously arising from the depths of the artist and subject. Wilde's doctrine of
individualism is much closer to criticism in that he defines it as a negative freedom:
freedom from something or someone which acts as some limit on personal liberty.
the world." Oscar Wilde commented in an anonymous 1889 review of November
cheerfully received by all, however. Charles A. Dana in a review for the New York Daily
Hobhouse specifically called public attention to the atrocious handling of civilian
detainees and prisoners of war in the British camps. "The British held 116,572 persons in
their concentration camps, almost all of them women and children. That was about a
fourth of the entire Boer population. After the war, an official government report
concluded that 27,927 Boers had died in the camps of starvation, typhus and exposure.
That included 26,251 women and children, of whom 22,074 were children under the age
of 16." Supporters of the war hailed the British soldiers and the commanders who led
them into battle for the glory of the crown even as the empire on which the sun never set
appeared to have stumbled and faltered, teetering on the brink of degeneration and
decline. The concentration camps, like the prisons, such as Reading Gaol, represented the
objectification and negation of the individual. The limits of civilization with respect to
individualism seemed to be slowly enclosing and restricting humanity not even a half
century since the first publication of Whitman's Leaves of Grass and leaving the future of
personal liberty and individual freedom within western society on the agenda for another
century to determine.
 Walt Whitman (2002). Leaves of Grass and Other Writings. (Michael Moon, ed.). New York: W.W. Norton & Co. at 3.
 Walt Whitman (1982). Poetry and Prose. (Justin Kaplan, ed.). New York: The Library of America at 695; Whitman noted that he was descended from the Van Velsors (Dutch) on the maternal side, while his father's family, the Whitmans, were from England. Whitman (1982) at 691.
 ibid. at 958
 ibid. at 942.
 Gary Schmidgall (1982). Walt Whitman: A Gay Life . New York: Dutton at 306.
 Joel Colton and R.R. Palmer (1978). A History of the Modern World. (5th ed.). New York Alfred A. Knopf at 502-504; and, Marvin Perry, Myrna Chase, James R. Jacob, Margaret C. Jacob, and Theodore H. von Laue, eds. (1996). Western Civilization: Ideas, Politics, & Society, Volume II: From the 1600s. (5th ed.). Princeton, NJ: Houghton Mifflin, Co. at Chapter 25.
 Colton & Palmer at 554; and, Perry, et. al., at Chapter 21.
 Perry, et. al. at 514.
 Whitman (2002) at xxxi.
 Walt Whitman (1980). Leaves of Grass. (Gay Wilson Allen, ed.). New York: Signet at 177.
 The White House canceled a forum about "Poetry and the American Voice" in the Winter of 2003 when some of the invited poets leaked that they might protest the imminent U.S. invasion of Iraq. The symposium was to focus on the poetry of Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, and Walt Whitman. See: Jay Parini, "A Time for Poets to Raise Their Voices," The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 14, 2003.
 Gary Schmidgall (1997). at 341. For a full account of this visit see also 283-288. Also see: Mary Warner Blanchard (1998). Oscar Wilde's America. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press at 13-14; Justin Kaplan (1980). Walt Whitman: A Life. New York: HarperCollins at 12; Jerome Loving (1999). Walt Whitman: The Song of Himself. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press at 410-414; and, David S. Reynolds (1996). Walt Whitman's America: A Cultural Biography. New York: Vintage Books at 3, 539-540.
 Schmidgall (1997) at 341. George Whitman's house no longer exists, although Stevens Street is just a couple of blocks from Whitman's Mickle Street house, also in Camden, and where the poet relocated in 1884. The Mickle Street house, now a national historic landmark, was the only house Walt Whitman would ever own. He lived there from 1884 when his brother George and his family moved to Burlington, NJ until the poet's death in 1892. Whitman is buried in Harleigh Cemetery, also in Camden, NJ. Keith Carson , "Notes from Tour of the Walt Whitman House," 328 Mickle Street, Camden, NJ 08103. (March 6, 2004). Informational tour courtesy New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Parks and Forestry.
 Loving (1999) at 412-413; and, Schmidgall (1997) at 288.
 Clearly Wilde was an advocate and proponent of aestheticism, at least in his early career prior to incarceration, as articulated by Walter Pater for example. Whitman, while surely sensitive to aesthetic considerations, believed that art also had a moral purpose. Whether Wilde moved closer to Whitman's view of an ethical component in art after his incarceration is a topic for further investigation. "The Soul of Man Under Socialism" is the document where Wilde formulates his basic political ideals. Whitman's political ideology is well-defined in Democratic Vistas among other works.
 Max Nordau (1993). Degeneration. (George L. Mosse, ed.). Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press at 299.
 Whitman (1980) at 181.
 ibid. at 183.
 Oscar Wilde (1991). Plays, Prose Writings and Poems. (Terry Eagleton, ed.). New York: Alfred A. Knopf at 21.
 For a thorough discussion of Whitman's experiences during the Civil War see: Roy Morris, Jr. (2000). The Better Angel: Walt Whitman in the Civil War. New York: Oxford University Press.
 Sally Ledger and Roger Luckhurst, eds. (2000). The Fin de Siecle: A Reader in Cultural History c. 1880 – 1900. New York: Oxford University Press at xvi.
 Nordau (1993) at 319.
 ibid. at 320.
 In The Library of America edition of Whitman's Poetry and Prose, edited by Justin Kaplan, there is a reference to three apparently homeless and unemployed men whom Whitman perhaps caught a glimpse of through the window of his brother's Stevens Street home. He expressed surprise at the men's lack of employment The incident is mentioned in Notes Left Over, "The Tramp and Strike Questions" and is dated February, 1879. See: Walt Whitman (1982) at 1065.
 Whitman (1980) at 220.
 Walt Whitman (1998). Leaves of Grass. (Jerome Loving, ed.). New York: Oxford University Press at xvii.
 Whitman (2002) at xxvii.
 ibid. at xxxii.
 Whitman (1998) at xi.
 Whitman (1982) at 26,
 Whitman (1980) at 44.
 ibid. at 44-46.
 ibid. at 49
 Emily Dickinson wrote to a friend in 1862 that "...I never read his Book---but was told he was disgraceful." Schmidgall (1997) at 83; Pope Pius IX in 1864 condemned and alerted all Catholics to the dangers of liberality, progress, modernity, and democracy in his Syllabus of Errors. Presumably, the pope included Whitman in that category. Colton & Palmer (1978) at 475; The Philadelphia Society for the Suppression of Vice and Immorality as well as the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, headed by Postal Inspector Anthony Comstock, both disapproved of Leaves of Grass. Schmidgall (1997) at 323.
 Whitman (1980) at 94.
 ibid. at 62.
 ibid. at 72.
 ibid. at 87.
 ibid. at 96.
 ibid. at 278.
 ibid. at 282
 ibid. at 352.
 ibid. at 340.
 Whitman (1982) at 668.
 ibid. at 1334.
 Webster's II: New College Dictionary, 10th ed. (2001). New York: Houghton Mifflin, Co.
 Whitman (1980) at 51.
 Whitman (1982) at 669.
 Whitman (1980) at viii-ix.
 ibid. at xx; refer also to: Whitman (2002) at xxix; and, Whitman (1998) at xvi
 Kaplan at 11.
 Whitman (1980) at 68.
 ibid. at 109.
 ibid. at 148.
 Whitman (1980) at 168.
 Whitman (1982) at 8.
 Whitman (1980) at 305-306.
 ibid. at 119.
 ibid. at 122.
 ibid. at 123.
 Oscar Wilde (1991). Oscar Wilde: Plays, Prose Writings and Poems (Terry Eagleton, ed.). New York: Alfred A. Knopf at 394.
 Merlin Holland, ed. (2003). The Real Trial of Oscar Wilde: The First Uncensored Transcript of the Trial of Oscar Wilde v. John Douglas (Marquess of Queensberry), 1895. New York: Harper-Collins at 80-89, 96-100, 258 and 313.
 ibid. at 251-254.
 Edward Cohen, "Legislating the Norm: From Sodomy to Gross Indecency" in Ronald Butters, John M. Clum, and Michael Moon, eds. (1989). Displacing Homophobia: Gay Male Perspectives in Literature and Culture. Durham, NC: Duke University Press at 169-205.
 Oscar Wilde (1988). The Picture of Dorian Gray. (Donald L. Lawler, ed.). New York: W.W. Norton at 460.
 Oscar Wilde (1992). The Ballad of Reading Gaol and Other Poems. New York: Dover at 35.
 ibid. at 43.
 ibid. at 31.
 ibid. at 32.
 Wilde (1991) at 398.
 Wilde ( 1992) at 26-27.
 Wilde (1991) at 400.
 ibid. at 398 and 401.
 ibid. 399.
 ibid. at 401.
 ibid. at 395.
 Wilde (1992) at 13.
 Wilde (1991) at 397.
 ibid. at 399.
 Walt Whitman, ed., "Duties of Government." The Brooklyn Eagle, April 4, 1846.
 Whitman (2002) at xxxi.
 ibid. at xxxi-xxxiv.
 ibid. at 637.
 ibid. at xxxiv.
 Whitman (1998) at ix.
 ibid. at xi-xii.
 ibid. at xii.
 Richard Ellmann, ed. (1969). The Critical Writings of Oscar Wilde. Chicago: University of Chicago Press at 121.
 Charles A. Dana, "New Publications:Leaves of Grass." New York Daily Tribune, July 23, 1855 at 3.
 Whitman (1980) at xix.
 T. W. Higginson, "Recent Poetry." Nation 33, December 15, 1881 at 476-7.
 (Untitled). Catholic World, February, 1882 at 719-720.
 "Leaves of Grass," Mace:A Weekly Record of the Glasgow Parliamentary Debating Association, March 21, 1882.
 Ellmann, ed. (1969) at 125.
 Nordau (1993) at 230-231.
 ibid. at 231.