The First Edition of Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" Is Published
When Walt Whitman published his first edition of Leaves of Grass on or around the fourth day of July in 1855, he believed he was embarking on a personal literary journey of national significance.
Setting out to define the American experience, Whitman consciously hoped to answer Ralph Waldo Emerson's 1843 essay, "The Poet," which called for a truly original national poet, one who would sing of the new country in a new voice. The undertaking required unlimited optimism, especially considering the fact that Whitman had published only a small handful of poems prior to 1855; however, Whitman felt confident that the time was ripe and that the people would embrace him. This optimism and confidence resulted largely from his awareness of the tremendous changes in the American literary world that had taken place during his lifetime.
Leaves of Grass (1855) is a poetry collection by the American poet Walt Whitman. Among the poems in the collection are "Song of Myself," "I Sing the Body Electric," and in later editions, Whitman's elegy to the assassinated President Abraham Lincoln, "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd." Whitman spent his entire life writing Leaves of Grass, revising it in several editions until his death.
In 1855 Whitman published at his own expense a volume of 12 poems, Leaves of Grass, which he had begun working on probably as early as 1847. It was criticized because of Whitman’s exaltation of the body and sexual love and also because of its innovation in verse form—that is, the use of free verse in long rhythmical lines with a natural, “organic” structure.