Other Poets of the Time and Their Thoughts on New York City

Henry David Thoreau was an individualist, but also a recluse. He came to Staten Island in 1841 and moved in with Emerson. In 1845 he moved to a small hut on the shores of Walden Pond outside the city of Concord, Massachusetts. There he wrote Walden, a collection of meditations and observations on nature. In portions of Walden he ruminates on why he was unable to stay in the city and his inability to find his way into the literary marketplace. Thoreau was one of the fathers of the Trancendentalist movement.

Edgar Allan Poe also didn't like the city, though he lived in it. Whitman met Poe, who he described as "a little jaded," in the offices of the Broadway Journal. Poe disliked New York from the time he arrived and was too busy wrestling with inner demons to make any friends in his adopted home town. Whitman worked for Poe in the 1840s, for the Broadway Journal. You might remember his short description of Poe in "Specimen Days." Whitman admired Poe, using "The Raven" in "Out of the Cradle," and Poe's Gothic touches in his early stories.

Herman Melville (1819-1891) was born in New York, left for Massachusetts in 1847, but returned in 1863. He, however, did not enjoy his hometown. Melville, born with Whitman in 1819, never met the poet. After his popularity began to wane with the publication of Moby Dick (1855), Melville worked as an outdoor customs inspector for the last two decades of his life.

All in all, Whitman seems to have more in common with great American showmen/entrepreneurs Barnum and Edison than his well-bred literary contemporaries.

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