Walt Whitman and the British Literary Tradition
Reviews and Awards
"Written in limpid prose that welcomes readers, Containing Multitudes offers a uniquely telling examination of what Whitman made of poetry from Great Britain. Gary Schmidgall's deft and detailed readings illuminate how thoroughly Whitman interacted with canonical authors from Shakespeare and Milton to Burns, Wordsworth, and Tennyson." - Robert Crawford, author of Scotland's Books: A History of Scottish Literature
"A comprehensive account of Whitman's surprisingly rich engagement with British poetry, Schmidgall looks beyond Whitman's nationalistic bluster to recover a poet who wrestled with the legacies of Shakespeare and Milton as well as figures such as Burns, Blake, and Wordsworth. Containing Multitudes not only tracks lines of influence, it seeks out resonances between Whitman's career and those of precursor poets, and suggests the importance of British poetry to nineteenth-century American culture writ large." - Meredith L. McGill, co-editor of The Traffic in Poems: Nineteenth-Century Poetry and Transatlantic Exchange
"Containing Multitudes describes not only Walt Whitman's many profound and often hidden literary influences, but also Gary Schmidgall's achievement here. His capacious study is remarkably learned and audacious. In digging up Whitman's buried British treasures, Schmidgall decisively alters our understanding of the poet and even makes one wonder if the treasures were hidden so as to be discovered-not obliterating but clarifying Whitman's American difference." - Robert Weisbuch, author of Atlantic Double-Cross: American Literature and British Influence in the Age of Emerson
"Written with brio, this important reappraisal presses well beyond limiting concerns with 'influence' to reveal undiscovered depths of imaginative affinity between Whitman and a number of prominent writers from the British literary tradition. Conclusions revelatory in character and grounded in solid scholarship are here advanced with a disarming adroitness of touch. The result is sensitive illumination of neglected major dimensions of Whitman's creative sensibility." - M. Wynn Thomas, author of Transatlantic Connections: Whitman U.S., Whitman U.K.
"Eloquently written and provocative, Containing Multitudes demonstrates the myriad ways in which Whitman was indebted to and in dialogue with a British literary tradition. In telling chapters on Shakespeare, Milton, Burns, Blake, and Wordsworth, Schmidgall deftly analyzes the numerous echoes and divergences between these prior poets' lyrics and Whitman's verse. This book will be required reading for anyone interested in the subtle ways in which the British poetic canon was transmitted through one of America's most original and influential poets." - Anne K. Mellor, author of Mothers of the Nation: Women's Political Writing in England, 1780-1830
"Gary Schmidgall is far from the first to discuss Walt Whitman and British literary tradition. What he brings to the project is a fresh eye, deep learning, and an ambitious historical range" -- Modern Language Quarterly