By Roger Asselineau

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He really identified himself in imagination with the man he wanted to be. To a certain extent he became the ideal being of whom he dreamed and thus lived the part he had written for himself. He was so firmly persuaded of his own absolute sincerity that he made complete frankness one of the criteria for the recognition of great poets: "The great poets are . . " 34 There is no justification for speaking of a "pose" in the case of Whitman, for that would be to take up again the whole problem of sincerity and to affirm with J.

When he was teaching school at Smithtown in 1 8 3 7 he belonged to a debating society of which he even became secretary, and the minutes of the debates, which survive, show that he was one of the most eloquent members of this rural forum. 39 It was a symptom both of intellectual curiosity and of his constant desire to express himself and communicate with others. Another striking trait of his youth which may be inferred from all this was his extreme love of independence. He left home when he was only fourteen and without any help or much education succeeded in establishing himself respectably outside his family.

He was tormented, unstable, storm-tossed; 37 his work allowed him to recover his equilibrium and achieve serenity. His poetry saved him. By its means he gradually escaped the dark and stormy chaos where he had been floundering and emerged in an orderly, peaceful universe where light overcame dark. 38 These considerations explain why I have divided this work into two main parts, one a biographical introduction devoted to the "Creation of a Personality," the other a critical study in which I shall try to analyze the "Creation of a Book" and to examine the evolution of the great themes of Leaves of Grass and the development of Whitman's art.

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