Plymouth Church- And Whitman

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Plymouth Church- And Whitman

It is not to be said when Whitman had first attended Plymouth Church but it is true that Whitman was attracted by the teaching of Henry Ward Beecher. At the church, Whitman heard the impassioned Henry Ward Beecher preach against slavery and later spoke of Beecher as his only literary friend. From Selected letters of Walt Whitman by  Haviland Miller, Edwin and Whitman, Whitman quotes “I once heard Beecher under curious circumstances: from across the street white Plymouth church was undergoing repairs of some kind: hit me so hard, fascinated me to such a degree, that I was afterwards willing to go far out of my way to hear him talk.”

Whitman admired America’s successful orators and among his favorites was Brooklyn preacher Henry Ward Beecher. Beecher regaled his huge audiences at Brooklyn’s Plymouth Church with entertaining sermons that freely combined the divine and secular-a mixture also visible in Whitman’s poems, which shift quickly between spiritual and the earthly. Beecher regularly used the first person and addressed his hearers as “you” to create a personal connection with them. This oratorical style had an influence on Whitman. We can see in his excerpt of leaves of grass.

“I celebrate myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you”

–          Walt Whitman

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