"Incapable of true poetical originality, Whitman had the cleverness to invent a literary trick, and the shrewdness to stick to it."
Peter Bayne, Contemporary Review, 1875
"No, no, this kind of thing won’t do…The good folks down below (I mean posterity) will have none of it."
James Russell Lowell, quoted in The Complete Works Vol 14, 1904
"Whitman is unacquainted with art as a hog is with mathematics."
The London Critic
"Of course, to call it poetry, in any sense, would be mere abuse of language."
William Allingham, letter to W.M. Rossetti, 1857
"Mr. Whitman’s attitude seems monstrous. It is monstrous because it pretends to persuade the soul while it slights the intellect; because it pretends to gratify the feelings while it outrages the taste…Our hearts are often touched through a compromise with the artistic sense but never in direct violation of it."
Henry James, The Nation
"Whitman, like a large shaggy dog, just unchained, souring the beaches of the world and baying at the moon."
Robert Louis Stevenson, Familiar Studies, 1882
"…his lack of a sense of poetic fitness, his failure to understand the business of a poet, is clearly astounding."
Francis Fisher Browne, The Dial, 1882
"He was a vagabond, a reprobate, and his poems contain outbursts of erotomania so artlessly shameless that their parallel in literature would hardly be found with the author’s name attached. For his fame he has to thank just those bestially sensual pieces which first drew him to the attention of all the pruriency of America. He is morally insane, and incapable of distinguishing between good and evil, virtue and crime."
Max Nordau, 1895