Eyewitness accounts of the recitation vary: one claims a disheveled poet mumbled his way through an incomprehensible poem while another states that he gave a fine, clear reading. Whitman himself provided the New York media with a press release that apparently was never used, though both the New York Times and the Boston Daily Advertiser had reporters on the scene to cover the Commencement exercises.
Whitman’s own account of his stay in Hanover provides a telling portrait of Dartmouth in 1872. He reported to his longtime companion Pete Doyle:
It is a curious scene here, as I write, a beautiful old New England village, 150 years old, large houses and gardens, great elms, plenty of hills—every thing comfortable, but very Yankee—not an African to be seen all day—not a grain of dust—not a car to be seen or heard—green grass everywhere—no smell of coal tar.—As I write a party are playing base ball on a large green in front of the house—the weather suits me first rate—cloudy but no rain. Your loving WALT.If you are interested in Whitman, come in and ask to see our first edition of Leaves of Grass (the picture above is the frontispiece to the first edition), Val 816 W59 S8.