In 1838, a fire destroyed New York's printing district, and with it Whitman's livelihood. He moved back in with his family in Long Island and took a job as a schoolteacher, a profession he did not love. "O, damnation, damnation! thy other name is school-teaching," 5 Whitman lamented. He took a brief break from teaching to found a newspaper, The Long Islander, but sold the paper after ten months. (It is still in publication today.)
Whitman returned to the classroom, but was depressed by the work and by Long Island. "Never before have I entertained so low an idea of the beauty and perfection of man's nature, never have I seen humanity in so degraded a shape, as here," he wrote to a friend. "Ignorance, vulgarity, rudeness, conceit, and dulness are the reigning gods of this deuced sink of despair." 6 By 1841, Whitman had had enough. He moved back to New York City, where the persona we know today as Walt Whitman was formed.