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Walt Whitman:

An Inventory of His Collection in the Manuscript Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Whitman, Walt, 1819-1892
Title: Walt Whitman Collection
Dates: 1846-1965, nd
Extent: 6 boxes (2.52 linear feet), 1 oversize box, 1 oversize folder, 1 galley folder, 19 bound volumes
Abstract: Handwritten manuscripts, fragments, notes, proofs, galleys, clippings, monographs, correspondence, drawings, photographs, and memorabilia document the life and work of Walt Whitman and include information about Whitman created and collected by several of his early admirers and devotees.
RLIN Record ID: TXRC03-A4
Language: English
Access:

Open for research.

Condition note: Many of the manuscripts and letters are in fragile condition and access to individual items may be limited while they undergo conservation treatment.




Acquisition:

Much of the collection was acquired in the mid-1950s as part of the T. E. Hanley Library and supplemented by the 1959 purchase of the John G. Moore Collection and later acquisitions of individual items. Also included are numerous page proofs acquired with the Charles E. Feinberg Collection.

Processed by:

Stephen Mielke, 2003

Repository:

The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Center


Born May 31, 1819, in West Hills, Long Island, Walt Whitman spent his early life working variously as an office boy, school teacher, compositor, reporter, and editor. Growing up in Brooklyn, he received only six years of formal education and took his first job at age 11. He was 21 before his first success as a writer, and between 1843 and 1846 wrote articles for several New York City papers. He become editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1846, but was fired after two years over political differences with the owner.

In 1848 Whitman spent three months working at the New Orleans Daily Crescent, then returned to New York to edit the Brooklyn Daily Freeman for one year. From 1849 to 1855 he lived with his parents in Brooklyn, writing occasional pieces for area papers and working briefly as a carpenter. Throughout this period he read numerous literary and social works and maintained notebooks of his own writings. These formed the basis of his first edition of poetry, Leaves of Grass, published in 1855. It received mixed reviews and limited sales, and Whitman continued his newspaper writing and editing while he reworked and expanded the book.

In 1862 Whitman's brother was wounded at Fredericksburg and Whitman traveled to his aid. Finding him with minor wounds, Whitman settled in Washington, DC, where he tended wounded soldiers and worked for the army paymaster. In 1864 he took a position at the Interior Department, and in 1865 published Drum Taps, a collection of Civil War inspired poems.

Whitman lost his job in 1865, but was soon offered work by the U. S. Attorney General. New editions of Leaves of Grass appeared in 1866, 1867, and 1871. He also published Democratic Vistas and Passage to India in 1871, but his good fortune did not last and in 1873 he suffered a debilitating stroke followed closely by the death of his mother. By 1874 he had lost his job at the Attorney General's office and was living in Camden, New Jersey, again writing for New York area papers.

Whitman published a reprint of Leaves of Grass in 1876 and continued convalescing and receiving guests at his home. An 1881 edition of Leaves of Grass was declared "obscene" by the Boston District Attorney, but the notoriety caused such demand that the book was reprinted in 1883, 1884, and 1888. Whitman suffered a second stroke in 1888 and his health continued to deteriorate. He died soon after an 1892 printing of Leaves of Grass, which he determined was finally "complete."


Meyerson, Joel. "Walt Whitman,"   The Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 3: Antebellum Writers in New York and the South. (Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research Company, 1979)


Handwritten manuscripts, fragments, notes, proofs, galleys, clippings, monographs, correspondence, drawings, photographs, and memorabilia document the life and work of Walt Whitman and include information about Whitman created and collected by several of his early admirers and devotees. The collection is organized into four series: I. Works, 1846-1913, nd (2 boxes), II. Correspondence, 1863-1892, nd (1 box), III. Works and Correspondence by Others, 1863-1956, nd (3 boxes), and IV. Images and Checks, 1875-1887, nd (1 folder)

The earliest dated material consists of tearsheets of "The Tomb-Blossoms," published in 1846 in The United States Magazine and Democratic. The bulk of the materials dated after Whitman's death in 1892 originated with Whitman's friend and biographer Horace Traubel; Whitman Society President Gustave Percival Wiksell; Whitman scholars Richard M. Bucke and Milton Hindus; and the poet William Douglas O'Connor. In addition to Whitman's original manuscripts, a draft fragment in the hand of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "VIII | O subtle, various world…," is bound with correspondence between Whitman and Tennyson and manuscript material for Leaves of Grass   "Sands at Seventy: To Get the Final Lilt of Songs."

Many of the manuscripts and letters are in fragile condition and access to individual items may be limited while they undergo conservation treatment. All Whitman items are handwritten unless otherwise indicated. Additional Whitman material is located in the Ransom Center's vertical files, art collection, photography collection, and personal effects.


Additional Whitman material is located in the Ransom Center's vertical files, art collection, photography collection, and personal effects.


Bound monographs by Whitman have been cataloged separately and can be accessed through the University of Texas at Austin Library's online catalog.


People

Brandeis, Louis Dembitz, 1856-1941.

Bucke, Richard Maurice, 1837-1902.

Burroughs, John, 1837-1921.

Carver, George Washington, 1864?-1943.

Coughlin, Charles E. (Charles Edward), 1891-1979.

Debs, Eugene V. (Eugene Victor), 1855-1926.

Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 1803-1882.

Feinberg, Charles E., 1899-

Forman, H. Buxton (Harry Buxton), 1842-1917.

Hanley, T. Edward.

Hindus, Milton.

Kennedy, William Sloane, 1850-1929.

Landon, Alfred M. (Alfred Mossman), 1887-1987.

Moore, John G.

O'Connor, William Douglas, 1832-1889.

Pound, Dorothy.

Rossetti, William Michael, 1829-1919.

Tennyson, Alfred Tennyson, Baron, 1809-1892.

Traubel, Horace, 1858-1919.

Whitman, George Washington, 1829-1901.

Whitman, Louisa Orr Haslam.

Whitman, Louisa Van Velsor, 1795-1873.

Wiksell, Gustave Percival.

Williams, William Carlos, 1883-1963.

Subjects

Whitman family.

American poetry -- 19th century.

Document Types

Broadsides.

Drawings.

Galley proofs.

Photographs.

Postcards.