Leaves of Crass
February 20, 2017 12:15 PM   Subscribe

"Readers who picked up The New York Times on March 13, 1852, might have seen a small advertisement on Page 3 for a serial tale set to begin the next day in a rival newspaper. “A RICH REVELATION,” the ad began, teasing a rollicking tale touching on “the Manners and Morals of Boarding Houses, some Scenes from Church History, Operations in Wall-st.,” and “graphic Sketches of Men and Women” (presented, fear not, with “explanations necessary to properly understand what it is all about”). It was a less than tantalizing brew, perhaps. The story, which was never reviewed or reprinted, appears to have sunk like a stone. But now comes another rich revelation: The anonymously published tale was nothing less than a complete novel by Walt Whitman.
Grad student Zachary Turpin discovers a long lost Walt Whitman novel, about a year after he discovered a long lost Whitman self-help treatie. posted by Stanczyk (29 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
Multitudes indeed.
posted by dersins at 12:20 PM on February 20 [5 favorites]


self-help treatie.

The super-ego and the id consent to an armistice in their long-fought battle over the soul.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:26 PM on February 20 [6 favorites]


Boy, I bet the other grad students hate that guy. "Ooooh, Zach found another Whitman, oooohh. Show off."
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 12:29 PM on February 20 [37 favorites]


From pent-up aching rivers,
From that of myself without which I were nothing,
When all the moon is shining,
I lik the man.
posted by zippy at 12:41 PM on February 20 [9 favorites]


I had long loved Whitman, a great spokesman for the common man, etc etc...that is, till recently discovered in my reading that like most whites of the period, he too had a typical view of white superiority. Theodore Roosevelt, Walt Whitman and Andrew Jackson Were Proponents of Native American Genocide , and in reading around in various places, I now realize how the genocide of the American indians was not a fight here and there, a grabbing of land, but a calculated extermination. I look forward to reading the discovered novel, but now find a diminishing regard for many of my earlier "heroes."
posted by Postroad at 12:54 PM on February 20 [8 favorites]


How do they check authenticity of authorship?
posted by infini at 1:30 PM on February 20 [2 favorites]


I feel like this needs a WHAAAAT from Daveed Diggs, a la "We Know." Because whaaaat?! Must read immediately.
posted by tuesdayschild at 1:33 PM on February 20 [2 favorites]


*rushes into thread*

HE CONTAI—

Multitudes indeed.
posted by dersins


...

Very well.
posted by cortex at 1:36 PM on February 20 [21 favorites]


Abehammerb Lincoln: Boy, I bet the other grad students hate that guy. "Ooooh, Zach found another Whitman, oooohh. Show off."

"Look at him go," they say, "showing off his Pervigilium Veneris forearm tattoo in a New York Times profile... bet he got that from The Magus, the poser, wouldn't know Lucan from Lucian." Then they sob quietly into their beer.
posted by Kattullus at 1:59 PM on February 20 [8 favorites]


An approved specimen of young America

Should be the caption for that image of Walt the WWQR uses, amirite?
posted by chavenet at 2:17 PM on February 20 [1 favorite]


Worth noting that this discovery and others are only possible because libraries and archives (and the librarians and archivists who work in them) preserved these materials in the first place. This particular situation was not in a dusty forgotten barn but made possible thanks to the Library of Congress. The question of what constitutes a Discovery versus a discovery versus a "discovery" is a really loaded question for librarians and archivists, because many of us feel like this erases the critical preservation work we do. Previously and counter-previously.
posted by mostly vowels at 2:50 PM on February 20 [19 favorites]


Is it any good? Or is it a pot-boiler?
posted by Modest House at 2:51 PM on February 20


Is it any good? Or is it a pot-boiler?

Why can't it be both? Maybe it contains both these multitudes?
posted by chavenet at 3:07 PM on February 20


Next, Whitman's Twitter feed, which turns out to be mostly drunken tweets insulting the beards of other American Men of Letters.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:20 PM on February 20 [4 favorites]


Whitman's "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" has been really comforting me lately:
Closer yet I approach you,
What thought you have of me now, I had as much of you—I laid in my stores in advance,
I consider’d long and seriously of you before you were born.

Who was to know what should come home to me?
Who knows but I am enjoying this?
Who knows, for all the distance, but I am as good as looking at you now, for all you cannot see me?
posted by sallybrown at 3:21 PM on February 20 [9 favorites]


Thank you for that perspective, mostly vowels. In this case, it appears that Turpin was the first person to connect the dots between Whitman and this serial novel. Although the library and archives enabled us to hold on the the pieces, doesn't this indeed count as a discovery?

It seems different than tracking down something like the Lincoln report in your linked articles.
posted by redsparkler at 3:23 PM on February 20 [1 favorite]


Boy, I bet the other grad students hate that guy. "Ooooh, Zach found another Whitman, oooohh. Show off."

Yeah, and it's not just Whitman:

...he has uncovered lost works by a number of American authors, including Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, Emma Lazarus, Rebecca Harding Davis, Ambrose Bierce, and L. Frank Baum.


Then again, that seems about what it takes to make a go of it as an English PhD these days.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:35 PM on February 20 [4 favorites]


But they're all on official "Dukes of Hazzard" stationery.
posted by furtive_jackanapes at 4:23 PM on February 20 [8 favorites]


...this miraculous discoverer of lost works seems rather too good to be true. Can someone shed some insight into how likely this is? What's the usual rate of lost-work-discovery?
posted by a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist at 5:52 PM on February 20 [7 favorites]


That James Joyce Crossword nearly killed one of my ancestors.
posted by hal9k at 5:57 PM on February 20 [4 favorites]


I look forward to reading the discovered novel, but now find a diminishing regard for many of my earlier "heroes."

Yep. Most of our literary 'heroes' will turn out to have feet-of-clay. But that which welled-up in us, sang to us before we knew that, that's real. Readers breathe the life into ink blotches on a page. We interpreted their carbon footprints into words, we made the lessons and we remembered them.

Our failings are not their failings.
posted by Twang at 6:34 PM on February 20 [1 favorite]


he has uncovered lost works by a number of American authors, including Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, Emma Lazarus, Rebecca Harding Davis, Ambrose Bierce, and L. Frank Baum

...this miraculous discoverer of lost works seems rather too good to be true.


Agreed. I'm surprised this isn't setting off anyone else's alarms.
posted by not_the_water at 10:16 PM on February 20 [6 favorites]


My alarms aren't set off because his process isn't particularly mysterious. He reads story notes of documented provenance and searches newspaper colllections for related keywords. It's not quite the same as using linguistic and stylistic analysis to declare that Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe are the same person or whatever.
posted by xyzzy at 10:50 PM on February 20 [4 favorites]


That kind of research is very easy, if you have access to the databases: I found an about-century old plagiarist in a commonly anthologized piece in about twenty minutes with Google Books.
posted by LucretiusJones at 11:27 PM on February 20


Interesting, LucretiusJones! What is the piece?

To get back on topic... I was doing a bit of research in the early days of Google Books and found that a better known academic had plagiarized a lesser known academic without attribution. This had happened in the 1950s and everyone involved had passed away. I can't remember anyone's name.

Before Google Books no one would've been able to find it except by chance but it was just a simple search of a phrase that led me to the older text.

Writers leave a lot of text behind. Before it would be impossible to find it all because there are so many places it could be hidden, but with modern databases they're much easier to unearth, if there are any clues.
posted by Kattullus at 11:56 PM on February 20 [1 favorite]


Unless you can fake convincing aging newsprint and microfilm and smuggle it into library collections, and even handwritten notes by Whitman, it would be impossible to pull off some sort of William Henry Ireland scam here. How would you get all of that into the Library of Congress collection?

Must be a great time to be a scholar of 19th century authors.
posted by rory at 2:30 AM on February 21 [1 favorite]


Turpin's introduction to the journal reprint of Jack Engle is also worth linking here; it shows just how much lost Whitman there was, and how much continues to be uncovered (from as long ago as 1973, in the same obscure newspaper where he found this novel).

Turpin writes in admirably clear scholarly prose. I hope he won't be a mere candidate for long, but soon a PhD. Surely a PhD by publication on the basis of this find and "Manly Health" should be possible?
posted by rory at 2:58 AM on February 21


That kind of research is very easy, if you have access to the databases: I found an about-century old plagiarist in a commonly anthologized piece in about twenty minutes with Google Books.
Yeah. I was doing something similar about a decade ago, trying to establish just how many novels were published in New Zealand in the nineteenth century. Based on the figures provided in published bibliographies, I initially thought it was only a few dozen, but once Australasian newspaper digitization began to pick up steam, I and the other members of my team realized very quickly just how many previously unknown serialized novels there were lurking in the pages of various regional and provincial newspapers, and the project threatened to snowball. We never really got a chance to do more than scratch the surface with our project, but fortunately, in the decade since, other, much more assiduous researchers than I have got on the case.
posted by Sonny Jim at 7:02 AM on February 21 [4 favorites]


Mea culpa, then. I didn't know the context of his process, and the description in the article doesn't offer it.
posted by a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist at 11:58 AM on February 21 [1 favorite]


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