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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Walt Whitman Novel Discovered

In 1852, The Sunday Dispatch, a New York newspaper, published a 36,000-word novella anonymously in six parts.  Then it disappeared.  Now, Zachary Turpin, a grad student at the University of Houston, unearthed it and discovered that Life and Adventures of Jack Engle was written by none other than Walt Whitman, the influential American poet best known for his Leaves of Grass, an experimental poetry collection which was very controversial when it was published in 1855 because of its overt sexuality.

Life and Adventures of Jack Engle has been classified as a mystery novel:  “A quasi-Dickensian tale of an orphan’s adventures, it features a villainous lawyer, virtuous Quakers, glad-handing politicians, a sultry Spanish dancer and more than a few unlikely plot twists and jarring narrative shifts” (

David S. Reynolds, a Whitman expert at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, said, “It’s not a great novel, though it’s not a bad read either.”  You can decide for yourself since the full book was published online in the literary journal Walt Whitman Quarterly Review: