Walt Whitman was many things, but a great novelist was apparently not one of them. Maybe that is why he never revealed himself as the writer of Life and Adventures of Jack Engle. The serial was published anonymously in The Sunday Dispatch back on March 14, 1852, to mostly negative reviews.
Recently, scholar Zachary Turpin? discovered the identity of the writer by using names and phrases from some of Whitman’s old notebooks and matching them up with names and phrases from old newspapers.
Life and Adventures of Jack Engle was the second major work published by Whitman and the predecessor to Leaves of Grass. The novel has drawn comparison to the work of Charles Dickens, pitting a dastardly lawyer against the good-hearted Quakers.
Back when it was published, the novel was not received nearly as positively as Whitman’s poetry would go on to be. Today, however, lovers of Walt Whitman are getting a new chance to appreciate one of his most controversial – and secretive – contributions to American literature.
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