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The Life and Adventures of Jack Engle, a novel written anonymously by Walt Whitman and thought to be lost to history, will be republished online on Monday. The book will also get a print run by the University of Iowa Press.
The New York Times describes it as “a quasi-Dickensian tale of an orphan’s adventures.” An ad that ran in the Times back in 1852 (the same year that Whitman is rumored to have boned Oscar Wilde—no really!) described it like this:
Sounds great! Unfortunately, the reading public of the 19th century didn’t think so. The story was never reviewed or reprinted, and it was quickly forgotten. A graduate student rediscovered the novel last summer.
Whitman wrote the novel before his magnum opus Leaves of Grass. And it’s a Young Adult novel, so if you’re looking for Whitman’s sexy gay poetry you’re probably going to come up empty.
But it still sounds like a revealing look into the development of a brilliant writer before he honed his pen.