on the Whitman Archives reception
- Thanks to everyone who came out last Sunday to the reception for the
Walt Whitman Electronic Archives! It was a wonderful turnout.
To explore the treasure trove that is the Whitman Archives, see:
In case you were not able to join us, I will recap briefly: Ken Price
(co-director of the Archive and Hillegass Professor of American
Literature at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln) spoke about the
wide scope of the Archive, pointing out features such as the many
images of Whitman (he noted that Whitman was the most photographed
19th century author), manuscripts compiled from collections around the
world, and the amazing bibliography of all articles, books, and poems
about Whitman published from 1975 to the present. Ken also told us
about some exciting forthcoming additions to the site, such as
translations of Whitman in Spanish, French, Portuguese, and other
languages. Whitman was a notorious packrat, and Ken ended his
presentation with a photo of Whitman toward the end of his life,
sitting in his bedroom in Camden, NJ, surrounded by stacks of papers
that look like great shifting sand dunes.
Ted Genoways (editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review and editor of
Volume VII of Whitman's collected correspondence) spoke next about a
current project to place all Whitman's letters on line, along with
documents that place those letters in context. He gave as an example
the correspondence regarding Erastus Haskell, a soldier who died in
the Armory Square Hospital (located on what is now the site of the
Smithsonian Air and Space Museum). The Whitman Archive, unconstrained
by space as a printed volume might be, contains not only the two
letters Whitman wrote to Haskell's parents, but also the official
letter from the Army to Erastus's parents informing them of their
son's illness, the pass Mr. Haskell created to get access to his son
in the hospital, another nurse's letter recounting the circumstances
of Erastus's death, Whitman's draft of the second letter sent after
Mr. Haskell returned home with his son's body, and a later
conversation about the soldier Whitman had with Horace Traubel near
the end of the poet's own life.
I find this correspondence particularly moving, so I will reprint an
excerpt here. Whitman's second letter to Haskell's parents begins
conventionally by speaking of Erastus in the third person. But at
some point his emotions overtake him, and Whitman writes directly to
the dead young man: "Farewell, dear boy--it was my opportunity to be
with you in your last days--I had no chance to do much for you,
nothing could be done--only you did not lay there among strangers
without having one near who loved you dearly, and to whom you gave
your dying kiss."
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>The Archive has been honored with a Challenge Grant from the National
Endowment for the Humanities, and they could use our help! If they
can raise $1.5 million, the NEH will give them enough money to build a
permanent endowment to ensure the continuation of their crucial work.
If you can help, donations of any amount will be gratefully accepted.
Go to: http://www.whitmanarchive.org/credits/
And thanks again for your interest!