Walt Whitman, Bureaucrat

978-0-8223-3942-7_pr Poet Walt Whitman has been in the news this week, when the National Archives announced that scholar Kenneth M. Price has found a trove of thousands of documents Whitman worked on when he was a government clerk. What's perhaps most surprising about the documents is that Whitman appeared to take his work seriously and even enjoy it. As Chronicle of Higher Education reporter Jennifer Howard puts it, "Government workers, take heart: One of America's most influential literary figures found his federal work engaging and thought well of many of his fellow bureaucrats, according to Mr. Price." Previous accounts of Whitman have described Whitman as a slacker at his government job, putting in a few hours a day for a much-needed paycheck. This is also the justification scholars give for his writing of the temperance novel, Franklin Evans, or The Inebriate. Whitman himself described the novel as "rot," but perhaps in light of this new, more earnest Whitman the editors will need to reconsider? Regardless, the discovery of the government documents and the novel both add to our understanding of the complexity of one of America's greatest poets.

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