My reaction to our reading this week has been so mixed– in some ways, I feel a sense of closure, of finality as we focus on the last edition and the last days. That reflects, I think, the personal, human Whitman we have gotten attached to this semester, since obviously as a literature professor I must have an unshakeable faith in the power of the work to outlive its maker and its time . . . right? his work doesn’t reach closure because his body does. But it doesn’t feel like it today. Instead, my sense that with Whitman’s “death” (felt like checking the obits this a.m.) comes an unbreachable divide makes me frantic… don’t die now, Walt Whitman! I have a lot left to read, to learn, to blog! It’s too soon for me! Maybe I am responding to the waning days of Digital Whitman more than the loss of Walt Whitman, but it’s crazy how those have become hard to separate lately.
Well, I include here something I found in our old friend Reynolds, a bit of letter WW sent with an advance copy of the deathbed edition on December 6, 1891 (intertextual note: 11 days before he took the “severe chill” that Longaker says marks “the invasion of the fatal sickness”):
L. of G. at last complete—after 33 y’rs of hackling at it, all times & moods of my life, fair weather & foul, all parts of the land, and peace & war, young & old—
O Whitman, Our Whitman (image from ExplorePAHistory.com)