Life and Adventures of Jack Engle
“This discovery makes us rethink everything we thought we knew about Whitman’s career.”—Ed Folsom, Walt Whitman Quarterly Review
“In 2015, Zachary Turpin made international news by discovering a long-lost book of Whitman’s journalism called Manly Health and Training, which was rightly hailed as the most significant Whitman find in generations. Unbelievably, Turpin has outdone himself by discovering an even more important lost Whitman work, this time a novel, the only piece of Whitman fiction that we know of that was written after Whitman began working on Leaves of Grass.”—Ed Folsom, editor, Walt Whitman Quarterly Review and co-director, Walt Whitman Archive
In 1852, young Walt Whitman—a down-on-his-luck housebuilder in Brooklyn—was hard at work writing two books. One would become one of the most famous volumes of poetry in American history, a free-verse revelation beloved the world over, Leaves of Grass. The other, a novel, would be published under a pseudonym and serialized in a newspaper. A short, rollicking story of orphanhood, avarice, and adventure in New York City, Life and Adventures of Jack Engle appeared to little fanfare. Then it disappeared.
No one laid eyes on it until 2016 when University of Houston literary scholar Zachary Turpin followed a paper trail deep into the Library of Congress, where the sole surviving copy of Jack Engle has lain waiting for generations. Now, after more than 160 years, the University of Iowa Press is honored to reprint this lost work, restoring a missing piece of American literature by one of the world’s greatest authors, written as he verged on immortality.