WHITMAN, WALT. 1819-1892.
Autograph Manuscript, 1 p, 4to, n.d. [but 1880], some 27 lines including interlinear text, one line in pen and ink, the remainder in pencil, written on the verso of an autograph letter from William Gable, dated 25 February 1880, to Walt Whitman, asking for "an extract from one of your poems in your own handwriting" and for the address of his last photographer; also enclosed is a copy of a typed letter signed by Gable, dated 2 October 1919, to Walter R. Benjamin, expressing his surprise on having received the manuscripton the back of his original letter39 years before.
Autograph manuscript of a draft page from an essay on Elias Hicks, mentioning Hicks's apprenticeship with a carpenter, his marriage at the age of 22 years and his ownership of a farm. Whitman refers to Hicks's first stirrings as a preacher: "Elias had been touch'd by spells of serious meditation which led to his assuming the role of religious speaker or preacher even as a young man."
This manuscript has the same series of pinholes at its centre as a page from the same essay on Elias Hicks in the Trent Collection at Duke University (reproduced on-line in the Walt Whitman Archive under "Experiments in Prose"). The text does not correspond with the piece on Hicks in Specimen Days; nor does it correspond with the 1888 article in which Whitman wrote extensively about the preacher (titled on-line "Walt Whitman and Quaker Preacher Elias Hicks"). Given the date of 1880 provided by Gable on the verso of the manuscript it may perhaps be assumed that it formed part of another essay about Hicks that Whitman published in the New York Herald on September 17, 1880.
The importance of Hicks, a spell-binding preacher, and of his oratorical rhythms, power, and bardic, prophetic, style for Whitman's own artistic and poetic vision has been much commented on. As a boy of ten years old, Whitman was taken by his father to hear Elias Hicks preach when the latter was in his eighties, an experience Whitman commented on at various times throughout his life. Hicksian Quakerism, which held that "the entire work of salvation is within man," became central to Whitman's own mission. Justin Kaplan, Whitman's biographer, commented: "Hicks's presence persisted in Whitman's passions of oratory and "natural eloquence" in the loosely cadenced verse of Leaves of Grass ... In the making of a poet's vision of reality and identity Hicks preceded Emerson and outlasted him...." Whitman himself memorably wrote: "If there is, as doubtless there is, an unnameable something behind oratory, a fund within or atmosphere without, deeper than art, deeper even than proof, that unnameable constitutional something Elias Hicks emanated from his very heart to the hearts of his audience...." He was, he said, "the only real democrat among all the religious teachers."