cover image Franklin Evans, or The Inebriate: A Tale of the Times

Franklin Evans, or The Inebriate: A Tale of the Times

Walt Whitman, , edited and intro. by Christopher Castigla and Glenn Hendler. . Duke Univ., $21.95 (147pp) ISBN 978-0-8223-3942-7

The only novel by America's eventual apostle of freedom and spontaneity first appeared in a broadsheet form in 1842, cost 12 1/2 cents and sold 20,000 copies. It's been out of print for 40 years, and it's easy to see why: less a novel than a prohibition tract in fiction, its clichéd-even-then story is that of an innocent from Whitman's native Long Island and his corruption by the music halls and taverns of New York City. It ends with the hero sagely advising “that every young man should marry as soon as possible, and have a home of his own.” It turns out the author of “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” wrote a novel that's not only hysterically antiurban but riven with the anti-Irish “nativism” that stains so much mid-Victorian American discourse. Despite that, this well-introduced volume is a useful, if hardly enjoyable, edition for literary and historical study. (Aug.)