Dinner with Walt

all things Walt Whitman

Dinner with Walt - all things Walt Whitman

Happy 197th Birthday!

197 years old today!

Wow! Walt, you’re getting old! But fear not Old Poet, you’re not forgotten! Walt, you’re very much alive today!

In fact, just earlier this year a long-lost letter you wrote to the family of a Civil War soldier was discovered at the National Archives.

And just recently unveiled was another huge discovery, your 1858 news article series on “Manly Health and Training.”

Happy 197th Birthday Old Poet!
Walt Whitman

1878 Photo of Walt Whitman by Napoleon Sarony (Dinner with Walt Collection)

“We must not look back over the shoulders at the world: we should meet each day as it comes with the same assumption: we can make each new day the best of days if we get the habit.” With Walt Whitman in Camden, Vol. IV, p. 297.

Previous birthday posts:

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123rd Anniversary of Whitman’s Death

Today, dear readers, marks the 123rd anniversary of Whitman’s death. A dear friend of mine, a wonderful Robert G. Ingersoll enthusiast, shared the letter below that Ingersoll wrote Whitman in December, 1891. It is as meaningful today as it was 122 years ago. Thanks Gerrie!

 

December 29, 1891

My dear Whitman,

I am glad that you have lived long enough to know that your Leaves of Grass will live forever—long enough to know that your life has been a success—that you have sown with brave and generous hands the seeds of liberty and love. This is enough—and this is a radiance that even the darkness cannot extinguish.

Maybe the end of the journey is the best of all, and maybe the end of this life is the beginning of another, and maybe the beginning of that is better than the ending of this.

But however and whatever the fact may be, you have lightened the journey here, for millions of your fellow-men. In the great desert you have dug wells and planted palms. As long as water and shade are welcome to the faint and weary, your memory will live.

Wishing you many, many days of health and happiness, and with a heart full of love,

I remain,

Yours always,

R. G. Ingersoll

*****

One last farewell letter arrived to Whitman from Ingersoll, just two days before Whitman died:

New York, N.Y.

March 24, 1892

My dear friend,

I am pained to know that you are suffering more and more, but was glad to know that your brave spirit has never been bowed–and that in all your agony your heart keeps sweet and strong.

I think of you a thousand times a day–and of the great good you have done the world. You have written such brave, free, and winged words–words that have thrilled and ennobled the hearts and lives of millions–that my admiration has deepened to obligation.

Again I thank you for your courage, and again I lovingly say farewell–and yet I hope to see you soon.

Yours always,

R. G. Ingersoll

*****

Links to previous posts on Whitman’s death:

2012

2013

2014

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The Democracy of Oaks, A Play by Adrian Drew

Gary Richardson as Walt Whitman; Andrew Squires as Edward Carpenter

Gary Richards as Walt Whitman; Andrew Squires as Edward Carpenter. Photo by Adrian Drew.

It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to write, busy times indeed, but if you caught the previous post on this site about the Walt Whitman and Edward Carpenter play, The Democracy of Oaks, by Adrian Drew, I have a few lively and delightful things to share about it.

I was quite fortunate enough to be able to make the trek to London to see the play, and W-O-W! It is brilliant, fantastic and a truly authentic work based upon the lives of these two extraordinary men. Drew’s play is a magnificent piece of wit and wisdom and I hope to see it someday in a full-scale stage production. I’m certain even those in an audience unfamiliar with Whitman and Carpenter would find the experience enjoyable, engaging and highly rewarding!

About a year and half ago, Adrian contacted me from the website shortly after he had written the play and asked if I would like to read it. I have had the very fortunate pleasure to be in contact with Adrian Drew since then and it has been extremely rewarding for me to follow his progress with this play, but to be able to see it in person and afterwards meet the cast, was a truly magnificent experience.

I recall thinking to myself after initially reading the play, how might an actor be able to convincingly portray either of these two dynamic men? I am delighted to share that Mr. Andrew Squires is a brilliant actor who offered a stunning and mesmerizing portrayal of Edward Carpenter. Bravo Andrew for such a captivating and inspiring portrayal of this remarkable and influential man!

As for the part of the American bard, due to accepting a part in an upcoming film, Nigel Barber was not able to play the part of Whitman. Fear not dear fans, Adrian Drew was able to secure another great actor, Gary Richards to play the part of Whitman. Richards delivered a fantastic portrayal of Whitman, having had only a couple weeks prior to the performance to rehearse the deep and dynamic role.

I have to say, I was rather caught by surprise of the feeling of the play, both actors delivered an intensely emotional performance and to—see it and feel it—as it came to life off the written page was extraordinary!

Many thanks to Adrian Drew for allowing me to follow this production from its early days on paper to the big debut—it was an experience I will always treasure!

Andrew Squires, Scott, Adrian Drew

Andrew Squires, Scott, Adrian Drew

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The Democracy of Oaks, A Play by Adrian Drew

I am thrilled to announce the exciting new project by playwright Adrian Drew, The Democracy of Oaks. The play highlights the extraordinary lives of two of my favorite men, Walt Whitman and Edward Carpenter.

Edward Carpenter, Andrew Squires

Edward Carpenter, Andrew Squires

Walt Whitman, Nigel Barber

Walt Whitman, Nigel Barber

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Democracy of Oaks

A gala showcase production of a new play
by Adrian Drew.

‘Be curious – not judgmental!” – Walt Whitman.

Theatrically compelling. Professor M. Wynn Thomas. Author – The Lunar Light of Whitman’s Poetry.
Fascinating Stuff. A clever piece for two great actors!” Rony Robinson – Writer & Presenter.
A beautifully written moving insight into the lives of two remarkable men.” Dolores Long – Educationalist.

In 1877 young Edward Carpenter from Britain, visited his idol, the legendary poet Walt Whitman at his home in Camden, New Jersey. The outcome was far-reaching indeed for both men – and history too.

Adrian Drew’s memorable theatrical tour de force – showcased tonight for the first time – has recently been published to acclaim. It deals with two fascinating individuals and the complexities of Art and Life, revealing, on route, facts about such contemporaries as Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde, that may surprise many!

The play stars Andrew Squires, (whose work ranges from TV’s Emmerdale to the lead in the feature film The Heretic) as the complex Carpenter, and well-known American actor Nigel Barber (whose many performances on stage & screen from Baywatch and Magnum PI to the new feature film Firequake, have received widespread recognition) as the great Whitman himself.

The Democracy of Oaks is directed by its author Adrian Drew who has written over 20 plays that have been staged on the London fringe and whose festival production of Cocteau’s The Human Voice, and his plays Where Poppies Bloom (about the impact of The Great War on a small Norfolk village), Ellen (about the actress Ellen Terry), The Laws of Shadows ( about ghost story writer M.R. James), and his musical Torch Song, will all be produced over the coming months.

Admission to the Fan Museum for this gala event is £12 and includes wine and light refreshments. This semi-staged rehearsed reading should last approximately 2½ hours including intermission and is only suitable for people over the age of 18.

Friday October 10th 2014
7.30 pm 

 The Fan Museum

12 Crooms Hill. Greenwich,
London SE10 8ER

Theatrical productions at the Museum sell out well in advance so early booking is absolutely essential.

For more information and to make bookings, please call The Fan Museum on 020 8305 1441
or email info@fanmuseum.org.uk

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NPR Arcticle on Whitman and “Leaves of Grass,” July 4, 2014

Etch of Walt Whitman, copper printing plate. Circa 1890. Dinner withWalt collection.

Etching of Walt Whitman on copper printing plate. Circa 1890.  In the Dinner with Walt collection.

Although Whitman was selling copies of Leaves of Grass earlier, he being the  ‘poet of democracy’, officially released the very first edition of Leaves of Grass on July 4, 1855.

To celebrate this far-reaching momentous big bang in American literature, NPR published a vibrant article by Rowan Ricardo Phillips, On July 4, A Celebration of Walt Whitman’s Irreverent Hymnal.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the granddaddy of American poetry; the gray ghost; the big thumper; the barbarian’s text with its barbaric yawp; the nation’s first truly great mega biblion; the Kosmos; the Civil War witness; the seaside songbook; the irreverent hymnal; the book of the lover; the book of the loafer; the peacemaker; Leaves of Grass.

 

I highly encourage you to read the rest of the dazzling  article here.

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1855 Leaves of Grass!

I had an opportunity to visit the Library Company of Philadelphia in May. Among their many wonderful first-rate collections they own two copies of Whitman’s first edition of Leaves of Grass from 1855! This was my very first up close and personal view of this very special work of art!

1855 Leaves of Grass. Library Company of Philadelphia. May, 2014

1855 Leaves of Grass. Library Company of Philadelphia. May, 2014

But wait! If this isn’t awesome enough, it gets better! Just last week Christie’s sold an original 1855 Leaves of Grass. The pre-sale estimate was $100-150,000.  You might be surprised to learn what the record-setting final sale price was for this Holiest-of-Holy piece of art!?!

From the June 19, 2014 press release:

He may not be topping the best-seller list, but the great American poet and humanist Walt Whitman set a sales record Wednesday at Christie’s.

A first edition of “Leaves of Grass,” printed for the author, sold for $305,000. That was more than twice Christie’s estimate of $100,000 to $150,000, and it marked a world auction record for Whitman.

 

You can read the entire article about the Christie’s sale here.

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Whitman in the Redwoods!

Just returned from a trip to the redwood forests in California, those amazing forests are such a spiritually-magnificent place!

Of course I took along my Leaves of Grass, I always take Whitman’s advice, he said in the preface to the 1855 Leaves of Grass…

…read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life…

I want to share one my favorite images from this trip, reading in the redwoods. Look at how the light radiates off Leaves of Grass, Whitman was definitely with me in those redwoods!

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