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Review of Specimen Days and Collect

Rees Welsh & Co., Philadelphia, have published a volume of Walt Whitman's prose, under the title, Specimen Days and Collect. Externally it bears a close resemblance to Leaves of Grass, but the likeness does not run through. The strong animalism of this astonishing author seems to be thoroughly aroused only under the influence of the muse; and though it is plain enough even when he writes in the prose form, it is not then offensive. We are inclined to suspect that a better test of his intrinsic quality will be found in these random and fugitive papers, some of them recording his experiences as a hospital nurse, many gathered from the pages of periodicals, than in the wilder and less genuine strains in which he has been accustomed to shout for the edification of feather-brained disciples. There is little in these confessions, communings with nature, forcible and often original descriptions of common-place objects, which can very well stir the enthusiasm of the howling dervishes of the new criticism; but there is a certain freshness and individuality which are always impressive, and an imaginative quality which sometimes rises very near the level of poetry if it does not reach it. And yet that Whitman has any new message to deliver to the world, that life, literature, philosophy have anything to gain from his thoughts, no perfectly sane person is likely to decide after a reading of his prose. In the "Pieces in Early Youth" reprinted with the miscellania called Collect, it is apparent that Whitman once wrote very much like other people.

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