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About "The Reformed"

"The Reformed," the story that Whitman would later title "Little Jane," was first published as a stand-alone piece on November 17, 1842, in the New York Sun (New York, NY) newspaper. This means that the original printing of the story actually occurred the week before it appeared as an embedded tale in the novel Franklin Evans, or The Inebriate: A Tale of the Times, which was printed in an extra edition of The New World newspaper. In chapter XIV of Franklin Evans, "The Reformed" is the personal narrative that Franklin Evans's mentor and friend Michael Marchion tells Evans in an effort to inspire Evans on his own journey toward sobriety and continued abstinence from alcohol. In the story, a young Mike Marchion is drinking in the barroom with his friends when his brother comes to inform him that his younger sister, Little Jane, is very ill and near death. Mike eventually arrives home just in time for Little Jane to give him a copy of a religious story for children, which had been given to her by their mother. It is this generous gift—Little Jane's last act—that inspires Marchion's turn to temperance after his sister's death.1

"The Reformed" is framed as an experience narrative or a true, personal story that a former drunkard, in this case Mr. Marchion himself, tells about his conversion from a "tipsey brawler" to an advocate of temperance, even though he does not immediately identify himself as the converted man.2 The title of the story draws attention to the conversion to sobriety Mr. Marchion experienced in his youth following the death of his sister "Little Jane," and it is this experience that he describes to Evans.

As Glenn Hendler has explained, listening to narratives like Mr. Marchion's, which were often shared at "experience meetings," was an important part of the Washington temperance societies' compassionate approach to persuading the drunkard to reform and join the temperance cause.3 The Washington temperance societies, part of the Washingtonian temperance movement, were popular in New York in the early 1840s when Whitman wrote this tale. Whitman mentioned the Washingtonian societies by name at the beginning of Franklin Evans and even reported on a Washingtonian temperance parade and an experience meeting for the New York Aurora, also in 1842.4 Whitman wrote several other short stories with temperance themes, including "Wild Frank's Return," "The Child's Champion," "The Love of the Four Students," "Reuben's Last Wish" and "Dumb Kate.—An Early Death."

In its original printing in the Sun, "The Reformed" was prefaced with the following note: "[We are permitted to extract the following beautiful sketch from a forthcoming novel, to be published next week at the New World office, called Franklin Evans, the Inebriate. It is written by Mr. Whitman, an author whose eloquent pen is in this work devoted to a most worthy cause—the cause of Temperance.]"5 In other words, this story functioned as a preview for Franklin Evans, which gave readers an early glimpse of the novel's plot. However, it is debatable as to how well this excerpted short story—with its emphasis on the transformative power of the religious text Little Jane presses into the hands of her inebriated brother—represented the plot of Franklin Evans as a whole.

The New York City printer Benjamin H. Day founded The Sun in 1833. It was started as a penny paper, and consisted of four sheets. This weekday daily paper was known for human-interest stories: it placed "emphasis on the common person as he or she was reflected in the political, educational, and social life of the day." Day's paper was intended to "blend stories of murder, catastrophe, and love with elements of pathos to produce the human side of news. . . . [T]he Sun mirrored the life of the urban masses."6 Whitman's writings, including his journalism and his later poetry, emphasized the lives of the "urban masses" in his native New York. Even though the tale was a temperance story that concluded with a reform message, it nonetheless also presented an aspect of urban life that would have been familiar to the Sun's New York readership: young men frequenting barrooms and bonding over drinks.

It remains uncertain whether "The Reformed" was a title that Whitman chose for his short story or if it was simply a title provided by the editors of The New World newspaper or assigned to the piece by the Sun's staff. Nevertheless, the tale was reprinted under this title as a stand-alone piece following its appearance in the Sun. Two days later, on November 19, 1842, "The Reformed" was published in The Evening Post, and again, the editor acknowledged that the extract came from a soon-to-be published novel by "Mr. Whitman" and promised that the forthcoming novel would "be read with interest."7 The Troy Daily Budget (Troy, NY) reprinted the story on November 26, 1842, and by November 29, the story had reached reading audiences of the Republican Farmer (Bridgeport, CT), where "The Reformed" appeared on the first page.8

On February 9, 1843, the Wiskonsan Enquirer (Madison, WI)—the same newspaper that had reprinted the story of Wind-Foot from Franklin Evans the week before—printed an edited version of "The Reformed," this time titled simply "From 'FRANKLIN EVANS.'" For this reprinting, the editors not only extracted the tale from Franklin Evans, but they also removed the narrative frame provided by the novel, and, instead, started with a toast of "Lift Up!" and a barroom scene, just as Whitman would do three years later when he chose to revise and reprint the tale himself on December 7, 1846, in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle and Kings County Democrat, while he was serving as editor of that paper.9 During his two-year editorship (1846–1848), Whitman not only published items about fiction in the Eagle, but he also showed renewed interest in short stories he had written just a few years earlier. He revised and reprinted Franklin Evans and thirteen of his short fiction pieces, including "The Reformed" (under the new title of "Little Jane") in the paper.10

Whitman's decision to publish the story in the Eagle as "Little Jane" marked the first time the story appeared in print under this title. The new title immediately draws the reader's attention to Mr. Marchion's younger sister, her illness, and her last wish: to see her older brother reformed. In fact, the title highlights the sentimentality and the moral lesson of the tale in addition to including in the plot the death of a child, a common event and recognized cause for reform in temperance fiction.11

Whitman again revised The Eagle version of the story before reprinting it in the "Pieces in Early Youth" section of Specimen Days and Collect (1882), a volume in which he included a selection of his short stories.12 Several revisions to the language of the earliest known printing of the Sun version of the story (1842) for publication in the Eagle (1846) and Collect (1882) are recorded in our footnotes to "The Reformed." For a reprint of the version of the story that was published in Franklin Evans and a complete list of revisions to the language of that version made or authorized by Whitman for publication in the Eagle and Collect, see Thomas Brasher's The Early Poems and the Fiction.13

"The Reformed"

Walter Whitman The Reformed The New York Sun November 17, 1842 [4] per.00329


1. The major plot events of Whitman's "The Reformed" were not altered for the later printing as "Little Jane." For a detailed summary of the plot of the story, see Patrick McGuire, "Little Jane (1842)," in Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J. R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1998), 399. [back]

2. See Whitman's "The Reformed." [back]

3. For a history of the Washingtonian movement and a detailed explanation of their meetings, see Glenn Hendler, "Bloated Bodies and Sober Sentiments: Masculinity in 1840s Temperance Narratives," in Sentimental Men: Masculinity and the Politics of Affect in American Culture, ed. Mary Chapman and Glenn Hendler (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 125–148. [back]

4. See Whitman's articles for the New York Aurora: "Temperance Among the Firemen!" (March 30, 1842) and "Scenes of Last Night" (April 1, 1842). [back]

5. See "The Reformed." [back]

6. See Anthony Fellow, "Benjamin Day and The New York Sun" in American Media History (Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2013), 86–88. [back]

7. Walter Whitman, "The Reformed," The Evening Post, November 19, 1842, 1. For full citations and further information about reprints of "The Reformed," see Whitman's Fiction: A Bibliography. See also Stephanie M. Blalock, "Bibliography of Walt Whitman's Short Fiction in Periodicals," Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 30 (2013): 223–226. [back]

8. See Walter Whitman, "The Reformed," Daily Troy Budget, November 26, 1842, [2]; Walter Whitman, "The Reformed," Republican Farmer, November 29, 1842, [1]. [back]

9. See Walter Whitman, "From 'Franklin Evans,'" Wiskonsan Enquirer, February 9, 1843, [1]. [back]

10. For more information about Whitman's editorship at The Brooklyn Daily Eagle and Kings County Democrat, see Dennis K. Renner, "Brooklyn Daily Eagle," in Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, 79–80. As editor of the Eagle, Whitman also revised and reprinted "Wild Frank's Return" (May 8, 1846), "The Half-Breed; A Tale of the Western Frontier" (June 1–6 and 8–9, 1846; formerly "Arrow-Tip"), "A Legend of Life and Love" (June 11, 1846), "Dumb Kate—An early death" (July 13, 1846), "The Love of Eris.—A Spirit Record" (August 18, 1846; formerly "Eris; A Spirit Record"), "One Wicked Impulse! (A tale of a Murderer escaped.)" (September 7–9, 1846; formerly "Revenge and Requital; A Tale of a Murderer Escaped"), "Fortunes of a Country-Boy" (November 16–30, 1846; a significantly revised version of the temperance novel Franklin Evans; or, The Inebriate. A Tale of the Times), three of the five parts of "Some Fact-Romances" (the second Fact-Romance as "The Old Black Widow" on November 12, 1846, the first Fact-Romance as "A Fact-Romance of Long Island" on December 16, 1846, and the fifth Fact-Romance as "An Incident on Long Island Forty Years Ago" on December 24, 1846), "The Child and the Profligate" (January 27–29, 1847; previously printed with the same title in the Columbian Magazine), "Death in the school room" (December 24, 1847; formerly "Death in the School-Room. A Fact"), and "The Boy-Lover" (January 4–5, 1848; previously printed with the same title in The American Review). Two of Whitman's stories were reprinted in the Eagle before he became the paper's editor in March 1846. Whitman's "The Death of Wind Foot" was reprinted as a work of serial fiction (August 29–30, 1845) about two months after the story appeared in The American Review in June 1845. "Shirval—A Tale of Jerusalem" was reprinted on January 22, 1846, ten months after it was first published in The Aristidean in March 1845. [back]

11. Karen Sánchez-Eppler, "Temperance in the Bed of a Child," in Dependent States: The Child's Part in Nineteenth-Century American Culture (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2005), 71. [back]

12. See Walt Whitman, "Little Jane," in Specimen Days & Collect (Philadelphia: Rees Welsh & Co., 1882), 369–370. "Pieces in Early Youth" was also reprinted in Whitman's Complete Prose Works (1892): see "Little Jane." [back]

13. See Thomas L. Brasher, ed., The Collected Writings of Walt Whitman: The Early Poems and the Fiction (New York: New York University Press, 1963), 197–200. [back]

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