In Whitman's Hand


About this Item

Title: The most immense part of

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: Between 1855 and 1860

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00003

Source: Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of manuscripts, see our statement of editorial policy.

Editorial note: This prose essay includes ideas and phrases that resemble those used in "Unnamed Lands," a poem published first in the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass. The manuscript was therefore probably written between 1855 and 1860, and at one time likely formed part of Whitman's cultural geography scrapbook. In a note accompanying his transcription, Edward Grier writes that "[Floyd] Stovall (Foreground, 163–164) proposes the prefaces to C. K. J. Bunsen's Egypt's Place in Universal History (5 vols., 1845–1867), vols. I and II, as a source" (Notebooks and Unpublished Prose Manuscripts [New York: New York University Press, 1984], 5:1924). Grier transcribed this text as continuous, based on a transcription in Richard Maurice Bucke's Notes and Fragments (1899); we have done the same here.

Related items: The writing on the backs of these manuscript leaves probably dates from the early to mid-1850s, when Whitman was drafting the poetry published in the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass. Several of the drafted lines relate to lines used in that volume. See duk.00006, duk.00008, duk.00942, tex.00002, and tex.00030.

Contributors to digital file: Brett Barney, Andrew Jewell, Stacey Provan, Kenneth M. Price, Kirsten Clawson, Kevin McMullen, and Nicole Gray

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It is doubtless the case The The most immense share part of aAncient History is altogether unknown

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,—^There were Powerful, ^busy, and populous, and and powerful nations, existed, on all the continents of the earth, at intervals of time tThrough the stretch of time from ten thousand years ago down to the historical records which give us begin to glimmer previous to twenty six or twenty-seven hundred years ago, there were busy populous and powerful nations on all the continents of the earth;and doubtless for the certain signs and Certain sSigns and materials of them remain.—

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Previous to ten thousand years ago, there were surely empires, and cities cities, and states and and pastoral tribes and uncivilized hordes upon the earth.

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Of their literature, government, religiousons, social customs, and general civilization, little precise mention is to be made; —silence;— for we no one ca[n?] now tell even the names of those nations.—Who But they had But They ^ These unknown peoples They hasd, in their own way, what something correspondsing [to?] all those the essentials of a first class modern political powel power.—These now unknown peoples, with tTheir agricultu[re?] factories and handiwork, houses and modes of domestic life, ^their forms of worship and what they thought of God death and the soul, their form of worship, how they were ruled, their trade or want of trade, their traditions ^and dress, ttheir the physiology ^of these various and separated [illegible] races— whether they which of them were personally of fine persons and dem style, warm hearted and clean, ^heroic simple, and of a beautiful candor and dignity—what sort of marriage—what sort condition of schools and arts and condition art and medicine and the laying out of cities,—and what about liberty liberty and slavery slavery among them, and public benevolence—

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What Great Sublime characters have lived and died, and we do not know when and where—full as great sublime as any that are now so well remembered celebrated over the earth world.—Gre Beautiful poems, work essays of philosophy, witty replies, excellent histories, [illegible] works of art and ornament,

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Do you suppose that when History is complete when the records ^the best writers and digesters get all they can of the few nations communities that are known, and arranged them clearly in books?—

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the feeling of war and war and justice and whether they ^who were witty and wise, a—and who were brutish and undeveloped—and who were elegant and accomplished and and elegant and rich——all these must be recalled as facts considerations of upon real facts that are to be thought about as facts.—No dates, no statistics, not a mark nor a fact figurree that is positively so.— means is demonstrably so.—Yet all Upon America, ^stood many of these vast lost nations—and upon Asia, Africa, and Europe.—these large ^ these vast lost nations thrived for their In the trance of the healthy brain of man That the people Time—the passage of many thousands of years—the [illegible] total silence of vacuity of anything about our our letters about them—their places blank upon the map—not a mark nor a figure that is demonstrably so:—Wh With all this, They existed lived as surely as we exist do now.—These unknown peoples existed They lived upon American, and upon Asia Africa, and Europe.—In the trance of the healthy brain of man, they op these unknown peoples show afar

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off, in all dim and filmy in their outlines, some finished grand and elaborated, some grand and with a beautiful [illegible] a graceful presence faces, and learned and calm, some naked and savage, some like huge collections of meaningless insects,—some in the primitive freshness and youth of gentleness of primitive engaged in the chase, living for generations in the woods and unfenced fields,—some

Nobody can possess a fair idea of the Earth, and without without letting his or her mind walk ^ altogether easy and loose with perfectly easy and loose [illegible] over the [illegible] past.—It is not merely aA few definite points ^marked? remarkable deeds, and national eras, and lists of titles and battles, and the like, that make up very little of up the history of the past—the movement of humanity and events up to ^ the modern at any time.—The best and most important part of History cannot be written told.—It eludes being examined or printed.—It is not


What we have of [our?] former periods and Long and above even dates and reliable information,—being It is surer and more reliable; because the [illegible] by far the

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It greatest part of the old statistics of History are only approaches to the truth and are often discrepant and suspicious.—

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