In Whitman's Hand


About this Item

Title: Outdoors is the best antiseptic

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: Before or early in 1855

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00297

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

Editorial note: This manuscript's description of the appeal of the outdoors and of physical laborers who work outdoors is similar to ideas found throughout the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass, particularly in lines from the preface and the poem that would later be titled "Song of Myself." This suggests a date before or early in 1855. The supplied text at the end of the manuscript was added to a transcription that appears in Notes and Fragments, ed. Richard Maurice Bucke (London, Ontario: A. Talbot & Co., printers, 1899), 152. The words are not currently written on the manuscript.

Related item: Edward Grier claims that this manuscript was at one time pinned together with another manuscript (Notebooks and Unpublished Prose Manuscripts [New York: New York University Press, 1984], 1:169). Bucke transcribed the two manuscripts as continuous (Notes and Fragments [London, Ontario: A. Talbot & Co., printers, 1899], 152). See duk.00296.

Contributors to digital file: Robert LaCosse, Kirsten Clawson, Janel Cayer, Kevin McMullen, Nicole Gray, Kenneth M. Price, and Brett Barney

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Outdoors is the best antise[ptic] yet.—What a [cha]rm there is about in men that have lived main[ly?] [cut away] the open air—among horses—at sea—on the [ca]nals—digging clams—cutting timber timberersrafting, rafters, or steamboating.ers, or house framers of houses,—and mechanics generally.Cleanerly shaved and more grammatical folks I call Mister, and lay the tips of my fingers inside their elbows as after the orthodox fashion, and discuss whatever had the biggest headline in the morning papers, and pass the time as comfortably as the law allows.—But for the others, my arm leans over their shoulders, and around their necks.—In them nature justifies herself;—and In in tTheir indefinable excellence giving gives us out something as superior to all much above beyond the ^special productions [of colleges and pews and parlors as the morning air of the prairie or the sea-shore outsmells the costliest scents of the perfume shop.]

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