In Whitman's Hand


About this Item

Title: Understand that you can have

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: 1855 or 1856

Whitman Archive ID: yal.00138

Source: Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. 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: Although no specific lines from this manuscript can be directly tied to any of Whitman's published work, the language and ideas are similar to certain sections of the prose preface to the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass, as well as to the poem eventually titled "Song of Myself," suggesting that this manuscript may have been written around that time. A note written by Richard Maurice Bucke, one of Whitman's literary executors, dates the manuscript to 1855 or 1856 (Notebooks and Unpublished Prose Manuscripts, ed. Edward F. Grier [New York: New York University Press, 1984], 1:222).

Notes written on manuscript: On leaf 1 verso, in unknown hand: "127 L1"; on leaf 2 verso, in unknown hand: "127 L2"; on leaf 3 verso, in unknown hand: "127 L3"

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

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Understand that you can have in your writing no qualities which you do not honestly entertain in yourself.—Understand that you cannot conceal from keep out of your writing the indication of whatever any ^the evil or shallowness you entertain in yourself. If you love to have a servant stand behind your chair at dinner, it will appear ^in your writing;—If or if you have possess a vile opinion of women, it will appear or if you grudge any thing or suspect doubt immortality—these, or any thing else, will appear more by by what you do not say leave unsaid more than by what you say. There is no trick or cunning, no art or recipe, by which ^you can have in your writing that which you do not possess in yourself that which is not can receive the result of that which in you can appear in your writing— is, or that which is no rival of life—nothing no sham for generation—no painting friendship or love by one except he be a who is neither friend and or lover.—Come, now, I will give you, the first lesson for a young man, for the one of newer and greater literati.—Absorb no more longer, mon ami, from the schools text-books.—or t Go no more not, for some years, to the labors of the recitation room, or the desk or on the accepted track of the tourists.—Ascend to your ^own country [now?] Go to the west and south. Go among men, in the spirit of men.—Go to the swimming bath, the gymnasium, the new buildings where the ^working carpenters and masons are.—^Learn of the elements and animals—Learn to master the horse.—Become familiar with arms.—Become a good fighter,

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a good rower, a sure marksman, ^hardy one not the dilletante that dress and the criticisms of others and the usages of parlors do can not master, one who can could sleep in a blanket under a tree, if need be, one who does not condemn civilization and refinement, but learns of grows through them to be superior to them.—Of all that is wanted What is lacking in literature (is can only be generated from) the seminal freshness and propulsion of new men masculine persons..—Books have generated too long upon themselves books, [illegible] and religions upon religions, and poems upon poems.—I say a man is to vindicate himself above all things, and a woman above all things.—I Do not grumble at any thing now or at any time fact or condition whatever.—What has been has been well, and what is is well, for nothing but them such as they could come out of what such as underlay or underlies them.—They also are to underlie what could be built upon nothing better than them Sure as the geological developements follow each other in sure steady and beautiful order, or as the truth sure as the saurian ages terminate in more advanced developements—sure as man was prepared for upon the earth—sure as he makes his resistless progress through time, over all impediments, and coming ^on with renewed vigor from all retrogrades and delays—sure as materialism—sure as the soul—shall arise in this land the the literature which is to typify stan ^that shall be eligible to embody not a few phases of life only, but all known and conceivable phases of life, and comprehend to identify all men and women and all trades and employments landsmen and sailors climates and states and the people them [The?]New York, Canada, Texas, the Mississippi

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the planter, the Yankee, the Californian, the native, the immigrant, the federal town government, and the state and federal governments—
L The lLiterature ^this of the largest friendship, and the manliest vitalest pride and the truest freedom and practical equality yet ever known upon the earth;—A literature ^the roomiest and least cramped greatest because it shall [arise?]s from the wides broadest geography,—the most diverse because it has ^shall absorbed the greatest diversity,whose immense the grand organs of whose head are but ^shall correspond to the greatnessandeur of its muscular and immense body, a lLiterature not ^only of the dilletanti and a few pleasant reminiscences only, but of all living things and of the past and future—a lLiterature for a mighty race breed of men male and women female, represented no longer in their legislatures and executives, but represented better by ^their successions of poets, orators, debaters, readers, musicians, philosophers, equals and mixers with the rest, springing from all trades and employments, ^and effusing them and from sailors and landsmen, and from the city and the country, treading under their feet Literature making ^of the vaunted            of the past but a support to their feet and so treading them it under their feet.—poets, musicians, philosophers, with whom the rest of the world shall not deny, because their greatness shall repr shall incorporate accept the rest of the world ^as much as any, also ^and incorporate it and send back all that it has sent to them and interest ^with interest more a thousand fold.—

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