Cover image for Rebel souls : Walt Whitman and America's first Bohemians
Title:
Rebel souls : Walt Whitman and America's first Bohemians
Author:
Martin, Justin, author.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston, MA : Da Capo Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group, 2014.
Physical Description:
xi, 339 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, portraits ; 24 cm.
Summary:
"In the shadow of the Civil War, a circle of radicals in a rowdy saloon changed American society and helped set Walt Whitman on the path to poetic immortality. Rebel Souls is the first book ever written about the colorful group of artists-- regulars at Pfaff's Saloon in Manhattan-- rightly considered America's original Bohemians. Besides a young Whitman, the circle included actor Edwin Booth; trailblazing stand-up comic Artemus Ward; psychedelic drug pioneer and author Fitz Hugh Ludlow; and brazen performer Adah Menken, famous for her Naked Lady routine. Central to their times, the artists managed to forge connections with Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mark Twain, and even Abraham Lincoln. Justin Martin shows how this first bohemian culture--imported from Paris to a dingy Broadway saloon--seeded and nurtured an American tradition of rebel art that thrives to this day. "--
General Note:
"A Merloyd Lawrence book."
Language:
English
Contents:
A visit to Pfaff's -- Bohemia crosses the Atlantic -- A long table in a vaulted room -- Whitman at a crossroads -- Hashish and Shakespeare -- Bold women and Whitman's beautiful boys -- The Saturday Press -- Leaves, third edition -- Year of meteors -- Becoming Artemus Ward -- "The heather is on fire" -- Whitman to the front -- Bohemia goes West -- The soldiers' missionary -- Twain shall they meet -- "O heart! heart! heart!" -- A brief revival -- All fall down -- "Those times, that place."
ISBN:
9780306822261
Format :
Book

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PS3231 .M19 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Popular Materials-Biography
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Summary

Summary

In the shadow of the Civil War, a circle of radicals in a rowdy saloon changed American society and helped set Walt Whitman on the path to poetic immortality.

Rebel Souls is the first book ever written about the colorful group of artists- regulars at Pfaff's Saloon in Manhattan-rightly considered America's original Bohemians. Besides a young Whitman, the circle included actor Edwin Booth; trailblazing stand-up comic Artemus Ward; psychedelic drug pioneer and author Fitz Hugh Ludlow; and brazen performer Adah Menken, famous for her Naked Lady routine. Central to their times, the artists managed to forge connections with Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mark Twain, and even Abraham Lincoln. This vibrant tale, packed with original research, offers the pleasures of a great group biography like The Banquet Years or The Metaphysical Club . Justin Martin shows how this first bohemian culture-imported from Paris to a dingy Broadway saloon-seeded and nurtured an American tradition of rebel art that thrives to this day.


Author Notes

Justin Martin is the author of three highly praised previous biographies: Greenspan: the Man behind Money, Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon , and Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted . As one of the few journalists to gain access to Greenspan, Martin produced a best-selling biography of the secretive Fed chairman, selected as a notable book by the New York Times Book Review . Martin's Nader biography served as a primary source for An Unreasonable Man , an Academy Award#150;nominated documentary. Genius of Place , the first full scale biography of Olmsted received glowing reviews nationally. Martin's articles have appeared in a variety of publications, including Fortune, Newsweek , and the San Francisco Chronicle .


Reviews 4

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* America's first cultural bohemian, Henry Clapp Jr., was an erstwhile puritan radical (abolitionist, pacifist, teetotaler) who'd lived in the original, Parisian bohemia. Returning to New York a new man he'd learned to drink he fixed on a basement biergarten, Pfaff's at Broadway and Bleecker, as the place to host an avant-garde roundtable. Soon, young writers and artists flocked, but Clapp lacked a Lancelot to put forward as the best advanced artist in America. Enter Walt Whitman, without whom Pfaff's saloon and Clapp's circle would be much more obscure than they are. Clapp knew what he was looking for: not a brilliant, heavy-drinking, irreverent, flamboyant brat but someone accustomed to honing his work and biding the time it took to be appreciated, even if that someone was no drinker, wit, or iconoclast, distinctive but hardly showy, and middle-aged. Martin constructs a group biography of the circle at Pfaff's by alternating chapters about Whitman and about Clapp and the most successful of the youngsters, including prolific writer and prodigious drunkard Fitz-James O'Brien, celebrity druggie Fitz Hugh Ludlow, stand-up comedian Artemus Ward (the first of the kind, Martin says), and liberated woman and theatrical sensation Adah Isaacs Menken. This is popular history the way it should be, well-researched and authoritative yet demotic in idiom and unpretentious in presentation, a darn good read.--Olson, Ray Copyright 2014 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

Martin (Genius of Place) offers an engaging history of a literary underground-a bohemian group headed by Henry Clapp Jr.-that actually gathered underground, sitting around a long table in a vaulted room at Pfaff's saloon in New York City. Though Walt Whitman is the best-known of the group, readers may find themselves drawn to his lesser-known comrades: Fitz Hugh Ludlow, author of The Hashish Eater; actress Ada Clare; Adah Isaac Menken, who achieved considerable fame on stage, tied naked to a horse in the opera Mazeppa; and Charlie Brown (aka Artemus Ward), who was considered "America's first stand-up comedian." Martin's writing rises to the occasion; readers will long to have heard Ward's act, to have seen a production of Mazeppa, or to have read selections from Ludlow's book and Clare's columns in the Saturday Press. The main focus of the book is Whitman-his participation in circle, his efforts to publish Leaves of Grass, his ministering to wounded soldiers, and his infatuation with Peter Doyle. Highlights include Ludlow's travels with artist Albert Bierstadt and a brief appearance by Mark Twain. Despite the author's evident passion and considerable research, the narrative suffers from occasional choppiness and repetition. But it's still a worthwhile read despite these minor flaws and introduces armchair literary historians to a dazzling cast of eccentrics. 16 pages of b&w photos. Agent: Don Fehr, Trident Media Group. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

Martin (Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted) focuses on the little-discussed Bohemian scene based out of the Manhattan bar Pfaff's in the late 1850s and early 1860s. We read about the group's ringleader, journalist Henry Clapp Jr., and his bacchanalian acolytes, including the writers Fitz-James O'Brien and Fitz Hugh Ludlow, actress and poet Adah Isaacs Menken, columnist and feminist Ada Clare, actor Edwin Booth (brother of Abraham Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth), comedian Artemus Ward, and, most important, poet Walt Whitman. Martin successfully demonstrates the group's impact on the still-obscure Whitman, especially Clapp's through his influential but short-lived literary newspaper the Saturday Press. Clapp's Bohemian scene flourished from 1858 until the start of the Civil War, which dispersed its members across the country. Martin traces their paths afterward, including Ward's friendship with a young Mark Twain out West. VERDICT This accessible, briskly paced book brings attention to a rich but sorely overlooked scene, shades of which are still present in today's American artistic and intellectual circles. Fans of American literature and counterculture will find plenty to enjoy.-Brian Flota, James Madison Univ., Harrisonburg, VA (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice Review

In this captivating study, Martin (a freelance writer) transports the reader to the 1850s inside smoky Pfaff's saloon--the meeting place of the US's first Bohemians--located in the basement of 674 Broadway in New York City. Run by Charles Pfaff, a cheerful German immigrant, the subterranean vault became the stomping grounds of Henry Clapp Jr., editor of the Saturday Press, who wished to re-create in New York the Bohemian scene he had experienced while living in Paris. Pfaff's offered the ideal venue. In its heyday--the years leading up to the Civil War--the saloon was frequented by artists, writers, actors, and comics, including a handful of women, who became known as Pfaff's Bohemians. Among those who patronized the saloon most nights was Walt Whitman, whose time at Pfaff's, Martin argues, was critical in the evolution of the poet's verse. Whitman's immersion in the Bohemian scene provided him with the freedom to experiment with his poetry and his sexuality. Thanks to meticulous research, Martin was able to re-create the Bohemian scene, and Whitman's place in it, in vivid detail. This book is a lively and entertaining read for students of American literature, history, and culture. Summing Up: Essential. All readers. --Denise D. Knight, SUNY College at Cortland


Table of Contents

Photo Creditsp. xi
Introduction: A Visit to Pfaff'sp. 1
1 Bohemia Crosses the Atlanticp. 5
2 A Long Table in Vaulted Roomp. 17
3 Whitman at a Crossroadsp. 31
4 Hashish and Shakespearep. 47
5 Bold Women and Whitman's Beautiful Boysp. 63
6 The Saturday Pressp. 79
7 Leaves, Third Editionp. 95
8 Year of Meteorsp. 109
9 Becoming Artemus Wardp. 127
10 "The Heather Is on Fire"p. 135
11 Whitman to the Frontp. 153
12 Bohemia Goes Westp. 167
13 The SoldiersÆ Missionaryp. 189
14 Twain They Shall Meetp. 203
15 "O heart! heart! heart!"p. 219
16 A Brief Revivalp. 237
17 All Fall Downp. 245
18 "Those Times, That Place"p. 263
Acknowledgmentsp. 273
Notesp. 277
Further Explorationp. 317
Indexp. 323
About the authorp. 340