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New York Notebook

Whitman, Walt. New York Notebook. Thomas Biggs Harned Collection, Library of Congress, 1861.
personal record, poetry

In this personal notebook from the early 1860s, Whitman wrote a number of comments that refer to his involvement with the Pfaff's bohemians. On an early page in the notebook, Whitman writes Ada Clare's name and address. Given that Clare's home on West Forty-Second Street was second only to Pfaff's itself as the gathering place of the mid-century bohemians, Whitman's inclusion of this address in his notebook demonstrates his involvement in the bohemian scene. Only a few pages later, Whitman writes the draft of an unfinished poem about Pfaff's, "The Two Vaults," which is reproduced below.

Full Text

--The vault at Pfaffs where the drinkers and laughers meet to eat and drink and carouse
While on the walk immediately overhead pass the myriad feet of Broadway
As the dead in their graves are underfoot hidden
And the living pass over them, recking not of them,
Laugh on laughers!
Drink on drinkers!
Bandy the jest!
Toss the theme from one to another!
Beam up--Brighten up, bright eyes of beautiful young men!
Eat what you, having ordered, are pleased to see placed before you--after the work of the day, now, with appetite eat,
Drink wine--drink beer--raise your voice,
Behold! your friend, as he arrives--Welcome him, where, from the upper step, he looks down upon you with a cheerful look
Overhead rolls Broadway--the myriad rushing Broadway
The lamps are lit--the shops blaze--the fabrics vividly are seen through the plate glass windows
The strong lights from above pour down upon them and are shed outside,
The thick crowds, well-dressed--the continual crowds as if they would never end
The curious appearance of the faces--the glimpse just caught of the eyes and expressions, as they flit along,
(You phantoms! oft I pause, yearning, to arrest some one of you!
Oft I doubt your reality--whether you are real--I suspect all is but a pageant.)
The lights beam in the first vault--but the other is entirely dark
In the first

People who Created this Work

Whitman, Walt author

People Mentioned in this Work

Clare, Ada [pages:994]

Whitman writes "86 West 42d st. Ada Clare" on an early page in the notebook where he lists the names and addresses of other people he knew at the time.