Commentary

Interviews and Reminiscences

About this Item

Title: Arnold and Walt Whitman

Creator: Anonymous

Date: September 26, 1889

Publication information: The Daily Picayune 26 September 1889: 4.

Source: Our transcription is based on a digital image of an original issue.

Whitman Archive ID: med.00637

Contributors to digital file: Brett Barney and Sabrina Ehmke Sergeant




image 1

Arnold and Walt Whitman.

———

The Author of Light of Asia Falls on
the Camden Poet's Neck.


Sir Edwin Arnold, the distinguished English poet and journalist who arrived in town on Friday, on his way from Washington to Boston, where he will be entertained by President Elliott, of Harvard College, was entertained at luncheon at the Aldine Hotel yesterday, by George W. Childs. The table was very prettily decked with roses and ferns. Sir Edwin, a typical Englishman in appearance, though more fervid in manner than the average Britisher, sat on the right of Mr. Childs. The others at table were Mrs. George W. Childs, who had come in from Wootton for the occasion; Miss Arnold, Sir Edwin's daughter, a bright young woman of perhaps 22; E. S. Yarnall, Gibson Peacock, C. E. Warburton, Dr. Wm. Pepper, Charles Emory Smith, Samuel R. Shipley, William M. Singerly and L. Clark Davis. Sir Edwin was cordially greeted, and the conversation, naturally enough, turned a good deal on poetry and journalism, especially on his own work in both these fields, and there seemed to be a line or two in the "Light of Asia" especially that was available for use in a variety of stories. Sir Edwin himself entered into the chat with great spirit. He talks, too, as well as he writes. He quoted the poetry of Walt Whitman with all the fervor of an enthusiastic admirer of the bard of Camden.

Indeed, one of the very first things he did on his arrival here on Friday was to go over the river and pay a visit to Walt Whitman. He had already sent word that he desired to go. He took a carriage and rattled up to the modest frame house at 328 Mickle street, where the poet lives. He jumped out, with excitement manifested in the very springiness of his step, pulled the doorbell and waited. Meantime there was a head thrust out at nearly every door and window in the block and a group of little children gathered on the pavement to take a view of the newest visitor of distinction at the poet's humble home. Sir Edwin was admitted and shown into the parlor on the left of the entry. The heads at the windows were drawn in and the group of little ones parted and went their way.

Sir Edwin had brought no letters of introduction and had never met the poet before. He regarded his admiration of Walt Whitman as a sufficient passport to the poet's presence. He sent his name and his purpose up stairs to Mr. Whitman's own room and waited. The little parlor was a living as well as a mere reception room. It was crowded with everything—books, ink pots, fiddles on the wall, pens, sewing machines, pictures, especially pictures of the poet. Presently the messenger came back from above and explained that Mr. Whitman would be pleased to see the visitor and would he please walk up. Sir Edwin went. The stairway was rather dark. Most people ascend it with prudent deliberation, but Sir Edwin was so filled with emotion that he hastened even through the gloom. A catastrophe was only to be expected. On the landing where the stairs make a sudden turn on their route to the poet's studio he stumbled, but he pulled himself together again and hastened on. In a moment more he was in the doorway of the upper room.

There sat the poet in a big arm chair, as straight as a plumb line, and slightly leaning against a huge shaggy bear skin that was thrown over the back of his chair. The half light from the window fell upon his brown face and long white beard, and flowing white hair, and on the big broad collar, rolling and open at the front. A table in front of him was covered with books and papers, papers and books were strewn at his feet, and papers and books littered a big table behind him. Sir Edwin rushed at the poet with both arms outstretched. Mr. Whitman is a man of uncommon calmness of manner. But he wasn't quite prepared for all this, and he was a little thrust out of his repose. He rose, however, a little hardly, for he is not yet very strong, and gave his visitor a greeting that must have been quite as cordial as the visitor's own pleasure was sincere.

"I have looked forward to this for years," Sir Edwin cried.

"Then you are welcome to my home," Walt Whitman replied, giving him both his hands. "Welcome, and take a chair."

Then, for a moment more, Sir Edwin, figuratively speaking, fell on the neck of Camden's poet, and then he fell to talking of poets generally, Walt Whitman in particular, and of the great esteem in which, as he said, Mr. Whitman's poems are held in England. He himself showed an extraordinarily familiar acquaintance with Mr. Whitman's poems and quoted them by the page. Mr. Whitman only regreted that he could not do the same for Sir Edwin. But he was not so well acquainted with Sir Edwin's poems. Sir Edwin remained about half an hour and before he went he renewed to the poet the assurance of his undying esteem. It was obvious that he had enjoyed the visit throughly. Mr. Whitman enjoyed it no less on his part. In the afternoon he was faint after the excitement. He would not see visitors for more than a moment or two at a time. To one of them he said that Sir Edwin brought him "messages from the literati of Great Britain, flattering messages, soft-sawdering messages."—Philadelphia Press


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