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In RE Walt Whitman: Round Table with Walt Whitman



[A number of Walt Whitman's friends celebrated his seventy-second birthday by a dinner at his own home in Camden, N.J., May 31, 1891. When the guests were assembled Whitman himself came down-stairs and opened the proceedings as indicated. In fact, though Dr. Brinton was official toastmaster, Whitman, as the course of the conversation shows, himself in effect assumed the head of the table. He was in bad physical condition—had spent a bad day—and we were almost compelled to carry him from his bed-room to the parlor where the table was spread. He sat next to Mrs. Thomas B. Harned, who plied him with champagne, which I had had prepared for him, and which he immediately asked for, whereby he was at once built up.

At table: Walt Whitman, Charlotte Porter, Anne Montgomerie Traubel, Augusta A.Harned, Helen Clarke, Bertha Johnston, D.G. Brinton, H.L. Bonsall, Thomas B. Harned, Francis Howard Williams, Horace L. Traubel, Harrison S. Morris, Talcott Williams, John H. Clifford, H.D. Bush, W.H. Neidlinger, Henry C. Walsh, J.D. Law, R.M. Bucke, Thomas Donaldson, William O'Donovan, Thomas Eakins, Fred L. May, David McKay, Lincoln L. Eyre, J.K. Mitchell, William Reeder, Daniel Gongaker, Geoffrey Buckwalter, William Ingram, Carl Edelheim, G.W. Black, Warren Fritzinger. The conversation about the table as here reproduced is made up from the direct work of a stenographer and liberal notes kept by the writer.]

Whitman.—After welcoming you deeply and specifically to my board, dear friends, it seems to me I feel first to say a word for the mighty comrades tat have not long ago passed away—Bryant, Emerson, Longfellow; and I drink a reverent honor and memory to them. [Lifting his glass of champagne to his lips.] And I feel to add a word to Whittier, who is living with us—a noble old man; and another word to the boss of us all—Tennyson, who is also with us yet. I take this occasion to drink my reverence for those that have passed, and compliments for the two great masters left, and all they stand for and represent. med_sm.00471_large.jpg But I won't keep you any longer from your soup. [Traubel passes up a copy of Dr. Johnston's Notes of a Visit to Whitman—elegantly bound, illustrated.] Say, you fellows who dabble in the rivulets and bigger streams of literature—there is a splendid lesson that such notes as there is in the play of "The Diplomatic Secret." At the end of that interesting play, which I have seen, a great fellow who is in pursuit of it comes in crying: "At last I have found it—I have found the great secret! The great secret is that there is no secret at all!" That is the secret. [To Traubel].—Is pretty much everybody here? What has become of Stoddart? Who will play his part for him? And Hawthorne—wasn't he expected?

Traubel.—The table is about full. Stoddart and Hawthorne have not come. How does the champagne go?

Whitman.—To the right spot—it goes through me, stirs me all up, gives me a show of strength. Mrs. Harned keeps me round with the notch. And is Anne come? Oh! Yes—I see—down there by Clifford. Well—well—this is a good family, sure enough.

Traubel.—You will stay then—you will not leave when the fifteen minutes are up?

Whitman.—Did I say fifteen? I feel to show myself—perhaps say a word—let the rest take care of itself.

Traubel.—Ingersoll telegraphs—he cannot come—he lectures to-night in Chicago.


Traubel.—On Shakespeare.

Whitman. [Laughing]—Next to Camden, Chicago is the luckiest city on the planet to-night!

Traubel.—You flatter the Colonel.

Whitman.—He should be here. And yet wherever he goes, he is out justification.... It is the credit of our land and time, that a man so courageous, unconventional, spontaneous, med_sm.00472_large.jpg should be followed about by multitudes. Do I stretch the truth when I say that?

Traubel.—I guess not.

Whitman.—It is quite the right thing to call him useless or flippant, but the stream runs far deeper than all that far deeper.

Traubel.—We can't shake off the giant by a shrug of the shoulders.

Whitman.—Nor can we. I say to such men, welcome! welcome!—I say to Ingersoll, welcome! welcome!... And now that I am here myself I can't get rid of the feeling that John Burroughs, instead of sleeping on his farm to-night, should be right here with us! But no matter. Bucke is here, and you, too, and more'n enough to pay out the bill. But here's Brinton on is feet. [Aloud.] And what is it now, doctor? [And in a low voice as Brinton started.] I'd give a lot to have all the English fellows here this minute!

Brinton.—As we are now supplied with what was necessary earlier in the repast for us to respond appropriately to the toast of our distinguished friend, I now offer the health of Walt Whitman on this, his birthday, with the hope that he may live to meet us here on the recurrence of this anniversary for many years to come.

Whitman [As they drink].—I thank you all, my friends. Don't lay it on too thick. [Pauseflood of remarks and questions.] We have a word from Tennyson himself—a very short but wonderfully sweet and affectionate word. And we have a word from Addington Symonds, whom you all know well enough. As for me, I think his word not young enough to be fiery, and not old enough to have lost the pulse. But a wonderful man is Addington Symonds—someways the most indicative and penetrating and significant man of our times; to me very valuable because he has thoroughly absorbed not only the old Greek cultus—all that it stands for, which is indescribably expansive—but the modern Italianism. And we have a graphic and beautiful letter from Moncure Conway—a very many-sided med_sm.00473_large.jpg and very experienced man—a queer kind of fellow, a thorough Londoner and Europeaner, so to speak; an Asiaticer, too, for he went off some years ago to Asia and had two years in Calcutta and Asiatic cities. And we have others. We have word from a cluster of Englishmen in Lancashire, noble young fellows, wonderfully American, cute, progressive, they who sent us a short cable about two hours ago. ["Joy, Shipmate, Joy!"] And we have others. And I do not know, Horace,—or you, Professor—that you could better than give us a taste of these messages—[Laughingly] Not too long!

Brinton [Letter in hand].—I begin with the words of him whom our host has referred to as "the boss."

Whitman.—The boss of us all!

Tennyson.—"All health and happiness to you on your birthday and henceforward!"

Whitman.—Very short, very sweet! No flummery, no adjuncts, nothing but the heart and grip of the matter—good will.** James Russell Lowell sent his "felicitations and good wishes" in almost as brief phrase, and sweet also, within the few following days. [Sips his glass to the toast.] But after all is said, I turn everything over to the emotional, and out of that I myself, the actual personal identity for my own special time, have uttered what I have uttered. To me, as I have said, back of everything that is very grand and very erudite and very scientific and very everything that is splendid in our era, is the simple individual critter, personality, if you please—his emotionality, supreme emotionality.... Through that personality I have myself spoken, reiterated. That is behind "Leaves of Grass." It is the utterance of personality after—carefully remember—after being all surcharged with those other elements. But go on, Professor. I do not know how I have been led to peak so much.

Brinton.—As Mr. Whitman has referred to Symonds, I will read you what he says.

Symonds.—"Speaking about Walt Whitman has always seemed to me much the same as talking about the universe. You know what Whitman himself said of that: med_sm.00474_large.jpg "'I heard what was said of the Universe, Heard it and heard it for several thousand years; It is middling well as far as it goes,—but is that all?' When I read panegyrics or criticism of Walt Whitman these words always recur to my memory, 'It is middling well as far as it goes,—But is that all?' My own helplessness brings the truth of these words home to me with overpowering effect, whenever I attempt to express what I feel about him. In order to estimate, to interpret, to account for a hero, it is necessary to be the hero's peer, or at least his comrade. Only a Plato penetrates the sphere of Plato; only a Danté dives into the depths of Danté's soul. In the case of the illustrious dead, this lack of comprehending the hero's aim, and of interpreting his prophecy, is not so common as in the case of the illustrious living. By the mere fact of having survived successive centuries, of having been absorbed into the best thoughts of the best intellects through many generations, a Plato, a Danté, a Shakspere, becomes in some sort measurable, and acquires a certain ponderable quantity. We classify the fixed stars according to their magnitude. But when 'a new planet swims into our ken,' when an effulgent comet streams across the firmament, uncatalogued by previous astronomers, then it behooves us to observe, suspend our judgment, study the law of the celestial wonder. This is no less true when we meet a moral and mental influence like Whitman's. Incommensurable, all-embracing, all-pervasive; exhilarating, elusive; alluring, baffling; defying analysis, refusing to be classified, Whitman's genius cannot be gauged, cannot be grasped, cannot be adequately presented to the world by any literary process during his own lifetime. His contemporaries must be satisfied with responding to his magic, assimilating his doctrine, thrilling beneath his magnetism. They dare not attempt to define or elucidate him. Only, by saturating their minds with him, they will prepare the soil for future growths of criticism. Let us live and think and act in Whitman's spirit—to the best of our ability—according to the measure which is granted us of understanding him—by the light which each one has derived from him. Doing so, we shall help to just and sane views of our Master as man, as poet, and as prophet. Impercep med_sm.00475_large.jpg tibly his influence will be felt through what we say and do. But let us not pretend to measure and interpret him. The bow of Ulysses proved too strong for all the suitors of Penelope: not a man of them could bend it. Even so the critique of Whitman lies beyond the scope of any living student. His panegyric—even when poured forth by an Ingersoll—is 'middling good as far as it goes,—But is that all?'"

Whitman.—I like Symonds. One significant point of all first-class men is caution. Let us accept; let us whack away; let us absorb; but don't let us be carried away. I like that. It is my own spirit, my own feeling—to accept and try and listen, and don't be too quick to reject, and don't bother about its not agreeing with this, that or the other. But also, don't accept too quickly. Symonds is a curious fellow. He is about fifty years of age. He is pretty rich, or was originally; lived in Bristol, England; had consumption; was diseased deeply with consumption. And so the doctors—with his wealth and everything—told him that it was pretty skittish business—that he was liable at any moment to be squelched out; so he, himself, finally, with his ten thousand pounds and so forth, went off to Switzerland, where he settled about twelve years ago. He had some money, as I said—not so dreadful, but still some. He had a wife. He had three or four children—three or four daughters—splendid girls. I have their pictures, they are up there. [Thrusting his thumb toward the mantelpiece.] He sent them to me. I have never seen him, of course, for he has never been in this country and I have never been there. He has written me many times—I suppose twenty times. I love him dearly. He is of college breed and education—horribly literary and suspicious, and enjoys things. A great fellow for delving into persons and into the concrete, and even into the physiological, the gastric—and wonderfully cute. And there he lives. He has built himself a handsome house. He has a good wife, I guess; has splendid daughters; and there in Switzerland, in this Davos Platz, he lives—once in a while going to London, to England. About every three months he writes me, O the most beautiful, splendid letters; I dare not show them to any one hardly, they are so like those tête-à- med_sm.00476_large.jpg tête interviews with your chum, your mate, your comrade who throws off everything—and that is the kind of fellow Addington Symonds is. (Warry—go up and get the pictures from my mantelpiece.) He has sent me a good picture taken in Switzerland, and I want to show you what kind of a person he is. I have, I suppose, a dozen photos. I had an idea that we in America made the finest photos on earth, but after seeing those Swiss samples, and some others, I have changed my mind. And it's not the first time I have had to change my mind. . . . I doubt if any one realizes the value and depth and grandeur of first-class photos. I think they penetrate somewhere all art from five-hundred years ago down.

Brinton.—Suppose I go on with the letters? We ought to hear Roden Noel.

Voices.—Yes, Noel—Noel!

Whitman.—Sure enough—no one must be omitted—slighted—all are evened up here!

Roden Noel.—"I seem to have been left out of the list of your English friends. Still, I have always been a friend. I have always said I want to go to America to see Walt Whitman and Niagara." [A slight pause.]

Harned.—Walt, tell us more about Roden Noel.

Whitman.—I don't know much about him. I know he s a good friend of mine, and believes (and it is a great feather in his cap!) in "Leaves of Grass." The beauty of all this business is, that here are a lot of the best fellows away off in Switzerland or somewhere, or London and somewhere, who have not the least idea that they are being talked about, toasted, loved—Noel, for one, and Addinton Symonds among the rest. I must always swear to Symonds—he is so noble, so true. [Symonds' picture found and meanwhile passed around.] The best thing about Symonds is his splendid aspiration. He wished to do something—he wished to do good. He was quite willing to leap into the gulf. He wished to do something. He wrote and wrote. He was very reticent. He was afraid of saying too much. He was afraid of going into anything too strongly and wanted to hedge. He was always anxious to make conditions and all that kind of thing. med_sm.00477_large.jpg But he is essentially the most splendid person that England has produced. He was thoroughly critical, to begin with; very cute; very penetrative; very Greek—thoroughly Greek; thoroughly Italian. We don't realize what the word "Italian," in its best sense, means—but he was Italian and is Italian, and he is now a little blue. He thinks he is on his last legs, and it may possibly be that it is so. But he thinks deeply, like perhaps some others—he thinks almost too much of it, and he thinks he has decrepitude and failure and that the last has arrived. I consider it one of the greatest successes, triumphs, feats I have achieved that for twenty years he has been a student of "Leaves of Grass"—that I have his approbation and good will. The finale is, not details, not reasons why, or what has been, but, as in Tennyson's short sweet letter—in Symonds'—that he can say, God bless you, and good will to you, and success to you, and, I thoroughly endorse you, without detailing reasons why. [W. turns, calls for words from absent friends—"Let them speak!"]

Dowden.—"Among the many congratulations I hope Walt Whitman will accept mine. I wish you better health, if that may be, but in any case we have the happiness of knowing that you are sane in heart and head, and that you must feel how your best self is abroad in the world and active for good. I give you my reverence!"

Whitman.—Always the faithful Dowden! It is a good hand across the sea. We all join hands to-night! In the old world Dowden and Noel have their places—Dowden especially ranking in that he takes up the puzzle of "Leaves of Grass." Some of my friends do not think it goes very deep into the matter—I don't know that it does—but I myself feel that he has struck a true note, which is the main thing, after all.

Burroughs.—"Walt, I keep your birthday pruning my vineyard and in reading an hour from your poems under my fig tree. I will let you eat your dinner in peace, as I shall want to do if I ever reach my 72d."

Whitman [Leaning towards Traubel].—The only trouble with med_sm.00478_large.jpg John is, he has a bit of a suspicion of us all—thinks I must have fallen in bad company [laughing]—the Colonel and you and Bucke,... and yet John, of all men, ought to be right here to-night.... Well, well, here's love to John forever [sipping his champagne].

Dana.—"Health and long life! No man is so happy as he who has more friends to-day than he had yesterday."

Whitman.—Merry for Dana! His hand, too! ...and now, don't forget Forman, Horace—there's a love you from him, too!

Forman.—"I look towards the sea, and see you sitting calmly over there with your face turned to the light. Be not in haste to climb, dear Walt Whitman. Sit there still, 'calm and supercilious' (your own words), and receive for many years yet the expressions of our love for yourself, our respect for your life, and our deep thankfulness for the solid spiritual aid we have received, and expect still to receive, from the inexhaustible treasury of your Book."

Whitman.—Buxton Forman is a Shelleyite of great repute. How strange that Shelley and "Leaves of Grass" should play upon him together! How is it to be accounted for? But what is this you tell me, Horace—a poem from Ernest Rhys?

Rhys. "To-day, oh poet, at your birthday board Sit many viewless guests, who cross the seas, (Their talisman, imagination's spell!) Ambassadors of many lands and tongues, Who come to hear your voice, to hold your hand And break the birthday bread of love once more! (So viewlessly, across the foreign seas, Your songs went out erewhile, the welcome guests, At hearth and board that you have never seen.) Among your viewless guests, who come to-day, dear host, To break the birthday bread, count with them Ernest Rhys."

Whitman.—There is Conway's greeting too: let us have Moncure Conway's! the whole of it!

Conway.—"I am happy to find that Walt Whitman has beside med_sm.00479_large.jpg him appreciative friends who mean to celebrate his birthday, and I trust they will have many such occasions in future. In writing the 'Life of Thomas Paine,' now nearly complete, I have come across many passages and poems in the writings of that revolutionary Quaker which seem to prophesy the appearance of a poet of democracy, and are fulfilled in Walt Whitman. I believe that democracy has never been so true a democrat since Paine's time, and has never had any poet at all except Walt Whitman. Henry Thoreau, I remember, called Walt 'the greatest democrat the world ever saw.' It has been my pleasure in many years of residence in England to remark the impression made by his poems on some of the finest intellects in that country. William Rosetti said to me, 'Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" is the largest thing done in our time.' Swinburne's poem addressed to 'Walt Whitman in America' is nearly the best thing he ever wrote, and he will never write anything worth reading again—his fire has gone out. I always remember with delight the day when Emerson loaned me Walt's first book, fresh from the press, and said, 'No man with eyes in his head can fail to recognize a true poet in that book.' At Emerson's request I called on Walt in the far part of Brooklyn, and I believe he told me I was the first literary man who had ever called on him. At any rate I shall always claim to have been his Columbus. Others may have discovered him first in a distant way, but I sailed the ocean between new York and Brooklyn and saw him, and say his hearty and kindly old mother, whose blonde face and gentle eyes I do not forget. Salutations to Walt Whitman from his friend of over thirty-three years."

Traubel.—I have here something from Dr. Johnston which reinforces Conway.

Whitman.—What is that, Horace? Let us hear—what does the Doctor say?

Traubel.—Johnston quotes William Rosetti as writing: "As posterity to a long distance is certain to be interested in Whitman, so your little book is certain to attain a far more than patriarchal age."

Whitman.—I see—Rosetti speaks of the Doctor's American reports. Who can doubt those reports, Horace? Even those med_sm.00480_large.jpg who doubt me, doubt the "Leaves," ought to see how superbly the Doctor handled his material—or let is handle itself.... As to Rosetti he is always manly and confident, and we will all take his hand to-night. But did Johnston write nothing for himself?

Traubel.—O, yes!

Whitman.—Well—let us have that, too.

Johnston.—"I wish a very happy birthday to you, my dear good old Friend! As my contribution to your birthday tokens I send you a little souvenir of my visit to you in July last, which I hope you will like. That visit resulted from accumulated stores of gratitude, reverence and personal love, and was the crowning privilege and glory of my whole life. Oh, how I wish that I could be with you on your birthday; to sit beside you in that dear old room to hear your loved voice and to feel the warm grasp of your hand again! But my little ocean-wafted messenger will speak to you and remind you of those two happy days we spent together—days never to be forgotten—and it will tell you that in spirit I am with you again, loving and blessing."

Whitman.—Very happily put, Doctor. Are there more letters ready?

Garland.—"I am very sorry I live so far away that I can be at your dinner to Walt Whitman only in ink and paper. I don't know what I can add to express my regard and admiration for a man who has dared to be himself native and unaffected. In these days of apparent drift toward centralization of power, his doctrine of the Individual comes to have majesty like that of Ibsen's—surpassing it, indeed, for with equal weight of unswerving resolution Whitman has more fervent humanity. He is a natural lover of man, and does not forget the wounded and crippled even in his moment of hottest warfare. I need only add that prejudice against our most American of poets is rapidly passing away in Boston. There is very little of it remaining among our most thoughtful critics. Our papers deal kindly and with regard with his great name, and were it possible for him to come to Boston once more the truth of what I write would be made manifest by deeds and words of greeting, by clasp of hands and med_sm.00481_large.jpg by smiling lips. Men (and women, too) begin to understand that he stands for the strength of wisdom and not the weakness of ignorant innocence. That he stands for self-government, for individual development, for liberty, love and justice. The free and individual form of his verse is reaching wider circles of readers each year. It will have incalculable effect upon the future verse-form not by way of imitation but by its power to educate the ear to freer forms and subtler rhythms. Once more I make salutations to a great personality, a powerful poet, and a serene prophet of a glorious America and faithful American literature to come."

Whitman.—Garland has been here to see me several times. He is cordial, warm-hearted, handsome. O yes! More than all that, too, for he is making a great fame for himself by his stories.... They tell me his stories are honest as "Leaves of Grass," which it to set 'em up high, sartain! [laughing] and yet the fight is not all over, as he seems to think. I see many a battle ahead, as I have told my friend Horace Traubel here opposite me often.

Chubb.—"My affectionate greetings to Whitman! May he live on among us for many a happy year, to illustrate the majesty and peace of old age, as he has illustrated the splendors of full-blooded manhood! I think of him in his serene latter days along with the gracious picture of old Cephalus, which Plato gives in the first pages of the Republic—enjoying the abiding presence of sweet hope, that 'kind nurse of old age,' as Pindar calls it. The longer I live the more important does the birth of Whitman into this nineteenth century appear to be. He is for me one of its few great emancipators from the special dangers to which it has been liable—the dangers of luxury and mechanism, issuing in that vice of dilettanteism which at present afflicts certain American as well as European centers. The future will assuredly be grateful to Whitman for confronting his age with a type of manhood that exhibited a noble power, an emotional amplitude, a religiousness, a physical sanity, and simplicity of habit and carriage, against which the influence of the time conspired in vain. I say the future will be grateful because I think that, like other great souls, Whitman has been 'before his time,' med_sm.00482_large.jpg and that his influence upon the world has hardly been felt as yet. It will be felt because the world is going to recover from its stupor of soul; and then it will recognizeitsliberators. I join with you in wishing joy to our dear friend and helpful elder comrade. Health and happiness to him and to you all!"

Whitman.—That is one of the chief things—spinal to all the rest, in fact. Yes, we need a new manhood, a fresh start, a voyage to sea again! "Before my time?" Yes and no—no doubt at the right moment, if at all.

Ford (Isabella).—"My sister Bessie and I both thank you very warmly for the present you sent us of your book. Edward Carpenter sent it on to us. We offer you our warmest greetings and best wishes for your birthday; we never forget it, and always wish you all good."

Whitman.—Very sweet and noble, very near the heart! I ask myself more than a little if my best friends have not been women. My friend Mrs. Gilchrist, one of the earliest, a picked woman, profound, noble, sacrificing, saw clearly when almost everybody else was interested in raising the dust—obscuring what was true.

Kennedy.—"I don't know that the spirit moves me to convey to you and Walt at this particular time much more than the simple Hamarian salutation, Aloha!—'Love to you.' This I must say, however—that my belief is and forever will be unshaken in the ultimate triumph of the ideas for which that great document, 'Leaves of Grass,' the Bible of the Nineteenth Century, stands: truth, justice, comradeship, union, spirituality, and, above all, the sanctity and nobility of the passion of love. Christianity and Whitmanism are might and irreconcilable opposites, as touches the body. The one ascetic, anti-naturalistic; the other a joyous accepter of nature; the one spurning what is the other's chief glory. Historical Christianity is superstition; Whitmanism is science. But in spiritual insight Christ and Whitman are grandly alike, both seeing the real life to be behind the veil of sense. As before, I write you from the strong-hold of Puritanism. The shame of the suppressing here of American's greatest book is still not wiped out of existence. med_sm.00483_large.jpg And here before me lies a clipping taken from a Boston paper which describes how a college man was arrested the other day for kissing his wife on the street! The Boston Dogberry locked up both man and wife in jail over night until it was proved that the woman kissed was the man's lawful wife. Did you ever hear anything more laughable? Christian anti-naturalism deeply entrenched, you see, yet, in the popular mind. It will probably take a thousand years or so for the new gospel to supplant the effete one. However, sursum corda!"

Whitman.—All that will come to pass, Kennedy—all is to be provided for! That is one of the things we are here for—that is why we have Ingersoll, great, magnificent fellow that he is! Every blow he strikes for liberty, against what you call Puritanism, is for us, this human critter, the "Leaves," democracy, love! But you know that as well as I do.

A Voice.—And what will we get from Donaldson?

Whitman.—Thomas Donaldson, cannot we have a word from you?

Donaldson.—Mr. Whitman, I did not deserve to be let in. I got here late. But I had been suffering this winter from the attention of three doctors, and after a while I found that by quitting the doctors I might get well. So I am mending now—shaking off the rheumatism—but pretty slow yet, and late, therefore, getting here to-night. But we won't say more of that. I want to talk of you. I am not much given to personal compliment—

Whitman.—Where have you been lately? You have been West and in Washington?


Whitman.—Tell us something about it. Tell us, too, about Blaine. We are curious about Blaine.

Donaldson.—I will talk about a more opportune subject—about Walt Whitman. It seems to me I have never seen a book or newspaper article that conveyed to me the real individuality or personality of Walt Whitman.

A Voice.—How about Dr. Bucke's book?

Donaldson.—Since Dr. Bucke's book was written I think the med_sm.00484_large.jpg subject has grown, so that Dr. Bucke might write another—a supplementary—book with profit.

Whitman.—Is he speaking of Dr. Bucke's book, Horace?


Whitman.—[With raised voice].—Tom, Horace says you are speaking of Dr. Bucke's book. Look out! Look out! I myself swear by it. I have had a thousand books and essays, and Dr. Bucke's is about the only one that thoroughly radiates and depicts and describes in the way that I think thoroughly delineates me. I thoroughly accept Dr. Bucke's book.

Donaldson.—So do I. But I would like to know where in Dr. Bucke's book is this incident of your life (I am going to give you one particular instance). Oscar Wilde told me—

Whitman [Interrupting].—Take out what I slice in. I think Dr. Bucke has accurately depicted my own preparatory and inauguratory life—say a certain sixteen to thirty years on which everything else rests: New York, Brooklyn, experimentation in strange ways, not such as usually go to make poetry and books and grand things, but the flash of active life—yes, in New York, Brooklyn (to me the greatest cities in the universe), and from there down to New Orleans, and up the Mississippi to the big lakes. I traveled over and stopped on them all. Dr. Bucke has briefly, but thoroughly, grasped, gripped, digested all that I was in those twenty years, better than anybody else. I do not so much dwell upon his criticism of "Leaves of Grass." I still think—I have always thought—that it escapes me myself, its own author, as to what it means, and what it is after, and what it drifts at. Dr. Bucke, with audacious finger, brain, seems to say, "Here is what it means," and "This is not what it means," and "This is a contrast and a comparison," and "This is one side and that is the other side." Well, I don't know—I accept and consider the book as a study. But behind all that (which is anent of what I said fifteen or twenty minutes ago) remains a subtle and baffling, a mysterious, personality. My attempt at "Leaves of Grass"—my attempt at my own expression—is after all this: to thoroughly equip, absorb, acquire, from all quarters, despising nothing, nothing being too small—no science, no ob med_sm.00485_large.jpg servation, no detail—west, east, cities, ruins, the army, the war (through which I was)—and after all that consigning everything to the personal critter. And the doctor is almost the only one of my critics who seems to have thoroughly understood and appreciated that very important fact. To me it is the personality of the business; it is the personality of the American man, of the fellow from 1860 to 1890—the forty years, the wonderful forty years, the indescribably wonderful forty years of the recent history of America—in a fellow, in a man, in an individuality, thoroughly absorbed. I suppose I am getting a little foggy and cloudy, but the idea is, that Doctor Bucke is one of the few who have thoroughly appreciated and understood and realized all that and has dominated his book with it. Most poets, most writers, who have anything to say, have a splendid theory and scheme, and something they want to put forth. I, on the contrary, have no scheme, no theory, no nothing—in sense absolutely nothing.

Donaldson.—Just let 'er go, eh?

Whitman.—Almost that. I have uttered the "Leaves" for the last thirty-five years as an illustration of, as an utterance of, as a radiation from, the personal critter—the fellow, man, individuality, person, American, so to speak. To me, as I have said over and over again, almost tiresomely, there is something curious, indescribably divine, in the compound individuality that is in every one. It is behind all, everything—his time, his degree of development, his stage of development. These have been the main things, and out of them I have reiterated and reiterated and reiterated. I suppose there are four hundred leaves of grass, one after another, which are contradictory, often contradictory—oh! contradictory as hell—perfectly so, but still held together by that iron band, of whatever it may be—individuality, personality, identity, covering out time, from fifty to ninety. That is me, Tom—that is Dr. Bucke's book.

Traubel.—But meantime, Donaldson, what's become of your Oscar Wilde story? You've forgotten all about that.

Whitman.—True enough, Tom; Oscar Wilde! Have you been standing all this time?


Donaldson.—Yes, I have! Is it left for that young man to get me my rights? I leave it to all here if it was not your fault, Mr. Whitman, that my story didn't even get started.

Whitman.—I own it, Tom. Go on.

Donaldson.—Well, the incident I wish to recall to your attention, Mr. Whitman, it this: Of course you did not find Oscar Wilde the kind of fellow that some people thought he was. On the contrary, you found him a splendid kind of fellow. And he says that not only are you a good poet, but in that room upstairs, in that front room of yours, over your lamp, you can brew the best milk punch of any man in the United States. I am free to claim that no book has ever developed that fact, and yet it is greatly to your credit. Now, I think the most memorable interview I ever had with you, out of many hundred, I had in that little front room. You had a small stove in the corner that looked very much like a fruit can, and you sat in a small armchair with a white robe about you, and the stove pipe got out of the hole, and there was no draft, and the fire went out, and you said finally, "Don't you think this room is cold?" and I said, "Yes I do," and so we two—Oscar Wilde and me—fished around together, and discovered the reason of the accident, which is just as I have given it.

Whitman.—Good for you, Tom! The cat's out of the bag.

Donaldson.—But that is not all. I seem almost to have made a speech, anyway, though I expressly intended to avoid that. But before I sit down let me say I brought with me the regrets of some friends over the river—especially of Horace Howard Furness.

Traubel.—And I have a letter from him.

Whitman.—Let Furness speak for himself.

Furness.—"What wouldn't I give to be able to be with you! I can join you only in imagination. Yet what imagination is adequate fairly to picture Walt's majestic presence, and the eternal sunshine settling on his head which illumines us all by its mere reflection? I bid him 'take from my mouth the wish of happy years.'"

Whitman.—When you see him give him my love.


Donaldson.—And I brought with me from an old gentleman on the Allegheny river a bottle of whiskey which he warrants to be fifty-four years old.

Whitman.—Oh! noble old man! Hurrah for the old man!

Voices.—Bucke! Bucke!

Bucke.—If I could speak at all I could say something this evening on the subject at hand. Perhaps the most significant thing of all is the marvellous diversity of opinion about you, Walt, and your book.

Whitman.—Expatiate a little on that, Doctor: that is very curious.

Bucke.—;Well, some think, for instance, that above all things you stand for the divine passion of love, others that you especially voice friendship, others again that external nature is your central and supreme theme; to still others you represent freedom, liberty, joyous and absolute abandonment; again your religious sense is placed at the head, and we are told that a noble aspiration for perfect spiritual manhood, supreme assurance of immortality, intuitions of the unseen, intense faith in the essential friendliness of the universe to man, is the essence of your life and teaching. But the opposite of all these is in you as well; you are as capable of hate and scorn as of love and compassion; imitation and obedience belong to you as much as their seeming opposites; reckless defiance and contempt are, though subordinated, as inherent in the "Leaves" and in you as are reverence and affection; despondency and despair are as truly component parts of your character as are hope and joy; common and even coarse manhood is as developed in you as are the glorious ecstasy of the poet and the high speculations of the philosopher; while you are good your are also evil; the godlike in you is offset by passions, instincts, tendencies that unrestrained might well be called devilish; if on the whole you have lived well and done well yet none the less you have had in you, though subordinated, the elements of the Cenci or an Attila. This side of you is little realized, and therefore I have said and med_sm.00488_large.jpg say that no one has yet understood you. Like a group of mountains passaged by dark ravines your Titanic qualities (good and evil) hide one another, so that we who stand by, beholding and admiring some one—or at most two or three—of the majestic summits, or shuddering on the edge of some precipice, necessarily fail to see or adequately to divine the hidden peaks, and, still less, the dark intervening chasms. I do not believe that I or any of us realize, Walt, what you really are. The main thing is that we love you and hope to have you live long with us.

Whitman.—I scarcely know whether I do or not.

Voices.—Bonsall! Bonsall!

Whitman.—Yes, Harry, give us your "views"—give us you report.

Bonsall.—On my way here the train stopped at Harleigh cemetery, and as those who had visited the city of the dead and viewed Walt Whitman's tomb entered the cars, I mused how few will honor the living bard to-night compared with the procession of pilgrims from far and near who will make a mecca of his grave when he is no more! Camden will be known to the world from the fact of one man living and dying here, as Stratford, Concord, and the few shrines that stand alone and need no Westminster or Pantheon in a proud metropolis.

In our unstudied and unstinted, our informal and perhaps too careless, colloquialism this evening the thought has been dropped that, until we revere the Man and greet him on each recurring natal day, we do not understand, and cannot comprehend, the length and breadth and height and depth of the philosophy of the Poet. To this, for one, and in common with most of us, I take exception. It is because we do realize what manner of man we honor that we are here to-night. It is because we have imbibed something of his spirit and can translate the message spoken to us with the Right Voice that this responsive echo is called forth. It is because we know whereof we speak that even in or most florid imagery we know that we speak the words of truth and soberness. It is because we have travelled the Open Road with him here, that when we come to tread the highway of the spheres and step from constellation to constellation we shall know med_sm.00489_large.jpg that Walt Whitman will await us on a still higher "lift" and extend, as now, the hand we will grasp in courage and confidence because of the light he shed on the way thither.

Whitman.—I did not know you were such a speechmaker, Harry! So you object to Bucke's argument? Well, well, you are both right, I guess—though Doctor gets rather nearer the nerve, so to speak. There's a point or two you fellows could argue out together, though as for that I don't suppose argument would settle anything. [To Traubel.] Harry has kept his hand on the wheel this many-a-day—never weary, never unsteady!

Williams (F. H.).—It has become, I had almost said, a fashion to say that Walt Whitman lacks form, and that his method of expressing himself is in great chaos of words. But I do not think that the form in which you have seen fit to express yourself is a mere chaos of words. I do not think that the mere fact that you have refused to be bound by the accepted metrical forms, by the laws of versification as they have been accepted by all time, at all argues that you have disregarded form. As I heard Mr. Richard Watson Gilder say at one of our recent re-unions: "I think that Walt Whitman's form is on of the most extraordinary things about him. I believe that his form is inimitable." I believe that anybody who will get away from the idea of scanning line by line and will undertake to comprehend the fundamental thought at the bottom of "Leaves of Grass" and which runs through it—not through its sections but through the book as a whole—will find that the form adopted is embodied and expressed. Any writer, any poet, who had sought to express that thought and had bound himself by any position of the Irishman who tried to carry home a quart of the critter in a half-pint mug—the verse would not have held the thought. The people who say that his thought is a chaos have simply come across a cosmos which is beyond their comprehension.

Whitman.—I hope that is so.

Williams.—Mr. Gabriel Sarrazin has said, sir, that you are not an artist—that you are not an artist because you rise superior med_sm.00490_large.jpg to art. I believe that is nothing more than saying that genius is a law unto itself. Art is an interpretation of nature, and when the thing to be expressed transcends the laws or art, we then arrive at a point within which a genius—if there be such a man—exists. I mean without regard to the laws of art. That is exactly the idea found in "Leaves of Grass."

Whitman.—It is a comfort to hear that. Bravo!... Dr. Bucke is my authoritative expresser and explanatory, as far as there can be one.

Donaldson.—What about my hundred pages that I am getting out about you?

Whitman.—Go on, Tom, go on—and God be with you!

Morris.—Something has been said about the euphony and harmony of Mr. Whitman's verse. I think if Mr. Donaldson had had the pleasure which I had a couple of weeks ago of going to Long Island and visiting Walt Whitman's birthplace, he could scarcely say, as he has said, that there was no euphony and no harmony in Walt Whitman. The one prevailing feature in all that country is that every door-yard—no matter how humble, how much of a shanty—has a bush of lilac growing.

Donaldson.—Did Whitman plant it?

Whitman.—That was a smart dab, Tom.

Morris.—He has celebrated it supremely. Another figure which we find in the two lyrics of Mr. Whitman is the hermit-thrush. It is an indigenous bird in Long Island.

Whitman.—It is the sweetest, solemnest of all our singing birds.

Morris.—Being on Long Island I was almost constantly in view of the sea. Now, these three elements—the lilac, the hermit-thrush and the sea—are the prevailing elements of those great Lincoln ode. I consider that if any an was to create so much lyric beauty, euphony and harmony are necessarily a main part of his texture.

Whitman.—No doubt, Harrison, that is part of the story—but there's a deal more beyond—a deal more!

Donaldson.—The idea I have always had of Walt Whitman's med_sm.00491_large.jpg euphony and rhythm and poetry was the idea expressed by Mr. Williams; it is not at all what Mr. Morris undertakes to exhibit. And, by the way, I am twice as old as that boy and he can talk twice as well as I can.

Whitman.—Don't say that, Tom Donaldson—you stand very well on your own feet.

Voices.—Talcott Williams—Williams!

Whitman.—Get up, Talcott—show yourself!

Williams (Talcott).—Yes, Mr. Whitman, and all—I will, and let me say a word, too. We are here marking the fourth of a long series of celebrations of this birthday. From this point we will go on in the development of those broad principles which will gradually overspread the world, and which to-day are known to all the English-speaking world, and which in time shall know neither let nor limit. As I remember how lesser forms of verse have disappeared, how the bric-a-brac of verse crumbles under the touch of years, I feel tat there are new meanings in yours. As we gather at this table, at which few sit but at which all are peers, in the presence which dignifies us to-night, I feel in some sense a new meaning in the line, "Age shakes Athene's tower but spares gray Marathon." For me the democracy of your verse is only the lesser and smaller part of it. The higher and wider side is its spiritual side. The circumstance that, in an age which not only doubts democracy but doubts itself, and doubts, sometimes, the universe, the universe has been to you a road of many roads—the road of traveling souls.

Voices.—Letters! Letters!

Whitman.—Yes, Horace, the letters—bits of them, anyway.

Wallace.—"This evening—which till a short time ago was dull, cold and overcast, with dark lowering rain-clouds—is now, at sunset, clear, calm, and radiant with heavenliest hues. May it be an omen of your remaining life!"

Whitman.—Good boy! Good boy! And a dozen sign with him—royal Lancashire fellows, all. Read their names—read their names!... They call themselves "the College."

Mead.—"All lovers of nature and freedom join in grateful thought of your free and stalwart life."


Whitman.—That is a magazinist, but the magazinists as a rule have rejected us.

Stedman.—"Life, after all, is not like a river—although it is the fashion to say that it is—for that stream flows more slowly as it nears the boundless sea. But if Walt's birthdays seem to succeed one another more rapidly as the years shorten, I take all the more the hope that there may be (to use his own word) a long tally of them yet in store. And Whitman's poetry is like the river: nothing of it more tranquil, nothing broader and deeper, than his songs almost within sound of the infinite surge. Take, for instance, the last chant of his 'to the Sunset Breese.' It recalls the sense of zest, and of physical harmony, with it which Borrow's blind gypsy asked to be placed where he could feel the wind from the heath: over and beyond this, the reach of a noble intellect, the yielding of a strong soul to the vast movement of the universe. To such a bard it is of little moment of whether he stays in one world or another. But to us it is much to have him still among us."

Whitman.—We all like Stedman: he is hearty, warm generous—yes, sticks to his guns, too, though his guns are not always ours. To-night we all seem to melt and flow together. [To Traubel.]—It might go hard with us if this was all simply directed to Walt Whitman! But we are here, I as much as any, to pay our respects, not to Walt Whitman, but to democracy! [Aloud again.]—Whose is the next message?

Morse.—"I must join the chorus. A friend visiting Camden some months ago reported to me: 'I found Whitman calmly sitting in the midst of such utter and appalling literary confusion I wondered for a moment how he breathed—vast heaps of everything piled about him. It seemed as though as earthquake had thrown all the life and literature of the hour—everything, in fact—into ruins, but the old god. He alone remained unperturbed and indestructible.' Perhaps this friend did not go so much amiss, forecasting with a wider significance than intended the fate to men and things some far future will reveal."

Whitman.—That is Sidney—our Sidney. We have his bust of us up-stairs, and a noble piece of work it is; some think, the med_sm.00493_large.jpg best. [To Traubel.] John Burroughs, of all men, should be here to-night. He should not only be here but be at the head of the table—see all the fellows, hear all that is said, throw a strain into the music himself.

Curtis (George William).—"My hearty respect and regard for the sturdy and faithful man whom you honor."

Whitman.—How cautious—how non-committal!

Blake.—"My reverential greeting to the venerable poet whose songs will wind men's arms around each other's necks if we will sing them truly after him."

Whitman.—Blake—Blake: is that Blake of Chicago? Yes—I know him: he has been here. Thanks! Thanks!

Sanborn.—"My earnest love to you, Walt Whitman, on this memorial occasion. We think of you at Concord as often as we look out over the meadows across the river, which you were so fond of feeding your eyes upon."

Whitman.—Sanborn was one of our earliest friends! And now, Tom Harned, you don't intend to slip us altogether? Get up, Tom: say your say.

Harned.—We have head much about "Leaves of Grass"—about Walt Whitman and his methods. But my mind is animated by other ideas. During the past year I have suffered the dread that perhaps it would not now be long that we would know Walt Whitman here in person. The fact must be stated that during the past few months he has occupied a room above us, unable to leave it, his physical condition becoming weaker day by day. It seems to me that the great, the supreme, lesson of Walt Whitman's life is this: that he has been entirely consistent with himself, that he has not advocated any doctrine that he has not lived. And to me, inexpressibly beyond the hope of giving utterance to the thought, the calmness and deliberation with which Walt Whitman invites the future and looks forward unfearingly to crossing the unknown sea, is one of the most beautiful evidences of this consistency. Whitman, above all others, is the poet of immortality. And when I use the word I mean by it a conviction of the immortality of identity—that out lives do not end here, that death is an essential—ay, as he urges, even to med_sm.00494_large.jpg be sung to, praised. Calm, exalted, he awaits death. Here, then, in Walt Whitman's presence, I desire to say that that is the sublime, the supreme, index of his character.

Whitman.—And now comes your turn, Horace.

Traubel.—No, I must me excused. I feel myself in the midst of a battle of which I may some time have something to say. My turn has not come. When the battle is over, then I may write of it.

Whitman.—You are right, boy—your turn is not yet. Years and years from now, when I am gone—when, as you say, the battle is over—much may depend upon your teaching, and you will set out the exact lines of evidence. You are right, boy—and God bless you!

Clifford.—I will put in a word, too, though, like Traubel, I feel to be excused to-night. Everybody knows Emerson's remark: "To be great is to be misunderstood." There is a story that I believe to be authentic to the effect that when some one came to him and asked what he had meant by a certain passage or passages in his essays, he replied in his rather embarrassed manner that he supposed that when he wrote the matter referred to he had meant something clear enough, which now was forgotten or obliterated. So, Mr. Whitman, you are not alone in that particular, if your own account of yourself be correct. But I am not going to make a speech. Let me add an amusing episode. In my not very remote experience, when I happened by accident to be one of a company of persons where the name of Walt Whitman was mentioned and pretty warmly espoused by a majority of those present, a somewhat well-known poetaster of these parts, to whose name it would be cruel if I gave it an immortality by mentioning it here, called a halt by crying out: "Well, if Walt Whitman is a poet, then I am not one." A no inconsiderable world of professionals will one day be tried by that standard, and it is not likely that him we call Whitman—him we honor to-night—will suffer in the decision.

Whitman.—Why, Clifford, you swing a heavy club! Walt Whitman? Sure enough—no poet at all! That is the way med_sm.00495_large.jpg the schools have had it for a long time! But here is Miss Porter, too—what has she to say to all this?

Porter (Miss).—I know we all want to say something to-night, and what I would like to say, or the thought that has particularly occurred to me in what I have read of yours, is that you connect literature more closely with life than any one has done before. And that is what we praise particularly—we narrow people who have just begun to know you—and that is what we look forward to in the future: that that literature may become more widely spread which is more closely connected with life, as you connect it in your democracy and in your "Leaves of Grass."

Whitman.—And Eakins—what of Tom Eakins? He is here. Haven't you something to say to us, Eakins?

Eakins.—I am not a speaker—

Whitman.—So much the better—you are more likely to say something.

Eakins.—Well, as some of you know, I some years ago—a few—painted a picture of Mr. Whitman. I began in the usual way, but soon found that the ordinary methods wouldn't do—that technique, rules and traditions would have to be thrown aside; that, before all else, he was to be treated as a man, whatever become of what are commonly called the principles of art.

Whitman.—What wouldn't we give for O'Connor, Ingersoll, Burroughs, to-night! Dear O'Connor—dead, dead! How he would enter into it all—absorb it—glorify it!

Clarke (Miss).—I would like to add my personal thanks to Walt Whitman for his insistence upon the true principle of democracy, which consists not in bringing down those things which are high but in raising u those things which are low.

Whitman.—A hit sharp on the head of the nail!

Eyre.—Walt, I am one of the boys that you cannot see with your eyes. There are a great many millions outside who cannot see you now, but will wee you well by-and-by. I met a man in Philadelphia to-day to whom I said, "I am going to dine to-night with the greatest man of this century." He asked: "Who is that?" and I answered, "Walt Whitman." He seemed surprised: "You don't mean to actually call him that, do you?" and I med_sm.00496_large.jpg assured him that I did with all my heart and soul. And I never said a word more true. you are the greatest man of all this century and of all he world. I will tell you, Walt, why you are so great. It is because you have taught me, every one, that I, they, are as great as you. There is one thing I want to say. You spoke of woman. It has been to me a constant wonder that the man who has written "I see a mother clasping her child to her breast, and I watch her long and long," has never married.

Whitman.—That is Ingersoll. That has been explained by Dr. Bucke, who, I think, knows me better than anybody, and has sort of intercalated and found out, partly by his own instigation and partly because he feels it to do. I leave a large—a very, very, large—explication of that and all other questions to Dr. Bucke. Somebody says you cannot understand any one except through a god spirit, I don't think it could be thoroughly explicated anyhow. But I think Dr. Bucke and Horace Traubel are the nearest to the explicators—whatever that may be—of me and the difficulties of that question, and all other questions. The whole thing, my friend, like the Nibelungen, or somebody's, cat, has an immensely long, long, long tail to it. And the not being married, and the not and the not and the not, and the this and the this and the this, have a great many explications. At the first view it may not be so creditable to the fellow, to the critter, but go on, explicate still more and still more and still more behind all that. Somebody says, and I think it is a wonderfully profound thing, that there is no life, like Burns', for instance,—like Robert Burns', the poet's—no life thoroughly penetrated, explicated, understood and gone behind, but after all, after awhile, you see why it must be so in the nature of things. And that is a splendid explication of Robert Burns. You go behind all, and you realize that, no matter what the blame may be to Robert Burns, somehow or other you feel like excusing and saying that that is the reason why, and that is the reason why, and that is the reason why. See?


Eyre [Still on his feet, as when interrupted by Whitman].—This has been the most successful speech of my life, and I could stand on my feet for half an hour and hear some other fellow talk; and of all the fellows in the world whom I should love so to hear talk—like a rivulet, like a brook, like a universal cataract, like some babbling spring, like the fields, like the birds—Walt Whitman stand the first.

Whitman [Laughing]. But my speech is not yours. Give us yours.

Eyre.—I want to ask a question. I don't know that you like the word literature. There is something better than that, don't you think?

Whitman.—There is something better than that, deeper than that, behind that; like religion, which is not the conventional church, by any means, but rests on something deeper.

Eyre.—In one of your poems I have found—but will you let me repeat it?

Whitman.—Go ahead if it is not too long.

Eyre.—I want to call attention to "My Captain," a poem which has in it the element of the dramatic in a sublime and startling degree—marvelous contrasts of color and sound. I want especially to call your attention to the third verse. I shall give it, in order to show what I mean. [Recites].

Whitman [Leaning across the table].—Horace, what ails Brinton? Isn't he to speak?

Traubel.—Ask him. I hope so.

Whitman [Turning to B., who sat at his left].—What about that, Doctor? We want to hear from you!

Voices.—Brinton! Brinton!

Brinton.—[Half risen].—I do not know—

Voices.—Brinton! Brinton!

Whitman.—You can't escape us, Doctor!

Brinton.—Well—if I must I must!

Whitman.—[To Traubel].—Did he suppose we intended that he should be left out of the play?

Brinton.—We all know well enough why we are here to-night, and we all know, therefore, that this dinner and its after-talk be med_sm.00498_large.jpg come an ascription to Walt Whitman and the great cause his "Leaves of Grass" inaugurates and fortifies. And how can I add anything to the warm and loyal words spoken to this effect in his presence by all the eloquent fellows who have spoken before me—

Whitman.—Good, Doctor! A good start! You can add enough!

Voices.—Yes! Yes!

Brinton.—Thank you, Mr. Whitman—and thank you all! But I feel somewhat in the position of a man who at the last hour is asked and expected to put the keystone in the arch. I know nobody except Walt Whitman himself who can do that for our arch to-night—

Whitman.—Give us the word of science, Doctor!

Brinton.—The word of science to Walt Whitman would be—you have done me and the world a service beyond all service hitherto done in literature for reason and the rational insight of man. You have made comrades of men. You have made seekers, discoverers, along lines not previously traveled of known. Walt Whitman's interpretation of comradeship and joy, we are also here to give emphasis to his principles affecting the mental life of the race. Walt Whitman's "Leaves" will never fade and were, for he has given them a touch of vital blood which will preserve them as long as men read and reason, as long as there are eyes to see and brains to comprehend. And this is the case because in this poetic volume there has been no attempt to elude nature, to get away from the actual—because its author wrote on, without sense of shame or motive of apology, recounting the sights and wonders that everywhere appeared before him. In the highest sense a reflector of truth, he is also in the simplest way a lover of men. On the one side we find his soul reaching out to the largest questions of mind, of civilization; on the other we find his heart throbbing in common with the hopes and horrors of the simplest men. Science sees in Whitman a teacher of evolution—sees in him perhaps so far the finest fruit of evolution and its profoundest explicator and defender.

Whitman.—Do you say that, Doctor?


Brinton.—Yes, I do. You [turning to Whitman] have held high the perpendicular hand, and offered us the most precious gift of the ages—offered us freedom, love, immortality. [Then addressing those about the table.] Let us hold up as good a hand as high, in affectionate demonstration of our esteem and loyalty!

Whitman.—Noble Doctor! It is the best note of the song, almost! And yet all is so good—all so fits, is of one piece!

Donaldson.—If I understand what you have done, it is to make a plea for universality and the brotherhood of man. Now, do I understand you right?

Whitman.—Oh! That is one thing—the commonhood, brotherhood, democratization, or whatever it may be called. But behind all that something remains. I had a dispute with Thomas Dudley some years ago. His theory was, that our main thing in America was to look out for ourselves—for the fellows here. Well, in response, I remember I said, rather incidentally (but I felt it at the bottom of my heart), that the theory of the progress and expansion of the cause of the common bulk of the people is the same in all countries—not only in the British islands, but on the continent of Europe and allwheres—that we are all embarked together like fellows in a ship, bound for good or for bad. What wrecks one wrecks all. What reaches the port for one reaches the port for all. And it is my feeling, and I hope I have in "Leaves of Grass' expressed it, that the bulk of the common people, the torso of the people, the great body of the people all over the civilized world—and any other, too, for that matter—are sailing, sailing together in the same ship. And that which jeopardizes one jeopardizes all. And in my contest with Thomas Dudley, who is a thorough "protectionist" (in which I thoroughly differ from him), my feeling was that the attempt at what they call "protection"—though I am not posted in the protection details and theories and formulations and statistics, and all that goes to boost up and wall up and wall out and protect out (doubtless I tread on the corns of a good many people, but I feel it deeply, and the older I live to be the stronger I feel it)—is wrong, and that one feeling for all, extreme reciproc med_sm.00500_large.jpg ity and openness and freetradeism, is the policy for me. And I not only think that it is an important item in political economy, but I think it is the essential social groundwork, away down; and to me nothing will do eventually but an understanding of the solidarity of the common people, of all peoples and all races. And that is behind "Leaves of Grass.'"

Well, I have talked and garruloussed and frivolled so terrifically this evening, much to my amazement, that I don't think I have anything left. I am glad to see you all, and I appreciate, thoroughly appreciate, your kindness and complimentary honor of me and everything—but oh! I have not felt up to the occasion of making much of a speech, or, at any rate, any more of a speech than I have been flabbing away at from time to time. I must say to my friends further along the table that I am about half blind and cannot see more than ten feet ahead and hardly that—else I am sure I should specify them. [He had greeted one after another by name.] The main thing, as I told my friend Horace Traubel, is, that we are here, and are jolly, and having a good jolly time. I welcome you—give out my love to every one of you—and to many and many a one not here.

Voices.—Are there no other letters?

Traubel.—Yes,—several—but no time to read them: the old man is tired and wishes to withdraw. I have letters still—a whole cluster—from Adler, Gilder, Tucker—from Miss Gilder, too, and Miss Lazarus. But we have given what Walt just called "samples." Now he says that his ears and eyes are about given out.

Whitman.—What a pity! But it is late—and they will forgive us. I'm afraid I have already overshot the mark. And—Warry—where are you? [Rising—taking his cane-waving his hands to the risen crowd.] And now to all, Good-night and thanks, and God bless you. [Retires.]

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