With Walt Whitman in Camden, by Horace Traubel
Copyright 1996 by Fellowship of Friends. All Rights Reserved.

Whitman and Lowell

Tuesday, November 17, 1891

"I promised to let Miss Porter see the Lowell-Whitman notes by Monday if possible." This moved him to say, "I think I could easily state the difference myself: Lowell an elegant mansion, equipped with all that is luxurious, rich--not to be despised, after its own kind and degree; Walt Whitman, emulous of the seashore, the forest, even the prairie--or the surging manifold streets of the cities--quite impossible to delineate, but each of his poems attempts to suggest and to his opportunity succeeding in expressing, those." I cried out, "Hold on a minute--I am getting all that down." Had grabbed up an old envelope from the table, continuing, "I should like to use all that--quote it." W. then, "I have no objection at all to tell, but I don't want to be quoted as the author." I admitting, "I won't quote you, but set this down in the way of statement of your significance." "Good! I don't know whether it's very creditable for me to say that, but it's true!" And then after a pause, "I should say in addition that the irrepressible and in every way creditable authority of heredity, tradition, is upon Lowell. I think about 'Leaves of Grass' and me, that heredity, tradition and authority reside, as in a fellow's respect for his ancestry--father and mother: living with it in great tenderness, love, but thinking most--always most--of his own soul. What I think of authority and tradition is great--reverential, perhaps--couched in emotional tenderness and respect. But, feeling whatever, is very little of it imitative. It is a contrast, the force of which you may easily appreciate."