With Walt Whitman in Camden, by Horace Traubel
EXCERPTS FROM VOLUMES 8 & 9
Copyright 1996 by Fellowship of Friends. All Rights Reserved.
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Vision of America



Wednesday, June 17, 1891

What did he think of Brinton's idea that public opinion--not church and state--is the great moral conservator and lever? "It is very striking--true, too, I admit it: it sets out a big lay of premises--establishes them, too. Then I would say, there is more, too--the bottom fact of all--the inherent good nature, integrity, sanity of man--residing below, underneath all venoms, poisons, evil wills. Especially as existing in our democratic land, age--in America. I think I have often enough expressed myself on this in my books--and that the disease of our time is its smartness, cleverness--that hellish New England hunger to know something--to store up a big fund of bookishness--to accumulate, accumulate, accumulate, ad infinitum. Thank God! The people as a whole--knowing enough for the present--are not spoiled and ruined by the ambition of culture! They can wait for what will come--for growth--the up-going of their stronger, healthfuller nature. I see signs everywhere of larger purposes, not literary--human--and these will urge, urge, urge, urge--urge again, irresistibly--the conviction of the masses. And so to me, Brinton is right--well right--proved--and well for the race that it is so--that the average good heart of a time takes care of the individual. I know there is more to be said than this, but this gives the one side."



Monday, September 14, 1891

"...I notice how our men, once raised on a pinnacle, popular favor at their back--inevitably assume a certain manhood--add to dignity, reserve, seriosity. Our presidents, from Washington down--not a single exception. I have written of one instance--a dark deep night in Washington (1865)--Congress in session--yes, it was the close of a session--night--men tired, drowsy--draggled-on-edness--life at its low ebb. Suddenly on the scene the tramp of a great storm--flashes of lightning--crash, crash, crash, the dismalest thunder that ever fell out of the heavens--a hurricane, seeming to threaten destruction everywhere, to everything--man, dome, house, city--nothing spareable. On all this an instant's dread--men pale (oh! I was there! I saw it all!)--a hush, suspense--then every sleeping member wakened--every head raised--shaking off sleep, fear, even disquietude, with disdain. At once the work resumed, the order taken up--calm inside, hell itself out--every person present lifted by the magic of personality into best selves, best atmospheres! I thought then--what Roman senate can best this! What Roman people bring more splendid dignity--the best fruits of pride, wealth of self? And these out of democracy's average--out of the thousands, millions, of our population. And I could match it, oh so grandly--by soldiers on the fields--in the hospitals--by laborers--artisans--the streaming, straining life of our cities--the farms. Oh! Horace, Horace! This after all is the great gem on our brow--the gem surpassing all others--the sparkling glittering gem--America--the real under the unreal--the substance under the show! How much of this will Wallace get? Yet this is the essential thing--this is the message of America!"