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

On the Church and Christianity

Tuesday, July 14, 1891

8:00 p.m. W. as usual on bed--Warrie closed blinds and made a low light. W. very cordial to me--extending hand, "And how are you?" I said, "Just the same--no change: that is the one point on which the Catholic Church and I agree--semper idem." W.: "Always the same! Good! Yet damn semper and the Catholic Church with it! Nothing, for them, is more untrue than that motto--instead of being always the same, it is always shifting--always accommodating itself age after age to new forces--never till it has to, but always then--to come sneaking up at the rear and claim leadership! One of the curious things is to see the new pope coming in line with democracy--or pretending to; trying to make himself, his church, consist with the fact of America. Can they hope for anything here? I don't think so: the stars in their courses are against them--the wisdom of America--its spinal thought, deed--says no to Catholicism, the priests--casts them back, back, back into the past, into dead history--not willing longer to have their stupid superstitions, slavery. Oh! Horace, you will live to see new battles fought out. I am now pretty near the end of my own history, but mark what I have said--it is the gospel of our democracy--the necessity of our future!"

Monday, August 10, 1891

"I found W. greatly interested in reports that the French Catholics had swung their forces round to the support of the republic. I had read a paper from a Frenchman, Girard, in the Unitarian Review, outline of which I gave W. He said, "Yes, I have heard of it, but in a vague, uncertain sort of way--hardly knowing how much to take and how much not. What does it mean? How to take it? I see no great mystery. For one thing, it shows a determination on the part of the Church to plant its standard forward--to make a perceptible advance. And I should say of the republic--it matters little to it that the Church does not give its adhesion, it matters little to it that the Church does. Either way, the republic is strong enough to be indifferent. And so in America: America is the future--the Church is only an incident on a big roll."

Tuesday, August 18, 1891

"I wrote Johnston a long letter today," I said. "The Bolton Johnston?" "Yes, and I said to him, Walt never has any complaint to make of the Lancashire 'church' except when it puts him into a too close relationship with saints. He wants you to leave him a little bit of the rascal." W. laughed heartily, "Good! Good! And you may say that to them again and again and again. I have never said a word on that subject myself to them, not a word, nor would I--but you can well do it. I do not mind saying to you that it grows unpleasant to me--is too much of me--an adulatory strain--me as a person. After all, boy, I am only a person, eh? It curiously illustrates what you several times said to me--what I always thought striking, true--that that would be impossible to us here in America. Our fellows never fall in that vein--never burn incense. Yet over there in Europe it seems to be a part of their creed--Catholic-like--the boys, the swinging of the censors this way and that, the fumes. But that is not 'Leaves of Grass.' Ours here is a simple comradeship--you and me--you and me--one, one, another one--not more, not less.... What reconciles me to the Bolton fellows is the genuineness of it--the spontaneous nature of the adulation--it is a part of them--it probably must be. And it would seem very ungracious for me to make any fuss about it--to protest in any way...." Referring to the same subject, "We are bad enough in America--have enough sins to answer for--but we are free of incense-burning--we have got beyond that."

Sunday, November 29, 1891

... Again, "Chase did some indispensable things, I suppose, but along with them much evil. Elias Hicks used to ask, or say he often wondered, whether Christianity had done more good than bad in the world. I do not feel in doubt on that point, but I do about Chase...."

Wednesday, December 2, 1891

Century on floor. I picked it up, commenting on its Christmas cover. It had been laid open at Stockton's story. W. remarked, "It's a dull, stupid number--full of virgins, angels, cherubs--all infernal rot! I can't think of anything so alien to our time--so past, so overdone! The whole stuff, that issue, is cheap enough. Even the cover is horrible: I don't like the ordinary cover--this is worse!"