Interviews and Reminiscences

About this Item

Title: Recent Interviews with the Poet: By New York Journalists

Creator: Anonymous

Date: 1892

Whitman Archive ID: med.00563

Source: Our transcription is based on Wallace Wood, ed., Ideals of Life: Human Perfection. How to Attain It. A Symposium on the Coming Man (New York: E. B. Treat, 1892), 393–394. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the interviews, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Brett Barney

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By New York Journalists.


What is the secret of life, of enjoyment, of happiness, aye, and a success in life?


Good-natured men are of two classes. They are either born with a cheery, uplifting disposition, a merry heart, a take-it-easy habit, or, having learned by experience the folly of everlasting broodings, they put into practice the results of their observation, and force themselves into an attitude of urbanity towards all the wold in general but towards themselves in particular. I remember Walt Whitman in the way-back days of the early sixties, and used often to see him on the ferry-boats, on the stage-top, on the street, in the pilot-house, in bohemian resorts, everywhere—at all times and under all circumstances the same great, big, good-natured, bronzed-faced, full-bearded, slouch-hatted individuality. . . . During the fierce struggles between the contending armies, no matter what his mental, physical, financial situation might be, he bore himself with the uplifted front of good-nature to all the world, and particularly to himself. Why to himself?

Because being good-natured to himself put him into condition of good-nature towards everybody else. That is the secret of contentment while living. It is the secret of longevity itself. The man who goes to bed cross and ugly with himself, the man who is disappointed and feels it when he is curled up between the sheets, has no right to anticipate a good night's rest; and without refreshing sleep where are you on the following morning? Selfishly considered, the best medicine a man can take is the knowledge that good-nature makes life's pathway smooth, and an evil nature makes a disgruntled mental condition, and upsets not alone the head but the stomach, and therefore the entire physique. The best nature in all the world is good-nature, and if you havent't got it by birth, let experience bring it to you; study for it, work for it, get it. Then you'll be welcomed. Otherwise you won't.


"You want to know in a word, then, the sum total of my life philosophy as I have tried to live it and as I have tried to put it in my books. I will tell you. It is only the closest student who would find it in my works. I do not care whether or not the fellows understand me. The sum total of my view of life has always been to humbly accept and thank God for whatever inspiration towards good may come in this rough world of ours, and as far as may be, to cut loose from and put the bad behind always and always."


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