Interviews and Reminiscences

About this Item

Title: He Is Ignored at Home

Creator: J. W. K.

Date: October 13, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: med.00669

Source: Chicago Daily Tribune 13 October 1889: 28. Our transcription is based on a digital image of an original issue. 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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England Rhapsodizes Over the Picturesque Old Man and He Also Has the Strongest Confidence in His Own Merits—An English Fad Throws Quaker City Clubdom Into Excitement—Only a Summer Acquaintance—September and What It Has Brought with It.

—[Special Correspondence.]—

Do you think it possible that the English literary set have a sixth sense which leads them aright when others go astray? If the explanation is not contained in that query pray why is it that they rhapsodize over our own picturesque old Walt Whitman, whom we ourselves are likely to smile at or ignore?

Walt lives across the river in a quiet old town, just opposite this city. No English littérateur comes here without making a pilgrimage to the old man's home. You have heard all about Sir Edwin Arnold's gushing meeting with him, have you not? The Englishman figuratively fell upon his neck and kissed him. But the old man was never a whit phased by so much gush. On the contrary, his selfcomplacency, under all and every circumstance, is simply monumental.

I called on the old poet a little bit after Sir Edwin's séance with him. He sat in his den on the second floor, everything around him littered with books and papers. The half light from the window fell upon his long, white hair and his grizzled white beard and brown, wrinkled face. He was in his shirt sleeves. He was just about to engage in the commonplace occupation of eating his supper. There was a big bowl of soup with some chunks of meat floating about in it, two substantial slices of toast, and a dish of stewed tomatoes. It wasn't bad for a man of his years and multifarious ailments. The fact that Arnold was able to quote his poetry by the page didn't surprise him and didn't flatter him, and he was not put out by his own confession that he knew little of Sir Edwin's poems. The fact that Tennyson and Browning should have sent him greetings seemed to him to be quite a matter of course, though he referred to the good wishes of these famed writers gleefully as "flattering messages, soft-sawdering messages."

He has an unshakable confidence in the supreme merits of his own work, and labors on serenely, notwithstanding the fact that so large a part of his own countrymen refuse to concede that he is a poet at all, and his earnings from his books cannot exceed $300 a year. He thinks with Sir Edwin Arnold and many other Englishmen that posterity, at least, will admit that he was a genius.


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