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."