American Poetry in the Age of Whitman and Dickinson

Napoleonicism

with 3 comments

Saturday, February 14, 1891

I had heard the criticism that Grant was greater than Napoleon. Napoleon fought all his battles in the accepted rules of war — Grant met new fields with new weapons. W. said, “There is a striking ring to that: in some ways it recommends itself to me — goes straight to the truth — at least about Grant. Whether Napoleon is the right man to quote on the other side I doubt. It seems to me Napoleonicism — to make a word—means the very thing praised in Grant. The old fellows would have said — ‘Cross the Alps? It is impossible — fatuous!’ Which only excited Napoleon the more to say, ‘Impossible? Then we will do it!’ — and other impossible things he did — till at last his mastership could not be denied. All genius defies the rules — makes its own passage — is its own precedent. But I can see how all this is emphasized in Grant: it is part of him. I more and more incline to acknowledge him. His simplicity was much like old Zack Taylor’s.”

— Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, volume 8

Dug this out for my friend Alex, a Napoleon specialist.

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Written by Ben Friedlander

December 2, 2009 at 11:06 pm

3 Responses

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  1. I am not sure but I recall staying in a country Ryokan in Japan that said that President Grant had stayed there. Could that be right? Did Grant go into the mountains of Japan and stay at a traditional hot springs hotel?

    Lanny Quarles

    December 3, 2009 at 6:48 am

  2. Japan isn’t mentioned in Grant’s memoirs, so no detail on the visit at hand, but it looks like he visited Japan after leaving the White House. It says here:

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/grant/peopleevents/e_tour.html

    that he was the first person in the world to shake the Emperor’s hand! But nothing about Ryokan or hot springs.

    Ben Friedlander

    December 4, 2009 at 9:52 am

    • It must be true then! The Ryokan I stayed in was in service by the 18th century. A completely amazing specimen it was. The long feathered chickens in the bath hut with you in the forest, etc. On a walk from the front door you can find carved buddhas one with their stone niches that are from the 900’s. Also, a fully automated “haunted temple”.. The place is on the edge of the big national forest south of Mt. Fuji if I recall correctly. In the hotel literature and my wife may have saved it, it said that Ulysses S. Grant stayed there. It is good to hear Grant did better, I guess I just thought he was a really bad alcoholic. I am always very interested in our Presidents. In College, in our house, we had a kind of funny thing going on, where we developed a joking ‘gruesome obsession’ with the American Presidency, and we put pictures of them all over the house. Oddly enough people really liked it. I think we had Washington and Johnson and Kennedy in the living room.
      The Kennedy we had was a Time Life magazine pic someone had shellacked onto a cross-section of cut log.
      That was odd. Our Washington was a nice big print
      framed under glass. The Johnson was more pop, a photograph someone had painted all white except for Johnson put up with thumbtacks.

      Can you imagine shaking the Emperor’s hand?
      That would be really cool even now!

      🙂

      Thanks for rustling my leaves!

      Lanny Quarles

      December 4, 2009 at 11:52 am


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