American Poetry in the Age of Whitman and Dickinson


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.


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:

    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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