Sunday, 3 May 2015

A Sentiment That Lurks in my Brain and Makes Me Smile and Cringe At The Same Time

As a government employee striving to fit poetry and fiction writing into my life, I found this anecdote in an article titled Reminisces of Walt Whitman published in The Atlantic Monthly, February 1902, by John Townsend Trowbridge, to be humorous, disheartening and validating: In the latter part of November, 1863, a fortunate circumstance placed me in friendly relations with Salmon P. Chase, then at the summit of his fame as Secretary of The Treasury in Lincoln's Cabinet, and I became a guest in his house. I had at that time few acquaintances in Washington. One of the most prized of these was William Douglas O'Connor. He had turned aside from literature, in which we who knew him in the flower of his youthful promise had believed him destined to excel, and entered a department of the government--one of those vast mausoleums in which so many talents, small and great, have been buried, and brave ambitions have turned quietly to dust. His first employment was in the Treasury; in the Treasury, also, when I first knew him, was that other valiant friend of Whitman's, John Burroughs, who, fortunately for himself and his readers, escaped O'Connor's fate.