To Walt Whitman
7 October 1871
My dear sir.
When a man has ventured to dedicate his work to another
without authority or permission, I think that he is bound to make
confession of the liberty he has taken. This must be my excuse
for sending to you the crude poem ["Love and Death"]
in wh[ich] you may perchance detect some echo, faint & feeble,
of your Calamus. As I have put pen to paper I cannot
refrain from saying that since the time when I first took up
Leaves of Grass in a friend's rooms at Trinity College Cambridge
six years ago till now, your poems have been my constant
companions. I have read them in Italy by the shores of the
Mediterranean, under pine trees or caverns washed by the sea
and in Switzerland among the alpine pastures and beside
the glaciers. At home I have found in them pure air and health
the free breath of the world when often cramped by
illness and the cares of life. What one man can do by
communicating to those he loves the treasure he has found, I have
done among my friends.
I say this in order that I may, as simply as may be, tell
you how much I owe to you. He who makes the words of a man his
spiritual food for years is greatly that man's debtor.
* * *
7 February 1872
Dear Mr Whitman
Your letter found me today. This is my permanent address
[i.e. Clifton Hill House]. I live here in a large old house which
belonged to my father a house on a hill among trees
looking down upon Bristol with its docks & churches a
picturesque labyrinth of masts and spires and houseroofs.
Your letter gave me the keenest pleasure I have felt for a
long time. I had not exactly expected to hear from you. Yet I
felt that if you liked my poem you would write. So I was
beginning to dread that I had struck some quite wrong chord
that perhaps I had seemed to you to have arrogantly
confounded your own fine thought & pure feeling with the baser
metal of my own nature. What you say has reassured me and has
solaced me nearly as much as if I had seen the face and touched
the hand of you my Master!
For many years I have been attempting to express in verse
some of the forms of what in a note to Democratic Vistas (as also
in a blade of Calamus) you call "adhesiveness". I have
traced passionate friendship through Greece, Rome, the medieval
& the modern world, & I have now a large body of poems written
but not published. In these I trust the spirit of the Past is
faithfully set forth as far as my abilities allow.
It was while engaged upon this work (years ago now) that I
first read Leaves of Grass. The man who spoke to me from that
Book impressed me in every way most profoundly and unalterably;
but especially did I then learn confidently to believe that the
Comradeship, which I conceived as on a par with the Sexual
feeling for depth & strength & purity & capability of all good,
was real not a delusion of distorted passions, a dream of
the Past, a scholar's fancy but a strong & vital bond of
man to man.
Yet even then how hard I found it brought up in
English feudalism, educated at an aristocratic public School
(Harrow) and an over refined University (Oxford) to winnow
from my own emotions and from my conception of the ideal friend,
all husks of affectations and aberrations and to be a simple
human being. You cannot tell quite how hard this was,
& how you helped me.
I have pored for continuous hours over the pages of Calamus
(as I used to pore over the pages of Plato), longing to hear you
speak, burning for a revelation of your more developed
meaning, panting to ask is this what you would indicate?
Are then the free men of your lands really so pure &
loving & noble & generous & sincere? Most of all did I desire to
hear from your own lips or from your pen some story
of athletic friendship from which to learn the truth. Yet I dared
not to address you or dreamed that the thoughts of a student
could abide the inevitable shafts of your searching intuition.
Shall I ever be permitted to question you & learn from you?
What the love of man for man has been in the Past I think
I know. What it is here now, I know also alas! What you
say it can & shall be I dimly discern in your Poems. But this
hardly satisfies me so desirous am I of learning what you
teach. Some day, perhaps in some form, I know not what,
but in your own chosen form you will tell me more about
the Love of Friends! Till then I wait. Meanwhile you have told
me more than anyone beside.
* * *
9 December 1889
Dear and honoured Friend and Master
I thank you from my heart for the gift of your great book
that beautiful complete book of your poems and your prose,
which I call "Whitman's Bible".
But my heart has not the power to make my brain and hands
tell you how much I thank you.
None of your eleves, your disciples, will be able to tell
the world what they have gained from you, what they owe to you,
what you are for them.
I cannot even attempt to tell yourself (upon this page of
paper with this pen in my hand), what it is that makes me ask you
now to bless me.
If my health, riven to the bottom like a tree in me, twelve
years ago, and the cares of a family, complicated with
this affair of health had not prevented, I should long ago
have come to see you in the flesh, to ask counsel of you, and to
assure you of my inviolable fidelity.
We are both growing old, and nearly half a hemisphere
divides us. Yet nothing can divide souls, or separate that which
is inseparable in the divine nature of the world.
Perhaps we shall yet meet: and then, beyond the death of
this life, I shall ask you about things which have perplexed me
here to which I think you alone could have given me an
acceptable answer. All such matters will probably sink into their
proper place in the infinite perspective; and when we meet, a
comrade's hand-touch and a kiss will satisfy me, and a look into
But, if we come to be judged, I shall go to the judgment-
seat and say: "Call out Walt Whitman. Let him pronounce upon
the doings of this man, this me; and let me be confronted with
him; before you judges pass your sentence".
I cannot find words better fitted to express the penetrative
force with which you have entered into me, my reliance on you,
and my hope that you will not disapprove of my conduct in the
As I cannot talk to you, I feel the need to say this;
because you have exercised a controlling influence over me for
half a century. It is not often, I take it, that one man can say
so much as I am saying to a man whom he has never seen. ...
When I read your bible, I miss and I have missed for
many years in new editions the poem which first thrilled
me like a trumpet-call to you. It was called: "Long I
thought that knowledge alone would suffice me". Why have you
so consistently omitted this in the canon of your works?
Upon me, your disciple, it made a decisive impact. "I
put down the book, filled with the bitterest envy". And I
rose up, to follow you. I miss the words now.
I am old now, and you are older in years, though
everlastingly young, in ways not given to all men to be so. So
perhaps I ought not ask why you omitted that poem from
"Calamus", and what you meant by it. It means for me
so infinitely much. I cannot say how much.
Well: the disciple weighs his Master's words, too
scrupulously and thinks perhaps too much of his omissions
or dark sayings. He must not ask for answers to his questions,
but express the total of the teaching in his works and ways.
That I shall do ever, so far as I am your man marked
with your seal and superscription; and what my addiction to you
will later bring forth, is a matter for the literary historians
of England to decide if only I have life and time for
More and more of you will be found in me, the longer I live
and the firmer I become in manhood.
* * *
3 August 1890
My dear Master
. . . I want next to ask you a question about a very
important portion of your teaching, which has puzzled a great
many of your disciples and admirers. To tell the truth, I have
always felt unable to deal, as I wish to do, comprehensively with
your philosophy of life, because I do not even yet understand the
whole drift of "Calamus". If you have read Mr Havelock
Ellis' "New Spirit", which contains a study of your
work in thought and speculation, you may have noticed on p: 108
that he expresses some perplexity about the doctrine of
"manly love", and again on p: 121 he uses this phrase
"the intimate and physical love of comrades and
This reference to Havelock Ellis helps me to explain what
it is I want to ask you. In your conception of Comradeship, do
you contemplate the possible intrusion of those semi-sexual
emotions and actions which no doubt do occur between men? I do
not ask, whether you approve of them, or regard them as a
necessary part of the relation? But I should much like to know
whether you are prepared to leave them to the inclinations
and the conscience of the individuals concerned?
For my own part, after mature deliberation, I hold that the
present laws of France and Italy are right upon this topic of
morality. They place the personal relations of adults of both
sexes upon the same foundation: that is to say, they protect
minors, punish violence, and guard against outrages of public
decency. Within these limitations, they leave individuals to do
what they think fit. But, as you know, these principles are in
open contradiction with the principles of English (and I believe
It has not infrequently occurred to me among my English
friends to hear your "Calamus" objected to, as praising
and propagating a passionate affection between men, which (in the
language of the objectors) has "a very dangerous side",
and might "bring people into criminality".
Now: it is of the utmost importance to me as your disciple,
and as one who wants sooner or later to diffuse a further
knowledge of your life-philosophy by criticism; it is most
important to me to know what you really think about all this.
I agree with the objectors I have mentioned that, human
nature being what it is, and some men having a strong natural
bias toward persons of their own sex, the enthusiasm of
"Calamus" is calculated to encourage ardent and
But I do not agree with them in thinking that such a result
would be absolutely prejudicial to Social interests, while I am
certain that you are right in expecting a new Chivalry (if I may
so speak) from one of the main and hitherto imperfectly developed
factors of the human emotional nature. This, I take it, is the
spiritual outcome of your doctrine in Calamus.
And, as I have said, I prefer the line adopted by French and
Italian legislature[s] to that of the English penal code.
Finally, what I earnestly desire to know is whether you are
content to leave the ethical problems regarding the private
behaviour of comrades toward each other, to the persons' own
sense of what is right and fit or whether, on the other
hand, you have never contemplated while uttering the Gospel of
Comradeship, the possibility of any such delicate difficulties
Will you enlighten me on this? If I am not allowed to hear
from yourself or from some one who will communicate your views,
I fear I shall never be able to utter what I want to tell the
world about your teaching, with the confidence and the thorough
sense of not misinterpreting you in one way or the other which
are inseparable from truly sympathetic and powerful exposition.
The precise drift of "Whoever you are" what
the one indispensable thing is I cannot get at; and I am
not sure what the drift of "Earth my likeness" is.
Ah, if I could only once have spoken to you, you would
certainly have let me know Lieber Mann, geehrter Meister,
das fehlt mir doch!
It is perhaps strange that a man within 2 months of
completing his 50th year should care at all about this ethical
bearing of Calamus. Of course I do not care much about it, except
that ignorance on the subject prevents me from forming a complete
view of your life-philosophy.
* * *
5 September 1890
My dear Master
I am sincerely obliged to you for your letter of August 19.
It is a great relief to me to know so clearly and precisely what
you feel about the question I raised. Your phrases
"gratuitous and quite at the time undreamed and unrecked
possibility of morbid inferences which are disavowed by
me and seem damnable", set the matter as straight as can be,
base the doctrine of calamus upon a foundation of granite.
I am not surprised; for this indeed is what I understood to
be your meaning, since I have studied Leaves of Grass in the
right way interpreting each part by reference to the whole
and in the spirit of the whole. The result of this study was that
the "adhesiveness" of comradeship had no interblending
with the "amativeness" of sexual love.
Yet you must not think that the "morbid
inferences", which to you "seem damnable", are
quite "gratuitous" or outside the range of possibility.
Frankly speaking, the emotional language of Calamus is such as
hitherto has not been used in the modern world about the relation
between friends. For a student of ancient literature it presents
a singular analogue to the early Greek enthusiasm of comradeship
in arms as that appeared among the Dorian tribes, and made
a chivalry for prehistoric Hellas. And you know what singular
anomalies were connected with this lofty sentiment in the
historic period of Greek development.
Again, you cannot be ignorant that a certain percentage
(small but appreciable) of male beings are always born into the
world, whose sexual instincts are what the Germans call
"inverted". During the last 25 years much attention,
in France, Germany, Austria and Italy, has been directed to the
psychology and pathology of these abnormal persons. In 1889 the
Penal Code of Italy was altered by the erasion of their
eccentricities from the list of crimes.
Looking then to the lessons of the past in ancient Greece,
where a heroic chivalry of comradeship grew intertwined with
moral abominations (I speak as a modern man), and also to the
Contemporary problem offered by the class of persons I have
mentioned who will certainly have somehow to be dealt with
in the light of science, since the eyes of science have been
drawn towards them: looking, I say, to both these things, it
became of the utmost importance to know for certain what you
thought about those "morbid inferences". For you have
announced clearly that a great spiritual factor lies latent in
Comradeship, ready to leap forth and to take a prominent part in
the energy of the human race. It is, I repeat, essential that the
interpreters of your prophecy should be able to speak
authoritatively and decisively about their Master's
Stimmung, his radical instinct with regard to the
emotional and moral quality of the comradeship he announces.
I am sorry to have annoyed you with this discussion. But you
will see, I hope now, that it was not wholly unnecessary or
With the explanation you have placed in my hands, and which
you give me liberty to use, I can speak with no uncertain voice,
and with no dread lest the enemy should blaspheme.
The conclusion reached is, to my mind, in every way
satisfactory. I am so profoundly convinced that you are right in
all you say about the great good which is to be expected from
Comradeship as you conceive it, and as alone it can be a salutary
human bond, that the power of repudiating those "morbid
inferences" authoritatively should they ever be made
seriously or uttered openly, either by your detractors or by the
partizans of some vicious crankiness sets me quite at ease
as to my own course.
I will tell my bookseller in London to send you a copy of
the "Contemporary" in which there is an essay by me on
the "Dantesque and Platonic Ideals of Love". You will
see something there about the Dorian Chivalry of Comradeship to
wh[ich] I have alluded in this letter. It seems to me, I confess,
still doubtful whether (human nature being what it is) we can
expect wholly to eliminate some sensual alloy from any emotions
which are raised to a very high pitch of passionate intensity.
But the moralizing of the emotions must be left to social feeling
and opinion in general, and ultimately to the individual
I am greatly interested in your "Rejoinder"
(wh[ich] by the way has been reprinted in the PMG
[Pall Mall Gazette]). Anything you say
about the inception and performance of your great life-work has
value. I have been ill; six days in bed with high fever,
a lung-inflammation serious to me; only just up again for a few
hours. Ever yours with deep gratitude and true affection.
John Addington Symonds
To Edward Carpenter
20 March 1892
My dear Carpenter
I duly received the gift of your book "Towards
Democracy" in its third edition, & have been reading it with
sustained interest ever since it came into my hands. It is
certainly the most important contribution which has as yet been
made to the diffusion of Whitman's philosophy of life, & what I
think we may now call the new religion.
You must not mind my saying that I somewhat regret the
doubtless inevitable circumstance of the form of your work
suggesting an echo or imitation of Whitman. It has so much that
is original, individual to yourself in it, that this seems to me
a pity and as likely to make careless or hostile readers lay it
aside as a mere sub-species of "Leaves of Grass".
And yet I do not know in what better way an extended
commentary or exposition of the principles involved in the
"incommensurable" production could have been given to
the English public. Mere criticism I feel to be helpless face to
face with Whitman. As I have said in print, I feel that talking
about him is much the same as talking about the Universe.
What you have done has been to give a thoroughly personal,
a specifically English, & if I may so put it, a feminine (as
implying other strains of sensitiveness, humours, ways of
regarding particular modes of social life), interpretation upon
the leading ideas.
Insofar, then, as "Towards Democracy" is read &
appreciated, it will do more than any amount of analysis or
criticism to diffuse the teaching wh[ich] inspires you.
You know how deeply I sympathize with all that is involved
in the new religion. The circumstances of my own existence &
having been early married, & then reduced to a state of
comparative physical inefficiency, has rendered it not only a
necessity, but a duty also, & what is more, the best practical
form left forme of service to carry on my own work as a
scholar, a writer, a student of history, an analyst. I have been
unable to do what I should have preferred, had I been vigorous
& unentangled, namely to join the people in their lives. Still
I have endeavoured more & more to approach them, & have learned
more & more from them. A large portion of my happiness in later
years has come to me from frank companionship, wholesome
comradeship, & mutual fellow-service with these Swiss
mountaineers among whom my lot has been cast.
* * *
21 January 1893
My dear Carpenter
. . . I will copy out for you Whitman's very singular letter
to me about Calamus, when I have time. I feel sure he would not
have written it, when he first published Calamus. I think he was
afraid of being used to lend his influence to"Sods".
Did not quite trust me perhaps. In his Symposium Speeches, he
called me "terribly suspicious", you may remember.
. . . The blending of Social Strata in masculine love seems
to me one of its most pronounced, & socially hopeful, features.
Where it appears, it abolishes class distinctions, & opens by a
single operation the cataract-blinded eye to their futilities.
In removing the film of prejudice & education, it acts like the
oculist & knife. If it could be acknowledged & extended, it would
do very much to further the advent of the right sort of
I find a great deal of the emotion, in a wholly manly &
admirable form, abroad among the people here [i.e. Davos Platz].
It does not interfere with marriage, when that is sought as a
domestic institution, as it always is among men who want children
for helpers in their work & women to keep their households.
* * *
7 February 1893
My dear Carpenter
I am sending off my "Problem of Modern Ethics"
registered. It does not represent my views completely, since I
have read & thought a great deal during the last two years. And
on the Continent the subject has rapidly been gaining in
Did you ever come across any of Ulrich's works? They are
very curious. He must be regarded as the real originator of a
scientific handling of the phenomenon. I went to visit him in
Nov: 1891. He lives exiled & in great poverty at Aquila in the
Abruzzi, under the snowy crests of "Il gran passo
d'Italia". There is a singular charm about the old man,
great sweetness, the remains of refined beauty. His squalor was
appalling. I drove to his house in a carriage, & then persuaded
him to take a drive with me, which he did. He had no shirt & no
stockings on. My magnificent Venetian gondolier & manservant was
appalled at the sight of this poor beggar sitting next his
padrone. However, I told Angelo that the old man was one of the
men I prized & respected most in Europe. And Angelo got to like
him in spite of his rage. (You saw Angelo on the top of the
I do so much wish that we could meet & exchange thoughts in
quiet somewhere, before this book on Sexual Inversion is begun.
Could you not come out & stay with me in May? I have a little
house at Venice, wh[ich] is delightful for 2 people. If my wife
& a daughter are in it, I would take apartments for us near. But
as yet I know not what the family will do. In April I want to be
J. A. S.
[PS] Do you know Plüschow's photographic studies from
the nude in open air?
To Benjamin Jowett
1 February 1889
My dear Master,
I am glad to hear from the last letter you wrote me that you
have abandoned the idea of an essay on Greek love. Little good
could come of such a treatise in your book.
It surprises me to find you, with your knowledge of Greek
history, speaking of this in Plato as "mainly a figure of
speech". It surprises me as much as I seem to
surprise you when I repeat that the study of Plato is injurious
to a certain number of predisposed young men.
Many forms of passion between males are matters of fact in
English schools, colleges, cities, rural districts. Such passion
is innate in some persons no less than the ordinary sexual
appetite is innate in the majority. With the nobler of such
predetermined temperaments the passion seeks a spiritual or ideal
transfiguration. When, therefore, individuals of the indicated
species come into contact with the reveries of Plato, (clothed
in graceful diction, immersed in the peculiar emotion, presented
with considerable dramatic force, gilt with a mystical
philosophy, throbbing with the realism of actual Greek life), the
effect upon them has the force of a revelation. They discover
that what they had been blindly groping after was once an
admitted possibility not in a mean hole or corner
but that the race whose literature forms the basis of their
higher culture, lived in that way, aspired in that way. For such
students of Plato there is no question of "figures of
speech", but of concrete facts, facts in the social
experience of Athens, from which men derived courage, drew
intellectual illumination, took their first step in the path
which led to great achievements and the arduous pursuit of truth.
Greek history confirms, by a multitude of legends and of
actual episodes, what Plato puts forth as a splendid vision, and
subordinates to the higher philosophic life.
It is futile by any evasion of the central difficulty, by
any dexterity in the use of words, to escape from the stubborn
fact that natures so exceptionally predisposed find in Plato the
encouragement of their furtively cherished dreams. The Lysis, the
Charmides, the Phaedrus, the Symposium how many varied and
unimaginative pictures these dialogues contain of what is only
a sweet poison to such minds!
Meanwhile the temptations of the actual world surround them:
friends of like temper, boys who respond to kindness, reckless
creatures abroad upon the common ways of life. Eros Pandemos is
everywhere. Plato lends the light, the gleam, that never was on
sea or shore.
Thus Plato delays the damnation of these souls by ensnaring
the noblest part of them their intellectual imagination.
And strong as custom may be, strong as piety, strong as the sense
of duty, these restraints have always been found frail against
the impulse of powerful inborn natural passion and the
allurements of inspired art.
The contest of the Soul is terrible, and victory, if gained,
is only won at the cost of a struggle which thwarts and
We do not know how many English youths have been injured in
this way. More, I firmly believe, than is suspected. Educators,
when they diagnose the disease, denounce it. That is easy enough,
because low and social taste are with them, and because the
person incriminated feels too terribly the weight of law and
custom. He has nothing to urge in self-defence except his
inborn instinct, and the fact that those very men who condemn
him, have placed the most electrical literature of the world in
his hands, pregnant with the stuff than damns him. Convention
rules us so strangely that the educators do all this only because
it always has been done in a blind dull confidence
fancying that the lads in question are as impervious as they
themselves are to the magnetism of the books they bid them study
Put yourself in the place of someone to whom the aspect of
Greek life which you ignore is personally and intensely
interesting, who reads his Plato as you would wish him to read
his Bible i.e. with a vivid conviction that what he reads
is the life-record of a masterful creative man determining
race, and the monument of a world-important epoch.
Can you pretend that a sympathetically constituted nature
of the sort in question will desire nothing from the panegyric
of paederastic love in the Phaedrus, from the personal grace of
Charmides, from the mingled realism and rapture of the Symposium?
What you call a figure of speech, is heaven in hell to him
maddening, because it is stimulating to the imagination; wholly
out of accord with the world he has to live in; too deeply in
accord with his own impossible desires.
Greek love was for Plato no "figure of speech",
but a present poignant reality. Greek love is for modern students
of Plato no "figure of speech" and no anachronism, but
a present poignant reality. The facts of Greek history and the
facts of contemporary life demonstrate these propositions only
I will not trouble you again upon this topic. I could not,
however, allow the following passage in your letter
"I do not understand how, what is in the main a figure of
speech should have so great power over them" to go
unnoticed without throwing what light I can upon what you do not
I feel strongly on the subject, and where there is strong
feeling, there is usually the risk of over-statement. But I hope
I have not spoken rudely. It is indeed impossible to exaggerate
the anomaly of making Plato a text-book for students, and a
household-book for readers, in a nation which repudiates Greek
love, while the baser forms of Greek love have grown to serious
proportions in the seminaries of youth and in great centres of
social life belonging to that nation.
Ever most sincerely yours
J. A. Symonds
To Edmund Gosse
23 February 1891
My dear Gosse
. . . As you observe, the great thing, with regard to
"The Problem", is to reach the opinion of sensible
people who have no sympathy with the peculiar bias. I have sent
the essay to two such men: T. S. Perry of Boston, quite one of
the most learned & clearest-headed men in the USA; & to my old
friend John Beddoe, MD FRS, eminent as an ethnologist. Both reply
emphatically that they agree with my conclusions & suggestions
on the legal point, but that they do not think it possible for
the vulgar to accept them. I had an interesting conversation with
Lord Hannen, a discussion on the subject in Venice last May. He
also agreed with me in the main, & told me some very remarkable
things about the way in which a judge evades the law, while
charging Grand Juries. I talked the other night here about it
with a young German nobleman of the highest rank & very large
estates, who most decidedly took the same view, & communicated
curious facts about the manners of the peasants on his property.
Henry Sidgwick again, in his own cautious hedging way, after
reading my essay, told me he thought that I had removed all the
utilitarian objections to an erasure of those statutes from our
Code. One of the P & O officers at Venice, during a state dinner
to which I was invited, began upon the subject of Cleveland
Street, & volunteered the opinion that it was absurd to
disqualify by law passions which seemed so harmless & so
instinctive, although he added that his own (I suspect very free)
self-indulgences were in the opposite direction. The way of
thinking among the proletariate, honest citizens, peasants, etc,
in Italy & Switzerland where alone I have fraternized with
the people is all in favour of free trade.
Gradually, then, I collect from various sources the
impression that if our penal code could be freed from those laws
without discussion, the majority of unprejudiced people
would accept the change with perfect equanimity. It is also
curious how much the persons I have interrogated knew about it,
& how much they accept it as a fact of human nature. What
everybody dreads is a public raking up of the question; & as the
vast numerical majority has no personal interest in it, things
remain as they are. Hannen said he should like the English laws
altered, but added "there is no one who cares to take the
I am very ill, & have lost my power of living like an
invalid. The constant effort of a life-time to control my health
& create the best conditions for repelling disease, has worn my
faculties of endurance out. So I do things now, which are not
prudent. I drove yesterday to a village two hours away from here
[i.e. Davos Platz], attended a peasant theatre, (wh[ich] was
tremendous fun), dined with three topers & good companions,
Swiss, & drove home at midnight in an open sledge under the most
glorious moon & icy wind from the glaciers. This is not a cure
for bronchitis. And again today, I started with my girls & our
toboggans, & ran a course of four miles, crashing at lightning
speed over the snow & ice. We did the journey in about 11
minutes, & I came in breathless, dead-beat, almost fainting. Then
home in the railway with open windows & a mad crew of young men
& maidens excited by this thrilling exercise.
To Horatio Forbes Brown
2 July 1891
There are some things in your last letter (June 30) which
make me want to respond at once; and I hope this will follow you
to England, and that you will think over a friend's word there.
It is about the relation of passion to intellectual energy. You
know how little I seek after fame, and how little I value the
fame of famous men. You also know how much I value self-
effectuation: how I deeply feel it to be the duty of a man to
make the best of himself, to use his talents, to make his very
defects serve as talents, and to be something for God's sake who
made him. In other words, to play his own note in the universal
symphony. We have not to ask whether other people will be
affected by our written views of this or that. Though, for my
part, I find now, with every day I live, that my written views
have had a wide and penetrating influence where often least
expected. That is no affair of mine, any more than of a sunflower
to be yellow, or a butterfly to flutter. The point for us is to
bring all parts of ourselves into vital correlation, so that we
shall think nothing, write nothing, love nothing, but in relation
to the central personality the bringing of which into
prominence is what is our destiny and duty in this short life.
And my conclusion is that, in this one life, given to him on
earth, it is the man's duty, as recompense to God who placed him
here, or Nature, Mother of us all and the man's highest
pleasure, as a potent individuality to bring all factors
of his being into correspondence for the presentation of himself
in something. Whether the world regards that final self-
presentation of the man or not, seems to me just no matter. As
Jenny Lind once said to me, "I sing to God", so, I say,
let us sing to God. and for this end let us not allow ourselves
to be submerged in passion, or our love to lapse in grubbery; but
let us be human beings, horribly imperfect certainly, living for
the best effectuation of themselves which they find possible. If
all men and women lived like this, the symphony of humanity would
be a splendid thing to listen to.
Return to Symonds Table of Contents