John Townsend Trowbridge, “Recollections of Emerson and Alcott”


‘Recollections of Emeerson and Alcott’


Posted here (PDF above) is Chapter XI (“Recollections of Emerson and Alcott’) from

John Townsend Trowbridge, My Own Story: Recollections of Noted Persons (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1903)

John Townsend Trowbridge (1827-1916) was an American author and novelist. He lived for most of his adult life in Arlington, Massachusetts. Trowbridge was a friend of Mark Twain and Walt Whitman.

Also posted here:


John T. Trowbridge obituary, Boston Globe, February 13, 1916

Boston Globe 2-13-1916


j. T. Trowbridge obituary, Chicago Tribune, February 13, 1916

Chicago Tribune 2-13-1916


“Trowbridge and Whitman,” Boston Globe, February 20, 1916

‘Trowbridge and Whitman’ – Boston Globe 2-20-1916


— posted by Roger W. Smith

  May 2023

my new sites


I have two new sites that have not gotten much traffic yet.

Roger Smith’s New York


Roger W. Smith’s Walt Whitman site


These sites may be of interest to the general reader.

There is much already posted or under development on my Whitman site that draws upon Whitman scholarship and biographical materials, often rare. Therefore, the site will be of value to scholars. There is also much that will provide enjoyable reading for the non-scholar who either knows Whitman already or would enjoy getting to know his works better. The foregoing comment applies in general to my sites. I try to be readable and interesting and also, where appropriate, to draw upon my extensive reading and research.



I also have a site devoted to Theodore Dreiser:

Roger W. Smith’s Theodore Dreiser site

This site draws upon my extensive knowledge of Dreiser.

And a site devoted to the Russian-American sociologist and social philosopher Pitirim A. Sorokin, in whom I have had a lifelong interest.

Pitirim Alexandrovich Sorokin

The Dreiser site is both scholarly and aimed at the general reader. The Sorokin site may appeal mostly to scholars and students of issues and history connected with Sorokin’s life and works.



My site

Roger’s rhetoric

contains observations about the craft of writing and principles of rhetoric, derived from my professional experience and study, reading, and training. It is potentially of value and interest to anyone who appreciates good writing.

Of interest may be the way in which I draw upon my extensive reading to illuminate my observations. For example, current journalism (I read three or four newspapers daily) and American and world literature. Current issues related to language and usage in a political contest are of particular interest to me.


— Roger W. Smith

   May 2023



I thought of something to add which may sound boastful. I have made good use of my study of languages – namely, French, Spanish, Latin, and Russian; and some German — instruction in which in high school and various universities I am very grateful for. This has informed my knowledge of literature and made possible much scholarship; and one will find in a few of my posts my own translations and readings and sources in other languages. For example, there are posts drawing upon works in other languages, and posts in which I refer to passages from literature both in the original and English translation. I think this adds to the potential interest as well as the value of my work to a broad audience of readers.

the sardonic extended metaphor


As seen in Herman Melville.



A day or two after our arrival in Rio, a rather amusing incident occurred to a particular acquaintance of mine, young Lemsford, the gun-deck bard.

The great guns of an armed ship have blocks of wood, called tompions, painted black, inserted in their muzzles, to keep out the spray of the sea. These tompions slip in and out very handily, like covers to butter firkins.

By advice of a friend, Lemsford, alarmed for the fate of his box of poetry, had latterly made use of a particular gun on the main-deck, in the tube of which he thrust his manuscripts, by simply crawling partly out of the porthole, removing the tompion, inserting his papers, tightly rolled, and making all snug again.

Breakfast over, he and I were reclining in the main-top—where, by permission of my noble master, Jack Chase, I had invited him—when, of a sudden, we heard a cannonading. It was our own ship.

“Ah!” said a top-man, “returning the shore salute they gave us yesterday.”

“O Lord!” cried Lemsford, “my Songs of the Sirens!” and he ran down the rigging to the batteries; but just as he touched the gun-deck, gun No. 20—his literary strong-box—went off with a terrific report.

“Well, my after-guard Virgil,” said Jack Chase to him, as he slowly returned up the rigging, “did you get it? You need not answer; I see you were too late. But never mind, my boy: no printer could do the business for you better. That’s the way to publish, White-Jacket,” turning to me. …

— Herman Melville, White-Jacket, or The World in a Man-of-War


The relics of hermitages and stone basins are not the only signs of vanishing humanity to be found upon the isles. And, curious to say, that spot which of all others in settled communities is most animated, at the Enchanted Isles presents the most dreary of aspects. And though it may seem very strange to talk of post offices in this barren region, yet post offices are occasionally to be found there. They consist of a stake and a bottle. The letters being not only sealed, but corked. They are generally deposited by captains of Nantucketers for the benefit of passing fishermen, and contain statements as to what luck they had in whaling or tortoise hunting. Frequently, however, long months and months, whole years, glide by and no applicant appears. The stake rots and falls, presenting no very exhilarating object.

— Herman Melville, The Encantadas, or Enchanted Isles


— posted by Roger W. Smith  (with a bow to Henry T. Handy, my Cape Cod whaling ancestor)

   April 2023



Julien Dupré. “Haying Time”

And unperceived unfolds the spreading day,
Before the ripened field the reapers stand
In fair array, each by the lass he loves,
To bear the rougher part and mitigate
By nameless gentle offices her toil.
At once they stoop, and swell the lusty sheaves;

— James Thomson, The Seasons, “Autumn”


These lines brought something to mind.

This is what poetry can do.



It was the fall of 1968. I had a job as an assistant gardener on a 37-acre estate in the town of Brookline, Massachusetts, which is right outside of Boston.

There were three of us assistants – me, Jack, and Jim; plus Peter, the head gardener, who was Dutch. Jack was my age. Jim was an elderly Irish guy still employed. On warm days he wore a floppy straw hat.

The fall was splendid, as only New England falls can be.

To my surprise, one morning we were told we would spend the day haying.

You have big wooden hay rakes. The sun has dried the tall blades of grass. You rake and the dried shoots (the hay) stick in clumps to the rake.

One of us workers was driving a flatbed truck. You throw the hay over the side onto the back of the truck. You have to shake some of it off and keep shaking until the hay is all dislodged.

The truck drove to a shed, backed up, and the hay was dumped into a hayloft by raising the back of the truck.

It was pleasurable work in the warm sun. And now I knew what haying entailed.

Golden memories. The poem brought them to mind today.

(Well, maybe haying and reaping aren’t quite the same thing, but they’re close enough.)


— posted by Roger W. Smith

  April 2023

excerpts from James Thomson’s “Spring”


“Spring” by William Kent; engraved by Nicolas Henri Tardieu for the quarto editiin of James Thomson’s “The Seasons” (1730)


Samuel Johnson, ‘Thomson’ Thomson, ‘Spring’ (excerpts)

See Word document above.


As a writer, he is entitled to one praise of the highest kind: his mode of thinking and of expressing his thoughts is original. … His numbers, his pauses, his diction, are of his own growth, without transcription, without imitation. He thinks in a peculiar train, and he thinks always as a man of genius; he looks round on Nature and on Life with the eye which Nature bestows only on a poet; the eye that distinguishes in everything presented to its view whatever there is on which imagination can delight to be detained, and with a mind that at once comprehends the vast and attends to the minute. The reader of the “Seasons” wonders that he never saw before what Thomson shows him, and that he never yet has felt what Thomson impresses., … . His descriptions of extended scenes and general effects bring before us the whole magnificence of Nature, whether pleasing or dreadful. The gaiety of Spring, the splendour of Summer, the tranquillity of Autumn, and the horror of Winter, take in their turns possession of the mind. The poet leads us through the appearances of things as they are successively varied by the vicissitudes of the year, and imparts to us so much of his own enthusiasm that our thoughts expand with his imagery and kindle with his sentiments. … His diction is in the highest degree florid and luxuriant, such as may be said to be to his images and thoughts “both their lustre and their shade;” such as invests them with splendour. …

— Samuel Johnson, “Thomson,” The Lives of the Poets



I wrote the following note (scribbled hastily in a pub in Manhattan where I was reading Thomson’s The Seasons) to myself last week while immersed in Thomson’s “Spring”:

One might be inclined to say

when it comes to nature

the seasons

it’s  all platitudes

Thomson shows this is not the case

His inspiring paean to spring and the seasons

is based upon minute observation and acutely felt experience

I myself have never forgotten the splendid fall in Massachusetts when I was fourteen years old, The warm sun, the crisp air, the colors, the foliage. It was nature at its most glorious. In a particular time and place.

Thomson’s poem (which provided the basis for the libretto of Haydn’s The Seasons) was based on minute, loving observation – rendered in beautiful verse.

I have italicized some of my favorite passages.


— posted by Roger W. Smith

   April 2023

Virgil Thomson, “The Plow That Broke the Plains”



“The Plow That Broke the Plains” was composed by Thomson in 1936 for a documentary film of the same name.


— posted by Roger W. Smith

   April 2023

Virgil Thomson, “The River”



The orchestral suite “The River” was composed by Thomson in 1938 for a documentary file of the same name.


— posted by Roger W. Smith

  April 2023




Virgil Thomson, “Five Songs from William Blake”



Blake poems – Virgil Thomson


Besides Thomson’s musical setting of the poems — posted here — I have posted (Word document above) the text of the poems.

— Roger W. Smith

   April 2023

James Sambrook, Introduction to Thomson’s “The Seasons”


Introduction to Thomson, ‘The Seasons’


Posted here (PDF above):

Introduction to James Thomson, The Seasons

by James Sambrook

Oxford University Press, 1972

I became acquainted with The Seasons because it was used as the libretto for Haydn’s oratorio The Seasons. James Sambrook’s introduction is concise, lucid, and well worth reading.


— posted by Roger W. Smith

April 2023