Author Archives: Roger W. Smith

About Roger W. Smith

Roger W. Smith is a writer and independent scholar based in New York City. His experience includes freelance writing and editing, business writing, book reviewing, and the teaching of writing and literature as an adjunct professor at St. John’s University. Mr. Smith's interests include personal essays and opinion pieces; American and world literature; culture, especially books and reading; classical music; current issues that involve social, moral, and philosophical views; and experiences of daily living from a ground level perspective. Sites on WordPress hosted by Mr. Smith include: (1) rogersgleanings.com (a personal site comprised of essays on a wide range of topics) ; (2) rogers-rhetoric.com (covering principles and practices of writing); (3) roger-w-smiths-dreiser.site (devoted to the author Theodore Dreiser); and (4) pitirimsorokin.com (devoted to sociologist and social philosopher Pitirim A. Sorokin).

what sort of man was Dr. Colp?

 

I shared this whole letter from my mother to my father — a very long and loving letter, written when my parents were in middle age, seven years before my mother’s untimely death — with my therapist, Dr. Ralph Colp Jr.

The salutation is so tender and touching, I said to him.

It brings tears to my eyes, he replied.

 

my parents, 1944

— posted in loving memory by Roger W. Smith

   December 2022

Family Separation, Final Report

 

family separation – COMPLETE REPORT

 

a slave auction

A woman, identified only as Maria, is reunited with her son Franco, 4, at the El Paso International Airport after being separated for one month when they crossed into the United States. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Roger W. Smith. “Family Separation, a Trump Administration Policy: Its Implementation, Development, and Aftermath, 2017-2022”

The complete reported in posted here, above, as a Word document. Its main sections are as follows:

Family Separation Under the Trump Administration: A Timeline

Family Separation: A Daily Diary

Anecdotal: Individual Accounts of Migrant Children and Parents Separated by the Trump Administration Since November 2017

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   November 2022

my mental influences

 

I got a great education, almost entirely for free. Realizing this now, I consider myself very fortunate.

But I want to talk mostly about my parents — Alan W. and Elinor Handy Smith (how I miss them!) — and their influence on me. Again, I was very fortunate. How much so I have grown to appreciate over the years. Posthumously, as it were.

Intuition and critical thinking skills. The ability to do mental work requiring great effort. To pursue an area of study: languages or mathematics, for instance; the principles and rules of composition and rhetoric.

To persist in research. The laborious undertaking (only a practitioner can appreciate this) of translation.

Sculpting a piece of writing. Perfecting it and trying to ensure comprehensiveness and accuracy.

Intellectual colloquy. Listening ability. The ability to assimilate and weigh contrary opinions. (How much I have enjoyed this with cherished friends. Incalculable.)

So called emotional intelligence. And what my former therapist, Dr. Colp, called “rapid insight.” He complimented me, saying I had it.

These are gifts which I was bequeathed. This being the case, I made the best of them. I am proud of this and, like Walt Whitman, feel entitled to be “no more modest than immodest.”

My mother. She had a “preternatural” intuitive faculty. Great insight. Emotional sensitivity like that of Dr. Colp, the practitioner of medicine and man of science who was a deep thinker (and a writer as well as physician) with keen analytical abilities; and, at the same time, like my parents, the opposite of emotionally clueless. He never lost or left at the door his humanity.

I must have gotten my memory from my mother. She recalled emotionally significant situations, people, incidents in novelistic detail–minute detail. Something amusing or significant from her youth or young adulthood. Elementary school teachers. Relatives (aunts). Funny things they said or did. Wisdom from her father. Books she read and loved (from both childhood and later, e.g., Little Women, All the King’s Men), words and incidents. She would quote lines and passages from memory, as can I.

Humorous things she remembered and recounted. The oddities and peculiarities of a person. Related as might a Melville with his Bildad and Peleg and Peter Coffin of the Spouter-Inn.

My father. Blessed with native intelligence. A lover of learning, meaning, as was the case with me, intellectual immersion and challenge. For its own sake. (He would recount the sheer pleasure he took in certain school subjects and areas of study.) He was the first in his nuclear family to attend a four year college. Like me, valuing it mostly for intellectual enrichment, rather than regarding a degree as a steppingstone. (The same very true of my mother.)

Insight combined with intellect (rationality). (Thinking mostly of my father.)

My parents’ keen aesthetic sense. They both had it and transmitted this to me and my siblings, who all have it, in spades. This was perhaps the most important thing of all. My mother majored in Fine Arts in college, my father in Music.

Like Dr. Colp, who had every right to be presumptuous, my parents did not seem to care that much about degrees or credentials. Other than being proud, implicitly, of having graduated from prestigious schools. It was the same with me (insofar as regards how I valued having a degree).

The following is a final point or points which I believe are critical.

The abilities I acquired should not be taken for granted. As I have said, they were inherited. But they had to be developed.

Most people, I would guess, think college is everything. The school one attends, what one majors in. This is not quite true. For me, at least. I think also for my Dad (a Harvard graduate). It was quite interesting to see his high school transcript and to find about the languages he studied and how he excelled in math (as did I). He studied Latin and French! (And German in college.) I never knew it.

College (for me) was greatly enriching and intellectually broadening and stimulating, an intellectual finishing school. But high school–early adolescence– in contrast, was foundational, critical. Made all the difference. (A nod to Robert Frost.)

French. Latin. Le subjonctif. Declensions and conjugations.

Magna cum celeritate. Castra ponere. Caesar’s Gallic Wars. Corneille and Racine.

Algebra I and II. Theorems and proofs. Quadratic and simultaneous equations. Cartesian coordinates. Logarithms.

English class. Writing essays in first period. Like pulling teeth, as they say. Coming up with something to say. Trying not to make a fool of oneself.

Lucubration. Intellectual effort.

Workshops and discussion groups in my church youth group.

I have often thought of Samuel Johnson in this regard. Like me, he got an excellent primary school education. But you know what the most important period was? His adolescence. Not his year at Oxford. The influence of his cousin Cornelius Ford, whom he boarded with for a year or two beginning at age sixteen. See W. Jackson Bate’s magnificent biography of Johnson. With Ford’s example and from conversation with him came the brilliant Johnson– scholar, writer. and conversationalist — whom we meet in Boswell’s Life.

 

– posted by Roger W. Smith

  November 2022

“He would do good to another”

 

To Generalize is to be an Idiot. To Particularize is the Alone Distinction of Merit — General Knowledges are those Knowledges that Idiots possess.

— William Blake, Annotations to Sir Joshua Reynolds’s Discourses

 

AND many conversèd on these things as they labour’d at the furrow, Saying: ‘It is better to prevent misery than to release from misery; It is better to prevent error than to forgive the criminal. Labour well the Minute Particulars: attend to the Little Ones; And those who are in misery cannot remain so long, If we do but our duty: labour well the teeming Earth.… He who would do good to another must do it in Minute Particulars. General Good is the plea of the scoundrel, hypocrite, and flatterer; For Art and Science cannot exist but in minutely organized Particulars, And not in generalizing Demonstrations of the Rational Power: The Infinite alone resides in Definite and Determinate Identity. Establishment of Truth depends on destruction of Falsehood continually, On Circumcision, not on Virginity, O Reasoners of Albion!

— William Blake, “Jerusalem”

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   November 2022

A. Robert Lee, Preface to Moby-Dick

 

A. Robert Lee, Preface to Moby-Dick

 

Posted here:

A. Robert Lee

Preface to Herman Melville, Moby- Dick

Everyman’s Library edition

London: J. M. Dent & Sons, 1975

Lee has great insight into what makes Moby-Dick unique and great.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   October 2022

Melville’s thoughts (mine)

 

To have known him, to have loved him
after loneness long;
And then to be estranged in life,
And neither in the wrong;
And now for death to set his seal—
Ease me, a little ease, my song!

– Herman Melville

Herman Melville was a man of deep insight and feeling. And yet it was difficult for him to get close to people.

I apply Melville’s words to me and my relationship with my father. Not exactly, but close enough.

I so wish I could talk with my father now.

Can anyone understand?

Written by me in P. J. Carney’s pub, while reading Wordsworth’s Prelude and reflecting upon each and every phrase.

 

– Roger W. Smith

 Sunday, October 23, 2022

the museum … the library

 

The late William S. (Bill) Dalzell was a very important and valued friend to me, beginning in my twenties when I first came to New York.

We worked at the same place, 218 East 18th Street — technically not for the same employer, since Bill was a self-employed printer.

We hit it off immediately. Bill (as I turned out to be) was a lover of his adopted city. He grew up in Williamsburg, a suburb of Pittsburgh.

He had many pregnant thoughts. We had such interesting conversations.

He was a confirmed bachelor and a creature of habit.

He never worked on weekends.

On Saturday mornings, he would go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He would begin in the cafeteria, nursing a cup of coffee and lost in thought.

He said that for him the museum was like a cathedral. It had that effect on him mentally. Either explicitly or implicitly, he was also thinking of Norte Dame Cathedral. He had been there several times and said it was “the holiest place” he had ever visited.

Which brings to mind the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue.

It has that effect on me. The beautiful building. The interior. The high ceilings and sunlight streaming through. The staff. The “serious,” “dedicated” sense of purpose and calm quietness. The calming and focusing effect it has on me mentally.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   October 2022

“When Boston Censored Walt Whitman” (NY Times)

 

‘When Boston Censored Walt Whitman’ – NY Times Magazine 6-19-1927

 

Posted here (PDF file above):

“When Boston Censored Walt Whitman”

By Frederick P. Hebb Jr.

New York Times Magazine

June 19, 1927

 

– posted by Roger W. Smith

   October 2022

an early review of Moby-Dick

 

Everet Duyckinck review of Moby-Dick – The Literary World 11-15-1851 (2)

Everet Duyckinck review of Moby-Dick – The Literary World 11-22-1851 (2)

 

Posted here (PDF files above):

Evert Duyckinck

review of Herman Melville

Moby Dick; Or, the Whale

The Literary World

November 15, 1851

 

Evert Duyckinck

review of Herman Melville

Moby Dick; Or, the Whale

Second Notice

The Literary World

November 22, 1851

 

Evert Duyckinck (1816-1878) was editor of The Literary World, a weekly review of books published in New York. He helped launch Herman Melville’s career and became a close friend.

 

– posted by Roger W. Smith

   September 2022

Herman Melville, “Hawthorne and His Mosses”

 

Melville, ‘Hawthorne and His Mosses’ – The Literary World 8-17-1850 (2)

Melville, ‘Hawthorne and His Mosses’ – The Literary World 8-24-1850 (2)

 

Posted here (PDF files above):

[Herman Melville]

“Hawthorne and His Mosses”

By a Virginian Spending July in Vermont.

The Literary World

August 17, 1850

[Herman Melville]

“Hawthorne and His Mosses”

By a Virginian Spending July in Vermont.

[Concluded from the last number.]

The Literary World

August 24, 1850

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   September 2022