Category Archives: miscellaneous; general interest



Addendum (June 23)

I just thought of something.

This post was inspired by a book I have been reading, the early chapters thereof: George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss.



I am fortunate in the parents and family I had.

They were good people. The highest moral standards and character. So respectful, appreciative of, and kind to other people. Taught their children such behavior by example.

They always said we love you all (four children) equally: the same. This sounded good, but wasn’t really true. Their affections fluctuated and were not consistent. They would admire and favor one of us for some particular attribute at one time or another.

My siblings and I were very fortunate to have had an intact and stable nuclear family with two parents in a stable, loving relationship.

My mother. Beautiful. Great taste and personal qualities. Refinement. The best values. Discretion and tact. Yet by no means a snob. Modest. So genuine with other people. Met them at the most common level, by which I mean sincere and genuine, not that she somehow condescended to be nice to her “inferiors.”

My father. Not easy to get a handle on. My siblings often get pleasure from portraying him as a rake and a boor. He was very far from that — there was a lot to admire. I myself never fully appreciated the good things. He wasn’t a great father. But he was, in his own way, a good role model.

Distant and inaccessible at times. Sometimes the exact opposite (a genial host and a kind of Santa Claus on holidays; gregarious and affectionate at such and other times). Devoted to work and my mother. Great with and well liked by people in general. His behavior in this respect set a very good example. That meant a lot — means a lot — to a boy. I had thereby some notion of maleness and manhood, which are important to have as one reaches adulthood.



I have more to say regarding parenting.

It seemed in many respects that my nuclear family – this was the 50s and 60s – was straight out of the situation comedy Father Knows Best.

But it wasn’t that. My parents were far from perfect, and their insecurities and neuroses were a factor. (Of course, none of this was evident to me then.)

They weren’t snobs, but they were very insecure about, very concerned with, being well thought of by their peers. This was something that, by extension, we children were burdened with.

By all means, don’t do anything that might embarrass them. This was paramount. Doing wrong in this respect would bring disapproval and a tacit withdrawal or withholding of affection.



Re parenting. As I experienced it.

(It should be noted and acknowledged that this was a different time.)

One thing that I think was very fortunate then: and which, in retrospect, is the way I think things should be: My parents weren’t mean, and although they could be critical (not necessarily a bad thing, since they enforced and were setting standards), they were usually loving and kindly. They very much wanted us to reflect credit upon them (as I observed above). So much so that, as my former therapist observed, it amounted to a form of narcissism. But they actually left us alone a lot. Allowed us to just be kids.

I feel a lot of today’s parents don’t do this. Regarding this, I think I myself very much failed and missed the boat as a parent.

In my childhood, we kids went out and played. For hours on end. With no supervision or parental intervention.

Games such as Hide and Go Seek and Giant Step. Later, board and card games. Playing ball. Building snow forts. Going places. Movies. Comic books. The toy store and candy bars. Hanging out on the stoop or curbside. Telling tall tales and being out after dark.

Hardly any scheduled or programmed activities. Until things like Little League. (And, of course, school activities and sports, most of which came later). No play dates. No karate classes, golf or tennis lessons. (My older brother and I were enrolled in ballroom dancing classes; my parents undoubtedly thought young men should be taught how to dance. And my siblings and I all took piano lessons, with varying degrees of success,) Most afternoons and evenings (and summer vacation time) were open for free play and associating with friends, outdoors or indoors.

This in my opinion is crucial. Essential for individual development, for developing one’s tastes, ideas, and a personality.

Parents must let kids be kids. Not proto adults or achievers in residence. Not paradigms. Just goofy, loveable, inchoate little people. Soon to grow up on their own schedule and in their own way.


– Roger W. Smith

  June 2023

to note and wonder at each precise fact or thing


… the genius of the United States is … always most in the common people. Their manners speech dress friendships—the freshness and candor of their physiognomy—the picturesque looseness of their carriage . . . the fluency of their speech their delight in music, the sure symptom of manly tenderness and native elegance of soul . . . their good temper and openhandedness

— Walt Whitman, Preface to Leaves of Grass, first edition (1855)


EMILY: Good-by. Good-by, world. Good-by, my beautiful town … Mama and Papa. Good-by to … clocks ticking and … Mama’s sunflowers. And … food and … coffee. And … new-ironed dresses and … hot baths … and sleeping and waking. Oh, Earth! You’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you.

– Thornton Wilder, Our Town



To note and wonder at each precise fact or thing about individual persons.

My parents, for instance:

baked apples

cinnamon toast


scalloped oysters

Christmas decorations and stockings

Christmas carols

trimming the tree

Cesar Franck’s Symphony in D

Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus

Beethoven’s piano sonata no. 27, opus 90

Jordan Marsh department store at Christmastime

Christmas candles


Easter eggs

snow shovels

snow tires and snow tire chains

Massachusetts beaches

Cape Cod



Hiawatha and Evangeline

George Gershwin

the Gospels

Protestant hymns

My Fair Lady, Carousel, Guys and Dolls, Brigadoon


coffee ice cream (my mother)

ginger snaps

autumn leaves

pork strips (Chinese takeout food)

the Late Show

the funny pages (my father)

electric blankets

highballs, gin and tonics

chocolate pudding

Twenty Questions



clotheslines (my mother)

the four seasons

birthday parties and presents

gift giving

letters, cards, and thank you notes


a summer cottage



coal bins

blueberry pancakes

French toast


steam irons, ironing boards


fountain sodas; cherry or vanilla Cokes

frozen orange juice

fried and steamed clams


gum drops

hot chocolate

raisin bread

apple pie

corn bread



grape jelly

wax sealed jars

strawberry jam

pop up toasters

lawn mowing

trees (birch, beach)



These are some of the things that preserve the memory of my parents for me. Of others.

I regard it as not worthwhile to comb through the past looking for faults, which all of us have or had. The faults make us human, mean that we are so. Faults of our loved ones and ancestors. When they are or were alive, we have or had to deal with their faults. It is a somewhat different thing when we are talking about departed persons who were close to us.


— Roger W. Smith

  June 2023

Bill Dalzell II



This is an addendum to my tribute

William Sage Dalzell (1929-2018)

William Sage Dalzell (1929-2018)

It is in the form of an email which I sent last week to a rude correspondent who had contacted me on Facebook. She was interested in Aldous Huxley’s The Perennial Philosophy. I told her I had a story about how I had obtained my own copy.

The email follows.


— Roger W. Smith

   June 2023



Dear Diane.

Please see attached cover of my old paperback edition of The Perennial Philosophy.

It was beat up and ink stained.

When I first came to New York at age 22, I worked for a nonprofit in a brownstone on East 18th Street.

I met a self employed printer there — he was older than me, middle aged — whom I befriended. I have written a tribute to him which is on my site

He came from a somewhat privileged background — had well established, educated parents — but he moved to New York and the Lower East Side, lived in an apartment for which the rent was $29 a month (!),  lived by intuition and was not interested in money or status.

He was into mysticism, very much so; and what might be called New Age stuff. He had no use for doctors (never saw one).

He liked the book Diet for a Small Planet, which he gave me a copy of.

He cooked a lot of beans (delicious), which he bought dried, in a bag. I would visit him in his apartment and we would eat, drink, and talk. I met some of his good friends, who had similar lifestyles and views.

He influenced me a lot. We had great long talks and experiences exploring the City together, going to museums and taking the ferry. Long conversations in his third floor walkup, where we would drink beer, which he always served in a mug, all evening.

He was totally non materialistic and very generous. As a newcomer to New York, I didn’t know anyone and had scarce resources.

One day, we got to talking about the Aldous Huxley book. Here, he said, while I was leaving, and handed me his own precious copy. It was ink stained because when his printer was running, he would sit reading in a serene, contemplative state with a book in his lap.

His hands were inky from the printer. He bought his clothes at thrift shops and made it a point to wear black slacks because, he said, the ink stains on them would be less noticeable.

I already knew William Blake, who is sort of in the mystical tradition. I have read him intensely, but Huxley barely mentions him. I did not know about Meister Eckhart.

I am also attaching a portrait of my friend Bill. He had good aesthetic sense and introduced me to a lot of great films and to painters such as Edward Hopper. He had several artist friends, a few of whom I met.

The portrait was painted by Gregory Gillespie, a friend of Bill’s and well known artist. My wife and I saw the portrait once in a gallery on Madison Avenue. Bill, who is now deceased, was still alive then. The portrait was priced at $40,000.

P.S. — Here is an excerpt from my tribute to Bill:

Bill Dalzell was one of the first people I got to know after moving to New York City. I will never forget his kindness to me. My friendship with Bill was a long and enduring one.

If you got to know Bill well, as I did — if you were privileged to know him — you will probably know the following things about him, and, if you do, will know that they are all true.

He never cared about externals. Dressed simply. Lived by intuition. He followed politics closely but was fundamentally an apolitical person.

He believed absolutely in the spiritual, in mysticism, and in bona fide psychics such as Edgar Cayce and the medium Grace Cooke, author of the White Eagle books. He was interested in the writings of mystics such as Meister Eckhart — in the case of Eckhart, in the concept of detachment or disinterestedness: renouncing self-interest to attain spiritual enlightenment.




the original post:

William Sage Dalzell (1929-2018)

William Sage Dalzell (1929-2018)

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.



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

Increase Mather, “Sermon Occasioned by the Execution of a Man Found Guilty of Murder”


Increase Mather, ‘Sermon Occasioned by an Execution’

Increase Mather

Sermon Occasioned by the Execution of a Man Found Guilty of Murder

Preached at Boston in New-England, March 11th 1685/6 (Together with the confession. Last Expressions. and Solemn Warning of that Murderer, to all Persons; especially to Young Men, to beware of those Sins which brought him to his Miserable End.)

— posted by Roger W. Smith

    March 2023

new site … Roger Smith’s New York


Roger Smith’s New York

a new site is now live … it focuses on “the experience and joys of life in New York … its intellectual and cultural resources; people and places”


“At least I had them in my life.”


Thanks in old age—thanks ere I go,
For health, the midday sun, the impalpable air—for life, mere
For precious ever-lingering memories, (of you my mother dear
—you, father—you, brothers, sisters, friends,)
For all my days—not those of peace alone—the days of war the
For gentle words, caresses, gifts from foreign lands,
For shelter, wine and meat—for sweet appreciation,
(You distant, dim unknown—or young or old—countless, unspecified, readers belov’d,
We never met, and ne’er shall meet—and yet our souls embrace,
long, close and long;)
For beings, groups, love, deeds, words, books—for colors, forms,
For all the brave strong men—devoted, hardy men—who’ve forward sprung in freedom’s help, all years, all lands,
For braver, stronger, more devoted men—(a special laurel ere I
go, to life’s war’s chosen ones,
The cannoneers of song and thought—the great artillerists—the
foremost leaders, captains of the soul:)
As soldier from an ended war return’d—As traveler out of
myriads, to the long procession retrospective,
Thanks—joyful thanks!—a soldier’s, traveler’s thanks.

— Walt Whitman



Thanks (writes the poet) for precious ever-lingering memories

of parents, family, friends

they make life precious.

And, from an exchange I had with a friend from the past yesterday:


How many siblings were there including you? [Our parents were close. We were from different towns and didn’t know one another well.]


I’m #2 of 7

J—- #1 and S—- #3 are dead.


very sad

about your brothers


Yes. But at least I had them in my life! …

Not sure if I’d be able to get out of bed if I thought it was a anything but a blessing to have had them, however briefly.



Her words struck me. It may seem obvious. But my friend, their sister, puts it so well. I can hear Walt Whitman saying the same thing.

We mourn the dead. We were blessed to have had them. (I think of my parents, and so many others.)

Yes, existence in the here and now matters. But just as our life, everyone’s, our existence, is a miracle — people on earth — so was the existence of those no longer living: that they did live; and, in the case of our loved ones and friends, were part of our existence.


— Roger W. Smith

  February 27, 2023

“The Last Moments of John Brown”


James Redpath, The Public Life of Capt. John Brown, with an Auto-Biography of His Childhood and Youth (Boston: Thayer and Eldridge, 1860), pp. 396-397

The Victory Over Death’


Thomas Hovenden, The Last Moments of John Brown


posted by Roger W. Smith

   February 2023