"A poet can do more than owner of nail factory" (Roosevelt, 1898)

bapopik at AOL.COM bapopik at AOL.COM
Sun Apr 3 03:50:53 UTC 2005

Maybe  Fred Shapiro can use this quotation? Today's New York Times text makes it seem like the quotation involves Edwin Arlington Robinson (1905 or later), but in fact Roosevelt wrote this at least as early as 1898.
A Subway Poet

Published: April 3, 2005
Q. I've been reading the poetry of Edwin Arlington Robinson, and his biography says he once worked in the New York subways. Is that true?
A. Surprisingly, yes. Robinson's family, which lived in Gardiner, Me., suffered financial losses that forced him to leave Harvard early, and his first published works attracted little notice and less money. But he was rescued by a most unlikely patron - President Theodore Roosevelt
As the story is told by Edmund Morris in "Theodore Rex," Robinson, who used a naturalistic style and published "The Children of the Night" in 1897, came to the president's attention in 1905 through his son Kermit, who read some of Robinson's poems at Groton and recommended them to his father.
"Kermit had found out that Robinson was living in New York City, drinking heavily, and so desperate for money he was working 10 hours a day as a time-checker in the Manhattan subway system," Morris wrote. President Roosevelt, a prodigious reader, plucked Robinson out of the new subway system and - secretly, because he was flouting Civil Service rules - got him a job in the New York Custom House on the condition that he use his time to concentrate on his poetry, not collecting revenues.
As Roosevelt was quoted as saying: "A poet can do much more for his country than the proprietor of a nail factory."

AMONG THE NEW BOOKS.; WAR SPIRIT ABOUNDS IN THEODORE ROOSEVELT'S ESSAYS. Assistant Secretary of the Navy Shows Plenty of Fire and Fight in His Volume, "American Ideals and Other Essays"--Says We Are Richer for Every Grim Campaign and Hard Fought Battle--Contempt for ShopTill Patriotism. Fresh Literary Notes.
Chicago Daily Tribune. Apr 11, 1898. p. 8 (1 page) :
Speaking of men whose ideas are purely material, he says:

These are the men who are willing to go for good voernment when they think it will pay, but who measure everything by the shop till. THe people who are unable to appreciate any quality that is not a mercantile commodity, who do not understand that a poet may do more for a country than the owner of a nail factory; who do not realize that no amount of commercial activity can supply the lack of the heroic virtues.

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