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PAGE 2

The Sunny Side Of Grub Street
by [?]

The diarists I would choose for the present generation on Grub Street would be Heywood Broun, Franklin Adams, Bob Holliday, William McFee, and maybe Ben De Casseres (if he would promise not to mention Don Marquis and Walt Whitman more than once per page). McFee might be let off the job by reason of his ambrosial letters. But it just occurs to me that of course one must not know who is keeping the diary. If it were known, he would be deluged with letters from people wanting to get their names into it. And the really worthwhile folks would be on their guard.

But if all the writers wait until they are eighty years old and can write their memoirs with the beautifully gnarled and chalky old hands Joyce Kilmer loved to contemplate, they will have forgotten the comical pith of a lot of it. If you want to reproduce the colors and collisions along the sunny side of Grub Street, you’ve got to jot down your data before they fade. I wish I had time to be diarist of such matters. How candid I’d be! I’d put down all about the two young novelists who used to meet every day in City Hall Park to compare notes while they were hunting for jobs, and make wagers as to whose pair of trousers would last longer. (Quite a desirable essay could he written, by the way, on the influence of trousers on the fortunes of Grub Street, with the three stages of the Grub Street trouser, viz.: 1, baggy; 2, shiny; 3, trousers that must not be stooped in on any account.) There is an uproarious tale about a pair of trousers and a very well-known writer and a lecture at Vassar College, but these things have to be reserved for posterity, the legatee of all really amusing matters.

But then there are other topics, too, such as the question whether Ibanez always wears a polo shirt, as the photos lead one to believe. The secret Philip Gibbs told me about the kind of typewriter he used on the western front. I would be enormously candid (if I were a diarist). I’d put down that I never can remember whether Vida Scudder is a man or a woman. I’d tell what A. Edward Newton said when he came rushing into the office to show me the Severn death-bed portrait of Keats, which he had just bought from Rosenbach. I’d tell the story of the unpublished letter of R.L.S. which a young man sold to buy a wedding present, which has since vanished (the R.L.S. letter). I’d tell the amazing story of how a piece of Walt Whitman manuscript was lost in Philadelphia on the memorable night of June 30, 1919. I’d tell just how Vachel Lindsay behaves when he’s off duty. I’d even forsake everything to travel over to England with Vachel on his forthcoming lecture tour, as I’m convinced that England’s comments on Vachel will be worth listening to.

The ideal man to keep the sort of diary I have in mind would be Hilaire Belloc. It was an ancestor of Mr. Belloc, Dr. Joseph Priestley (who died in Pennsylvania, by the way) who discovered oxygen; and it is Mr. Belloc himself who has discovered how to put oxygen into the modern English essay. The gift, together with his love of good eating, probably came to him from his mother, Bessie Rayner Parkes, who once partook of Samuel Rogers’s famous literary breakfasts. And this brings us back to our old friend Crabb Robinson, another of the Rogers breakfast clan. Robinson is never wildly exciting, but he gives a perfect panorama of his day. It is not often that one finds a man who associated with such figures as Goethe, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Blake, and Lamb. He had the true gift for diarizing. What could be better, for instance, than this little miniature picture of the rise and fall of teetotalism in one well-loved person?–