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The New York Times, November 9, 1920


So MARK TWAIN has at last got into the Hall of Fame. EDGAR ALLAN POE was admitted in 1910, but WALT WHITMAN still lingers outside the mystic inclosure within which sit the honored figured of HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW, JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER and WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT.

It may be argued, and doubtless has been - for few forms of error have the virtue of novelty - that fame and merit are not the same thing. He who is called the greatest of American poets is understood and appreciated abroad, though his own people have failed to live up to his somewhat optimistic prophecies. But so long as he is under moral disapproval here at home no amount of foreign favor will suffice to mark him as famous. Fame is a local matter; a man's place in history may depend on the estimate of his unsuccessful neighbors in his home town. But WHITMAN'S exclusion can no longer be defended by this argument, for by this time WHITMAN is pretty widely appreciated at home, as well as in foreign parts where some of the most distinguished American mediocrities have never been heard of.

WHITMAN was a great writer and he has become famous, but that is not enough to get him into the Hall of Fame. POE was let in after a period of probation, but then POE's writings were respectable. His life was not always commendable, but neither were the lives of some of the founders of this Republic who were admitted virtually by acclamation. The difference is merely one of emphasis; we permit our famous men to overstep the bounds of conventionality, provided they do it apologetically and without putting anything down on paper which may seem to suggest extenuation for their behavior. Perhaps WHITMAN would have been more fortunate if he had lived in our day.

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