John Dickerson is a correspondent for 60 Minutes. He is also a Contributing Editor to The Atlantic and the host of the Whistlestop podcast and co-host of the Slate Political Gabfest.

Sentences I wish I had written

Emerson wrote Walt Whitman a letter about Leaves of Grass when the young poet was feeling glum. In it, the established writer worries that “too much handiwork, or too much lymph in the temperament, were making our Western wits fat and mean.” I think I’m going to embrace the idea that we have “too much lymph in the temperament,” and I really stand up and put the mitts together for “were making our Western wits fat and mean.”

It has been some time since this was written, of course, but if that doesn’t speak to the dull thud of our modern gong, what does?

You should read the longer letter.  Critics and shoppers looking for volumes for bedside reading had not pressed Leaves of Grass to their bosom. Whitman was in the dumps, and Emerson helped lift him out with his fan letter about the poetry (which had been inspired by Emerson in the first place). Backwards running do the sentences proceed, but reward will settle on you if you embrace the labors required to make the words worthy of the endeavor. (I wrote that sentence with a quill pen and monocle).

The letter and the lesson about generosity can be found on the consistently wonderful web site brainpickings which we all should support.