Dear Mrs. Aly:

You have been making remarkable progress, as usual! I'm always being pleasantly surprised by your successful hunting. It's good news that you had a pleasant and profitable visit with Mary House (Ryskind). I'm so glad you could see her, and I realize how far it is from Eugene to Beverly Hills.

I have no memory of having written the verses on old Doc Bixby (known affectionately as "Bix"). I must have written them when he came to Bancroft to recite his verses (to a small and unresponsive audience, as I recall). "Bix" was one of the first daily columnists (after Gene Field) who did rhymed comment on anything and everything. He was clever, had a peculiar sense of humor and much sly wisom. He was a handy man with his rhyming, and now and then there was a burst of song in his stuff — all of a homely sort. (All his work appeared in the Nebraska State Journal.) Evidently I intended to give the old man a rousing welcome to our town! He was, I note, 50 years old at the time, and I was 21 — a mere yearling neighing bravo to the old war horse! "Bix" had a Santa Claus belly and a very red face, as the verses indicate. Looked like a hard drinker, but wasn't.

The [Eliphelet Bute "pome"?] is clearly tripe, and so intended, I suspect.

About Greek: I did not read Xenophon in English. I do have an English version of the Memorabilia in my library. I did not read Plato in Greek — did not read him at all in the earlier days. Both Plato and F. W. H. Myers expressed clearly for me what my own experience had suggested long before — the Dionysian conception of poetry. I always felt that poetry came from somewhere else! Of course, from the age of 12 onward I was increasingly exposed to great literature; and in that world, great moods and ideas from all time constitute the atmosphere.

The Poetic Values lectures: I forget just when I gave them — in the Fall, I think. Originally, I did plan 3 lectures, and the opening paragraphs of the third must be among my papers in the MSS Room of the University. The two given (as published) seemed about all a general university audience could stand. In those days the auditorium at the U. of Neb. was filled when I came. They were draped over the balcony when I gave Poetic Values. I'm sure only a relative few knew what I was talking about, but they did seem to be listening. Dr. Hartley Burr Alexander, Head of Philosophy and Pres. of the American Philosophical Society at the time, said as much to me. He was a whale in various seas of learning, and I've seen specialists run for cover when he turned loose and discussed their specialties! He was my friend — wanted me to take an independent "Chair of Poetics" in his department. When I gave the lectures to a full auditorium, Dr. Alexander, being a bit hard of hearing, sat in the front row. All through the first lecture he sat perfectly still, staring at me with his deep-set eyes, and with no change of expression. He was the only man in the audience of whom I was afraid. When I was through, I dodged behind the curtain for a whiff of smoke, and soon he came back. As he approached me with arms extended, I said, " Was that any good, Alexander?" And he said, in a low voice, "Yes — yes. But it is plain to see that you have worked in isolation, for one does not come to a University to find an intellectual audience!"

Dr. Alexander and Dr. Sherman (Head of the English Dept. and a distinguished Shakespeare scholar) were enjoying a bitter feud of long standing. Both were my friends. Sherman wanted me in his department, and Alexander wanted me to go there, as he didn't care where I chose to go if I just came to the University. So I did this, but on an honorary basis, as I was not ready for an academic life, choosing rather the stronger currents of the journalistic world. The Post-Dispatch had made a most inviting offer, and there I went. But I gave the two lectures at the U. of Neb. as Hon. Prof. of Poetry. (I was free to make the professorship active at any time).

Before this Carleton College made an exceptionally good offer. (I had lectured there). They then stood ready (as they told Chancellor Avery of Neb.) to pay me $3500 for half a year, leaving me free to lecture over the country (as Carleton's man) the remainder of the year. A dollar then was equal to $2.50 or $3.00 now! Maybe more. I could still do that third lecture — or even a fourth — if the right situation should occur; and I could work again as I did for years and years. But I don't yearn for such a situation, being quite happy. I feel something like a great tide flowing; and it seems enough just to be and say — or even just to be. (I mean something by these words, as I know you will know.)

Here's another suggestion: For several months I worked on the Sioux City Tribune. I think this was just after the Blade adventure, but I'm not sure. It was during the first four or five years of the 20th century — and what's a century or so among friends? Anyway, I interviewed the great violinist, Spalding, while there, and I suspect that was a pretty good article. I was always extremely fond of the violin, and Spalding was a great master. Also, I did an article on a convention of the Smiths! (Golly! There were a lot of them!) Maybe that one was not so bad. You might find those. You can find anything, I have come to believe.

For instance, that Keats lecture! Where and how did you ever nose that one out of hiding? Who cared to save it? I remember only that I gave it in a church for a woman's club. I remember the ladies were kind. I remember flowers and flowers. (I was scared and the flowers helped. Bless those ladies' hearts!) I have a feeling that the lecture was a bit stilted, or at least stiff — maybe a bit prissy — maybe even "literary". Was it? An incident occurred in Sioux City that I must tell you about some time.

Mona and I feel that you have been "sent" to do this work.

John Neihardt
John Neihardt Route 7 Columbia, Mo


Mrs. Bower-Aly, 2094 Hilyard Eugene, Oregon.