by Edward Simonds
Chapter 1: I | II | III | IV | Chapter 2: I | II | III | IV | V | Chapter 3: I | II | III | IV | Chapter 4: I | II | III | IV | V | Chapter 5: I | II | III | IV | Chapter 6: I | II | III | IV | V | VI | Chapter 7: I | II | III | IV |
II. RALPH WALDO EMERSON: 1803-82.
Ralph Waldo Emerson came of the academic class. His ancestors for five generations had been scholars and most of them had been ministers. His father, William Emerson, minister of the First Church in Boston, was a man of good sense, dignified after the manner of the old New England type, and emphatic in the expression of his views. The mother of Ralph Waldo was known for her patience, her gentle courtesy, her quiet dignity and serenity of spirit. Among the early companionships of the household, there was another which had a lasting influence in the development of Emerson's character, that of an aunt, Mary Moody Emerson, whose strong intellectuality was of the sort which distinguished Emerson himself.
Ralph Waldo Emerson was born May 25, 1803, in the parsonage on Summer Street, in Boston, not far from the house in which Franklin was born almost a century before. His boyhood was passed in an atmosphere of intellectuality and of literary effort. In 1804, the Rev. William Emerson organized what was known as the Anthology Club, and edited a publication of the club, the Monthly Anthology, or Magazine of Polite Literature. The circle of contributors included John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster and much scholarly talent. The famous Boston Athenaeum library was an outgrowth of this club; and although with the death of Mr. Emerson in 1811, the Anthology ceased publication, the appearance of the North American Review, in 1815, is regarded as a revival of the earlier magazine.
Youth and Education.
Waldo was eight years old at his father's death; and the household was in serious financial straits. There were five boys to be clothed and fed -- and educated as family tradition and innate talent required. By heroic exertion and a most rigid frugality, Mrs. Emerson succeeded in realizing her ambition for her sons. It is related that one winter when times were especially hard in the family, Ralph and his brother Edward had but one great-coat between them and had to take turns in going without and in bearing the taunts of their school-fellows, calling after them -- "Whose turn is it to wear the coat to-day?" It is said, too, that Ralph Waldo was obliged on one occasion to forego the reading of the second volume of some work drawn from a circulating library because the pennies needed to secure it were not to be spared. Yet out of the enforced economy and the life bare of material comfort, the boys emerged sweet-tempered, nobly-mannered, and with the best academic training to be had. All but one were graduates of Harvard College.
There are not many records of Emerson's school-days. He studied at the Boston Latin School, and entered Harvard at fourteen. Through his appointment as President's messenger, he had his lodging free in the President's house, and his board was paid by waiting on table in the commons. He was not conspicuous as a student, yet was always the scholar; not talkative, his utterances were well weighed, deliberate, and "with a certain flash when he uttered anything that was more than usually worthy to be remembered." Gentle and amiable, his personality lacked a little, perhaps, in masculine vigor. For mathematics, Emerson had no faculty; but in all subjects of a literary sort, he took a good stand. Like most students who develop into geniuses, he read widely in authors not prescribed in his course. He won prizes in English composition, and at his graduation, in 1821, delivered the poem for the class.
After leaving Harvard, Emerson taught for several years, at first in a suburban school for girls, kept by his brother William, where the young instructor does not seem to have been altogether charmed with the teacher's lot. It was at this time that he composed one of his most widely known poems, Good-bye, proud world! I'm going home. The latter half of this poem is descriptive of the sylvan retreat amid the rocks and pines at Canterbury, whither Mrs. Emerson had recently removed -- a district now included within the limits of Franklin Park. The lines are significant of the spirit of this nature lover at the age of twenty.
"O, when I am safe in my sylvan home,
I tread on the pride of Greece and Rome;
And when I am stretched beneath the pines,
Where the evening star so holy shines,
I laugh at the lore and the pride of man,
At the sophist schools and the learned clan;
For what are they all, in their high conceit,
When man in the bush with God may meet?"
Emerson was also employed in a characteristic New England "academy" in the country near Lowell. His manner in the school-room was impressive; his self-control was perfect, he never punished except with words. His last experience as a schoolmaster was in Cambridge. Here he is remembered as appearing "every inch a king in his dominion, or rather like a captive philosopher set to tending flocks; resigned to his destiny, but not amused with its incongruities."
In 1823, Emerson began studying for the ministry. Descended from a long line of ministers, deeply spiritual in nature and equally a passionate seeker after truth, full of ideals of helpfulness and philanthropy, this was the natural course; but his activities in this profession were brief. He was ordained in 1829 as associate pastor of the Second Church in Boston, the historic Old North, which in the preceding century had flourished for sixty years under the ministry of the Mathers, father and son. It was now one of the important pulpits of Unitarianism. The young minister, who in a few months became the sole incumbent, took an active interest in public affairs; he was a member of the school board and was chosen chaplain of the State Senate. He invited anti-slavery lecturers into his pulpit and helped philanthropists of all denominations in their work. Three months after his ordination, however, Emerson found himself fettered even by the liberal doctrines of the Unitarians; and in 1832, disapproving the continuance of the Lord's Supper as a permanent rite, he presented his scruples in a sermon to his parishioners. His views not receiving their support, he quietly withdrew from the church.
First European Visit.
The young wife, Ellen, a delicate girl of seventeen when Emerson married her soon after his ordination, died in 1831. The strain of this bereavement, combined with that of his separation from his church, affected his own health, and on Christmas Day, 1832, Emerson, urged by his friends to take a sea voyage, sailed from Boston on a small vessel bound for the Mediterranean. He visited Italy, France, and England; and apparently found his greatest satisfaction in the opportunity thus afforded to meet the noted men whom he had long wished to see.
Acquaintances in England.
Coleridge he visited just one year before that writer's death; he saw Wordsworth also, then sixty-three years old, and past the time of poetical power. And then he went to see Carlyle, who was living on his lonely farm at Craigenputtock. "Of course we could do no other than welcome him," wrote Carlyle to his mother, "the rather as he seemed to be one of the most lovable creatures in himself we had ever looked on. He stayed till next day with us, and talked and heard talk to his heart's content, and left us all really sad to part with him." With this congenial introduction began the life-long friendship of the two great moralists. The Scotch essayist was seven years the senior of his guest.
By his translations, his essays, and his Life of Schiller, Carlyle had already won recognition from many like Emerson, who were deeply interested in the newly discovered fields of German literature. This was also the year, 1833, in which Carlyle was putting forth his most characteristic work, the Sartor Resartus; and one result of this visit was the publication of that work during the following year, in America, under the direction of Emerson.
In 1834, Ralph Waldo Emerson became a resident of Concord. For a year he lived with his mother in the old-fashioned gambrel-roofed house, built as a parsonage for his grandfather, who in his time had served the Concord church. It was this house which subsequently came to be occupied by the novelist Hawthorne, and was given fame in the title of his Mosses from an Old Manse. In 1835, Emerson was married to Miss Lidian Jackson, of Plymouth, and settled in the house, then on the edge of the town, where for almost fifty years he lived his serene and uneventful life.
The quiet village has been a famous place ever since the day when by the rude bridge the "embattled farmers" fought the British soldiers in that first conflict of the Revolutionary war; and its fame has grown more enduring because of the remarkable group of thinkers and writers who made the town their home. To Emerson, the surroundings were peculiarly attractive. From his home a path led through open fields to the shore of beautiful Walden Pond. There was plenty of space about him. Meandering through an expanse of green meadow land crept the sleepy Concord River, the Musketaquid of his poem, between its willow-bordered banks. More than all else he loved the woods; a forty-acre lot of woodland he bought by the shore of Walden that he might feel the sense of possession in it. In My Garden he sings its beauty and significance to him. In constant communion with Nature he wrote of her in prose and verse. To him, God was near in every form of natural life, and he loved to express in his writings the deep spiritual significance of what he saw and heard. He said: --
"I go to the god of the wood
To fetch his word to men.
... . .
"There was never mystery
But 't is figured in the flowers;
Was never secret history
But birds tell it in the bowers."
Among his townsmen, Emerson moved a familiar and a welcome figure. His duties as a citizen and neighbor were never shirked. Everybody knew the tall, spare man with the slight stoop of the shoulders, the shrewd, wise, tender face with its smile "like the mild radiance of a hidden sun." Whenever he spoke in the town hall or in Concord church, they turned out in large numbers to listen to his address with neighborly pride and due respect--if not with entire comprehension of his utterances.
There was, too, a circle of intimate friends about him, some, like Bronson Alcott and Margaret Fuller, attracted thither by the presence of one generally recognized as the ablest prophet of transcendentalism. The young and talented Thoreau, a disciple, although a very independent one, early engaged his interest. In 1842, Hawthorne came to Concord, and for five years dwelt in the Old Manse. Occasionally, too, there appeared fantastic dreamers with queer schemes of social reformation in their heads who sought out Emerson in his retreat as if to consult the oracle at some sacred shrine. Altogether, the little New England town became closely identified with that strong intellectual movement which Emerson, more than any other American writer, had inspired.
In 1836, there was published anonymously in Boston a little book of about a hundred pages, entitled Nature. This was Emerson's first characteristic utterance through the printed essay. "A reflective prose poem" is what Dr. Holmes calls it: beautiful in its exaltation of spirit, poetical, mystical, vague--incomprehensible, doubtless, to many an unsympathetic reader. It was the first public enunciation of the transcendental principles on which much of the subsequent teaching was based.
"The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs?"
This is the question which serves to start the discussion. Under the heads Commodity, Beauty, Language, and Discipline, the essayist speaks of the varied advantages which our senses owe to nature. A characteristic passage is the following:--
"In the woods is perpetual youth. Within these plantations of God a decorum and sanctity reign, a perennial festival is dressed, and the guest sees not how he should tire of them in a thousand years. In the woods we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, -- no disgrace, no calamity (leaving me my eyes), which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground, -- my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, -- all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God."
Nature attracted some attention, aroused some hostile criticism. Its ideas were pronounced pantheistic, and considerable ridicule was bestowed upon the transcendental notions of the Concord sage.
The American Scholar.
In the following year, 1837, Emerson delivered before the Phi Beta Kappa Society of Harvard College his famous address on The American Scholar, and with this notable utterance emerged clearly into the light of public recognition. This address is first of all a challenge of academic ideals in that day, and then a plea to the scholar for a larger vision of his relation to nature, a braver attitude toward the conventions inherited from the past, a stronger confidence in the sacred, the divine character of his own perception of truth, and a call to participate in the life of his generation; -- not only to think, but to live.
"The books which once we valued more than the apple of the eye, we have quite exhausted."
"First one, then another, we drain all cisterns, and, waxing greater by all these supplies, we crave a better and more abundant food. The man has never lived that can feed us ever."
"I ask not for the great, the remote, the romantic; what is doing in Italy, in Arabia; what is Greek art, or Provençal minstrelsy; I embrace the common, I explore and sit at the feet of the familiar, the low."
In sentences like these did the orator assail the authority of scholastic tradition. His words disturbed the grave dignity of many in his audience. But to the younger generation of Harvard graduates who sat under the spell of his eloquence, Emerson spoke a message of wonderful power.
"Fear always springs from ignorance."
"In self-trust all the virtues are comprehended."
"The unstable estimates of men crowd to him whose mind is filled with a truth, as the heaped waves of the Atlantic follow the moon."
Suggestive indeed are these words to-day; more impressive and inspiring were they then. "This grand oration was our intellectual Declaration of Independence," says Dr. Holmes. "The young men went out from it as if a prophet had been proclaiming to them, `Thus saith the Lord!'" The oft-quoted comment of Lowell gives us a vivid impression of the effect produced by this address.
"It was an event without any parallel in our literary annals, a scene to be always treasured in the memory for its picturesqueness and its inspiration. What crowded and breathless aisles, what windows clustering with eager heads, what enthusiasm of approval, what grim silence of foregone dissent!"
From this time on, Emerson was a familiar figure on the public platform. His occasional addresses were regarded as events of importance in the literary and intellectual world. The public lecture system, the "lyceum," as it was usually called, had grown into popular esteem. Throughout New England, Mr. Emerson was looked upon as the most eminent lecturer in the field. His tours were extended through the middle west as far as St. Louis; and to this day in thriving Illinois and Indiana towns, one may hear it mentioned with complacent local pride that in such or such a year Emerson spoke there.
The unmethodical manner in which these lectures were prepared is perhaps exaggerated by those who have dwelt on this feature of Emerson's work. From his commonplace book, or journal, Emerson culled the ideas, epigrammatically recorded, which touched his theme; and thus he built the discourse -- almost haphazard, it would seem to a formal writer, without the usual regard to logic or coherence in composition. Yet these sharp, short, often paradoxical sentences, weighty with truth, yet brilliant with their illuminating thought, keenly witty and delicately fanciful, made a most effective appeal to the audiences prepared to appreciate them. They stirred the minds and kindled the souls of many. It was a new voice in the land, a challenge and a prophecy, which came to have vital force in the intellectual and moral growth of thoughtful Americans in that generation.
There was no vociferousness in Emerson's lecturing. Calm, simple, almost monotonous in delivery, without gestures, he read from his notes with deliberation and with frequent pauses; but his voice was melodious and resonant, and all agree in the charm felt by his auditors. He did not prolong his discourse to weariness; at the end of the sixty minutes, without peroration, without climax, he stopped. Lecturing he found laborious; he followed it from necessity. And yet in spite of the discomforts of long journeys and of unhomelike inns, he enjoyed, too, the freedom of expression on the platform. It more than supplied the opportunities of his old Boston pulpit, and immeasurably amplified the congregation of his hearers, for to the last Mr. Emerson remained a preacher.
The First Series of Emerson's Essays appeared in 1841. It included these now familiar discourses: History, Self-Reliance, Compensation, Spiritual Laws, Love, Friendship, Prudence, Heroism, The Over-Soul, Circles, Intellect, and Art. These were for the most part transcripts from his lectures. The favorite doctrines appear felicitously expressed.
"Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string."
"whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist."
"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."
"To be great is to be misunderstood."
"Insist on yourself; never imitate."
In such compact, oracular utterances, Emerson loved to crowd his thought. Taken from their immediate setting, they appear yet more paradoxical than when read in their connection. These brief and startling epigrams illustrate both the strength and the weakness of this author's style. Many of these statements are debatable; extreme application of every precept to the general conduct could hardly result in anything but confusion and turmoil. Nevertheless, these ideas were intensely stimulating, and if they made readers think, so much the better. Agreement with the writer's thought was by no means essential. Trust thyself! was the burden of his teaching. Even to our generation these Essays of Emerson are illuminating and quickening epistles which have their greatest value, perhaps, in arousing and confirming a wholesome independence of mind.
The Second Series of Essays, published in 1844, included The Poet, Experience, Character, Manners, Gifts, Nature (a second handling of this theme), Politics, Nominalist and Realist, and The New England Reformers.
Representative Men and English Traits.
In 1847, a cordial invitation to address lyceum audiences in England and Scotland led to a second trip across the Atlantic. The visit was a success. Emerson delivered many lectures, was warmly received, renewed the acquaintance with Carlyle, and made many new friends. The material of these lectures appeared in 1850 under the title Representative Men. The opening chapter is on the uses of great men -- their most efficient and enduring service being that of introducing moral truths into the general mind. The characters selected for study and interpretation are: Plato, or the Philosopher; Swedenborg, or the Mystic; Montaigne, or the Sceptic; Shakespeare, or the Poet; Napoleon, or the Man of the World, and Goethe, or the Writer. While the volume suggests a comparison with Carlyle's Heroes and Hero-Worship, it will be seen that the plan and idea of Emerson's work are entirely different from his.
In English Traits (1856), Emerson produced a thoughtful, appreciative, and not uncritical study of British personality and the significance of the national character. These two volumes stand by themselves as the only works of the essayist having a formal structure and definite plan.
The first collection of Emerson's poems appeared in 1846. He had been writing verse for many years, and some of his best-known compositions, The Problem, Woodnotes, The Sphinx, and others, had appeared in The Dial. Some, like the famous Concord Hymn, had been heard upon notable occasions. In 1867, a second collection appeared under the title May-Day and Other Pieces.
The poetry of Emerson is, as one would expect to And it, intellectual, subjective, abstract. It is unemotional and often austere. "I do not belong to the poets, but only to a low department of literature, the reporters, suburban men," Emerson had declared, writing to Carlyle. Again he had said with more of justice to his gift, "I am born a poet, of a low class, without doubt, yet a poet. That is my nature and my vocation." While criticism has often joined in the poet's own depreciation of his power, there are also many who find the fire of genuine poetic genius in his verse. Stedman calls him "our most typical and inspiring poet." The thought, the substance of his verse has the originality and vital strength of all his discourse; the poetical form is uneven.
Thus does Emerson write of the poet:--
"Great is the art,
Great be the manners, of the bard.
He shall not his brain encumber
With the coil of rhythm and number;
But, leaving rule and pale forethought,
He shall aye climb
For his rhyme.
`Pass in, pass in,' the angels say,
`In to the upper doors,
Nor count compartments of the floors,
But mount to paradise
By the stairway of surprise.'"
There are numerous passages of wonderful simplicity and beauty in the poetry of Emerson: lines like the familiar quatrain in Voluntaries,
"So nigh is grandeur to our dust,
So near is God to man,
When Duty whispers low, Thou must,
The youth replies, I can";
-- and the perfect lines in Woodnotes:--
In poems like The Humble-Bee, The Snow-Storm, The Rhodora, Woodnotes, Monadnoc, Musketaquid, Emerson is at his best, and ranks next to Bryant, if not as his equal, among American nature poets. He describes the northward flow of Spring with its radiant life:--
"As poured the flood of the ancient sea
Spilling over mountain chains,
Bending forests as bends the sedge,
Faster flowing o'er the plains,--
A world-wide wave with a foaming edge
That rims the running silver sheet."
Of the dawn he writes:--
"O tenderly the haughty day
Fills his blue urn with fire."
These are the phrases and figures of a true poet; but a large part of Emerson's verse is oracular, like the paradoxes in his prose. Hence it is that much is said derisively of such orphic breathings as we find in The Sphinx, and Brahma -- with its disconcerting
"If the red slayer think he slays,
Or if the slain think he is slain,
They know not well the subtle ways
I keep, and pass, and turn again."
Subtly symbolic as this group of poems is, it appeals to the intellect, and appeals strongly when once the reader finds the key.
While Emerson never strikes the chord of passion, there is one poem -- and that one of his best -- wherein we feel the human heart-beat of a human grief. In 1842, the poet lost his little son, "a perfect little boy of five years and three months," he wrote Carlyle; "a few weeks ago I accounted myself a very rich man, and now the poorest of all." In Threnody we have the calm, philosophic, yet very feeling expression of the father's experience. It is not disconsolate. To him who so often interpreted to others the mystic whisperings of the great mother teacher, there comes a response from Nature's heart:--
"Saying, What is excellent,In Wartime.
As God lives, is permanent;
Hearts are dust, hearts' loves remain;
Heart's love will meet thee again.
House and tenant go to ground,
Lost in God, in Godhead found."
Emerson's attitude on public matters during the period of agitation preceding the Civil War is interesting. His friends in the transcendental coterie were vigorous abolitionists. With characteristic self-restraint, Emerson refrained from violent utterance. He spoke against slavery, but not aggressively against the South. He proposed a plan to purchase the slaves from the planters, because "it is the only practical course, and is innocent." As the struggle developed, however, his position on the issue of the hour was perfectly clear. He stood with Wendell Phillips when the speakers were mobbed at a public meeting in Boston; and when the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, January 1, 1863, he read the vigorous stanzas of his Boston Hymn. He paid an eloquent tribute to Lincoln in an address at Concord in April, 1865, and was the orator at the services held by Harvard College in memory of her sons fallen in the war -- when Lowell read his Commemoration Ode.
Later Life and Work.
Emerson's literary activity continued throughout a period of forty years. In 1868, 1869, and 1870, he delivered courses of lectures at Harvard which furnished the material for the volume entitled Natural History of Intellect. Society and Solitude was published in 1870. Among the twelve essays included under this title is the one on Books, in which occur the oft-quoted but somewhat dubious rules: "Never read any book that is not a year old. Never read any but famed books. Never read any but what you like." It is in the essay on Civilization of this series that we find the famous precept, "Hitch your wagon to a star!"
The volume, Letters and Social Aims, appeared in 1874. Parnassus, a collection of poems by British and American authors, a selection made by Mr. Emerson for his own pleasure, was published in the same year. The last public address written by Emerson was that delivered at Concord, in April, 1875, on the centennial of the fight at the bridge.
In 1871, the poet visited California. Soon after his return to Concord, his house was partially destroyed by fire. A European tour followed for relief and recreation -- a tour which extended as far as Egypt. During Mr. Emerson's absence a spontaneous movement among his friends resulted in the subscription of some twelve thousand dollars -- a gift which Mr. Emerson was with some difficulty prevailed upon to accept. It provided for the expense of the journey and for the restoration of the house. At the home-coming in May, 1873, the entire town of Concord assembled at the station to greet its famous and well-loved citizen. The church-bells announced his arrival, and the appearance of the train was received with the cheers of the assemblage. "Emerson appeared, surprised and touched, on the platform, and was escorted with music between two rows of smiling school-children to his house, where a triumphal arch of leaves and flowers had been erected."
Already, before the events just mentioned, there had been indications of a weakening of the splendid intellectual power which had so long led the thought of that generation on the higher levels of the spirit. Memory failed, and now and then there was the pathetic spectacle of one, whose mastery of the written and spoken word had been preëminent, groping vainly for some familiar term. "I can't tell its name," he said once when he wanted an umbrella; then, with a flash of his old humor, -- "but I can tell its history. Strangers take it away."
But the shadows fell gently on these days of declining strength. In the spring of 1882, Mr. Emerson suffered from a severe cold, which developed into pneumonia; and after a brief illness the end came April 27, the poet recognizing his friends with a smile of greeting to the last. Upon Sunday, the thirtieth, simple and impressive services were held in the church at Concord. The homes of the townspeople and the public buildings were draped. Emerson was buried in the village cemetery, Sleepy Hollow, at the dedication of which as a burial-place he had delivered an address. His body was laid at the foot of a tall pine, not far from the graves of Hawthorne and Thoreau.
The writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, whether prose or poetry, are philosophical; but they make no attempt to set forth a comprehensive system of thought. Emerson is rather a spiritual teacher than a philosopher. Truth came to him not through an argument nor in logical progression, but in intuitions, as it does to a poet; and these keen, condensed, authoritative utterances so picturesquely expressed are self-convincing by their very form. His real philosophy was the purest idealism -- an idealism which to materialistic readers appeared merely vague and mystical. He maintained that its application to conduct was the only worthy, the only practical course. This ideal he supported with an independence and a self-possession that were marvelous. We hardly appreciate now how radical he was, nor how indifferent to the views and opinions of others. To many who disputed his opinions, Emerson's attitude seemed one of insolence. This was a misinterpretation of the spirit of one who was as gentle and amiable as he was courageous. "What we admire in Emerson is not only the intellectual elevation but the moral purity and simple childlike goodness and sweetness of the man" -- says a noted English essayist. In his search for truth, he felt only one responsibility -- the responsibility to himself. Assured of his own integrity, he stood serene and happy in absolute freedom.
This freedom of individual opinion and expression which he claimed for himself, Emerson urged upon all; it was a cardinal point in his teaching. He taught also the simple life and practiced it. Above everything else, he believed and taught the immanence of God, the presence of divinity in all of nature and in man. He liberalized thought in America. His crisp sayings are everywhere quoted. Whatever of substantial value is discoverable in the various schemes of the "new thought" of to-day is pretty sure to go back to Emerson as its proper source. His ideas are current wherever men think seriously of life. Perhaps his greatest service to literature was the stimulus and encouragement which he gave to the youth of his own generation who followed so closely in his steps. Hawthorne came under his influence; he was the direct inspiration of Whitman; Longfellow, Holmes, and Lowell felt the immediate power of his message; and, together with Emerson, these were the men who largely determined the character of American literature in the nineteenth century, and gave it such distinction as it has.
Suggestions for Reading.
Of Emerson's prose, the following essays are especially recommended: Self-Reliance, Compensation, Books (in Society and Solitude); the address, The American Scholar, should certainly be read and the ideas characteristic of the writer be noted. In the same way parts of the first Nature should be considered. The student will find in English Traits an interesting account of Emerson's visits with Wordsworth and Carlyle. Among the poems, some should be compared with those of Bryant's which have been read. These are particularly such nature poems as The River, The Rhodora, The Humble-Bee, The Snow-Storm, Musketaquid, My Garden, The Titmouse, and Woodnotes I and II. More directly suggestive of the poet's transcendental utterances are: The Apology, Each and All, The Problem, The Sphinx, The Informing Spirit, Experience, Hamatreya, Nature (two versions, 1844, 1849), Days, and Brahma. The Concord Hymn, Boston Hymn, and Voluntaries are in a group by themselves, inspired by events. Threnody and Terminus are poems of experience.
The authoritative editions of Emerson's Works are those published by Houghton Mifflin Company. The authorized biography is the Memoir of Ralph Waldo Emerson, by J. B. Cabot (2 vols.). The volume on Emerson in the American Men of Letters Series is by Oliver Wendell Holmes; that in the English Men of Letters Series (the most recent biography) is by George E. Woodberry. Sketches and criticisms are almost numberless; it is best to mention few. The student, therefore, is referred only to the following titles: Emerson in Concord, by E. W. Emerson (son of R. W.); Concord Days, by A. Bronson Alcott, and the same author's Ralph Waldo Emerson: An Estimate of his Character and Genius; G. B. Bartlett's Concord; H. E. Scudder's Men and Letters, and E. P. Whipple's Recollections of Eminent Men. Both Lowell and George W. Curtis have delightful essays upon Emerson Lecturing, the former in Literary Essays, the latter in The Easy Chair. There is also a light sketch of Emerson (principally of Concord) in Curtis's Literary and Social Essays. An English estimate, most appreciative, is to be found in Four Great Teachers, by Joseph Forster. An excellent account of the communistic experiment in Roxbury is Brook Farm, by Lindsay Swift (in National Studies in American Letters).
Chapter 1: I | II | III | IV | Chapter 2: I | II | III | IV | V | Chapter 3: I | II | III | IV | Chapter 4: I | II | III | IV | V | Chapter 5: I | II | III | IV | Chapter 6: I | II | III | IV | V | VI | Chapter 7: I | II | III | IV |
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