Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Lothrop Motley; two memoirs online

. (page 1 of 41)
Online LibraryOliver Wendell HolmesRalph Waldo Emerson, John Lothrop Motley; two memoirs → online text (page 1 of 41)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


3 3433 08235609 2






CErhzrson, n, \




*«•«'». UONOX AND

Dr. Holmes in the Study of Jus Boston House







€!k Kifcerstiie press, CambrtUffe





K 1941 L >

Copyright, 1878 and 1884,

Copyright, 1892,

All rights reserved.

The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Mass. t U. S. A.
Electrotyped and Printed by H. O. Houghton & Company.




Introduction 1

I. 1803-1823. To 2Et. 20 29

Birthplace. — Boyhood. — College Life.

II. 1823-1828. ^T. 20-25 37

Extract from a Letter to a Classmate. — School-
Teaching. — Study of Divinity. — " Approbated "
to Preach. — Visit to the South. — Preaching in
Various Places.

III. 1828-1833. Mr. 25-30 42

Settled as Colleague of Rev. Henry Ware. — Mar-
ried to Ellen Louisa Tucker. — Sermon at the
Ordination of Rev. H. B. Goodwin. — His Pas-
toral and Other Labors. — Emerson and Father
Taylor. — Death of Mrs. Emerson. — Differ-
ence of Opinion with some of his Parishioners.
— Sermon explaining his Views. — Resignation
of his Pastorate.

IV. 1833-1838. Mr. 30-35 47

§ 1. Visit to Europe. — On his Return preaches in
Different Places. — Emerson in the Pulpit. — At
Newton. — Fixes his Residence at Concord. —
The Old Manse. — Lectures in Boston. — Lec-
tures on Michael Angelo and on Milton pub-
lished in " The North American Review." — Be-
ginning of the Correspondence with Carlyle. —
Letters to the Rev. James Freeman Clarke. —
Republication of " Sartor Resartus."


§ 2. Emerson's Second Marriage. — His New Res-
idence in Concord. — Historical Address. —
Course of Ten Lectures on English Literature
delivered in Boston. — The Concord Battle
Hymn. — Preaching in Concord and East Lex-
ington. — Accounts of his Preaching by Several
Hearers. — A Course of Lectures on the Nature
and Ends of History. — Address on War. —
Death of Edward Bliss Emerson. — Death of
Charles Chauncy Emerson.

§3. Publication of "Nature." — Outline of this
Essay. — Its Reception. — Address before the
Phi Beta Kappa Society.

V. 1838-1843. Mt. 35-40 89

§ 1. Divinity School Address. — Correspondence. —
Lectures on Human Life. — Letters to James
Freeman Clarke. — Dartmouth College Ad-
dress : Literary Ethics. — Waterville College
Address : The Method of Nature. — Other Ad-
dresses : Man tbe Reformer. — Lecture on the
Times. — The Conservative. — The Transcen-
dentalism — Boston " Transcendentalism." —
" The Dial." — Brook Farm.

§ 2. First Series of Essays published. — Contents :
History, Self-Reliance, Compensation, Spiritual
Laws, Love, Friendship, Prudence, Heroism,
The Over-Soul, Circles, Intellect, Art. — Emer-
son's Account of his Mode of Life in a Letter to
Carlyle. — Death of Emerson's Son. — Thren-

VI. 1843-1848. Mt. 40-45 137

" The Young American." — Address on the Anni-
versary of the Emancipation of the Negroes in
the British West Indies. — Publication of the
Second Series of Essays. — Contents : The Poet,
Experience, Character, Manners, Gifts, Nature,
Politics, Nominalist and Realist, New England
Reformers. — Publication of Poems. — Second
Visit to England.


VII. 1848-1853. Mi. 45-50 149

" The Massachusetts Quarterly Review." — Visit
to Europe. — England. — Scotland. — France. —
" Representative Men " published. I. Uses of
Great Men. II. Plato ; or, The Philosopher ;
Plato : New Readings. III. Swedenborg ; or,
The Mystic. IV. Montaigne ; or, The Skeptic.
V. Shakespeare ; or, The Poet. VI. Napoleon ;
or, The Man of the World. VII. Goethe ; or,
the Writer. — Contribution to the " Memoirs of
Margaret Fuller Ossoli."

VIII. 1853-1858. Mt. 50-55 162

Lectures in various Places. — Anti-Slavery Ad-
dresses. — Woman. A Lecture read before the
Woman's Rights Convention. — Samuel Hoar.
Speech at Concord. — Publication of " English
Traits."— "The Atlantic Monthly. "— The
Saturday Club.

IX. 1858-1863. ^t. 55-60 173

Essay on Persian Poetry. — Speech at the Burns
Centennial Festival. — Letter from Emerson to
a Lady. — Tributes to Theodore Parker and to
Thoreau. — Address on the Emancipation Proc-
lamation. — Publication of "The Conduct of
Life." — Contents: Fate, Power, Wealth, Cul-
ture, Behavior, Considerations by the Way,
Beauty, Illusions.

X. 1863-1868. 2&r. 60-65 185

" Boston Hymn." — ''Voluntaries." — Other Poems.
— "May-Day and Other Pieces." — Remarks
at the Funeral Services for President Lincoln. —
Remarks at the Organization of the Free Reli-
gious Association. — " Progress of Culture."
Address before the Phi Beta Kappa Society of
Harvard University. — Course of Lectures in
Philadelphia. — The Degree of LL. D. conferred
upon Emerson by Harvard University. — " Ter-


XL 1868-1873. ^1t. 65-70 192

Lectures on the Natural History of the Intellect. —
Publication of " Society and Solitude." — Con-
tents : Society and Solitude, Civilization, Art,
Eloquence, Domestic Life, Farming, Works and
Days, Books, Clubs, Courage, Success, Old Age.

— Other Literary Labors. — Visit to California.

— Burning of his House, and the Story of its
Rebuilding. — Third Visit to Europe. — His Re-
ception at Concord on his Return.

XH. 1873-1878. ^t. 70-75 216

Publication of " Parnassus." — Emerson nominated
as Candidate for the Office of Lord Rector of
Glasgow University. — Publication of " Letters
and Social Aims." — Contents : Poetry and Ima-
gination, Social Aims, Eloquence, Resources,
The Comic, Quotation and Originality, Progress
of Culture, Persian Poetry, Inspiration, Great-
ness, Immortality. — Address at the Unveiling
of the Statue of "The Minute-Man" at Con-
cord. — Publication of Collected Poems.

XIII. 1878-1882. Mr. 75-79 227

Last Literary Labors. — Addresses and Essays. —
" Lectures and Biographical Sketches." — "Mis-

XIV. Emerson's Poems 239

XV. Recollections of Emerson's Last Years . . 265
Mr. Conway's Visits. — Extracts from Mr. Whit-
man's Journal. ■ — Dr. Le Baron Russell's Visits.

— Dr. Edward Emerson's Account. — Illness
and Death. — Funeral Services.

XVI. Emerson : A Retrospect 276

Personality and Habits of Life. — His Commission
and Errand. — As a Lecturer. — His Use of Au-
thorities. — Resemblance to Other Writers. —
As influenced by Others. — His Place as a
Thinker. — Idealism and Intuition. — Mysticism.

— His Attitude respecting Science. — As an
American. — His Fondness for Solitary Study. —


His Patience and Amiability. — Feeling with
which he was regarded. — Emerson and Burns.
— His Religious Belief. — His Relations with
Clergymen. — Future of his Reputation. — His
Life judged by the Ideal Standard.


I. 1814-1827. To JEt. 13 329

Birth and Early Years.

II. 1827-1831. ^t. 13-17 336

College Life.

III. 1832-1833. ^t. 18-19 341

Study and Travel in Europe.

IV. 1834-1839. Mt. 20-25 344

Return to America. — Study of Law. — Marriage.

— His First Novel, " Morton's Hope."

V. 1841-1842. Mt. 27-28 355

First Diplomatic Appointment, Secretary of Le-
gation to the Russian Mission. — Brief Resi-
dence at St. Petersburg. — Letter to his Mother.

— Return.

VI. 1844. ^t. 30 359

Letter to Park Benjamin. — Political Views and

Vn. 1845-1847. &t. 31-33 363

First Historical and Critical Essays. — Peter the
Great. — Novels of Balzac. — Polity of the

mi. 1847-1849. Mt. 33-35 369

Joseph Lewis Stackpole, the Friend of Motley. His
Sudden Death. — Motley in fhe Massachusetts
House of Representatives. — Second Novel,
" Merry-Mount, A Romance of the Massachu-
setts Colony."

IX. 1850. Mt. 36 374

Plan of a History. — Letters.


X. 1851-1856. Mt. 37-42 378

Historical Studies in Europe. — Letter from Brus-

XI. 1856-1857. Mt. 42-43 383

Publication of his First Historical Work, "Rise
of the Dutch Republic." — Its Reception. —
Critical Notices.

XII. 1856-1857. ^t. 42^3 389

Visit to America. — Residence in Boylston Place.

XIII. 1858-1860. Mt. 44-46 390

Return to England. — Social Relations. — Lady

Harcourt's Letter.

XIV. 1859. ^t. 45 392

Letter to Mr. Francis H. Underwood. — Plan of
Mr. Motley's Historical Works. — Second
Great Work, " History of the United Neth-

XV. 1860. Mt. 46 397

Publication of the First Two Volumes of the " His-
tory of the United Netherlands." — Their Re-

XVI. 1860-1866. ^t. 46-52 403

Residence in England. — Outbreak of the Civil
War. — Letter to the "London Times." — Visit
to America. — Appointed Minister to Austria.
— Lady Harcourt's Letter. — Miss Motley's

XVII. 1861-1863. ^t. 47-49 408

Letters from Vienna.

XVIIL 1866-1867. Mt. 52-53 422

Resignation of his Office. — Causes of his Resig-

XIX. 1867-1868. ^Et. 53-54 433

Last Two Volumes of the " History of the United
Netherlands." — General Criticisms of Dutch
Scholars on Motley's Historical Works.


XX. 1868-1869. JEt. 54-55 439

Visit to America. — Residence at No. 2 Park
Street, Boston. — Address on the coming
Presidential Election. — Address on the His-
toric Progress of American Democracy. —
Appointed Minister to England.

XXI. 1869-1870. JEt. 55-56 444

Recall from the English Mission. — Its Alleged
and its Probable Reasons.

XXII. 1874. Mt. 60 472

" Life of John of Barneveld." — Criticisms. —
Groen van Prinsterer.

XXIII. 1874-1877. ^t. 60-63 488

Death of Mrs. Motley. — Last Visit to America.
— Illness and Death. — Lady Harcourt's Com-

XXIV. Conclusion 492

His Character. — His Labors. — His Reward.


A. The Saturday Club 497

B. Habits and Methods of Study . 499

C. Sir William Gull's Account of his Illness .... 500

D. Place of Burial. — Funeral Service. — Epitaphs. —

Dean Stanley's Funeral Sermon 505

E. From the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Histori-

cal Society 507

F. List of his Honorary Titles 523

G. Poems by W. W. Story and William Cullen Bryant . 524



Oliver Wendell Holmes in the Study of his Boston

House Frontispiece

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1

Thomas Carltle 134

John Lothrop Motley 329

William Hickling Prescott 386

John of Barneveld 472


" Thou wert the morning star among the living,
Ere thy fair light had fled :
Now, having died, thou art as Hesperus, giving
New splendor to the dead "


My thanks are due to the members of Mr. Emerson's family,
and the other friends who kindly assisted me by lending interest-
ing letters and furnishing valuable information.


Boston, November 25, 1884.







Ralph Waldo Emerson



"I have the feeling that every man's biography is
at his own expense. He furnishes not only the facts,
but the report. I mean that all biography is auto-
biography. It is only what he tells of himself that
comes to be known and believed."

So writes the man whose life we are to pass in
review, and it is certainly as true of him as of any
author we could name. He delineates himself so per-
fectly in his various writings that the careful reader
sees his nature just as it was in all its essentials, and
has little more to learn than those human accidents
which individualize him in space and time. About
all these accidents we have a natural and pardonable
curiosity. We wish to know of what race he came,
what were the conditions into which he was born,
what educational and social influences helped to
mould his character, and what new elements Nature
added to make him Ralph Waldo Emerson.

He himself believes in the hereditary transmission
of certain characteristics. Though Nature appears
capricious, he says, "Some qualities she carefully
fixes and transmits, but some, and those the finer, she
exhales with the breath of the individual, as too costly
to perpetuate. But I notice also that they may be-
come fixed and permanent in any stock, by painting


and repainting them on every individual, until at last
Nature adopts them and bakes them in her porcelain."

We have in New England a certain number of fam-
ilies who constitute what may be called the Academic
Races. Their names have been on college catalogues
for generation after generation. They have filled the
learned professions, more especially the ministry, from
the old colonial days to our own time. If aptitudes
for the acquisition of knowledge can be bred into
a family as the qualities the sportsman wants in his
dog are developed in pointers and setters, we know
what we may expect of a descendant of one of the
Academic Races. Other things being equal, he will
take more naturally, more easily, to his books. His
features will be more pliable, his voice will be more
flexible, his whole nature more plastic than those of
the youth with less favoring antecedents. The gift of
genius is never to be reckoned upon beforehand, any
more than a choice new variety of pear or peach in a
seedling; it is always a surprise, but it is born with
great advantages when the stock from which it springs
has been long under cultivation.

These thoughts suggest themselves in looking back
at the striking record of the family made historic by
the birth of Ralph Waldo Emerson. It was remark-
able for the long succession of clergymen in its gene-
alogy, and for the large number of college graduates
it counted on its rolls.

A genealogical table is very apt to illustrate the
"survival of the fittest," — in the estimate of the
descendants. It is inclined to remember and record
those ancestors who do most honor to the living heirs


of the family name and traditions. As every man
may count two grandfathers, four great-grandfathers,
eight great-great-grandfathers, and so on, a few gen-
erations give him a good chance for selection. If he
adds his distinguished grandmothers, he may double
the number of personages to choose from. The great-
grandfathers of Mr. Emerson at the sixth remove
were thirty-two in number, unless the list was short-
ened by intermarriage of relatives. One of these,
from whom the name descended, was Thomas Emer-
son of Ipswich, who furnished the staff of life to the
people of that wonderfully interesting old town and
its neighborhood.

His son, the Reverend Joseph Emerson, minister
of the town of Mendon, Massachusetts, married Eliz-
abeth, daughter of the Reverend Edward Bulkeley,
who succeeded his father, the Reverend Peter Bulke-
ley, as minister of Concord, Massachusetts.

Peter Bulkeley was therefore one of Emerson's
sixty -four grandfathers at the seventh remove. We
know the tenacity of certain family characteristics
through long lines of descent, and it is not impossible
that any one of a hundred and twenty-eight grandpar-
ents, if indeed the full number existed in spite of
family admixtures, may have transmitted his or her
distinguishing traits through a series of lives that
cover more than two centuries, to our own contempo-
rary. Inherited qualities move along their several
paths not unlike the pieces in the game of chess.
Sometimes the character of the son can be traced di-
rectly to that of the father or of the mother, as the
pawn's move carries him from one square to the next.
Sometimes a series of distinguished fathers follows in
a line, or a succession of superior mothers, as the


black or white bishop sweeps the board on his own
color. Sometimes the distinguishing characters pass
from one sex to the other indifferently, as the castle
strides over the black and white squares. Sometimes
an uncle or aunt lives over again in a nephew or niece,
as if the knight's move were repeated on the squares
of human individuality. It is not impossible, then,
that some of the qualities we mark in Emerson may
have come from the remote ancestor whose name
figures with distinction in the early history of New

The Reverend Peter Bulkeley is honorably com-
memorated among the worthies consigned to immortal-
ity in that precious and entertaining medley of fact
and fancy, enlivened by a wilderness of quotations at
first or second hand, the "Magnalia Christi Ameri-
cana," of the Reverend Cotton Mather. The old
chronicler tells his story so much better than any one
can tell it for him that "he must be allowed to speak
for himself in a few extracts, transferred with all
their typographical idiosyncrasies from the London-
printed folio of 1702.

"He was descended of an Honourable Family in Bed-
fordshire. — He was born at Woodhil (or Odel) in Bed-
fordshire, January 31st, 1582.

"His Education was answerable unto his Original; it
was Learned, it was Genteel, and, which was the top of
all, it was very Pious : At length it made him Batchellor
of Divinity, and a Fellow of Saint Johns Colledge, in
Cambridge .

"When he came abroad into the World, a good ben-
efice befel him, added unto the estate of a Gentleman,
left him by his Father ; whom he succeeded in his Min-
istry, at the place of his Nativity: Which one would
imagine Temptations enough to keep him out of a Wil-
derness. "


But he could not conscientiously conform to the
ceremonies of the English Church, and so, — •

"When Sir Nathaniel Brent was Arch-Bishop Laud's
General, as Arch-Bishop Laud was another's, Complaints
were made against Mr. Bidldy, for his Non-Conformity,
and he was therefore Silenced.

"To New- England he therefore came, in the Year
1635; and there having heen for a while, at Cambridge,
he carried a good Number of Planters with him, up further
into the Woods, where they gathered the Twelfth Church,
then formed in the Colony, and call'd the Town by the
Name of Concord.

"Here he buried a great Estate, while he raised one
still, for almost every Person whom he employed in the
Affairs of his Husbandry. — ■

"He was a most excellent Scholar, a very well-read
Person, and one, who in his advice to young Students,
gave Demonstrations, that he knew what would go to
make a Scholar. But it being essential unto a Scholar
to love a Scholar, so did he ; and in Token thereof, en-
dowed the Library of Harvard-Colledge with no small
part of his own.

"And he was therewithal a most exalted Christian —
"In his Ministry he was another Farel, Quo nemo tomdt
fortius — And the observance which his own People had
for him, was also paid him from all sorts of People
throughout the Land; but especially from the Ministers
of the Country, who would still address him as a Father,
a Prophet, a Counsellor, on all occasions."

These extracts may not quite satisfy the exacting
reader, who must be referred to the old folio from
which they were taken, where he will receive the fol-
lowing counsel : —

"If then any Person would know what Mr. Peter Bulkly
was, let him read his Judicious and Savory Treatise of
the Gospel Covenant, which has passed through several


Editions, with much Acceptance among the People of
God." It must be added that "he had a competently
good Stroke at Latin Poetry; and even in his Old Age,
affected sometimes to improve it. Many of his Compos-
ure are yet in our Hands."

It is pleasant to believe that some of the qualities
of this distinguished scholar and Christian were re-
produced in the descendant whose life we are study-
ing-. At his death in 1659 he was succeeded, as was
mentioned, by his son Edward, whose daughter be-
came the wife of the Reverend Joseph Emerson, the
minister of Mendon who, when that village was
destroyed by the Indians, removed to Concord, where
he died in the year 1680. This is the first connection
of the name of Emerson with Concord, with which
it has since been so long associated.

Edward Emerson, son of the first and father of the
second Reverend Joseph Emerson, though not a minis-
ter, was the next thing to being one, for on his grave-
stone he is thus recorded: "Mr. Edward Emerson,
sometime Deacon of the first church in Newbury." He
was noted for the virtue of patience, and it is a family
tradition that he never complained but once, when he
said mildly to his daughter that her dumplings were
somewhat harder than needful, — '"''but not often.''''
This same Edward was the only break in the line of
ministers who descended from Thomas of Ipswich.
He is remembered in the family as having been "a
merchant in Charlestown."

Their son, the second Reverend Joseph Emerson,
minister of Maiden for nearly half a century, married
Mary, the daughter of the Reverend Samuel Moody,
■ — Father Moody, — of York, Maine. Three of his
sons were ministers, and one of these, William, was


pastor of the church at Concord at the period of the
outbreak of the Revolutionary War.

As the successive generations narrow down towards
the individual whose life we are recalling, the charac°
ter of his progenitors becomes more and more impor-
tant and interesting to the biographer. The Rever-
end William Emerson, grandfather of Ralph Waldo,
was an excellent and popular preacher and an ardent
and devoted patriot. He preached resistance to ty-
rants from the pulpit, he encouraged his townsmen
and their allies to make a stand against the soldiers
who had marched upon their peaceful village, and
would have taken a part in the Fight at the Bridge,
which he saw from his own house, had not the friends
around him prevented his quitting his doorstep. He
left Concord in 1776 to join the army at Tieonderoga,
was taken with fever, was advised to return to Con-
cord and set out on the journey, but died on his way.
His wife was the daughter of the Reverend Daniel
Bliss, his predecessor in the pulpit at Concord. This
was another very noticeable personage in the line of
Emerson's ancestors. His merits and abilities are
described at great length on his tombstone in the
Concord burial-ground. There is no reason to doubt
that his epitaph was composed by one who knew him
well. But the slabs which record the excellences of
our New England clergymen of the past generations
are so crowded with virtues that the reader can hardly
help inquiring whether a sharp bargain was not
driven with the stonecutter, like that which the good
Vicar of Wakefield arranged with the portrait-painter.
He was to represent Sophia as a shepherdess, it will
be remembered, with as many sheep as he could afford
to put in for nothing.


William Emerson left four children, a son bearing
the same name, and three daughters, one of whom,
Mary Moody Emerson, is well remembered as pic-
tured for us by her nephew, Ralph Waldo. His
widow became the wife of the Reverend Ezra Ripley,
Doctor of Divinity, and his successor as minister at

The Reverend William Emerson, the second of that
name and profession, and the father of Ralph Waldo
Emerson, was born in the year 1769, and graduated
at Harvard College in 1789. He was settled as min-
ister in the town of Harvard in the year 1792, and in
1799 became minister of the First Church in Boston.
In 1796 he married Ruth Haskins of Boston. He
died in 1811, leaving five sons, of whom Ralph Waldo
was the second.

The interest which attaches itself to the immediate
parentage of a man like Emerson leads us to inquire
particularly about the characteristics of the Reverend
William Emerson so far as \ve can learn them from
his own writings and from the record of his contem-

The Reverend Dr. Sprague's valuable and well-
known work, "Annals of the American Pulpit," con-
tains three letters from which we learn some of his
leading characteristics. Dr. Pierce of Brookline, the
faithful chronicler of his time, speaks of his pulpit
talents as extraordinary, but thinks there was not a
perfect sympathy between him and the people of the
quiet little town of Harvard, while he was highly ac-

Online LibraryOliver Wendell HolmesRalph Waldo Emerson, John Lothrop Motley; two memoirs → online text (page 1 of 41)