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by attacks from almost every newspaper and magazine; which at least
betrays the irritability and the instincts of the good public."

Carlyle finds the second number of "The Dial" better than the first, and
tosses his charitable recognition, as if into an alms-basket, with
his usual air of superiority. He distinguishes what is Emerson's
readily, - the rest he speaks of as the work of [Greek: oi polloi] for
the most part. "But it is all good and very good as a _soul;_ wants only
a body, which want means a great deal." And again, "'The Dial,' too, it
is all spirit like, aeri-form, aurora-borealis like. Will no _Angel_
body himself out of that; no stalwart Yankee _man_, with color in the
cheeks of him and a coat on his back?"

Emerson, writing to Carlyle in March, 1842, speaks of the "dubious
approbation on the part of you and other men," notwithstanding which he
found it with "a certain class of men and women, though few, an object
of tenderness and religion." So, when Margaret Fuller gave it up, at the
end of the second volume, Emerson consented to become its editor. "I
cannot bid you quit 'The Dial,'" says Carlyle, "though it, too, alas, is
Antinomian somewhat! _Perge, perge_, nevertheless."

In the next letter he says: -

"I love your 'Dial,' and yet it is with a kind of shudder. You seem
to me in danger of dividing yourselves from the Fact of this present
Universe, in which alone, ugly as it is, can I find any anchorage,
and soaring away after Ideas, Beliefs, Revelations and such
like, - into perilous altitudes, as I think; beyond the curve of
perpetual frost, for one thing. I know not how to utter what
impression you give me; take the above as some stamping of the

A curious way of characterizing himself as a critic, - but he was not
always as well-mannered as the Houyhnhnms.

To all Carlyle's complaints of "The Dial's" short-comings Emerson did
not pretend to give any satisfactory answer, but his plea of guilty,
with extenuating circumstances, is very honest and definite.

"For the _Dial_ and its sins, I have no defence to set up. We write
as we can, and we know very little about it. If the direction of
these speculations is to be deplored, it is yet a fact for literary
history that all the bright boys and girls in New England, quite
ignorant of each other, take the world so, and come and make
confession to fathers and mothers, - the boys, that they do not wish
to go into trade, the girls, that they do not like morning calls and
evening parties. They are all religious, but hate the churches; they
reject all the ways of living of other men, but have none to offer
in their stead. Perhaps one of these days a great Yankee shall come,
who will easily do the unknown deed."

"All the bright boys and girls in New England," and "'The Dial' dying of
inanition!" In October, 1840, Emerson writes to Carlyle: -

"We are all a little wild here with numberless projects of social
reform. Not a reading man but has a draft of a new community in his
waistcoat pocket. I am gently mad myself, and am resolved to live
cleanly. George Ripley is talking up a colony of agriculturists and
scholars, with whom he threatens to take the field and the book.
One man renounces the use of animal food; and another of coin; and
another of domestic hired service; and another of the state; and on
the whole we have a commendable share of reason and hope."

Mr. Ripley's project took shape in the West Roxbury Association, better
known under the name of Brook Farm. Emerson was not involved in this
undertaking. He looked upon it with curiosity and interest, as he would
have looked at a chemical experiment, but he seems to have had only a
moderate degree of faith in its practical working. "It was a noble and
generous movement in the projectors to try an experiment of better
living. One would say that impulse was the rule in the society, without
centripetal balance; perhaps it would not be severe to say, intellectual
sans-culottism, an impatience of the formal routinary character of our
educational, religious, social, and economical life in Massachusetts."
The reader will find a full detailed account of the Brook Farm
experiment in Mr. Frothingham's "Life of George Ripley," its founder,
and the first President of the Association. Emerson had only tangential
relations with the experiment, and tells its story in his "Historic
Notes" very kindly and respectfully, but with that sense of the
ridiculous in the aspect of some of its conditions which belongs to the
sagacious common-sense side of his nature. The married women, he
says, were against the community. "It was to them like the brassy and
lacquered life in hotels. The common school was well enough, but to
the common nursery they had grave objections. Eggs might be hatched in
ovens, but the hen on her own account much preferred the old way. A hen
without her chickens was but half a hen." Is not the inaudible, inward
laughter of Emerson more refreshing than the explosions of our noisiest

This is his benevolent summing up: -

"The founders of Brook Farm should have this praise, that they made
what all people try to make, an agreeable place to live in. All
comers, even the most fastidious, found it the pleasantest of
residences. It is certain, that freedom from household routine,
variety of character and talent, variety of work, variety of means
of thought and instruction, art, music, poetry, reading, masquerade,
did not permit sluggishness or despondency; broke up routine.
There is agreement in the testimony that it was, to most of the
associates, education; to many, the most important period of their
life, the birth of valued friendships, their first acquaintance with
the riches of conversation, their training in behavior. The art of
letter-writing, it is said, was immensely cultivated. Letters were
always flying, not only from house to house, but from room to room.
It was a perpetual picnic, a French Revolution in small, an Age of
Reason in a patty-pan."

The public edifice called the "Phalanstery" was destroyed by fire
in 1846. The Association never recovered from this blow, and soon
afterwards it was dissolved.

Section 2. Emerson's first volume of his collected Essays was published
in 1841. In the reprint it contains the following Essays: History;
Self-Reliance; Compensation; Spiritual Laws; Love; Friendship; Prudence;
Heroism; The Over-Soul; Circles; Intellect; Art. "The Young American,"
which is now included in the volume, was not delivered until 1844.

Once accustomed to Emerson's larger formulae we can to a certain extent
project from our own minds his treatment of special subjects. But we
cannot anticipate the daring imagination, the subtle wit, the curious
illustrations, the felicitous language, which make the Lecture or the
Essay captivating as read, and almost entrancing as listened to by
the teachable disciple. The reader must be prepared for occasional
extravagances. Take the Essay on History, in the first series of Essays,
for instance. "Let it suffice that in the light of these two facts,
namely, that the mind is One, and that nature is its correlative,
history is to be read and written." When we come to the application,
in the same Essay, almost on the same page, what can we make of such
discourse as this? The sentences I quote do not follow immediately, one
upon the other, but their sense is continuous.

"I hold an actual knowledge very cheap. Hear the rats in the wall,
see the lizard on the fence, the fungus under foot, the lichen on
the log. What do I know sympathetically, morally, of either of these
worlds of life? - How many times we must say Rome and Paris, and
Constantinople! What does Rome know of rat and lizard? What are
Olympiads and Consulates to these neighboring systems of being?
Nay, what food or experience or succor have they for the Esquimau
seal-hunter, for the Kamchatcan in his canoe, for the fisherman, the
stevedore, the porter?"

The connection of ideas is not obvious. One can hardly help being
reminded of a certain great man's Rochester speech as commonly reported
by the story-teller. "Rome in her proudest days never had a waterfall
a hundred and fifty feet high! Greece in her palmiest days never had a
waterfall a hundred and fifty feet high! Men of Rochester, go on! No
people ever lost their liberty who had a waterfall a hundred and fifty
feet high!"

We cannot help smiling, perhaps laughing, at the odd mixture of Rome
and rats, of Olympiads and Esquimaux. But the underlying idea of the
interdependence of all that exists in nature is far from ridiculous.
Emerson says, not absurdly or extravagantly, that "every history should
be written in a wisdom which divined the range of our affinities and
looked at facts as symbols."

We have become familiar with his doctrine of "Self-Reliance," which is
the subject of the second lecture of the series. We know that he
always and everywhere recognized that the divine voice which speaks
authoritatively in the soul of man is the source of all our wisdom.
It is a man's true self, so that it follows that absolute, supreme
self-reliance is the law of his being. But see how he guards his
proclamation of self-reliance as the guide of mankind.

"Truly it demands something god-like in him who has cast off the
common motives of humanity and has ventured to trust himself for a
task-master. High be his heart, faithful his will, clear his sight,
that he may in good earnest be doctrine, society, law, to himself,
that a simple purpose may be to him as strong as iron necessity is
to others!"

"Compensation" might be preached in a synagogue, and the Rabbi would be
praised for his performance. Emerson had been listening to a sermon from
a preacher esteemed for his orthodoxy, in which it was assumed that
judgment is not executed in this world, that the wicked are successful,
and the good are miserable. This last proposition agrees with John
Bunyan's view: -

"A Christian man is never long at ease,
When one fright's gone, another doth him seize."

Emerson shows up the "success" of the bad man and the failures and
trials of the good man in their true spiritual characters, with a noble
scorn of the preacher's low standard of happiness and misery, which
would have made him throw his sermon into the fire.

The Essay on "Spiritual Laws" is full of pithy sayings: -

"As much virtue as there is, so much appears; as much goodness as
there is, so much reverence it commands. All the devils respect
virtue. - A man passes for that he is worth. - The ancestor of every
action is a thought. - To think is to act. - Let a man believe in
God, and not in names and places and persons. Let the great soul
incarnated in some woman's form, poor and sad and single, in some
Dolly or Joan, go out to service and sweep chambers and scour
floors, and its effulgent day-beams cannot be hid, but to sweep and
scour will instantly appear supreme and beautiful actions, the top
and radiance of human life, and all people will get mops and brooms;
until, lo! suddenly the great soul has enshrined itself in some
other form and done some other deed, and that is now the flower and
head of all living nature."

This is not any the worse for being the flowering out of a poetical bud
of George Herbert's. The Essay on "Love" is poetical, but the three
poems, "Initial," "Daemonic," and "Celestial Love" are more nearly equal
to his subject than his prose.

There is a passage in the Lecture on "Friendship" which suggests
some personal relation of Emerson's about which we cannot help being
inquisitive: -

"It has seemed to me lately more possible than I knew, to carry a
friendship greatly, on one side, without due correspondence on the
other. Why should I cumber myself with regrets that the receiver is
not capacious? It never troubles the sun that some of his rays fall
wide and vain into ungrateful space, and only a small part on the
reflecting planet. Let your greatness educate the crude and cold
companion.... Yet these things may hardly be said without a sort of
treachery to the relation. The essence of friendship is entireness,
a total magnanimity and trust. It must not surmise or provide for
infirmity. It treats its object as a god that it may deify both."

Was he thinking of his relations with Carlyle? It is a curious subject
of speculation what would have been the issue if Carlyle had come to
Concord and taken up his abode under Emerson's most hospitable roof.
"You shall not come nearer a man by getting into his house." How could
they have got on together? Emerson was well-bred, and Carlyle was
wanting in the social graces. "Come rest in this bosom" is a sweet air,
heard in the distance, too apt to be followed, after a protracted season
of close proximity, by that other strain, -

"No, fly me, fly me, far as pole from pole!
Rise Alps between us and whole oceans roll!"

But Emerson may have been thinking of some very different person,
perhaps some "crude and cold companion" among his disciples, who was not
equal to the demands of friendly intercourse.

He discourses wisely on "Prudence," a virtue which he does not claim for
himself, and nobly on "Heroism," which was a shining part of his own
moral and intellectual being.

The points which will be most likely to draw the reader's attention are
the remarks on the literature of heroism; the claim for our own America,
for Massachusetts and Connecticut River and Boston Bay, in spite of our
love for the names of foreign and classic topography; and most of all
one sentence which, coming from an optimist like Emerson, has a sound of
sad sincerity painful to recognize.

"Who that sees the meanness of our politics but inly congratulates
Washington that he is long already wrapped in his shroud, and
forever safe; that he was laid sweet in his grave, the hope of
humanity not yet subjugated in him. Who does not sometimes envy the
good and brave who are no more to suffer from the tumults of the
natural world, and await with curious complacency the speedy term of
his own conversation with finite nature? And yet the love that
will be annihilated sooner than treacherous has already made death
impossible, and affirms itself no mortal, but a native of the deeps
of absolute and inextinguishable being."

In the following Essay, "The Over-Soul," Emerson has attempted the
impossible. He is as fully conscious of this fact as the reader of his
rhapsody, - nay, he is more profoundly penetrated with it than any of his
readers. In speaking of the exalted condition the soul is capable of
reaching, he says, -

"Every man's words, who speaks from that life, must sound vain to
those who do not dwell in the same thought on their own part. I dare
not speak for it. My words do not carry its august sense; they fall
short and cold. Only itself can inspire whom it will, and behold!
their speech shall be lyrical and sweet, and universal as the rising
of the wind. Yet I desire, even by profane words, if I may not use
sacred, to indicate the heaven of this deity, and to report what
hints I have collected of the transcendent simplicity and energy of
the Highest Law."

"The Over-Soul" might almost be called the Over-_flow_ of a spiritual
imagination. We cannot help thinking of the "pious, virtuous,
God-intoxicated" Spinoza. When one talks of the infinite in terms
borrowed from the finite, when one attempts to deal with the absolute
in the language of the relative, his words are not symbols, like those
applied to the objects of experience, but the shadows of symbols,
varying with the position and intensity of the light of the individual
intelligence. It is a curious amusement to trace many of these thoughts
and expressions to Plato, or Plotinus, or Proclus, or Porphyry, to
Spinoza or Schelling, but the same tune is a different thing according
to the instrument on which it is played. There are songs without words,
and there are states in which, in place of the trains of thought moving
in endless procession with ever-varying figures along the highway of
consciousness, the soul is possessed by a single all-absorbing idea,
which, in the highest state of spiritual exaltation, becomes a vision.
Both Plotinus and Porphyry believed they were privileged to look upon
Him whom "no man can see and live."

But Emerson states his own position so frankly in his Essay entitled
"Circles," that the reader cannot take issue with him as against
utterances which he will not defend. There can be no doubt that he would
have confessed as much with reference to "The Over-Soul" as he has
confessed with regard to "Circles," the Essay which follows "The

"I am not careful to justify myself.... But lest I should mislead
any when I have my own head and obey my whims, let me remind the
reader that I am only an experimenter. Do not set the least value
on what I do, or the least discredit on what I do not, as if I
pretended to settle anything as true or false. I unsettle all
things. No facts are to me sacred; none are profane; I simply
experiment, an endless seeker, with no Past at my back."

Perhaps, after reading these transcendental essays of Emerson, we might
borrow Goethe's language about Spinoza, as expressing the feeling with
which we are left.

"I am reading Spinoza with Frau von Stein. I feel myself very near
to him, though his soul is much deeper and purer than mine.

"I cannot say that I ever read Spinoza straight through, that at any
time the complete architecture of his intellectual system has
stood clear in view before me. But when I look into him I seem to
understand him, - that is, he always appears to me consistent with
himself, and I can always gather from him very salutary influences
for my own way of feeling and acting."

Emerson would not have pretended that he was always "consistent with
himself," but these "salutary influences," restoring, enkindling,
vivifying, are felt by many of his readers who would have to confess,
like Dr. Walter Channing, that these thoughts, or thoughts like these,
as he listened to them in a lecture, "made his head ache."

The three essays which follow "The Over-Soul," "Circles," "Intellect,"
"Art," would furnish us a harvest of good sayings, some of which we
should recognize as parts of our own (borrowed) axiomatic wisdom.

"Beware when the great God lets loose a thinker on this planet. Then
all things are at risk."

"God enters by a private door into every individual."

"God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose. Take
which you please, - you can never have both."

"Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must
carry it with us, or we find it not."

But we cannot reconstruct the Hanging Gardens with a few bricks from

Emerson describes his mode of life in these years in a letter to
Carlyle, dated May 10, 1838.

"I occupy, or improve, as we Yankees say, two acres only of God's
earth; on which is my house, my kitchen-garden, my orchard of thirty
young trees, my empty barn. My house is now a very good one for
comfort, and abounding in room. Besides my house, I have, I believe,
$22,000, whose income in ordinary years is six per cent. I have no
other tithe or glebe except the income of my winter lectures, which
was last winter $800. Well, with this income, here at home, I am a
rich man. I stay at home and go abroad at my own instance. I have
food, warmth, leisure, books, friends. Go away from home, I am rich
no longer. I never have a dollar to spend on a fancy. As no wise
man, I suppose, ever was rich in the sense of freedom to spend,
because of the inundation of claims, so neither am I, who am not
wise. But at home, I am rich, - rich enough for ten brothers. My wife
Lidian is an incarnation of Christianity, - I call her Asia, - and
keeps my philosophy from Antinomianism; my mother, whitest, mildest,
most conservative of ladies, whose only exception to her universal
preference for old things is her son; my boy, a piece of love and
sunshine, well worth my watching from morning to night; - these, and
three domestic women, who cook, and sew and run for us, make all my
household. Here I sit and read and write, with very little system,
and, as far as regards composition, with the most fragmentary
result: paragraphs incompressible, each sentence an infinitely
repellent particle."

A great sorrow visited Emerson and his household at this period of his
life. On the 30th of October, 1841, he wrote to Carlyle: "My little boy
is five years old to-day, and almost old enough to send you his love."

Three months later, on the 28th of February, 1842, he writes once
more: -

"My dear friend, you should have had this letter and these messages
by the last steamer; but when it sailed, my son, a perfect little
boy of five years and three months, had ended his earthly life. You
can never sympathize with me; you can never know how much of me such
a young child can take away. A few weeks ago I accounted myself a
very rich man, and now the poorest of all. What would it avail to
tell you anecdotes of a sweet and wonderful boy, such as we solace
and sadden ourselves with at home every morning and evening? From a
perfect health and as happy a life and as happy influences as ever
child enjoyed, he was hurried out of my arms in three short days by
scarlatina. We have two babes yet, one girl of three years, and one
girl of three months and a week, but a promise like that Boy's I
shall never see. How often I have pleased myself that one day I
should send to you this Morning Star of mine, and stay at home so
gladly behind such a representative. I dare not fathom the Invisible
and Untold to inquire what relations to my Departed ones I yet

This was the boy whose memory lives in the tenderest and most pathetic
of Emerson's poems, the "Threnody," - a lament not unworthy of comparison
with Lycidas for dignity, but full of the simple pathos of Cowper's
well-remembered lines on the receipt of his mother's picture, in the
place of Milton's sonorous academic phrases.


1843-1848. AET. 40-45.

"The Young American." - Address on the Anniversary of the Emancipation
of the Negroes in the British West Indies.[1] - 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.

[Footnote 1: These two addresses are to be found in the first and
eleventh volumes, respectively, of the last collective edition of
Emerson's works, namely, "Nature, Addresses, and Lectures," and

Emerson was American in aspect, temperament, way of thinking, and
feeling; American, with an atmosphere of Oriental idealism; American, so
far as he belonged to any limited part of the universe. He believed in
American institutions, he trusted the future of the American race. In
the address first mentioned in the contents, of this chapter, delivered
February 7, 1844, he claims for this country all that the most ardent
patriot could ask. Not a few of his fellow-countrymen will feel the
significance of the following contrast.

"The English have many virtues, many advantages, and the proudest
history in the world; but they need all and more than all the
resources of the past to indemnify a heroic gentleman in that
country for the mortifications prepared for him by the system of
society, and which seem to impose the alternative to resist or to
avoid it.... It is for Englishmen to consider, not for us; we only
say, Let us live in America, too thankful for our want of feudal
institutions.... If only the men are employed in conspiring with the
designs of the Spirit who led us hither, and is leading us still, we
shall quickly enough advance out of all hearing of others' censures,
out of all regrets of our own, into a new and more excellent social
state than history has recorded."

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