Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson online

. (page 10 of 31)
Online LibraryRalph Waldo EmersonJournals of Ralph Waldo Emerson → online text (page 10 of 31)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

you, but purely from his character.

I don't know but I value the name of a thing,
that is, the true poet's name for it, more than
the thing. If I can get the right word for the
moon, or about it, — the word that suggests to
me and to all men its humane and universal

I Probably Mr. Augustus Tuttle, whose farm was a half-
mile below on the Turnpike.

176 JOURNAL [Age 63

beauty and significance, — then I have what I
want of it, and shall not desire that a road may-
be made from my garden to the moon, or that
the gift of this elephant be made over to me.

Cunning egotism. If I cannot brag of know-
ing something, then I brag of not knowing it.
At any rate. Brag.

Theresa made herself useful and indispen-
sable to all her neighbours as well as inmates,
by being always in possession of a matchbox, an
awl, a measuring-tape, a mucilage-pot, a cork-
screw ; microscope, reading - glass, and opera-

The Negro, thanks to his temperament, ap-
pears to make the greatest amount of happiness
out of the smallest capital.

Authors or Books quoted or referred to
IN Journal for 1866

The Vedas; Zoroaster (?), Chaldean Oracles;
Pindar; Cicero, description of Demosthenes ;

Taliessin, apud Nash; Mahomet; Hafiz ;
Chaucer ;

Scaliger ; Sir Walter Raleigh, 'The SouTs Er-

i866] READING 177

rand. Pilgrimage; Sir Philip Sidney; Van Hel-
mont; Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury ;
Richard Lovelace, To Althea; Pascal; Newton;
Steele, The Funeral ;

Lord Mansfield ; Duclos ; Niebuhr ; Sir
William Herschel ; Goethe, " Song of the
Parcse" in Iphigenia, Musagetes ; John Mar-
shall; Anquetil Duperron; Hegel, apud J. H.
Stirling; Varnhagen von Ense; James Hogg;
Robert Brown ; Charles Lamb ;

Rev. W. E. Channing; Daniel Webster,
Speech against Hayne ; Henry Kirke White,
The Herb Rosemary ; Bettine Brentano, Goethe's
Correspondence with a Child; Sir Thomas Fowell
Buxton ; Sir Robert Peel ;

Halleck, Marco Bozzaris ; Champollion ; Far-
aday; Bunsen; Charles Wolfe, Burial of Sir
John Moore; Bryant, To a Waterfowl ; Carlyle ;
Robert Pollok, The Ocean;

Henry Taylor, Philip van Artevelde; George
Ripley; Sampson Reed, Genius; George Bor-
row's translation of ballad Svend Vonved; Sainte-
Beuve ; George Sand; Samuel Ferguson, Forging
of the Anchor ; John Sterling, Alfred the Har-
per ; J. S. Mill ; Robert H. Messenger, Give me
the Old; Dr. C. T. Jackson; Tennyson; Glad-














(From Journals ML, LN, and NY)

[The winter brought its usual task, and Mr.
Emerson went westward in January, lecturing
in nine States and not returning home until after
the middle of March. He visited Kansas for the
first time, and took great pleasure in Minnesota.
From Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, he wrote to a
friend in Chicago, " Such a citizen of the world
as you are should look once at these Northern
towns which I have seen under the perhaps too
smiling face of the mildest, best winter weather.
. . . Minneapolis would strongly attract me, if
I were a young man, — more than St. Paul; —
and this town [Fond du Lac] is a wonderful
growth and shines like a dream, seen this morn-
ing from the top of Amory Hall."

At the time of the celebration of the centenary
anniversary of Emerson's birth, Mr. B.J. Brown
wrote in the Daily Leader of Menominee, Wis-
consin, reminiscences of Mr. Emerson's visit to
Saginaw, Michigan. As president of the Library

1 82 JOURNAL [Age 63

Association, Mr. Brown called upon Mr. Em-
erson at the hotel. He wrote : —

" The enduring impression of greatness, maj-
esty, and power which this interview with him
left upon me was something akin to that which
I experienced upon the first glimpse of the
ocean. The tones of his voice long lingered in
my ear." . . .

Mr, Brown told Mr. Emerson of the new rail-
road that was to be (though the work had hardly
begun) from Lake Superior to Puget Sound.

"Emerson felt the greatest interest in the
project, and it needed slight sympathy and ap-
preciation to kindle into speech the thoughts
which at the moment evidently engrossed him.
It strongly appealed to his imagination and his
feelings, and nothing in his lecture on the fol-
lowing evening approached the lofty and sus-
tained eloquence ... in which he clothed the

"At some time during the day he told me
of an opinion he had once heard Chief Justice
Shaw deliver upon a question connecting itself
with the law of highways, and how admirable it
had seemed to him. Professedly seeking to re-
late simply what the great chief justice had said,
he so transmuted it in the alembic of his own


imagination as to invest the subject of the com-
mon roads of the country with a dignity which
linked it to the movement of the tides and of
the planets in their courses."]

(From ML)
Washington, Iowa, February 13, 1867.

In riding in an open sleigh, from Oshkosh to
Ripon, in a fiercely cold snowstorm driving in
my face, I blessed the speed and power of the
horses. Their endurance makes them inestima-
ble in this rough country. They seem left out
of doors in the snow and wind all day. Around
this square before the house, I counted just now
twenty horses tied. Some of them seem to stand
tied all day. Last night, just before going to
bed, I looked out ; — there stood two or three
at that hour, — the farmers perhaps listening to
the railroad men in the court-house, or sitting
round the bar-room fire.

Mrs. Carr gave me a speech of Red Jacket,
that compares with my old one from him about
time. When the young men were boasting of
their deeds, he said, " But the sixties have all
the twenties and forties in them."

As soon as these people have got a shanty
built to cover them, and have raised one crop

1 84 JOURNAL [Age 63

of wheat, they want a railroad, as the breath of
life ; and, after one railroad, then a competing
railroad. The first, because a railroad station is
an instant market for the wheat ; a second, be-
cause the first charges its own rates for freight,
which takes half the price out of their crop, or,
as much money to get it from their farm to
Chicago as it costs to get it from Chicago to
New York. And the second road underbids the
first, and every new road underbids that. So
that a web of roads has the like effect as the first
creation of railways produced on the factories,
which formerly turned out their new stocks only
in spring and autumn, when the traders came
to New York and Boston, for their semi-annual
supply. But the new roads enabled them to
come often, and therefore the factories could
sell and the traders buy, all the year round, so
that it required less capital to be a country
trader. Now a market at each station makes a
small New York near to every farm. Then,
socially, in spring, and in much of winter, the
people of Indiana, Illinois, etc., are confined to
their sidewalks or the rail. Off these, they stick
at once in bottomless universal quagmire, and,
as here and now in a thaw, the melting snow
makes a river of each run ; in the vast level the


poor water does not know where to go, and
drowns, as yesterday here, a fine span of horses,
because a boy in crossing a brook caught his
wheel on a stone, and only saved his own life
by climbing from his wagon on to a tree.

Mr. Brown of Saginaw tells me that " Men
that live by their own labour are almost always
moral people."

Thomas Taylor and Winckelmann would
have preferred, to all meeting-houses and
churches, to have restored the old native serv-
ice of the temples on whose ruins these had
been constructed, and to have worshipped, with
Horace for the psalm-book, chanting, " Mer-
curi facunde nepos Atlantis" or, " Sic te diva
■potens Cypri" with tibia and theorbus and lyre,
to all the psalters and all the organs of the Rom-
ish or the English congregations.

Eloquence. " But what astonishes, what sur-
prises you ? " " To hear an Athenian talk two
hours together, hold us silent and immovable
as the figures of Hermes before our doors, and
find not a single one among us that can carry
home with him a thought or an expression." —
Landor, Works, vol. i, p. 88.

l86 JOURNAL [Age 63

This passage reminds me of my own experi-
ence in hearing in old times Jonathan Phillips's
speech at a Unitarian meeting in Dr. Chan-
ning's church.

Christ preached the greatness of man: We
preach the greatness of Christ. The first is
affirmative ; the last negative.

We measure religions by their civilizing
power. Christianity gains and thrives against
worldly interests. So does Buddhism, Stoicism,
and every high enthusiasm.

The mind is true : though the premises are
false, the conclusions are right. And this self-
reliance which belongs to every healthy human
being is proof of it, — proof that not a petty
egoism, but the soul of the world is in him, and,
in proportion as it penetrates his miserable crust
of partiality, it saith, 'Here am I, here is the
Whole.' Therefore we require absoluteness in
every soul, — absoluteness in the orator, — in
the poet, — in the hero, — in all manners 5 and
if they have it not, they simulate it.

The just pride of a man consists herein, that
the recognition of him by others is nowise
necessary to him.


Those persons who constitute the natural
aristocracy — i.e., sacred persons — are not
found in the actual aristocracy or only on its
edge ; as the chemical energy of the spectrum
is found to be greatest just outside of the

The intellectual power is not the gift, but the
presence of God. Nor do we reason to the be-
ing of God, but God goes with us into Nature,
when we go or think at all. Truth is always new
and wild as the wild air, and is alive. . . .

" This world is no place for the man who
doth not worship, and where, O Arjoon ! is
there another?" — Bhagavat Geeta.

When we come into the world, a wonderful
whisper gives us a direction for the whole road ;
much as if one should hear from a skilful guide,
on starting out on a journey, that, to come at
the point he sought, he should follow the set-
ting sun. This whisper wonderfully impresses
us, and is temperament, taste, bearing, talent.
'T is like the card of the compass, which ar-
ranges itself with the poles of the world. But
having made and moulded the constitution, the
Creator contents himself, and is ever dumb.

1 88 JOURNAL [Ace 63

He that made the World lets that speak, and
does not employ a town-crier, etc., etc.

After much experience, we find literature the
best thing, and men of thought, if still think-
ing, the best company. I went to England, and
after allowing myself freely to be dazzled by the
various brilliancy of men of talent ; — in calm
hours, I found myself no way helped, my
sequins were all yellow leaves. I said, I have
valued days, and must still, by the number of
clear insights I get, and I must estimate my
company so. Then I found I had scarcely had
a good conversation, a solid dealing man with
man, in England. Only in such passages is a
reason for human life given ; and every such
meeting puts a mortal affront on kings and
governments, by showing them to be of no ac-
count. Of course, these people, these and no
others, interest us, — the dear and beautiful be-
ings, who are absorbed in their own dream. Let
us, then, have that told : let us have a record of
friendship among six, or four, or two, if there
be only two, of those who delight in each other
only because both delight in the Eternal laws :
who forgive nothing to each other: who, by
their joy and homage to these laws, are made

1867] THE SPIRIT 189

incapable of conceit, which destroys the fine
wits. Any other affection between men than
this geometric one of relation to the same thing
is a mere mush of materialism.

And the Spirit drove him apart into a soli-
tary place. — This does the spirit for every man.

He or That which in despair of naming
aright, some have called the Newness, — as the
Hebrews did not like to pronounce the word,
— he lurks, he hides, he who is success, reality,
joy, power,' — that which constitutes Heaven,
which reconciles impossibilities, atones for short-
comings, expiates sins or makes them virtues,
buries in oblivion the crowded historical past,
sinks religions, philosophies, nations, persons to
legends, reverses the scale of opinion, of fame; re-
duces sciences to opinion, and makes the thought
of the moment the key to the universe, and the
egg of history to come.

'T is all alike, — astronomy, metaphysics,
sword, spade, pencil, or instruments and arts
yet to be Invented, — this is the inventor, the
worth-giver, the worth. This is He that shall
come; or, if He come not, nothing comes : He

I This expression occurs in "Works and Days" (^Society
and Solitude, p. 175).

I90 JOURNAL [Age 63

that disappears in the moment when we go to
celebrate Him, If we go to burn those that
blame our celebration, He appears in them. The
Divine Newness. Hoe and spade, sword and
pen, cities, pictures, gardens, laws, bibles, are
prized only because they were means He some-
time used. So with astronomy, music, arithme-
tic, castes, feudalism, — we kiss with devotion
these hems of his garment, — we mistake them
for Him ; they crumble to ashes on our lips.

Every innovation grows out of a thought,
which hastens to embody itself in practical rules.
These rules require much controversy, sifting,
and amendment, to make them work well in
practice, and the sentiment in which all agreed,
the mother of all the rules, is soon overlaid and
forgotten in the debate. But that also got ex-
pression at first.

The rules become national, and fill the world
with noise, and the sentiment passes for rhetoric.
But the rules are changed every year, grow aged
very soon, whilst the sentiment is immortal, and
can at any time provide itself with new codes.

Swedenborg was never quite ideal. The eye
must be achromatic, but Swedenborg sees all


amiss with this prismatic blur of misplaced
gaudiness. Why do his images give no pleasure ?
Milton anticipated Swedenborgwhen he wrote
in Paradise Lost, Book v, —

" What if Earth
Be but the shadow of Heaven, and things therein
Each to the other like, more than on earth is thought ? "

I am so purely a spectator that I have abso-
lute confidence that all pure spectators will agree
with me, whenever I make a careful report. I
told Alcott that every one of my expressions
concerning "God," or the "soul," etc, is en-
titled to attention as testimony, because it is
independent, not calculated, not part of any
system, but spontaneous, and the nearest word
I could find to the thing.

" Over the soul can and will God allow no
one to rule but Himself alone." — Martin

The moral sentiment is pure vision, and what
is Religion ? Religion is the architecture of the
sentiment. The sentiment never rests in vision,
butwishes to be enacted. It does not pause,' . . .

I For the rest of this paragraph, see " Character " (^Lectures
and Biographical Sketches, p. 103).

192 JOURNAL [Age 63

Man is' architectural ; always goes to precipi-
tate the particles held in solution by his thought
into a form which obeys and represents the
thought: aims always to turn his tent into a
house ; his camping ground into an estate, —
garden and field ; these lightning flashes of the
Divine Soul into a good house-lamp, or, better,
if he can, into an annual and perennial Sun.

I afBrm that in all men is this majestic per-
ception and command which we call moral senti-
ment:' ... It is the truth itself. It is foolish
cavil to say, — What ? you will adore yourself?

I find that all men are perishing, frivolous
ghosts before this dread Imperturbability which
dwells in the heart of every person. Don't be
deceived by outsides. That is the stupendous
mystery with which we are always familiar, but
passes all explanation, that, in the rubbish of
whims and appetites and sins of all these poor
personalities, resides, at bottom, this sublime

The Soul, as it obeys the inward law, re-
veres it, comes to feel that the listening after
any saint or prophet were an impiety against
this immediate revelation.

I What follows is found in "Character" (^Lectures and
Biographical Sketches, pp. 97, 98).


Morals. The moral sentiment ... it is ab-
solute and in every individual the law of the
world. ... It is found that the instinct of the
brute creation has a certain faint coincidence
with morals. The moral element is the Reason
of things applied to human action.

We do not cite Archimedes to establish the
equality of the radii of the circle, nor Pythago-
ras for the law of the hypothenuse, nor Newton
for laws of light, nor Rumford for those of heat,
though these may first have announced certain
propositions. Once announced, they are ac-
cepted by all and stand forevermore on the na-
ture of things, though they were successively
enunciated by these men. It had been vain to
enunciate them if they had not been first true
in the Mind, and the true geometer passes over
these perished announcers to the eternal nature
of which they, as he, are the vehicles. So we do
not attribute, except in the pleasing acts of im-
agination, authority to Moses or to Jesus or
other moralists, as soon as we have seen that
their lessons are really true in Nature ; then we
lose the words and the saint in the riches of the
soul from which he spoke, and which is perfect

It is not to be disputed that every opinion.

194 JOURNAL [Age 63

every motive, every idea, plants itself in a man
who becomes its representative and name for
his age or ages, as Solon or Lycurgus, as Ho-
mer, Euclid, Aristotle, as Jesus, as Mahomet,
as Caesar, as Brutus, as Washington, as Cal-

It is doubtful whether London, whether
Paris, can answer the questions which now rise
in the mind. Sainte-Beuve says, " fai rid'ee
qu'on est toujours de son temps., et ceux-la mtmes
qui en ont le mains Fair."

Nationality. We Americans have got sup-
pled into the state of melioration. We have
lived fast in ten years ; in four years last
past.' . . .

Things once not possible are probable now.
Women dispose of their own property. Women
will vote. Women lecture, preach, are physi-
cians, artists.

Stand where you are, and make the best of it.
I cannot find any bar in the way of social life
here.' ... I see, too, happy homes, and true

1 Most of what follows is printed in " Resources " (^Let-
ters and Social Aims, -p^. 141, 142).

2 See "Fortune of the Republic" (^Miscellanies,^. 535).


gentlemen to live and die for, and friends to die

Nationality is often silly. Every nation be-
lieves that the Divine Providence has a sneak-
ing kindness for it; as, "God has been received
a burgher of Berne." . .

America. I thought at Chapin's lecture, — It
is not a question whether we shall be a nation,
or only a multitude of people ; but whether we
shall be the new na tion, the leading Guide and
Lawgiver of the world, as having clearly chosen
and firmly held the simplest and best rule of
political society.

The office of America is to liberate, to abolish
kingcraft, priestcraft, caste, monopoly, to pull
down the gallows, to burn up the bloody statute-
book, to take in the immigrant, to open the
doors of the sea and the fields of the earth, —
to extemporize government in Texas, in Cali-
fornia, in Oregon, — to make provisional law
where statute law is not ready. This liberation
appears in the power of invention, the freedom
of thinking, in readiness for reforms.' . . .

The human race is immortal : oppressed here,
I See " Fortune of the Republic " (^Miscellanies, -p. 527).

196 JOURNAL [Age 63

they step aside into taverns or solitudes, and
are free there. In the quiet of cottages, or of
friendship, or of pot-houses, they see the pass-
ing of so many gods, whether Jove, or Hertha,
or Thor, or Christ, or Allah, which live longer
or shorter terms, and then die; — but the good
human race outlives them all, and forever in the
heart abides the old sovereign Sentiment re-
quiring justice and good will to all, and rebuilds
the decayed temples, and with new names chants
again the praise of Eternal Right.

How shall it inaugurate its own ritual in the
new age ? It has the Sunday, which is the wis-
dom and necessity of mankind ; for inspiration,
for solitude, for society."

The morale is the source of inspiration ; it
shall inspire whom it will to uplift and persuade
men, will write hymns and meditations and his-
tories that edify and provoke us.

(From LN)


Lessing said of the astronomers, " It is easier
for them to meet disaster than at sea, — and
they make glorious shipwreck who are lost in
seeking worlds."

I Compare "Character" (^Lectures and Biographical
Sketches, p. 117).


Universities. The treatises that are written
on university reform may be acute or not, but
their chief value to the observer is the show-
ing that a cleavage is occurring in the hitherto
firm granite of the past, and a new era is nearly

Books. The advantage of the old-fashioned
folio was, that it was safe from the borrowers.

Gladly the boy learns that the 5 line in the
Multiplication Table goes to tune of "Yankee

If a man happens to have a good father, he
needs less history : he quotes his father on each
occasion, — his habits, manners, rules. If his
father is dull and unmentionable, then his own
reading becomes more important.

Colour. At Nantasket Beach, I cannot but ap-
prove the taste which clothed the emperors in
purple, when I see the wet porphyry pebbles.

Culture is partial. I know so well that fre-
quent unhappy figure with educated eyes, and
uneducated body.

198 JOURNAL [Age 63

The good writer seems to be writing about
himself, but has his eye always on that thread
of the universe which runs through himself,
and all things.

The word miracle, as It is used, only indicates
the savage ignorance of the devotee, staring
with wonder to see water turned into wine, and
heedless of the stupendous fact of himself being
there present.' If the water became wine, be-
came fire, became a chorus of angels, it would
not -compare with the familiar fact of his own
perception. Here he stands, a lonely thought,
harmoniously organized into correspondence
with the Universe of Mind and Matter.

April 10.
Yesterday at the funeral of George L. Stearns.'
Rode to Mount Auburn in a carriage with Mr.
Alcott and Mr. P , and had long conver-
sation on Swedenborg. Mr. P , intelligent

and well-versed on Swedenborg ; but his intel-

1 The beginning of the paragraph is printed in the "Sov-
ereignty of Ethics" (^Lectures and Biographical Sketches,
p. zoo).

2 Major George L. Stearns, of Medford, a merchant of
Boston, and, during the war, a most devoted patriot. Mr.
Emerson's notice of him is printed in Lectures and Bio-
graphical Sketches.


ligence stops, as usual, at the Hebrew symbol-
ism. Philosopher up to that limit, but there
accepts the village church as part of the sky.
In a day not far off this English obstinacy of
patching the ecliptic of the Universe with a
small bit of tin will come to an end.

[On the Nineteenth of April — Concord's
proud day — of this year, a granite obelisk was
dedicated, on the Common, in honour of the
soldiers connected with the town who lost their
lives in the recent war. Mr. Emerson made the
address which is printed in the Miscellanies. "[

You complain that the Negroes are a base
class. Who makes and keeps the Jew or the
Negro base, who but you, who exclude them
from the rights which others enjoy ?

If I were rich, I should get the education I
have always wished by persuading Agassiz to
let me carry him to Canada : and Dr. Gray to
go to examine the trans-Mississippi Flora ; and
Wyman should find me necessary to his exca-
vations ; and Alvan Clark should make a tele-
scope for me too; and I can easily see how to
find the gift for each master that would domes-
ticate me with him for a time.

200 JOURNAL [Age 63

I thought, as the train carried me so fast
down the east bank of the Hudson River, that

Online LibraryRalph Waldo EmersonJournals of Ralph Waldo Emerson → online text (page 10 of 31)