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have some important convenience, not for thy
satisfaction of whom I borrow, but for my sat
isfaction that I have not exceeded carelessly any
proper wants, have not overdrawn.

The devil can quote texts. There is one rule
that should regulate the appeal, often so inde
corous and irrational, to Scripture : You may
quote the example of Paul or Jesus to a better
sentiment or practice than the one proposed, but
never to a worse. Thus, if it is acknowledged
or felt that there would be a superior purity in
using water to using wine, do not quote
Jesus as using wine. If it would be nobler to
appeal to the love of men when you want bread


or shoes than to give them a pledge of restor
ing them (which money is) do not quote Jesus
or Paul as paying taxes or living in "mine own
hired home."

It was said in conversation at Mr. B s, that
the world owes the world more than the world
can pay, so that the world had better fail and
settle up.

Edward Palmer said that it usually happened
at farmhouses where he stopped, that, " when
he came in conversation to unfold his views to
the people, they were interested in his plan."
Thus each reformer carries about in him a piece
of me, and as soon as I know it, I am perforce
his kinsman and brother. I must feel that he is
pleading my cause and shall account myself
serving myself in giving him what he lacketh.

October 18.

Sent a letter today to T. Carlyle, per Royal

i This is Letter XXVIII in the Carlyle- Emerson Corre
spondence, in which Mr. Emerson asks Carlyle to postpone
his intended visit and the lecturing scheme in America until
the storm which the " Divinity School Address had raised up


Today came Washburn, Lippitt, Ellis, and

Atkins to dine. 1

October 19.

Let me add of quoting Scripture, to what was
said above, that I hate to meet this slavish cus
tom in a solemn expression of sentiment, like
the late manifesto of the Peace Convention. It
seems to deny, with the multitude, the omni
presence and the eternity of God. Once, he
spoke through good men these special words.
Now, if we have aught high and holy to do,
we must wrench somehow their words to speak
it in. We have none of our own. Humbly
rather let us go and ask God s leave to use the
Hour and Language that now is. Cannot you
ransack the grave-yards and get your great-grand
father s clothes also ? It is like the single coat in
Sainte Lucie in which the islanders one by one
paid their respects to the new governor. It is
a poor-spirited age. The great army of cowards
who bellow and bully from their bed-chamber
windows have no confidence in truth or God.

should abate, for he felt that Carlyle s prospects would suffer

I Edward A. Washburn, George Warren Lippitt, Rufus
Ellis, and Benjamin F. Atkins ; the first three, having gradu
ated at Harvard that year, were divinity students.


Truth will not maintain itself, they fancy, unless
they bolster it up, and whip and stone the as
sailants ; and the religion of God, the being of
God, they seem to think dependent on what
we say of it. The feminine vehemence with
which the A. N. 1 of the Daily Advertiser be
seeches the dear people to whip that naughty
heretic is the natural feeling in the mind whose
religion is external. It cannot subsist ; it suffers
shipwreck if its faith is not confirmed by all
surrounding persons. A believer, a mind whose
faith is consciousness, is never disturbed because
other persons do not yet see the fact which
he sees.

It is plain that there are two classes in our
educated community : first, those who confine
themselves to the facts in their consciousness ;
and secondly, those who superadd sundry pro
positions. The aim of a true teacher now would
be to bring men back to a trust in God and
destroy before their eyes these idolatrous pro
positions : to teach the doctrine of the per
petual revelation,

October 20.

All inquiry into antiquity, all curiosity re-
I Andrews Norton.


specting the Pyramids ... is simply and at
last the desire to do away this wild savage pre
posterous Then, introduce in its place the Now:
it is to banish the not me and supply the me ;
it is to abolish difference and restore unity* . . .
And this is also the aim in all science, in
the unprofitable abysses of entomology, in
the gigantic masses of geology, and spaces of
astronomy, simply to transport our conscious
ness of cause and effect into those remote and
by us uninhabited members, and see that they
all proceed from cc causes now in operation,"
from one mind, and that ours.

Steady, steady ! When this fog of good and
evil affections falls, it is hard to see and walk

One Mind. The ancients exchanged their
names with their friends, signifying that in
their friend they loved their own soul.

What said my brave Asia 2 concerning the
paragraph writers, today ? that " this whole

1 Here occurs the paragraph so beginning in " History "

(p. to.

2 One of Mr. Emerson s names for his wife.


practice of self-justification and recrimination
betwixt literary men seemed every whit as low
as the quarrels of the Paddies."

Then said I, "But what will you say, excel
lent Asia, when my smart article comes out in
the paper, in reply to Mr. A. and Dr. B. ? "
" Why, then," answered she, " I shall feel the
first emotion of fear and sorrow on your ac
count." "But do you know," I asked, "how
many fine things I have thought of to say to
these fighters? They are too good to be lost."
" Then," rejoined the queen, "there is some
merit in being silent."

It is plain from all the noise that there is
atheism somewhere ; the only question is now,
Which is the atheist?

It is observable, as I have written before,
that even the science of the day is introver-
sive. The microscope is carried to perfection.
And Geology looks no longer in written his
tories, but examines the earth that it may be
its own chronicle.

" Please, papa, tell me a story," says the
child of two years ; who will say then that the
novel has not a foundation in nature ?

1838] IDOLS. LETTER 95

Idols. Men are not units but poor mixtures.
. . . They accept how weary a load of tradition
from their elders and more forcible neighbors.
By and by, as the divine effort of creation and
growth begins in them, new loves, new aver
sions, take effect, the first radiation of their
own soul amidst things. Yet each of these out
bursts of the central life is partial, and leaves
abundance of traditions still in force. Each
soul has its idols. 1 . . .

But the new expansion and upthrusting from
the centre shall classify our facts by new radia
tion and will show us idols in how many things
which now we esteem part and parcel of our
constitution and lot in nature. Property, Gov
ernment, Books, Systems of Education and of
Religion, will successively detach themselves
from the growing spirit. I call an Idol any
thing which a man honors, which the constitu
tion of his mind does not necessitate him to


October 21.

Is the ideal society always to be only a dream,
a song, a luxury of thought, and never a step

i Here follows the passage on the idol of Italy, of travelling,
etc. ("Self- Reliance," pp. 80, 8 1).


taken to realize the vision for living and indi
gent men without misgivings within and wildest
ridicule abroad ? Between poetry and prose must
the great gulf yawn ever, and they who try to
bridge it over be lunatics or hypocrites ? And
yet the too dark ground of history is starred
over with solitary heroes who dared to believe
better of their brothers, and who prevailed by
actually executing the law (the high ideal) in
their own life, and, though a hissing and an
offence to their contemporaries, yet they became
a celestial sign to all succeeding souls as they
journeyed through nature. How shine the names
of Abraham, Diogenes, Pythagoras, and the
transcendent Jesus, in antiquity ! And now, in
our turn, shall we esteem the elegant decorum
of our world, and what is called greatness and
splendor in it, of such a vast and outweighing
worth, as to reckon all aspirations after the Bet
ter fanciful or pitiable, and all aspirants pert
and loathsome? There is a limit, and (as in
some hours we fancy) a pretty speedy limit, to
the value of what is called success in life. The
great world, too, always bears unexpected witness
to the rhapsodies of the idealists. The fine and
gay people are often disconcerted when the Re
former points out examples of his doctrine in


the midst of what is finest and gayest. Thus
always the Christian humility was aped by the
protestations of courtesy, and always the great
hearted children of fortune, the Caesars, Cleo-
patras, Alcibiadeses, Essexes and Sidneys within
their own proud pale have treated fortune and
the popular estimates with a certain defiance
and contempt. Irregular glimpses they had of
the real Good and Fair which added a more
than royal loftiness to their behavior and to
their dealing with houses and lands.

Is it not droll, though, that these porcelain
creatures should turn as quick as the fashionable
mob on the poor cobblers, peasants and school
masters who preached the good and fair to man
kind, and be willing to burn them up with the
rays of aristocratic majesty?

I, for my part, am very well pleased to see
the variety and velocity of the movements that
all over our broad land, in spots and corners,
agitate society. War, slavery, alcohol, animal
food, domestic hired service, colleges, creeds,
and now at last money, also, have their spirited
and unweariable assailants, and must pass out of
use or must learn a law.

Mine Asia T says, A human being should be-
I Mrs. Emerson.


ware how he laughs, for then he shows all his


A great colossal soul, I fancy, was Sweden-
borg. 1 . . .

Edward Palmer asked me if I liked two serv
ices in a Sabbath. I told him, Not very well.
If the sermon was good I wished to think of it ;
if it was bad, one was enough.

October 26.

Jones Very came hither, two days since, and
gave occasion to many thoughts on his peculiar
state of mind and his relation to society. His
position accuses society as much as society names
it false and morbid ; and much of his discourse
concerning society, the church, and the college
was perfectly just.

Entertain every thought, every character, that
goes by with the hospitality of your soul. Give
him the freedom of your inner house. He shall
make you wise to the extent of his own utter
most receivings.

I Here occurs the passage beginning similarly in Represent
ative Men, p. 1 02. It is followed by the passage in the same
volume (p. 204) as to the effect of Shakspear s work on
German thought.


Especially if one of these monotones, whereof,
as my friends think, I have a savage society,
like a menagerie of monsters, come to you, re
ceive him. For the partial action of his mind in
one direction is a telescope for the objects on
which it is pointed. And as we know that every
path we take is but a radius of our sphere, and
we may dive as deep in every other direction as
we have in that, a far insight of one evil sug
gests instantly the immense extent of that revo
lution that must be wrought before He whose
right it is shall reign, the all in all.

Vocabularies. - In going through Italy I
speak Italian, through Arabia, Arabic : I say the
same things, but have altered my speech. But
ignorant people think a foreigner speaking a
foreign tongue a formidable, odious nature, alien
to the backbone. So is it with our brothers.
Our journey, the journey of the soul, is through
different regions of thought, and to each its own
vocabulary. As soon as we hear a new vocabu
lary from our own, at once we exaggerate the
alarming differences, account the man sus
picious, a thief, a pagan, and set no bounds to
our disgust or hatred, and, late in life, perhaps
too late, we find he was loving and hating, doing


and thinking the same things as we, under his
own vocabulary.

Scholar. Every word, every striking word
that occurs in the pages of an original genius,
will provoke attack and be the subject of twenty
pamphlets and a hundred paragraphs. Should
he be so duped as to stop and listen P Rather,
let him know that the page he writes today will
contain a new subject for the pamphleteers, and
that which he writes tomorrow, more. Let him
not be misled to give it any more than the no
tice due from him, viz., just that which it had in
his first page, before the controversy. The ex
aggeration of the notice is right for them, false
for him. Every word that he quite naturally
writes is as prodigious and offensive. So write
on, and, by and by, will come a reader and an
age that will justify all your contest. Do not
even look behind. Leave that bone for them to
pick and welcome.

Let me study and work contentedly and faith
fully; I do not remember my critics. I forget
them, I depart from them by every step I
take. If I think then of them, it is a bad sign.

V In my weak hours I look fondly to Europe


and think how gladly I would live in Florence
and Rome. In my manly hours, I defy these
leanings, these lingering looks behind, these
flesh-pots of Egypt, and feel that my duty is
my place and that the merrymen of circum
stance should follow as they might. . . .

Quand on a raison, on a souvent beaucoup plus
raison qu on ne croit. GUIZOT.

We refer all things to time, as we refer the
immensely sundered stars to one concave sphere,
and so we say that the Judgment is near. 1 . . .

C. had a persuasion to win fate to his pur
pose ; make that which was seem to the be
holders not to be, and his tongue did lick the
four elements away.

Converse with a soul which is grandly simple,
and literature looks like word-catching. 2 . . .

O, worthy Mr. Graham, poet of bran-bread
and pumpkins, there is a limit to the revolu-

1 Here follows a long passage printed in The Over-
Soul," beginning thus (Essays, First Series, p. 273).

2 Here occurs the long passage so beginning in "The
Over-Soul " (pp. 291, 292).


tions of a pumpkin, project it along the ground
with what force soever. It is not a winged orb
like the Egyptian symbol of dominion, but an
unfeathered, ridgy, yellow pumpkin, and will
quickly come to a standstill. 1

Literature is a heap of verbs and nouns en
closing an intuition or two, a few ideas and a
few fables.

Literature is a subterfuge.

One man might have writ all the first rate
pieces we call English literature.

Literature is eaves-dropping.

Literature is an amusement; virtue is the
business of the universe.

We must use the language of facts, and not
be superstitiously abstract.

October 27.

The ray of light passes invisible through
space, and only when it falls on an object, is it
seen. So your spiritual energy is barren and
useless until it is directed on something out
ward : then is it a thought: the relation between

i This apostrophe is to Mr. Sylvester Graham, the diet
reformer, whose book, Bread and Bread-Making, had a great
influence among dyspeptics and reformers in those days.


you and it first makes you, the value of you,
apparent to me.

It is the tragedy of life that the highest gifts
are not secure. What purer efflux of the God
head than, the ray of the moral sentiment? Yet
it comes before me so pure as to consent in
language to all the tests we can apply, and yet
is it morbid, painful, unwise. My faith is per
fect that what is from God shall be more wise,
more fair, more gracious, more manifold, more
rejoicing than aught the soul had already. How
sad to behold aught coming in that name (self
delighted too that it comes from him), which
gives no light, which confounds only, which
shines on nothing, affirming meantime that it is
all light ; which does nothing, affirming steadily
that it does and is all.

Mrs. Ripley is superior to all she knows.
She reminds one of a steam-mill of great activ
ity and power which must be fed, and she grinds
German, Italian, Greek, Chemistry, Metaphys
ics, Theology, with utter indifference which,
something she must have to keep the machine
from tearing itself.

The influence of an original genius is matter


of literary history. It seems as if the Shakspear
could not be admired, could not even be seen
until his living, conversing and writing had dif
fused his spirit into the young and acquiring
class so that he had multiplied himself into a
thousand sons, a thousand Shakspears and so
understands himself.

October 28.

Jones Very says it is with him a day of hate ;
that he discerns the bad element in every person
whom he meets, which repels him : he even
shrinks a little to give the hand, that sign of
receiving. The institutions, the cities which men
have built the world over, look to him like a
huge blot of ink. His own only guard in going
to see men is that he goes to do them good, else
they would injure him (spiritually). He lives
in the sight that he who made him, made the
things he sees.

He would as soon embrace a black Egyptian
mummy as Socrates. He would obey, obey. He
is not disposed to attack religions and charities,
though false. The bruised reed he would not
break ; the smoking flax he would not quench.
To Lidian he says, " Your thought speaks
there, and not your life." And he is very sensible
of interference in thought and act. A very accurate

1838] JONES VERY 105

discernment of spirits belongs to his state, and
he detects at once the presence of an alien ele
ment, though he cannot tell whence, how, or
whereto it is. He thinks me covetous in my hold
of truth, of seeing truth separate, and of receiv
ing or taking it, instead of merely obeying. The
Will is to him all, as to me (after my own showing)
Truth. He is sensible in me of a little colder
air than that he breathes. He says, " You do not
disobey because you do the wrong act; but you
do the wrong act, because you disobey ; and you
do not obey because you do the good action, but
you do the good action because you first obey."
He has nothing to do with time, because he
obeys. A man who is busy says he has no time ;
he does not recognize that element. A man
who is idle says he does not know what to do
with his time. Obedience is in eternity. He says,
It is the necessity of the spirit to speak with au
thority. What led him to study Shakspear was
the fact that all young men say, Shakspear was
no saint, yet see what genius ! He wished to
solve that problem.

He had the manners of a man, one, that is,
to whom life was more than meat, the body than
raiment. He felt it an honor, he said, to wash
his face, being, as it was, the temple of the spirit.


And he is gone into the multitude as solitary as
Jesus. In dismissing him I seem to have dis
charged an arrow into the heart of society.
Wherever that young enthusiast goes he will as
tonish and disconcert men by dividing for them
the cloud that covers the profound gulf that is
in man.

October 29.

We are wiser, I see well, than we know. 1 . . .

Travelling foolish. We imagine that in Ger
many is the aliment which the mind seeks, or in
this reading, or in that. But go to Germany, and
you shall not find it. They have sent it to Amer
ica. It is not without, but within: it is not in
geography, but in the soul.

Sincerity is the highest compliment you can
pay. Jones Very charmed us all by telling us he
hated us all.

October 30.

And I am to seek to solve for my fellows the
problem of Human Life, in words, for that is

i Here follows the sentences in "The Over-Soul " about
not interfering with the thought, and the soul s being a sepa
rating sword (Essays, First Series, p. 280) ; and that on the
Divine thought demolishing centuries, witness Christ s teach
ing (p. 273).


the subject advertised for my lectures presently.
Well, boy, what canst thou say ? Knowest thou
its law? its way ? its equipoise? its endless end?
Seest thou the inevitable conditions which all
seek to dodge ? . . .

There is reason enough for the coincidences,
the signs, the presentiments which astonish every
person now and then in the course of his life.
For, as every spirit makes its own condition and
history, the reason of the event is always latent
in the life.

The correspondence of O Connell and our
American Stevenson indicates a new step taken
in civilization. Our haughty, feudal Virginian
suddenly finds his rights to enter the society of
gentlemen questioned, and he obliged to mince
and shuffle and equivocate in his sentences, to
deny that he is a slave-breeder without denying
that he is a slave-owner. He finds that the eyes
of men have got so far opened that they must
see well the distinction between a cavalier and
the cavalier s negro-driver, a race abhorred.

i Here,follow the passages in * Compensation" thus be
ginning (p. 105), and on the price exacted for eminence, for
light, wealth, and fame (pp. 99, 100, 104).


The men you meet and seek to raise to higher
thought know as well as you know that you are
of them, and that you stand yet on the ground,
whilst you say to them sincerely, let us arise, let
us fly. But once fly yourself, and they will look
up to you.

There is no terror like that of being known.
The world lies in night of sin. It hears not the
cock crowing : it sees not the grey streak in the
East. At the first entering ray of light, society
is shaken with fear and anger from side to side.
Who opened that shutter? they cry, Wo to him !
They belie it, they call it darkness that comes in,
affirming that they were in light before. Before
the man who has spoken to them the dread word,
they tremble and flee. They flee to new topics,
to their learning, to the solid institutions about
them, to their great men, to their windows, and
look-out on the road and passengers, to their
very furniture, and meats, and drinks, any
where, anyhow to escape the apparition. The
wild horse has heard the whisper of the tamer :
the maniac has caught the glance of the keeper.
They try to forget the memory of the speaker,
to put him down into the same obscure place
he occupied in their minds before he spake to


them. It is all in vain. They even flatter them
selves that they have killed and buried the en
emy, when they have magisterially denied and
denounced him. But vain, vain, all vain. It was
but the first mutter of the distant storm they
heard, it was the first cry of the Revolution,
it was the touch, the palpitation that goes
before the earthquake. Even now society is
shaken because a thought or two have been
thrown into the midst. The sects, the colleges,
the church, the statesmen all have forebodings.
It now works only in a handful. What does
State Street and Wall Street and the Royal Ex
change and the Bourse at Paris care for these
few thoughts and these few men? Very little;
truly ; most truly. But the doom of State Street,
and Wall Street, of London, and France, of the
whole world, is advertised by those thoughts ;
is in the procession of the Soul which comes
after those few thoughts.

Does a man wish to remain concealed? A few
questions (who does not see?) determine a man s
whole connexion and place. Does he read Words
worth, Goethe, Swedenborg, Bentham or Spurz-
heim ? Botany? Geology? Abolition? Diet?
Shakspear? Coleridge?


The tone a man takes indicates his right

Swedenborgianism introduces unnecessary

Young men rough and unmelodious.

The point of absolute rest in communion
with God.

Nature is loved by what is best in us. 1 . . .

There are some men above grief and some
men below it.

I ought not to omit recording the astonish
ment which seized all the company when our
brave saint, 2 the other day, fronted the presid
ing preacher. The preacher began to tower and
dogmatize with many words. Instantly I fore
saw that his doom was fixed ; and as quick as he
ceased speaking, the saint set right and blew
away all his words in an instant, unhorsed
him, I may say, and tumbled him along the
ground in utter dismay, like my angel of Heli-
odorus. Never was discomfiture more complete.
In tones of genuine pathos he "bid him wonder

1 The passage thus beginning occurs in "Nature"

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