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From The Scottish Review. scendentalism of Emerson, and his strugEMERSON, THE THINKER.
gles with religious belief. But it must SINCE Emerson's death we have had not be forgotten that the new religion in three charming monographs illustrating its day tinged and influenced the whole his life and career; these are the Me- thought and movement of the best intelmoir” by Oliver Wendell Holmes, in the lects of America. Frothingham was an series of " American Men of Letters ; ” apostle of his teachings, Ripley gave up • The Life, Writings, and Philosophy of all that he had for it, and even sold his Emerson,” by George Willis Cooke; and library to help its growth and develop“ Emerson at Home and Abroad,” by ment. Whittier espoused it, and Lowell Moncure Daniel Conway. Other essays wrote some of his sincerest papers for have, of course, appeared, notably those the Dial, the organ of the movement. of Arnold, Morley, Whipple, and Ireland. Margaret Fuller was bewitched by it, SylBut the latter have been more in the way | vester Judd published his novel of “Marof reminiscence and criticism than of garet as an illustration of the creed, and biography. We have now the legal life of Theodore Parker, and Curtis, and Hawthe poet and idealist, written by James thorne, had their warmest sympathies Elliot Cabot, the life-long friend and lit. awakened by it. Even George Bancroft erary executor of Mr. Emerson. Mr. believed that the new faith would live. Cabot was well equipped for his task, Of all that famous group of New England havinig at different times materially as- singers and thinkers, Bronson Alcott sisted the subject of his memoir, in the alone remains staunch to his early principreparation and arrangement of his lec- ples. The idea, after saturating the life. tures and addresses for the press. The work of its teachers and disciples, quietly book is largely made up of extracts from died away, and to-day it is merely a mem. Emerson's journal and private letters. ory. No one doubts the sincerity of those These tell their own story, and though the who took it up, and demanded so much life which they describe was uneventful in for it. As a religion, it promised its devoa measure, as a poet's life perhaps ought tees more than Kant, or Fichte, or Coleto be, still the book possesses much real ridge, or Wordsworth, ever dreamed of interest to the general reader. Mr. Cabot granting. But its growth was so rapid attempts no critical estimate of his hero's that its promoters were surprised and work. He leaves that task for the sharp- startled. From the rocket at last, howened stiletto of Mr. Matthew Arnold, the ever, came the stick. Sainte-Beuve of English literature. And, Mr. Cabot, as we have indicated, em. on the other hand, he does not destroy the phasizes this period in Emerson's life, as perfect harmony of events by fulsome well as his experiences in the pulpit. We adulation of the chief actor in them. His have much of the preacher, and too little, work is judiciously done, and of the eight it may be said, of the poet and philosohundred pages before us the reader wiil pher. But the reader will be thankful for not willingly skip a line. Some may think the copious accounts of the man, the lecthat too much stress is paid to the tran- turer, and the traveller. In his time,
Emerson was a conspicuous force in the . 1. A Memoir of Ralph Waldo Emerson. By James Elliot Cabot.
letters and mental activity of his country. 2. The Life, Writings, and Philosophy of Emer- His fame extended to Europe. A future
By George Willis COOKE. 3. Ralph Waldo Emerson. By Oliver WENDELL
generation must determine his place in HOLMES.
literature. 4. Emerson at Home and Abroad. By MONCURE He was the outcome of eight generaD. CONWAY.
tions of orthodox preachers. His father 5. Ralph Waldo Emerson, a Biographical Sketch. By ALEXANDER IRELAND.
was the Rev. William Emerson, and he 6 The Correspondence of Thomas Carlyle and was born on the 25th of May, 1803, in Ralph Waldo Emerson. Edited by Prof. Charles Summer Street, Boston, Mass. His home
7. Transcendentalism in New England. By Oc- was an austere one, though perfect sympa TAVIUS BROOKS FROTHINGHAM.
thy existed in the family circle, and th:
four brothers, William, Ralph, Edward, distaste, regarding the episode of schooland Charles, bore only the kindest rela- keeping as the one gloomy passage in his tions towards one another. Ralph was life. “A hopeless schoolmaster,” he calls under three years of age when his school- himself, “toiling through this miserable days began. He had only been two employment without even the poor satismonths at Miss Whitwell's school, when faction of discharging it well; for the his ther wrote, “ Ralph does not read good suspect me, and the geese dislike very well yet.” In 1813 he entered the me.” But Emerson was a much better Latin school. A fellow-student, Dr. Fur- schoolmaster than he was disposed to adness, says of his friend :
mit. He spent three years in teaching,
much as he disliked it, and his earnings We were at the Boston Latin School to. gether. From 1 to 12 every day we went to from that source were very good, far bea private school kept by Mr. Webb, master of yond his personal needs. Like all boys one of the public Grammar schools. After he had a dream. To be a brilliant pulpit the public school was dismissed, Mr. Webb orator, swaying multitudes with his elohad a few boys who came to him, chiefly to quence, and bringing men nearer to God, learn to write. Ralph and I used to sit to- was the ideal career that he had marked gether, I can see him now at his copy-book; out for himself. To achieve that end he quite a laborious operation it appeared, as his studied theology, but as the years passed tongue worked up and down with his pen. away doubts and misgivings found their But then, thank Heaven! he never had any talent for anything, — nothing put pure genius, way to his heart, and the boyish vision which talents would have overlaid. Then it grew more and more dim. His journals was that he wrote verses on the naval victories show his discouragements and disappointof the war of 1812. He wrote in verse also a ments. However, he was not the man to history or romance — or was it an epic? — en-draw back. In 1824 he joined the Divinity titled, “ Fortus,” which I have a dim remem- School at Cambridge, Mass, and in Ocbrance of having illustrated. I think Waldo tober, 1826, having been “ approbated to repaid my admiration of his verses with his preach,” he delivered his first public ser. for my pictures. He was rather jealous of mon at Waltham, in Mr. Samuel Ripley's any amendments that I ventured to suggest. pulpit. The three divisions of this serAt the Latin School his favorite piece for
mon were — 1. Men are always praying; declamation was from the “ Pleasures of Hope," " Warsaw's Last Champion,” etc.
2. All their prayers are granted; 3. We This passage is a telephone to my ears. I
must beware, then, what we ask. The hear the ringing of his voice.
idea was suggested by a laborer whom he
had seen working in the fields. Though In 1817 he entered Harvard College, rude, says Emerson, he had some deep and was graduated four years later. He thoughts.
Ill health sent the young had early felt the pinch of poverty, and preacher to South Carolina and Florida he went to college as president's fresh- for a time. The change helped him wonman (page), and waiter at commons. As derfully, and he returned North, and president's freshman, he had his lodging preached for a few weeks at the First free of charge, in the president's house, Church, and later at Northampton and and his duty was to summon delinquents, New Bedford. In February, 1829, he was and to announce to the students the orders selected as the colleague of the Rev. of the faculty. For waiting at commons, Henry Ware, Jun., of the Second Church three-fourths of the cost of his board was in Boston. In March he was ordained, remitted. He was well liked by profess- but it was not long afterwards that his ors and classmates. Mathematics had mind experienced that change which prono charm for him, but Chaucer, Montaigne, duced so marked an effect on his life. He and Plato were ever in his hands. Before no longer felt that the pulpit was bis place. leaving college he tried school-teaching, Preaching became irksome to him. His but he was disgusted with the occupation, theological views drifted more and more and when he took it up again, after con- out of harmony with the old orthodoxy of cluding his studies, he felt the same his fathers, and mental troubles, and ill
ness in his family, made him despondent. truth, in my opinion that young man was not He was nearing the end of his career as a born to be a minister.” minister of the gospel, but before the blow The beautiful wife continued to droop fell, he met Ellen Louisa Tucker, the and pine. The husband watched over her lovely daughter of a Boston merchant, tenderly, hoping against hope. At times whose hand he espoused after a brief en the courage she displayed cheered him a gagement. She was a lady of great charm little. But the harsh spring winds provof manner and beauty. Her spirits were ing too severe, a second sojourn at the gay and buoyant, so buoyant, in fact, that South was proposed. While preparing none of her friends suspected that she for the journey, Mrs. Emerson died. was suffering from an incurable and malig. Twelve months later, in 1832, at the close nant malady. In September the marriage of his third year as incumbent of the took place, and Emerson felt that he had Second Church, Emerson determined to reached the zenith of earthly happiness. break off his connection with his charge. But happy as he was, he feared that it He had been gradually reaching the cliwould not hold, and he wrote to his aunt, max, and declared plainly " that he could “There's an apprehension of reverse al- not regard any longer the rite of the ways arising froin success.” And yet Lord's Supper as a sacrament, estab. Emerson was not the one to borrow lished by Christ for his followers in all trouble as a rule ; but he could not shake ages.” Provided the use of the elements off the forebodings which pressed heavily was dispensed with, and the rite made one on his heart. Meanwhile, he went on merely of commemoration, he was willing with his preaching, charming the young to continue the service, but on no other hearers of the congregation, and shocking conditions. His proposal was referred to those older men and women who thought a select committee, which met and finally his discourses unsanctified because they reported that they had entire confidence in were unconventional and untheological in their pastor, but declined to advise any style. Dr. Hedge praises their simplicity, change. The precise nature of the rite and says that Emerson won his first ad- they did not feel disposed to discuss. mirers in the pulpit. Still, as a pastor, This left the question to Emerson alone he does not appear to have been success- for solution. He went to the White Hills ful. His biographer says of him: to think it over, and to decide whether he
would resign the pastorate or continue to As to his performance of the other pastoral administer the communion usual. duties — the visiting of the sick or the well, While there, he enters in his journal : and generally his personal and social relations to his flock, Emerson says of himself, that he The Communicant celebrates, on a foundadid not excel, like Dr. Charles Lowell, in tion either of authority or of tradition, an “domiciliaries," and Dr. Charles Robbins, ordinance which has been the occasion to his successor at the Second Church, had a thousands, - I hope to thousands of thoustory of some Revolutionary veteran on his sands, – of contrition, of gratitude, of prayer, death-bed summoning the minister for the of faith, of love, of holy living. Far be it appropriate consolations, and rising in his from any of my friends — God forbid it be in wrath when Emerson showed some hesita- my heart — to interrupt any occasion thus tion, as he thought, at handling his spiritual blessed of God's influences upon the human weapons: “Young man, if you don't know mind. I will not, because we may not all your business, you had better go home.” Dr. think alike of the means, fight so strenuously William Hague, also, minister of the First against the means as to miss of the end which Baptist Church in Hanover Street when Emer- we all value alike. I think Jesus did not son was at the Old North, says that once when mean to institute a perpetual celebration, but Emerson was to take part with him in a fune- that a commemoration of him would be useful. ral service, the sexton said that “while Mr. Others think that Jesus did establish this use. Emerson's people think so highly of him, he We are agreed that one is useful, and we are does not make his best impression at a fune- agreed, I hope, in the way in which it must be ral; in fact, he does not seem to be at ease at made useful, namely, by each one making it an all, but rather shy and retiring; to tell the original commemoration. I know very wel]
came to see me.
that it is a bad sign in a man to be too con- | however, he never delivered) introducing him scientious and stick at gnats. The most des- to Carlyle. He preached in Edinburgh, perate scoundrels have been the over-refiners. Mr. Ireland tells us, with great acceptance, at
the Unitarian Chapel; and a week later, havHe could not consent to withdraw his ing meantime made a little tour towards the opinion, and, on his return, he preached Highlands - spoiled by constant rain, “since the remarkable sermon in which he re. the scenery of a shower bath must always be signed his charge. His people were very much the same," — drove across from Dumloth to part with him, and an attempt was fries to Craigenputtock, where Carlyle had made to arrive at some arrangement by been living for the last five years, and spent which he could remain, but nothing came
the afternoon and night there. He writes of it.
next day in his journal : “ Carlisle in Cumber. The death of his wife, his mental tor- Carlisle from Dumfries. A white day in my
land, Aug. 26. I am just arrived in merry ture, and the severance of the tie which
I found the youth I sought in Scotbound him to a congregation that he loved land — and good and wise and pleasant he with all his heart, so undermined his seems to me, and his wife a most accomhealth, that a journey to Europe was ad. plished, agreeable woman. Truth and peace vised. Addressing a farewell letter to his and faith dwell with them and beautify them. people, he sailed out of Boston harbor on I never saw more amiableness than is in his Christmas day, 1832, in the brig Jasper,
countenance." and on the end of February he landed at
"That man," Carlyle said to Lord Hough
I don't know what Malta. His letters and journal are full ton, of his impressions of Malta, of Sicily, of brought him, and we kept him one night, and
I saw him go up the hill; I Italy, and of England. At Rome he ad- didn't go with him to see him descend.' I mired most the pictures, the antiquities, preferred to watch him mount and vanish like and the churches. Raphael's "Transfig. an angel.” uration" and Andrea Sacchi's “ Vision of To Emerson the interview was a happy one, Romuald ” never passsed out of his mind. and gratified the chief wish he had in coming He left the Eternal City on Shakespeare's to England; though he did not find all that he birthday, and journeyed to Florence, ad. had sought. He had been looking for a masmiring the Duomo, * set down like an ter; but in the deepest matters Carlyle, he archangel's tent in the midst of the city." feeling," he says in a letter to Mr. Ireland a
found, had nothing to teach him. “My own He dined and breakfasted with Walter Tew days afterwards, “was that I had met Savage Landor, who, he writes to his with men of far less power who had got brother Charles, “ did not quite show the greater insight into religious ruth." Butt he same calibre in conversation as in his had come close to the affectionate nature and books.” Venice he arrived at on the ist the nobility of soul that lay behind the cloud of June, and soon had enough of the “city of whim and dyspepsia, and he kept to that; for beavers," which made him feel that he and, for the rest, confined his expectations was in prison and solitary. “It is," he thenceforth to what Carlyle had to give. writes, -as if you were always at sea.” wards wrote, “like that of Burke, seems to The 20th of the month saw him at Paris,
me to reside rather in the form. Neither of the most hospitable of cities. He went to them is a poet, born to announce the will of the Sorbonne, and heard Jouffroy, Thé- the god, but each has a splendid rhetoric to nard, and Gay Lussac. Mme. Mars he saw clothe the truth." in Delavigne's “ Les Enfants d'Edouard.” On the 4th July he dined with General
On his way to Liverpool he stopped Lafayette and one hundred Americans.
at Rydal Mount and paid his respects The visit to England was rich in inter- to Wordsworth, whom he found ever est to Emerson. He arrived in London young and calmly reciting his own son. on the 21st of July. It was Sunday, and nets. Emerson's first lectures in England he went to St. Paul's. Mr. Cabot says :
were on natural science, a department of
thought at which in his early days he He stayed in London about three weeks; looked rather askance, as Dr. Oliver'Wenvisited Coleridge, as he has related in “ En dell Holmes says. His papers were, in a glish Traits,” and saw a few other persons, measure, successful. On the fourth of among them Dr. Bowring, who took him to September he sailed from Liverpool for see Bentham's house, and made him remark New York, and on arriving home he rethat there were but two chairs in the apart joined his mother at Newton, Mass. A his invariable rule to receive but one at a tiine year later mother and son went to reside - a rule which seemed to Emerson worthy of at Concord, and in 1835 Emerson became universal adoption by men of letters. Also engaged to Lydia Jackson of Plymouth, John Stuart Mill, who gave him a card (which, whose name he changed to that of Lidian.
Of bis journey to his bride's home to get should remain in manuscript. The office married we have this account:
of minister had its attractions for him. A lady, then a little girl, who accompanied He loved the Sunday service, and was him as far as Boston on his drive, remembers ever ready as a layman to read a sermon. that the stable-keeper, no doubt in honor of In his journal, he writes on this: “A new the bridal journey, had furnished him for the audience, a new Sabbath, affords an opoccasion with a pair of new reins of yellow portunity of communicating thought and webbing. Emerson noticing them, stopped moral excitement that shall surpass all at the stable and had them changed. ... Why, previous experience, that shall constitute child, the Pilgrims of Old Plymouth will think an epoch, a revolution in the minds on we have stopped by the wayside and gathered whom you act, and in your own.” It was golden-rods to weave the reins with.” marriage took place at the Winslow House, intimated to him, later, that a church a well-preserved colonial mansion belonging would be offered to him in New Bedford. to Miss Jackson, who had proposed that they He sent word that he must stipulate that should live there. But he could not leave he should not be expected to administer Concord. “I must win you," he writes to her the communion, nor to offer prayer unless during their engagement, "to love it. I am he felt moved to do so. Of course, to born a poet – of a low class without doubt, such terms, the church could not agree. yet a poet. That is my nature and vocation. He lectured a good deal about this time My singing, to be sure, is very husky, and is on natural-history subjects and specula. for the most part in prose. Sill I am a poet tive philosophy. These thoughts afterthe harmonies that are in the correspondences wards found a place in his books. His between these and those. A sunset, a forest, fame as a speaker extended throughout a snowstorm, a certain river view, are more the whole of the American Union, and to me than many friends, and do ordinarily he soon found his time fully occupied at divide my day with my books. Wherever 1 the Lyceuin. After completing a course go, therefore, I guard and study my rambiing at Boston, he went to Providence to depropensities. Now Concord is only one liver the same series. His lecture on of a hundred towns in which I could find “ Religion” had excited so much feeling these necessary objects. But Plymouth, I in Boston, that he decided to omit it from fear, is not one. Plymouth is streets. As if there were no woods or sunsets in Plymouth! sisted on having it read to them. At the
his list, but the people of Providence in. But the attractions of Concord were too strong. In Concord, accordingly, they set up house suggestion of the Rev. Dr. Farley, he conkeeping; Emerson got his study arranged, sented to do this, and read the lecture and settled down to the manners of life from before a small audience, in a private room. which he never afterwards departed. There Farley asked him to preach for him, and was a small flower-garden already laid out, in on Sunday he accepted the invitation, which Mrs. Emerson established her favorite selecting, from Greenwood's collection, plants from Plymouth; and there was also a hymns of a purely meditative character, vegetable garden, where Emerson began his without any distinctively Christian expreshusbandry, leaving his study to do a little sion. For the Scripture lesson he read a work there every day. While thus engaged one day in the following spring, one of his passage from Ecclesiasticus, and from the townsmen came to warn him that a stray pig same book he took his text. The sermon was doing mischief in the neighboring grounds. was like one of his lectures, the prayers He then learned that he had been appointed were simply meditations on nature, beauty, one of the hog-reeves for the year, according order, goodness, love, and wholly without to the town custom, which pointed out newly- supplication. The congregation was very married men as particularly eligible for that large. On returning home, Dr. Farley office.
found Emerson with his head bowed on Emerson, though he had left his church, his hands, which were resting, on his continued to preach at intervals until 1847, knees. He looked up and said, “ Now when he abandoned the function alto- tell me plainly, honestly, just what you gether. “Leaving the pulpit,” he inter. think of that service.” Dr. Farley replied preted to mean the renunciation of all that before he was half through he had claim to priestly authority. His sermons made up his mind that it was the last time numbered, in all, one hundred and seventy- he should have that pulpit. “You are one. Of these two only were ever printed, right,” he rejoined," and I thank you. On viz., the sermon at the ordination of the my part, before I was half through I felt Rev. H. B. Goodwin, in 1830, and the out of place. The doubt is solved." discourse on the Lord's Supper, at the Emerson, as far back as 1837, was Second Church, when he gave up his an Abolitionist, preaching and lecturing charge. It was his wish that the others l against slavery, though he was not so