The complete works of Ralph Waldo Emerson: Letters and social aims [Vol. 8]
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 1803-1882., Emerson, Edward Waldo, 1844-1930.
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THE five years which intervened between the publication of Society and Solitude and Letters and Social Aims brought events unlooked for along with those of the ordinary routine of Mr. Emerson's life. He once said that there was no time of his life when the offer of a professorship of rhetoric and oratory, even from the smallest country college, would not have been tempting to him. But now, as he neared his threescore years and ten, he received an invitation to give, at Cambridge, a course of University lectures on Philosophy. This was the more gratifying because it would give a fit occasion to fill out his notes variously called the Natural History of Reason or Natural History of the Intellect or Philosophy for the People, and would be a spur to him to this, which Mr. Cabot thinks that he "regarded as the chief task of his life." In the spring of 1870 he gave sixteen lectures to students of the University and outsiders who came for the course. This required an amount of work for which he was really unequal. The ordering of his thoughts, and the endeavor to fill out the gaps in their statement, and obtain coherence of what he called "infinitely repellent particles" were always the difficult part of the preparation of a lecture, and this was increased when a course on a special subject was undertaken.

In the winter immediately preceding this course he had, as usual, made his lecturing journey through the West. In the summer his constitution began to show the effect of the unusual strain. But that year he contributed the preface to Mr. Goodwin's revised translation of Plutarch's Morals, and in the following winter (1871) repeated his course at the University. He had been dissatisfied with his work of the previous year, and endeavored to amend it and make some changes in Page  356 the course, but two lectures a week given with much anxiety told seriously on his strength. In the spring his old friend Mr. John M Forbes came to the rescue and succeeded in inducing him to be one of a pleasant party, all his guests, on an excursion to California. This rest came just at the needed moment Mr. Emerson enjoyed the trip and the excellent company. The groves of giant pines and sequoias perhaps pleased him more than any of the sights Professor James B. Thayer was one of the party, and has told their story pleasantly, especially recording Mr. Emerson's words and actions.1 In the summer Mr Emerson spoke at the Historical Society on the centennial anniversary of the birth of Walter Scott.

He had not planned to go westward to lecture that winter, but could not refuse the request to go and speak at Chicago after the great fire which nearly destroyed that city. In the winter of 1872 he spoke on Books and Reading at Howard University in Washington, and gave a series of readings in Boston of prose and poetry with comments of his own. These, which cost him little effort and gave great pleasure to the company of new and old friends who attended them, were arranged for him by the kindness of Mr. James T. Fields and of Colonel William H. Forbes, Mr. Emerson's son-in-law.

The volume promised in England occupied Mr. Emerson's time in summer until the fire which nearly destroyed his house in July, 1872. Then followed a disabling weakness with some fever, which did not, however, send him to his bed; but meantime the many friends near and far who had insisted upon rebuilding his house, with affectionate urgency determined for him that he should go abroad with his daughter for needed rest and recreation to the shores of the Mediterranean. He passed through England and France, making short stay, but at Paris Page  357 greatly enjoying the society of Mr. Lowell; then went to Italy and joined a party who went up the Nile as far as Philae. He was far from well and cared little for travel, yet he mildly enjoyed the Biblical scene. "Egypt has been good and gentle to us, if a little soporific," he wrote; and again, "The people, whether in the boat or out of it, are a perpetual study for the excellence and grace of their forms and motions." He saw with pleasure in Florence, on his return, Herman Grimm and his wife, the daughter of Goethe's young friend Bettina; in Paris, Renan, Taine, Tourgueneff; then passing to England in better health gladly met again his old friend Carlyle, and also Max Müller, Ruskin, Browning, Gladstone and many others, though he was rather passive and not very strong. He joyfully sailed for home, arriving there in May, 1873, and welcomed by his townsfolk, was conducted to his restored house.

In October he made the address at the opening of the Concord Free Public Library, and in December read his poem "Boston" at the celebration in Faneuil Hall of the Boston Tea-Party His health was now restored, but his power of work was gone and his memory failing, and thereafter, with the exception of the little work which he accomplished on the papers in the present volume, he wrote nothing (hardly even letters) except with some difficulty the short address that he made at the unveiling of French's statue of the Minute-Man at the old North Bridge, on the one hundredth anniversary of Concord Fight.


In 1841 Mr. Emerson gave a lecture called "The Poet" in the course on The Times, in Boston, some passages of which occur in this essay. It probably also contains some leaves from Page  358 the lecture "Poetry and Eloquence," given in Boston in 1847, and in England in 1848. To the lecture called "Poetry and English Poetry," given in Philadelphia in 1854, it owes almost all of the "Introductory" matter (except, I think, the remarkable sentence about John Hunter); the passages in "Imagination" about the world being anthropomorphized, and defining Fancy and Imagination, with a few other sentences; the paragraph in "Veracity" beginning "For poetry is faith;" that in "Creation" beginning "The poet is enamoured of thoughts and laws," and the sentence concerning the necessity of the poet's thought, which he did not make, but which "made him, and the sun and the stars;" also several passages in "Melody, Rhyme, Form." In 1861 Mr. Emerson gave a course in Boston on Life and Literature, and one of the lectures, which is not preserved, was called "Poetry and Criticism in England and America." It is probable that many sheets that did duty in the courses on the Natural History of the Intellect, at Cambridge, may have been used in the essay, which seems to have been brought by Mr. Emerson to its present size and form when, under the final title "Poetry and Imagination," he read it, as two lectures, at Chickering Hall in April, 1872.

Page 4, note 1. It is interesting to see Mr. Emerson's appreciation of firm ground under foot before he takes his flight, and his respect for "saving common sense" as a needed foundation for uncommon sense.

Page 5, note 1. The rhyme of the new doctrine of Evolution with the ancient one of "The Flowing," taught by Heracleitus, was much to Mr. Emerson's purpose in this chapter.

Onward and on, the eternal Pan,
Who layeth the world's incessant plan,
Page  359 Halteth never in one shape,
But forever doth escape,
Like wave or flame, into new forms
Of gem, and air, of plants, and worms.

"Woodnotes," II, Poems.

Page 5, note 2. Here follows, in the lecture of 1854, the sentence, "The man finds his own sense written in the drollest variety of disguises all over Nature."

Page 6, note 1. This passage is much fuller in the early lecture:—

"Whilst common sense draws water, bakes bread, builds houses, keeps shop, and always on the assumption that everything else is a blunder,—in the performing these very works, men are compelled by a certain tyranny which springs up on their own thoughts, to believe in something else. For their thoughts have an order and method and beliefs of their own, very different from the order which this common sense uses.

"Common sense says, One thing at a time; stick to your fact; keep your cake from burning!—and, meantime, the cake is burning to cinder, whilst the boy's thoughts, to be sure, are running on war, kingdoms, on poetry, on beauty, and the divine life."

Page 7, note 1. These words are from the song of the White Lady of Avenel,—

"Swim we merrily, the moon shines bright,"—
in Sir Walter Scott's novel The Monastery.

Page 7, note 2. Mr. Moncure D Conway in his very interesting book, Emerson at Home and Abroad, says that Mr. Emerson's "essay on this subject [Poetry], published in 1876, was read to a small company in Divinity College twenty-three years before," in Mr. Conway's room. He then quotes the Page  360 paragraph about "the electric word" of John Hunter, "arrested and progressive development," and also the paragraph which follows it, from the essay, believing them to have been part of it when read in Cambridge in 1853, to show that Mr. Emerson, from hints of Hunter, accepted the Evolution doctrine five years before Charles Darwin published the Origin of Species. Mr. Conway explains Mr. Emerson's reference to Darwin by supposing him to refer to the poem of Erasmus Darwin, the father.

Being much interested in this question, I have carefully examined the remains of the 1854 lecture, and, while the Introductory part is almost identical with that of the essay, the paragraph beginning "The electric word" is not there, while the one preceding it is, as well as that following it, beginning "The hardest chemist." Of course it is possible that the sheet is lost, but I believe that Mr. Emerson inserted the paragraph about Hunter later. In the Biographical Sketch in the first volume of this edition I have dwelt at some length upon Mr. Emerson's early interest and pleasure in the Evolution beliefs of the ancient philosophers, and the daring guesses and demonstrations of the scientific men of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Page 8, note 1. Mr. Emerson had visited the Hunterian Museum of Anatomy in London under the guidance of his friend Richard Owen, its curator. In the early pages of the chapter "Natural History of Intellect," in the volume of that name, is a reference to the strange thoughts and sympathies which the sight of the arrangement of inorganic and organic specimens in advancing series had aroused in him, when he visited the Fardin des Plantes in Paris, in 1833.

Page 8, note 2. Mr. Conway, in searching Hunter's works for the "electric word" mentioned by Mr. Emerson, found Page  361 this note, to the same purpose as the sentence in this paragraph:—

"If we were capable of following the increase of number of the parts of the most perfect animal as they were first formed in succession, from the very first to its state of full perfection, we should probably be able to compare it to some one of the incomplete animals, of every order of animals of the creation, being at no stage different from some of those inferior orders; or, in other words, if we were to take a series of animals, from the more imperfect to the perfect, we should probably find an imperfect animal corresponding with some stage of the most perfect."

Page 9, note 1.

Ever the Rock of Ages melts
Into the mineral air,
To be the quarry whence to build
Thought and its mansions fair

"Fragments on Life," Poems.

The chapter on Language in "Nature" (Nature, Addresses and Lectures) treats of its symbolism.

Page 9, note 2.

"The privetes of mannes herte
Thei speke and sounen in his Ere
As thogh thei lowde wyndes were."

Gower, "Confessio Amantis."

Page 10, note 1. Dr Holmes said of Mr. Emerson:—

"His gift was insight: he saw the germ through its envelop; the particular in the light of the universal; the fact in connection with the principle; the phenomenon as related to the law; all this not by the slow and sure process of science, but by the sudden and searching flashes of imaginative double vision. He Page  362 had neither the patience nor the method of the inductive reasoner; he passed from one thought to another not by logical steps but by airy flights, which left no footprints. This mode of intellectual action when found united with natural sagacity becomes poetry, philosophy, wisdom, or prophecy in its various forms of manifestation. Without that gift of natural sagacity (odoratio quaedam venatica),—a good scent for truth and beauty,—it appears as extravagance, whimsicality, eccentricity, or insanity, according to its degree of aberration. Emerson was eminently sane for an idealist. He carried the same sagacity into the ideal world that Franklin showed in the affairs of common life."

Page 12, note 1. Journal. "In good society, say among the angels in heaven, is not everything spoken by indirection and nothing quite straight as it befel?"

Delicate omens traced in air
To the lone bard their witness bear,
The birds brought auguries on their wings
And carolled undeceiving things.

See also "Demonology" in Lectures and Biographical Sketches.

Page 15, note 1. The pine-tree sings in the "Woodnotes" the parable of "the rushing metamorphosis" in the verses beginning,—

Hearken! Hearken!
If thou wouldst know the mystic song
Chanted when the sphere was young.

Page 17, note 1. This paragraph is from the lecture on The Poet in the course on The Times given in 1841.

Page 18, note 1. In one of the Arthurian legends, perhaps in Caxton's version of the Morte d' Arthur, which Mr. Page  363 Emerson valued highly, he was pleased with the symbol that each Knight at the Round Table when the Sangreal was near, found before him "whatsoever kind of meat liked him best."

Page 19, note 1.

Giddy with motion Nature reels,
Sun, moon, man, undulate and stream,
The mountains flow, the solids seem.

"The Poet," Poems, Appendix.

In Mr. Emerson's autobiographic notes he says, "The Ideal world I might have learned to treat as cloud-land, had I not known Alcott, who is a native of that country, and makes it as solid as Massachusetts to me."

Page 24, note 1. This alchemy of the mind on the "brute reports" of the senses is celebrated in the verses in the Appendix to the Poems, beginning,—

Let me go where'er I will
I hear a sky-born music still.

Page 24, note 2. "One class live to the utility of the symbol, esteeming health and wealth a final good. Another class live above this mark to the beauty of the symbol, as the poet and artist and the naturalist and man of science. A third class live above the beauty of the symbol to the beauty of the thing signified; these are wise men"—"Prudence," Essays, First Series.

Journal, 1866. "Learn from the great artist whose blood beats in our veins, whose taste is upspringing in our own perception of beauty, the laws by which our hands should work, that we may build Vaticans, or paint prophets, or sing Iliads, in fit continuation of the architecture of the Andes, the colors of the sky, and the poem of life."

Page  364

Page 25, note 1. Mr. Emerson always heard with impatience the praise of the poems of Shelley, with the exception of a very few which he included in his collection, Parnassus.

Page 25, note 2. This sentence was followed in the lecture by the words, "They like yet better the stars themselves, they like the landscape, the wells of water, the mountain, the plain, sunshine and night, for in these they obscurely feel the flowings also of their thought."

Page 26, note 1. "There are no days in life so memorable as those which vibrated to some stroke of the imagination"—"Beauty," Conduct of Life.

"The day of days, the great day of the feast of life, is that in which the inward eye opens to the Unity in things, to the omnipresence of law… This beatitude dips from on high down on us and we see It is not in us so much as we are in it"—"Fate," Conduct of Life.

Page 26, note 2. These lines are from a hymn, by the English authoress Helen Maria Williams (1762-1827), beginning,—

"My God, all Nature owns thy sway."

Page 26, note 3. Here follow in the lecture the words, "Who sees things after a true scale, sees them as God sees them in order and beauty."

Page 27, note 1. In the lecture this passage followed:—

"All becomes poetry when we look from within and are using all as if the mind made it. All becomes prosaic when seen from the point of common sense as if the world existed for material good, or as if matter were a finality…

"All this, because poetry is science, is the breath of the same spirit by which nature lives, and the poet is a better logician than the anatomist. His sayings are wise, and to the purpose, Page  365 and not those of unpoetic men. He sees each fact as an inevitable step in the path of the creator. He is the right classifier, seeing things grouped, and following the grand way of nature. And never did any science originate, but by a poetic perception. 'A great natural philosopher without this gift is impossible.' The schoolmen think they are logical, and the poet to be whimsical, illogical.Do they think there is any chance or choice in what he sees and says? He knows that he did not make his thought; no, his thought made him and made the sun and stars also. And it is because his memory is too strong for him, does not hold him to routine and lists of words, that he is still capable of seeing. For a wise surrender to the current of nature, a noble passion which will not let us halt, but hurries us into the stream of things, makes us truly know. [Passion is logical, and I note that the vine, symbol of Bacchus, which intoxicates the world, is the most geometrical of all plants.] And was not this the meaning of Socrates, who preferred artists because they truly knew?."

Page 28, note 1.

"We are led to believe a lie
When we see with, not through, the eye,
Which was born in a night to perish in a night,
When the soul slept in beams of light."

William Blake, Songs of Innocence.

Page 29, note 1. Here Mr. Emerson's preference for sculpture over painting appears.

Page 29, note 2. Among some fragmentary verses printed in the Appendix to the Poems, under the title of "May Morning," are these:—

When the purple flame shoots up,
And Love ascends his throne,
Page  366 I cannot hear your songs, O birds,
For the witchery of my own.
And every human heart
Still keeps that golden day
And rings the bells of jubilee
On its own First of May.

Page 30, note 1. Compare in "The Poet," in the Appendix to the Poems, the verses beginning,—

The gods talk in the breath of the woods,
They talk in the shaken pine.

Page 31, note 1. He elsewhere quotes Plato as saying, "The man who is master of himself knocks in vain at the door of Poetry."

Page 31, note 2. In the lecture the following passage belonged here, an earlier version:—

"The Poet adopts in every action the method of Nature, the most direct; believing, that, in the nature of everything, its own check will appear, and save the absurdity of artificial checks…

"The Poet, thus beholding laws, is believer and lover. The world to him is virgin soil. (And the men mean well: it is never too late to do right.) He affirms the applicability of the ideal law to this moment, and to the present knot of affairs. But [parties, lawyers, and] men of the world invariably dispute such an application, as romantic and dangerous. They admit the general truth, but they and their affairs always constitute an exception."

Page 32, note 1. The latter pages of "The Conservative," in Nature, Addresses and Lectures, treat of the attitude towards the problems of his day of the man who follows his ideals.

Page  367 In Lowell's "Fable for Critics" a gentleman taking issue with Phoebus on the subject of American Slavery, begins,—

"'At slavery in the abstract my whole soul rebels,
I am as strongly opposed to 't as any one else'
'Ay, no doubt, but whenever I've happened to meet
With a wrong or a crime, it is always concrete,'
Answered Phoebus severely."

Page 33, note 1.

 [ gap:  ] 

Iliad XII., 243.

Page 33, note 2.

 [ gap:  ] 

Iliad XIII, 115.

Page 33, note 3. When Mr. Emerson read Aytoun's lines in "The Burial-March of Dundee,"—

"See, above his glorious body
Lies the royal banner's fold:
See, his valiant blood is mingled
With its crimson and its gold,"—
he smiled and said, "The upholsterer!"
What parts, what gems, what colors shine,—
Ah, but I miss the grand design.

"Fragments on The Poet," Poems, Appendix.

Page 35, note 1. Mr. Emerson once spoke of the tariff as a good subject to test an American poet on.

Page 37, note 1. Pons Capdueil, a baron of Provence in the twelfth century, excelled in all the accomplishments of a knight and especially as a troubadour. His romantic love for Azalais, Countess of Auvergne, gives the principal interest to Page  368 his story. After her death he joined Philip Augustus of France and Richard of England in the Third Crusade, in which he perished.

Page 39, note 1. "But if I should count the English poets who have contributed to the Bible of existing England and America, sentences of guidance or consolation, which are still glowing and effective,—how few! Milton, Shakspeare, Spenser, Herbert, Jonson, Donne, Dryden, Pope, Young, Cowper, Burns, Wordsworth: what disparity in the names! but these are the authors.

"But how shall I find my daily bread in the reigning poets? Where is great design in modern English poetry? Where with the exception of Wordsworth? Tennyson is richly endowed precisely in points where Wordsworth wanted. Since Milton there was no finer ear, nor more command of the keys of language. But he wants a subject. he has climbed no mount of vision and brought its secrets down."

Page 39, note 2.

Whatsoever hap befalls
In his vision's narrow walls
He is here to testify.

"Fragments on Life," Poems, Appendix.
See thou bring not to field or stone
The fancies found in books;
Leave authors' eyes, and fetch your own,
To brave the landscape's looks.

"Waldeinsamkeit," Poems.

Page 42, note 1. This is the second axiom of Fourier, the French socialist whose writings were at the root of the attempts in America to establish Brook Farm and some other communities. The first axiom was, The series distributes the Page  369 harmonies of the world (i.e. all the harmonies of the universe grow out of a regular and uniform order), and the third was, Analogy is Universal.

Page 42, note 2. In the lecture this quotation from the Oriental scriptures ends, "thou mayest obtain by propitiating Vishnu;" then Mr. Emerson erased this and substituted "by keeping the law of thy members and the law of thy mind." Whether he originated this interpretation of what would propitiate Vishnu, or found it in another translation, or a note, does not appear.

Page 43, note 1. The editor would be grateful if any reader could give the source whence these lines came.

Page 44, note 1. Niebuhr, Letters, etc, vol. Iii.

Page 45, note 1. Mr. Emerson seems to have found dreams very interesting. Much is said of them in the essay on Demonology in Lectures and Biographical Sketches.

Page 46, note 1. This paragraph recalls several lines of his poem "Each and All."

Page 46, note 2. Dr. Holmes has written a chapter on the Physiology of Versification.

Page 47, note 1. This thought of the rhyming harmonies everywhere in man and Nature Mr. Emerson made the theme of his second poem "Merlin".

Page 49, note 1. The Poet, in Mr. Emerson's early poem of that name, which appears in the Appendix to the Poems,

Through man and woman and sea and star
Saw the dance of Nature forward and far,
Through worlds and races and terms and times
Saw musical order and pairing rhymes.

Page 50, note 1. Journal. "Spenser seems to delight in nis art for his own skill's sake. In the Muiopotmos, see the Page  370 security and ostentation with which he draws out and refines his description of a butterfly's back and wings, of a spider's thread and spinning, of the butterfly's cruise among the flowers,—'bathing his tender feet in the dew which yet on them does lie,'—it is all like the working of an exquisite loom which unweariedly yields fine webs for exhibition and defiance of all spinners."

Page 50, note 2. Mr. Emerson found Thomas Taylor's renderings of Plato and the Neo-platonists, and his comments, stimulating reading in small doses. This was a case where he "read for lustres," for grandeur of imagery and scope rather than for argument. In English Traits he says he told Wordsworth that it was not creditable that no one in all the country knew anything of this remarkable man, while in every American library his translations were found.

Page 51, note 1. It would seem as if this passage must have inspired the striking picture by Elihu Vedder of the ancient Arab listening at the mouth of the Sphinx.

Page 52, note 1. This paragraph was part of the lecture on The Poet given in 1841. On an early visit to the White Mountains he had heard a horn blown with such charming echo among the silent hills that it was remembered always as one of the most romantic experiences of his life, and is referred to in several of the essays.

Page 53, note 1. Dr Holmes in his Life of Emerson, apropos of his poetry, discusses in a charming manner the relation of poetry to prose.

Page 53, note 2. The following passage seems to have formed a part of "The Poet" given in 1841:—

"Cowley, and Donne's poems afford, as life does, the chance of wisdom (richest instruction) amid (frivolous and) familiar objects; the loose and the grand, religion and mirth, Page  371 stand in surprising neighborhood, and, like the words of great men, without cant."

Page 55, note 1. From Beaumont and Fletcher's play The Nice Valour, Act III, Scene 3.

Page 57, note 1. The "Invocation" comes from D. W. Nash's "Taliesin, or the Bards and Druids of Britain, a Translation of the Remains of the Earliest Welsh Bards and an Examination of the Bardic Mysteries" London: John Russell Smith, 1858.

Page 59, note 1. Heimskringla, vol i.

Page 63, note 1. Before this paragraph the following passages occurred in the lecture, on the question of poetry at home:—

"The question is often asked, Why no poet appears in America? Other nations in their early expanding periods, in their war for existence, have shot forth the flowers of verse, and created a mythology which continued to charm the imagination of after-men. But we have all manner of ability, except this: we are brave, victorious, we legislate, trade, plant, build, sail, and combine as well as many others, but we have no imagination, no constructive mind, no affirmative books; we have plenty of criticism, elegant history; all the forms of respectable imitation; but no poet, no affirmer, no grand guiding mind, who intoxicates his countrymen with happy hopes,—makes them self-respecting, with faith that rests in their own minds, and is not imported from abroad;—and, first of all, our lives are impoverished and unpoeted, that is, inhuman. The answer is, for the time, to be found in the preoccupation of all men. The work of half the world to be done: and it is the hard condition of Nature, that, where one faculty is excessive, it lames all the rest. We are the men of practice, the men of our hand, and, for the time, our brain Page  372 loses in range what it gains in special skill. The genius of civilization, except while it is new, is antagonistic to sentiment, utilitarian, expensive…

"Taught by England, nay, begotten by England, the American mind has learned to call great small, and small things great; tasteless expense, arts of comfort and the putting as many impediments as we can between the man and his objects, we have learned; and our arts and our books and our characters betray the taming of the imagination.

"Yet there is an elasticity in the American mind which may redeem us, and the effect of popular institutions in continually sending back the enervated families into the realities of Nature and of toil may serve the highest medical benefit."

After this, in the lecture, the paragraph here headed "Morals" began thus:—

"But if we deal truly, and with a frankness suitable to a great nation, we should say that we are sometimes apprised that there is," etc.

Page 63, note 2. This passage is more strikingly expressed in the journal for 1851:—

"There is something,—our brothers over the sea do not know it or own it; Scott, Southey, Hallam and Dickens could all deny and blaspheme it,—which is setting them all aside, and the world also, and planting itself for ever and ever."

Page 64, note 1. These lines are from Ben Jonson's "Forest," XII., towards the end of the "Epistle to the Countess of Rutland."

Page 65, note 1. Towards the middle of the address "Literary Ethics," in Nature, Addresses and Lectures, is a passage, which the present one suggests, as to the freshness and newness of Nature still undescribed in spite of Homer, Shakspeare, Milton or Chaucer.

Page  373

Page 66, note 1. From Counterparts, by Elizabeth S. Sheppard, one of the few novels that interested Mr. Emerson.

Page 69, note 1. Journal, 1851. "One listens to the magnifying of Goethe's poem by his critic, and replies, 'Yes, it is good if you all agree to come in and be pleased;' and you fall into another company and mood, and like it not. It is so with Wordsworth. But to Shakspeare alone God granted the power to dispense with the humours of his company. They must needs all take his. He is always good; and Goethe knew it and said, 'It is as idle to compare Tieck to me as me to Shakspeare.' I looked through the first part of Faust to-day and find it a little too modern," etc.

Page 69, note 2. Wordsworth, Poems dedicated to National Independence, part I., sonnet xvi.

Page 73, note 1. "Only that is poetry which cleanses and mans me."—From the manuscript lecture.

Page 74, note 1.

The gallant child where'er he came
Threw to each fact a tuneful name.
The things whereon he cast his eyes
Could not the nations rebaptize,
Nor Time's snows hide the names he set,
Nor last posterity forget.

"The Poet," Poems, Appendix.


This essay seems to be almost identical with the second lecture, given in December, 1864, of a course on American Life read before the Parker Fraternity. It was preceded by "Education" and followed by "Resources." A portion of Page  374 a lecture called "Table-Talk," which was largely drawn upon later for the essay on Clubs, appears in this, and probably also some sheets from the lecture on Manners in the same course.

Page 79, note 1. In his first volume of Poems, published in 1846, Mr. Emerson included some verses which he did not care to keep in later editions. The subject and title was Tact, and one or two verses, as to the purpose here, may be given.

What boots it, thy virtue,
What profit thy parts,
While one thing thou lackest,—
The art of all arts?
This clinches the bargain;
Sails out of the bay;
Gets the vote of the senate,
Spite of Webster and Clay.
Has for genius no mercy,
For speeches no heed;
It lurks in the eye-beam,
It leaps to its deed.
Church, market and tavern,
Bed, board, it will sway.
It has no to-morrow;
It ends with to-day.

Page 80, note 1. This quality he saw with admiration in his brother Edward,—the "brother of the brief but blazing star,"—and the words about the supplicating eye recall a passage in the poem "In Memoriam E. B. E.":—

Page  375
All inborn power that could
Consist with homage to the good
Flamed from his martial eye;
His from youth the leader's look
Gave the law which others took,
And never poor beseeching glance
Shamed that sculptured countenance.

Page 82, note 1. "Infancy conforms to nobody; all conform to it; so that one babe commonly makes four or five out of the adults who prattle and play with it. So God has armed youth and puberty and manhood no less with its own piquancy and charm, and made it enviable and gracious and its claims not to be put by, if it will stand by itself."—"Self-Reliance," Essays, First Series.

Page 82, note 2. One morning Mr. Emerson watched from the window the departure of a little guest perhaps nine years old, her farewell, her graceful seating herself in the sleigh, signing to the driver that she was ready, and her charming parting salute and smiles as she moved away. He was delighted with the natural manners, but said pityingly words to this effect: "Look at that child; see her perfect aplomb. How easy it is to her to be a queen!" then, indicating another little guest in the next room, "And this poor little thing is destined to be a creep-mouse all her days."

Page 83, note 1.

If Thought unlock her mysteries,
If Friendship on me smile,
I walk in marble galleries,
I talk with kings the while.

"Walden," Poems, Appendix.

Page  376

Page 84, note 1. There is an interesting quotation to this purpose from Balzac's Théorie de la démarche, in "Behavior," Conduct of Life.

Page 84, note 2. There is in the essay "The Conservative," in Nature, Addresses and Lectures, a statement, from the conservative's point of view of the beneficence of "this institution of credit, which is as universal as honesty and promise in the human countenance".

Page 85, note 1. "We must be as courteous to a man as we are to a picture, which we are willing to give the advantage of a good light."—"Behavior," Conduct of Life.

Page 88, note 1.

"In clothes, cheap handsomenesse doth bear the bell.
Wisdome's a trimmer thing than shop e'er gave.
Say not then, This with that lace will do well;
But, This with my discretion will be brave.
Much curiousnesse is a perpetual wooing,
Nothing with labour, folly long a-doing."

George Herbert, "The Church Porch."

Page 90, note 1. See in Essays, First Series, the chapter on Friendship and its motto, whence come these lines:—

All things through thee take nobler form
And look beyond the earth,
The mill-round of our fate appears
A sun-path in thy worth.

Page 90, note 2. In one of the sheets remaining from the old lecture is this passage: "Conversation too has its ethics of prudence and morals. It requires a quiet but firm self-control. You shall not be leaky. There are people to whom nothing can be confided, because their vanity to tell what they know has all the effect of treachery. You shall not be leaky nor ridden, and you shall not be opinionative."

Page  377

Page 91, note 1. A passage from the lecture carries this thought a little farther:—

"God forbid I should complain of being excluded by this or that man or circle, from this or that privilege. On the contrary, the most absolute submission on my part attends it. For do I not know, that those parties are all eager to invite high merit to this privilege, and that, on the instant when that merit is demonstrated by me or by any, they will fly to greet it, will open every door to it, and bear it on their arms with joy unfeigned?"

Page 91, note 2. In the lecture, written not long after Mr. Emerson's visit to Washington during the war, this sentence here followed: "I was made sensible of this at Washington, if I had not already suspected it." When we remember Mr. Emerson's poem "The Visit," a lesson on this subject from sad experiences, the modesty of his statement is apparent.

Page 92, note 1. Mr. Emerson's practice was to surprise and lift people by "taking them by their best handle."

Page 93, note 1. Mr. Emerson wrote in his note-book (date uncertain) of woman: "She is not to write, or fight, or build, or compose scores; she does all by inspiring man to do all. The poet finds her eyes anticipating all his ode; the sculptor, his god; the architect, his house. She looks it. She is the requiring genius."

Page 95, note 1. The thirst for other people's facts to interpret their higher meaning was one of Mr. Emerson's strong traits. This fragment, perhaps from "Clubs" or "Table-Talk," is kindred to the subject:—

"Do you not see that we all can count our incomes and our family expenses, but very few of us have a head for analytic geometry? All of us know the melody of speech, Page  378 but few have a fine musical ear. All of us understand justice, but few have a taste for theology. Theology is the rhetoric or the technical distribution of Conscience."

His faith, from his experience of life, that success can always be drawn out of failures, appears in the end of the paragraph in the text.

Page 96, note 1. Mr. Emerson, writing to his friend John Sterling, tells of the pleasure his letter gave as a whole, rather than in the things said: "These were opinions, but the tone was the man."

"The eyes of men converse as much as their tongues, with the advantage that the ocular dialect needs no dictionary, but is understood all the world over."—"Behavior," Conduct of Life.

Page 97, note 1. In this sentence Mr. Emerson refers to his friend Thoreau, but what follows only expresses the feeling of disappointment sometimes felt in their intercourse in later days, not always, and not in Thoreau's youth. Mr. Emerson hated argument, dialectic. Thoreau's Scotch ancestry on his mother's side (Dunbar) asserted itself in love of fence for itself, as a game when he met a foeman worthy of his steel. So they came to enjoy each other's writings more than society, yet they always honored and esteemed each other, in spite of this temperamental bar to full enjoyment of each other's company indoors. But Mr. Emerson delighted to be led, as if by Pan himself, to the groves and glades in their best days, and to have their secrets shown.

Page 98, note 1.

"Laugh not too much, the wittie man laughs least:
For wit is newes only to ignorance."

Herbert, "The Church Porch."

In the notes to the essay on The Comic will be found Page  379 an extract from Mr. Emerson's journal when abroad in 1848, an outcry of weariness at the boisterous laughter and heavy joking that he had heard in England.

Page 98, note 2. His own view was that it was better not to apologize in words, not to soil the new day with "sour remnants of yesterday," but to make amends for yesterday's fault by increased kindness or service.

Page 99, note 1. The counsel for keeping the family meetings at table sweet, and keeping silence as to your ailments and griefs is even better given in the last paragraphs of "Behavior" in Conduct of Life. An absolutely forbidden subject was the expense, and even the compounding, of food.

The following sentences on Beauty, written in 1866, are appropriate to the subject of home life:—

"It is peremptory for good living in houses in a cultivated age, that the beautiful should never be out of thought. It is not more important that you should provide bread for the table, than that it should be put there and used in a comely manner. You have often a right to be angry with servants, but you must carry your anger, and chide without offence to beauty. Else, you have quarrelled with yourself as well as with them."

Page 99, note 2. In "Works and Days," in Society and Solitude, is advice against standing on tiptoe or mounting on stilts.

Page 101, note 1. The question of Wealth is broadly discussed in Conduct of Life, and that of an Aristocracy of Nature, not inheritance, in the respective essays on these subjects, in Lectures and Biographical Sketches.

The verses in the second poem "Woodnotes" tell of the natural rotation of lord and peasant in city and country.

This stray passage from the lecture manuscript may well Page  380 end the paragraph: "The way to wealth of every kind is plainly along the upper road, and not by State Street. Convert yourself into wealth, and you shall buy kings. Sordid calculations convert you into punk and abhorrence."

Page 102, note 1. This is the beginning of a passage from the journal of November, 1863, telling of Mr. Emerson's pride in the admirable management of a difficult town-meeting held for the purpose of considering the filling out of Concord's quota of soldiers. The rest of the passage is printed early in the next essay, "Eloquence."

Page 103, note 1. It is pleasant to be able to give, in connection with this praise of a good American, the expressions that preceded and followed it in Mr. Emerson's journal. "October 12th, 1864. Returned from Naushon, whither I went on Saturday, 8th, with Professor  [ gap: 1 word ]  of Oxford University [and three other guests]. Mr. Forbes at Naushon is the only 'Squire' in Massachusetts, and no nobleman ever understood or performed his duties better. I divided my admiration between the landscape of Naushon and him. He is an American to be proud of. I said, Never was such force, [here follows the passage in the text of the essay as far as "opened the eyes of the person he talked with without contradicting him;" it then proceeds,] I have been proud of my countrymen, but I think this is a good country that can breed such a creature as John M. Forbes. There was something dramatic in the conversation on Monday night between Professor  [ gap: 1 word ] , Forbes and  [ gap: 1 word ]  chiefly; the Englishman being evidently alarmed at the near prospect of America's standing in the identical position soon in which England now and lately has stood to us, and playing the same part towards her. Forbes, a year ago, was in Liverpool and London entreating them to respect their own neutrality, and disallow the piracy and the blockade-running, Page  381 and hard measure to us in their colonial ports, etc. And now, so soon, the parts were entirely reversed, and Professor  [ gap: 1 word ]  was showing us the power and irritability of England, and the certainly that war would follow if we should build and arm a ship in one of our ports, send her out to sea, and at sea sell her to their enemy, which would be a proceeding strictly in accordance with her present proclaimed law of nations.… When the American Government urged England to make a new treaty to adjust and correct this anomalous rule, the English Government refused, and 't is only ignorance that has prevented the Rebel Confederacy from availing themselves of it. I came away saying to myself of J. M. F.,—How little this man suspects with his sympathy for men and his respect for literary and scientific people, that he is not likely ever to meet a man who is superior to himself."

It should be here recorded of this Boston merchant so little given to publicity, that until he was an old man his name was almost never seen in the papers, nor did he appear prominent on public occasions; that while carrying on his great business interests, he was always a wise and active citizen of America. He did his best to make North and South understand each other before the war. When it came, he did invaluable service to his country. He provided vessels with trusty captains to carry the troops quickly southward; he did much to recruit, organize and equip white, and, later, black regiments; he gave important and valued counsel to the secretaries of State, of the Navy, and of the Treasury; he strengthened the hands of his friend Governor Andrew, and eased his burdens in every possible way. In the darkest days of the war he was sent by President Lincoln with Mr. Aspinwall to England, on four days' notice, to place an American loan, and to do what was possible to excite proper sympathy for the United States at Page  382 that important crisis, but especially to have the cruisers, which were then being built for the Confederacy to prey on our commerce, prevented from sailing.

Page 104, note 1. The following passage probably belonged here in the lecture. "This democratic opening of all avenues to all is a wonderful purger of the atmosphere, a solvent of conceit. The illusions in which the English aristocracy live amount to insanity. The comedy of Beaumarchais does not exaggerate the pretensions which these people actually make in perfect good faith. Lord Bristol plainly believes that it is very kind of him to exist, and that the Government owes him unceasing thanks. He does nothing for it. And that is the humor of them all. That immensity of Condescension in a fat old fribble does not appear at Washington except in men very long distinguished."

Page 105, note 1. Mr. Emerson's love for the positive degree in life and literature appears in the essay on the Superlative in Lectures and Biographical Sketches.

Page 106, note 1. The quotation is from Ernest Renan.

Page 107, note 1. Perhaps this fragment from the manuscript may properly come here: "The few stout and sincere persons whom each one of us knows, recommend the country and the planet to us. 'T is not a bad world this, we say, as long as we know twenty shining creatures who are walking about in it. Is it the thirty millions of America or is it your own ten or twelve friends that encourage your heart from day to day?."

Page  383


Mr. Emerson's love of eloquence from boyhood up, his eagerness to avail himself of any chance that offered to hear a master of speech, and his love of anecdotes of orators have been mentioned in the notes to the essay on Eloquence in the volume called Society and Solitude.

Concerning his own delivery, though it was original and admirable, and his voice was an instrument of unexpected and varied power, he was modest, and he always read his discourses and could not trust himself to extempore speech. So what he wrote in his journal of his ability in practical affairs he would perhaps have accepted as applicable to himself as an orator: "I am probably all the better spectator that I am so indifferent an actor. Some who have heard or read my reports misjudged me as being a good actor in the scene which I could so well describe.… In this both they and I must be acquiescent and take our fortune."

This essay appears first as a lecture read at Chicago in 1867. On later occasions when it was read in Boston and elsewhere, Mr. Emerson introduced several examples of eloquence, among them: I. The opening words of the speech of Lafayette in the Representative Chamber at Paris when he learned that, in two hours, Napoleon, returning defeated from Waterloo, planned to abolish it; a speech which would have been Lafayette's death-warrant had the Representatives not supported him. II. The conclusion of Hon. Samuel Dexter's defence of Selfridge, charged with murder for shooting young Austin, who undertook to horsewhip him in State Street, Boston, because of aspersions on his father's character printed by Selfridge, during a political controversy. III. The Earl of Caernarvon's speech Page  384 in the House of Lords on the proposal to impeach the Earl of Danby.

Page 112, note 1. In spite of the constant invective of his friend Carlyle against stump oratory, Mr. Emerson saw the use of it in the new country as well as of the academic style that obtained near the universities:—

Journal, 1850. "At the Concord celebration I was struck with the talent of Everett and Choate and the delight of the people in listening to their eloquence. In the London Lord Mayor's banquet lately, Lord Lansdowne and Lord Stanley were distinguished, I observe, in like manner. It is of great worth, this stump-oratory (though much decried by Carlyle and others), and very rare. There have been millions and millions of men, and a good stump-orator only once in an age. There have been but a few since history began; Demosthenes and Chatham and Daniel Webster and Cobden,—and yet all the human race are competitors in the art. Of course the writers prefer their own art. Stump-oratory requires presence of mind, heat, spunk, continuity, humanity."

Page 114, note 1. This passage, which first belonged in a lecture on The Poet given in 1841, seems to have been suggested by Webster's rugged yet commanding personality. The next sentence describes "Father" (Edward T.) Taylor of the Seamen's Bethel at the North End of Boston. In the journal Mr. Emerson wrote of his preaching in Concord in June, 1841: "It was a pleasure yesterday to hear Father Taylor preach all day in our country church. Men are always interested in a man, and the whole various extremes of our little village society were for once brought together. Black and white, poet and grocer, contractor and lumberman, Methodists and preacher, joined with the regular congregation in rare union."

Page  385

Page 115, note 1. This passage in the lecture followed: "We are taught that earnest, impassioned action is most our own; and are invited to try the deeps of love and wisdom,—we, who have been playing and parading so long."

Page 115, note 2. Here is a reminiscence of Mr. Emerson's youthful pursuit of orators, from a lecture on Genius given in 1839:—

"The man of genius is the typical man, the measure of all the possibilities of the soul. See the effect of eloquence. Go into Faneuil Hall and see how the pinched, wedged, elbowed, sweltering assembly, when the chosen man rises, hang suspended on his lips. Each, while he hears, thinks that he too can speak; life is communicated to our torpid powers, and an infinite hope."

Page 116, note 1. Although the opening sentence was given in a note in "Social Aims," it seems best to give the portion not printed here of the extract from Mr. Emerson's journal describing Judge Hoar's courage and success at a town-meeting called in Concord in November, 1863, to deal with the difficult question of making up the town's quota of soldiers when volunteering had well-nigh ceased:—

"At the town-meeting, one is impressed with the accumulated virility of the four or five men who speak so well to the point, and so easily handle the affairs of the town: only four last night, and all so good, that they would have satisfied me, had it been in Boston or in Washington. The speech of Judge Hoar was perfect,—and to that handful of people who heartily applauded it. When a good man rises in the cold and malicious assembly, you think," etc.

Page 117, note 1. On a stray sheet another version of the preceding passage runs as follows:—

"No act indicates more universal health than eloquence. Page  386 Will, memory, invention, language of nature and a great common sense, a great coördinating mind, belong to its equipment. We see the mind in fragments, here a faculty, and there one,—rarely the majestic whole: but for this art there must be a great combination of powers. It is incredible beforehand that such a result can be as is realized in one of its masters."

At this point in the lecture, Mr. Emerson said: "I am fully aware of the imprudence of venturing on a topic like this, since to do it justice requires the very power it describes." He then admitted that a reason for choosing this dangerous subject was the opportunity it gave him of reading some examples of eloquence. This he did on some occasions, as has been already said.

Page 119, note 1. This passage was, in the lecture, thus continued: "and you will observe what sweet nitrous oxide gas all the orators appear to breathe. Once they taste it, they cling like mad to the bladder and will not let it go."

Page 122, note 1. In the essay on Behavior in Conduct of Life is a remarkable description, taken from Mr. Emerson's journal of 1837, of the victory of the old President over all impediment and infirmity in his speech, although he is not named.

Page 124, note 1. It is certain that Mr. Emerson valued the speech recorded in the journal of 1853 as a high compliment:—

"At Jackson, Michigan, Mr. Davis, I believe, a lawyer of Detroit, said to me on coming out of the lecture-room, 'Mr. Emerson, I see that you never learned to write from a book.'."

Page 125, note 1. These were his words on the speech of the New Hampshire villagers:—

Page  387
Fourscore or a hundred words
All their vocal muse affords;
But they turn them in a fashion
Past clerks' or statesmen's art or passion.
I can spare the college bell
And the learned lecture well;
Spare the clergy and libraries,
Institutes and dictionaries,
For that hardy English root
Thrives here, unvalued, underfoot.

"Monadnoc," Poems.

Page 125, note 2. In the lecture these words followed:—

"And hence too it is certain that all biography is autobiography; or, whatever anecdote floats in the world concerning any man was first communicated by himself to his companion;—all else is wide of the mark."

This sentence recalls Mr. Emerson's words in the Phi Betta Kappa oration of 1838:—

"The orator distrusts at first the fitness of his frank confessions, his want of knowledge of the persons he addresses, until he finds that he is the complement of his hearers;—that they drink his words because he fulfils for them their own nature; the deeper he dives into his privatest, secretest presentiment, to his wonder he finds this is the most acceptable, most public, most universally true."—"The American Scholar," Nature, Addresses and Lectures.

Page 129, note 1. I am indebted to Mr. F. B. Sanborn for the correct date of Lord Ashley's speech, which in previous editions has been incorrectly given. Macaulay tells the story in chapter xxi. of his History of England. Mr. Emerson apparently found it in the Letters of Lady Russell, and though Page  388 the substance of what Lord Ashley said is the same, the words are different from those given by Macaulay.

After the incident of Lord Ashley, Mr. Emerson introduced into the lecture a story, given below, which the Editor heard Mr. Phillips himself tell in Concord, in a chat at the house after his lecture before the Concord Lyceum. It may be well to preface it by Mr. Emerson's mention of Mr. Phillips's gifts, which he admired:—

Journal, 1862. "Wendell Phillips gives no intimation of his perfect eloquence in casual intercourse. How easily he wears his power, quite free and disengaged, nowise absorbed in any care or thought of the thunderbolt he carries concealed. I think he has more culture than his own, is debtor to generations of gentlemen behind him. But I think Phillips is entirely resolved into his talent. There is not an immense residuum left, as in Webster."

Here is Mr. Emerson's record of Mr. Phillips's adventure:—

"An incident occurred some time ago, which was so good in its kind, that I may be pardoned for recalling it, though not strictly within the proprieties of the place.

"Cassius M. Clay and Wendell Phillips were both to speak at New Haven on one day, and almost at the same hour,—Mr. Clay, an agricultural address before the State Society at half-past 6 o'clock. Mr. Phillips, before the Lyceum, at 7.45. Mr. Clay really gave Mr. Phillips his audience, by closing his own address before 7.30 o'clock, and went himself to attend Mr. Phillips's lecture, and the whole audience with him. So Mr. Phillips opened his discourse with some compliments to Mr. Clay, acknowledging the kindness, and all the more, because,' he said, 'it was known how widely they differed,' and referred to the fact that Mr. Clay had said, that, Page  389 'if a contest should arise between the whites and the negroes, his own part would be taken with the whites.' The audience gave three cheers for Mr. Clay. 'Well,' said Mr. Phillips, 'this, then, we must reckon the roll-call on that side,—the distinguished senator, and the white population in the States.' The audience instantly repeated their cheers. Mr. Phillips thought himself in a bad plight for the beginning of a speech, but rescued himself by saying, 'Well, gentlemen, now let us see the matter on the other side. Thomas Jefferson says, "that in this contest the Almighty has no attribute but must take part with the Slave." Mr. Clay and the Southern gentlemen on one side, and all the attributes of the Almighty on the other.'.

"The audience were utterly silenced, and Mr. Phillips proceeded with his speech."

Page 131, note 1. In his speech on the Fugitive Slave Law Mr. Emerson made personal application of his thought:—

"Nobody doubts that Daniel Webster could make a good speech. Nobody doubts that there were good and plausible things to be said on the part of the South. But this is not a question of ingenuity, not a question of syllogisms, but of sides. How came he there?".

Page 131, note 2. Dr. James Hutchison Stirling, the author of The Secret of Hegel, a book valued by Mr. Emerson. Dr. Stirling took a very active interest in the nomination of Mr. Emerson for Lord Rector of Glasgow University by the students in 1874. At the election Mr. Emerson received some five hundred votes, and Disraeli, then prime minister, was chosen by a majority of about two hundred votes. Dr. Stirling is still living.

Page  390


The lecture "Resources" was the third, following "Social Aims," in a course on American Life given in Boston in December, 1864, and January, 1865. Its topic was one that all the people of the United States had then brought home to them in earnest. The long drain which four years of war had made upon their lives, their fortunes, their courage and hopes made Mr. Emerson's word of cheer timely and welcome. But the essay represents only a scant half of what was then said. Many of the sheets used are marked on one corner "War," showing that they had done duty in some other cheering address in the anxious and sad days, and many with the same mark, more immediately dealing with the conditions of the day, are omitted. But nearly all of the latter half, the ascension to a loftier plane, such as occurs in all his lectures, was taken for a later lecture on Inspiration, and much of it is found in the essay of that name later in this volume.

Page 138, note 1. Journal, 1869. "I have written before that no number of Nays will help,—only one Yea, and this is moral."

Page 138, note 2. Among the manuscript leaves I find this other verson of the paragraph:—

"I delight in the man of resources. I am cheered by the bold and resolved mind. I like to see that every mind is born with a bias or talent, has a way of his own into Nature; that Nature has given him a private key, and I notice that not only the display of grand ability, penetration into the secret of largest laws, and so the working on nations and times, instructs Page  391 us, but that every anecdote, where a sharper observation of Nature in some particulars bestows some petty advantage, gives a fillip to the attention and to our courage."

Page 139, note 1.

No ray is dimmed, no atom worn,
My oldest force is good as new,
And the fresh rose on yonder thorn
Gives back the bending heavens in dew.

"Song of Nature," Poems.

Page 141, note 1. Here came in several sheets now included in "Works and Days," in Society and Solitude.

Page 141, note 2. Two sheets, giving a story, such as often garnished Mr. Emerson's lyceum lectures, and a sudden return to the more serious aspects, may be here inserted in the place they once occupied:—

"There is a story of an old lady who was carried to see a mountain and a cataract, and afterwards shown the steam-mill and the new railroads, and, very grateful and a little confused, she said, 'God's works are great, but man's works are greater.'

"There does not seem to be any limit to these new applications of the same spirit that made the elements at first, and now through man works them. Art and power will go on as they have done, will make day out of night, time out of space, and space out of time."

Page 141, note 3. Mr. Emerson often alludes with pleasure to the Dutch horticulturist whose theory, given in Downing's book on Fruits, pleased him. Journal, 1842: "Delights in Van Mons and his pear in a state of melioration; to be liquid and plastic,—that our reading or doing or knowing should react on us, that is all in all."

Page  392

Page 143, note 1. Mr. Emerson had been greatly interested in the hopeful writings on political economy of Mr. Henry Carey of Philadelphia, referred to in the essay on Farming in Society and Solitude, and especially in a remarkable pamphlet, issued about the time of the ending of the Civil War, called Our Burden and our Strength by David A. Wells, from which he quoted in the lecture.

Page 144, note 1. Mr. Emerson had lately read in the Atlantic Monthly the entertaining and highly interesting story of the march of the New York Seventh Regiment from Annapolis to Washington, by Major Theodore Winthrop, who fell in the action at Big Bethel. In this, the extraordinary variety of ability to deal with each new emergency which was shown by the Eighth Massachusetts Regiment was set forth with due praise.1 The following reference to that regiment from another quarter was in the lecture:—

"The whole history of our Civil War is rich in a thousand anecdotes attesting the fertility of resource, the presence of mind, the skilled labor of our people. The National Intelligencer said of the Eighth Massachusetts Regiment at Annapolis, 'Probably no other regiment in the country could do what this regiment did,—put a locomotive together, lay the rails on the broken railroad, bend the sails of a man-of-war (the frigate Constitution), and man and work the frigate.'"

Page 145, note 1. Here followed several instances of happy expedients used on the farm to meet its constant emergencies, and a new paragraph of the expedients which soldiers and explorers devise opened thus:—

"Again in danger the history of the savage, the history of war, of passion, abound in examples where the wit of man is Page  393 all in all: where is no outward aid, but all depends on personal qualities and presence of mind."

Page 146, note 1. This paragraph originally was continued by the account of the sure instincts of Indians in the forest, some of the stories gathered from Thoreau's account of Joseph Polis, his Indian guide, in Maine.

Page 147, note 1. Quoted from the remarkable Mémoires of Blaise de Montluc, a Gascon officer under Francis I. and several succeeding kings of France, whose valor, skill and fidelity made him a Marshal of France.

Page 149, note 1. Asmodeus, a familiar spirit mentioned in The Book of Tobit in the Apocrypha, and in mediaeval books of magic. The keeping him employed by twisting a rope out of sand is spoken of by Mr. Emerson in several essays. Mr. Emerson likened his own task, of arranging his thoughts into lectures, to the Spirit's:—

The Asmodean feat is mine
To spin my sand-heap into twine.

Page 150, note 1. This passage followed in the lecture:—

"An old scholar said to me very many years ago, when speaking of his own methods, 'I build: in the morning I am athletic, and begin with Hebrew for foundation; after that I am still good for Greek; later in the day, I can read philosophy and history; in the afternoon poetry and the journals.'"1

Page 151, note 1. It is strange to recall how much less common the study of Nature or any especial branch of natural history for pure pleasure was in those days than now. Since Thoreau opened the way with his Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, perhaps his best book, but unsalable in its day, the increasing interest and delight in out-of-door pursuits Page  394 has given rise to an admirable literature on the subject, the works of Bradford Torrey, Rowland Robinson, Olive Thorne Miller, Frank Bolles, Burroughs, Gibson, Thompson Seton and Long,—more each year.

Mr. Emerson wrote in those days, "To Nero advertising for a new pleasure, a walk in the woods should have been offered."

Page 152, note 1. Shakspeare, Hamlet, Act I., Scene 5.

Page 152, note 2. This is the beginning of one of the songs of the Welsh Bards.

Page 154, note 1. As has been said in the introductory note to this essay, the suggestion of resources of the higher class was transferred by Mr. Emerson to the chapter on Inspiration, but this on memory, as a reserve on which to fall back at need, remains:—

"It is certain that our own youth exerts an enormous influence through all our life: a most disproportionate part of our happiness comes from the recollection or restoring of its images and feelings. There is no poetry or sentiment, no love of beauty, which does not draw a charm from its reminder of that magazine of good. Genius and virtue seem to be only a preternatural prolongation of that. It is a little sad that we should always be spending on this patrimony, instead of multiplying a thousand-fold our original stock."


It would be fair perhaps to say that Mr. Emerson approached this subject with less sympathy than almost any other, except the Tragic or negative point of view. But here Page  395 was a fact to be disposed of. He finds fun to be an affair of the intellect quite detached for the moment from moral considerations and startled into mirth by some preposterous contrast between apparent promise and actual performance. But a protest runs through all his work against the divorce between the intellectual and the moral, hence comic license must be sparingly granted. His natural serenity and dignity protested against being victimized by a spasm of the diaphragm and facial muscles at the will of another, and he might almost have said with Lord Chesterfield, "I am sure that since I had the use of my reason no human being has ever heard me laugh." But if he had not wit according to his conception of it, he had that better quality into which human sympathy and kindliness enter as largely,—the saving sense of humor which crops out continually in his lectures. Ridicule and sarcasm were impossible to him. If he was not witty at others' expense, he often was at his own. He was always cheerful; what he saw in life made him happy, and in conversation in the family and with friends he was almost gay and often very amusing. Two subjects, Love and Death, were to him, and in his presence, always held sacred from jest.

This lecture, called "Comedy," was the eighth, following "Tragedy," in the course on Human Life given in Boston in the winter of 1839-40. It was published in the Dial for 1843.

Page 157, note 1. In the Dial the lecture opened with this paragraph:—

"It is a nail of pain and pleasure, said Plato, which fastens the body to the mind. The way of life is a line between the regions of tragedy and comedy. I find few books so entertaining as the wistful human history written out in the Page  396 faces of any collection of men at church or court-house. The silent assembly thus talks very loud. The sailor carries on his face the tan of tropic suns and the record of rough weather; the old farmer testifies of stone walls, rough wood-lots, the meadows and the new barn. The doctor's head is a fragrant gallipot of virtues. The carpenter still measures feet and inches with his eye, and the licensed landlord mixes liquors in motionless pantomime. What good bargains glimmer in the merchant's aspect. And if beauty, softness and faith, in female forms, have their own influence, vices even, in slight degree, are thought to improve the expression. Malice and scorn add to beauty. You shall see eyes set too near, and limited faces, faces of the marked and invariable character. How the busy fancy inquires into their biography and relations! They pique, but must tire. Compared with universal faces, countenances of a general human type, which pique less, they look less safe. In such groups the observer does not think of heroes and sages. In the silentest meeting the eye reads the plain prose of life, timidity, caution, appetite, ignorance, old houses, musty savors, stationary, retrograde faculties pottering round (to use the country phrase) in paltry routines from January to December.

"These are the precincts of comedy and farce, and a taste for fun is all but universal in our species," etc.

Page 162, note 1. Mr. Emerson dreaded having the company captured by laughter, so likely to be unbecoming and to pass into the unseemly or uproarious. He used to quote the speech of a wise relative to her daughter or niece: "My dear, beware you don't laugh, for then you show all your faults." The "bursts of Olympian laughter" of Carlyle required all his regard for him to make them tolerable, and in the essay on Social Aims in this volume appears the shock his taste Page  397 suffered, when the low breeding of a man came to the surface in contemptible squeals of joy. This repugnance was so strong that, although Mr. Emerson took much pleasure in Hogg's ballad The Witch of Fife, he hated the lines:—

"But the auld man's laughe came on the gale
With a lang and a loud guffaw."

Page 163, note 1. The neighborhood at the Saturday Club of Dr. Holmes and some other members was sometimes a little hard for Mr. Emerson to bear, much as he enjoyed them, because of his helplessness before their irresistible wit.

Page 171, note 1. This suggests, in recent years, Kipling's neat version of the Venus Anadyomene for a perennial society beauty as the Venus Anno Domini.

Page 174, note 1. At dinner parties in England Mr. Emerson seems to have had more than enough of stories and jokes, and this mood thus found expression in his journal just after crossing the Channel for his short visit to Paris:—

May 15, 1848. "The one thing odious to me now is joking. What can the brave and strong genius of C. himself avail? What can his praise, what can his blame avail me, when I know that if I fall or rise, there still awaits me the inevitable joke? The day's Englishman must have his joke, as duly as his bread. God grant me the noble companions whom I have left at home, who value merriment less, and virtues and powers more. If the English people have owed to their House of Commons this damnable derision, I think they have paid an overprice for their liberties and empire.

"But when I balance the attractions of good and evil, when I consider what facilities, what talents a little vice would furnish, there rise before me not these laughers, but the dear and comely forms of honour and genius and piety in my distant Page  398 home, and they touch me with chaste palms moist and cold, and say to me, You are ours.

"Remember to be sober, and to be disposed to believe, for these are the nerves of wisdom."


This essay was read as the second lecture in a course given at Freeman Place Chapel in Boston in March, 1859, following "The Law of Success" and preceding "Clubs." Mr. Emerson seems to have made few changes in it.

Page 177, note 1. From the Phaedrus.

Page 179, note 1. In this connection an anecdote of the time may not seem too irrelevant. Wendell Phillips had a very interesting lecture on the Lost Arts, but Mr. Emerson cautioned a young curator of the Concord Lyceum not to choose this lecture, for there was irony underlying this subject. It was meant for cowardly communities who could not face a brave word on the burning issues of their day and generation.

Page 179, note 2.

In vain produced, all rays return;
Evil will bless, and ice will burn.

"Uriel," Poems.

Page 180, note 1. "In Plato you explore modern Europe in its causes and seed,—all that in thought, which the history of Europe embodies or has yet to embody."—"Books," Society and Solitude.

In the chapter on Plato in Representative Men, p. 42, is a paragraph about his absorption of the wisdom of the ages gone before.

Page  399

Page 181, note 1. Albertus Magnus, a Suabian by birth, and a priest of the Dominican order, has been held to be the most learned man of the Middle Ages. He studied all subjects then known, and especially Aristotle and the Arabian writers.

Giovanni di Fidenza, a fervent mystic, canonized as St. Bonaventura for his gifts and virtues and remarkable services to the Church, was a priest of the order of St. Francis and is the patron saint of Lyons.

The great Schoolman, son of the Count of Aquino in Italy, later known as St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor, was a disciple of Albertus.

Page 181, note 2. This passage followed in the lecture:—

"All reading is a kind of quotation, a resorting to other men's cisterns, and, if we sound to the bottom, we shall find these feeders of the mind to be not only private artificial pipes into every house, and fed by old mains constructed and kept in repair by nations, but these also are patched upon nature, and draw from rivers, and out of the great valleys of the world, which was built for a reservoir and aqueduct."

Page 182, note 1. This tracing the great hymns and psalms of the ages to the religious "common sense" of mankind is expressed in "The Problem":—

Out from the heart of Nature rolled
The burdens of the Bible old;
The litanies of nations came,
Like the volcano's tongue of flame,
Up from the burning core below,—
The canticles of love and woe.

Page 182, note 2. Philo, an Alexandrian Jew and Platonist, contemporary with Jesus, in his writings strove to show that the Mosaic revelation contained the germ of the Greek philosophy.

Page  400

Page 182, note 3. In the lecture the sentence was thus concluded: "whilst the Indian scriptures, when cleared by criticism of their Leviticus, and the sublime theology at the base purified of its incongruous adhesions, will stand on the same wonderful height of inspiration."

Page 183, note 1. Marc Antoine René de Paulmy, 1722-87, one of the distinguished family of D' Argenson, abandoned diplomatic life for literary pursuits. He was a member of the Academy, and is especially noted for having collected and edited the Bibliothèque universelle des romans.

Page 185, note 1. There is in Plutarch a chapter with this title: "Of the Word EI engraved over the Gate of Apollo's Temple at Delphi."—Morals, edition revised by Professor William W. Goodwin, vol. iv., p. 478.

Page 189, note 1. This idea of the expression of one mind being raised to the second power by its happy application by another is perhaps extremely stated in Representative Men in the chapter on Plato: "The inventor only knows how to borrow; and society is glad to forget the innumerable laborers who ministered to this architect, and reserves all its gratitude for him."

Page 190, note 1. The celebrated Swiss banker Jacques Necker, who, as Minister of Finance in France in a time of the greatest confusion and embarrassment, restored credit and introduced many wise economies and humane reforms. Meeting with some disfavor, he resigned, was recalled by Louis XVI. in 1788, dismissed the following year, but was reinstated in response to general public demand just before the outbreak of the Revolution. He did what he could to secure the recognition of the Third Estate, thus offending the nobility and clergy. Opposing the seizure of church property and the issue of assignats, he became unpopular even with the deputies Page  401 of the people, resigned and returned to Geneva to end his days.

Page 192, note 1. Müller, a Silesian by birth, did important work in archaeology in the first half of the nineteenth century. His works on the history of the Hellenic races and states, and of Greek literature down to the time of Alexander, were translated into English.

Page 192, note 2. Jean Fran&c;cedil;ois Marmontel, a young man of varied talent, who came to Paris, attracted thither by Voltaire, with whom he had corresponded, was the author of poems and tragedies successful in their day, but is best known by his Contes Moraux.

Page 192, note 3. "'T is the fulness of man that runs over into objects, and makes his Bibles and Shakspeares and Homers so great. The joyful reader borrows of his own ideas to fill their faulty outline, and knows not that he borrows and gives."—"Success," Society and Solitude.

Page 194, note 1. "The adventitious beauty of poetry may be felt in the greater delight which a verse gives in happy quotation than in the poem."—"Art," Society and Solitude,.

Page 194, note 2. "By what he omits, show me the artist" was Schiller's way of putting the same thought.

Page 195, note 1. Girolamo Tiraboschi (1731-94), a Jesuit priest, professor of Rhetoric at Modena, and author of Storia della letter atura italiana.

Joseph, Baron von Hammer-Purgstall (1774-1856), one of the best authorities upon Oriental history and literature.

In English Traits, p. 245, Mr. Emerson speaks with respect of Hallam, with whom he had agreeable meetings while in London.

Page 198, note 1. Here followed in the lecture this paragraph:—

Page  402 "We are to each other results. As our perception or sensibility is exalted, we see the genesis of another's action and thought. We see him in his debt and fountains: and, to our eye, instead of a little pond of life, his mind is a rivulet fed by rills from every plain and height in Nature (and antiquity), and deriving a remote origin from the summit of things."

Page 199, note 1. The following stray fragment from the lecture may be here given:—

"A tree is a congeries of living vegetables: is a man a congeries of living spirits? One of them works to see what the other is doing. There is often mutiny in the troop."

Page 200, note 1. The doctrine, as old as Heracleitus and perhaps older, constantly recurs in the essays, an instance of the new values which the quoter gives, who sees in it Evolution, a doctrine by no means unanimously admitted by men of Science when the lecture was written.

The sentences which follow remind one of its presentation in the second poem "Woodnotes":—

I, that to-day am a pine,
Yesterday was a bundle of grass.
And again:—
As the bee through the garden ranges,
From world to world the godhead changes;
This vault which glows immense with light
Is the inn where he lodges for a night.
Thou metest him by centuries,
And lo! he passes like the breeze.

Page 201, note 1. In the lecture this sentence followed:.

Page  403 "God makes but one man of each kind; one leaf, one blade of grass, one meridian, does not resemble another."

Page 201, note 2. "Memory is the mother of the Muses," in the lecture, is omitted here.

Page 202, note 1. Compare the lines in the poem "Worship":—

More near than aught thou call'st thy own,
Yet, greeted in another's eyes,
Disconcerts with glad surprise.

Page 202, note 2. Between these paragraphs may have stood this stray sheet:—

"The severe ideal rule is that a wise man will write nothing but that which is known only to himself, and that he will not produce his truth until it is imperatively demanded by the progress of the conversation, which has arrived at that point. Then is the shrine ready and the pedestal; he produces his statue, and it fills the eye."

Page 203, note 1. Dr. Holmes, in several places in his Life of Emerson, has much that is interesting to say about his quotations, which he says "are like the miraculous draught of fishes;" and he has been at the pains to count the named references, chiefly to authors, and found them to be three thousand three hundred and ninety-three, relating to eight hundred and sixty-eight different individuals. He also gives a list of those to whom there are twenty or more references.

He also says that this essay "furnishes a key to Emerson's workshop. He believed in quotation, and borrowed from everybody and every book. Not in any stealthy or shamefaced way, but proudly, as a king borrows from one of his attendants the coin that bears his own image and superscription."

Page  404

Page 203, note 2. Here in the essay was the sentence, "'T is a great advantage to be first in time."

Page 204, note 1. Thoreau's fine lines in his poem "Inspiration" here come to mind:—

"I hearing get, who had but ears,
And sight, who had but eyes before;
I moments live, who lived but years,
And truth discern, who knew but learning's lore."


On the last day of August, 1837, Mr. Emerson gave the Phi Beta Kappa Oration at Harvard College. He was then known as a young preacher of promise who had unaccountably withdrawn from a desirable pastorate in Boston and, after travel in Europe, was living the life of a scholar in a quiet village, whence in the winter he had come to Boston to read courses on Biography, English Literature and the Philosophy of History. The oration, "The American Scholar," was notable and well received, though his first book, Nature, published the year before, had attracted little attention. The young men were stirred, and a few months later the Senior Class in the Divinity School at Cambridge asked him to address them. His earnest words on that occasion, however well received by the young, were deemed subversive to true Christianity by many excellent professors and clergymen, and their duty prompted them to express the disapproval publicly and sound the note of alarm against a dangerous heretic. The University may be said to have officially disapproved of Emerson's teaching, although he had friendly relations with many Page  405 of those connected with it. Thirty years passed, with events of great importance in the national life, and in the literary and religious feeling of the people, but the College until the close of the Civil War showed outwardly little change; yet it has been said that many of Harvard's best soldiers had been moved by Emerson's written and spoken words.

On the 18th of July, 1867, Mr. Emerson, an elderly man, with reputation as a scholar and writer established, and seldom attacked, in England and America, again addressed the Phi Beta Kappa Society and their guests in the Unitarian Church opposite the College gates, which was then the place in which academic festivals were held. The occasion was a very pleasant one, to the orator as to the others, and a great company of people, all friendly, were there gathered.

By mischance Mr. Emerson had mislaid his glasses, which only then he had begun to require, so the reading did not prosper at first, but the genuine good will of the audience smoothed matters as far as was possible until some one lent him a pair, when the speaker at once redeemed the day by his best delivery of the later ascending portion of the oration.

If the address surprises the readers of to-day by its tone of secure hopefulness with regard to America's future, the conditions of that day should be recalled, as well as Mr. Emerson's faith in the great laws that work for good. The fierce conflagration in which years of smouldering discontent had culminated had destroyed the most evident evil, Slavery, and had cleared the moral atmosphere. The conscience of the Nation had asserted itself. Patriotism, however interpreted in different sections of the country, had been aroused. Courage, devotion and sacrifice had a new meaning. Poverty had brought its wholesome, if hated, schooling. Strong and unselfish men had come to the front in politics and in the army; Page  406 good citizenship showed at its best. The corrupting and selfish influence of wealth was at its lowest ebb. The depletion of the population by war made immigration most desirable, and the new complications and troubles incident to new conditions had hardly appeared.

Page 208, note 1. Ovid, Ars Amatoria, III. 121.

Page 209, note 1. It may not be easy for one who had not the mortification to live in times when fugitive slaves were seized in Boston, and after trial and sentence, guarded to the vessel that was to carry them back by the local militia and police; when her business men mobbed and maltreated Garrison, and broke up anti-slavery meetings, and when many of the club-men, and also of the scholars, sympathized with such doings,—to appreciate the relief that the change wrought by the war brought. Membership in the Union Club, founded during the war by the best citizens, was now courted and not despised.

Page 210, note 1.

The Cossack eats Poland,
Like stolen fruit;
Her last noble is ruined,
Her last poet mute:
Straight, into double band
The victors divide;
Half for freedom strike and stand;—
The astonished Muse finds thousands at her side.

"Ode," inscribed to W. H. Channing, Poems.

Page 211, note 1. Five years earlier Mr. Emerson wrote in his journal:—

"The world is full of pot and pan policy. Every nation is Page  407 degraded by the hobgoblins it worships instead of the eternal Gods. Thus popery, thus Calvinism, thus tariff, thus mesmerism, thus custom, thus luxury, thus slavery;—and civility as it advances to the light sheds them, casts away these crusts for simple good sense and universal modes."

Now he wrote, on a sheet of notes marked "Appendix to Φ B K":—

"Ours the age of Catholicity in literature; change of opinion in regard to Spinoza and Voltaire: age of recoveries in literature, the spelling of the Rosetta Stone and the faces of the pyramid; translation of the Vedas; printing of the Norse Sagas."

Page 211, note 2. There is in the early part of the paper on Life and Letters in New England, in Lectures and Biographical Sketches, a passage on the necessary effect on religious teachings of the Copernican Astronomy, transferring the centre of importance of our system from the little Earth to the Sun.

The following passage was among the notes relating to the Phi Beta Kappa Address:—

"The moral sentiment never held to the Hebrew or the Ptolemaic or the Tycho Brahe astronomy, but was of an austere mathematic fabric, as the sun and the ether are."

Page 212, note 1. The artistic effect of contrast between the first part of the address, dealing with material advantages, and the higher considerations which followed, was remarkable in the delivery. Mr. Emerson enumerated the inventions, the comforts, the conveniences at such length (many are omitted in the essay) and in so uniform a tone of cheerful praise that some members of his family even began to be troubled at what he would have called "the catalogue style,' and to feel that the oration was not to be up to the level of Page  408 his usual writing. Suddenly he took the very thought in our minds, "We have had enough of these boastful recitals," and with great effect exclaimed, "Then I say, Happy is the land where benefits like this have grown trite and commonplace!" Then, in a tone quiet and low, but with great flexibility, he began the second part of the lecture and gradually worked up to his finest delivery in the concluding passages.

Page 215, note 1. It is suggested in the poem-parable "Uriel" that possibly the disappearance of the archangel after his daring utterance may have been because he had

by knowledge grown too bright
To hit the nerve of feebler sight.

Page 216, note 1. Viasa, or Vyasa, the author, or compiler, of the Mahabharata.

Page 217, note 1. Compare the passage in "Aristocracy," Lectures and Biographical Sketches, on the claim a commanding talent gives to enter the superior class.

Page 219, note 1. "Shall we then judge a country by the majority, or by the minority? By the minority, surely."—

"Considerations by the Way," Conduct of Life.

Page 221, note 1. The following notes very probably were for this lecture:—

"Natural History governs science, arts, architecture, religion, philosophy, poetry.

"What Adalbert de Beaumont has taught us of exhaustless fund of suggestion which Oriental art has drawn from nature.

"Every thought must be expressed by some object in nature, and 't is the fault of metaphysics that they endeavor to express themselves in words at as many removes from nature as possible. The poet catches the thought and sculptures it by Page  409 discovering its true symbol in nature, and mankind accept his statement, and the philosopher is gladly forgotten."

The following stray sheet of manuscript bearing on the hidden relation of things may here be introduced:—

"Palmistry, phrenology, astrology rest on a real basis. 'T is certain that there is a relation between the stars and your wedding day; between the lines of your hand and the works done by it; between the activity of your brain and its outward figure;—there is a relation, though you may easily fail to find it. The world, the universe may be reeled off any idea, like a ball of yarn. See how the chemist, how the Christian, how the negro—each disposes of it with greatest ease after his own peculiar habit, and finds all the facts fit and confirm his view. And each science and law is, in like manner, prospective and fruitful. Astronomy is not yet astronomy, whilst it only counts the stars in the sky. It must come nearer, and be related to men and their life, and interpret the moral laws. In learning one thing you learn all. Egg and stratum go together. As the naturalist found that the order of changes in the form of the embryo in the egg from day to day determined the right procession of the fossil remains of species which had occupied the surface of the globe for geologic ages."

Page 222, note 1. Oersted was the discoverer of electro-magnetism.

Page 223, note 1. I quote from the admirable Introduction à l'étude de la Figure Humaine, by Dr. Paul Richer of Paris, the following passage with regard to this power of divination found in the great masters of science:—

"Ce que nous gagnons d'un côté en confort matériel, ne le perdons-nous pas de l'autre en art et poésie? Avec le règne de la machine, que devient le sentiment esthétique? [He then says that Art and Science have a common ground where Page  410 they meet, and continues:] Chez le savant, par exemple, l'étude patiente et régulière des faits n'exclut point l'usage des facultés créatrices de l'esprit. Bien au contraire, cette étude ne sauvait conduire à rien sans une certaine dose de l'intuition et, pour ainsi dire, de divination qui, dans un fait des plus vulgaires, fait entrevoir des merveilleuses conséquences. [He instances Newton and Galileo.] Et cependant avant ces grands hommes bien des gens avaient vu fruits tomber des branches, et des lampes se balancer au voutes des églises. Qu'avait-il donc manqué pour transformer ces faites vulgaires en grandes découvertes? Rien d'autre que cette faculté creéatrice qui est le propre du génie, quel que soit le domaine où se manifeste son activité.

"Il ne faut pas confondre, en effet, la science que se crée et la science toute faite. Le raisonnement et la déduction supposent toujours un point de départ qui est une idée neuve."

Page 223, note 2. "Nature is too thin a screen; the glory of the One breaks in everywhere."—"The Preacher," Lectures and Biographical Sketches.

Page 223, note 3. There is much about the importance of sensibility, impressionability, in the latter portion of "Success," in Society and Solitude.

Page 223, note 4. This suggests the image of

Little man, least of all,
Among the legs of his guardians tall,—
in the poem, "Experience," the motto to the essay of that name.

Page 225; note 1.

A score of airy miles will smooth
Rough Monadnoc to a gem.

"Fragments on Nature," Poems, Appendix.

Page  411

Page 225, note 2. Horace, Epistolae, book 1. 6.

Page 227, note 1.

Night-dreams trace on Memory's wall
Shadows of the thoughts of day,
And thy fortunes, as they fall,
The bias of the will betray.

Quatrain, "Memory," Poems.

Page 228, note 1. See the verses in the "Fragments on Life," in the Appendix to the Poems, beginning,—

Asks nought his brother cannot give.

Page 232, note 1. Professor Goodwin's rendering of this sentence from the "Consolation to Apollonius" in his edition of Plutarch's Morals is different:—

"It is an expression of Pindar that we are held to the dark bottom of hell by necessities as hard as iron."

Page 233, note 1. The following passage comes from a sheet with notes marked by Mr. Emerson "Appendix to Φ B K":—

"As gravity, the material system; so truth holds the intellectual universe stanch.

"In every announcement of a natural law we hear the announcement of a law of the mind.

"True genius always purifies. Genius always on the side of morals.

"The moral law preserves its eternal newness and appears to every age new-born, almost abolishing memory by the splendor it lends to the passing hour."

Page  412


Dr. William T. Harris begins his essay entitled "Emerson's Orientalism"1 by quoting from Representative Men Mr. Emerson's account of Plato, from the active, creative, advancing and freedom-loving West, becoming acquainted with the immovable, meditative, fatalistic East, and there imbibing the idea of one Deity, in which all things are absorbed. "In short, the balanced soul was born, perceptive of the two elements."

Dr. Harris then says: "What Emerson says of Plato we may easily and properly apply to himself. But he goes farther than Plato towards the Orient, and his pendulum swings farther west into the Occident. He delights in the all-absorbing unity of the Brahman, in the all-renouncing ethics of the Chinese and Persian, in the measureless images of the Arabian and Hindoo poets. But he is as practical as the extremest of his countrymen. His practical is married to his abstract tendency. It is the problem of evil that continually haunts him and leads him to search its solution in the Oriental unity, which is above all dualism of good and evil. It is his love of freedom which leads him to seek in the same source and elevation of thought above the trammels of finitude and complications. Finally, it is his love of beauty, which is the vision of freedom manifested in matter, that leads him to Oriental poetry, which sports with the finite elements of the world as though they were unsubstantial dreams."

In the summer of 1884, two years after Mr. Emerson's death, Protap Chunder Mozoomdar of Calcutta spoke at the Page  413 School of Philosophy in Concord on Emerson as seen from India. What he said is printed in the volume just referred to. I quote the following passage: "Where the blue Narbudda, so still, so deep, so pure, flows through the high milk-white walls of the marble hills near Jubbulpoor, in the natural alcoves of the virgin rocks there are devotional inscriptions in Sanscrit. I wish Emerson had composed his essays on Nature there.… Amidst this ceaseless, sleepless din and clash of Western Materialism, this heat of restless energy, the character of Emerson shines upon India serene as the evening star. He seems to some of us to have been a geographical mistake.… All our ancient religion is the utterance of the Infinite through Nature's symbolism."

The date of Mr. Emerson's first acquaintance with the poetry of the East cannot be exactly given. Some notes in his journals at about the time of his parting with his church show that he already was interested in the idealism of the Mahabharata, but probably only from extracts which he read in De Gerando's Histoire comparée des systèmes de Philosophie.

In his readings of Thomas Taylor's translations of Proclus he found the "Chaldean Oracles," attributed to Zoroaster, and he owned a very rare book, The Desatìr or Sacred Writings of the Ancient Persian Prophets, printed in Bombay in 1818. Quotations from this appear in the Dial.

In his journal for 1841 occurs his first mention of Hafiz. "You defy anybody to have things as good as yours—Hafiz defies you to show him, or put him in a condition inopportune and ignoble. Take all you will and leave him but a corner of Nature, a lane, a den, a cow-shed, out of cities, far from letters and taste and culture, he promises to win to that scorned spot, the light of moon and stars, the love of men, the smile of beauty, the homage of art. It shall be painted and carved and Page  414 sung and celebrated and visited by pilgrimage in all time to come."

This would seem to show that already the translation of Hafiz into German by Baron Von Hammer-Purgstall had come to Mr. Emerson's attention.

But what he learned of the poet Saadi seems to have more attracted him, at first, certainly, and the French or English version of the Gulistan naturally was easier to become familiar with. In the journal of 1843 he wrote,—

"In Saadi's Gulistan I find many traits which comport with the portrait I drew."

This must refer to the poem "Saadi," which was published in the Dial for October, 1842. It seems to imply that his knowledge of Saadi had come from some other source and that the Gulistan had only lately come into his hands. But Saadi and he continued close friends. He adopted the name to typify in his own verses the ideal poet, though, perhaps for metrical convenience, he often used the monosyllabic form Seyd or Said. This first occurs in the poem "Uriel." He had learned from Von Hammer that Saadi meant felicity, or fortunate, and thereafter in some journals passages are referred to in the index under the word Saadi which say nothing of the Persian poet, but are about content, sweet temper and good hope.

For Saadi sat in the sun,
And thanks was his contrition.

Seeing the mistake of heated arguments in questions to which the still small voice would suggest the unanswerable answer to him who would listen, his word was

Let theist, atheist, pantheist,
Define and wrangle how they list,
Page  415 Fierce conserver, fierce destroyer,—
But thou, joy-giver and enjoyer,
Unknowing war, unknowing crime,
Gentle Saadi, mind thy rhyme.


Saadi loved the race of men.
Many of the most pleasing fragments of Mr. Emerson's verse, gathered after his death into the Appendix to the Poems, introduce Saadi's name.

When an American edition of Gladwin's translation of the Gulistan, or Rose-Garden was printed,1 Mr. Emerson, who probably suggested this plan to his friend Mr. James T. Fields, was asked by him to write the preface. He did so, and that is why the essay in this volume does not dwell upon Saadi among the Persian poets.

Since Mr. Emerson cared so much for Saadi, yet for the reason just stated did not treat of him in this essay, it seems best to copy here some sentences from the note-books.

1843. "Saadi was long a Sacayi, or water-drawer, in the Holy Land, 'till found worthy of an introduction to the prophet Khizr, Elias or the Syrian and Greek Hermes, who moistened his mouth with the water of immortality.' Somebody doubted this and saw in a dream a host of angels descending with salvers of glory in their hands. On asking one of them for whom those were intended he answered, 'for Shaikh Saadi of Shiraz, who has written a stanza of Poetry that has met the approbation of God Almighty.' Khosraw of Delhi asked Khizr for a mouthful Page  416 of this inspiring beverage; but he told him that Saadi had got the last of it.

"'It was on the coming of Friday in the month Showal, of the Arabian year 690, that the eagle of the immaterial soul of Shaikh Saadi shook from his plumage the dust of his body.'".

Soon after Mr. Emerson had completed his threescore and ten years, a young clergyman in a Western State, whose growth had been helped by his writings, was troubled at an authoritative statement, which he had heard, that Emerson had been led by the preaching of a popular Orthodox divine in Boston to see the error of his ways and teachings, "had accepted Jesus as his Saviour, the Bible as inspired, and had formally joined the Church." Mr. Emerson smiled, but did not think it worth while to deny these assertions, yet allowed his son to answer the letter of inquiry as to whether he had suffered a late conversion. This sentence from Saadi, which he enjoyed, and quotes in Representative Men, would have been a simple and appropriate answer: "It was rumored abroad that I was penitent, but what had I to do with repentance?".

In his lecture on the Fugitive Slave Law, given in New York on March 7, 1854, Mr. Emerson quoted Saadi's saying, "Beware of hurting the orphan. When the orphan sets a-crying, the throne of the Almighty is rocked from side to side."

In the essay on Books, in Society and Solitude, after recommending certain autobiographies, Mr. Emerson says: "Another class of books closely allied to these, and of like interest, are those which may be called Table-Talks: of which the best are Saadi's Gulistan; Luther's Table-Talk; Aubrey's Lives; Spence's anecdotes," etc. This essay was published in the Atlantic Monthly for January, 1858.

Mr. Emerson included in his first book of poems, published Page  417 early in 1847, two translations from Hafiz. He prefixed this note to them:—

"The poems of Hafiz are held by the Persians to be allegorical and mystical. His German editor, Von Hammer, remarks on the following poem, that, 'though in appearance anacreontic, it may be regarded as one of those compositions which earned for Hafiz the honorable title of "Tongue of the Secret."'".

In the note-book called "Orientalist" are the following passages, mostly transcribed from the journals during the forties:—

"Hafiz has only just arrived as a competitor to our occidental lyrists, as the Pasha of Egypt challenged so lately the English men of the turf, and our theologians left out till now the Bhagvat Geeta. [He is characterized by a perfect intellectual emancipation, which also he provokes in the reader. Journal, 1847.] Nothing stops him; he makes the dare-God and dare-devil experiment; he is not to be scared by a name or a religion; he fears nothing, he sees too far, and sees throughout. [Journal, 1847. Such is the only man I wish to see and to be. The scholar's courage is as distinct as the soldier's and the statesman's, and a man who has it not cannot write for me.].

"Hafiz's skepticism is only that of a deep intellect: he pays homage to virtue. Wine stands poetically for all that it symbolizes, and not as in Moore's verse for Best Port.

"He who sees the horizon may securely say what he pleases of any tree or twig between him and it.

"He takes his life in his hand, and is ready for a new world. He is restless, inquisitive, thousand-eyed, insatiable and as like a nightingale intoxicated with his own music; never was the privilege of poetry more haughtily used.….

Page  418 "Talk not to me of mosques or of dervishes; God is my witness, I am where he dwells.

"Hafiz does not write of wine and love in any mystical sense, further than that he uses wine as the symbol of intellectual freedom."

In the journal of 1846 is a translation of Hafiz, followed by this paragraph, called "The Noblest Chemistry":—

"Sunshine from cucumbers. Here was a man who has occupied himself in a noble chemistry of extracting honor from scamps, temperance from sots, energy from beggars, justice from thieves, benevolence from misers. He knew there was sunshine under those moping churlish brows, elegance of manners hidden in the peasant, heart-warming expansion, grand surprises of sentiment in these unchallenged, uncultivated men, and he persevered against all repulses until he drew it forth: now his orphans are educated, his boors are polished, his palaces built, his pictures, statues, conservatories, chapels adorn them; he stands there prince among his peers, prince among princes,—the sunshine is out, all flowing abroad over the world."

In the same journal is written:—

"Hafiz, whom I at first thought a cross of Anacreon and Horace, I find now to have the best blood of Pindar also in his verses." (He added later in pencil, "also of Burns.").

Page 237, note 1. Mr. Emerson notes in his journal of 1847: "Joseph Von Hammer,1 born 1774, published in 1813 Divan of Hafiz; in 1818 History of Persian Belles-Letters; in 1823 Motenebbi from the Arabic; in 1825 the Baki from the Turkish."

Page 240, note 1. For an instance of the intoxication of Page  419 flowers, the experience of Saadi given in Representative Men might be cited, where Mr. Emerson, expressing his discontent that Swedenborg's visions have so funeral a character and are devoid of beauty, says, "Was he like Saadi, who, in his vision, designed to fill his lap with the celestial flowers, as presents for his friends; but the fragrance of the roses so intoxicated him that the skirt dropped from his hands?".

Page 240, note 2. In the "Fragments on The Poet" in the Appendix to the Poems it is said of him, under the name of Saadi,—

The birds brought auguries on their wings,
And carolled undeceiving things
Him to beckon, him to warn;
Well might then the poet scorn
To learn of scribe or courier
Things writ in vaster character.
Also, in the verses called "The Miracle" (Appendix), the wren tells what is in the poet's mind.

Page 241, note 1. Mr. Emerson gives no translation of Firdusi. In his journal is this sentence about him, quoted from the Causeries of Sainte-Beuve: "Firdusi n'a pas besoin d'avoir lu Horace ni Ovide pour dire les mêmes choses qu'eux."

Matthew Arnold drew the subject of his Sohrab and Rustum from Firdusi's poem, the Shah Nameh, of enormous length, chronicling the glories of the Persian and Iranian kings and heroes.

Page 242, note 1. In his preface to the Gulistan, Mr. Emerson tells more of the legends of Karun.

Page 246, note 1. This sentence suggests some verses in Mr. Emerson's note-book, apparently translations from Hafiz:—

Page  420
On a raisin stone
The wheels of Nature turn,
Out of it the fury comes
Wherewith the spondyls burn.
And because a drop of wine
Is creation's heart,
Wash with wine those eyes of thine,—
Nothing is hid, nor whole, nor part.
The motto of the essay "Beauty," printed in the Poems, has Seyd for its hero. In it occur these lines:—
In dens of passion, and pits of woe,
He saw strong Eros struggling through,
To sun the dark and solve the curse,
And beam to the bounds of the universe.

Page 248, note 1. In the journal for 1847 this passage occurs in a form less general than in the text:—

"'Loose the knots of the heart,' says Hafiz.… Expression is all we want: not knowledge, but vent: we know enough; but have not leaves and lungs enough for a healthy perspiration and growth. Hafiz has: Hafiz's good things, like those of all good poets, are the cheap blessings of water, air and fire; the observations, analogies and felicities which arise so profusely in writing a letter to a friend. An air of sterility, poor, thin, arid, reluctant vegetation, belongs to the wise and the unwise whom I know. If they have fine traits, admirable properties, they have a palsied side; but an utterance whole, generous, sustained, equal, graduated at will, such as Montaigne, such as Beaumont and Fletcher so easily and habitually attain, I miss in myself most of all, but also in my contemporaries. A palace style of manners and conversation to which every morrow is a new day, which exists extempore, and is equal to the needs of life, at once tender and bold and with Page  421 great arteries like Cleopatra and Corinne, would be satisfying, and we should be willing to die when our time came, having had our swing and gratification. But my fine souls are cautious and canny and wish to unite Corinth with Connecticut."

Page 251, note 1. Mr. Emerson felt no responsibility for the morals of this remote Oriental Pindar, so could enjoy his sweetness and freedom the more. Time, space, race, allowance due to poetic flight and to the hyperbole of the Orient, made a purple atmosphere clothing the poet. But, had an American Hafiz sung at his door, while he would have been kind and hospitable, the virtue and temperance in thought and act of his ancestors, bred in him, would have recoiled from the superlative and the reckless, not essential to beauty. Thus he welcomed Whitman's free and New World singing (rather, however, in its promise than in its result), but, as that author has told us, and with pride that he did not yield to the friendly urgency, did his best to persuade him to keep his work always within the decencies.

At first the Oriental compliment carried to the limits of exaggeration, and the high color of the imagery, were a little hard for the New Englander to bear. Here is a note:—

"'T is with difficulty that we wont ourselves in the language of the Eastern poets and their melodramatic life. When we go down to Long Wharf we do not find an ivory boat and a pink sea."

Page 259, note 1. Mr. Emerson had, of course, when he wrote of the Persians, only Von Hammer's translations to work on. The Germans had no way of rendering the sound of J but by the clumsy dsch, so he usually spelled Jami, as in the poem "Saadi," Dschami.

Page 265, note 1. Two translations not rhymed are added from the note-books:—

Page  422
"Drink, hear my counsel, my son, that the world fret thee not.
Tho' the heart bleed, let thy lips laugh like the wine-cup.
Is thy soul hurt, yet dance with the viol-strings:
Thou learnest no secret, until thou knowest friendship,
Since to the unsound no heavenly knowledge comes in."
"Ruler after word and thought
Which no eye yet saw,
Which no ear yet heard,
Remain, until thy young destiny
From the old greybeard of the sky
His blue coat takes."


In the first course of lectures on The Natural History of the Intellect, given by Mr. Emerson at Harvard University in 1870, was one on Inspiration. This probably contained much of the matter in the present essay, which, with the omission of a few sheets, is the lecture as delivered before the Peabody Institute in Baltimore in January, 1872.

Page 270, note 1. See the note on this expression of Hunter's where it is used early in this volume, in the introductory part of the essay "Poetry and Imagination."

Page 271, note 1. In "Natural History of Intellect," in the volume of that name, it is said that "Inspiration is the continuation of the divine effort that built the man." The essay "Nature" in the first volume tells of the instruction of man's soul by the Symbolism of all that his eye sees.

Page  423

Page 272, note 1. Mr. Emerson wrote in one of the journals, "When a god wishes to ride, any stick or straw will serve him for a horse," apparently from Pindar's verse:—

 [ gap:  ] 
quoted by Plutarch and rendered by the early translator—
"Were it the will of Heaven, an osier bough
Were vessel safe enough the seas to plough."

Page 272, note 2. In several places in his writings Mr. Emerson speaks of thoughts, or of God, entering the mind by passages which the individual never left open.

Page 273, note 1.

"Day and night their turn observe,
But the day of day may swerve,
Is there warrant that the waves
Of thought in their mysterious caves
Will heap in me their highest tide,
In me therewith beatified?
Unsure the ebb and flood of thought,
The moon comes back,—the Spirit not."

"The Poet," Poems, Appendix.

Page 273, note 2. From a stray manuscript sheet:—

"Fluxional quantities. Fluxions, I believe, treat of flowing numbers, as, for example, the path through space of a point on the rim of a cart-wheel. Flowing or varying. Most of my values are very variable. My estimate of America, which sometimes runs very low, sometimes to ideal prophetic proportions. My estimate of my own mental means and resources is all or nothing: in happy hours, life looking infinitely rich; and sterile at others. My value of my club is as elastic as steam or gunpowder, so great now, so little anon. Literature Page  424 looks now all-sufficient, but in high and happy conversation, it shrinks away to poor experimenting."

Page 275, note 1. From the Phaedrus.

Page 275, note 2. Zertusht is another name for Zoroaster.

Page 276, note 1. The essay "Eloquence," in Society and Solitude, opens with a statement of the difference in capacity of heat in men of different temperaments. Mr. Emerson often mentioned in his journals his own lack in this respect and in animal spirits, though he found compensations. His "beds of ignited anthracite," which he speaks of as necessary for transcendent eloquence, lay very deep. But he had a sun-heat about him more powerful than he knew, the heat which comes from sincerity that he speaks of in the essay on Eloquence in this volume.

Page 277, note 1. The poet here spoken of was probably Jones Very.

Page 278, note 1. "Not every Day fit for Verse," Robert Herrick.

Page 279, note 1. In Dryden's Absalom and Achitophel are lines resembling these:—

"Great wits are sure to madness near allied,
And thin partitions do their bounds divide."

Page 279, note 2. On a stray sheet of the lecture these words here followed: "Law of that! to know the law of that, and to live in it! O thought too wild! O hope too good!….

"Power, new power is the good which the soul seeks. No matter if it be not yet formed into a talent. New power suggests vast hopes, native to the mind: sets it on experimenting; brings it into creative moods."

Page 280, note 1. The first verse of the poem "Waldeinsamkeit" Page  425 (Forest-Solitude) tells what his daily walks in the woods were to Emerson, but the "wandering by the sea" in the second line preserves the memory that the poem was written at the beautiful island of Naushon.

Page 280, note 2. This poem is by William Allingham, and called "Morning."

Page 281, note 1.

The tongue is prone to lose the way,
Not so the pen, for in a letter
We have not better things to say,
But surely say them better.

"Fragments on Life," Poems, Appendix.

Page 282, note 1.

And I who cower, mean and small
In the frequent interval
When wisdom not with me resides,
Worship Toil's wisdom that abides.

"Fragments on The Poet," Poems, Appendix.

The following is from a stray sheet of the lecture:—

"Sea-tides indeed! there are undulations of power, and the ebb and the flow of heavenly waters. I wish to predict these, and not waste time in attempting work which the soul to-day refuses."

There is in "May-Day" a passage telling of the happy renewal of joy and hope in age when Spring returns, beginning,—

'T was the vintage-day of field and wood.

Page 283, note 1. From Zoroaster.

Page 284, note 1. This is probably a quotation from the journal of Miss Mary Moody Emerson, an account of whom is given in Lectures and Biographical Sketches.

Page 286, note 1. In the last pages of the essay on Behavior, Page  426 in Conduct of Life, is an appeal to every one to respect the sanctity of a new morning and not to cloud it with complaints and cares.

Page 286, note 2.

"By all means use sometimes to be alone;
Salute thyself, see what thy soul doth wear;
Dare to look in thy chest, for 't is thine own,
And tumble up and down what thou find'st there.
Who cannot rest till he good fellows find,
He breaks up house, turns out of doors his mind."

George Herbert, "The Church Porch."

Page 287, note 1. In the poems, "My Garden," Waldeinsamkeit," "April" and "The Walk," Mr. Emerson hints at these oracles which the rightly attuned ear may catch.

Page 287, note 2. These lines are probably Mr. Emerson's own.

Page 288, note 1. Mr. Emerson cared little for music, but the AEolian harp made by his brother-in-law, Dr. Jackson, gave him constant delight. He placed it in his western window and let the wind sing to him to the accompaniment of his harp and the pines behind his study. In the first form of his poem "May-Day" he introduced a long passage about the harp, which he later printed as a separate poem. This, and another called "Maiden Speech of the AEolian Harp," which accompanied the gift of one to his daughter and her husband, are found in the Poems.

He loved to watch and wake
When the wing of the south-wind whipt the lake
And the glassy surface in ripples brake
And fled in pretty frowns away
Like the flitting boreal lights,
Rippling roses in northern nights,
Page  427 Or like the thrill of AEolian strings
In which the sudden wind-god rings.

"Fragments on The Poet," Poems, Appendix.

Page 289, note 1. In the journal for 1846 is an unrhymed rendering by Mr. Emerson of the poem of Hafiz here quoted:—

"Come, let us strew roses
And pour wine in the cup,
Break up the roof of heaven
And throw it into new forms.
So soon the army of cares
Shed the blood of the true
So will I with the cup-bearer
Shatter the building of woe.
We will rose-water
In wine-cups pour,
And sugar in the censer
Full of musk-scent throw.
Thy harping is lovely,
O play sweet airs,
That we may sing songs
And shake our heads.
Bring, East-wind, the dust of the body
To that great lord,
That we also may cast our eyes
On his beauty."

Page 289, note 2. Mr. Emerson was very easily benumbed with cold, though of hardy habits. It was one reason why he avoided private hospitalities when on his lecturing Page  428 journeys. He could not risk the deadly cold of the "spare-bed-room." When he came into a hotel in winter he would say to the landlord, "Now can you make me red-hot?".

Page 291, note 1. Mr. Emerson held closely to his task and did not easily excuse himself. In writing to John Sterling in 1843 he said, "I think it a false standard to estimate health, as the world does, by some fat man, instead of by our power to do our work. If I should lie by whenever people tell me I grow thin and puny, I should lose all my best days."

Page 292, note 1. "Every surmise and vaticination of the mind is entitled to a certain respect, and we learn to prefer imperfect theories, and sentences which contain glimpses of truth, to digested systems which have no one valuable suggestion."—"Nature."

"Every scholar, writer, speaker has his own aids to intellect to which he resorts in time of need. When you cannot flog the mind into activity in your library, you go to your best companion and unfold your pack to him as you could not to yourself: great are the uses of conversation."—Sheet from the lecture.

Page 294, note 1. "Poetry must be affirmative. It is the piety of the intellect. 'Thus saith the Lord,' should begin the song."—"Poetry and Imagination."

The following passage perhaps belonged here in the lecture:—

"Then for sensibility, I must add, that the great happiness of some of the best moments of life has been the enjoyment of books and works of art and science. And, as Marcus Antoninus said, 'What matters it who found the truth, whether thyself or another, and where had been thy own intellect, if greater had not lived?' And, though I hate to be in any manner wanting to the claims of stern and manly Intellect, Page  429 I must say, that the delight in the superior powers of others is one of the best gifts of God."

Page 295, note 1. "The perfection of writing is when mind and body are both in key, when the mind finds perfect obedience in the body. And wine, no doubt, and all fine food, as of delicate fruits, furnish some elemental wisdom: and the fire, too, as it burns in the chimney; for I fancy that my logs, which have grown so long in sun and wind by Walden, are a kind of Muses. A Greek epigram out of the Anthology," etc.—Sheet from the lecture.

Page 295, note 2. In the address at Dartmouth College, in 1838, Mr. Emerson, expressing his gratitude for "these glorious manifestations of the mind," said, "I will thank my great brothers so truly for the admonition of their being as to endeavor also to be just and brave, to aspire and to speak. Plotinus too and Spinoza and the immortal bards of philosophy,—that which they have written out with patient courage makes me bold. No more will I dismiss with haste the visions which flash and sparkle across my sky, but observe them, approach them, domesticate them, brood on them, and draw out of the past genuine life for the present hour."

Page 296, note 1. Wordsworth, "Excursion," book IV.


This essay is drawn largely from the concluding lecture of a course given at the Meionaon in Boston in the autumn of 1868. "Greatness" is a heading which occurs through the journals from 1840 onward, but of course the thoughts on this subject were drawn upon for many lectures that had not the name.

Page  430 In July, 1872, Mr. Emerson spoke at Amherst College on the Greatness of the Scholar, and probably somewhat earlier at Middlebury College, Vermont, on the same theme. The essays on The Scholar, The Man of Letters, Aristocracy and Manners very probably have matter drawn from the lectures on Greatness, and that here given is only a portion of the lecture as delivered.

Page 301, note 1. "The moment a great man fails us as a cause, it is only to become more valuable and suggestive as an effect."

Page 302, note 1. Journal, 1857: "Every great man does in all his nature point at and imply the well-being of all the institutions and orders of the state. He is by inclination (though it may be far remote in position) the defender of the grammar-schools, the almshouse, the Sabbath, the priest, the judge, the legislator and the executive arm. Throughout his being he is loyal."

Page 303, note 1. The following passage in the lecture is here omitted:—

"The main question of any person whatever is, 'Does he respect himself?' Then I have no option. The universe will respect him. Greatness requires self-respect and it must be constitutional, indicating natural courage."

The sentence which follows in the text suggests the stoic attitude of his friend Thoreau.

Page 304, note 1. In the lecture this sentence and quotation followed: "Thus self-respect is ever refining, ever retreating to an inward and higher self.

"'O what is Honor? 'T is the finest sense
Of justice that the human mind can frame,
Intent each lurking frailty to disclaim
Page  431 And guard the way of life from all offence
Suffered or done.'"


Page 308, note 1. Mr. Emerson's journals were mainly records of the oracles which came to his listening ear in his wood walks, and thoughts which the events and conversation of the day had suggested, but the outward circumstances usually have to be inferred.

Page 310, note 1. These were the words of Miss Mary Rotch of New Bedford, and they made deep impression on Mr. Emerson, when in 1834 he was invited to preach for a time in that city. His cousin, the Rev. David Greene Haskins, relates in his little book, before referred to, that when Mr. Emerson praised Swedenborg's writings to him he asked whether he was a Swedenborgian. This Mr. Emerson would not fully allow. "On my asking him how, then, he would define his position, he answered, and with greater deliberateness and longer pauses between his words than usual, 'I am more of a Quaker than anything else. I believe in the "still small voice" and that voice is Christ within us.'" This was probably in the year 1839.

Page 311, note 1. In the last pages of the essay on New England Reformers, in the second volume of Essays, Mr. Emerson wrote of "the Law alive and beautiful which works over our heads and under our feet. … 'Work,' it saith to man, 'in every hour, paid or unpaid, see only that thou work, and thou canst not escape the reward: whether thy work be fine or coarse, planting corn or writing epics, so only it be honest work, done to thine own approbation, it shall earn a reward to the senses as well as to the thought: no matter how often defeated, you are born to victory. The reward of a thing well done, is to have done it.'".

Page  432

Page 312, note 1. Journal: "Do you, as wise man, while some play at chess, some at cards, and some at the stock exchange—do you play at Cause and Effect."

Page 312, note 2. This sentence followed in the lecture: "The man whom we have not seen is the rapt lover in whom no regards of self degraded the adorer of the laws."

The paragraph in the text is treated more fully in "Aristocracy," in Lectures and Biographical Sketches.

The following is from the lecture sheets:—

"The persons generally most praised and esteemed are not those whom I most value; for the world is not receptive or intelligent of Being, but of Intellect. But heroes are they who value being. Being cannot be told, but is left alone, not only because little appreciated, but that its influence is silent and quiet. The world is awed before the great and is subdued without knowing why."

Page 313, note 1. "Whenever Heaven sends a great man into the world, it whispers the secret to one or two confidants."—Lecture sheets.

Page 313, note 2. When it is remembered that the Self-Reliance which Mr. Emerson taught is on the sublimated self, the individual giving passage to the universal Soul, it is seen that both positions, the haughty courage of the hero and the renunciation of all choice by the saint, are one. Each loses himself to save himself.

Page 314, note 1. This sentence followed in the lecture: "Does any one say, Who cares for these conceited minorities?—the study of greatness! of the masters! the great are exceptional. Yes, but every man is exceptional."

Page 317, note 1. This passage appears somewhat differently in the journal of 1864:—

"The Spectator says of the three obituary notices of Thackeray Page  433 by Dickens, Trollope and Kingsley, only Dickens's is equal to the subject; the others strain to write up, and fail. It was said lately of Goethe's correspondence with the Duke of Weimar that the Duke's letters are the best. The experience is familiar day by day, that of two persons, one of character and one of intellect, character will rule and intellect must bow. It is interesting in Goethe's case because of his patronizing tone to all the world."

Page 320, note 1. Here, perhaps, belongs a sheet from the lecture: "The first fact is the long hidden one, that the world is as we are. If we bring to it a sound body and mind, it is full of joy and power, and is plastic like wax in our hands; if we come to it morbid and vicious, it torments and tyrannizes over us."

Page 320, note 2. The human and hopeful feeling towards mankind appears here:—

"I wish such statements only as are friendly and respectful to every man. Every law, custom, revolution is agreeable to me which treats him kindly and considerately. I wish him magnified. Let ages and nations look to their own. Every age has its object and symbol. So has every man. Why not then every epoch of our life its own; and a man should journey thro' his own Zodiac of signs. I wish the days to be great."

The following sheets, which once did duty in the lecture "Success," may be added here:—

"For events are, not as the brute circumstance that falls, but as the life which they fall upon. The atoms of matter are plastic enough, for they are of us and we of them, and carbon and azote, mountain and planet, play one tune with man and mind.

"Why we can reach so far to the planets and sun with our short arms, is because we have a pocket edition of the whole. Page  434 Your brain is timed with the sea-tide, has agreements with the sun.

"Understanding and love are the powers of a reasonable creature; and the last exists to be communicated; and is the only thing that is really in our power to bestow; and is moreover the noblest good that can be given; and deserves the greatest retribution that can be made. And our principal care must be to confer it wisely or well,—to confer it only on that which deserves it all, and can repay it. We thought we were equals of Jove, when we learned to be Stoics; but here is a new greatness. The passages of affection in life are an enlargement once for all. Nobility lies under it. It is an exchange of nobleness. We are easily great with our friend. In unlocking to us another heart and mind, it unlocks our own heart and mind in a wonderful manner."


The basis of this essay is a lecture given by Mr. Emerson before the Parker Fraternity in the Music Hall in Boston, December 29, 1861. Possibly it may have been read also in one of the University courses at Cambridge in 1870 or 1871. The manuscript he gave away, and no loose sheets—the miscellany which usually accompany the lecture—remain.

In the Introductory Note to this volume Mr. Cabot, explaining the part which he took in helping Mr. Emerson in the preparation of the book, says that Mr. Emerson looked through his journals for suitable material to add to the lectures before printing them, and "In this way it happened sometimes that writing of very different dates was brought together: e. g., the essay on Immortality, which has been cited as showing Page  435 what were his latest opinions on that subject, contains passages written fifty years apart from each other."

But Mr. Emerson, although he felt at the time hardly equal to the ordering this material, approved its use, and the whole paper had his sanction when published. He had left traditional revelation to prove

That man in the bush with God may meet,
and found that the voice of the Holy Spirit
Still whispers in the morning wind.
In the stars, in the forest, in men and women, he had seen that everywhere, however hidden, the laws of Beauty, Wisdom, Goodness were working, and that the three were One. His belief in the Universal Mind, the Over-Soul, of which we were the vessels, or rather channels, if we but kept ourselves open, was satisfying. He did not care to ask questions of detail.

"Men ask concerning the immortality of the soul, the employments of heaven, the state of the sinner, and so forth. They even dream that Jesus has left replies to precisely these interrogatories. Never a moment did that sublime spirit speak in their patois. To truth, justice, love, the attributes of the soul, the idea of immutableness is essentially associated. Jesus, living in these moral sentiments, heedless of sensual fortunes, heeding only the manifestations of these, never made the separation of the idea of duration from the essence of these attributes, nor uttered a syllable concerning the duration of the soul. … In the flowing of love, in the adoration of humility, there is no question of continuance. No inspired man ever asks this question or condescends to these evidences. For the soul is true to itself, and the man in whom it is shed abroad cannot wander from the present, which is infinite, to a future which would be finite."—"The Over-Soul," Essays, First Series.

Page  436 "The secret of heaven is kept from age to age. No imprudent, no sociable angel ever dropt an early syllable to answer the longings of saints, the fears of mortals. We should have listened on our knees to any favorite, who, by stricter obedience, had brought his thoughts into parallelism with the celestial currents and could hint to human ears the scenery and circumstance of the newly parted soul. But it is certain that it must tally with what is best in nature. It must not be inferior in tone to the already known works of the artist who sculptures the globes of the firmament and writes the moral law. It must be fresher than rainbows, stabler than mountains, agreeing with flowers, with tides and the rising and setting of autumnal stars. Melodious poets shall be hoarse as street ballads when once the penetrating key-note of nature and spirit is sounded,—the earth-beat, sea-beat, heart-beat, which makes the tune to which the sun rolls, and the globule of blood, and the sap of trees."—Representative Men, "Swedenborg."

And in the last pages of the essay on Worship, in Conduct of Life, he said:—

"The whole revelation that is vouchsafed us is the gentle trust, which, in our experience, we find will cover also with flowers the slopes of this chasm.

"Of immortality, the soul when well employed is incurious. It is so well, that it is sure it will be well. … Immortality will come to such as are fit for it, and he who would be a great soul in future, must be a great soul now."

Page 323, note 1. This story is found in Bede's Ecclesiastical History, chapter xiii., Bohn's Antiquarian Library.

Page 326, note 1. In a Romaic song, "The Grave of Dunos," a dying Klephtic chief says:—

Page  437
"Now the death hour comes and this day will I die.
O make my grave and make it a broad and a high one,
In which I could stand up to fight and load my gun in the middle;
And on the right side leave for me a little window open,
At which the swallows may fly in to tell me when the Spring comes,
And where, in fair May moons, the nightingales may sing."

"Romaic and Rhine Ballads," Dial, October, 1842.

Page 327, note 1. In an early journal (1830) Mr. Emerson wrote of his first wife: "Ellen Tucker wondered whether the spirits in Heaven look onward to their immortality, as we on Earth, or are absorbed in the present moment." In the same he wrote: "Every man contemplates an angel in his future self."

Page 328, note 1. Mr. Emerson one Monday morning in 1837 wrote, with a sad humor:—

"The Pagan theology of our churches treats Heaven as an inevitable evil, which, as there is no help against, the best way is to put the best face on the matter we can. 'From whence,' said the good preacher yesterday in his prayer, 'we shall not be able to return.' Truth will out."

Page 328, note 2. Mr. Emerson, in his journal, says that Goethe did so.

Page 328, note 3. Beaumont and Fletcher, The Double Marriage.

Page 330, note 1. Montesquieu, Pensées Diverses, p. 233.

Page 332, note 1. At this distance of time there seems no impropriety in giving the names of these friends, of whom the story is told—Lewis Cass and Albert H. Tracy.

Page 333, note 1. This passage on Divine Will comes from the sheets of the lecture on Courage:—

Page  438 "I know not whether there be, as is alleged, in the upper region of our atmosphere a permanent westerly current, which carries all with it which rises to that height, but I know that when souls reach a certain height of perception, they accept a knowledge and principle above all selfishness. Whether there be an upper westerly current I know not; but I know a breath of Will blows through the Universe of souls eternally, in the direction of the Right and Necessary. It is the air which all intellects inhale and exhale, and it is the wind which blows all the worlds into order and orbit."

Page 334, note 1. The lines ending the poem "Threnody" are here suggested.

Page 335, note 1. Perhaps this passage was written after Mr. Emerson had the pleasure of riding under the vast pines of the Sierra Nevada, and standing at the feet of the giant redwoods of Mariposa when his good friend John Murray Forbes carried him thither for rest, after the strain of his University lectures in 1871.

Page 338, note 1. In my youth I received this answer from my father, indirect yet none the less satisfying, when I asked him what he thought about a future life: "We may be certain that, whatever it may be, no one will be disappointed."

Page 339, note 1. His poem the "Forerunners" tells of the "happy guides" whom he ever followed, but could not overtake.

Page 340, note 1. This is a favorite quotation from Plato's Phaedrus, about the soul which has perceived a truth.

Of ancient art Mr. Emerson said, "I find no trace of age in it."

Among Byron's poems Mr. Emerson valued especially that one beginning,— Page  439

"When coldness wraps this suffering clay,
Ah, whither strays the immortal mind?"
and used to repeat the lines:—
"Eternal, boundless, undecayed,
A thought unseen, but seeing all,
All, all on earth, or skies displayed,
Shall it survey shall it recall:
Each fainter trace that memory holds
So darkly of departed years
At one broad glance the soul beholds,
And all that was at once appears."

Page 343, note 1. Compare in the "Fragments on The Poet," in the Poems, the lines beginning,—

For thought, and not praise.

Page 344, note 1. The editor would gladly learn the source whence these lines are quoted, for which he and his friends have sought in vain.

Page 345, note 1. That life is a series of Nows, and the day divine, was a favorite thought: "The whole fact is here or nowhere."

Page 346, note 1. Mr. Emerson in answer to his revered friend, Rev. Henry Ware, who, troubled at the Divinity School Address, wrote to him about his grounds of belief,—"I do not know what arguments mean in reference to any expression of a thought."

Page 347, note 1. Mr. Emerson said in conversation with a young friend, "The soul feels that it is in communication with the soul of things—and the soul knows."

Page 349, note 1. Speaking of the soul, in his security that what was best must occur, Mr. Emerson is reported to Page  440 have said to Margaret Fuller, "Careful of health, careless of life, should be our motto."

Page 352, note 1. I quote from Mr. John Albee's Remembrances of Emerson this just remark: "Emerson refused to dogmatize about what is necessarily obscure at present. So some thought the obscurity lay in him."

In conclusion I quote this pleasant passage from A Western Journey with Emerson,1 written by his friend the late Professor James Bradley Thayer of the Harvard Law School:—

"'How can Mr. Emerson,' said one of the younger members of the party to me that day, 'be so agreeable, all the time, without getting tired!' It was the naive expression of what we all had felt. There was never a more agreeable travelling-companion; he was always accessible, cheerful, sympathetic, considerate, tolerant; and there was always that same respectful interest in those with whom he talked, even the humblest, which raised them in their own estimation. One thing particularly impressed me,—the sense that he seemed to have of a certain great amplitude of time and leisure. It was the behaviour of one who really believed in an immortal life, and had adjusted his conduct accordingly; so that, beautiful and grand as the natural objects were among which our journey lay, they were matched by the sweet elevation of character and the spiritual charm of our gracious friend. Years afterwards, on that memorable day of his funeral at Concord, I found that a sentence from his own essay on Immortality haunted my mind and kept repeating itself all the day long; it seemed to point to the sources of his power: 'Meantime the true disciples saw, through the letter, the doctrine of eternity, which dissolved the poor corpse and Nature also, and gave grandeur to the passing hour.'.

Page  441 "He was flooded and full to overflowing all through his life with a sense of the presence, the omnipresence and the instant operation of what he called 'the Over-Soul.' His apprehension and acceptance of this was no merely intellectual matter; it was something that penetrated into the substance of his being, and moved him like a vital force; it was this with its related beliefs that gave such power to his speech and such charm to his character, as of one who had already entered upon the immortal life, so that those who knew him intimately seemed to perceive what it was that the phrase of Scripture meant, when it said of the Almighty that he 'inhabited eternity.'.

"The truth that he saw, the powerful impulse that he felt, the inflaming inspiration that moved him were not the sort of things that the man of letters ordinarily has to handle, and they induced methods very different from the common. These things were difficult to grasp; only to be reached in rare moments; not to be adequately shadowed forth, unless when the mood was on. These high and delicate matters were to be set down when he saw them and as he saw them; they must be communicated, if indeed he might hope to communicate them, by picture, by symbol, by some far-darting gleam of imaginative phrase."