The complete works of Ralph Waldo Emerson: Miscellanies [Vol. 11]
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 1803-1882., Emerson, Edward Waldo, 1844-1930.
Page  625

WOMAN

Perhaps the pleasantest word Mr. Emerson ever spoke about women was what he said at the end of the war: "Everybody has been wrong in his guess except good women, who never despair of an ideal right."

Mr. Emerson's habitual treatment of women showed his real feeling towards them. He held them to their ideal selves by his courtesy and honor. When they called him to come to their aid, he came. Men must not deny them any right that they desired; though he never felt that the finest women would care to assume political functions in the same way that men did.

Mr. Cabot gives in his Memoir (p. 455) a letter which Mr. Emerson wrote, five years before this speech was made, to a lady who asked him to join in a call for a Woman's Suffrage Convention. His distaste for the scheme clearly appears, and though perhaps felt in a less degree as time went on, never quite disappeared. At the end of the notes on this address is given the greater part of a short speech which he wrote many years later, but which he seems never to have delivered. Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson is reported in the Woman's Journal as having said at the New England Women's Club, May 16, 1903, that Mr. Cabot put into his Memoir what Mr. Emerson said in his early days, when he was opposed to woman's suffrage (the letter above alluded to), and "left out all those warm and cordial sentences that he wrote later in regard to it, culminating in his assertion that, whatever might be said of it as an abstract question, all his Page  626 measures would be carried sooner if women could vote." This last assertion, though not in the Memoir, Mr. Cabot printed in its place in the present address, and the only other address on the subject which is known to exist, Mr. Cabot did not print probably because Mr. Emerson never delivered it.

Page 406, note 1. This passage from the original is omitted:—

"A woman of genius said, 'I will forgive you that you do so much, and you me that I do nothing.'"

Page 411, note 1. This sentence originally ended, "And their convention should be holden in a sculpture-gallery."

Page 412, note 1. From The Angel in the House, by Coventry Patmore.

Page 413, note 1. Milton, Paradise Lost.

Because of the high triumph of Humility, his favorite virtue, Mr. Emerson, though commonly impatient of sad stories, had always a love for the story of Griselda, as told by Chaucer, alluded to below. In spite of its great length, he would not deny it a place in his collection Parnassus.

Page 413, note 2. From "Love and Humility," by Henry More (1614-87).

Page 414, note 1. These anecdotes followed in the original speech:—

"'I use the Lord of the Kaaba; what is the Kaaba to me?' said Rabia. 'I am so near to God that his word, "Whoso nears me by a span, to him come I a mile," is true for me.' A famed Mahometan theologian asked her, 'How she had lifted herself to this degree of the love of God?' She replied, 'Hereby, that all things which I had found, I have lost in him.' The other said, 'In what way or method hast thou known him?' She replied, 'O Hassan! thou knowest Page  627 him after a certain art and way, but I without art and way.' When once she was sick, three famed theologians came to her, Hassan Vasri, Malek and Balchi. Hassan said, 'He is not upright in his prayer who does not endure the blows of his Lord.' Balchi said, 'He is not upright in his prayer who does not rejoice in the blows of his Lord.' But Rabia, who in these words detected some trace of egoism, said, 'He is not upright in his prayer, who, when he beholds his Lord, forgets not that he is stricken.'"

Page 415, note 1. See "Clubs," in Society and Solitude, p. 243.

Page 417, note 1. "The Princess" is the poem alluded to. Mr. Emerson liked it, but used to say it was sad to hear it end with, Go home and mind your mending.

Page 426, note 1. The internal evidence shows that the short speech given below was written after the war. All that is important is here given. There were one or two paragraphs that essentially were the same as those of the 1855 address.

On the manuscript is written, apparently in Mr. Emerson's hand, in pencil, "Never read," and evidently in his hand, the title, thus:—