The complete works of Ralph Waldo Emerson: Natural history of intellect, and other papers [Vol. 12]
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 1803-1882., Emerson, Edward Waldo, 1844-1930.
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MR. CABOT, in his prefatory note to the volume named as above, the material for which he collected and edited in 1893, said of Mr. Emerson, "He had, from his early youth, cherished the project of a new method in metaphysics, proceeding by observation of the mental facts, without attempting an analysis and coördination of them, which must, from the nature of the case, be premature. With this view, he had, at intervals from 1848 to 1866, announced courses on the 'Natural History of Intellect,' 'The Natural Method of Mental Philosophy' and 'Philosophy for the People.' He would, he said, give anecdotes of the spirit, a calendar of mental moods, without any pretence of system.

"None of these attempts, however, disclosed any novelty of method, or indeed, after the opening statement of his intention, any marked difference from his ordinary lectures. He had always been writing anecdotes of the spirit, and those which he wrote under this heading were used by him in subsequently published essays so largely that I find very little left for present publication. The lecture which gives its name to the volume ["Natural History of Intellect"] was the first of the earliest course [at Harvard University], and it seems to me to include all that distinctly belongs to the particular subject."

In an old note-book, perhaps of 1835, is an endeavor by Mr. Emerson to write down some of the laws of "The First Philosophy, by which is meant the original laws of the mind." There is in English Traits (page 240) a passage from which Page  422 one might infer that the reading of Bacon may have first suggested this plan.

While in England, he made a beginning of formulating these laws in lectures, and wrote to Miss Fuller:—

"I am working away in these mornings at some papers which, if I do not, as I suppose I shall not, get ready for lectures here, will serve me in a better capacity as a kind of book of metaphysics, to print at home. Does not James Walker [Professor of Moral Philosophy at Harvard College] want relief, and to let me be his lieutenant for one semester to his class in Locke?"

Soon after writing this, he gave a course in London called "Mind and Manners of the Nineteenth Century," of which the first three were on the Natural History of the Intellect, and were called respectively "Powers and Laws of Thought," "Relation of Intellect to Natural Science," and "Tendencies and Duties of Men of Thought." Mr. Cabot gives, in his Memoir of Emerson (vol. ii., pp. 558-560), in condensed form, the general import of these three lectures. Most of the matter reappears in different arrangement and with additions in the subsequent courses, namely, that of 1858, in Boston, on the Natural Method of Mental Philosophy, and that on the Philosophy of the People, in 1866.

When, in 1870, too late for the satisfactory performance of the duty, Mr. Emerson had the pleasure of being invited to give lectures on Philosophy in the university courses for advanced students at Cambridge, he made a serious effort to arrange and expand his previous notes. His strength was now failing, and the task of arrangement—always for him the most difficult part of his work—sorely burdened him, for he had to prepare two lectures a week for eight weeks. He used his old notes, with changes, and much that was later printed in Page  423 the essays on Poetry and Imagination, Inspiration, and Memory. Mr. Cabot, as literary executor, has done what was possible in arrangement of the manuscript material, and in an Appendix to the Memoir has given an admirable chronological list of the addresses and lectures, often giving abstracts of unpublished lectures, from which Mr. Emerson had taken many passages to use elsewhere.

Mr. Cabot's opinion, as expressed in the quotation above given from his Prefatory Note, is entitled to high consideration in this matter, both because Mr. Emerson intrusted to his judgment the decision as to what should be published of his manuscripts, and as being himself a metaphysician of mind acute, yet broad. There was, however, in two lectures given in London and Boston, which followed that printed by Mr. Cabot in the former edition, much matter that was interesting, if "not distinctly belonging to the particular subject." Therefore in the notes to this lecture I have given many passages that belonged in it, in an earlier form, and to a second lecture, and have ventured to print a third lecture, with little pruning, in the text.

Although Mr. Cabot was not quite ready to agree with his friend in his expression, "Who has not looked into a metaphysical book? and what sensible man ever looked twice?" he gives in his Memoir a most friendly and interesting critique on the Cambridge course. Mr. Emerson admired his friend's character and the quality of his mind. The poet had great and increasing comfort in the metaphysician, whether or no he followed him exactly in his reasoning. In 1843 Mr. Emerson wrote to Miss Elizabeth Hoar:—

"Mr. Cabot came up here and comforted the dry land with a little philosophy. Is not philosophy the simular poetry of the understanding, the mirage of the Sahara? Tax me not Page  424 with levity and the old aloofness. I truly revolve with humble docility and desire the world-old problems. I worship the real, I hate the critical, and athwart the whole sky-full of imperfections can keep some steady sight of the perfect, opening there a new horizon."

Mr. Emerson himself was disappointed and mortified as to his Cambridge courses, which proved too much for his strength and so became, as he called them to Carlyle, "a doleful ordeal." After the first course, he wrote to his friend:—

"Well, it is now ended, and has no shining side but this one, that materials are collected and a possibility shown me how a repetition of the course next year—which is appointed—will enable me, partly out of these materials, and partly by large rejection of these and by large addition to them, to construct a fair report of what I have read and thought on the subject. I doubt the experts in Philosophy will not praise my discourses;—but the topics give me room for my guesses, criticism, admirations and experiences with the accepted masters, and also the lessons I have learned from the hidden great. I have a fancy that a realist is the good corrector of formalism, no matter how incapable of syllogism or continuous linked statement. To great results of thought and morals the steps are not many, and it is not the masters who spin the ostentatious continuity."

He wrote even less happily of the second course, ending thus:—

"I have abundance of good readings and some honest writing on the leading topics,—but in haste and confusion they are misplaced and spoiled. I hope the ruin of no young man's soul will, here or hereafter, be charged to me as having wasted his time or confounded his reason."

Yet many persons have remembered these lectures with Page  425 pleasure. A hearer whom I think now it is proper to name—Mrs. Fields, wife of Mr. Emerson's friend, the publisher—wrote letters to a friend telling very pleasantly, from memory, what Mr. Emerson said, and after his death published this record in the Atlantic Monthly.1 Mr. Emerson sometimes named his subject "The Natural History of Spirit."

Page 3, note 1. It seems a pity to omit the end of this sentence,—his words of honor for the student of science:—

"Sure too of their immense relations and of the grandeur of their tendency, and yet himself deriving an honest dignity from the nobility of his studies, they lend him a certain severe charm."

Writing to his wife from London, in 1848, Mr. Emerson said: "Mr. Owen, who is in England what Agassiz is in America, has given me a card to his lectures at the College of Surgeons, and shown me the Hunterian Museum [Owen was the curator]. His lecture gratified me the more, or entirely, I may say, because, like Agassiz, he is an idealist in physiology." Later Mr. Owen showed him the Museum. Dr. Forbes took him to the Royal Institution "to hear Faraday, who is reckoned the best lecturer in London." He met Lyell often, and went to the Geological Club and took great pleasure in the debate heard there; he also heard Dr. Carpenter lecture. That same year, though the Revolution was in progress in Paris, he "went to the Sorbonne and heard a lecture from Leverrier on mathematics. It consisted chiefly of algebraic formulas, which he worked out on the blackboard,—but I saw the man."

Page 4, note 1. Here followed in the original:—

"But what most delighted me, and deepened the silence in Page  426 the College of Surgeons, was, in every instance, the general statement, the statement of widest application. And I thought, could we only have a list or summary of these results! better still, could we have one collected from all the departments and presented in the same rigorous manner, without any effusion of eloquence!"

Page 4, note 2. "Faraday is an excellent writer, and a wise man, and whilst I read him, I think, that if natural philosophy is faithfully written, moral philosophy need not be, for it will find itself expressed in these theses to a perceptive soul. That is, we shall read off the commandments and Gospels in Chemistry without need of translation; as we read a Latin or a French book to scholars without translation."

Page 5, note 1.

Thou seek'st in globe and galaxy,
He hides in pure transparency.

"Woodnotes," II., Poems.

Page 6, note 1.

But thou, meek lover of the good!
Find me, and turn thy back on heaven.

"Brahma," Poems.

Page 7, note 1. An interesting abstract of passages in the original which preceded this paragraph is given in Mr. Cabot's Memoir, vol. ii., p. 558.

Page 8, note 1. It is evident that this and the two preceding paragraphs were written in England in 1848. See Mr. Cabot's Memoir, vol. ii., p. 559.

Page 9, note 1. This matter is treated more fully in the essay "Aristocracy," in Lectures and Biographical Sketches.

Page 10, note 1. Here followed, in the English lecture:—

Page  427
"Blessed is the region of Thought,
"'Calm pleasures there abide, majestic pains.'
One would say whoever had tasted this beatitude would hold all other goods cheap. There is a certain medicinal value to the Intellect; 't is a fine ablution which chastens and encourages. Affairs make us stout and supple, but they engage us in low connections and compromises and hurt us. Palaces and luxury degrade and starve us as much as hard work and the society of the ignorant. Thoughts refresh and dignify us again and restore price to life. Thought, while it lasts, is the only thing of value, and appears of universal and eternal value.

"Whatever addresses itself to the intellect subordinates the senses. The Intellect absorbs so much vital power that it kills or suspends the senses. This is the meaning of the famous sentence that Vice loses half its evil by losing all its grossness. In vice it restores, in gloom and skepticism it replaces things.

"There is no day so dark but I know that the worst facts will presently appear to me in that high order which makes skepticism impossible. How can a man of any inwardness not feel the inwardness of the Universe? If he is capable of science and moral sentiment, the masses of nature undulate and flow; and in this hour of thought the world, the galaxy, is a scrap before the metaphysical power. In the words of the Koran, 'Verily worlds upon worlds can add nothing to it.'

"It is the interest of the whole human race. We announce, in contradiction to all doubt and all desperation, the tidings that the best is to be had: that the best is accessible and cheap. Every man cannot get land or jewels, but every man can get what land and money and rank are valued for, namely, substantial manhood, thoughts self-realizing and prophetic of Page  428 the farthest future, thoughts of which poetry and music are the necessary expression."

Page 10, note 2. In reply to criticism of his friend Alcott, Mr. Emerson used to say that his commanding merit was his habit of looking at things with a larger angle of vision than his critics, whether he brought his lines to a focus or not.

Page 11, note 1. Here followed: "I claim the same irresponsibleness and security with the chemist and astronomer. The observer has no duties but fidelity. He simply sets down on tablets the height of the mercury, the variation of the needle, the declination of the star, quite assured that these cold records will be found, when a century, or their natural cycle is complete, more beautiful rhythm, a more lovely dance, than any invention could have combined. It ought not to be less true of the metaphysician."

Page 14, note 1. In Representative Men, Mr. Emerson wrote:—

"A philosopher must be more than a philosopher. Plato is clothed with the powers of a poet, stands upon the highest place of the poet, and (though I doubt he wanted the decisive gift of lyric expression), mainly is not a poet because he chose to use the poetic gift to an ulterior purpose."

Page 16, note 1. Compare in the Poems "The Two Rivers" and the last verse in "Peter's Field."

Mr. Emerson's pleasure in Caesar's offer to renounce the empire, the army and Cleopatra, if he could be shown the fountains of the ancient Nile (the story told by Lucan), seems to have been for its symbolism.

Page 19, note 1.

Melting matter into dreams,
Panoramas which I saw
Page  429 And whatever glows or seems
Into substance, into Law.

"Fragments on the Poet," Poems, Appendix.

Page 20, note 1. The philosophy of Xenophanes, "one in all," appears constantly in the essays. See a passage in "Plato," in Representative Men: "The Same, the Same: friend and foe are of one stuff; the ploughman, the plough and the furrow are of one stuff; and the stuff is such and so much that the variations of form are unimportant."

Page 21, note 1.

Love me then and only, when you know
Me for the channel of the rivers of God
From deep ideal fontal heavens that flow.

"Fragments on Life," Poems, Appendix.

A passage from the earlier lecture may here be introduced:

"Show us what you will, and we are agitated with dim sentiments that we already know somewhat of this; somewhere, sometime, some eternity, we have played this game before, and have still retained some vague memory of the thing, which, though not sufficient to furnish us an account of it, yet enables us to understand it better, now that we are here."

Page 23, note 1. In Mr. Cabot's Memoir, and also in the biographical sketch of Mr. Emerson in the first volume of this edition, some account is given of his visit, in 1833, to the Jardin des Plantes in Paris and its remarkable influence on his thought.

This passage in the lecture about the visits to museums is thus continued by Mr. Emerson on the influence of the stars, always felt by him:—

"Neither can a tender soul stand [under] the starry heaven and explore the solar and stellar bodies and arrangements without Page  430 the wish to mix with them by knowledge. If men are analogues of acids and alkalis, of beast and bird, so are they of geometric laws and of astronomic galaxies. … This knowledge and sympathy only needs augmentation and it becomes active or creative. The love of the stars becomes inventive and constructive. Descartes, Kepler, Newton, Swedenborg, Laplace, Schelling, wrestle with the problem of genesis, and occupy themselves with constructing cosmogonies. Nature is saturated with deity; the particle is saturated with the elixir of the Universe. Little men, just born, Copernicize: they cannot radiate as suns, or revolve as planets, and so they do it in effigy by building the orrery in their brain.

"Who can see the profuse wealth of Raphael's or Angelo's designs without feeling how near these were to the secret of structure; how little added power it needs to convert this rush of thoughts and forms into bodies.

"And we are very conscious that this identity reaches farther than we know, has no limits, or none that we can ascertain; as appears in the language that men use in regard to men of extraordinary genius. For the signal performances of great men seem an extension of the same art that built animal bodies applied to toys or miniatures. Thus in Laplace and Napoleon is the old planetary arithmetic now walking in a man, in the builder of Egyptian or in the designer of Gothic piles, a reduction of Nature's great aspects in caverns or forests, to a scale of human convenience; and there is a conviction in the mind that some such impulse is constant.

"Something like this is the root of all the great arts, of picture, music, sculpture, architecture, poetry, and the history of the highest genius will warrant the conclusion that, as a man's life comes into union with Nature, his thoughts run parallel with the highest law. …

Page  431 "Intellect agrees with Nature. Thought is a finer chemistry, a finer vegetation, a finer animal action. It agrees also with the moral code of the universe. There is nothing anomalous or antinomian in its higher properties, but a complete normality or allegiance to general laws, as shown by the moss, or the egg.

"The same laws which are kept in the lower parts, in the mines and workshops of Nature, are kept in the palaces and council-chambers. One police is good for the grub and for the seraphim. Nature is a shop of one price—prix fixé. Great advantages are bought at great cost. It is good to see the stern terms on which all these high prizes of fortune are obtained, and which parallel in their selectness the rigor of material laws.

"Knowledge is the straight line. Wisdom is the power of the straight line, or the square. Virtue is the power of the square, or the solid. A man reads in the Cultivator the method of planting and hoeing potatoes, and follows a farmer hoeing along the row of potato-hills. That is knowledge. At last he seizes the hoe, and at first with care and heed pulls up every root of sorrel and witch-grass. The day grows hot; the row is long; he says to himself, 'This is wisdom; but one hill is like another; I have mastered the art. It is trifling to do many times over the same thing:' and he desists. But the last lesson was still unlearned: the moral power lay in the continuance in fortitude, in working against pleasure to the excellent end and conquering all opposition. He has knowledge, he has wisdom, but he has missed virtue, which he only acquires who endures routine and sweat and postponement of ease to the achievement of a worthy end.

"The whole history of man is a series of conspiracies to win from Nature some advantage without paying for it: especially Page  432 the history of arts and of education. … It is curious to see what grand powers we have a hint of and are mad to get hold of, yet how slow Heaven is to trust us with edged tools. … The condition of participation in any man's thought is entering the gate of that life. No man can be intellectually apprehended as long as you see only with your eyes. You do not see him. You must be committed before you shall be intrusted with the secrets of any party.

"Besides, really and truly there were no short cuts. Every perception costs houses and lands. Every word of Genius apprises me how much he has turned his back upon. Every image, every truth, cost him a great neglect, the loss of an estate, the loss of a brilliant career opened to him; of friend, wife, child; the flat negation of a duty.

"Ah! the whole must come by his own proper growth, and not by addition; by education, not by inducation. If it could be pumped into him, what prices would not be paid; money, diamonds, houses, counties for that costly power that commands and creates all these: but no, the art of arts, the power of thought, Genius, cannot be taught."

Page 24, note 1. The original ending of the sentence about the grass should be given:—

"An identity long ago observed, or, I may say, never not observed, as if the gardener among his vines is in the presence of his ancestors, or shall I say, the orchardist is a pear raised to the highest power."

And the poor grass will plot and plan
What it will do when it is man.

"Bacchus," Poems.

Page 26, note 1. The paragraph originally ended as follows, passing from remote history to the wood-walk of the day:—

Page  433 "And in the conduct of the mind the blending of two tendencies or streams of thought, the union of two brains is a happy result. And usually every mind of a remarkable efficiency owes it to some new combination of traits not observed to have met before. All that delight which the eye owes to complemental colors, which the ear owes to the complemental sounds, the beautiful surprises of music, delights us still more in the combination of human life, and gives rise to love and joy. (For example, in Nature, those two harmonies of color which our winter scenery so frequently offers us, the contrast of snow lying under green pine-trees, and the snow under the dead oak-leaves; each of which contrasts gives the eye a lively pleasure.)"

Page 28, note 1. "As with events, so is it with thoughts. When I watch that flowing river, which, out of regions I see not, pours for a season its streams into me, I see that I am a pensioner; not a cause, but a surprised spectator of this ethereal water; that I desire and look up and put myself in the attitude of reception, but from some alien energy the visions come."—"Over-Soul," Essays, First Series.

Page 29, note 1.

Day by day for her darlings to her much she added more;
In her hundred-gated Thebes every chamber was a door,
A door to something grander,—loftier walls, and vaster floor.

"Fragments on Nature," Poems, Appendix.

Page 30, note 1. Mr. Emerson used to warn against doing things consciously for example's sake, and said, "Act always from the simplest motive."

Page 34, note 1. In the lecture "School," in the course on Human Culture given in 1838-39, Mr. Emerson said:—

"Instinct, in the high sense, is so much our teacher as Page  434 almost to exclude all other teaching, but its means and weapons are the secondary instincts, the wants and faculties that belong to our organization."

Page 35, note 1. In the essay on "Self-Reliance" the question is raised, "What is the aboriginal Self on which a universal reliance may be grounded?" and answered: "The inquiry leads us to that source, at once the essence of genius, of virtue, and of life, which we call Spontaneity or Instinct. We denote this primary wisdom as Intuition, whilst all later teachings are tuitions."

This shows that reliance is urged, not on the little self, but the Universal self of the Over-Soul.

Page 36, note 1. This passage is metrically rendered by Mr. Emerson in the first of the "Fragments on Nature," in the Poems.

Page 39, note 1. In "Art," in the first series of Essays, the importance of detachment in that field is considered (p. 354).

Page 41, note 1. Compare with the concluding lines of the poem "Freedom."

Page 43, note 1. This demand is made in the poem "Culture."

Page 44, note 1. Here followed in the lecture:—

"There is a story in the Nursery-books, which always seemed to me a covert satire directed at the Universities, of Velent, who had a sword so wonderfully sharp that its entrance into the body was hardly to be perceived. 'I feel thy sword,' cried AEmilius, 'like cold water, gliding through my body.' 'Shake thyself,' said Velent. He did so, and fell down dead in two pieces." [Mr. Emerson, writing this in a slightly different form, spoke of this sword as "not named Excalibur, but Thought."]

Page  435 After this story followed some further remarks on detachment:—

"In speaking of identity, I said, All things grow; in a living mind the thoughts live and grow, and what happens in the vegetable happens to them. There are always individuals under generals; not stagnant, not childless, but everything alive reproduces, and each has its progeny which fast emerge into light; or what seemed one truth presently multiplies itself into many.

"Of course this detachment the intellect contemplates. The intellect forever watches, foresees this detachment. 'T is an infinite series. Every detachment prepares a new detachment. Of course the prophecy becomes habitual and reaches to all things. Having seen one thing that once was firmament enter into the kingdom of growth and change, the conclusion is irresistible, there is no fixture in the universe. Everything was moved, did spin, and will spin again. This changes once for all his view of things. Things appear as seeds of an immense future. Whilst the dull man always [lives] in a finished world, the thinker always finds himself in the early ages; the world lies to him in heaps."

Here follows the paragraph in the text: "The intellect that sees the interval partakes of it," etc.

Page 45, note 1. The coldness of Intellect is somewhat grimly pictured in the verses called "Philosopher," in the Appendix to the Poems. The above paragraph in the text was originally thus continued:—

"You may see it in any obscure family in which the boy of genius is born; it makes him strange among his housemates. He can take what interest he will in their interests and pursuits, he cannot be mixed with them; he holds a Gyges ring in his hand, and can disappear from them at will. …

Page  436 "This inevitable interval is one of the remarkable facts in the natural history of man, a fact fraught with good and evil. It is only those who have this detachment who interest us. If we go to any nation, who are they whom we seek? The men of thought. If we go to any society, though of seraphim, he only would interest us who comprehended and could interpret the thought and theory, and that act does instantly detach him from them. That thought is the unfolding of wings on his shoulders. The poet, in celebrating his hero, celebrates to the wise ear his superiority to his hero, and announces to the intelligent the lowness of that he magnifies. Shall I say that it is an exquisite luxury, for so I feel it, the speech of those who speak of things by the genius of the things, and not by the facts themselves? What is vulgar but the laying the emphasis on persons and facts, and not on the quality of the fact?"

Page 45, note 2. Here followed in one lecture:—

"The correction for this insubordination is here, that religion runs in true and parallel lines through the Intellect, as through Morals. All the powers and rewards of Faith which we find in the Good hold equally in the region of the True. Integrity is really the fountain of power in one as in the other. Seek first the kingdom of Heaven and all shall be added. It is the office of the poet to justify the moral sentiment and establish its eternal independence of demoniac agencies."

Page 45, note 3. "Emerson's method was to let the inspirations of the spirit lead the way, instead of inflicting one's hypotheses and presuppositions on the spirit. He wanted to know what life was for the spirit, not what it could be made for a certain philosophic demand."—Man and the Divine Order, by Horatio W. Dresser.

Page 46, note 1. Two thoughts in this paragraph are to Page  437 be found in the collection of fragmentary verses in the Appendix to the Poems:

That book is good
Which puts me in a working mood.
Unless to Thought is added Will,
Apollo is an imbecile;—
Hold of the Maker, not the Made;
Sit with the Cause, or grim or glad.

Page 49, note 1. "The intellect constructive, which we popularly designate by the word Genius," is discussed in "Intellect," in the first series of Essays. It is there spoken of as "the generation of the mind, the marriage of thought with Nature."

Page 50, note 1. Compare the "Song of Nature," in the Poems.

A passage on this subject from a lecture may here be inserted:—

"A small acceleration of the intellectual processes without loss of tenacity (continuance) would of course add indefinite ages to human life; a small increase of perception would be equivalent to any increase of power. Observe the effect upon one mind of being comprehended by another mind and forced to take a leap forward, the first hint perhaps of a larger dialectic. He who has seen one proof, ever so slight, of the terrific powers of this organ, will remember it all the days of his life. The most venerable proser will be surprised into silence. It is like the first hint that the earth moves, or that iron is a conductor of fluids, or that granite is a gas. The solids, the centres, rest itself, fly and skip. Rest is a relation, and not rest any longer. And here is revealed to me some neighboring activity, a mere intellection, some new condition Page  438 of ideal order, which seems to have dropped wings to solid earth and solid houses and real estates, which, like so many nimble mosquitoes, do exceedingly leap and fly. How many times?—once at least in every man's experience has repeated itself the question of Callicles, 'If you are in earnest, Socrates, and these things which you say are true, is not our human life subverted, and are not all our actions (as it seems) contrary to what they ought to be?' "

Page 51, note 1. In his journal in the autumn of 1838, Mr. Emerson records the visit to him of Jones Very, then in a state of strange exaltation of mind in which his host found food for thought. He writes: "Entertain every thought, every character that goes by with the hospitality of your soul. … Especially if one of these monotones (whereof, as my friends think, I have a savage society like a menagerie of monsters) come to you, receive him. For the partial action of his mind in one direction is a telescope for the objects on which it is pointed."

Page 52, note 1. The paragraph suggests the complaint of Alphonso of Castile, in the Poems.

Page 53, note 1. Mr. Emerson's method of listening for the thought and recording it in its purity, and his fear of the "ambitious interference which we miscall Art," as he once expressed himself, naturally resulted in the sentence—or paragraph—being, for him, the natural limit of expression, as his biographer has said. He himself complained to Carlyle of these "infinitely repellant particles" which he was striving to unite into a whole. Matthew Arnold and others have complained of his style's lacking "the requisite wholeness of good tissue." Yet his best work stands as he would have it. He meant, like Plotinus, not to "hastily disclose to every one the syllogistic necessities of his discourse." He allowed Page  439 intervals for the electric spark to pass and thrill the reader. As he told a young friend, "Try and leave a little thinking for him; that will be better for both. The trouble of most writers is that they spread too thin. The reader is as quick as they, has got there before, and is ready and waiting. … If you can see how the harness fits, he can. But be sure that you see it."1

There are many readers who would not wish the method changed. Herman Grimm wrote:—

"What he has written is like life itself—the unbroken thread ever lengthened through the addition of the small events which make up each day's experience. … His sentences are series of thoughts. He begins as if continuing a discourse whose opening we had not heard, and ends as if only pausing to take breath before going on.

"We feel that Emerson never wished to say more than just what at the moment presented itself to his soul. He never sets up a system, never defended himself. He speaks as if he had never been assailed; as if all men were his friends, and held the same opinions as himself."

Page 56, note 1. This teaching is found in "Literary Ethics," in the volume Nature, Addresses and Lectures, and in "The Scholar," in Lectures and Biographical Sketches.

Page 58, note 1. These paragraphs follow in one of the lectures:—

"The brain and hands are hardly contemporaries. The brain is the ancestor of the man. The intellectual is the watchman, the angel in the sun, and announces the far-off age. All its laws it can read before yet the happy men arrive who enter into power; but the rest of the man must follow his Page  440 head, and if I can see the eyes, I will trust that he will soon be able to disengage his hands.

"Every truth tends to become a power; every idea from the moment of its emergence begins to gather material forces, and, after a little while, makes itself known in the spheres of politics and commerce. It works first on thoughts, then on things, and makes feet and afterwards shoes; first hands and then gloves; makes the men, and so the age and its material soon after."

Page 59, note 1.

The heavens that now draw him
With sweetness untold,
Once found,—for new heavens
He spurneth the old.

"The Sphinx," Poems.

Page 61, note 1. In the essay on Character (Lectures and Biographical Sketches) Mr. Emerson says the Moral Sentiment "helps us, not by adding, but by putting us in place," and speaks of Truth, Power, Goodness and Beauty as convertible terms; and in "Greatness" (Letters and Social Aims) says that "the Intellect and Moral Sentiment cannot be separated." See also "Worship," in Conduct of Life.

Page 62, note 1. He counselled young writers, "Omit all negative propositions; it will save ninety-nine one hundredths of your labor and increase the value of your work in the same measure."

See also his poem "Music."

Page 62, note 2. This last Ego is the self of "Self-Reliance."

Page 64, note 1. The conclusion brings to mind the last lines in the poem "Wealth."

These sheets from the early lecture may be added:—

Page  441 "Every truth is universally applicable, thousand-sided. Every drop of blood has great talent; the original cellule seems identical in all animals, and only varied in its growth by the varying circumstance which opens now this kind of cell and now that, causing in the remote effect now horns, now wings, now scales, now hair; and the same numerical atom, it would seem, was equally ready to be a particle of the eye or brain of man, or of the claw of a tiger. In the body of a man, all those terrific agencies which belong to it, the capability of being developed into a saurus or a mammoth, a baboon that would twist off heads, or a grampus that tears a square foot of flesh from a whale, are held in check and subordinated to human genius and destiny, but it is ready at any time to pass into other circles and take its part in poorer or in better forms. Nay, it seems that the animal and vegetable texture at last are alike. Well, as thus the drop of blood has many talents lurking in it, so every truth is much more rich.

"Every law detected in any part of Nature holds in every other part. The law of music is law of anatomy, of algebra and astronomy, of human life and social order. … It is certain that the laws are all versions of each other. The symmetry and coördination of things is such that from any creature, well and inly known, the law of any other might be legitimately deduced. 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 from any idea like a ball of yarn. Just see how the chemist, how the Christian, how the negro, disposes of it with the greatest case Page  442 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 while 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. …

"The ground of hope is in the infinity of the world which reappears in every particle. The man truly conversant with life knows, against all appearances, that there is a remedy for every wrong, and that every wall is a gate."

These two passages from the journals should be also given:

1843. "That the Intellect grows by moral obedience seems to me the Judgment Day. Let that fact once obtain credence and all wrongs are righted; sorrow and pity are no more, nor fear, nor hatred; but a justice as shining and palpable as the best we know of kings and caliphs and ordeals, and what we call 'poetical justice,' that is, thorough justice, justice to the eye and justice to the mind—takes place."

1865. "Our thoughts have a life of their own, independent of our will."


This lecture is not presented in its completeness. Many passages in the one preceding it were at one time portions of this, as were also some of the most important parts of the essays on Worship and Immortality. Some of the matter came from the lecture called "Tendencies and Duties of Men of Thought," given by Mr. Emerson in London in 1848, as Page  443 is shown by the reports of those lectures in Douglas Jerrold's newspaper. The lecture as here printed is exactly as I found it (its sheets sewed together for delivery), with the exception of the passages printed elsewhere, most of which are indicated in the notes. The heading "Instinct and Inspiration" is found on many of the sheets.

Page 67, note 1. Here followed the paragraph in "Worship" (Conduct of Life, p. 230), "Why should I hasten to solve every riddle which life offers me?" etc.

Page 68, note 1. In the Address at Tufts College in July, 1862, called "Celebration of Intellect," printed in this volume, Instinct as an oracle is spoken of.

Page 70, note 1. Here was a short passage on the need of heat, animal spirits, to cold, arid natures, printed in the essay "Society and Solitude."

Page 70, note 2. This suggests one of the last stanzas in "The Poet," beginning,—

"Suns and stars their courses keep."

Page 70, note 3. A paragraph follows, now found in the preceding lecture, on the limited interest we take in the personality of people, beginning, "There is a conflict between a man's private dexterity."

Page 72, note 1. A page now printed in "Poetry and Imagination" (Letters and Social Aims, p. 40) was taken from this lecture concerning the writer and artist, as to the astonishing results that may come through him when he is "at the top of his condition."

Page 76, note 1. Here followed a few sentences, now printed in "Illusions" (Conduct of Life, p. 321), as to the rare moments when the capital questions of human life are revealed to our eyes.

Page  444

Page 77, note 1. A passage comparing wisdom to electricity,—a transient state of which some men are capable,—originally here, is now in the concluding paragraph of "Clubs". (Society and Solitude).

Page 78, note 1. See Essays, Second Series, p. 69.

Page 79, note 1. See "Immortality," in Letters and Social Aims, p. 346.

Page 85, note 1. Here follows the passage beginning, "He must be armed, not necessarily with musket and pike," etc., now in "Worship" (Conduct of Life, p. 224).

Page 86, note 1. The two following pages in the manuscript are now printed respectively in "Inspiration" (Letters and Social Aims, p. 275), "What is a man good for without enthusiasm?" etc., and in the preceding lecture on Natural History of Intellect, apropos of "monotones" in the value of concentration.

Page 87, note 1. Here follows the passage, now in "Immortality," beginning, "Ignorant people confound reverence," and ending, "and these by man's suffering are enlarged and enthroned."

Page 87, note 2. Several following pages of the lecture which treated of immortality were printed in "Worship" (Conduct of Life), and so are here omitted.

Page 88, note 1. Here followed the last paragraph but one in "Worship."

Page 88, note 2. The concluding paragraph of "Worship" came here.

Page  445


Few men would write of Memory until past

The middle of the mount
Up which the incarnate soul must climb;
and it was not until 1857 that we know of Mr. Emerson's having written a lecture on that subject. He read it to his neighbors at the Concord Lyceum. The next year it appears as the fifth lecture in the course on the Natural Method of Mental Philosophy read by him at the Freeman Place Chapel in Boston. Essentially the same lecture, no doubt with additions, held the same place in the course then called "The Natural History of Intellect," in the University lectures for students and outsiders given at Cambridge in 1870 and 1871.

Page 92, note 1. Critics complain that Mr. Emerson makes so little of sin. Mr. Cabot said: "Sin and he had nothing to do with one another," and found the early poem "Grace" (printed in the Dial first and now included in the Appendix to the Poems) the more surprising.

Page 94, note 1. "The difference between the actual and the ideal force of man is happily figured by the Schoolmen, in saying that the knowledge of man is an evening knowledge, vespertina cognitio, but that of God is a morning knowledge, matutina cognitio" (Nature, Addresses and Lectures, p. 73; see note there).

Page 99, note 1. Mrs. Ednah D. Cheney tells the following story:—

Page  446 "After hearing the lecture on Memory, a smart young lawyer approached a lady the next evening, who was talking of it to a friend. 'O, it was all very pretty and pleasant,' he said, 'but no real thought in it! I can't remember anything he said; can you?' 'Yes,' replied the lady, 'he said "Shallow brains have short memories." ' "

Some one who heard this lecture at the University course, when Mr. Emerson's memory had failed with his strength, told with much amusement that he spoke of the value, in keeping dates, of some old-fashioned mnemonic verses, which he repeated and then tried to explain, but failed, because the key had slipped from his memory. The hearer did not remember Ecclesiasticus's word that "Even some of us wax old."

Page 102, note 1. Mr. Emerson tells of the "great days" and their demands in "Friendship," in the first series of Essays.

Page 104, note 1. In an early journal Mr. Emerson wrote of the comfort the high collar of his cloak gave him when the preaching was bad. He alluded to it in the Divinity School Address.

Page 104, note 2. I am unable to find this line.

Page 104, note 3.

And I shall hear my bluebirds' note
And dream the dream of Auburn dell.

"May-Day," Poems.

Page 108, note 1.

This passing moment is an edifice
Which the omnipotent cannot rebuild.

"Fragments on Life," Poems, Appendix.

Page  447


This Address, as its opening passage shows, was made in the early days of the Civil War, before the forces of North and South had met in the disastrous battle of Bull Run. The task before the Government, the vast proportions and issues of the four years' struggle, were not then appreciated, and as yet the colleges had not been called on to furnish their splendid quota to save the country,—in Lowell's words,—

"To stand beside her
When craven churls deride her
To front a lie in arms, and not to yield;"
nor had Holmes made his terrible appeal in "Never or Now!" Yet later, in the dark days when Emerson wrote
Peril around, all else appalling,
Cannon in front and leaden rain,
Him Duty through the clarion calling
To the van, called not in vain,—
he would, none the less, have urged the higher function of the scholar, after he had shown his manhood by repelling the foe at the gate, in making Peace lasting, and the Country worth saving, by his standards and counsels.

This address is incomplete, as many passages were taken from it for the Essays on the same general theme, "The Man of Letters," "The Scholar" (Lectures and Biographical Sketches).

Page 118, note 1. Here followed the passage later printed in "The Man of Letters" (Lectures and Biographical Sketches, p. 256) on the absurdity of talking of the classic Page  448 studies of statesmen who confound the first principles of right and wrong in their public words and action.

Page 120, note 1. Here on the manuscript sheet are notes: "Luther; Kossuth; Quincy Adams in his magnificent defence on the floor of Congress."

Page 121, note 1. Passages now found in "The Man of Letters" (Lectures and Biographical Sketches, pp. 252-3) were taken from this part of the discourse, commending to students their profession as thinkers as the real secret of power, the Art of Command, and as to the superiority of intellect to material force.

Page 122, note 1. Here followed a short passage now in "The Scholar" (Lectures and Biographical Sketches, p. 264) as to the perverse affectation of scholars to be men of the world. And after this the remarkable paragraph on pages 282 and 283 in the same essay, as to a need of a revival of the human mind, and upon Instinct.

Page 123, note 1. Here follows a passage now found on pages 279, 280, in "The Scholar," on the disappointment the youth feels in the existing order of things, followed by that on page 263 of the same essay, on the "beatitude of the intellect flowing into the faculties."

Page 125, note 1. This was the case both with Emerson and Thoreau, who both knew how to find their own food in the College Library, which they eagerly used, but incurred some academic censure for neglect of the curriculum.

Page 126, note 1. These strictures on Harvard College at that period were bracketed in the manuscript, as if Mr. Emerson questioned whether or no to read them.

Page 126, note 2. First written "decrepit bostonians" (sic).

Page 130, note 1. Here followed a passage like one in Page  449 "Education:" "Talk of Columbus and Newton! The babe born in the novel yonder is the beginning of a revolution as great as theirs. Why try to be somewhat else?"

Page 131, note 1. Here follow the questions, as in "The Scholar" (p. 284):—

"And the questions they put are, Who are you? What do you? What is your talent, your contribution to the common weal? Can you obtain your wish? Is there method in your consciousness? Can you see tendency in your life? Can you help any soul? What is it you existed to say?"

This is followed by a passage on the need to the scholar of courage to admit ignorance and ask questions, and on the great lessons of momentary defeat (see "Social Aims," pp. 95, 96, in Letters and Social Aims).


"Country Life" was the opening lecture of a course given by Mr. Emerson in the Freeman Place Chapel in Boston, in March, 1858. It was followed by "Works and Days" (printed in Society and Solitude), "Powers of the Mind," "Natural Method of Mental Philosophy," "Memory" (the matter of these three mostly now found in "Natural History of Intellect") and "Self-Possession."

Page 136, note 1. Mr. Emerson, in the lecture, made a version of Chaucer's lines more intelligible to modern hearers, thus:—

"Then long the folk to go on pilgrymages
And palmers for to seeken stranger strands,
To serve the saints beknown in sondry lands."

Page  450

Page 147, note 1. Here follows in the manuscript the passage about trees, now printed in the Address at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery (see Miscellanies).

Page 148, note 1. These were Mr. Lane and Mr. Wright, the companions of Mr. Alcott in the unsuccessful Fruitlands community at Harvard. Cows were dispensed with there on the ground that it was wrong to enslave them, rob the calf of its food or the animal of its life; also that animal manure defiled the ground.

Page 151, note 1. These pictures of the advance from winter to spring may be found in "May-Day," in the Poems.

Page 153, note 1. The original prose form of the poem "Seashore" is here omitted. It may be found in the Notes to the Poems.

Page 155, note 1. From Linnaeus's Flora Laplandica (Pulteney).

Page 156, note 1. See some fragmentary verses, "October," in the Appendix to the Poems.

Page 163, note 1. Here is omitted the passage in praise of the farmer with which the essay "Farming" ends (Society and Solitude).


This lecture was evidently given by Mr. Emerson as his contribution to the village Lyceum, probably in 1867. Its shortness seems to show that it was the more domestic and local part of the larger lecture on Country Life which here precedes it. Both manuscripts bear that name, and some sheets Page  451 that occur in both are preserved, in this volume, only in the lecture into which they fit best.

Page 171, note 1. The charm of a river trip with Thoreau is celebrated in the essay "Nature" (Essays, Second Series, p. 173).

Page 172, note 1. The young girls and the boys who passed the house daily on their way to the Grammer or High School had little thought of the interest and pleasure with which the older scholar looked at them from his study window. Mr. Emerson was for many years on the School Committee. He much enjoyed the public examinations (they would be called "exhibitions" now, but they are obsolete), trying to the teacher and the more sensitive pupils, but highly interesting to the elders. Yet there, as elsewhere, he sat as a learner, and came home to praise the declamation or recitation of the girls and boys, and the Napoleonic aplomb of the schoolmistress, daughter of one of his farmer neighbors.

Page 173, note 1. The Belgian pomologist, whose results with coarse wild stock in a "state of variation" (by endless resowing of the better products obtaining fine fruit), are often alluded to in the Essays, and his "Theory of Amelioration" was carried by Emerson into higher fields. (See note 2 to page 49 in English Traits.)

Page 174, note 1. The delight in the wood-walks is set forth in the poem "Waldeinsamkeit."

Mr. Emerson wrote to Carlyle, in May, 1846:—

"I, too, have a new plaything, the best I ever had,—a wood-lot. Last fall I bought a piece of more than forty acres, on the border of … Walden Pond,—a place to which my feet have for years been accustomed to bring me once or twice a week at all seasons. … In these May days, when Page  452 maples, poplars, oaks, birches, walnut and pine are in their spring glory, I go thither every afternoon."

Page 174, note 2. The Upas tree of the tropics was reputed fatal to those who sat beneath it. The Soma was used in sacrifices in ancient India. Asclepias Viminalis, a remarkable plant of the milkweed family. The Mandrake root, because of its resemblance to a human body, was viewed with superstition; it was said to shriek when torn up by night. Mr. Emerson saw the Papyrus reed, which gave the ancients paper, growing in Sicily. Dittany, supposed to be named from Mount Dicte, in Crete, where it grew. Asphodel, associated with legends of Greece and Sicily. Nepenthe, a plant which brought calm and forgetfulness, mentioned in the Odyssey (book IV.) where Helen gives it to Telemachus. Haemony, a Thessalian magic herb, mentioned in Milton's Comus. The herb Moly, with black root and white flower, was given by Hermes to Odysseus to overcome the charms of Circe (Odyssey, book X.). Amomum, a tropical plant allied to ginger and cardamon.

Page 176, note 1. These friends Mr. Emerson had. His walks were usually alone, for, as he said, Nature's rule is One to one, my dear; but in the earlier years of his Concord life he went as a pupil to be shown the sights and learn the lore of each season, now with Henry Thoreau, the naturalist who knew the facts, but read also the higher meaning, and now with Ellery Channing, the poet with an artist's eye and speech.

Page 177, note 1. Dr. Jeffries Wyman of Cambridge, the comparative anatomist, as remarkable for his modesty as his attainments, is here alluded to. He was one of the company celebrated in "The Adirondacs" (Poems). Dr. Charles T. Jackson (the brother of Mrs. Emerson) and Professor J. Page  453 Hall of Albany, separately, made the first geological surveys of several States.

Page 179, note 1.

But the meanings cleave to the lake,
Cannot be carried in book or urn;
Go thy ways now, come later back,
On waves and hedges still they burn.

"My Garden," Poems.


It must be remembered that Emerson was Boston born and schooled. His birthplace was on the ground now occupied by Hovey's great store; he played in the pleasant gardens on Summer and Chauncy streets whence the blue Bay could then be seen, and he drove his mother's cow to pasture along Beacon Street. Boston was his home until he left college. Mrs. Cheney tells that an earnest young woman of that favored city put this question to another native of the place, "Which could you have least spared out of your life,—the Common or Emerson?"

This lecture was the closing one in the course on Life and Literature given in Boston in the spring of 1861. It was first printed in the Atlantic Monthly for January, 1892.

Page 183, 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, Appendix.

Page  454

Page 185, note 1. The following is from a sheet of "Aristocracy," as delivered in Boston:—

"But I consider this city of New England an exceptional community; that here the extraordinary abundant means, provided by private bounty and public law, have enabled every poor man to secure to any talent in his child a good culture, and to the great multitudes (of the middle classes) a finished education,—what with libraries, high schools, Latin schools, college scholarships and other foundations; schools of design; and the great sympathy of the community with any superior talent, and the great opportunity and career opened to it,—I consider this city to lie in sunlight, and citizenship in it to be a sort of nobility. And the poet Saxe seems to believe that all of us share this good will for our city,

"'And born in Boston needs no second birth.'"

Page 197, note 1. He might well have added the name of Carlyle, but for his own part in introducing his works here.

Page 198, note 1.

"Come dal fuoco il caldo, esser diviso
Non puo 'l bel dall' eterno."

Michael Angelo.

(As from fire the heat cannot be separated,—neither can beauty from the eternal.)

Page 200, note 1. Mr. Emerson first used this phrase in vain endeavor to get his friend Carlyle to come to see America in 1854. In the letter it followed the remark, "John Bull interests you at home, and is all your subject."

Page 203, note 1. "New England, on each new political event, resolves itself into a debating society, and is the Germany of the States."—Lecture on New England.

Page 206, note 1. Some members of the Society of Friends have been troubled that Mr. Emerson should have quoted Page  455 this amusing if harsh expression of an old author. The late Mr. Richard P. Hallowell, in his work, The Quaker Invasion of Massachusetts, has produced evidence rebutting much of the received history of the disturbances by the Quakers, which seems to have been exaggerated. Mr. Emerson merely incidentally alludes to one of these as reported. His feeling towards the Friends was always one of respect and much sympathy. He once told his cousin, the Rev. D. G. Haskins, "I believe I am more of a Quaker than anything else; I believe in the 'still, small voice.'"

Page 209, note 1. Mr. Emerson puts this playfully in his Boston poem:—

What care though rival cities soar
Along the stormy coast,
Penn's town, New York and Baltimore,
If Boston knew the most!

Page 211, note 1. The editor would be glad to know the source of these lines, which neither he nor his friends have been able to find.


I find the following entry in Mr. Emerson's diary during his short visit to Italy in his younger days:—

FLORENCE, 28th April, 1833.

I have been this day to Santa Croce, which is to Florence what Westminster Abbey is to England. I passed with consideration the tomb of Nicholas Macchiavelli, but stopped long before that of Galilias Galileo, for I love and honor that man,—except in the recantation,—with my whole heart. Page  456 But when I came to Michael Angelo Buonarotti my flesh crept as I read the inscription. I had strange emotion; I suppose because Italy is so full of his fame. I have lately continually heard of his name and works and opinions. I see his face in every shop window, and now I stood over his dust.

In 1835, soon after his return, he gave before the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, in Boston, six lectures on Biography. The first of these was on the tests of Great Men,—very possibly in part the chapter on the Uses of Great Men with which Representative Men opens,—and then he treated of the lives of five, beginning with Michael Angelo the artist, followed by the reformer Luther, the preacher George Fox, the poet Milton, and the statesman and orator, Edmund Burke. Dr. Holmes says,—

"Why Emerson selected Michael Angelo as the subject of one of his earliest lectures is shown clearly enough by the last sentence as printed in the Essay: 'He was not a citizen of any country; he belonged to the human race; he was a brother and a friend to all who acknowledged the beauty that beams in universal Nature, and who seek by labor and self-denial to approach its source in perfect goodness.'"

Greatly as Mr. Emerson admired his work,—a copy of "The Fates" always hung over his study mantel, and engravings of the Sibyls from the Sistine Chapel hung on the walls,—the character and recorded utterance of the man interested him even more. In 1868 he wrote, "I told W— that I prize Michael Angelo so much, that, whilst I look at his figures, I come to believe the grandiose is grand. Thomas Gray, in poetry, has relations to Michael Angelo, and the like question between the grandiose and grand is suggested in reading his odes."

Page  457 The lecture was published in the North American Review in June, 1837; the present essay is a reprint of that article.

Page 216, note 1. From Andrew Marvell's "Horatian Ode, on the Return of Cromwell:"

"He nothing common did, or mean,
Upon that memorable scene,
Nor called the Gods in vulgar spite
To vindicate his helpless right," etc.

Page 232, note 1. Michael Angelo, however, seems to have doubted the inherent stability in the construction of the dome, and girded it with great chains, which in later years have been reinforced.

Page 233, note 1. I believe this portrait is lost, but that it is alluded to by Michael Angelo in a sonnet.

Page 243, note 1. This was undoubtedly the noble statue of St. George by Donatello, until lately in a niche outside of one of the churches, now in the National Museum of Fine Arts at Florence.

Page 244, note 1. Mr. Emerson was fond of repeating, in looking at an engraving of Michael Angelo which hung in his house, the lines of Tennyson in In Memoriam:

"And over those ethereal eyes
The bar of Michael Angelo."

Page 244, note 2. In the journal for 1864 Mr. Emerson quotes Niebuhr thus: "Michael Angelo was the man to be first King of Italy," and adds, "And I should say of Michael that the power of his pictures and works is not so much correct art as it is great humanity. I accept easily all the criticism I hear on his style. It does not lessen him."

Page  458


From his early student days, Emerson honored and loved Milton. He often praised the majesty and courageous rectitude of his prose, but he took delight in Comus and Lycidas. He used to tell how, in his youth, confined to his berth in a small schooner on a stormy voyage to Florida, he, little by little, recollected all of Lycidas but three lines. He had not known that it lay there in his memory ready for his solace.

As has been said in the notes to the foregoing essay, Milton's was one of the five lives which Mr. Emerson chose to celebrate in his first course of Boston lectures. In speaking of these, Bancroft, in an article in the North American Review, written two years after Mr. Emerson's death, says:—

"Emerson, in the choice of the next hero over whom he was to shed the lustre of his praise, was equally guided by his own nature. In spite of all his gracefulness and reserve and love of the unbroken tranquillity of serene thought, he was by the right of heredity a belligerent for the cause of freedom, of which John Milton, among all the great English poets, was the foremost champion. From the inmost core of his character Milton was the herald of rightful liberty, and its ever-ready warrior where it fell into danger. He wrote in sublime and impassioned prose for liberty of mind, of man, and of the state. He has furnished to the English-speaking world the best epic, the best ode, the best elegies, in the mood of joyousness and in the mood of meditation; sonnets full of high thought expressed in the strongest and noblest words, and the most delightful mask for representation in the social circle. In advanced Page  459 life, when all his hopes for the political reform of England had been wrecked, he writes the best tragedy that has ever been written in modern times according to the rules of the Greek drama, and in it paints in perfection the comeliness and the reviving power of men 'armed with celestial vigor and heroic magnitude of mind;' and then, mindful of the sorrows that had fallen on himself and his associates, is driven for consolation to remember that

"'Patience is more oft the exercise
Of saints, the trial of their fortitude.'
Such a hero had a right to find a resting-place on Emerson's breast."

Dr. Holmes, in his Life of Emerson, thus showed the necessary bond between the writer and his subject:—

"Consciously or unconsciously men describe themselves in the characters they draw. One must have the mordant in his own personality or he will not take the color of his subject. He may force himself to picture that which he dislikes or even detests; but when he loves the character he delineates, it is his own, in some measure, at least, or one of which he feels that its possibilities and tendencies belong to himself. Let us try Emerson by this test in his Essay on Milton. …

"'It is the prerogative of this great man to stand at this hour foremost of all men in literary history, and so (shall we not say?) of all men, in the power to inspire. Virtue goes out of him into others. … He is identified in the mind with all select and holy images, with the supreme interests of the human race. … Better than any other he has discharged the office of every great man, namely, to raise the idea of Man in the minds of his contemporaries and of posterity,—to draw after Nature a life of man, exhibiting such a composition of Page  460 grace, of strength, and of virtue as poet had not described nor hero lived. Human nature in these ages is indebted to him for its best portrait. Many philosophers in England, France, and Germany have formally dedicated their study to this problem; and we think it impossible to recall one in those countries who communicates the same vibration of hope, of self-reverence, of piety, of delight in beauty, which the name of Milton awakes.'

"Emerson had the same lofty aim as Milton, 'To raise the idea of man;' he had 'the power to inspire' in a preëminent degree. If ever a man communicated those vibrations he speaks of as characteristic of Milton, it was Emerson. In elevation, purity, nobility of nature, he is worthy to stand with the great poet and patriot, who began, like him, as a schoolmaster, and ended as the teacher in a school-house which had for its walls the horizons of every region where English is spoken."

The "Milton" was published in the North American Review for July, 1838.

Page 248, note 1. In the early verses on The Poet, given in the Appendix to the Poems, Mr. Emerson said:—

Yet every scroll, whereon he wrote
In latent fire his secret thought,
Fell unregarded to the ground,
Unseen by such as stood around.
The pious wind took it away.

Page 250, note 1. Saumaise, by his pamphlet Défense de Charles I., drew out Milton's Defense of the English People. A French writer said of him: "Aujourd' hui on ne connait plus Claude de Saumaise que de certaines discussions beaucoup trop Page  461 retentissantes qu'il eut avec plusieurs de ses contemporains;" and adds, regarding the Défense de Charles I., "Saumaise y défendit fort mal une fort bonne cause, et le poëte eut raison du critique."

Page 253, note 1. Journal, 1841. "I think that Milton wrote his verse to his own ear, well knowing that England did not hold, and might not for a century, another ear that could hear their rhythm. That is the magnanimity of a poet, that he writes for the Gods—as those Egyptian obelisks which Goethe saw raised from the ground at Rome, were carved with the utmost finish on the upper surface, which faced the heaven and which man was never to see."

Page 256, note 1. Master Samuel Hartlib, apparently a scholar from the continent, a friend of Milton, who speaks of him as "sent hither from a far country," seems to have studied with peculiar diligence the science of education. Milton's letter to him is "On Education."

Page 260, note 1. Journal, 1845. "The language is made,—who has not helped to make it? Then come Milton, Shakspeare, and find it all made to their hand, and use it as if there never had been language before."

Page 260, note 2. From an early college poem of Milton, "Anno AEtatis XIX." "At a Vacation Exercise at the College, part Latin, part English, the Latin speeches ended, the English thus began, 'Hail, native language!'" etc.

Page 261, note 1. From "L' Allegro."

Page 263, note 1. As is evident throughout this essay, Mr. Emerson was drawn to Milton by the likeness of their characters and tastes, as well as their ideals. He himself loved temperance "for its elegancy, not for its austerity," as he says of the Hero (Essays, First Series, p. 254). His temperance was of the unconscious kind, a part of his refined taste.

Page  462

Page 265, note 1. The young Emerson, as his letters to his brothers during his college course show, was sometimes writing his thoughts and attempts at verse, at his high desk, before winter daylight had fully come.

Page 267, note 1. From Wordsworth's sonnet beginning,

"Milton, thou should'st be living at this hour."

Page 268, note 1. Journal, 1836. "With what satisfaction I read last night with G. P. B[radford] some lines from Milton! In Samson Agonistes and elsewhere with what dignity he felt the office of the bard, the solemn office borne by the great and grave of every age for the behoof of all men; a call which never was heard in the frivolous brains of the Moores and Hugos and Bérangers of the day."

Page 269, note 1. Compare with this a remarkable passage in "Aristocracy" (Lectures and Biographical Sketches, p. 63).

Page 273, note 1. It was Mr. Emerson's religious feeling that kept him away from the preachings and prayers of his day.

Page 274, note 1. Paradise Lost, book iv., 301.

Page 277, note 1. Paradise Lost, book iv., 361.


The manuscript of the lecture has on it the name "Art and Criticism," but it is incomplete, and nearly the first quarter is missing. This was presumably upon Art (to judge by some few notes which remain), and very likely the essay "Art," in Society and Solitude, contains much of the matter.

"Art and Criticism" was the fourth lecture in a course given in the spring of 1859, at the Freeman Place Chapel in Boston.

Page  463

Page 283, note 1. The Néant, the Negative aspect of the Universe.

Page 284, note 1. Mr. Cabot was told that the congregation to which Mr. Emerson preached in the Second Church of Boston was composed mainly of middle-class people. His hearers at the church in East Lexington were simple people, but, in confessing this, they said that they could understand Mr. Emerson. Most of his lectures for forty years thereafter were "tried on," as he said, on audiences from farm and shop in the lyceums of New England towns or on enterprising but uncultivated settlers of "the West." He would not "talk down," but made it his business to try to give them his best thought in vigorous, simple words, with homely illustration or classic anecdote.

Page 288, note 1. The street as a school for the orator is treated of in "Eloquence" (Letters and Social Aims, pp. 124, 125).

Page 288, note 2. Vathek, the hero of an Eastern romance published by Beckford in 1787.

Page 289, note 1. Mr. Emerson took much pleasure in Burn's poem "To the Deil."

Page 289, note 2. Here follows a passage on the necessity of shade to balance sun, etc., printed in "Considerations by the Way" (Conduct of Life, p. 255).

Page 290, note 1. Mr. Emerson well understood the force of the pause. After an important passage, delivered forcibly or searchingly, he made a marked pause to allow the thought to strike in; then with great flexibility of voice would begin the next paragraph in a quiet conversational tone. In preparing a lecture for publication as an essay it was unsparingly pruned, not merely of passages but of words.

Page 292, note 1. For "development" Mr. Emerson Page  464 often used the more pleasing and picturesque "unfolding." As for the "family of fero" and its participle latum, he would rather say "choice" than "preference," "give way" than "defer," "gather" than "infer," "bring together" than "collate," "render" than "translate," with a poet's preference for simple rather than pedantic words.

Page 293, note 1. He objected to the Germanic "standpoint, for the English point of view, recently corrupted into view-point."

Page 293, note 2. It is the cheap use of these words that is blamed. "Flamboyant" is advisedly used by Mr. Emerson a few paragraphs earlier in this lecture.

Page 294, note 1. A writer in a recent New York newspaper, who remembered this lecture, said of this characteristic illustration drawn from New England country life, "This searching criticism, enforced by a metaphor borrowed from the universal experience of the rude New England climate, is of the essence of the man. The more he is studied, the more—again in Yankee phrase—we summer and winter with him, the more we get from him. The foundations of his fun and earnest are also below the frost."

I cannot deny myself the pleasure of here introducing another reminiscence by the same writer illustrating Mr. Emerson's humor:—

"The present writer recalls a lecture in the middle sixties, in which Mr. Emerson surprised his audience into laughter with the closing of what seemed about to be an especially lofty appeal: 'If we could only make up our minds always to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,' he said, in his musical and curiously impersonal voice, and added—'to what embarrassing situations it would give rise.'"

Page 296, note 1. Of course in commending "writing Page  465 down" Mr. Emerson meant simple subject and style, not deliberate lowering of thought to the supposed standard of others.

Page 302, note 1. Mr. Emerson is here telling of the humors of his friend William Ellery Channing, as they walked in Concord Woods. In the essay on Concord Walks, his company is extolled. Mr. Emerson had love of wild nature, Mr. Channing opened his eyes to what was artistic, and helped him to perception of color and composition.

Page 305, note 1. Hence the denier and the pessimist were offensive to him: "Nothing good that way, everything good the other way." See in "Demonology" (Lectures and Biographical Sketches, p. 24) the application of "the infallible test, the state of mind in which much notice of them [alleged spiritualistic revelations, necromancy, etc.] leaves us."


This paper was the leading article in the second number of the Dial (October, 1840), of which Mr. Emerson was then editor.

The original opening pages, omitted by Mr. Cabot, are given below, excepting a few sentences.

"There is no better illustration of the laws by which the world is governed than Literature. There is no luck in it. It proceeds by Fate. Every scripture is given by the inspiration of God. Every composition proceeds out of a greater or less depth of thought, and this is the measure of its effect. The highest class of books are those which express the moral element; the next, works of imagination; and the next, works Page  466 of science;—all dealing in realities,—what ought to be, what is, and what appears. These, in proportion to the truth and beauty they involve, remain; the rest perish. They proceed out of the silent, living mind to be heard again by the living mind. Of the best books it is hardest to write the history. Those books which are for all time are written indifferently at any time. For high genius is a day without night, a Caspian Ocean which hath no tides. And yet is literature in some sort a creature of time. Always the oracular soul is the source of thought, but always the occasion is administered by the low mediation of circumstances. Religion, Love, Ambition, War, some fierce antagonism, or it may be some petty annoyance, must break the round of perfect circulation, or no spark, no joy, no event can be. The poet, rambling through the fields or the forest, absorbed in contemplation to that degree that his walk is but a petty dream, would never awake to precise thought, if the scream of an eagle, the cries of a crow or curlew near his head did not break the sweet continuity. Nay, the finest lyrics of the poet come of this unequal parentage; the imps of matter beget such child on the soul, fair daughter of God. Nature mixes facts with thoughts to yield a power. But the gift of immortality is of the mother's side. In the spirit in which they are written is the date of their duration, and never in the magnitude of the facts. Everything lasts in proportion to its beauty. In proportion as it was not polluted by the wilfulness of the writer, but flowed from his mind after the divine order of cause and effect, it was not his, but Nature's, and shared the sublimity of the sea and sky. That which is truly told, Nature herself takes in charge against the whims and injustice of men. For ages Herodotus was reckoned a credulous gossip in his descriptions of Africa, and now the sublime, silent Page  467 desert testifies through the mouths of Bruce, Lyon, Caillaud, Burckhardt, Belzoni, to the truth of the calumniated historian.

"And yet men imagine that books are dice and have no merit in their fortune; that the trade and favor of a few critics can speed one book into circulation and kill another; and that in the production of these things the author has chosen and may devise to do thus and so. Society also wishes to assign subjects and methods to its writers. But neither reader nor author may intermeddle. You cannot reason at will in this and that other vein, but only as you must. You cannot make quaint combinations and bring to the crucible and alembic of truth things far-fetched or fantastic or popular, but your method and your subject are foreordained in your nature and in all nature or ever the earth was, or it has no worth. All that gives currency still to any book, advertised in the morning's newspaper in London or Boston, is the remains of faith in the breasts of men that, not adroit book-makers, but the inextinguishable soul of the universe, reports of itself in articulate discourse to-day as of old. The ancients strongly expressed their sense of the unmanageableness of these words of the spirit by saying that the God made his priest insane, took him hither and thither, as leaves are whirled by the tempest. But we sing as we are bid. Our inspirations are manageable and tame. Death and sin have whispered in the ear of the wild horse of Heaven, and he has become a dray and a hack. And step by step with the entrance of this era of ease and convenience, the belief in the proper Inspiration of man has departed. …"

Here followed a passage on the Bible and the Scriptures of the nations, and the secondary quality of Shakspeare compared to these, much of which, quoted from the journal of Page  468 1839, is given in a note to the essay on Shakspeare. (Representative Men, p. 357.)

"All just criticism will not only behold in literature the action of necessary laws, but must also oversee literature itself. The erect mind disparageth all books. What are books? it saith: they can have no permanent value. How obviously initial they are to their authors. The books of the nations, the universal books, are long ago forgotten by those who wrote them, and one day we shall forget this primer learning. Literature is made up of a few ideas and a few fables. It is a heap of nouns and verbs enclosing an intuition or two. We must learn to judge books by absolute standards. When we are aroused to a life in ourselves, these traditional splendors of letters grow very pale and cold. Men seem to forget that all literature is ephemeral, and unwillingly entertain the supposition of its utter disappearance. They deem not only letters in general, but the best books in particular, parts of a preëstablished harmony, fatal, unalterable, and do not go behind Virgil and Dante, much less behind Moses, Ezekiel and Saint John. But no man can be a good critic of any book who does not read it in a wisdom which transcends the instructions of any book, and treats the whole extant product of the human intellect as only one age revisible and reversible by him."

Page 312, note 1. Here follows a paragraph, telling with what eagerness the new generation studies the history of freedom in civil, religious and philosophic matters, and also the rude poetry of antiquity; then how it "celebrates its wants, achievements and hopes." "The time is marked by the multitude of writers. Soldiers, sailors, servants, nobles, princes, women, write books. The progress of trade and the facilities for locomotion have made the world nomadic again. … All Page  469 facts are exposed. Let there be no ghost-stories more. … Let us have charts true and gazetteers correct. We will know where Babylon stood, and settle the topography of the Roman Forum. We will know whatever is to be known of Australasia, of Japan, of Persia, of Egypt, of Timbuctoo, of Palestine. …

"Christendom has become a great reading-room. … The age is well-bred, knows the world, has no nonsense, and herein is well distinguished from the learned ages that preceded ours. [He alludes to the superstitions that filled the heads of the English and European scholars for the half-millennium that preceded the eighteenth century.] The best heads of this time build or occupy such card-house theories of religion, politics and natural science as a clever boy now would blow away. What stuff in Kepler, in Cardan, in Lord Bacon. Montaigne with all his French wit and downright sense is little better; a sophomore would wind him round his finger. Some of the Medical Remains of Lord Bacon in the book for his own use, 'Of the Prolongation of Life,' will move a smile in the unpoetical practitioners of the Medical College. [He then gives amusing citations from Bacon and Cardan and odd anecdotes from Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy.]

"All this sky-full of cobwebs is now forever swept clean away. Another race is born. Humboldt and Herschel, Davy and Arago, Malthus and Benham have arrived. If Robert Burton should be quoted to represent the army of scholars who have furnished a contribution to his moody pages, Horace Walpole, whose letters circulate in the libraries, might be taken with some fitness to represent the spirit of much recent literature. He has taste, common sense, love of facts, impatience of humbug, love of history, love of splendor, love of justice, and the sentiment of honor among gentlemen: but no life Page  470 whatever of the higher faculties, no faith, no hope, no aspiration, no question concerning the secret of Nature.

"The favorable side of this research and love of facts is the bold and systematic criticism which has appeared in every department of literature. From Wolff's attack upon the authenticity of the Homeric Poems dates a new impulse on learning. … Niebuhr has sifted Roman history by the like methods. Heeren has made good essays towards ascertaining the necessary facts in the Grecian, Persian, Assyrian, Egyptian, Ethiopic, Carthaginian nations. English history has been analyzed by Turner, Hallam, Brodie, Lingard, Palgrave. Goethe has made the circuit of human knowledge, as Lord Bacon did before him, writing True or False on every article. Bentham has attempted the same scrutiny in reference to Civil Law. Pestalozzi, out of a deep love, undertook the reform of education. The ambition of Coleridge in England embraced the whole problem of Philosophy; to find, that is, a foundation in thought for everything that existed in fact. The German philosophers Schelling, Kant, Fichte, Hegel, have applied their analysis to Nature and thought with an antique boldness. There can be no honest inquiry which is not better than acquiescence. …

"This skeptical activity, at first directed on circumstances and historical views deemed of great importance, soon penetrated deeper than Rome or Egypt, than history or institutions or the vocabulary of metaphysics, namely, into the thinker himself and into every function he exercises."

From this point on, the paper in the Dial is like that here printed, except that Mr. Emerson's corrections, pencilled on the margin, have been adopted here in the text, as well as in the omitted passages given above.

Page 314, note 1. Mr. Emerson's use of his own life in his journals, and hence in his works, was of this sort. Incidents Page  471 are generalized and personality merged in a type. In the poetry, often intimate personal experiences are used, but purified and adorned. Dr. Holmes treats of this matter with charming wit in his chapter on Emerson as a Poet.

Page 319, note 1. In a lecture in a course on English Literature in 1835, Mr. Emerson said of Byron: "He has a marvellous power of language, but, from pride and selfishness, which made him an incurious observer, it lacked food. One's interest dies from famine of meaning. Cursing will soon be sufficient in the most skilful variety of diction. Of Scott it would be ungrateful to speak but with cheerful respect, and we owe to him some passages of genuine pathos. But in general, what he contributes is not brought from the deep places of the mind, and of course cannot reach thither." In a lecture in 1861, he said, "Byron had declamation, he had delicious music, but he knew not the mania which gives creative power."

Page 321, note 1. In a lecture, "Books," in 1864, Mr. Emerson said: "I read lately with delight a casual notice of Wordsworth in a London journal, in which with perfect aplomb his highest merits were affirmed, and his unquestionable superiority to all English poets since Milton. I thought how long I travelled and talked in England, and found no person, or only one (Clough), in sympathy with him and admiring him aright, in face of Tennyson's culminating talent and genius in melodious verse. This rugged countryman walks and sits alone for years, assured of his sanity and inspiration, sneered at and disparaged, yet no more doubting the fine oracles that visited him than if Apollo had visibly descended to him on Helvellyn. Now, so few years after, it is lawful in that obese England to affirm unresisted the superiority of his genius."

Page  472

Page 322, note 1. In the last lecture in a course on New England, read in New York in 1843, Mr. Emerson said: "The influence of Wordsworth, Coleridge and Carlyle found readier reception here than at home. It is remarkable that we have our intellectual culture from one country and our duties from another. … But there is an ethical element in the mind of our people that will never let them long rest without finding exercise for the deeper thoughts. It very soon found both Wordsworth and Carlyle insufficient."

Page 323, note 1. In the journal for 1838 occurs this passage:—

"Goethe hates dissection, hates the sundering a thing from the universal connection of Nature, and you shall see that love of synthesis working in all his rhetoric. As when he apostrophizes Erwin of Steinbach and his Minister, he sees all the Netherlands and all the year."

Page 332, note 1. This suggests the passage in "Aristocracy" (Lectures and Biographical Sketches, pp. 63, 64) on the selfish man of learning who is not faithful to his duties to humble humanity around him.

Page 334, note 1. I am unable to find the sources of the lines quoted on this and on the following page.


This paper appeared in the Dial for October, 1841. It was eight years since Mr. Emerson had had the pleasure of visiting Landor at his Villa Gherardesca at Fiesole, by his invitation. The opportunity of seeing Landor, Coleridge, Carlyle and Wordsworth reconciled him to travel, always a Page  473 matter of indifference to him, at that sad time. In the first pages of English Traits, an account of this visit and Landor's conversation and opinions is given, which called out from Landor an "Open Letter" some years later. The account of this letter, with extracts from it, may be found in the notes to English Traits.

Page 342, note 1. From Tennyson's "Lotus Eaters."

Page 342, note 2. Compare a similar passage in the "Lecture on the Times" (Nature, Addresses and Lectures, p. 280).

Page 348, note 1. In these sentences on Landor, Mr. Emerson also states his own theory and practice.

Page 349, note 1. The article in the Dial is followed by a few pages of selections made by Mr. Emerson from Landor's writings.


This paper was printed in the Dial for July, 1842.

The remarkable prayer in verse, "Great God, I ask thee for no meaner pelf," etc., was Henry Thoreau's. It is thought by a friend of the Thoreau family that the prayers preceding and following it were written by his loved brother John, who had died a few months before the publication of this paper. Nothing is known of the "deaf and dumb boy."

Page 350, note 1. From Measure for Measure, Act II., Scene 2.

Page  474


This paper, reprinted exactly from the Dial of July, 1842, is Mr. Emerson's rendering—much affected by the medium through which it passed—of the sensible criticism on the Report of the State Commissioner of Agriculture, made by his friend and neighbor, Mr. Edmund Hosmer. Mr. Hosmer was a farmer of the old New England type, versed in agricultural and domestic economics, and was the oracle constantly consulted by Mr. Emerson, and the ally called in, in dealing with the interesting but to him puzzling management of his increasing acres. Mr. Hosmer and his oxen are the Hassan and the camels of the third stanza in the "Fragments on the Poet," in the Poems. He used to attend and join in the conversations of the philosophers at Mr. Emerson's house.


This paper, as printed, is that published in the Dial for April, 1843, with the exception of the opening pages, most of which are here given, omitting, however, the first paragraph, on the temporary dominations of European books, and prophesying a new world literature. The review thus continues:—

"But at present we have our culture from Europe and Europeans. Let us be content and thankful for these good gifts for a while yet. The collections of art, at Dresden, Paris, Rome, and the British Museum and libraries offer their splendid hospitalities to the American. And beyond this, amid the dense population of that continent, lifts itself ever and anon Page  475 some eminent head, a prophet to his own people, and their interpreter to the people of other countries. The attraction of these individuals is not to be resisted by theoretic statements.

"It is true there is always something deceptive, self-deceptive in our travel. We go to France, to Germany, to see men, and find but what we carry. A man is a man, one as good as another, many doors to one open court, and that open court as entirely accessible from our private door, or through John or Peter, as through Humboldt and Laplace. But we cannot speak to ourselves.

"We brood on our riches, but remain dumb; that makes us unhappy; and we take ship and go man-hunting in order, by putting ourselves en rapport, according to laws of personal magnetism, to acquire speech or expression. Seeing Herschel or Schelling, or Swede or Dane, satisfies the conditions, and we can express ourselves happily.

"But Europe has lost weight lately. Our young men go thither in every ship, but not as in the golden days, when the same tour would show the traveller the noble heads of Scott, of Mackintosh, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Goethe, Cuvier, and Humboldt. We remember, when arriving in Paris, we crossed the river on a brilliant morning, and at the book-shop of Papinot, in the Rue de Sorbonne, at the gates of the University, purchased for two sous a Programme, which announced that every Monday we might attend the lecture of Dumas on Chemistry at noon; at a half hour later either Villemain or Ampère on French Literature; at other hours, Guizot on Modern History; Cousin on the Philosophy of Ancient History; Fauriel on Foreign Literature; Prévost on Geology; Lacroix on the Differential Calculus; Jouffroy on the History of Modern Philosophy; Lacretelle on Ancient History; Desfontaines or Mirbel on Botany.

Page  476 "Hard by, at the Place du Panthéon, Dégérando, Royer Collard, and their colleagues were giving courses on Law, on the law of nations, the Pandects and commercial equity. For two magical sous more, we bought the Programme of the Collége Royal de France, on which we still read with admiring memory, that every Monday, Silvestre de Sacy lectures on the Persian Language; at other hours, Lacroix on the Integral Mathematics; Jouffroy on Greek Philosophy; Biot on Physics; Lerminier on the History of Legislation; Élie de Beaumont on Natural History; Magendie on Medicine; Thénard on Chemistry; Binet on Astronomy; and so on, to the end of the week. On the same wonderful ticket, as if royal munificence had not yet sufficed, we learned that at the Museum of Natural History, at the Garden of Plants, three days in the week, Brongniart would teach Vegetable Physiology, and Gay-Lussac, Chemistry, and Flourent, Anatomy. With joy we read these splendid news in the Café Procope, and straightway joined the troop of students of all nations, kindreds and tongues, whom this great institution drew together to listen to the first Savans of the world without fee or reward. The professors are changed, but the liberal doors still stand open at this hour. This royal liberality, which seems to atone for so many possible abuses of power, could not exist without important consequences to the student on his return home.

"The University of Göttingen has sunk from its high place by the loss of its brightest stars. The last was Heeren, whose learning was really useful and who has made ingenious attempts at the solution of ancient historical problems. Ethiopia, Assyria, Carthage and the Theban Desert are still revealing secrets, latent for three millenniums, under the powerful night-glass of the Teutonic Scholars, who make astronomy, geology, chemistry, trade, statistics, medals, tributary to their Inquisitions.

Page  477 "In the last year also died Sismondi, who by his History of the Italian Republics reminded mankind of the prodigious wealth of life and event, which Time, devouring his children as fast as they are born, is giving to oblivion in Italy, the piazza and forum of History, and for a time made Italian subjects of the middle ages popular for poets and romancers, and by his kindling chronicles of Milan and Lombardy perhaps awoke the great genius of Manzoni. That history is full of events, yet, as Ottilie writes in Goethe's novel, that she never can bring away from history anything but a few anecdotes, so the Italian Republics lies in the memory like a confused mélée, a confused noise of slaughter and rapine, and garments rolled in blood. The method, if method there be, is so slight and artificial, that it is quite overlaid and lost in the unvaried details of treachery and violence. Hallam's sketches of the same history were greatly more luminous and memorable, partly from the advantage of his design, which compelled him to draw outlines, and not bury the grand lines of destiny in municipal details.

"Italy furnished in that age no man of genius to its political arena, though many of talent, and this want degrades the history. We still remember, with great pleasure, Mr. Hallam's fine sketch of the external history of the rise and establishment of the Papacy, which Mr. Ranke's voluminous researches, though they have great value for their individual portraits, have not superseded."

Page 366, note 1. Mr. Emerson's impatience of Wordsworth's foibles was at first great. In the journal for 1832 he wrote:—

"I never read Wordsworth without chagrin. A man of such great powers and ambition, so near to the Dii majores,Page  478 to fail so meanly in every attempt. A genius that hath epilepsy, a deranged archangel."

Page 367, note 1. Mr. Emerson gave an account of his visits to Wordsworth in 1833, and again in 1848, in English Traits (pp. 19 ff. and 294.)

Page 370, note 1. Soon after Tennyson's poems appeared, Mr. Emerson wrote to a friend:—

"I think Tennyson got his inspiration in gardens, and that in this country, where there are no gardens, his musky verses could not be written. The Villa d' Este is a memorable poem in my life."

Page 372, note 1. Mr. Alexander Ireland of Manchester, England, the friend who made arrangements for Mr. Emerson's coming to England to lecture in 1828, gives in his Memoir1 an account of Mr. Emerson's visit to Leigh Hunt.

Page 372, note 2. Mr. Emerson prized Tennyson more highly as years went on.

Journal, 1853. "When I see the waves of Lake Michigan toss in the bleak snowstorm, I see how small and inadequate the common poet is. But Tennyson with his eagle over the sea has shown his sufficiency."

In the summer of 1868, he wrote at some length in his journal in high praise of the quality and elevation of the poem "The Holy Grail," and, looking over the journal two years later, added more to the same effect. Below these notes he wrote in October, 1871: "The only limit to the praise of Tennyson as a lyric poet is that he is alive. Were he an ancient, there would be none."

Page 374, note 1. In English Traits Mr. Emerson wrote:—

Page  479 "Bulwer, an industrious writer, with occasional ability, is distinguished for his reverence of intellect as a temporality, and appeals to the worldly ambition of the student. His romances tend to fan these low flames."

Page 377, note 1. In his chapter on Goethe, Wilhelm Meister is criticised. (Representative Men, pp. 277, 278.)

Page 377, note 2. Disraeli's novel is alluded to in the pages in Representative Men just referred to.


Page 381, note 1. This celebration of his friend's work was published by Mr. Emerson in the Dial for July, 1843.

Page 382, note 1.

For Genius made his cabin wide,
And Love led Gods therein to bide.

"Fragments on the Poet," Poems, Appendix.

Page 386, note 1. Now and then Mr. Emerson grew weary of his friend's personality in his work, as when he exclaimed:—

"O Carlyle, the merit of glass is not to be seen, but to be seen through; whereas every lamina and spicule of the Carlyle glass is visible!"

Page 387, note 1. Mr. Charles J. Woodbury, comparing Carlyle and Emerson, says:—

"Neither could tolerate insincerity, which they destroyed, one with lightning, and the other with light."1

In his journal of 1863, Mr. Emerson said of Carlyle's style:—

"It is like the new Parrott guns. There were always Page  480 guns and powder. But here to-day are latest experiments and a success which exceeds all previous performance in throwing far, and in crushing effect. Much is sacrificed for this, but this is done—so with Carlyle's projectile style."

Page 389, note 1. In his English note-book, Mr. Emerson called Carlyle "a bacchanal in the strong waters of vituperation."

Page 391, note 1. In sending this book to Emerson, Carlyle wrote: "I have finished a book, … one solid volume; … it is a somewhat fiery and questionable 'Tract for the Times,' not by a Puseyite, which the terrible aspect of things here has forced from me." Mr. Emerson in his reply praised "the deep, steady tide taking in, either by hope or by fear, all the great classes of society,—and the philosophic minority also, by the powerful lights which are shed on the phenomenon. It is true contemporary history, which other books are not, and you have fairly set solid London city aloft, afloat, in bright mirage of the air. I quarrel only with the popular assumption, which is perhaps a condition of the Humor itself, that the state of society is a new state, and was not the same thing in the days of Rabelais and Aristophanes as of Carlyle. Orators always allow something to masses, out of love to their own art, whilst austere philosophy will only know the particles. This were of no importance if the historian did not so come to mix himself in some manner with his erring and grieving nations, and so saddens the picture; for health is always private and original, and its essence is in its unmixableness."

Five months later, October 31, 1843, Carlyle wrote:—

"In this last number of the Dial, … I found one little essay, a criticism on myself,—which, if it should do me mischief, may the Gods forgive you for! It is considerably the Page  481 most dangerous thing I have read for some years. A decided likeness of myself recognizable in it, as in the celestial mirror of a friend's heart; but so enlarged, exaggerated, all transfigured,—the most delicious, the most dangerous thing! Well, I suppose I must try to assimilate it also, to turn it also to good, if I be able. Eulogies, dyslogies, in which one finds no features of one's own natural face, are easily dealt with, … but here is another sort of matter! … May the gods forgive you!—I have purchased a copy for three shillings and sent it to my Mother, one of the indubitablest benefits I could think of in regard to it."


The position of Editor of the Dial must have been trying to one like Mr. Emerson, who joined to sympathy with young idealists and wish to foster "divine discontent," a high standard of thought and expression, a dislike for the negative, and a New England common sense.

So he wrote to disappointed contributors, or those restless seekers who asked for counsel, this wholesome circular letter, which ended by referring each to the oracle within which he or she neglected in seeking help abroad.

The "Letter" was published in the Dial for October, 1843.

Page 404, note 1. In the Dial the letter ends by referring to a correspondent who had sent in a generous and just tribute to Bettine von Arnim, and giving a translation from the Deutsche Schellpost "of a sketch, though plainly from no Page  482 very friendly hand, of the new work of that eminent lady, who, in the silence of Tieck and Schelling, seems to hold a monopoly of genius in Germany."


This lecture, under the name "Tragedy," was the seventh in a course on Human Life given by Mr. Emerson in Boston in the winter of 1838-39. The eighth lecture was "Comedy," included among the lectures which Mr. Cabot gathered for him into the volume Letters and Social Aims, when Mr. Emerson's failing strength required such aid. "The Tragic," for so the name was altered, was printed by Mr. Emerson in the last number of the Dial, April, 1844.

It was a subject quite foreign to Mr. Emerson's habit of mind, but one which his serene faith could dispose of and bring, as he would have said, "within the sphere."

Page 408, note 1. The subject of Fate is treated at length in the Essay of that name in Conduct of Life. In the poem "Worship," the motto to the Essay on that theme, Fate, miscalled, is represented as beneficent, living Law.

Page 410, note 1. From a song by Donne, beginning:—

"Sweetest love, I doe not goe."

Page 412, note 1. Isaiah, xxx., 7.

Page 413, note 1. The serenity and composure of Mr. Emerson's venerable friend Samuel Hoar were such that Mr. Emerson wrote of him in his journal:—

"I know a man who tries time."

Page  483

Page 414, note 1. The doctrine of the "Compensation," in the first series of Essays.

Page 416, note 1. As modesty is the cardinal virtue of woman, so Mr. Emerson held that

Is the pudency of man."

"The Poet," Poems, Appendix.