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other American writings record that movement half so vitally as his.

As our individual freedom becomes more and more surely established, we may delight in Emerson more or less. According as our individuality responds or not to the idealism which touched him, we may find him repellent or sympathetic; and although it may hardly be asserted, it may fairly be surmised, that even in Emerson's most memorable utterances the future may find no considerable truth not better phrased by others. For in his effort to express truth, just as in his whole knowledge of life, he was limited by the national inexperience which throughout his time still protected New England. Yet whether or no, in generations to come, Emerson shall prove to have made lasting contributions to human wisdom, one thing which will remain true of him should commend him to the regard of all his countrymen who love spiritual freedom. We may not care for the things he said, we may not find sympathetic the temper in which he uttered them, but we cannot deny that when, for two hundred years, intellectual tyranny had kept the native American mind cramped within the limits of tradition, Emerson fearlessly stood forth as the chief representative of that movement which asserted the right of every individual to think, to feel, to speak, to act for himself, confident that so far as each acts in sincerity good shall ensue.

Whoever believes in individualism, then, must always respect in Emerson a living prophet; and, just as surely, those who find prospect of salvation only in obedience to authority mist lament the defection from their ranks of a spirit which, whatever its errors, even they must admit to have been brave, honest, serene, and essentially pure with all that purity which is the deepest grace of ancestral New England.

VII

THE LESSER MEN OF CONCORD

CONCORD, Massachusetts, until Emerson's time celebrated as the place where the embattled farmers made their stand against the British regulars in 1775, is now even better known as the Yankee village where for half a century Emerson lived, and gathered about him a little group of the intellectually and spiritually enlightened. Until very lately, indeed, something of this atmosphere lingered in Concord air. Among the humours of New England for some fifteen years has been a Concord School of Philosophy, where of a summer fantastic people have collected to hear and to give lectures. And everybody has been happy, and no human being is known to have been harmed. When the Concord School of Philosophy began its blameless existence, however, what makes Concord memorable was no longer there: Emerson had passed away. Whatever Concord retained, it had lost that saving grace of sound good sense which is among Emerson's most certain claims to distinction.

This trait of his appears most clearly when we compare him with one or two of his fellow-townsmen. Of the men who Aourished in Emerson's Concord, to be sure, the most eminent was Hawthorne, whose work belongs not to philosophy, but to pure letters, and whom we shall consider later. He would hardly have expected a place among the prophets of the eternities. At least two other men would have been disposed to call themselves philosophers, and, with artless lack of humour, to expect immortality in company with Emerson and Plato, and the rest. These were Amos Bronson Alcott and Henry David Thoreau.

Alcott was the elder, and older even than Emerson. Born in 1799, the son of an every-day Connecticut farmer, he began life as a peddler, in which character he sometimes strayed a good way southward. A thoroughly honest man of unusually active mind, his chief emotional trait appears to have been a self-esteem which he never found reason to abate. In the midst of peddling, then, he felt himself divinely commissioned to reform mankind. He soon decided that his reform ought to begin with education. As early as 1823, having succeeded in educating himself in a manner which he found satisfactory, he opened a school at his native town, Wolcott, Connecticut. Five years later he removed to Boston, where he announced that if people would send him their children, he would educate them as children had never been educated before.

At that time, in 1828, the spirit of reform was so fresh in the air of New England as to affect many heads which ought to have been too strong for just that intoxication. Among Mr. Alcott's pupils at different times were children and grandchildren of eminently conservative Bostonians. Dissatisfied with the mechanical lifelessness of the regular schools, they eagerly accepted Mr. Alcott's novel theories. His method of teaching, as reported by himself in a volume or two of conversations with his pupils, appears to have been Socratic. In the midst of his disciples, Mr. Alcott posed as a purified and beautified Greek philosopher, whose interlocutors were Boston children, ranging between the ages of three and ten. He would ask them questions about the soul and the eternities, and occasionally about matters of scientific and other fact. He would try to set their infant minds constructively working; and incidentally he would always be on the watch for

any accents of perfected praise which might by chance issue from the mouths of these Yankee babes and sucklings. Apart from abstract wisdom, indeed, and its incidental humour, the most obvious trait which distinguishes Mr. Alcott from Plato's Socrates was his honest disposition to learn, if so might be, from the lips which he was persuading to babble. Very nonsensical, no doubt, this must seem nowadays; but there is an aspect in which it is touchingly characteristic of our renascent New England, which hoped that freedom from shackling tradition might open an illimitably excellent future.

Mr. Alcott's pristine innocence of good sense appeared most pleasantly in his notions of discipline. He had remarked that when people misbehave, the suffering which ensues is apt to fall on others than the sinners. If I hit

If I hit you, for example, it is you who get a black eye. Now, if human nature is naturally good, men must instinctively shrink from consciously injuring others; the strongest deterrent force from misconduct, it follows, must arise from the normal philanthropy of human beings. In order to impress this wisdom on children four or five years old, Mr. Alcott hit on an ingenious device. Some children, he noticed, were disposed to be worse than others. When these bad ones were naughty, he reasoned, they should be made to feel that others suffered, and that the better the others were, the greater were their sufferings. Accordingly, when a bad child made a noise, he would regularly shake a good one in the offender's presence.

It is said, furthermore, that he did not shrink from extreme conclusions. Discerning in his relation to his pupils an analogy to that which exists between a benevolent Creator and mankind, and holding that when man misbehaves, God is troubled, he is believed on occasions of unusual gravity unhinchingly to have inflicted corporal punishment on himself, in the presence of his assembled pupils.

Extreme as this example of Transcendental doctrine applied to life may seem, it is very characteristic of Bronson Alcott, who all his life maintained the gospel of Transcendental individualism.

Before many years his school came to an end. Mr. Alcott developed into a professional philosopher, lecturing, writing, and failing to support his family in decent comfort. When the “Dial” was started, he contributed to it his “ Orphic Sayings.” The fountain of these was inexhaustible ; and even Margaret Fuller had practical sense enough to inform him with regret that she could not afford to fill the “ Dial” with matter, however valuable, from a single contributor. His reply was characteristic; he loftily regretted that the “ Dial” was no longer an organ of free speech. In 1842 he visited England, where certain people of a radical turn received him with a seriousness which he found gratifying. Returning to America, he endeavoured to establish at Harvard, Massachusetts, a community called Fruitlands, something like the contemporary Brook Farm, but free from the errors which he detected in the more famous community, founded under other auspices than his own. Before long Fruitlands naturally collapsed. For nost of his ensuing life, which lasted until 1888, he lived in Concord, supporting himself, so far as he at all contributed to his support, by writing and lecturing in a manner which satisfied his self-esteem and very slightly appealed to the public. Toward the end of his life he was the chief founder of the Concord School of Philosophy, and he had a senile relapse into something like orthodox Christianity.

There is an aspect, no doubt, in which such a life seems the acme of perverse selfishness; but this is far from the whole story. The man's weakness, as well as his strength, lay in a self-esteem so inordinate that it crowded out of his possibilities any approach either to good sense or to the saving grace of humour. On the other hand, he was honest, he was sincere, he was devoted to idealism, and he attached to his perceptions, opinions, and utterances an importance which those who found him sympathetic were occasionally inclined to share. When his religious views were affected by that touch of senile orthodoxy, sundry good people seemed disposed to think that there might be unusual rejoicing in Heaven. Most likely he thought so himself. His diary, which consisted largely of philosophical speculations, he labelled “ Scriptures” for each year. He seems to have held these utterances in as high respect as ever churchman felt for Scripture of old. He saw no reason why

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