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conscientious artist than Emerson, this constant obtrusion of his personality ranges him in a lower rank, just as surely as his loving sense of nature ranges him far above the half-foolish egotism of Bronson Alcott. More and more the emergence of Emerson from his surroundings grows distinct. Like truly great men, whether he was truly great or not, he possessed the gift of such common-sense as saves men from the perversities of eccentricity.

We come now to a fact on which we must lightly touch. When we glanced at the first number of the “ Dial” we remarked that the only advertisement on its cover was that of Mr. Jacob Abbott's “ Rollo Books,” which remain, with their unconscious humour and art, such admirable pictures of Yankee life about 1840. Twenty-eight years later, Louisa Alcott, the admirably devoted daughter of that minor prophet of Transcendentalism, published a book for girls, called “ Little Women," which gives almost as artless a picture of Yankee life in the generation which followed Rollo's. A comparison between these two works is interesting. Comically limited and consciously self-content as the world of Rollo is, it has a refinement which amounts almost to distinction. Whatever you think of the Holiday family and their friends, who may be taken as types of the Yankee middle class just after Gilbert Stuart painted the prosperous gentlemen of Boston, they are not vulgar. The world of “ Little Women ” is a far more sophisticated world than that of Rollo, a bigger one, a rather braver one, and just as sweet and clean. But instead of unquestioning self-respect, its personages display that rude self-assertion which has generally tainted the lower middle class of English-speaking countries.

This contrast suggests a contrast between the personal careers of Alcott and of Thoreau and those of the New England men of letters whom we have hitherto mentioned. Whatever their superficial manners, Alcott and Thoreau alike remained in temper what they were born, - farmers' sons,

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men of the people. Emerson and Channing, on the other hand, and the historians and the scholars and the public men of New England, belonged either by birth or by early acquired habit to the traditional aristocracy of their native region. A similar contrast we remarked in New York, where Irving and Cooper and Bryant were succeeded by Poe and the Knickerbocker School. As the nineteenth century proceeded, literature in America tended to fall into the hands of people not less worthy, but perceptibly less distinguished than those who had first illustrated it.

We have now followed the Renaissance of New England from its beginning in the fresh vitality of public utterances and scholarship, through the awakening optimism of the Unitarians, to the disintegrant vagaries of the Transcendentalists. We have seen how, as this impulse proceeded to affect the less distinguished social classes, it tended to assume forms which might reasonably alarm people of sagely conservative habit. Reform in some respects is essentially destructive; and the enthusiasm of Yankee reformers early showed symptoms of concentration in a shape which ultimately became very destructive indeed. This, to which we must now turn, and which enlisted at least the sympathies of almost every Transcendentalist, — which was warmly advocated by Channing himself, which stirred Emerson to fervid utterances concerning actual facts, and which inspired some of the latest and most ardent writings of Thoreau, — was the philanthropic movement for the abolition of negro slavery, an institution which still persisted throughout our Southern States.




ENTHUSIASM for reform was obviously involved in the conception of human nature which underlay the world-wide revolutionary movement whose New England manifestation took the forms of Unitarianism and Transcendentalism. If human nature is essentially good, if evil is merely the consequence of what modern evolutionists might call artificial environment, it follows that relaxation of environment, releasing men from temporary bondage, must change things for the better. The heyday of Transcendentalism, then, had a humourous superficial aspect, which was admirably described in the opening passage of Lowell's essay on Thoreau, published in 1865:


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“What contemporary, if he was in the fighting period of his life, (since Nature sets limits about her conscription for spiritual fields, as the State does in physical warfare,) will ever forget what was somewhat vaguely called the “Transcendental Movement' of thirty years ago? Apparently set astir by Carlyle's essays on the Signs of the Times,' and on · History,' the final and more immediate impulse seemed to be given by Sartor Resartus. At least a republication in Boston of that wonderful Abraham à Sancta Clara sermon on Falstaff's text of the miserable forked radish gave the signal for a sudden mental and moral mutiny. Ecce nunc tempus acceptabile ! was shouted on all hands with every variety of emphasis, and by voices of every conceivable pitch, representing the three sexes of men, women and Lady Mary Wortley Montagues. The nameless eagle of the tree Ygdrasil was about to sit at last, and wild-eyed enthusiasts rushed from all sides, each eager to thrust under the mystic bird that chalk egg from which the new and fairer Creation was to be hatched in due time. Redeunt Saturnia regna,

so much was certain, though in what shape, or by what methods, was still a matter of debate. Every possible form of intellectual and physical dyspepsia brought forth its gospel. Bran had its prophets, and the presartorial simplicity of Adam its martyrs,

tailored impromptu from the tar-pot by incensed neighbours, and sent forth to illustrate the “feathered Mercury,' as defined by Webster and Worcester. Plainness of speech was carried to a pitch that would have taken away the breath of George Fox; and even swearing had its evangelists, who answered a simple inquiry after their health with an elaborate ingenuity of imprecatio'ı that might have been honourably mentioned by Marlborough in general orders. Everybody had a mission (with a capital M) to attend to everybody else's business. No brain but had its private maggot, which must have found pitiably short commons sometimes. Not a few impecunious zealots abjured the use of money (unless earned by other people), professing to live on the internal revenues of the spirit. Some had an assurance of instant millennium so soon as hooks and eyes should be substituted for buttons. Communities were established where everything was to be common but common sense. Men renounced their old Gods, and hesitated only whether to bestow their furloughed allegiance on Thor or Budh. Con. ventions were held for every hitherto inconceivable purpose. The belated gift of tongues, as among the Fifth Monarchy men, spread like a contagion, rendering its victims incomprehensible to all Christian men ; whether equally so to the most distant possible heathen or not was unexperimented, though many would have subscribed liberally that a fair trial might be made. It was the pentecost of Shinar. The day of utterances reproduced the day of rebuses and anagrams, and there was nothing so simple that uncial letters and the style of Diphilus the Labyrinth could not turn it into a riddle. Many foreign revolutionists out of work added to the general misunderstanding their contribution of broken English in every most ingenious form of fracture. All stood ready at a moment's notice to reform everything but themselves. The general motto was :-

• And we 'll talk with them, too, And take upon 's the mystery of things As if we were God's spies.'”

So long as reform remains in this stage, it can hardly impress people of common-sense as worse than ridiculous. When reform becomes militant, however, trouble heaves in sight; and the militant shape which New England reform took in the '40's clearly involved not only a social revolution, but an unprecedented attack on that general right of property which the Common Law had always defended.

Negro slavery, at one time common to all the Englishspeaking colonies, had died out in the Northern States. During the first quarter of the nineteenth century, meanwhile, the condition of industry in the South had tended to stimulate the institution in that region until it assumed unforeseen social and economic importance. Throughout colonial history there had been considerable theoretical objection to it, a line of American thought which may be adequately traced by consulting the index of Stedman and Hutchinson's “Library of American Literature.” Samuel Sewall opposcd slavery ; so from the beginning did the Quakers; and even in the South itself there were plenty of people who saw its evils and hoped for its disappearance; but no thoroughly organised movement against it took place until the air of New England freshened with the spirit of its Renaissance.

Channing, who passed the years from 1798 to 1800 in Richmond, wrote from thence a letter which strikingly expresses the feeling excited by slavery in earnest Unitarians :

“ There is one object here which always depresses me. It is slavery. This alone would prevent me from ever settling in Virginia.

Language cannot express my detestation of it. Master and slave! Nature never made such a distinction, or established such a relation. Man, when forced to substitute the will of another for his own, ceases to be a moral agent; his title to the name of man is extinguished, he becomes a mere machine in the hands of his oppressor. No empire is so valuable as the empire of one's self. No right is so inseparable from humanity, and so necessary to the improvement of our species, as the right of exerting the powers which nature has given us in the pursuit of any and of every good which we can obtain without doing injury to others. Should you desire it, I will give you some idea of the situation and character of the negroes in Virginia. It is a subject so degrading to humanity that I cannot dwell on it with pleasure. I should be obliged to show you every vice, heightened by every meanness and added to every misery. The influence of slavery on the whites is almost as fatal as on the blacks themselves.

To Channing, the conclusion here stated was unavoidable. If human beings are essentially good, they have a natural right to free development. No form of environment could more impede such development than lifelong slavery. When any

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