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'Quotation and Originality,' 'The Comic,' and on the other, ' Poetry and Imagination,'' Inspiration,' 'Greatness,' 'Immortality.' There are also essays on 'Eloquence,' 'Resources,' ' Progress of Cul'ture,' and' Persian Poetry.'
Lectures and Biographical Sketches consists of nineteen pieces, among which will be found His'toric Notes of Life and Letters in New Eng'land,' 'The Superlative,' and the brilliant sketches of Thoreau, of Ezra Ripley, and of Carlyle.
Miscellanies (not to be confounded with the volume of 1849 bearing the same title) contains a number of papers and addresses on political topics, and is indispensable to the student of Emerson's life. Here will be found his speeches on John Brown, on the Fugitive Slave Law, on Emancipation in the West Indies, on American Civilization, on Lincoln, and that inspiring lecture, 'The 'Fortune of the Republic.'
Natural History of Intellect and Other Papers is made up of lectures from the Harvard University course (1870-71) and earlier courses, and a sheaf of papers from The Dial,' mostly on 'Modern 'Literature.' He who deplores the curtness of the note on Tennyson in English Traits will be glad to seek comfort in this earlier tribute. Yet the comfort may prove to be less than he would like.
Emerson's audience is large and varied. Let us consider a few among the varieties of those who
are attracted by his genius and the charm of his personality.
To certain hardy investigators Emerson is not a mere man of letters whose thought, radiantly clothed, takes the philosophical form, he is a philosopher almost in the strict sense. They find a place for him in their classification. They know exactly what ideas, derived from what pundits, have come out with what new inflection in his writings. They have done for Emerson more than he could do, or perhaps cared to do, for himself; they have given him a system.
All this is important and valuable. No little praise is due to results worked out with so much courage and critical acumen. Whether the conclusions are quite true is another question.
Doubtless, too, there are readers who, taking their cue from the class just mentioned, find their self-love flattered as they turn the pages of the Essays and the Conduct of Life. Not only, in spite of dark sayings here and there, does 'phi'losophy' prove easier and more delightful than they were wont to think, but their estimate of their own mental powers is immensely enlarged.
There are the critics of letters whose function is interpretative, and whose influence is restraining. Solicitous to do their author justice, they are above all solicitous that injustice shall not be done him by overpraise. They bring proof that Emerson was not a precursor of Darwin, that he was infe
rior to Carlyle, that he was not a poet, that he was never a great and not always a good writer, that he was apt to impose on his reader as a new truth an old error in a novel and fascinating dress,' that he was even capable of writing words without ideas.
But the motives which draw and bind to him the great majority of Emerson's readers are connected with literature rather than philosophy or criticism. A prerogative of the man of letters is to be read both for what he says and for the way he says it. In the case of Emerson his thought may not be divided from the verbal setting. He 'can never get beyond the English language.' 'No merely French, or German, or Italian reader will 'have the least notion of the magic of his diction.''
Perhaps in the long run they get the most out of Emerson who read him not for stimulus, for his militant optimism, for the shock his finephrased audacities give their humdrum opinions, for his uplifting idealism (all of which they are sure to get and profit by), but who read him for literary pleasure, for downright good-fellowship, and for the humor that is in him. That he attracts a large audience of this (seemingly) unimportant class is enough to show how little danger there is that Emerson will be handed over to the keeping of the merely erudite and bookish part of the public.
It is well to remember that he had no intention I Richard Garnett.
of being so disposed of. When he said, 'My own 'habitual view is to the well being of students or 'scholars,' he was careful immediately to explain that he used the word 'student' in no restricted sense. The class of scholars or students . . . is 'a class that comprises in some sort all mankind, 'comprises every man in the best hours of his life.' He pictures the newsboy entering a train filled with men going to business. The morning papers are bought, and 'instantly the entire rectangular as'sembly, fresh from their breakfast, are bending ، as one man to their second breakfast.' This was Emerson's student body, this was the audience he 'aimed to reach.
Did he reach this body? It is believed that he did, if not always directly, then vicariously. He was compelled as a matter of course to speak in his own way the impossible thing for him was to do violence to his genius. Emerson invented the phrase, the man in the street.' Now it is notorious that the man in the street cares little about the 'over-soul.' The mere juxtaposition of the two expressions is comic. But Emerson did not talk of the over-soul all the time. He had a Franklin-like common-sense and a pithiness of speech which are captivating. Perhaps in magnifying his idealism we have neglected to do justice to his mundane philosophy.