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ism has scarcely any hold upon it. Not one American book of the first class has ever been written by an atheist or denier of immortality. The very poet accepted as the incarnation of extreme

Americanism"-Walt Whitman-accepts both theism and the doctrine of the future life. The detailmaps of heaven and hell, once owned by the popes and the Mathers, have become antiquated, and the pass-words are half-forgotten, but American thought remains loyal to “ God, freedom, and immortality.”



In the strictest estimate of the amount and value of the intellectual product of America, the work of Ralph Waldo Ralph Waldo Emerson is entitled to thor1803–1882. ough and respectful consideration. Who was the man, and what did he do? What was the purpose, and what the achievement, of the spoken and written words by which his message was given to the world?

Emerson was a descendant of a long line of New England ministers, representing the stern democratic aristocracy of Massachusetts—an aristocracy dependent only upon brain and achievement, and upon the respect bestowed upon the minister in the Congregational churches. “Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate” was the command heeded by the English Puritans and Independents in the seventeenth century, as against the supporters of prelacy and kingcraft.

The same non-conformist pulse beat in the veins of Emerson, under new skies and in new days. The founders of New England were Protestants and Independents; they protested against assumptions unwarranted, as they believed, by Scrip


ture, and they were independent of those who assumed control their theocratic commonwealth. Emerson, in the nineteenth century, protested against conventionality and sham in the churches, in society, and in the State; and he stood independent of public sentiment and the domination of the majority. He was a reformer among reformers; he spoke his word and wrote his line, content to bide his time and let the utterance find its hearer or reader. Condemned and hated by many, he lived in the serenest optimism. His method was that of the seer, rather than that of the inductive philosopher; he outspoke, and left the result with others. Measured by the standards of “orthodoxy," whether Roman, Episcopal, Presbyterian, or old-time Congregational, he was a heretic and a destroyer. But in the great age-conflict between materialism and idealism, he was an idealist through and through. He fought no battles for prelacy, for the Westminster Confession, or the Trinity; but as against atheism, pessimism, and utilitarianism, he was an ally of Christianity. Inwardly, what was his philosophy? Hear it concisely stated in his own words to his friend Carlyle : “My whole philosophy, which is philosophy. very real, teaches acquiescence and optimism.” What were his aim and his success in outward teaching ? To impart and to make sacred the idea of intellectual independence.

The downfall of the classical school in English poetry, which so deeply influenced the literature of the world, was but a single element in a great

Emerson's century

change which affected many nations. From Pope to Wordsworth, from Thomson to Shelley, the English mind suffered many and significant modifications. Realism, naturalism, simplicity, and romanticism succeeded artificiality, preciseness, and classicism in spirit and form. The most powerful Nineteenth- influence, however, that made English lit

erature between 1800 and 1825 more comchanges in literature manding than English literature between 1750 and 1775, was the new interest in Man in the Universe, his origin, character, possibilities, and ultimate destiny. This interest was felt in many lands besides the British isles. In Germany the force exerted by Goethe powerfully affected all his contemporaries, and more than any thing else gave

German literature that high position which it had shamefully lacked for so long. The mind of new Germany was studied in England by Coleridge and some of the less insular scholars; and Goethe, in particular, impressed upon Carlyle those characteristics which had moulded so many of Goethe's own countrymen. Richter's influence upon Carlyle was also marked; and Sterne had in some ways influenced Richter. Of Carlyle's originality and native force there can be no question, but he absorbed and utilized German thought in such ways as to make it useful to his English and Scotch fellows—to many of whom it came as a revelation.

Between Carlyle and Emerson there were, as we shall see, many and grave differences; it is as idle to call Emerson a “follower” of Carlyle as to call Carlyle a disciple of Emerson. But the work done

and Emerson.

by Emerson in America was decidedly Carlyle similar to that of Carlyle in Edinburgh, Oxford, and London. Emancipation and freedom were less needed in America than in Germany, Scotland, or England. Political freedom had been attained here ; social and intellectual bans were less forbidding on the western shore of the Atlantic than on the eastern. As for a “classical " school in literature, we had scarcely any literature at all when Emerson began to write, certainly none from whose shackles we needed to be set free. Nevertheless, the freer thought of the nineteenth century had a mission for the western republic itself. American society was English society, existing under different conditions, but not different in its essential nature. Our colleges were founded upon the Oxford plan, and our prevalent religious attitude was one which would now be called thoroughly conservative. Notwithstanding the intellectual freedom which had so powerfully worked on political lines, the breath of modern thought had not thoroughly been felt. The isolation of the United States postponed the effect of that newer renaissance which, at the beginning of the century, influenced England so profoundly. America had stimulated Europe at the close of the eighteenth century, first politically, then otherwise ; now she was beginning to feel the effects of European currents. German transcendentalism or spiritualism in philosophy first touched the American mind through the writings of Coleridge, who had several earnest students on the western side of the Atlan

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