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the potency and the duty of individual freedom and of the development of the man. In this last line of work he achieved his greatest results.

“ Be bold, be free,” he exclaimed to all men ; but he added : “ Be true, be right, else you will be enslaved cowards." Of him his friend, fellow-poet, and biographer has aptly written :

“From his mild throng of worshippers released,

Our Concord Delphi sends its chosen priest,
Prophet or poet, mystic, sage, or seer,
By every title always welcome here.
Why that ethereal spirit's frame describe ?
You know the race-marks of the Brahmin tribe,
The spare, slight form, the sloping shoulders' droop,
The calm, scholastic air, the clerkly stoop,
The lines of thought the narrowed features wear,
Worn sharp by studious nights and frugal fare.


“List! for he speaks ! As when a king would
The jewels for his bride, he might refuse
This diamond for its flaw,-find that less bright
Than those, its fellows, and a pearl less white
Than fits her snowy neck, and yet at last,
The fairest gems are chosen, and made fast
In golden fetters; so, with light delays
He seeks the fittest word to fill his phrase ;
Nor vain nor idle his fastidious quest,
His chosen word is sure to prove the best.

Where in the realm of thought, whose air is song,
Does he, the Buddha of the West, belong?
He seems a winged Franklin, sweetly wise,
Born to unlock the secrets of the skies, –
And which the nobler calling, if 't is fair
Terrestrial with celestial to compare,-
To guide the storm-cloud's elemental flame,
Or walk the chambers whence the lightning came,

Amidst the sources of its subtile fire,
And steal their effluence for his lips and lyre ?

“If lost at times in vague aërial Alights,

None treads with firmer footstep when he lights ;
A soaring nature, ballasted with sense,
Wisdom without her wrinkles or pretence,
In every Bible he has faith to read,
And every altar helps to shape his creed."





The essay, in more than one of its directions, has been represented creditably in America. If we define the word somewhat in the sense in which Lord Bacon used it, as a brief essays. literary composition on some important theme of religion, morals, taste, intellect, or the conduct of life, the essays of Emerson, studied in the preceding chapter, fulfil the definition, and add to it an original element.

If by the term essay we are reminded of the gracious and winsome work of Addison, Steele, or Lamb, in which



gay are discussed with pathos or humor, and in a style which is finished at its best or attitudinizing at its worst, the writings of Washington Irving occur to the mind of the reader. A few attempts have even been made-by Franklin, Irving, Mitchell, Curtis -to revive and perpetuate the periodical essay. If, again, we are thinking of the critical essay of Carlyle, Matthew Arnold, or Sainte-Beuve, it is no shame to add to their company the genuinely Yankee but soundly scholarly James Russell Lowell. Of all the chief departments of English essaywriting, but one has been ineffectively represented in the United States : the biographical or historical essay of the Macaulay type, in which the author, taking a book-title for a text, proceeds to write a miniature “life and times” or “complete history.” The pages

of our reviews are full of imitations of Macaulay, short paragraphs, antitheses, and all, which sadly prove that “all that flams is not flamboyant.” Even in this division, however, is found the historical essay of Motley or Prescott; Motley's “ Peter the Great,” if it is less than Macaulay's work, is also some thing more.

Besides these writers, there is another American whose work as a poet will be considered in a future volume of this history, but who must also take his place in the present chapter. Oliver Wendell Oliver Wen. Holmes, as an essayist, does not belong dell Holmes, b. 1809.

to the school of Bacon, or Addison, or Lamb, or Carlyle, or Montaigne, or Sainte-Beuve. It would be easy, perhaps, to frame a comparison between him and Christopher North, and to say that Holmes performed for The Atlantic Monthly, in its early years, a service like that which Christopher gave to Maga long ago. In their writings, too, there is a little likeness. But to carry out this comparison, or any other, would be valueless, and might mislead. It is better to say that Holmes followed an original idea in his BreakfastTable series. When he was a young man, so he tells us in the illustrated edition of “The Last Leaf," he found that some poetasters were probably imitating his metrical forms, and determined to produce a poem in a metre wholly unfamiliar, so


any imitation could be instantly detected. No such idea, doubtless, occurred to him when, half accidentally, he hit upon the rambling, varied path which “The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table" and his successors, the “Professor" and the “Poet," followed for so many years; but the result was equally his own property. In these three books, if there be a conspicuous influence, it is that of Sterne, an influence which the careful reader can discern in the

pages of so widely different an author as Jean Paul Richter, and which was transferred thence to “Sartor Resartus.” But literary rambling is older than Holmes, Carlyle, Richter, Sterne, or Burton's “Anatomy"; discursiveness and an alert wit have marked most of the better humorists of all the world. The reader of those of Holmes' prose works which not novels, biographies, or brief medical disquisitions, does not stop to criticise or trace intellectual influences, he is content to enjoy, and is sure that he is in the presence of a native force, which he need not stop to label and assign to its proper shelf in the literary cabinet. On the whole, in this study of American literature, where detailed arrangement of our literary product becomes necessary, it seems clear that Doctor Holmes is to be ranked among the essayists, and that in their company he stands in a place of his own. When Holmes was twenty years

old * -so he tells us in the preface to the “ Au

Breakfasttocrat">he printed in The New England Magazine the first of two papers called “The


“The Auto

crat of the


* November, 1831.

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