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Edert T 823,365.142
( of the Publishers,
The qualities aimed at in the Gateway Series of English Texts are thoroughness and simplicity. But in editing these Essays of Emerson, I confess that in following the first aim it has been difficult, at times, to keep within sight of the second.
Emerson handles deep subjects. Even when he is talking on some apparently familiar theme, he runs off easily into a discussion of the Over-Soul or the Law of Polarity. This makes it hard to present the Essays to young readers without going into philosophical questions. I have tried to do this no oftener than necessary, and in a way that would make the subject a little clearer, instead of more obscure.
Moreover, for a preacher of self-reliance and detachment from the past, Emerson is amazingly fond of peppering his pages with quotations, allusions, and references to ancient authorities. This opens the door to a terrible number of explanatory notes, - more, I think, than could properly be made on any other author included in the list of college entrance requirements in English. I have purposely failed to use all these opportunities for making notes. But if any teacher finds that I have still made too many, it will be easy to skip the superfluous ones, and direct the scholar's attention to the substance and main plan of the Essays.
The introduction aims to give, in brief, the facts of Emerson's inheritance and life which made him always a preacher, a moralist, a modern Puritan on the lecture platform, as well as those qualities of his personal genius which made the spirit of his work so poetic, so vivid, so full of sudden flashing lights. The first of the seven pieces of his prose work here presented is called “An Oration,” but it is just as much an Essay as any of the others, which also were written for public speech, and spoken before they were printed. “Friendship,"
Gifts,” and “Prudence” require fewer notes than the other Essays, because they are shorter, simpler, and less loaded with remote allusions. I find them none the worse on this account, for Emerson is at his best when he speaks for himself and draws his wisdom from common experience.
The Essays are used by permission of, and by special arrangement with, Messrs. Houghton, Mifflin & Company, the authorized publishers of Emerson's works. The text is that of the Riverside Edition.
The outline, or analysis, which has been made of each of the Essays, is intended to present clearly to the scholar the central theme of the Essay and the way
in which it is built up. This may help to give a more definite idea of the meaning and value of Emerson's teaching in regard to life and conduct, which was his chief concern.
HENRY VAN DYKE. AVALON, August 3, 1906.