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ners, Gifts, Nature, Politics, Nominalist and Realist, and New England Reformers. It would occupy too much space to speak of these in detail, or to quote largely from them, laden as they are with original thought, apt expression, and felicitous illustration. We believe no one has ever gone to the heart of the matter like Mr. Emerson has in his Essay on the Poet. It is a fine statement of the intellectuality of Poetry—not Hazlitt, nor Wilson, nor Macaulay, nor Talfourd, nor Lamb, —and we believe these are the most eminent among modern critics who have ever got anear the subject; they have discoursed about it, and essayed on it, and lectured of it, but not one of these ever got to the head of the matter like our author. Arriving there, he tells us of it, and we are for ever satisfied, for at last he has expounded the secret, and with him we know, but feel not. It is a difficult matter to refrain from quoting, but necessity compels us. And though we may not quote further, we have still something to say about them; we have to record our regret that these earnest, sincere, and truthful words should be so little known—so little known in his own country even—we have to record our regret that no able brother of universal truth has stepped forth to rescue his name from the aspersions cast upon his character as a teacher. Carlyle, it is true, introduced him to the English public; but it is one thing to introduce a man to a new world, and another thing to help and aid him therein. It may be that Carlyle thought an introduction was sufficient; it may even be that Emerson thought so also, and trusted to the intrinsic worth of his thought to work its way in the minds of men; but still we cannot help expressing our regret that the greatest man in the 19th century should be so little known, so barefacedly robbed, and so carped at by the Pharisees of the day, without any one stepping forth to take up his cause, and show that he is not the person they represent him.
We were going to say, to any unprejudiced mind Emerson's writings must commend themselves; we were going to say this, when the difficulty struck us of finding any unprejudiced mind. We are all prejudiced, either by birth, or habit, or education, and therefore we can only hope for two classes who will appreciate Emerson—the highly cultured and the ignorant; these last, however, must be those that think for themselves. It is the middle class, the men who have a smattering of all things and know nothing entirely, to whom Emerson appears as an Atheist, a Pantheist, and an Infidel. To the first he approves himself a man—a great and worthy teacher; and to the last he is new life, new light—a spiritual sun which shines as freely, as warmly on their hearts as the sun of nature does upon their bodies. We have felt the truth of what we say, and therefore do not feel any diffidence in telling our experience. We belong to the lowest class; we have believed with our fathers and elders, we have doubted and thought, thought earnestly and long, and found comfort, and joy, and pleasure in the instruction Emerson has afforded us. His views have been to us a new existence, or rather have shown us the true value of the existence God has already given to us. His views have set us on our feet again, and gave us hope, and heart, and courage, when all else has proved vain, authoritative, and arbitrary. Our study of Emerson has not been exclusive; we have had time to taste of most of the poetry and philosophy written in the English, language from Chaucer downwards; and we again declare that we know of no author that is so full of suggestion, speaks so directly to the heart, and is so free from the prejudices of the time, and the fashions in which we live. Bacon, the great Lord Bacon, sinks to a mere politician alongside Emerson. But we do not, nevertheless, undervalue Bacon; he was a great man in his time, and exercised a wide influence upon his age and ages after. But he was neither so deep-seeing nor so true-spoken as Emerson; for proof take any Essay these two have written on the same subject—' Love,' for instance —and compare them, and see how much one excels the other. Bacon's spirit, great as it was (and it was marvellous for his age), never mounted so high, never extended so wide, never descended so low as Emerson's. There is one reason, however, that is obvious why our author should greatly eclipse these luminaries, and that is, he has had all their light, all their genius to assist his own. We can trace in his writings many thoughts he has got from Chaucer, Sidney, Herbert, Shakspeare, Bacon, the Elder Dramatists, from the Greeks, from the Bomans, from the Hindoos, from the Scandinavians, from the Germans, and lastly from his own experience, on which last he himself sets most value, and justly, seeing that all his teachers' worth was thus obtained. Truth being universal, and not anything exclusive, to those who will receive it is as common as the air we breathe, and, like the best of all things, should be most acceptable. Emerson and his philosophy are as remarkable things in this age as are the locomotive, the electric telegraph, and the daguerreotype. They are, too, exercising as deep an influence, slowly but surely winning men to look rightly at things, and with their own eyes. He is a pioneer as braye, and as indomitable in clearing away obstructions to the growth of mind, as are those of the West in clearing the soil. Many a great work and many a noble deed will yet take its date from his words, and if they have the power to produce such fruit, and we affirm that they have to a high degree, who shall say this man is an opponent to Christianity? Who, indeed, but those who make that doctrine a business, and not a rule of life! We have one other phase in which we wish to present our author, and that is, as a poet. The selections we have made from his prose have already given evidence of his poetic faculty, not as a poet of passion, but of reason. x
Mr. Emerson possesses so many characteristics of genius that his want of universality is the more to be regretted; the leading feature of his mind is intensity; he is deficient in heart sympathy. Full to overflowing with intellectual appreciation, he is incapable of that embracing reception of impulses which gives to Byron so large a measure of influence and fame. Emerson is elevated, but not expansive; his flight is high, but not extensive. He has a magnificent vein of the purest gold, but it is not a mine. To vary our illustration somewhat, he is not a world, but a district; a lofty and commanding eminence we admit, but only a very small portion of the true Poet's universe. What, however, he has done is permanent, and America will always in after times be proud of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and consider him one of her noblest sons.
NATHANIEL PARKER WILLIS.
There is a want of naturalness in Mr. Willis's writings which will inevitably affect their continuance, and we have doubts whether any of his numerous prose works will remain permanent portions of Literature.
There are two descriptions of popularity which are essentially different; the first is founded on the human heart, the other is merely supported by the conventionalities of the present time. Popularity is, therefore, not a sure test; we should then first inquire what kind of popularity an author possesses before we decide upon his relative chance of immortality.
How many great celebrities have passed away? Who was so popular as Churchill in his own day? Yet he is now seldom read or quoted. His popularity was built on a figment of Human Nature, and not based on the breath of the Heart of Man. He was a satirist, and not a poet; the personal dies with the man and his victim, but the universal will live for ever. In like manner, to descend to the present day, we can come pretty near a prophetic glance into the future, by carefully selecting the characteristics of any author, and judging him by that unerring standard. We may give as an instance Mr. Thackeray, whose productions are now so generally read and lauded; the