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franchised ardour of revolutionary temper, talked rather about ✓ Nature and the Over-Soul; and instead of yielding enthusi

astic assent to the divinely implanted authority of conscience, they found that the ideas innate in the human soul and spirit gave warrant enough for unquestioning belief in the unfathomable truths which they so boldly proclaimed.

In one way or another this Transcendental movement affected almost all the ardent natures of New England from 1825 to 1840. In that year it found final expression in the “Dial,” a quarterly periodical which flourished until 1844. Its first editor was among the most characteristic figures of Transcendentalism. This was a woman, regarded in her own time as the prophetess of the new movement, and prevented by a comparatively early death from struggling through days when the movement had spent its force.

Sarah Margaret Fuller, daughter of an eccentric but very assertive citizen of Cambridge, was born in 1810. Educated by her father according to his own ideas, she was much overstimulated in youth, and grew into something which impressed people who disliked her as intellectual monstrosity. She was early a teacher and a writer. She contracted with Emer

a Platonically intimate friendship, of which the records enliven the humours of this period. And among her most characteristic proceedings was a series of conversations to which for a year or two she invited people to subscribe. The subscribers were duly admitted to her small drawing-room, where she proceeded to talk about all manner of literary and

intellectual things, until you could hardly tell whether she I were more like an unsexed version of Plato's Socrates or a

Yankee Lyceum lecturer, In 1840 she became editor of the “ Dial.” In 1842 she relinquished the editorship to Emerson, and removed to New York. Horace Greeley, whose sympathy with New England reformers was always encouraging, had invited her to become the literary critic of the New York « Tribune."


She strayed

Two years later she went abroad. Up to this time the records of her life indicate deficiency of passion. In the little time which followed, her passion so asserted itself that, had she survived, her later work might have been surprisingly different from what she actually left us. to Italy, where in the revolutionary times of 1847 she married a gentleman named Ossoli, an Italian patriot some years younger than she. The marriage was secret ; no formal record of it exists, and it became known only when her approach to confinement compelled her to admit it.

She was in Rome during the siege of 1848, and two years later started for America with her husband, virtually an exile, and her child. The ship on which they were journeying was wrecked off Fire Island; all three were lost.

An obviously extravagant legend about her indicates at once something of how Transcendentalists presented themselves to other people and perhaps a little of their real temper. As we may remember, one of the poems which Poe approvingly remarked among those of the New York Literati was written by a certain Mrs. Osgood about Fanny Ellsler. This same Fanny Ellsler danced in Boston; and there is said to be in the “Dial” a grave argument that in spite of her personal errors it was morally permissible to see and admire her performances as an artist. The story runs that, in obedience to this moral right and ästhetic duty, Emerson and Margaret Fuller went together to see the most accomplished ballet-dancer of the '40's. Neither of them had ever seen a ballet before; neither knew quite what to expect. The dance began; both sat serenely silent; at last Emerson spoke. “ Margaret,” he said, “this is poetry.” “No, Waldo,” replied Margaret, “it is not poetry, it is religion.”

This Margaret Fuller was the first editor of the “ Dial.” Its precise purpose is hard to state; it may best be grouped with that little company of evanescent periodicals, which now and then endeavour to afford everybody a full opportunity

to say anything. The deepest agreement of Transcendentalism was in the conviction that the individual has a natural right to believe for himself and freely to express his belief. In a community so dominated by tradition as New England, meanwhile, a community of which the most characteristic periodical up to this time had been the “North American Review,” freedom of speech in print, though not theoretically denied, was hardly practicable. With a mission little more limited than this ideal of freedom, the “Dial” started.

The cover of the first number was distinguished by a single advertisement, — that of Mr. Jacob Abbott's Rollo books, then publishing by the same printer. This happy accident can hardly fail to suggest the reflection that Rollo was the body of which Transcendentalism was the soul. Whoever wishes to know the external aspect of the period now in question will waste none of the moments which he may devote to Mr. Abbott's luminous pages. Nor will time be wasted which those whose curiosity is less centred on phenomena may find themselves able to give to the “ Dial” itself. For though the “Dial” was impractical, never circulated much, and within four years came to a hopeless financial end, its pages are at once more interesting and more sensible than tradition has represented them. Of the writers, to be sure, few have proved immortal. Bronson Alcott and Theodore Parker seem fading with Margaret Fuller into mere memories; and George Ripley has become

nebulous still. But Thoreau was of the company; and so was Emerson, who bids fair to survive the rest .much as Shakspere has survived the other Elizabethan dramatists.

This is perhaps what now makes the “Dial” most significant. No eminent literary figure can grow into existence without a remarkable environment; and as the pages of the “ Dial ” gradually reveal what the environment of Emerson's most active years was, it proves on the whole more vigorous than you would have been apt to expect. Its vigour, however,



appears more plainly in the earlier volumes of the “ Dial” than in the later. Up to the time when the periodical was founded, the general temper for which it stands had been gathering force. Merely as literature, then, the first two or three numbers are surprisingly good. As you turn the pages of the later numbers you are sensible of disintegration. The thought tends to grow more vague; the kinds of reform which interest people grow more various and wilder ; and, above all, the tendency, so fatal to periodical literature, of running to inordinate length, becomes more and more evident. You begin to feel as if each writer would have liked to write the whole thing himself. The “ Dial” begins with an auroral glow, which soon fades into a rather bewildering mist. From beginning to end, however, it is fresh in feeling, wide in scope, earnest in its search for truth, and less eccentric than you would have thought possible. For all its ultimate failure, it leaves a final impression not only of auroral hopefulness, but of moral sanity.

Tradition has remembered about it chiefly such oddities as the “ Orphic Sayings” of Bronson Alcott, — “awful sayings,' they have since been called, in days when the adjective “awful” had attained its cant meaning. There is room for grave doubt whether Alcott ever knew what some of them meant; certainly no one else ever knew, and for many years no one has wanted to know. Tradition has remembered, too, Emerson's tendency in the later numbers to lay before the world the inspired truths of other scriptures than the Christian, - Chinese, Indian, whatever else. At the same time tradition has forgotten the more solid and contemporary stuff that appeared there. In the second number, for example, among other things, Mr. George Ripley has much to say about that Unitarian orthodoxy against which Channing himself was protesting; and in the course of his article Ripley uses concerning his awakened New England the words “new life,” in just the sense in which we have found the word “Renaissance " so truly to express the spirit of the moment. A little later a writer believed to be Margaret Fuller expounds that Christianity is a prison; not long afterwards Theodore Parker, remembered as the most radical of the divines who still called themselves Unitarian, stoutly insists on the inexpressible merit of Christ as an example. In subsequent numbers of the first year there are articles on abolition, a movement which logically enlisted the sympathies of almost all who were affected by the Transcendental movement; and Theodore Parker, radical from beginning to end, has some thoughts on labour by no means welcome to his conservative contemporaries. In the later volumes theoretical socialism comes more and more to the front, and there is a good deal about the community at Brook Farm in which a considerable number of Transcendentalists found material expression for their enthusiasm. Along with such articles as these there is much poetry, on the whole worth reading. Little of it is excellent; the best of course is Emerson's, mostly reprinted again and again. If not great, however, the poetry of the “ Dial ” is genuine, - a sincere effort on the part of increasingly cultivated people earnestly and beautifully to phrase emotions which in their freshly enfranchised New England they truly felt.

Though the “ Dial” had little positive cohesion, its writers and all the Transcendentalists, of whom we may take them as representative, were almost at one as ardent opponents of lifeless traditions. Generally idealists, and believers in innate ideas, they were stirred to emotional fervour by their detestation of any stiffening orthodoxy, even though that orthodoxy were so far from dogmatic as Yankee Unitarianism. And naturally passing from things of the mind and the soul to things of that very palpable part of human nature, the body, they found themselves generally eager to alter the affairs of this world for the better. If any one word could certainly arouse their sympathetic enthusiasm, it was the word “reform.”

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