Puslapio vaizdai

Mr. Emerson enumerates seven factors which he considers to be the chief constituents of our being. “Illusion, Temperament, Succession, Surface, Surprise, Reality, Subjectiveness, these are threads on the loom of time, these are the lords of life.” We shall not stop to inquire how far this classification represents the author's own moods, and how far the general consciousness. It has a hap-hazard and arbitrary look at first, but the more we study it, the more comprehensive and the more definitive we find bis analysis.

What pleases us best in this chapter, is the strong emphasis which it gives to the present momentary life. This is not an article peculiar to the Emersonian philosophy. It is one, perhaps the only one, in which all philosophies unite. The

carpe diem” of the Epicurean is, in one sense or another, the conclusion of each. Materialist and Idealist, Stoic and Epicurean, all preach to this effect. “Life is long and rich,” says Seneca, “to those who know how to use it."

“In this present that God hath made us," says Montaigne, " there is nothing unworthy our care.

By how much the possession of life is more short, I must take deeper and fuller hold of it. It is absolute and as it were a divine perfection, for a man to know how to enjoy his being as he ought.” But we have met with no statement of this doctrine so adequate to our conception of it, as Mr. Emerson's in this essay.

. “To finish the moment, to find the journey's end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom. Five minutes of to-day are worth as much to me as five minutes in the next millennium. Let us be poised and wise and our own to-day. I settle myself ever firmer in the creed that we should not postpone and refer and wish, but do broad justice where we are.”

This is the top and sum of all ethics, of all religion. This is the “everlasting life” of the Christian Scriptures ; – to possess and subject the present; to fill, with all the fulness of our being, the passing hour. It is too much the fashion with good people, and is thought to be the genuine language of piety, to flout and degrade the present life, to speak disparagingly of this world, to call it a vale of tears, a state of sin and sorrow, scarce worthy a single thought or care from a rational and immortal being. How large a portion of the hymns employed in the religious worship, even of our own Connexion, are surcharged with this sentiment! The doctrine of a life to come has been so handled as to throw, not light, but a shadow on the life that now is. We doubt, more harm than good is done by such representations. Harm is done by every thing which tends to beget indifference to the present, and to disgust us with the actual conditions of our being. On this account, the frequent use of that metaphor, so beloved by the preachers of religion, which likens life to a pilgrimage, has seemed to us of doubtful expediency. Beautiful and appropriate as it was in its original, Scriptural application, the inordinate expansion of it in the popular theology has served to throw a sad and false coloring over the being of man, and to cherish a weakly, puling sentimentality, incompatible with a healthy and vigorous life. A heavy day's journey through a tedious, barren land, with a comfortable inn' at the end of it; — is the translation of this metaphor, as it lies in the common apprehension. It is time the popular theology should reconsider this view of life. We need to set up the strong claims of the present against an hereafter, which would cheat us out of here and now. This life is no more a pilgrimage than every future state. The conditions of well-being are the same for man in all states. The way to heaven is heaven, and heaven is nothing but a way — a method of the soul. The true doctrine is, as Mr. Emerson states it,“ to find the journey's end in every step of the road.”

Of the remaining essays in this volume, the “Lecture at Amory Hall,” and the two chapters — “Character” and “ Manners, are those which have interested us most. They seem to us the most able, and consequently the most characteristic. The subject of the first is, “the New England Reformers ;" its aim, a more expansive theory of reform than those which have hitherto been put forth by that class of persons. It is the answer of a sane looker-on - a very sufficient, but a very good-natured one — to the practical ultraisms of the day. The lecturer commences with a strain of graceful raillery, commenting on those memorable Conventions which have met in this city, from time to time, during the last five years, for the discussion of social and religious institutions and modes of life. “What a fertility of projects for the salvation of the world! One apostle thought all men should go to farming; and another that no man should buy or sell, that the use of money was the cardinal evil; another that the mischief was in our diet, that we eat and drink damnation. These made unleavened bread, and were foes to the death to fermentation. It was in vain urged by the housewife that God made yeast, as well as dough, and loves fermentation just as dearly as he loves vegetation; that fermentation developes the saccharine element in the grain, and makes it more palatable and more digestible. No; they wish the pure wheat, and will die but it shall not ferment. Stop, dear Nature, these incessant advances of thine; let us scotch these ever-rolling wheels!"

He allows great significance to these movements as an indication of the growing trust in “ the private, self-supplied powers of the individual,” and the gradual casting off of material aids," which he conceives to be the affirmative principle of the new philosophy. But,

They are partial, they are not equal to the work they pretend.” • They expend all their energy on some accidental evil and lose their sanity and power of benefit.” Society gains nothing, while a man not himself renovated attempts to renovate things around him : he has become tediously good in some particular, but negligent or narrow in the rest.” “Do not be so vain of your one objection. Do you think there is only one? Alas! my good friend, there is no part of society or of life better than any other part.'

“It is handsomer to remain in the establishment better than the establishment, and conduct that in the best manner, than to make a sally against evil by some single improvement without supporting it by a total regeneration.” Why come out? The street is as false as the church, and when I get to my house, or to my manners, or to my speech, I have not got away from the lie.''

The charm of this performance, as hinted above, is its humanity, - the faith it discovers, in the preponderance of good over evil in human kind.

Nothing shall warp me from the belief, that every man is a lover of truth. There is no pure lie, no pure malignity in nature. The entertainment of the proposition of depravity is the last profligacy and profanation. Could it be received into the common belief, suicide would unpeople the planet.” “In spite of selfishness and frivolity, the general purpose in the great number of persons is fidelity. The reason why any one refuses his assent to your opinion, or his aid to your benevolent design, is in you : he refuses to accept you as a bringer of truth. You have not given him the authentic sign.”

This is explained, farther on, by the existence of something in man behind his own consciousness, which sometimes speaks another language than his lips.

“We seek to say thus and so, and over our head some spirit sits, which contradicts what we say. We would persuade our fellow to this or that; another self within our eyes dissuades him. That which we keep back this reveals. In vain we compose our faces and our words; it holds uncontrollable communication with the enemy, and he answers civilly to us but believes the spirit.”

We find we are multiplying our extracts, but the lecture is a favorite among its fellows, with us, and we give but the tithe of what we have marked in our copy. The conclusion is a lofty appeal, from the littleness of partial reformers, and the vain attempts to realize freedom by set modes of living on the principle — “magna pars libertatis est bene moratus venter," to the higher liberty, possible to man.

“ Obedience to his genius is the only liberating influence. We wish to escape from subjection, and a sense of inferiority, and we make self-denying ordinances, we drink water and eat grass, we refuse the laws, we go to jail : it is all in vain. Only by obedience to his genius, only by the freest activity in the way constitutional to him, does an angel seem to arise before a man, and lead him by the hand out of all the wards of the prison. That which befits us, embosomed in beauty and wonder as we are, is cheerfulness and courage, and the endeavor to realize our aspirations. The life of man is the true romance, which, when it is valiantly conducted, will yield the imagination a higher joy than any fiction. Shall not the heart that has received so much, trust the Power by which it lives? May it not quit other leadings and listen to the Soul that has guided it so gently and taught it so much, secure that the future will be worthy of the past ?”

The two essays on “Character” and “ Manners” are well placed side by side, for they are the complement each of the other. One treats of the essential and self-subsisting, the other of the phenomenal and extrinsic. They relate to each other as the fact to the sign, the latent soul to the atmosphere of society and fashion which it creates around it. On looking over the first of these once more, we are not sure but it claims even a higher relative position than we at first accorded to it, and should rank with the best in either of the two volumes so rich is it in accurate observations and sharp intuitions of man and life, as it now strikes us. We dare not linger over it, for want of room to set down what we are tempted to transcribe.

With regard to the others, we confess a shade of disappointment in the degree of satisfaction we have derived from them. Mr. Emerson has taught us to be exacting where his own writings are concerned. We have fallen into a habit of expecting from him the very best, as a thing of course. We hold him to the proof which he has given of his extraordinary powers. The essay entitled “ Nominalist and Realist," is full of good things; but they refuse to arrange themselves, to our apprehension, in any intelligible order, or to answer to the rubric into which they have been thrust. Either we are dull readers, or this parcel has been wrongly labelled. It is the most ill-arranged of the whole, and should be, of right, the most systematic and logical, with that title on its front. The question between the Nominalists and the Realists is one of the most comprehensive and curious in the history of philosophy. An essay from Mr. Emerson, which should front it fairly, would be a special favor. The essay on “ Politics” has nothing so good as the lines prefixed to it, which are fine. That on Nature” and that on 66 The Poet” do not fulfil the promise of their titles, and the just expectation created by such subjects in such hands.

We have been led into more detailed criticism than we intended when we took up this book. We meant to make it the occasion of some remarks on the character and value of Mr. Emerson's writings, based on a somewhat different view of his merits from that which seems to have been entertained in the notices that have met our eye. If in our estimate of him, we are found to contradict opinions formerly expressed in the pages of this journal, let it be understood that we are not careful to preserve on all subjects an identity of judgment. The only identity we mean to maintain, is that of Christian examiners, and a Christian spirit of examination.

As Christian examiners, then, we are met at the outset by a difficulty which we may not omit to notice. We

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