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for a hundred,- sometimes more ; a pair of shoes cost thirty or forty pesos de oro, and a good horse could not be had for less than twenty-five hundred. Some brought a still higher price. Every article rose in value, as gold and silver, the representatives of all, declined. Gold and silver, in short, seemed to be the only things in Cuzco that were not wealth. Yet there were some few wise enough to return contented with their present gains to their native country. Here their riches brought them consideration and competence, and, while they excited the envy of their countrymen, stimulated them to seek their own fortunes in the like path of adventure.
[From History of the Conquest of Peru, 1847, book iii, chapter 8.)
RALPH WALDO EMERSON
[Ralph Waldo Emerson was born in Boston, May 25, 1803. His father, who was pastor of the First Church there, died in 1811, leaving the family in reduced circumstances. The boy's education, however, was not neglected; not only was he sent to the Latin School and afterwards to Harvard College, but he breathed in the society of his mother and her friends an atmosphere of high moral and religious tension. While at college he taught school during the holidays, and after his graduation he employed a part of his time in teaching, while studying for the ministry. In 1829 he was called to the Second Church in Boston, a charge which he resigned after a few years on the ground of scruples that had arisen in his mind about the practice of voluntary prayer and of the communion. His health was not good, and a voyage to the Mediterranean was recommended. This journey, like the others he afterwards undertook to Europe, made less impression upon his imagination or opinions than might have been expected. His chief interest in travelling was to meet a few distinguished men, whose works he already valued — Coleridge, Wordsworth, Landor, De Quincey, and Carlyle, with the last of whom he formed a strong literary friendship. On his return home he began to deliver lectures, at first on subjects connected with natural science; and lecturing continued to be his chief means of earning money for the rest of his life. In 1834 he went to live in Concord, Mass., which ever after remained his home. There he became the centre of a literary circle which included Thoreau, Bronson Alcott, and Margaret Fuller, to whose organ, The Dial, he occasionally contributed. He died April 27, 1882, a partial loss of memory having been a pathetic incident of his declining years.
Emerson's principal publications were as follows: Nature, 1836. The American Scholar, 1837. Essays, first series, 1841; second series, 1844. Representative Men, 1850. English Traits, 1856. Conduct of Life, 1860. Society and Solitude, 1870. Letters and Social Aims, 1875. His correspondence with Carlyle was afterwards edited by C. E. Norton. The best life of Emerson is that by J. E. Cabot.]
THOSE who knew Emerson, or who stood so near to his time and to his circle that they caught some echo of his personal influence, did not judge of him merely as a poet and philosopher, nor identify his efficacy with that of his writings. His friends and neighbors, the congregations he preached to in his younger days, the
audiences that afterwards listened to his lectures, all agreed in a veneration for his person that had nothing to do with their understanding or acceptance of his opinions. They flocked to him and listened to his word, not so much for the sake of its absolute meaning as for the atmosphere of candor, purity, and serenity that hung about it, as about a sort of sacred music. They felt themselves in the presence of a rare and beautiful spirit, who was in communication with a higher world. More than the truth his teaching might express, they valued the sense it gave them of a truth that was inexpressible. They became aware, if we may say so, of the ultra-violet rays of his spectrum, of the inaudible highest notes of his gamut, too pure and thin for common ears.
Yet the personal impression Emerson may have produced is but a small part of his claim to general recognition. This must ultimately rest on his published works, on his collected essays and poems. His method of composition was to gather miscellaneous thoughts together in note-books and journals, and then, as occasion offered, to cull those that bore on the same subject or could serve to illustrate the same general train of thought, and to piece a lecture out of them. This method has the important advantage of packing the page with thought and observation, so that it deserves to be reread and pondered ; but it is incompatible with continuity of thought or unity and permanence of impression. A style of point and counterpoint, where the emphasis attained by condensation and epigram is not reserved for the leading ideas, but gives an artificial vividness to every part, must tend to make the whole indistinct and inconclusive. The fact that the essays were lectures led to another characteristic which is now to be regretted. They are peppered by local allusions and illustrations drawn from the literary or scientific novelties of the hour. These devices may
have served to keep an audience awake, but they were always unworthy of the subject, and they now distract the reader, who loses the perennial interest of the thought in the quaintness or obscurity of the expression. Yet, in spite of faults, Emerson's style is well fitted to his purpose and genius: it has precision, picturesqueness, often a great poetic beauty and charm, with the eloquence that comes of ingenuous conviction and of dwelling habitually among high things. The very element of oddity, the arbitrary choice of quota
tions and illustrations, is not without its charm, suggesting, as it does, the author's provincial solitude and personal savor. Taken separately, and with the sympathetic coöperation of the reader's fancy, his pages are inspiring and eloquent in a high degree, the best paragraphs being sublime without obscurity, and convincing without argumentation.
The themes treated seem at first sight various — biography, literary criticism, natural science, morals, and metaphysics. But the initiated reader will find that the same topics and turns of thought recur under every title: we may expect under “ Friendship” as much moral cosmology as under “Fate," and under "Science" as many oriental anecdotes as under “Worship.” The real subject is everywhere the same. As a preacher might under every text enforce the same lessons of the gospel, so Emerson traces in every sphere the same spiritual laws of experience - compensation, continuity, the self-expression of the soul in the forms of nature and of society, until she finally recognizes herself in her own work, and sees its beneficence and beauty. The power of thought, or rather, perhaps, of imagination, is his single theme : its power first to make the world, then to understand it, and finally to rise above it. All nature is an embodiment of our native fancy, and all history a drama, in which the innate possibilities of our spirit are enacted and realized. While the conflict of life and the shocks of experience seem to bring us face to face with an alien and overwhelming power, reflection can humanize and rationalize the power by discovering its laws; and with this recognition of the rationality of all things comes the sense of their beauty and order. The very destruction which nature seems to prepare for our special hopes is thus seen to be the victory of our deeper and impersonal interests. To awaken in us this spiritual insight, an elevation of mind which is an act at once of comprehension and of worship, to substitute it for lower passions and more servile forms of intelligence — that is Emerson's constant effort. All his resources of illustration, of observation, rhetoric, and paradox, are used to deepen and clarify this sort of wisdom.
Such thought is essentially the same that is found in the German romantic or idealistic philosophers, with whom Emerson's affinity is remarkable, all the more as he seems to have borrowed little or
nothing from their works. The resemblance may be accounted for, perhaps, by the similar conditions that existed in the religious thought of that time in Germany and in New England. In both countries the abandonment, on the part of the new school of philosophy, of all allegiance to the traditional theology, coincided with a vague enthusiasm for science and with a quickening of national and humanitarian hopes. The critics of human nature, during the eighteenth century, had shown how much men's ideas of things depended on their natural predispositions, on the character of their senses, and the habits of their intelligence. Seizing upon this thought, and exaggerating it, the romantic philosophers attributed to the spirit of man that omnipotence which had belonged to God, and felt that in this way they were reasserting the supremacy of mind over matter and establishing it upon a safe and rational basis. The Germans were great system-makers, and Emerson cannot rival them in the sustained effort of thought by which they sought to reinterpret every sphere of being according to their chosen principles. On the other hand, those who are distrustful of a too systematic and complete philosophy, especially of this transcendental sort, will regard it as a fortunate incapacity in Emerson that he was never able to trace out and defend the universal implications of any of his ideas, and never wrote, for instance, the book he had once planned on the law of compensation. A happy instinct made him always prefer a fresh statement on a fresh subject, and deterred him from repeating or defending his trains of thought. A suggestion once given, the spirit once aroused to speculation, a glimpse once gained of some ideal harmony, he preferred to descend again to common sense and to touch the earth for a moment before another flight. The faculty of idealization was in itself what he valued. Philosophy for him was rather a moral energy flowering into sprightliness of thought than a body of serious and defensible doctrines. And in practising transcendental speculation only in this poetic and sporadic fashion, Emerson was perhaps retaining its truest value and avoiding its greatest danger. He secured the freedom and fertility of his intelligence, and did not allow one conception of law or one hint of harmony to sterilize the mind and prevent the subsequent birth of other ideas, no less just and inspiring than itself.
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