« ForrigeFortsæt »
smallest living acorn is fit to be the parent of oak trees without end, -could clothe all New England with oak trees by and by. You ask it first of all, Art thou a living acorn? Certain, now, that thou art not a dead mushroom as most are?" "Closing these questionable parables and insinuations, let me in plain English recommend this little book as the book of an original viridical man, worthy the acquaintance of those who delight in such; and so, Welcome to it, whom it may concern!"
This is high praise from a high quarter; but praise, we suspect, which has been considerably influenced by Emerson's mannerism of thought and diction, partaking as it does of Carlyle's own; but by no means so independent, so original, so suggestive, so full of lofty or of deep and far-reaching thought, as are the "utterances" of Thomas. We much oftener find in Emerson's quaint and strange modes of speech, in his queer phrases, and aphoristic enigmas, old and common-place ideas, feebly or only half-conceived; so that the Prefacer appears to us to hit the mark pretty closely, when he describes the "notions and half-notions of a metaphysic, theosophic, theologic kind," which occur in these Essays as resembling" flickering bright bodiless northern streamers."
Mr. C. talks of his protégé as being a self-dependent man, and not one of your" thousand thousand ventriloquists, mimetic echoes, hysteric shrieks, hollow laughters, and mere inarticulate mechanical babblements, the soul-confusing din of which already fills all places.' Now, it appears to us that "mimetic echoes" will very frequently be detected in these Essays; and as to "hysteric shrieks," if not more abundant than in the oracular enunciations of the god-father, they are at least more harsh and less powerful-struggling halfnotes-thoughts caught by the heels, but never fully graspedoften abstractions, loosely connected, and thrown out as if by random around some true principle indistinctly comprehended. One does not readily perceive evidences of plan, nor of skill in subordinating ideas according to their non-importance, nor of rejecting what helps not to develop the contemplated lesson or doctrine. In short he seems to labour under the vanity of affectation, so far as to spoil many good thoughts, rather than that he should utter them as other men of sound minds would do; and also to be so far an imitator as to have preferred Carlyle as a model to any other single writer. And yet Mr. Emerson is no servile slave, no ordinary thinker, no every day sort of teacher. What we learn of his history from the editor might convince any one of his singularity and independence. It appears that he has relinquished the paths of business; and, even when having before him the omens of success, has withdrawn into retired walks, to "sit down to spend his life not in Mammon worship, or the hunt for reputation, influence, place, or any outward advantage whatsoever." But besides this
evidence of resolution, single-mindedness, and self-dependence, his very rejection of the conventionalities of style, and a determination to utter what he believes to be truth, testify that he is a man of mark, and one that will leave a stamp upon the minds of others. He often handles great truths in a bold suggestive manner, almost worthy of his model; and his earnestness is healthy and strong.
The Essays are twelve in number; but it would yield little satisfaction were we to give the titles of each, since there seldom follows anything according to what will be expected, or to the views which most people entertain. A variety of specimens will best indicate and exhibit the Essayist's sort of mysticism, dogmatic axioms, vague metaphysics, as well as sterling and original thoughts, admirably though quaintly framed. Take a passage from the Essay on "Compensation;" a hackneyed clerical doctrine is the theme:
"I was lately confirmed in these desires by hearing a sermon at church. The preacher, a man esteemed for his orthodoxy, unfolded in the ordinary manner the doctrine of the last judgment. He assumed that judgment is not executed in this world; that the wicked are successful; that the good are miserable; and then urged from reason and from Scripture a compensation to be made to both parties in the next life. No offence appeared to be taken by the congregation at this doctrine. As far as I could observe, when the meeting broke up, they separated without remark on the
"Yet what was the import of this teaching? what did the preacher mean by saying, that the good are miserable in the present life? Was it that houses and lands, offices, wine, horses, dress, luxury, are had by unprincipled men, whilst the saints are poor and despised; and that a compensation is to be made to these last hereafter, by giving them the like gratifications another day-bank-stock and doubloons, venison and champagne ? This must be the compensation intended; for what else? Is it that they are to have leave to pray and praise, to love and serve men? Why, that they can do now. The legitimate inference the disciple would draw was, 'We are to have such a good time as the sinners have now;' or, to push it to its extreme import, You sin now; we shall sin by and by: we would sin now if we could; not being succe ccessful, we expect our revenge to-morrow.""
Many excellent "utterances" may be found in the Essay on "Self-Reliance," and not a few paradoxes; at least the profusion of words at times is bewildering. But our readers look for examples from a writer who will not permit them to yawn over his pages. Hear him on conforming to dead usages, and also relative to the magnanimity required from the non-conformist:
"The objection to conforming to usages that have become dead to you is, that it scatters your force; it loses your time, and blurs the impression of your character. If you maintain a dead church, contribute to a dead
bible society, vote with a great party either for the government or against it, spread your table like base housekeepers; under all these screens, I have difficulty to detect the precise men you are. And, of course, so much force is withdrawn from your proper life. But do your thing, and I shall know you. Do your work, and you shall reinforce yourself. A man must consider what a blind-man's-buff is this game of conformity. If I know your sect, I anticipate your argument. I hear a preacher announce for his text and topic the expediency of one of the institutions of his church. Do I not know beforehand that not possibly can he say a new and spontaneous word? do I not know that with all this ostentation of examining the grounds of the institution, he will do no such thing? do I not know that he is pledged to himself not to look but at one side; the permitted side, not as a man, but as a parish minister? He is a retained attorney, and these airs of the bench are the emptiest affectation. Well, most men have bound their eyes with one or another handkerchief, and attached themselves to some one of these communities of opinion. This conformity makes them not false in a few particulars, authors of a few lies, but false in all particulars. Their every truth is not quite true.
"For nonconformity the world whips you with its displeasure. And therefore a man must know how to estimate a sour face. The bystanders look askance on him in the public street or in the friend's parlour. If this aversation had its origin in contempt and resistance like his own, he might well go home with a sad countenance; but the sour faces of the multitude, like their sweet faces, have no deep cause, disguise no god, but are put on and off as the wind blows and a newspaper directs. Yet is the discontent of the multitude more formidable than that of the senate and the college. It is easy enough for a firm man who knows the world to brook the rage of the cultivated classes. Their rage is decorous and prudent; for they are timid, as being very vulnerable themselves. But when to their feminine rage the indignation of the people is added, when the ignorant and the poor are aroused, when the unintelligent brute force that lies at the bottom of society is made to growl and mow, it needs the habit of magnanimity and religion to treat it godlike as a trifle of no concern
Here is a characteristic preachment.
"Experienced men of the world know very well that it is always best to pay scot and lot as they go along, and that a man often pays dear for a small frugality. The borrower runs in his own debt. Has a man gained anything who has received a hundred favours and rendered none? Has he gained by borrowing, through indolence or cunning, his neighbour's wares, or horses, or money? There arises on the deed the instant acknowledgment of benefit on the one part, and of debt on the other; that is, of superiority and inferiority. The transaction remains in the memory of himself and his neighbour; and every new transaction alters, according to its nature, their relation to each other. He may soon come to see that he had better have broken his own bones than to have ridden in his neigh
VOL. III. (1841.) No. II.
bour's coach, and that 'the highest price he can pay for a thing is to ask for it.' A wise man will extend this lesson to all parts of life, and know that it is always the part of prudence to face every claimant, and pay every 'just demand on your time, your talents, or your heart. Always pay; for, first or last, you must pay your entire debt. Persons and events may stand for a time between you and justice, but it is only a postponement. You must pay at last your own debt. If you are wise, you will dread a prosperity which only loads you with more. Benefit is the end of nature. But for every benefit which you receive, a tax is levied. He is great who confers the most benefits. He is base-and that is the one base thing in the universe, to receive favours, and render none. In the order of nature we cannot render benefits to those from whom we receive them, or only seldom. But the benefit we receive must be rendered again, line for line, deed for deed, cent for cent, to somebody. Beware of too much good staying in your hand. It will fast corrupt and worm worms. Pay it away quickly in some sort."
We said that Mr. Haughton and the Massachusetts philosopher might fitly be classed together in a cabinet of unique specimens. There is also at times a considerable degree of harmony in their sentiments. An example is before us:
"When the act of reflection takes place in the mind, when we look at ourselves in the light of thought, we discover that our life is embosomed in beauty. Behind us, as we go, all things assume pleasing forms, as clouds do far off. Not only things familiar and stale, but even the tragic and terrible are comely, as they take their place in the pictures of memory. The river-bank, the weed at the water-side, the old houses, the foolish person, however neglected in the passing, have a grace in the past. Even the corpse that has lain in the chambers has added a solemn ornament to the house. The soul will not know either deformity or pain."
The following is a more striking instance :
"Every soul is a celestial Venus to every other soul! The heart has its sabbaths and jubilees, in which the world appears as a hymenial feast, and all natural sounds and the circle of the seasons are erotic odes and dances. Love is omnipresent in nature as motive and reward. Love is our highest word, and the synonym of God. Every promise of the soul has innumerable fulfilments; each of its joys ripens into a new want. Nature, uncontainable, flowing, forelooking, in the first sentiment of kindness anticipates already a benevolence which shall lose all particular regards in its general light. The introduction to this felicity is in a private and tender relation of one to one, which is the enchantment of human life; which, like a certain divine rage and enthusiasm, seizes on man at one period, and works a revolution in his mind and body; unites him to his race, pledges him to the domestic and civic relations, carries him with new sympathy into nature, enhances the power of the senses, opens the imagination, adds to his character heroic and sacred attributes, establishes marriage, and gives permanence to human society."
Let us wind up with an illustration of one of Mr. Emerson's dogmas, that "all mankind love a lover:"
"The earliest demonstrations of complacency and kindness are nature's most winning pictures. It is the dawn of civility and grace in the coarse and rustic. The rude village boy teazes the girls about the school-house door;-but to-day he comes running into the entry, and meets one fair child arranging her satchel; he holds her books to help her, and instantly it seems to him as if she removed herself from him infinitely, and was a sacred precinct. Among the throng of girls he runs rudely enough, but one alone distances him and these two little neighbours, that were so close just now, have learned to respect each other's personality. Or who can avert his eyes from the engaging, half-artful, half-artless ways of school-girls who go into the country shops to buy a skein of silk or a sheet of paper, and talk half an hour about nothing with the broad-faced, goodnatured shop-boy? In the village they are on a perfect equality, which love delights in, and without any coquetry the happy, affectionate nature of woman flows out in this pretty gossip. The girls may have little beauty, yet plainly do they establish between them and the good boy the most agreeable, confiding relations, what with their fun and their earnest, about Edgar, and Jonas, and Almira, and who was invited to the party, and who danced at the dancing school, and when the singing school would begin, and other nothings concerning which parties cooed."
ART. XIV. The Science of Gunnery. By WIlliam Greener.
MR. GREENER, like Mr. Wilkinson, the author of "Engines of War," has a practical knowledge of gunnery; but is not so accomplished or temperate a writer as his brother manufacturer. Still our Newcastle man's volume is filled with facts, with details, with suggestions, and speculations, that will interest the general reader, and be found serviceable to the trade in which, we understand, he figures to his honour. Science as well as historical notices, and the particulars of mechanical art, have enriched the work.
Mr. Greener goes far back in his notices of arms, and traces the subject by rapid strides till he comes to the first use of cannon in this country, which appears to have been before the middle of the 14th century. The invention of "hand guns," and the different improvements made upon the primitive tube and straight stock are next described, until we are brought to the highest stage yet attained in the trade, whether that be the manufacture of the best fowling-piece which a London tradesman can bring out, or of the Brummagem worthless imitations. An extract will here give emphasis to our latter allusion.
"During the existence of the slave-trade we made many thousands per