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The total impression left by the book is that Emerson was fascinated by the charm of English society, filled with admiration of the people, tempted to contrast his New Englanders in many respects unfavorably with Old Englanders, mainly in their material and vital stamina; but with all this not blinded for a moment to the thoroughly insular limitations of the phlegmatic islander. He alternates between a turn of genuine admiration and a smile as at a people that has not outgrown its playthings. This is in truth the natural and genuine feeling of a self-governing citizen of a commonwealth where thrones and wigs and mitres seem like so many pieces of stage property. An American need not be a philosopher to hold these things cheap. He cannot help it. Madame Tussaud’s exhibition, the Lord-Mayor’s gilt coach, and a coronation, if one happens to be in season, are all sights to be seen by an American traveller, but the reverence which is born with the British subject went up with the smoke of the gun that fired the long echoing shot at the little bridge over the sleepy river which works its way along through the wide-awake town of Concord.
In November, 1857, a new magazine was established in Boston, bearing the name of “The Atlantic Monthly.” Professor James Russell Lowell was editor-in-chief, and Messrs. Phillips and Sampson, who were the originators of the enterprise, were the publishers. Many of the old contributors to “The Dial” wrote for the new magazine, among them Emerson. He contributed twenty-eight articles in all, more than half of them verse, to different numbers, from the first to the thirty-seventh volume. Among them are several of his best known poems, such as “The Romany Girl,” “Days,” “Brahma,” “Waldeinsamkeit,” “The Titmouse,” “Boston Hymn,” “Saadi,” and “Terminus.”
At about the same time there grew up in Boston a literary association, which became at last well known as the “Saturday Club,” the members dining together on the last Saturday of every month.
The Magazine and the Club have existed and flourished to the present day. They have often been erroneously thought to have some organic connection, and the “Atlantic Club” has been spoken of as if there was or had been such an institution, but it never existed.
Emerson was a member of the Saturday Club from the first; in reality before it existed as an empirical fact, and when it was only a Platonic idea. The Club seems to have shaped itself around him as a nucleus of crystallization, two or three friends of his having first formed the habit of meeting him at dinner at “Parker’s,” the “Will’s Coffee-House” of Boston. This little group gathered others to itself and grew into a club as Rome grew into a city, almost without knowing how. During its first decade the Saturday Club brought together, as members or as visitors, many distinguished persons. At one end of the table sat Longfellow,