“In the year 1775 we had many enemies and many friends in England, but our one benefactor was King George the Third. The time had arrived for the political severance of America, that it might play its part in the history of this globe, and the inscrutable divine Providence gave an insane king to England. In the resistance of the Colonies, he alone was immovable on the question of force. England was so dear to us that the Colonies could only be absolutely disunited by violence from England, and only one man could compel the resort to violence. Parliament wavered, Lord North wavered, all the ministers wavered, but the king had the insanity of one idea; he was immovable, he insisted on the impossible, so the army was sent, America was instantly united, and the Nation born.”
There is certainly no mark of mental failure in this paragraph, written at a period when he had long ceased almost entirely from his literary labors.
Emerson’s collected “Poems” constitute the ninth volume of the recent collected edition of his works. They will be considered in a following chapter.
1878-1882. AET. 75-79.
Last Literary Labors.—Addresses and Essays.—“Lectures and Biographical Sketches.”—“Miscellanies.”
The decline of Emerson’s working faculties went on gently and gradually, but he was not condemned to entire inactivity. His faithful daughter, Ellen, followed him with assiduous, quiet, ever watchful care, aiding his failing memory, bringing order into the chaos of his manuscript, an echo before the voice whose words it was to shape for him when his mind faltered and needed a momentary impulse.
With her helpful presence and support he ventured from time to time to read a paper before a select audience. Thus, March 30, 1878, he delivered a Lecture in the Old South Church,—“Fortune of the Republic.” On the 5th of May, 1879, he read a Lecture in the Chapel of Divinity College, Harvard University,—“The Preacher.” In 1881 he read a paper on Carlyle before the Massachusetts Historical Society.—He also published a paper in the “North American Review,” in 1878,—“The Sovereignty of Ethics,” and one on “Superlatives,” in “The Century” for February, 1882.
But in these years he was writing little or nothing. All these papers were taken from among his manuscripts of different dates. The same thing is true of the volumes published since his death; they were only compilations from his stores of unpublished matter, and their arrangement was the work of Mr. Emerson’s friend and literary executor, Mr. Cabot. These volumes cannot be considered as belonging to any single period of his literary life.
Mr. Cabot prefixes to the tenth volume of Emerson’s collected works, which bears the title, “Lectures and Biographical Sketches,” the following:—