Ralph Waldo Emerson eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 304 pages of information about Ralph Waldo Emerson.
“His commanding merit as a reformer is this, that he insisted beyond all men in pulpits,—­I cannot think of one rival,—­that the essence of Christianity is its practical morals; it is there for use, or it is nothing; and if you combine it with sharp trading, or with ordinary city ambitions to gloze over municipal corruptions, or private intemperance, or successful fraud, or immoral politics, or unjust wars, or the cheating of Indians, or the robbery of frontier nations, or leaving your principles at home to follow on the high seas or in Europe a supple complaisance to tyrants,—­it is hypocrisy, and the truth is not in you; and no love of religious music, or of dreams of Swedenborg, or praise of John Wesley, or of Jeremy Taylor, can save you from the Satan which you are.”

The Lecture on “American Civilization,” made up from two Addresses, one of which was delivered at Washington on the 31st of January, 1862, is, as might be expected, full of anti-slavery.  That on the “Emancipation Proclamation,” delivered in Boston in September, 1862, is as full of “silent joy” at the advent of “a day which most of us dared not hope to see,—­an event worth the dreadful war, worth its costs and uncertainties.”

From the “Remarks” at the funeral services for Abraham Lincoln, held in Concord on the 19th of April, 1865, I extract this admirably drawn character of the man:—­

“He is the true history of the American people in his time.  Step by step he walked before them; slow with their slowness, quickening his march by theirs, the true representative of this continent; an entirely public man; father of his country, the pulse of twenty millions throbbing in his heart, the thought of their minds articulated by his tongue.”

The following are the titles of the remaining contents of this volume:  “Harvard Commemoration Speech;” “Editor’s Address:  Massachusetts Quarterly Review;” “Woman;” “Address to Kossuth;” “Robert Burns;” “Walter Scott;” “Remarks at the Organization of the Free Religious Association;” “Speech at the Annual Meeting of the Free Religious Association;” “The Fortune of the Republic.”  In treating of the “Woman Question,” Emerson speaks temperately, delicately, with perfect fairness, but leaves it in the hands of the women themselves to determine whether they shall have an equal part in public affairs.  “The new movement,” he says, “is only a tide shared by the spirits of man and woman; and you may proceed in the faith that whatever the woman’s heart is prompted to desire, the man’s mind is simultaneously prompted to accomplish.”

It is hard to turn a leaf in any book of Emerson’s writing without finding some pithy remark or some striking image or witty comment which illuminates the page where we find it and tempts us to seize upon it for an extract.  But I must content myself with these few sentences from “The Fortune of the Republic,” the last address he ever delivered, in which his belief in America and her institutions, and his trust in the Providence which overrules all nations and all worlds, have found fitting utterance:—­

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Ralph Waldo Emerson from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.