Ralph Waldo Emerson eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 304 pages of information about Ralph Waldo Emerson.

From the numerous extracts I have given from Emerson’s writings it may be hoped that the reader will have formed an idea for himself of the man and of the life which have been the subjects of these pages.  But he may probably expect something like a portrait of the poet and moralist from the hand of his biographer, if the author of this Memoir may borrow the name which will belong to a future and better equipped laborer in the same field.  He may not unreasonably look for some general estimate of the life work of the scholar and thinker of whom he has been reading.  He will not be disposed to find fault with the writer of the Memoir if he mentions many things which would seem very trivial but for the interest they borrow from the individual to whom they relate.

Emerson’s personal appearance was that of a scholar, the descendant of scholars.  He was tall and slender, with the complexion which is bred in the alcove and not in the open air.  He used to tell his son Edward that he measured six feet in his shoes, but his son thinks he could hardly have straightened himself to that height in his later years.  He was very light for a man of his stature.  He got on the scales at Cheyenne, on his trip to California, comparing his weight with that of a lady of the party.  A little while afterwards he asked of his fellow-traveller, Professor Thayer, “How much did I weigh?  A hundred and forty?” “A hundred and forty and a half,” was the answer.  “Yes, yes, a hundred and forty and a half!  That half I prize; it is an index of better things!”

Emerson’s head was not such as Schopenhauer insists upon for a philosopher.  He wore a hat measuring six and seven eighths on the cephalometer used by hatters, which is equivalent to twenty-one inches and a quarter of circumference.  The average size is from seven to seven and an eighth, so that his head was quite small in that dimension.  It was long and narrow, but lofty, almost symmetrical, and of more nearly equal breadth in its anterior and posterior regions than many or most heads.

His shoulders sloped so much as to be commented upon for this peculiarity by Mr. Gilfillan, and like “Ammon’s great son,” he carried one shoulder a little higher than the other.  His face was thin, his nose somewhat accipitrine, casting a broad shadow; his mouth rather wide, well formed and well closed, carrying a question and an assertion in its finely finished curves; the lower lip a little prominent, the chin shapely and firm, as becomes the corner-stone of the countenance.  His expression was calm, sedate, kindly, with that look of refinement, centring about the lips, which is rarely found in the male New Englander, unless the family features have been for two or three cultivated generations the battlefield and the playground of varied thoughts and complex emotions as well as the sensuous and nutritive port of entry.  His whole look was irradiated by an ever active inquiring intelligence.  His manner was noble and gracious.  Few of our fellow-countrymen have had larger opportunities of seeing distinguished personages than our present minister at the Court of St. James.  In a recent letter to myself, which I trust Mr. Lowell will pardon my quoting, he says of Emerson:—­

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Ralph Waldo Emerson from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.