“The scholar is that man who must take up into himself all the ability of the time, all the contributions of the past, all the hopes of the future. He must he a university of knowledges.... We have listened too long to the courtly muses of Europe. The spirit of the American freeman is already suspected to be timid, imitative, tame.—The scholar is decent, indolent, complaisant.—The mind of this country, taught to aim at low objects, eats upon itself. There is no work for any but the decorous and the complaisant.”
The young men of promise are discouraged and disgusted.
“What is the remedy? They did not yet see, and thousands of young men as hopeful now crowding to the barriers for the career do not yet see, that if the single man plant himself indomitably on his instincts, and there abide, the huge world will come round to him.”
Each man must be a unit,—must yield that peculiar fruit which he was created to bear.
“We will walk on our own feet; we will work with our own hands; we will speak our own minds.—A nation of men will for the first time exist, because each believes himself inspired by the Divine Soul which also inspires all men.”
This grand Oration was our intellectual Declaration of Independence. Nothing like it had been heard in the halls of Harvard since Samuel Adams supported the affirmative of the question, “Whether it be lawful to resist the chief magistrate, if the commonwealth cannot otherwise be preserved.” It was easy to find fault with an expression here and there. The dignity, not to say the formality of an Academic assembly was startled by the realism that looked for the infinite in “the meal in the firkin; the milk in the pan.” They could understand the deep thoughts suggested by “the meanest flower that blows,” but these domestic illustrations had a kind of nursery homeliness about them which the grave professors and sedate clergymen were unused to expect on so stately an occasion. But the young men went out from it as if a prophet had been proclaiming to them “Thus saith the Lord.” No listener ever forgot that Address, and among all the noble utterances of the speaker it may be questioned if one ever contained more truth in language more like that of immediate inspiration.
1838-1843. AET. 35-40.
Section 1. Divinity School Address.—Correspondence.—Lectures
Life.—Letters to James Freeman Clarke.—Dartmouth College Address:
Literary Ethics.—Waterville College Address: The Method of
Nature.—Other Addresses: Man the Reformer.—Lecture on the Times.—The
Conservative.—The Transcendentalist.—Boston “Transcendentalism.”—“The
Section 2. First Series of Essays published.—Contents: History, Self-Reliance, Compensation, Spiritual Laws, Love, Friendship, Prudence, Heroism, The Oversoul, Circles, Intellect, Art.—Emerson’s Account of his Mode of Life in a Letter to Carlyle.—Death of Emerson’s Son.—Threnody.