“Goethe; or, the Writer,” is the last of the Representative Men who are the subjects of this book of Essays. Emerson says he had read the fifty-five volumes of Goethe, but no other German writers, at least in the original. It must have been in fulfilment of some pious vow that he did this. After all that Carlyle had written about Goethe, he could hardly help studying him. But this Essay looks to me as if he had found the reading of Goethe hard work. It flows rather languidly, toys with side issues as a stream loiters round a nook in its margin, and finds an excuse for play in every pebble. Still, he has praise enough for his author. “He has clothed our modern existence with poetry.”—“He has said the best things about nature that ever were said.—He flung into literature in his Mephistopheles the first organic figure that has been added for some ages, and which will remain as long as the Prometheus.—He is the type of culture, the amateur of all arts and sciences and events; artistic, but not artist; spiritual, but not spiritualist.—I join Napoleon with him, as being both representatives of the impatience and reaction of nature against the morgue of conventions,—two stern realists, who, with their scholars, have severally set the axe at the root of the tree of cant and seeming, for this time and for all time.”
This must serve as an ex pede guide to reconstruct the Essay which finishes the volume.
In 1852 there was published a Memoir of Margaret Fuller Ossoli, in which Emerson, James Freeman Clarke, and William Henry Channing each took a part. Emerson’s account of her conversation and extracts from her letters and diaries, with his running commentaries and his interpretation of her mind and character, are a most faithful and vivid portraiture of a woman who is likely to live longer by what is written of her than by anything she ever wrote herself.
1858-1858. AEt. 50-55.
Lectures in various Places.—Anti-Slavery Addresses.—Woman. A Lecture read before the Woman’s Rights Convention.—Samuel Hoar. Speech at Concord.—Publication of “English Traits.”—The “Atlantic Monthly.”—The “Saturday Club.”
After Emerson’s return from Europe he delivered lectures to different audiences,—one on Poetry, afterwards published in “Letters and Social Aims,” a course of lectures in Freeman Place Chapel, Boston, some of which have been published, one on the Anglo-Saxon Race, and many others. In January, 1855, he gave one of the lectures in a course of Anti-Slavery Addresses delivered in Tremont Temple, Boston. In the same year he delivered an address before the Anti-Slavery party of New York. His plan for the extirpation of slavery was to buy the slaves from the planters, not conceding their right to ownership, but because “it is the only practical course, and is innocent.” It would cost two thousand millions, he says, according to the present estimate, but “was there ever any contribution that was so enthusiastically paid as this would be?”