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Title: Four Americans - Roosevelt, Hawthorne, Emerson, Whitman
Author: Beers, Henry A. (Henry Augustin), 1847-1926
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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       *       *       *       *       *


[Illustration: Separator]

_A Book of Yale Review Verse_


_War Poems from The Yale Review_


_War Poems from The Yale Review_

(_Second Edition_)


_Four Americans: Roosevelt, Hawthorne, Emerson, Whitman_


       *       *       *       *       *







[Illustration: Shield, scroll: LUX ET VERITAS]





First published, 1919
Second printing, 1920



  I. Roosevelt as Man of Letters      7

 II. Fifty Years of Hawthorne        33

III. A Pilgrim in Concord            59

 IV. A Wordlet about Whitman         85


In a club corner, just after Roosevelt's death, the question was asked
whether his memory would not fade away, when the living man, with his
vivid personality, had gone. But no: that personality had stamped itself
too deeply on the mind of his generation to be forgotten. Too many
observers have recorded their impressions; and already a dozen
biographies and memoirs have appeared. Besides, he is his own recorder.
He published twenty-six books, a catalogue of which any professional
author might be proud; and a really wonderful feat when it is remembered
that he wrote them in the intervals of an active public career as Civil
Service Commissioner, Police Commissioner, member of his state
legislature, Governor of New York, delegate to the National Republican
Convention, Colonel of Rough Riders, Assistant Secretary of the Navy,
Vice-President and President of the United States.

Perhaps in some distant future he may become a myth or symbol, like
other mighty hunters of the beast, Nimrod and Orion and Tristram of
Lyonesse. Yet not so long as "African Game Trails" and the "Hunting
Trips of a Ranchman" endure, to lift the imagination to those noble
sports denied to the run of mortals by poverty, feebleness, timidity,
the engrossments of the humdrum, everyday life, or lack of enterprise
and opportunity. Old scraps of hunting song thrill us with the great
adventure: "In the wild chamois' track at break of day"; "We'll chase
the antelope over the plain"; "Afar in the desert I love to ride"; and
then we go out and shoot at a woodchuck, with an old double-barrelled
shotgun--and miss! If Roosevelt ever becomes a poet, it is while he is
among the wild creatures and wild landscapes that he loved: in the
gigantic forests of Brazil, or the almost unnatural nature of the
Rockies and the huge cattle ranches of the plains, or on the limitless
South African veldt, which is said to give a greater feeling of infinity
than the ocean even.

Roosevelt was so active a person--not to say so noisy and conspicuous;
he so occupied the centre of every stage, that, when he died, it was as
though a wind had fallen, a light had gone out, a military band had
stopped playing. It was not so much the death of an individual as a
general lowering in the vitality of the nation. America was less
America, because he was no longer here. He should have lived twenty
years more had he been willing to go slow, to loaf and invite his soul,
to feed that mind of his in a wise passiveness. But there was no repose
about him, and his pleasures were as strenuous as his toils. John
Burroughs tells us that he did not care for fishing, the contemplative
man's recreation. No contemplation for him, but action; no angling in a
clear stream for a trout or grayling; but the glorious, dangerous
excitement of killing big game--grizzlies, lions, African buffaloes,
mountain sheep, rhinoceroses, elephants. He never spared himself: he
wore himself out. But doubtless he would have chosen the crowded hour of
glorious life--or strife, for life and strife were with him the same.

He was above all things a fighter, and the favorite objects of his
denunciation were professional pacifists, nice little men who had let
their muscles get soft, and nations that had lost their fighting edge.
Aggressive war, he tells us in "The Winning of the West," is not always
bad. "Americans need to keep in mind the fact that, as a nation, they
have erred far more often in not being willing enough to fight than in
being too willing." "Cowardice," he writes elsewhere, "in a race, as in
an individual, is the unpardonable sin." Is this true? Cowardice is a
weakness, perhaps a disgraceful weakness: a defect of character which
makes a man contemptible, just as foolishness does. But it is not a sin
at all, and surely not an unpardonable one. Cruelty, treachery, and
ingratitude are much worse traits, and selfishness is as bad. I have
known very good men who were cowards; men that I liked and trusted but
who, from weakness of nerves or other physical causes--perhaps from
prenatal influences--were easily frightened and always constitutionally
timid. The Colonel was a very pugnacious man: he professed himself to be
a lover of peace--and so did the Kaiser--but really he enjoyed the
_gaudium certaminis_, as all bold spirits do.

In the world-wide sense of loss which followed his death, some rather
exaggerated estimates made themselves heard. A preacher announced that
there had been only two great Americans, one of whom was Theodore
Roosevelt. An editor declared that the three greatest Americans were
Washington, Lincoln, and Roosevelt. But not all great Americans have
been in public life; and, of those who have, very few have been
Presidents of the United States. What is greatness? Roosevelt himself
rightly insists on character as the root of the matter. Still character
alone does not make a man great. There are thousands of men in common
life, of sound and forceful character, who never become great, who are
not even potentially great. To make them such, great abilities are
needed, as well as favoring circumstances. In his absolute manner--a
manner caught perhaps partly from Macaulay, for whose qualities as a
writer he had a high and, I think, well-justified regard--he pronounces
Cromwell the greatest Englishman of the seventeenth century. Was he so?
He was the greatest English soldier and magistrate of that century; but
how about Bacon and Newton, about Shakespeare and Milton?

Let us think of a few other Americans who, in their various fields,
might perhaps deserve to be entitled great. Shall we say Jonathan
Edwards, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Marshall, Robert
Fulton, S. F. B. Morse, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Daniel Webster, Horace
Greeley, Henry Ward Beecher, Admiral Farragut, General W. T. Sherman,
James Russell Lowell, Nathaniel Hawthorne, General Robert E. Lee? None
of these people were Presidents of the United States. But to the man in
the street there is something imposing about the office and title of a
chief magistrate, be he emperor, king, or elected head of a republic. It
sets him apart. Look at the crowds that swarm to get a glimpse of the
President when he passes through, no matter whether it is George
Washington or Franklin Pierce.

It might be safer, on the whole, to say that the three names in
question are those of our greatest presidents, not of the greatest
Americans. And even this comparison might be questioned. Some, for
example, might assert the claims of Thomas Jefferson to rank with the
others. Jefferson was a man of ideas who made a strong impression on his
generation. He composed the Declaration of Independence and founded the
Democratic party and the University of Virginia. He had a more flexible
mind than Washington, though not such good judgment; and he had
something of Roosevelt's alert interest in a wide and diversified range
of subjects. But the latter had little patience with Jefferson. He may
have respected him as the best rider and pistol shot in Virginia; but in
politics he thought him a theorist and doctrinaire imbued with the
abstract notions of the French philosophical deists and democrats.
Jefferson, he thought, knew nothing and cared nothing about military
affairs. He let the army run down and preferred to buy Louisiana rather
than conquer it, while he dreamed of universal fraternity and was the
forerunner of the Dove of Peace and the League of Nations.

Roosevelt, in fact, had no use for philosophy or speculative thought
which could not be reduced to useful action. He was an eminently
practical thinker. His mind was without subtlety, and he had little
imagination. A life of thought for its own sake; the life of a dreamer
or idealist; a life like that of Coleridge, with his paralysis of will
and abnormal activity of the speculative faculty, eternally spinning
metaphysical cobwebs, doubtless seemed to the author of "The Strenuous
Life" a career of mere self-indulgence. It is not without significance
that, with all his passion for out of doors, for wild life and the study
of bird and beast, he nowhere, so far as I can remember, mentions
Thoreau,[A] who is far and away our greatest nature writer. Doubtless he
may have esteemed him as a naturalist, but not as a transcendentalist or
as an impracticable faddist who refused to pay taxes because
Massachusetts enforced the fugitive slave law. We are told that his
fellow historian, Francis Parkman, had a contempt for philosophers like
Emerson and Thoreau and an admiration for writers such as Scott and
Cooper who depicted scenes of bold adventure. The author of "The Oregon
Trail" and the author of "African Game Trails" had a good deal in
common, especially great force of will--you see it in Parkman's jaw. He
was a physical wreck and did his work under almost impossible
conditions; while Roosevelt had built up an originally sickly
constitution into a physique of splendid vigor.

Towards the critical intellect, as towards the speculative, Roosevelt
felt an instinctive antagonism. One of his most characteristic
utterances is the address delivered at the Sorbonne, April 30, 1910,
"Citizenship in a Republic." Here, amidst a good deal of moral
commonplace--wise and sensible for the most part, but sufficiently
platitudinous--occurs a burst of angry eloquence. For he was always at
his strongest when scolding somebody. His audience included the
intellectual _élite_ of France; and he warns it against the besetting
sin of university dons and the learned and lettered class in general, a
supercilious, patronizing attitude towards the men of action who are
doing the rough work of the world. Critics are the object of his
fiercest denunciation. "A cynical habit of thought and speech, a
readiness to criticise work which the critic himself never tries to
perform, an intellectual aloofness which will not accept contact with
life's realities--all these are marks, not, as the possessor would fain
think, of superiority, but of weakness.... It is not the critic who
counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or
where the doer of deeds could have done them better.... Shame on the man
of cultivated taste who permits refinement to develop into a
fastidiousness that unfits him for doing the rough work of a workaday
world. Among the free peoples who govern themselves there is but a small
field of usefulness open for the men of cloistered life who shrink from
contact with their fellows."

The speaker had seemingly himself been stung by criticism; or he was
reacting against Matthew Arnold, the celebrated "Harvard indifference,"
and the cynical talk of the clubs.

We do not expect our Presidents to be literary men and are
correspondingly gratified when any of them shows signs of almost human
intelligence in spheres outside of politics. Of them all, none touched
life at so many points, or was so versatile, picturesque, and generally
interesting a figure as the one who has just passed away. Washington was
not a man of books. A country gentleman, a Virginia planter and
slave-owner, member of a landed aristocracy, he had the limited
education of his class and period. Rumor said that he did not write his
own messages. And there is a story that John Quincy Adams, regarding a
portrait of the father of his country, exclaimed, "To think that that
old wooden head will go down in history as a great man!" But this was
the comment of a Boston Brahmin, and all the Adamses had bitter tongues.
Washington was, of course, a very great man, though not by virtue of any
intellectual brilliancy, but of his strong character, his immense
practical sagacity and common sense, his leadership of men.

As to Lincoln, we know through what cold obstruction he struggled up
into the light, educating himself to be one of the soundest statesmen
and most effective public speakers of his day--or any day. There was an
inborn fineness or sensitiveness in Lincoln, a touch of the artist (he
even wrote verses) which contrasts with the phlegm of his illustrious
contemporary, General Grant. The latter had a vein of coarseness, of
commonness rather, in his nature; evidenced by his choice of associates
and his entire indifference to "the things of the mind." He was almost
illiterate and only just a gentleman. Yet by reason of his dignified
modesty and simplicity, he contrived to write one of the best of

Roosevelt had many advantages over his eminent predecessors. Of old
Knickerbocker stock, with a Harvard education, and the habit of good
society, he had means enough to indulge in his favorite pastimes. To
run a cattle ranch in Dakota, lead a hunting party in Africa and an
exploring expedition in Brazil, these were wide opportunities, but he
fully measured up to them. Mr. W. H. Hays, chairman of the Republican
National Committee, said of him, "He had more knowledge about more
things than any other man." Well, not quite that. We have all known
people who made a specialty of omniscience. If a man can speak two
languages besides his own and can read two more fairly well, he is at
once credited with knowing half a dozen foreign tongues as well as he
knows English. Let us agree, however, that Roosevelt knew a lot about a
lot of things. He was a rapid and omnivorous reader, reading a book with
his finger tips, gutting it of its contents, as he did the birds that he
shot, stuffed, and mounted; yet not inappreciative of form, and
accustomed to recommend much good literature to his countrymen. He took
an eager interest in a large variety of subjects, from Celtic poetry and
the fauna and flora of many regions to simplified spelling and the split

A young friend of mine was bringing out, for the use of schools and
colleges, a volume of selections from the English poets, all learnedly
annotated, and sent me his manuscript to look over. On a passage about
the bittern bird he had made this note, "The bittern has a harsh,
throaty cry." Whereupon I addressed him thus: "Throaty nothing! You are
guessing, man. If Teddy Roosevelt reads your book--and he reads
everything--he will denounce you as a nature faker and put you down for
membership in the Ananias Club. Recall what he did to Ernest
Seton-Thompson and to that minister in Stamford, Connecticut. Remember
how he crossed swords with Mr. Scully touching the alleged dangerous
nature of the ostrich and the early domestication of the peacock. So far
as I know, the bittern thing has no voice at all. His real stunt is as
follows. He puts his beak down into the swamp, in search of insects and
snails or other marine life--_est-ce que je sais?_--and drawing in the
bog-water through holes in his beak, makes a booming sound which is most
impressive. Now do not think me an ornithologist or a bird sharp.
Personally I do not know a bittern from an olive-backed thrush. But I
have read some poetry, and I remember what Thomson says in 'The

     The bittern knows his time with bill ingulf'd
     To shake the sounding marsh.

See also 'The Lady of the Lake':

     And the bittern sound his drum,
     Booming from the sedgy shallow.

See even old Chaucer who knew a thing or two about birds, _teste_ his
'Parlament of Foules,' admirably but strangely edited by Lounsbury,
whose indifference to art was only surpassed by his hostility to nature.
Says Chaucer:

     And as a bytoure bumblith in the myre."

My friend canceled his note. It is, of course, now established that the
bittern "booms"--not in the mud--but in the air.

Mr. Roosevelt was historian, biographer, essayist, and writer of
narrative papers on hunting, outdoor life, and natural history, and in
all these departments did solid, important work. His "Winning of the
West" is little, if at all, inferior in historical interest to the
similar writings of Parkman and John Fiske. His "History of the Naval
War of 1812" is an astonishing performance for a young man of
twenty-four, only two years out of college. For it required a careful
sifting of evidence and weighing of authorities. The job was done with
patient thoroughness, and the book is accepted, I believe, as
authoritative. It is to me a somewhat tedious tale. One sea fight is
much like another, a record of meaningless slaughter.

Of the three lives, those of Gouverneur Morris, T. H. Benton, and Oliver
Cromwell, I cannot speak with confidence, having read only the last. I
should guess that the life of Benton was written more _con amore_ than
the others, for the frontier was this historian's favorite scene. The
life of Cromwell is not so much a formal biography as a continuous essay
in interpretation of a character still partly enigmatic in spite of all
the light that so many acute psychologists have shed upon it. It is a
relief to read for once a book which is without preface, footnote, or
reference. It cannot be said that the biographer contributes anything
very new to our knowledge of his subject. The most novel features of his
work are the analogies that he draws between situations in English and
American political history. These are usually ingenious and
illuminating, sometimes a little misleading; as where he praises
Lincoln's readiness to acquiesce in the result of the election in 1864
and to retire peaceably in favor of McClellan; contrasting it with
Cromwell's dissolution of his Parliaments and usurpation of the supreme
power. There was a certain likeness in the exigencies, to be sure, but a
broad difference between the problems confronting the two rulers.
Lincoln was a constitutional President with strictly limited powers,
bound by usage and precedent. For him to have kept his seat by military
force, in defiance of a Democratic majority, would have been an act of
treason. But the Lord Protector held a new office, unknown to the old
constitution of England and with ill-defined powers. A revolution had
tossed him to the top and made him dictator. He was bound to keep the
peace in unsettled times, to keep out the Stuarts, to keep down the
unruly factions. If Parliament would not help, he must govern without
it. Carlyle thought that he had no choice.

Roosevelt's addresses, essays, editorials, and miscellaneous papers,
which fill many volumes, are seldom literary in subject, and certainly
not in manner. He was an effective speaker and writer, using plain,
direct, forcible English, without any graces of style. In these papers
he is always the moralist, earnest, high-minded, and the preacher of
many gospels: the gospel of the strenuous life; the gospel of what used
to be called "muscular Christianity"; the gospel of large families; of
hundred per cent Americanism; and, above all, of military preparedness.
I am not here concerned with the President's political principles, nor
with the specific measures that he advocated. I will only say, to guard
against suspicion of unfair prejudice, that, as a Democrat, a
freetrader, a state-rights man, individualist, and anti-imperialist, I
naturally disapproved of many acts of his administration, of the
administration of his predecessor, and of his party in general. I
disapproved, and still do, of the McKinley and Payne-Aldrich tariffs; of
the Spanish war--most avoidable of wars--with its sequel, the conquest
of the Philippines; above all, of the seizure of the Panama Canal zone.

But let all that pass: I am supposed to be dealing with my subject as
man of letters. As such the Colonel of the Rough Riders was the high
commander-in-chief of rough writers. He never persuaded his readers into
an opinion--he bullied them into it. When he gnashed his big teeth and
shook his big stick,

     ... The bold Ascalonite
     Fled from his iron ramp; old warriors turned
     Their plated backs under his heel;

mollycoddles, pussy-footers, professional pacifists, and nice little men
who had lost their fighting edge, all scuttled to cover. He called
names, he used great violence of language. For instance, a certain
president of a woman's college had "fatuously announced ... that it was
better to have one child brought up in the best way than several not
thus brought up." The woman making this statement, wrote the Colonel,
"is not only unfit to be at the head of a female college, but is not fit
to teach the lowest class in a kindergarten; for such teaching is not
merely folly, but a peculiarly repulsive type of mean and selfish
wickedness." And again: "The man or woman who deliberately avoids
marriage ... is in effect a criminal against the race and should be an
object of contemptuous abhorrence by all healthy people."

Now, I am not myself an advocate of race suicide but I confess to a
feeling of sympathy with the lady thus denounced, whose point of view
is, at least, comprehensible. Old Malthus was not such an ass as some
folks think. It is impossible not to admire Roosevelt's courage,
honesty, and wonderful energy: impossible to keep from liking the man
for his boyish impulsiveness, camaraderie, sporting blood, and hatred of
a rascal. But it is equally impossible for a man of any spirit to keep
from resenting his bullying ways, his intolerance of quiet, peaceable
people and persons of an opposite temperament to his own. Even nice,
timid little men who have let their bodies get soft do not like to be
bullied. It puts their backs up. His ideal of character was manliness, a
sound ideal, but he insisted too much upon the physical side of it,
"red-bloodedness" and all that. Those poor old fat generals in
Washington who had been enjoying themselves at their clubs, playing
bridge and drinking Scotch highballs! He made them all turn out and ride
fifty miles a day.

Mr. Roosevelt produced much excellent literature, but no masterpieces
like Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural. Probably his
sketches of ranch life and of hunting trips in three continents will be
read longest and will keep their freshness after the public questions
which he discussed have lost interest and his historical works have been
in part rewritten. In these outdoor papers, besides the thrilling
adventures which they--very modestly--record, there are even passages of
descriptive beauty and chapters of graphic narrative, like the tale of
the pursuit and capture of the three robbers who stole the boats on the
Missouri River, which belonged to the Roosevelt ranch. This last would
be a capital addition to school readers and books of selected standard

Senator Lodge and other friends emphasize the President's sense of
humor. He had it, of course. He took pains to establish the true reading
of that famous retort, "All I want out of you is common civility and
damned little of that." He used to repeat with glee Lounsbury's
witticism about "the infinite capability of the human mind to resist the
introduction of knowledge." I wonder whether he knew of that other good
saying of Lounsbury's about the historian Freeman's being, in his own
person, a proof of the necessity of the Norman Conquest. He had, at all
events, a just and high estimate of the merits of my brilliant
colleague. "Heu quanto minus est cum reliquis versari quam tui
meminisse!" But Roosevelt was not himself a humorist, and his writings
give little evidence of his possession of the faculty. Lincoln, now, was
one of the foremost American humorists. But Roosevelt was too strenuous
for the practice of humor, which implies a certain relaxation of mind: a
detachment from the object of immediate pursuit: a superiority to
practical interests which indulges itself in the play of thought; and,
in the peculiarly American form of it, a humility which inclines one to
laugh at himself. Impossible to fancy T. R. making the answer that
Lincoln made to an applicant for office: "I haven't much influence with
this administration." As for that variety of humor that is called irony,
it demands a duplicity which the straight-out-speaking Roosevelt could
not practise. He was like Epaminondas in the Latin prose composition
book, who was such a lover of truth that he never told a falsehood even
in jest--_ne joco quidem_.

The only instance of his irony that I recall--there may be others--is
the one recorded by Mr. Leupp in his reply to Senator Gorman, who had
charged that the examiners of the Civil Service Commission had turned
down "a bright young man" in the city of Baltimore, an applicant for the
position of letter-carrier, "because he could not tell the most direct
route from Baltimore to Japan." Hereupon the young Civil Service
Commissioner challenged the senator to verify his statement, but Mr.
Gorman preserved a dignified silence. Then the Commissioner overwhelmed
him in a public letter from which Mr. Leupp quotes the closing passage,
beginning thus: "High-minded, sensitive Mr. Gorman! Clinging, trustful
Mr. Gorman! Nothing could shake his belief in that 'bright young man.'
Apparently he did not even yet try to find out his name--if he had a
name," and so on for nearly a page. Excellent fooling, but a bit too
long and heavy-handed for the truest ironic effect.

Many of our Presidents, however little given to the use of the pen, have
been successful coiners of phrases--phrases that have stuck: "entangling
alliances," "era of good feeling," "innocuous desuetude," "a condition,
not a theory." Lincoln was happiest at this art, and there is no need to
mention any of the scores of pungent sayings which he added to the
language and which are in daily use. President Roosevelt was no whit
behind in this regard. All recognize and remember the many phrases to
which he gave birth or currency: "predatory wealth," "bull moose," "hit
the line hard," "weasel words," "my hat is in the ring," and so on. He
took a humorous delight in mystifying the public with recondite
allusions, sending everyone to the dictionary to look out "Byzantine
logothete," and to the Bible and cyclopedia to find Armageddon.

Roosevelt is alleged to have had a larger personal following than any
other man lately in public life. What a testimony to his popularity is
the "teddy bear"; and what a sign of the universal interest, hostile or
friendly, which he excited in his contemporaries, is the fact that Mr.
Albert Shaw was able to compile a caricature life of him presenting many
hundred pictures! There was something German about Roosevelt's
standards. In this last war he stood heart and soul for America and her
allies against Germany's misconduct. But he admired the Germans'
efficiency, their highly organized society, their subordination of the
individual to the state. He wanted to Prussianize this great peaceful
republic by introducing universal obligatory military service. He
insisted, like the Germans, upon the _Hausfrau's_ duty to bear and rear
many children. If he had been a German, it seems possible that, with his
views as to the right of strong races to expand, by force if necessary,
he might have justified the seizure of Silesia, the partition of
Poland, the _Drang nach Osten_, and maybe even the invasion of
Belgium--as a military measure.

And so of religion and the church, which Germans regard as a department
of government. Our American statesman, of course, was firmly in favor of
the separation of church and state and of universal toleration. But he
advises everyone to join the church, some church, any old church; not
because one shares its beliefs--creeds are increasingly unimportant--but
because the church is an instrument of social welfare, and a man can do
more good in combination with his fellows than when he stands alone.
There is much truth in this doctrine, though it has a certain naïveté,
when looked at from the standpoint of the private soul and its spiritual

As in the church, so in the state, he stood for the associative
principle as opposed to an extreme individualism. He was a practical
politician and therefore an honest partisan, feeling that he could work
more efficiently for good government within party lines than outside
them. He resigned from the Free Trade League because his party was
committed to the policy of protection. In 1884 he supported his party's
platform and candidate, instead of joining the Mugwumps and voting for
Cleveland, though at the National Republican Convention, to which he
went as a delegate, he had opposed the nomination of Blaine. I do not
believe that his motive in this decision was selfish, or that he quailed
under the snap of the party lash because he was threatened with
political death in case he disobeyed. Theodore Roosevelt was nobody's
man. He thought, as he frankly explained, that one who leaves his
faction for every slight occasion, loses his influence and his power for
good. Better to compromise, to swallow some differences and to stick to
the crowd which, upon the whole and in the long run, embodies one's
convictions. This is a comprehensible attitude, and possibly it is the
correct one for the man in public life who is frequently a candidate for
office. Yet I wish he could have broken with his party and voted for
Cleveland. For, ironically enough, it was Roosevelt himself who
afterward split his party and brought in Wilson and the Democrats.

Disregarding his political side and considering him simply as man of
letters, one seeks for comparisons with other men of letters who were at
once big sportsmen and big writers; Christopher North, for example:
"Christopher in his Aviary" and "Christopher in his Shooting Jacket."
The likeness here is only a very partial one, to be sure. The American
was like the Scotchman in his athleticism, high spirits, breezy
optimism, love of the open air, intense enjoyment of life. But he had
not North's roystering conviviality and uproarious Toryism; and the
kinds of literature that they cultivated were quite unlike.

Charles Kingsley offers a closer resemblance, though the differences
here are as numerous as the analogies. Roosevelt was not a clergyman,
and not a creative writer, a novelist, or poet. His temperament was not
very similar to Kingsley's. Yet the two shared a love for bold
adventure, a passion for sport, and an eager interest in the life of
animals and plants. Sport with Kingsley took the shape of trout fishing
and of riding to hounds, not of killing lions with the rifle. He was
fond of horses and dogs; associated democratically with gamekeepers,
grooms, whippers-in, poachers even; as Roosevelt did with cowboys,
tarpon fishers, wilderness guides, beaters, trappers, and all whom Walt
Whitman calls "powerful uneducated persons," loving them for their
pluck, coolness, strength, and skill. Kingsley's "At Last, a Christmas
in the West Indies," exhibits the same curiosity as to tropical botany
and zoology that Roosevelt shows in his African and Brazilian journeys.
Not only tastes, but many ideals and opinions the two men had in
common. "Parson Lot," the Chartist and Christian Socialist, had the same
sympathy with the poor and the same desire to improve the condition of
agricultural laborers and London artisans which led Roosevelt to promote
employers' liability laws and other legislation to protect the
workingman from exploitation by conscienceless wealth. Kingsley, like
Roosevelt, was essentially Protestant. Neither he nor Mr. Roosevelt
liked asceticism or celibacy. As a historian, Kingsley did not rank at
all with the author of "The Winning of the West" and the "Naval War of
1812." On the other hand, if Roosevelt had written novels and poetry, I
think he would have rejoiced greatly to write "Westward Ho," "The Last
Buccaneer," and "Ode to the North-East Wind."

In fine, whatever lasting fortune may be in store for Roosevelt's
writings, the disappearance of his vivid figure leaves a blank in the
contemporary scene. And those who were against him can join with those
who were for him in slightly paraphrasing Carlyle's words of dismissal
to Walter Scott, "Theodore Roosevelt, pride of all Americans, take our
proud and sad farewell."


[A] Mr. Edwin Carty Ranck, of the Roosevelt Memorial Committee,
calls attention to the following sentence, which I had overlooked: "As a
woodland writer, Thoreau comes second only to Burroughs."--"The
Wilderness Hunter," p. 261.


Hawthorne was an excellent critic of his own writings. He recognizes
repeatedly the impersonal and purely objective nature of his fiction. R.
H. Hutton once called him the ghost of New England; and those who love
his exquisite, though shadowy, art are impelled to give corporeal
substance to this disembodied spirit: to draw him nearer out of his
chill aloofness, by associating him with people and places with which
they too have associations.

I heard Colonel Higginson say, in a lecture at Concord, that if a few
drops of redder blood could have been added to Hawthorne's style, he
would have been the foremost imaginative writer of his century. The
ghosts in "The Æneid" were unable to speak aloud until they had drunk
blood. Instinctively, then, one seeks to infuse more red corpuscles into
the somewhat anæmic veins of these tales and romances. For Hawthorne's
fiction is almost wholly ideal. He does not copy life like Thackeray,
whose procedure is inductive: does not start with observed characters,
but with an imagined problem or situation of the soul, inventing
characters to fit. There is always a dreamy quality about the action:
no violent quarrels, no passionate love scenes. Thus it has been often
pointed out that in "The Scarlet Letter" we do not get the history of
Dimmesdale's and Hester's sin: not the passion itself, but only its
sequels in the conscience. So in "The House of the Seven Gables," and
"The Marble Faun," a crime has preceded the opening of the story, which
deals with the working out of the retribution.

When Hawthorne handled real persons, it was in the form of the character
sketch--often the satirical character sketch,--as in the introduction to
"The Scarlet Letter" which scandalized the people of Salem. If he could
have made a novel out of his custom-house acquaintances, he might have
given us something less immaterial. He felt the lack of solidity in his
own creations: the folly of constructing "the semblance of a world out
of airy matter"; the "value hidden in petty incidents and ordinary
characters." "A better book than I shall ever write was there," he
confesses, but "my brain wanted the insight and my hand the cunning to
transcribe it."

Now and then, when he worked from observation, or utilized his own
experiences, a piece of drastic realism results. The suicide of Zenobia
is transferred, with the necessary changes, from a long passage in "The
American Note Books," in which he tells of going out at night, with his
neighbors, to drag for the body of a girl who had drowned herself in the
Concord. Yet he did not refrain the touch of symbolism even here. There
is a wound on Zenobia's breast, inflicted by the pole with which
Hollingsworth is groping the river bottom.

And this is why one finds his "American Note Books" quite as interesting
reading as his stories. Very remarkable things, these note books. They
have puzzled Mr. James, who asks what the author would be at in them,
and suggests that he is writing letters to himself, or practising his
hand at description. They are not exactly a _journal in-time_; nor are
they records of thought, like Emerson's ten volumes of journals. They
are carefully composed, and are full of hints for plots, scenes,
situations, characters, to be later worked up. In the three collections,
"Twice-Told Tales," "Mosses from an Old Manse," and "The Snow Image,"
there are, in round numbers, a hundred tales and sketches; and Mr.
Conway has declared that, in the number of his original plots, no modern
author, save Browning, has equalled Hawthorne. Now, the germ of many, if
not most, of these inventions may be found in some brief jotting--a
paragraph, or a line or two--in "The American Note Books."

Yet it is not as literary material that these notes engage me most--by
far the greater portion were never used,--but as records of observation
and studies of life. I will even acknowledge a certain excitement when
the diarist's wanderings lead him into my own neighborhood, however
insignificant the result. Thus, in a letter from New Haven in 1830, he
writes, "I heard some of the students at Yale College conjecturing that
I was an Englishman." Mr. Lathrop thinks that it was on this trip
through Connecticut that he hit upon his story, "The Seven Vagabonds,"
the scene of which is near Stamford, in the van of a travelling showman,
where the seven wanderers take shelter during a thunderstorm. How
quaintly true to the old provincial life of back-country New England are
these figures--a life that survives to-day in out-of-the-way places.
Holgrave, the young daguerreotypist in "The House of the Seven Gables,"
a type of the universal Yankee, had practised a number of these queer
trades: had been a strolling dentist, a lecturer on mesmerism, a
salesman in a village store, a district schoolmaster, editor of a
country newspaper; and "had subsequently travelled New England and the
Middle States, as a peddler, in the employment of a Connecticut
manufactory of Cologne water and other essences." The Note Books tell us
that, at North Adams in 1838, the author foregathered with a
surgeon-dentist, who was also a preacher of the Baptist persuasion: and
that, on the stage-coach between Worcester and Northampton, they took up
an essence-vender who was peddling anise-seed, cloves, red-cedar,
wormwood, opodeldoc, hair-oil, and Cologne water. Do you imagine that
the essence-peddler is extinct? No, you may meet his covered wagon
to-day on lonely roads between the hill-villages of Massachusetts and

It was while living that strange life of seclusion at Old Salem,
compared with which Thoreau's hermitage at Walden was like the central
roar of Broadway, that Hawthorne broke away now and then from his
solitude, and went rambling off in search of contacts with real life.
Here is another item that he fetched back from Connecticut under date of
September, 1838: "In Connecticut and also sometimes in Berkshire, the
villages are situated on the most elevated ground that can be found, so
that they are visible for miles around. Litchfield is a remarkable
instance, occupying a high plain, without the least shelter from the
winds, and with almost as wide an expanse of view as from a
mountain-top. The streets are very wide--two or three hundred feet at
least--with wide green margins, and sometimes there is a wide green
space between two road tracks.... The graveyard is on the slope, and at
the foot of a swell, filled with old and new gravestones, some of red
freestone, some of gray granite, most of them of white marble and one of
cast iron with an inscription of raised letters." Do I not know that
wind-swept hilltop, those grassy avenues? Do I not know that ancient
graveyard, and what names are on its headstones? Yes, even as the heart
knoweth its own bitterness.

As we go on in life, anniversaries become rather melancholy affairs. The
turn of the year--the annual return of the day--birthdays or death-days
or set festal occasions like Christmas or the New Year, bring reminders
of loss and change. This is true of domestic anniversaries; while public
literary celebrations, designed to recall to a forgetful generation the
centenary or other dates in the lives of great writers, appear too often
but milestones on the road to oblivion. Fifty years is too short a time
to establish a literary immortality; and yet, if any American writer has
already won the position of a classic, Hawthorne is that writer.
Speaking in this country in 1883, Matthew Arnold said: "Hawthorne's
literary talent is of the first order. His subjects are generally not to
me subjects of the highest interest; but his literary talent is ... the
finest, I think, which America has yet produced--finer, by much, than
Emerson's." But how does the case stand to-day? I believe that
Hawthorne's fame is secure as a whole, in spite of the fact that much of
his work has begun to feel the disintegrating force of hostile
criticism, and "the unimaginable touch of time."

For one thing, American fiction, for the past fifty years, has been
taking a direction quite the contrary of his. Run over the names that
will readily occur of modern novelists and short-story writers, and ask
yourself whether the vivid coloring of these realistic schools must not
inevitably have blanched to a still whiter pallor those visionary tales
of which the author long ago confessed that they had "the pale tints of
flowers that blossomed in too retired a shade." With practice has gone
theory; and now the critics of realism are beginning to nibble at the
accepted estimates of Hawthorne. A very damaging bit of dissection is
the recent essay by Mr. W. C. Brownell, one of the most acute and
unsparingly analytic of American critics. It is full of cruelly clever
things: for example, "Zenobia and Miriam linger in one's memory rather
as brunettes than as women." And again, _à propos_ of Roger
Chillingworth in "The Scarlet Letter,"--"His characters are not
creations, but expedients." I admire these sayings; but they seem to me,
like most epigrams, brilliant statements of half-truths. In general, Mr.
Brownell's thesis is that Hawthorne was spoiled by allegory: that he
abused his naturally rare gift of imagination by declining to grapple
with reality, which is the proper material for the imagination, but
allowing his fancy--an inferior faculty--to play with dreams and
symbols; and that consequently he has left but one masterpiece.

This is an old complaint. Long ago, Edgar Poe, who did not live to read
"The Scarlet Letter," but who wrote a favorable review of "The
Twice-Told Tales," advised the author to give up allegory. In 1880, Mr.
Henry James wrote a life of Hawthorne for the English Men of Letters
series. This was addressed chiefly to the English public and was thought
in this country to be a trifle unsympathetic; in particular in its
patronizing way of dwelling upon the thinness of the American social
environment and the consequent provincialism of Hawthorne's books. The
"American Note Books," in particular, seem to Mr. James a chronicle of
small beer, and he marvels at the triviality of an existence which could
reduce the diarist to recording an impression that "the aromatic odor of
peat smoke in the sunny autumnal air is very pleasant." This peat-smoke
entry has become proverbial, and is mentioned by nearly everyone who
writes about Hawthorne. Yet on a recent rereading of James's biography,
it seemed to me not so unsympathetic as I had remembered it; but, in
effect, cordially appreciative. He touches, however, on this same point,
of the effect on Hawthorne's genius of his allegorizing habit.
"Hawthorne," says Mr. James, "was not in the least a realist--he was
not, to my mind, enough of one." The biographer allows him a liberal
share of imagination, but adds that most of his short tales are more
fanciful than imaginative. "Hawthorne, in his metaphysical moods, is
nothing if not allegorical, and allegory, to my sense, is quite one of
the lighter exercises of the imagination. Many excellent judges, I know,
have a great stomach for it; they delight in symbols and
correspondences, in seeing a story told as if it were another and a very
different story. I frankly confess that it has never seemed to me a
first-rate literary form. It is apt to spoil two good things--a story
and a moral."

Except in that capital satire, "The Celestial Railroad," an ironical
application of "The Pilgrim's Progress" to modern religion, Hawthorne
seldom uses out-and-out allegory; but rather a more or less definite
symbolism. Even in his full-length romances, this mental habit persists
in the typical and, so to speak, algebraic nature of his figures and
incidents. George Woodberry and others have drawn attention to the way
in which his fancy clings to the physical image that represents the
moral truth: the minister's black veil, emblem of the secret of every
human heart; the print of a hand on the heroine's cheek in "The
Birthmark," a sign of earthly imperfection which only death can
eradicate; the mechanical butterfly in "The Artist of the Beautiful,"
for which the artist no longer cares, when once he has embodied his
thought. Zenobia in "The Blithedale Romance" has every day a hot-house
flower sent down from a Boston conservatory and wears it in her hair or
the bosom of her gown, where it seems to express her exotic beauty. It
is characteristic of the romancer that he does not specify whether this
symbolic blossom was a gardenia, an orchid, a tuberose, a japonica, or
what it was. Thoreau, if we can imagine him writing a romance, would
have added the botanical name.

"Rappacini's Daughter" is a very representative instance of those
"insubstantial fictions for the illustration of moral truths, not always
of much moment." The suggestion of this tale we find in a quotation from
Sir Thomas Browne in "The American Note Books" for 1837: "A story there
passeth of an Indian King that sent unto Alexander a fair woman fed
with aconite and other poisons, with this intent complexionally to
destroy him." Here was one of those morbid situations, with a hint of
psychological possibilities and moral applications, that never failed to
fascinate Hawthorne. He let his imagination dwell upon it, and gradually
evolved the story of a physician who made his own daughter the victim of
a scientific experiment. In this tale, Mr. Brownell thinks, the
narrative has no significance apart from the moral; and yet the moral is
quite lost sight of in the development of the narrative, which might
have been more attractive if told simply as a fairy tale. This is quite
representative of Hawthorne's usual method. There is no explicit moral
to "Rappacini's Daughter." But there are a number of parallels and
applications open to the reader. He may make them, or he may abstain
from making them as he chooses. Thus we are vaguely reminded of
Mithridates, the Pontic King, who made himself immune to poisons by
their daily employment. The doctor's theory, that every disease can be
cured by the use of the appropriate poison, suggests the aconite and
belladonna of the homeopathists and their motto, _similia similibus
curantur_. Again we think of Holmes's novel "Elsie Venner," of the girl
impregnated with the venom of the rattlesnake, whose life ended when the
serpent nature died out of her; just as Beatrice, in Hawthorne's story,
is killed by the powerful antidote which slays the poison. A very
obvious incidental reflection is the cruelty of science, sacrificing its
best loved object to its curiosity. And may we not turn the whole tale
into a parable of the isolation produced by a peculiar and unnatural
rearing, say in heterodox beliefs, or unconventional habits, unfitting
the victim for society, making her to be shunned as dangerous?

The lure of the symbolic and the marvelous tempted Hawthorne constantly
to the brink of the supernatural. But here his art is delicate. The
old-fashioned ghost is too robust an apparition for modern credulity.
The modern ghost is a "clot on the brain." Recall the ghosts in Henry
James's "The Turn of the Screw"--just a suspicion of evil presences. The
true interpretation of that story I have sometimes thought to be, that
the woman who saw the phantoms was mad. Hawthorne is similarly
ambiguous. His apparently preternatural phenomena always admit of a
natural explanation. The water of Maule's well may have turned bitter in
consequence of an ancient wrong; but also perhaps because of a
disturbance in the underground springs. The sudden deaths of Colonel
and Judge Pyncheon may have been due to the old wizard's curse that "God
would give them blood to drink"; or simply to an inherited tendency to
apoplexy. _Did_ Donatello have furry, leaf-shaped ears, or was this
merely his companions' teasing? Did old Mistress Hibben, the sister of
Governor Bellingham of Massachusetts, attend witch meetings in the
forest, and inscribe her name in the Black Man's book? Hawthorne does
not say so, but only that the people so believed; and it is historical
fact that she was executed as a witch. Was a red letter A actually seen
in the midnight sky, or was it a freak of the aurora borealis? What did
Chillingworth see on Dimmesdale's breast? The author will not tell us.
But if it was the mark of the Scarlet Letter, may we not appeal to the
phenomena of stigmatism: the print, for example, of the five wounds of
Christ on the bodies of devotees? Hawthorne does not vouch for the truth
of Alice Pyncheon's clairvoyant trances: he relates her story as a
legend handed down in the Pyncheon family, explicable, if you please, on
natural grounds--what was witchcraft in the seventeenth century having
become mesmerism or hypnotism in the nineteenth.

Fifty years after his death, Hawthorne is already a classic. For even
Mr. Brownell allows him one masterpiece, and one masterpiece means an
immortality. I suppose it is generally agreed that "The Scarlet Letter"
is his _chef-d'oeuvre_. Certainly it is his most intensely conceived
work, the most thoroughly fused and logically developed; and is free
from those elements of fantasy, mystery, and unreality which enter into
his other romances. But its unrelieved gloom, and the author's
unrelaxing grasp upon his theme, make it less characteristic than some
of his inferior works; and I think he was right in preferring "The House
of the Seven Gables," as more fully representing all sides of his
genius. The difference between the two is the difference between tragedy
and romance. While we are riding the high horse of criticism and feeling
virtuous, we will concede the superiority of the former _genre_; but
when we give our literary conscience the slip, we yield ourselves again
to the fascination of the haunted twilight.

The antique gabled mansion in its quiet back street has the charm of the
still-life sketches in the early books, such as "Sights from a Steeple,"
"A Rill from the Town Pump," "Sunday at Home," and "The Toll-gatherer's
Day." All manner of quaint figures, known to childhood, pass along that
visionary street: the scissors grinder, town crier, baker's cart,
lumbering stage-coach, charcoal vender, hand-organ man and monkey, a
drove of cattle, a military parade--the "trainers," as we used to call
them. Hawthorne had no love for his fellow citizens and took little part
in the modern society of Salem. But he had struck deep roots into the
soil of the old witch town, his birthplace and the home of generations
of his ancestors. Does the reader know this ancient seaport, with its
decayed shipping and mouldering wharves, its silted up harbor and idle
custom-house, where Hawthorne served three years as surveyor of the
port? Imposing still are the great houses around the square, built by
retired merchants and shipmasters whose fortunes were made in the East
India trade: with dark old drawing-rooms smelling of sandalwood and
filled with cabinets of Oriental curiosities. Hawthorne had little to do
with the aristocracy of Salem. But something of the life of these old
families may be read in Mrs. Stoddard's novel "The Morgesons,"--a book
which I am perpetually recommending to my friends, and they as
perpetually refusing to read, returning my copy after a superficial
perusal, with uncomplimentary comments upon my taste in fiction.

Hawthorne's academic connections are of particular interest. It is
wonderful that he and Longfellow should have been classmates at Bowdoin.
Equally wonderful that Emerson's "Nature" and Hawthorne's "Mosses"
should have been written in the same little room in the Old Manse at
Concord. It gives one a sense of how small New England was then, and in
how narrow a runway genius went. Bowdoin College in those days was a
little country school on the edge of the Maine wilderness, only twenty
years old, its few buildings almost literally planted down among the
pine stumps. Hawthorne's class--1825--graduated but thirty-seven strong.
And yet Hawthorne and Longfellow were not intimate in college but
belonged to different sets. And twelve years afterward, when Longfellow
wrote a friendly review of "Twice-Told Tales" in _The North American
Review_, his quondam classmate addressed him in a somewhat formal letter
of thanks as "Dear Sir." Later the relations of the two became closer,
though never perhaps intimate. It was Hawthorne who handed over to
Longfellow that story of the dispersion of the Acadian exiles of
Grandpré, which became "Evangeline": a story which his friend Conolly
had suggested to Hawthorne, as mentioned in "The American Note Books."
The point which arrested Hawthorne's attention was the incident in the
Bayou Teche, where Gabriel's boat passes in the night within a few feet
of the bank on which Evangeline and her company are sleeping.

This was one of those tricks of destiny that so often engaged
Hawthorne's imagination: like the tale of "David Swan" the farmer's boy
who, on his way to try his fortune in the city, falls asleep by a
wayside spring. A rich and childless old couple stop to water their
horse, are taken by his appearance and talk of adopting him, but drive
away on hearing someone approaching. A young girl comes by and falls so
much in love with his handsome face that she is tempted to waken him
with a kiss, but she too is startled and goes on. Then a pair of tramps
arrive and are about to murder him for his money, when they in turn are
frightened off. Thus riches and love and death have passed him in his
sleep; and he, all unconscious of the brush of the wings of fate,
awakens and goes his way. Again, our romancer had read the common
historical accounts of the great landslide which buried the inn in the
Notch of the White Mountains. The names were known of all who had been
there that night and had consequently perished--with one exception. One
stranger had been present, who was never identified: Hawthorne's fancy
played with this curious problem, and he made out of it his story of
"The Ambitious Guest," a youth just starting on a brilliant career,
entertaining the company around the fire, with excited descriptions of
his hopes and plans; and then snuffed out utterly by ironic fate, and
not even numbered among the missing.

Tales like these are among the most characteristic and original of the
author's works. And wherever we notice this quality in a story, we call
it Hawthornish. "Peter Rugg, the Missing Man," is Hawthornish; so is
"Peter Schemil, the Man without a Shadow"; or Balzac's "Peau de
Chagrin"; or later work, some of it manifestly inspired by Hawthorne,
like Stevenson's tale of a double personality, "Dr. Jekyll and Mr.
Hyde"; or Edward Bellamy's "Dr. Heidenhoff's Process"--a process for
ensuring forgetfulness of unpleasant things--a modern water of Lethe.
Even some of James's early stories like "The Madonna of the Future" and
"The Last of the Valerii," as well as Mr. Howells's "Undiscovered
Country," have touches of Hawthorne.

Emerson and Hawthorne were fellow townsmen for some years at Concord,
and held each other in high regard. One was a philosophical idealist:
the other, an artist of the ideal, who sometimes doubted whether the
tree on the bank, or its image in the stream was the more real. But they
took no impress from one another's minds. Emerson could not read his
neighbor's romances. Their morbid absorption in the problem of evil
repelled the resolute optimist. He thought the best thing Hawthorne ever
wrote was his "Recollections of a Gifted Woman," the chapter in "Our Old
Home" concerning Miss Delia Bacon, originator of the Baconian theory of
Shakespeare, whom Hawthorne befriended with unfailing patience and
courtesy during his Liverpool consulship.

Hawthorne paid a fine tribute to Emerson in the introduction to "Mosses
from an Old Manse," and even paid him the honor of quotation, contrary
to his almost invariable practice. I cannot recall a half dozen
quotations in all his works. I think he must have been principled
against them. But he said he had come too late to Concord to fall under
Emerson's influence. No risk of that, had he come earlier. There was a
jealous independence in Hawthorne which resented the too close approach
of an alien mind: a species of perversity even, that set him in
contradiction to his environment. He always fought shy of literary
people. During his Liverpool consulship, he did not make--apparently did
not care to make--acquaintance with his intellectual equals. He did not
meet Carlyle, Dickens, Thackeray, Tennyson, Mill, Grote, Charles Reade,
George Eliot, or any other first-class minds. He barely met the
Brownings, but did not really come to know them till afterwards in
Italy. Surrounded by reformers, abolitionists, vegetarians, comeouters
and radicals of all gospels, he remained stubbornly conservative. He
held office under three Democratic administrations, and wrote a campaign
life of his old college friend Franklin Pierce when he ran for
President. Commenting on Emerson's sentence that John Brown had made the
gallows sacred like the cross, Hawthorne said that Brown was a
blood-stained fanatic and justly hanged.

This conservatism was allied with a certain fatalism, hopelessness, and
moral indolence in Hawthorne's nature. Hollingsworth, in "The Blithedale
Romance," is his picture of the one-ideaed reformer, sacrificing all to
his hobby. Hollingsworth's hobby is prison reform, and characteristically
Hawthorne gives us no details of his plan. It is vagueness itself, and
its advocate is little better than a type. Holgrave again, in "The House
of the Seven Gables," is the scornful young radical; and both he and
Hollingsworth are guilty of the mistake of supposing that they can do
anything directly to improve the condition of things. God will bring
about amendment in his own good time. And this fatalism again is subtly
connected with New England's ancestral creed--Calvinism. Hawthorne--it
has been pointed out a hundred times--is the Puritan romancer. His tales
are tales of the conscience: he is obsessed with the thought of sin,
with the doctrines of foreordination and total depravity. In the
theological library which he found stowed away in the garret of the Old
Manse, he preferred the seventeenth-century folio volumes of Puritan
divinity to the thin Unitarian sermons and controversial articles in the
files of _The Christian Examiner_. The former, at least, had once been
warm with a deep belief, however they had now "cooled down even to the
freezing point." But "the frigidity of the modern productions" was
"inherent." Hawthorne was never a church-goer and adhered to no
particular form of creed. But speculatively he liked his religion thick.

     The Psalm-tunes of the Puritan,
       The songs that dared to go
     Down searching through the abyss of man,
       His deeps of conscious woe--

spoke more profoundly to his soul than the easy optimism of liberal
Christianity. Hawthorne was no transcendentalist: he went to Brook Farm,
not as a Fourierite or a believer in the principles of association, but
attracted by the novelty of this experiment at communal living, and by
the interesting varieties of human nature there assembled: literary
material which he used in "The Blithedale Romance." He complains slyly
of Miss Fuller's transcendental heifer which hooked the other cows
(though Colonel Higginson once assured me that this heifer was only a
symbol, and that Margaret never really owned a heifer or cow of any

Mr. Lathrop proposed, as a rough formula for Hawthorne, Poe and Irving
_plus_ something of his own. The resemblances and differences between
Poe and Hawthorne are obvious. The latter never deals in physical
horror: his morbidest tragedy is of a spiritual kind; while once
only--in the story entitled "William Wilson"--Poe enters that field of
ethical romance which Hawthorne constantly occupies. What he has in
common with Irving is chiefly the attitude of spectatorship, and the
careful refinement of the style, so different from the loud, brassy
manner of modern writing. Hawthorne never uses slang, dialect, oaths, or
colloquial idioms. The talk of his characters is book talk. Why is it
that many of us find this old-fashioned elegance of Irving and Hawthorne
irritating? Is it the fault of the writer or of the reader? Partly of
the former, I think: that anxious finish, those elaborately rounded
periods have something of the artificial, which modern naturalism has
taught us to distrust. But also, I believe, the fault is largely our
own. We have grown so nervous, in these latter generations, so used to
short cuts, that we are impatient of anything slow. Cut out the
descriptions, cut out the reflections, _coupez vos phrases_. Hawthorne's
style was the growth of reverie, solitude, leisure--"fine old leisure,"
whose disappearance from modern life George Eliot has lamented. On the
walls of his study at the "Wayside" was written--though not by his own
hand--the motto, "There is no joy but calm."

Sentiment and humor do not lie so near the surface in Hawthorne as in
Irving. He had a deep sense of the ridiculous, well shown in such
sketches as "P's Correspondence" and "The Celestial Railroad"; or in the
description of the absurd old chickens in the Pyncheon yard, shrunk by
in-breeding to a weazened race, but retaining all their top-knotted
pride of lineage. Hawthorne's humor was less genial than Irving's, and
had a sharp satiric edge. There is no merriment in it. Do you remember
that scene at the Villa Borghese, where Miriam and Donatello break into
a dance and all the people who are wandering in the gardens join with
them? The author meant this to be a burst of wild mænad gaiety. As such
I do not recall a more dismal failure. It is cold at the heart of it.
It has no mirth, but is like a dance without music: like a dance of deaf
mutes that I witnessed once, pretending to keep time to the inaudible
scrapings of a deaf and dumb fiddler.

Henry James says that Hawthorne's stories are the only good American
historical fiction; and Woodberry says that his method here is the same
as Scott's. The truth of this may be admitted up to a certain point. Our
Puritan romancer had certainly steeped his imagination in the annals of
colonial New England, as Scott had done in his border legends. He was
familiar with the documents--especially with Mather's "Magnalia," that
great source book of New England poetry and romance. But it was not the
history itself that interested him, the broad picture of an extinct
society, the _tableau large de la vie_, which Scott delighted to paint;
rather it was some adventure of the private soul. For example, Lowell
had told him the tradition of the young hired man who was chopping wood
at the backdoor of the Old Manse on the morning of the Concord fight;
and who hurried to the battlefield in the neighboring lane, to find both
armies gone and two British soldiers lying on the ground, one dead, the
other wounded. As the wounded man raised himself on his knees and stared
up at the lad, the latter, obeying a nervous impulse, struck him on the
head with his axe and finished him. "The story," says Hawthorne, "comes
home to me like truth. Oftentimes, as an intellectual and moral
exercise, I have sought to follow that poor youth through his subsequent
career and observe how his soul was tortured by the blood-stain.... This
one circumstance has borne more fruit for me than all that history tells
us of the fight." How different is this bit of pathology from the public
feeling of Emerson's lines:

     Spirit that made those heroes dare
       To die and leave their children free,
     Bid Time and Nature gently spare
       The shaft we raise to them and thee.


             Rura quae Liris quietâ
     Mordet aquâ, taciturnus amnis.

The Concord School of Philosophy opened its first session in the summer
of 1879. The dust of late July lay velvet soft and velvet deep on all
the highways; or, stirred by the passing wheel, rose in slow clouds, not
unemblematic of the transcendental haze which filled the mental
atmosphere thereabout.

Of those who had made Concord one of the homes of the soul, Hawthorne
and Thoreau had been dead many years--I saw their graves in Sleepy
Hollow;--and Margaret Fuller had perished long ago by shipwreck on Fire
Island Beach. But Alcott was still alive and garrulous; and Ellery
Channing--Thoreau's biographer--was alive. Above all, the sage of
Concord, "the friend and aider of those who would live in the spirit,"
still walked his ancient haunts; his mind in many ways yet unimpaired,
though sadly troubled by aphasia, or the failure of verbal memory. It
was an instance of pathetic irony that in his lecture on "Memory,"
delivered in the Town Hall, he was prompted constantly by his daughter.

It seemed an inappropriate manner of arrival--the Fitchburg Railroad.
One should have dropped down upon the sacred spot by parachute; or, at
worst, have come on foot, with staff and scrip, along the Lexington
pike, reversing the fleeing steps of the British regulars on that April
day, when the embattled farmers made their famous stand. But I
remembered that Thoreau, whose Walden solitude was disturbed by gangs of
Irish laborers laying the tracks of this same Fitchburg Railroad,
consoled himself with the reflection that hospitable nature made the
intruder a part of herself. The embankment runs along one end of the
pond, and the hermit only said:

     It fills a few hollows
     And makes banks for the swallows,
     And sets the sand a-blowing
     And the black-berries growing.

Afterwards I witnessed, and participated in, a more radical profanation
of these crystal waters, when two hundred of the dirtiest children in
Boston, South-enders, were brought down by train on a fresh-air-fund
picnic and washed in the lake just in front of the spot where Thoreau's
cabin stood, after having been duly swung in the swings, teetered on
the see-saws, and fed with a sandwich, a slice of cake, a pint of
peanuts, and a lemonade apiece, by a committee of charitable ladies--one
of whom was Miss Louisa Alcott, certainly a high authority on "Little
Women" and "Little Men."

Miss Alcott I had encountered on the evening of my first day in Concord,
when I rang the door bell of the Alcott residence and asked if the seer
was within. I fancied that there was a trace of acerbity in the manner
of the tall lady who answered my ring, and told me abruptly that Mr.
Alcott was not at home, and that I would probably find him at Mr.
Sanborn's farther up the street. Perspiring philosophers with dusters
and grip-sacks had been arriving all day and applying at the Alcott
house for addresses of boarding houses and for instructions of all
kinds; and Miss Louisa's patience may well have been tried. She did not
take much stock in the School anyway. Her father was supremely happy.
One of the dreams of his life was realized, and endless talk and
soul-communion were in prospect. But his daughter's view of philosophy
was tinged with irony, as was not unnatural in a high-spirited woman who
had borne the burden of the family's support, and had even worked out in
domestic service, while her unworldly parent was transcendentalizing
about the country, holding conversation classes in western towns, from
which after prolonged absences he sometimes brought home a dollar, and
sometimes only himself. "Philosophy can bake no bread, but it can give
us God, freedom, and immortality" read the motto--from Novalis--on the
cover of the _Journal of Speculative Philosophy_, published at Concord
in those years, under the editorship of Mr. William T. Harris; but bread
must be baked, for even philosophers must eat, and an occasional
impatience of the merely ideal may be forgiven in the overworked

On Mr. Frank Sanborn's wide, shady verandah, I found Mr. Alcott, a most
quaint and venerable figure, large in frame and countenance, with
beautiful, flowing white hair. He moved slowly, and spoke deliberately
in a rich voice. His face had a look of mild and innocent solemnity, and
he reminded me altogether of a large benignant sheep or other ruminating
animal. He was benevolently interested when I introduced myself as the
first fruits of the stranger and added that I was from Connecticut. He
himself was a native of the little hill town of Wolcott, not many miles
from New Haven, and in youth had travelled through the South as a Yankee
peddler. "Connecticut gave him birth," says Thoreau; "he peddled first
her wares, afterwards, he declares, his brains."

Mr. Sanborn was the secretary of the School, and with him I enrolled
myself as a pupil and paid the very modest fee which admitted me to its
symposia. Mr. Sanborn is well known through his contributions to Concord
history and biography. He was for years one of the literary staff of
_The Springfield Republican_, active in many reform movements, and an
efficient member of the American Social Science Association. Almost from
his house John Brown started on his Harper's Ferry raid, and people in
Concord still dwell upon the exciting incident of Mr. Sanborn's arrest
in 1860 as an accessory before the fact. The United States deputy
marshal with his myrmidons drove out from Boston in a hack. They lured
the unsuspecting abolitionist outside his door, on some pretext or
other, clapped the handcuffs on him, and tried to get him into the hack.
But their victim, planting his long legs one on each side of the
carriage door, resisted sturdily, and his neighbors assaulted the
officers with hue and cry. The town rose upon them. Judge Hoar hastily
issued a habeas corpus returnable before the Massachusetts Supreme
Court, and the baffled minions of the slave power went back to Boston.

The School assembled in the Orchard House, formerly the residence of Mr.
Alcott, on the Lexington road. Next door was the Wayside, Hawthorne's
home for a number of years, a cottage overshadowed by the steep hillside
that rose behind it, thick with hemlocks and larches. On the ridge of
this hill was Hawthorne's "out door study," a foot path worn by his own
feet, as he paced back and forth among the trees and thought out the
plots of his romances. In 1879 the Wayside was tenanted by George
Lathrop, who had married Hawthorne's daughter, Rose. He had already
published his "Study of Hawthorne" and a volume of poems, "Rose and
Rooftree." His novel, "An Echo of Passion," was yet to come, a book
which unites something of modern realism with a delicately symbolic art
akin to Hawthorne's own.

A bust of Plato presided over the exercises of the School, and
"Plato-Skimpole"--as Mr. Alcott was once nicknamed--made the opening
address. I remember how impressively he quoted Milton's lines:

     How charming is divine philosophy!
     Not harsh and crabbed, as dull fools suppose,
     But musical as is Apollo's lute.

Our _pièce de résistance_ was the course of lectures in which Mr. Harris
expounded Hegel. But there were many other lecturers. Mrs. Edna Cheney
talked to us about art; though all that I recall of her conversation is
the fact that she pronounced _always olways_, and I wondered if that was
the regular Boston pronunciation. Dr. Jones, the self-taught Platonist
of Jacksonville, Illinois, interpreted Plato. Quite a throng of his
disciples, mostly women, had followed him from Illinois and swelled the
numbers of the Summer School. Once Professor Benjamin Peirce, the great
Harvard mathematician, came over from Cambridge, and read us one of his
Lowell Institute lectures, on the Ideality of Mathematics. He had a most
distinguished presence and an eye, as was said, of black fire. The
Harvard undergraduates of my time used to call him Benny Peirce; and on
the fly leaves of their mathematical text books they would write, "Who
steals my Peirce steals trash." Colonel T. W. Higginson read a single
lecture on American literature, from which I carried away for future use
a delightful story about an excellent Boston merchant who, being asked
at a Goethe birthday dinner to make a few remarks, said that he "guessed
that Go-ethe was the N. P. Willis of Germany."

Colonel Higginson's lecture was to me a green oasis in the arid desert
of metaphysics, but it was regarded by earnest truth-seekers in the
class as quite irrelevant to the purposes of the course. The lecturer
himself confided to me at the close of the session a suspicion that his
audience cared more for philosophy than for literature. Once or twice
Mr. Emerson visited the School, taking no part in its proceedings, but
sitting patiently through the hour, and wearing what a newspaper
reporter described as his "wise smile." After the lecture for the
session was ended, the subject was thrown open to discussion and there
was an opportunity to ask questions. Most of us were shy to speak out in
that presence, feeling ourselves in a state of pupilage. Usually there
would be a silence of several minutes, as at a Quaker meeting waiting
for the spirit to move; and then Mr. Alcott would announce in his
solemn, musical tones "I have a thought"; and after a weighty pause,
proceed to some Orphic utterance. Alcott, indeed, was what might be
called the leader on the floor; and he was ably seconded by Miss
Elizabeth Peabody, the sister of Nathaniel Hawthorne's wife. Miss
Peabody was well known as the introducer of the German kindergarten, and
for her life-long zeal in behalf of all kinds of philanthropies and
reforms. Henry James was accused of having caricatured her in his novel
"The Bostonians," in the figure of the dear, visionary, vaguely
benevolent old lady who is perpetually engaged in promoting "causes,"
attending conventions, carrying on correspondence, forming committees,
drawing up resolutions, and the like; and who has so many "causes" on
hand at once that she gets them all mixed up and cannot remember which
of her friends are spiritualists and which of them are concerned in
woman's rights movements, temperance agitations, and universal peace
associations. Mr. James denied that he meant Miss Peabody, whom he had
never met or known. If so, he certainly divined the type. In her later
years, Miss Peabody was nicknamed "the grandmother of Boston."

I have to acknowledge, to my shame, that I was often a truant to the
discussions of the School, which met three hours in the morning and
three in the afternoon. The weather was hot and the air in the Orchard
House was drowsy. There were many outside attractions, and more and more
I was tempted to leave the philosophers to reason high--

     Of providence, foreknowledge, will, and fate--
     Fixed fate, free will, foreknowledge absolute--

while I wandered off through the woods for a bath in Walden, some one
and a half miles away, through whose transparent waters the pebbles on
the bottom could be plainly seen at a depth of thirty feet. Sometimes I
went farther afield to White Pond, described by Thoreau, or Baker Farm,
sung by Ellery Channing. A pleasant young fellow at Miss Emma Barrett's
boarding house, who had no philosophy, but was a great hand at picnics
and boating and black-berrying parties, paddled me up the Assabeth, or
North Branch, in his canoe, and drove me over to Longfellow's Wayside
Inn at Sudbury. And so it happens that, when I look back at my fortnight
at Concord, what I think of is not so much the murmurous auditorium of
the Orchard House, as the row of colossal sycamores along the village
sidewalk that led us thither, whose smooth, mottled trunks in the
moonlight resembled a range of Egyptian temple columns. Or I haunt again
at twilight the grounds of the Old Manse, where Hawthorne wrote his
"Mosses," and the grassy lane beside it leading down to the site of the
rude bridge and the first battlefield of the Revolution. Here were the
headstones of the two British soldiers, buried where they fell; here the
Concord monument erected in 1836:

     On this green bank, by this soft stream
       We set to-day a votive stone:
     That memory may their deed redeem
       When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

In the field across the river was the spirited statue of the minuteman,
designed by young Daniel Chester French, a Concord boy who has since
distinguished himself as a sculptor in wider fields and more imposing

The social life of Concord, judging from such glimpses as could be had
of it, was peculiar. It was the life of a village community, marked by
the friendly simplicity of country neighbors, but marked also by unusual
intellectual distinction and an addiction to "the things of the mind."
The town was not at all provincial, or what the Germans call
_kleinstädtisch_:--cosmopolitan, rather, as lying on the highway of
thought. It gave one a thrill, for example, to meet Mr. Emerson coming
from the Post Office with his mail, like any ordinary citizen. The petty
constraint, the narrow standards of conduct which are sometimes the bane
of village life were almost unknown. Transcendental freedom of
speculation, all manner of heterodoxies, and the individual queernesses
of those whom the world calls "cranks," had produced a general
tolerance. Thus it was said, that the only reason why services were held
in the Unitarian Church on Sunday was because Judge Hoar didn't quite
like to play whist on that day. Many of the Concord houses have gardens
bordering upon the river; and I was interested to notice that the boats
moored at the bank had painted on their sterns plant names or bird
names taken from the Concord poems--such as "The Rhodora," "The Veery,"
"The Linnæa," and "The Wood Thrush." Many a summer hour I spent with
Edward Hoar in his skiff, rowing, or sailing, or floating up and down on
this soft Concord stream--Musketaquit, or "grass-ground river"--moving
through miles of meadow, fringed with willows and button bushes, with a
current so languid, said Hawthorne, that the eye cannot detect which way
it flows. Sometimes we sailed as far as Fair Haven Bay, whose "dark and
sober billows," "when the wind blows freshly on a raw March day,"
Thoreau thought as fine as anything on Lake Huron or the northwest
coast. Nor were we, I hope, altogether unperceiving of that other river
which Emerson detected flowing underneath the Concord--

     Thy summer voice, Musketaquit,
       Repeats the music of the rain,
     But sweeter rivers pulsing flit
       Through thee as though through Concord plain....

     I see the inundation sweet,
       I hear the spending of the stream,
     Through years, through men, through nature fleet,
       Through love and thought, through power and dream.

Edward Hoar had been Thoreau's companion in one of his visits to the
Maine woods. He knew the flora and fauna of Concord as well as his
friend the poet-naturalist. He had a large experience of the world, had
run a ranch in New Mexico and an orange plantation in Sicily. He was not
so well known to the public as his brothers, Rockwood Hoar, Attorney
General in Grant's Cabinet, and the late Senator George Frisbie Hoar, of
Worcester; but I am persuaded that he was just as good company; and,
then, neither of these distinguished gentlemen would have wasted whole
afternoons in eating the lotus along the quiet reaches of the
Musketaquit with a stripling philosopher.

The appetite for discussion not being fully satisfied by the stated
meetings of the School in the Orchard House, the hospitable Concord
folks opened their houses for informal symposia in the evenings. I was
privileged to make one of a company that gathered in Emerson's library.
The subject for the evening was Shakespeare, and Emerson read, by
request, that mysterious little poem "The Phoenix and the Turtle,"
attributed to Shakespeare on rather doubtful evidence, but included for
some reason in Emerson's volume of favorite selections, "Parnassus." He
began by saying that he would not himself have chosen this particular
piece, but as it had been chosen for him he would read it. And this he
did, with that clean-cut, refined enunciation and subtle distribution of
emphasis which made the charm of his delivery as a lyceum lecturer. When
he came to the couplet,

     Truth may seem, but cannot be,
     Beauty brag, but 'tis not she,

I thought that I detected an idealistic implication in the lines which
accounted for their presence in "Parnassus."

That shy recluse, Ellery Channing, most eccentric of the
transcendentalists, was not to be found at the School or the evening
symposia. He had married a sister of Margaret Fuller, but for years he
had lived alone and done for himself, and his oddities had increased
upon him with the years. I had read and liked many of his poems--those
poems so savagely cut up by Poe, when first published in 1843--and my
expressed interest in these foundlings of the Muse gave me the
opportunity to meet the author of "A Poet's Hope" at one hospitable
table where he was accustomed to sup on a stated evening every week.

The Concord Summer School of Philosophy went on for ten successive
years, but I never managed to attend another session. A friend from New
Haven, who was there for a few days in 1880, brought back the news that
a certain young lady who was just beginning the study of Hegel the year
before, had now got up to the second intention, and hoped in time to
attain the sixth. I never got far enough in Mr. Harris's lectures to
discover what Hegelian intentions were; but my friend spoke of them as
if they were something like degrees in Masonry. In 1905 I visited
Concord for the first and only time in twenty-six years. There is a good
deal of philosophy in Wordsworth's Yarrow poems--

     For when we're there, although 'tis fair,
     'Twill be another Yarrow!--

and I have heard it suggested that he might well have added to his
trilogy, a fourth member, "Yarrow Unrevisited." There is a loss, though
Concord bears the strain better than most places, I think. As we go on
in life the world gets full of ghosts, and at the capital of
transcendentalism I was peculiarly conscious of the haunting of these
spiritual presences. Since I had been there before, Emerson and Alcott
and Ellery Channing and my courteous host and companion, Edward Hoar,
and my kind old landlady Miss Barrett--who had also been Emerson's
landlady and indeed everybody's landlady in Concord, and whom her
youngest boarders addressed affectionately as Emma--all these and many
more had joined the sleepers in Sleepy Hollow. The town itself has
suffered comparatively few changes. True there is a trolley line through
the main street--oddly called "The Milldam," and in Walden wood I met an
automobile not far from the cairn, or stone pile, which marks the site
of Thoreau's cabin. But the woods themselves were intact and the limpid
waters of the pond had not been tapped to furnish power for any electric
light company. The Old Manse looked much the same, and so did the
Wayside and the Orchard House. Not a tree was missing from the mystic
ring of tall pines in front of Emerson's house at the fork of the
Cambridge and Lexington roads. On the central square the ancient tavern
was gone where I had lodged on the night of my arrival and where my
host, a practical philosopher--everyone in Concord had his
philosophy,--took a gloomy view of the local potentialities of the hotel
business. He said there was nothing doing--some milk and asparagus were
raised for the Boston market, but the inhabitants were mostly literary
people. "I suppose," he added, "we've got the smartest literary man in
the country living right here." "You mean Mr. Emerson," I suggested.
"Yes, sir, and a gentleman too."

"And Alcott?" I ventured.

"Oh, Alcott! The best thing he ever did was his daughters."

This inn was gone, but the still more ancient one across the square
remains, the tavern where Major Pitcairn dined on the day of the
Lexington fight, and from whose windows or door steps he is alleged by
the history books to have cried to a group of embattled farmers,
"Disperse, ye Yankee rebels."

Concord is well preserved. Still there are subtle indications of the
flight of time. For one thing, the literary pilgrimage business has
increased, partly no doubt because trolleys, automobiles, and bicycles
have made the town more accessible; but also because our literature is a
generation older than it was in 1879. The study of American authors has
been systematically introduced into the public schools. The men who made
Concord famous are dead, but their habitat has become increasingly
classic ground as they themselves have receded into a dignified,
historic past. At any rate, the trail of the excursionist--the "cheap
tripper," as he is called in England,--is over it all. Basket parties
had evidently eaten many a luncheon on the first battle-field of the
Revolution, and notices were posted about, asking the public not to
deface the trees, and instructing them where to put their paper
wrappers and _fragmenta regalia_. I could imagine Boston schoolma'ams
pointing out to their classes, the minuteman, the monument, and other
objects of interest, and calling for names and dates. The shores of
Walden were trampled and worn in spots. There were springboards there
for diving, and traces of the picnicker were everywhere. Trespassers
were warned away from the grounds of the Old Manse and similar historic
spots, by signs of "Private Property."

Concord has grown more self-conscious under the pressure of all this
publicity and resort. Tablets and inscriptions have been put up at
points of interest. As I was reading one of these on the square, I was
approached by a man who handed me a business card with photographs of
the monument, the Wayside, the four-hundred-year-old oak, with
information to the effect that Mr. ---- would furnish guides and livery
teams about the town and to places as far distant as Walden Pond and
Sudbury Inn. Thus poetry becomes an asset, and transcendentalism is
exploited after the poet and the philosopher are dead. It took Emerson
eleven years to sell five hundred copies of "Nature," and Thoreau's
books came back upon his hands as unsalable and were piled up in the
attic like cord-wood. I was impressed anew with the tameness of the
Concord landscape. There is nothing salient about it: it is the average
mean of New England nature. Berkshire is incomparably more beautiful.
And yet those flat meadows and low hills and slow streams are dear to
the imagination, since genius has looked upon them and made them its
own. "The eye," said Emerson, "is the first circle: the horizon the

And the Concord books--how do they bear the test of revisitation? To me,
at least, they have--even some of the second-rate papers in the "Dial"
have--now nearly fifty years since I read them first, that freshness
which is the mark of immortality.

     No ray is dimmed, no atom worn:
       My oldest force is good as new;
     And the fresh rose on yonder thorn
       Gives back the bending heavens in dew.

I think I do not mistake, and confer upon them the youth which was then
mine. No, the morning light had touched their foreheads: the
youthfulness was in _them_.

Lately I saw a newspaper item about one of the thirty thousand literary
pilgrims who are said to visit Concord annually. Calling upon Mr.
Sanborn, he asked him which of the Concord authors he thought would last
longest. The answer, somewhat to his surprise, was "Thoreau." I do not
know whether this report is authentic; but supposing it true, it is not
inexplicable. I will confess that, of recent years, I find myself
reading Thoreau more and Emerson less. "Walden" seems to me more of a
book than Emerson ever wrote. Emerson's was incomparably the larger
nature, the more liberal and gracious soul. His, too, was the seminal
mind; though Lowell was unfair to the disciple, when he described him as
a pistillate blossom fertilized by the Emersonian pollen. For Thoreau
had an originality of his own--a flavor as individual as the tang of the
bog cranberry, or the wild apples which he loved. One secure advantage
he possesses in the concreteness of his subject-matter. The master, with
his abstract habit of mind and his view of the merely phenomenal
character of the objects of sense, took up a somewhat incurious attitude
towards details, not thinking it worth while to "examine too
microscopically the universal tablet." The disciple, though he professed
that the other world was all his art, had a sharp eye for this. Emerson
was Nature's lover, but Thoreau was her scholar. Emerson's method was
intuition, while Thoreau's was observation. He worked harder than
Emerson and knew more,--that is, within certain defined limits. Thus he
read the Greek poets in the original. Emerson, in whom there was a
spice of indolence--due, say his biographers, to feeble health in early
life, and the need of going slow,--read them in translations and excused
himself on the ground that he liked to be beholden to the great English

Compare Hawthorne's description, in the "Mosses," of a day spent on the
Assabeth with Ellery Channing, with any chapter in Thoreau's "Week."
Moonlight and high noon! The great romancer gives a dreamy, poetic
version of the river landscape, musically phrased, pictorially composed,
dissolved in atmosphere--a lovely piece of literary art, with the soft
blur of a mezzotint engraving, say, from the designs by Turner in
Rogers's "Italy." Thoreau, equally imaginative in his way, writes like a
botanist, naturalist, surveyor, and local antiquary; and in a pungent,
practical, business-like style--a style, as was said of Dante, in which
words are things. Yet which of these was the true transcendentalist?

Matthew Arnold's discourse on Emerson was received with strong dissent
in Boston, where it was delivered, and in Concord, where it was read
with indignation. The critic seemed to be taking away, one after
another, our venerated master's claims as a poet, a man of letters, and
a philosopher. What! Gray a great poet, and Emerson not! Addison a
great writer, and Emerson not! Surely there are heights and depths in
Emerson, an inspiring power, an originality and force of thought which
are neither in Gray nor in Addison. And how can these denials be
consistent with the sentence near the end of the discourse, pronouncing
Emerson's essays the most important work done in English prose during
the nineteenth century--more important than Carlyle's? A truly enormous
concession this; how to reconcile it with those preceding blasphemies?

Let not the lightning strike me if I say that I think Arnold was
right--as he usually was right in a question of taste or critical
discernment. For Emerson was essentially a prophet and theosophist, and
not a man of letters, or creative artist. He could not have written a
song or a story or a play. Arnold complains of his want of concreteness.
The essay was his chosen medium, well-nigh the least concrete, the least
literary of forms. And it was not even the personal essay, like Elia's,
that he practised, but an abstract variety, a lyceum lecture, a
moralizing discourse or sermon. For the clerical virus was strong in
Emerson, and it was not for nothing that he was descended from eight
generations of preachers. His concern was primarily with religion and
ethics, not with the tragedy and comedy of personal lives, this motley
face of things, _das bunte Menschenleben_. Anecdotes and testimonies
abound to illustrate this. See him on his travels in Europe, least
picturesque of tourists, hastening with almost comic precipitation past
galleries, cathedrals, ancient ruins, Swiss alps, Como lakes, Rhine
castles, Venetian lagoons, costumed peasants, "the great sinful streets
of Naples"--and of Paris,--and all manner and description of local color
and historic associations; hastening to meet and talk with "a few
minds"--Landor, Wordsworth, Carlyle. Here he was in line, indeed, with
his great friend, impatiently waving aside the art patter, with which
Sterling filled his letters from Italy. "Among the windy gospels,"
complains Carlyle, "addressed to our poor Century there are few louder
than this of Art.... It is a subject on which earnest men ... had better
... 'perambulate their picture-gallery with little or no speech.'"
"Emerson has never in his life," affirms Mr. John Jay Chapman, "felt the
normal appeal of any painting, or any sculpture, or any architecture, or
any music. These things, of which he does not know the meaning in real
life, he yet uses, and uses constantly, as symbols to convey ethical
truths. The result is that his books are full of blind places, like the
notes which will not strike on a sick piano." The biographers tell us
that he had no ear for music and could not distinguish one tune from
another; did not care for pictures nor for garden flowers; could see
nothing in Dante's poetry nor in Shelley's, nor in Hawthorne's romances,
nor in the novels of Dickens and Jane Austen. Edgar Poe was to him "the
jingle man." Poe, of course, had no "message."

I read, a number of years ago, some impressions of Concord by Roger
Riordan, the poet and art critic. I cannot now put my hand, for purposes
of quotation, upon the title of the periodical in which these appeared;
but I remember that the writer was greatly amused, as well as somewhat
provoked, by his inability to get any of the philosophers with whom he
sought interviews to take an æsthetic view of any poem, or painting, or
other art product. They would talk of its "message" or its "ethical
content"; but as to questions of technique or beauty, they gently put
them one side as unworthy to engage the attention of earnest souls.

At the symposium which I have mentioned in Emerson's library, was
present a young philosopher who had had the advantage of
reading--perhaps in proof sheets--a book about Shakespeare by Mr. Denton
J. Snider. He was questioned by some of the guests as to the character
of the work, but modestly declined to essay a description of it in the
presence of such eminent persons; venturing only to say that it "gave
the ethical view of Shakespeare," information which was received by the
company with silent but manifest approval.

Yet, after all, what does it matter whether Emerson was singly any one
of those things which Matthew Arnold says he was not--great poet, great
writer, great philosophical thinker? These are matters of classification
and definition. We know well enough the rare combination of qualities
which made him our Emerson. Let us leave it there. Even as a formal
verse-writer, when he does emerge from his cloud of encumbrances, it is
in some supernal phrase such as only the great poets have the secret of:

     Music pours on mortals its beautiful disdain;


     Have I a lover who is noble and free?
     I would he were nobler than to love me.


In this year many fames have come of age; among them, Lowell's and Walt
Whitman's. As we read their centenary tributes, we are reminded that
Lowell never accepted Whitman, who was piqued by the fact and referred
to it a number of times in the conversations reported by the Boswellian
Traubel. Whitmanites explain this want of appreciation as owing to
Lowell's conventional literary standards.

Now convention is one of the things that distinguish man from the
inferior animals. Language is a convention, law is a convention; and so
are the church and the state, morals, manners, clothing--_teste_ "Sartor
Resartus." Shame is a convention: it is human. The animals are without
shame, and so is Whitman. His "Children of Adam" are the children of our
common father before he had tasted the forbidden fruit and discovered
that he was naked.

Poetry, too, has its conventions, among them, metre, rhythm, and rhyme,
the choice of certain words, phrases, images, and topics, and the
rejection of certain others. Lowell was conservative by nature and
thoroughly steeped in the tradition of letters. Perhaps he was too
tightly bound by these fetters of convention to relish their sudden
loosening. I wonder what he would have thought of his kinswoman Amy's
free verses if he had lived to read them.

If a large, good-natured, clean, healthy animal could write poetry, it
would write much such poetry as the "Leaves of Grass." It would tell how
good it is to lie and bask in the warm sun; to stand in cool, flowing
water, to be naked in the fresh air; to troop with friendly companions
and embrace one's mate. "Leaves of Grass" is the poetry of pure
sensation, and mainly, though not wholly, of physical sensation. In a
famous passage the poet says that he wants to go away and live with the
animals. Not one of them is respectable or sorry or conscientious or
worried about its sins.

But his poetry, though animal to a degree, is not unhuman. We do not
know enough about the psychology of the animals to be sure whether, or
not, they have any sense of the world as a whole. Does an elephant or an
eagle perhaps, viewing some immense landscape, catch any glimpse of the
universe, as an object of contemplation, apart from the satisfaction of
his own sensual needs? Probably not. But Whitman, as has been said a
hundred times, was "cosmic." He had an unequalled sense of the bigness
of creation and of "these States." He owned a panoramic eye and a large
passive imagination, and did well to loaf and let the tides of sensation
flow over his soul, drawing out what music was in him without much care
for arrangement or selection.

I once heard an admirer of Walt challenged to name a single masterpiece
of his production. Where was his perfect poem, his gem of flawless
workmanship? He answered, in effect, that he didn't make masterpieces.
His poetry was diffused, like the grass blades that symbolized for him
our democratic masses.

Of course, the man in the street thinks that Walt Whitman's stuff is not
poetry at all, but just bad prose. He acknowledges that there are
splendid lines, phrases, and whole passages. There is that one
beginning, "I open my scuttle at night," and that glorious apostrophe to
the summer night, "Night of south winds, night of the large, few stars."
But, as a whole, his work is tiresome and without art. It is alive, to
be sure, but so is protoplasm. Life is the first thing and form is
secondary; yet form, too, is important. The musician, too lazy or too
impatient to master his instrument, breaks it, and seizes a megaphone.
Shall we call that originality or failure?

It is also a commonplace that the democratic masses of America have
never accepted Walt Whitman as their spokesman. They do not read him, do
not understand or care for him. They like Longfellow, Whittier, and
James Whitcomb Riley, poets of sentiment and domestic life, truly poets
of the people. No man can be a spokesman for America who lacks a sense
of humor, and Whitman was utterly devoid of it, took himself most
seriously, posed as a prophet. I do not say that humor is a desirable
quality. The thesis may even be maintained that it is a disease of the
mind, a false way of looking at things. Many great poets have been
without it--Milton for example. Shelley used to speak of "the withering
and perverting power of comedy." But Shelley was slightly mad. At all
events, our really democratic writers have been such as Mark Twain and
James Whitcomb Riley. I do not know what Mark Twain thought of Walt, but
I know what Riley thought of him. He thought him a grand humbug.
Certainly if he had had any sense of humor he would not have peppered
his poems so naïvely with foreign words, calling out "Camerado!" ever
and anon, and speaking of a perfectly good American sidewalk as a
"trottoir" _quasi Lutetia Parisii_. And if he had not had a streak of
humbug in him, he would hardly have written anonymous puffs of his own

But I am far from thinking Walt Whitman a humbug. He was a man of genius
whose work had a very solid core of genuine meaning. It is good to read
him in spots--he is so big and friendly and wholesome; he feels so good,
like a man who has just had a cold bath and tingles with the joy of

Whitman was no humbug, but there is surely some humbug about the Whitman
_culte_. The Whitmanites deify him. They speak of him constantly as a
seer, a man of exalted intellect. I do not believe that he was a great
thinker, but only a great feeler. Was he the great poet of America, or
even a great poet at all? A great poet includes a great artist, and
"Leaves of Grass," as has been pointed out times without number, is the
raw material of poetry rather than the finished product.

A friend of mine once wrote an article about Whitman, favorable on the
whole, but with qualifications. He got back a copy of it through the
mail, with the word "Jackass!" pencilled on the margin by some outraged
Whitmaniac. I know what has been said and written in praise of old Walt
by critics of high authority, and I go along with them a part of the
way, but only a part. And I do not stand in terror of any critics,
however authoritative; remembering how even the great Goethe was taken
in by Macpherson's "Ossian." A very interesting paper might be written
on what illustrious authors have said of each other: what Carlyle said
of Newman, for instance; or what Walter Scott said of Joanna Baillie and
the like.


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