Emerson Journals – Volume 1, Journal II
THE WIDE WORLD, NO.I
[THE journals from February, 1820, to July, 1824, bear the name “The Wide World,” and extracts from all of these are given here, excepting No. 6, which is missing.]
Mixing with the thousand pursuits and passions and objects of the world as personified by Imagination, is profitable and entertaining. These pages are intended at their commencement to contain a record of new thoughts (when they occur); for a receptacle of all the old ideas that partial but peculiar peepings at antiquity can furnish or furbish ; for tablet to save the wear and tear of weak Memory, and, in short, for all the various purposes and utility, real or imaginary, which are usually comprehended under that comprehensive title Common Place book. 0 ye witches, assist me ! enliven or horrify some midnight lucubration or dream (whichever may be found most convenient) to supply this
DEDICATION 1820 11
reservoir when other resources fail. Pardon me, Fairy Land ! rich region of fancy and gnomery, elvery, sylphery, and Queen Mab ! pardon me for presenting my first petition to your enemies, but there is probably one in the chamber who maliciously influenced me to what is irrevocable; pardon and favour me ! â€” And finally, Spirits of Earth, Air, Fire, Water, wherever ye glow, whatsoever you patronize, whoever you inspire, hallow, hallow this devoted paper â€”Dedicated and Signed January 25, 1820,
After such a dedication, what so proper to begin with as reflections on or from Edward Search? I It is a fine idea which he either intends
1 The nom de plume always used by Abraham Tucker ( 7c) 5â€” I 7 7 ) , an English scholar, country gentleman and magistrate. His writings were highly praised by Dugald Stewart, Sir James Mackintosh, Hazlitt and others. Leigh Hunt called him â€˜, The most agreeable of metaphysicians,” and Paley said, ,â€˜ I have found in this writer more original thinking and observation upon the several subjects he has taken in hand than in any other, not to say than all others put together.” His principal works are : i. A Country Gentleman’s Advice to his Son; . Free will, Foreknowledge and Fate ; 3. Man in Quest of Himself, or a Defence of the Indivisuality of the Human Mind or Self; 4. The Light of Nature Pursued.
12 JOURNAL AGE 16
to convey, or else the form of expression unintentionally did (pray let us believe the latter for the credit of originality) that those parts of the world which man cannot or does not inhabit are the abodes of other orders of sentient being, invisible or unperceived by him. To amplify: Perhaps the inferiour centre of the earth, the bottomless depths and the upper paths of Ocean, the lands circumjacent to the poles, the high rock and clefts of the rock, are peopled by higher beings than ourselves;â€”animals cast in more refined mould ; not subject to the inconveniences, woes, etc., of our speciesâ€” to whom, as to us, this world appears made only for them, and among whom our very honest and honourable species are classed only as the highest order of brutes â€” perhaps called of the bee kind. When Imagination has formed this class of beings and given them the name of Supromines, it will be perfectly convenient to rise again to an order higher than these last, holding our self-complacent friends, the Supromines, in as utter contempt as they us, or as we the beasts, and then she may rise to another and another, till, for aught I know, she may make this world one of the Mansions of heaven, and in parts of it, though in and around, yet thoroughly
1820 THE MOVING UNIVERSE 13
unknown to us, the seraphim and cherubim may live and enjoy. I have now already fallen into an errour, which may be a very common one, to hunt an idea down, when obtained, in such a remorseless manner as to render dull and flat an idea originally plump, round and shining.
Perhaps our system and all the planets, stars, we can discover, nay, the whole interminable Universe, is moving on, as has been supposed, in one grand circle round the centre of light, and since the world began it has never completed a single revolution. It is an improvement on the grandeur of this supposition to suppose there is a source of light before us and the whole vast machinery has been forever and is now sweeping forward in a direct line through the interminable fields â€” extensions of space. It is a singular fact that we cannot present to the imagination a longer space than just so much of the world as is bounded by the visible horizon ; so that, even in this stretching of thought to comprehend the broad path lengthening itself and widening to receive the rolling Universe, stern necessity bounds us to a little extent of a few miles only. But what matters it ? we can talk and write and think it out. . . . Chateau-
14 JOURNAL AGE t6
briand’s “the universe is the imagination of the deity made manifest ” is worthy him.
“Mount on thy own path to Fame, nor swerve for man or more than man ” says Caswallon (in “Samor “),1 and it will be a fine motto by striking out the last four words.
INDEPENDENCE; PULPIT ELOQUENCE
Let us suppose a pulpit Orator to whom the path of his profession is yet untried, but whose talents are good and feelings strong, and his independence, as a man, in opinion and action is established ; let him ascend the pulpit for the first time, not to please or displease the multitude, but to expound to them the words of the book and to waft their minds and devotions to heaven. Let him come to them in solemnity and strength, and when he speaks he will claim attention with an interesting figure and an interested face. To expand their views of the sublime doctrines of the religion, he may embrace the universe and bring down the stars from their courses to do homage to their Creator.
1 Samor, Lord of the Bright City, an Heroic Poem, by the Rev. Henry Hunt Milman, M. A., New York (reprint), C. Wiley & Co., 1818.
1820 PULPIT ELOQUENCE 15
Here is a fountain which cannot fail them. Wise Christian orators have often and profitably magnified the inconceivable power of the Creator as manifested in his works, and thus elevated and sobered the mind of the people and gradually drawn them off from the world they have left by the animating ideas of Majesty, Beauty, Wonder, which these considerations bestow. Then when life and its frivolities is fastly flowing away from before them, and the spirit is absorbed in the play of its mightiest energies, and their eyes are on him and their hearts are in heaven, then let him discharge his fearful duty, then let him unfold the stupendous designs of celestial wisdom, and whilst admiration is speechless, let him minister to their unearthly wants, and let the ambassador of the Most High prove himself worthy of his tremendous vocation. Let him gain the tremendous eloquence which stirs men’s souls, which turns the world upside down, but which loses all its filth and retains all its grandeur when consecrated to God. When a congregation are assembled together to hear such an apostle, you may look round and you will see the faces of men bent forward in the earnestness of expectation, and in this desirable frame of mind the preacher may lead them
16 JOURNAL AGE 16
whithersoever he will ; they have yielded up their prejudices to the eloquence of the lips which the archangel hath purified and hallowed with fire, and this first sacrifice is the sin-offering which cleanseth them.
Mr. K., a lawyer of Boston, gave a fine character of a distinguished individual in private conversation, which in part I shall set down. “Webster is a rather large man, about five feet, seven, or nine, in height, and thirty-nine or forty years oldâ€”he has a long head, very large black eyes, bushy eyebrows, a commanding expression,â€”and his hair is coal-black, and coarse as a crow’s nest. His voice is sepulchral â€”there is not the least variety or the least harmony of tone â€”it commands, it fills, it echoes, but is harsh and discordant. â€” He possesses an admirable readiness, a fine memory and a faculty of perfect abstraction, an unparallelled impudence and a tremendous power of concentration â€”he brings all that he has ever heard, read or seen to bear on the case in question. He growls along the bar to see who will run, and if nobody runs he WILL fight. He knows his strength, has a perfect con-
1820 WEBSTER 17
fidence in his own powers, and is distinguished by a spirit of fixed determination ; he marks his path out, and will cut off fifty heads rather than turn out of it; but is generous and free from malice, and will never move a step to make a severe remark. His genius is such that, if he descends to be pathetic, he becomes ridiculous. He has no wit and never laughs, though he is very shrewd and sarcastic, and sometimes sets the whole court in a roar by the singularity or pointedness of a remark. His imagination is what the light of a furnace is to its heat, a necessary attendant â€”nothing sparkling or agreeable, but dreadful and gloomy.” â€” This is the finest character I have ever heard pourtrayed, and very truly drawn, with little or no exaggeration. With respect to the cause of a town’s condition of bad society he said well, “There is stuff to make good society, but they are discordant atoms,” and regarding the contrasting and comparing the worthy and great dead, â€”” you may not tell a man your neighbor’s house is higher than yours,’ but you may measure gravestones and see which is the tallest.
CAMBRIDGE, March th, 1820.
Thus long I have been in Cambridge this term (three or four weeks) and have not before
18 JOURNAL AGE 16
this moment paid my devoirs to the Gnomes to whom I dedicated this quaint and heterogeneous manuscript. Is it because matter has been wanting ? â€” no â€” I have written much elsewhere in prose, poetry, and miscellanyâ€”let me put the most favourable construction on the case and say that I have been better employed. Beside considerable attention, however unsuccessful, to college studies, I have finished Bisset’s life of Burke, as well as Burke’s “Regicide Peace,” together with considerable variety of desultory reading, generally speaking, highly entertaining and instructive. The Pythologian poem I does not proceed very rapidly, though I have experienced some poetic moments. Could I seat myself in the alcove of one of those public libraries which human pride and literary rivalship have made costly, splendid and magnificent, it would indeed be an enviable situation. I would plunge into the classic lore of chivalrous story and of the fairy-land bards, and unclosing the ponderous volumes of the firmest believers in magic and in the potency of consecrated crosier or elfin ring, I would let my soul sail away delighted into their wildest phantasies. Pendragon is rising
1. A poem written for another Club, which will be later mentioned.
1820 IMAGININGS 19
before my fancy, and has given me permission to wander in his walks of Fairy-land and to present myself at the bower of Gloriana. I stand in the fair assembly of the chosen, the brave and the beautiful ; honour and virtue, courage and delicacy are mingling in magnificent joy. Unstained knighthood is sheathing the successful blade in the presence of unstained chastity. And the festal jubilee of Fairy-land is announced by the tinkling of its silver bells. The halls are full of gorgeous splendour and the groves are joyous with light and beauty. The birds partake and magnify the happiness of the green-wood shades and the music of the harp comes swelling on the gay breezes. Or other views more real, scarcely less beautiful, should attract, enchain me. All the stores of Grecian and Roman literature may be unlocked and fully displayed â€” or, with the Indian enchanters, send my soul up to wander among the stars till “the twilight of the gods.”
Spring has returned and has begun to unfold her beautiful array, to throw herself on wildflower couches, to walk abroad on the hills and summon her songsters to do her sweet homage. The Muses have issued from the library and
20 JOURNAL AGE 16
costly winter dwelling of their votaries, and are gone up to build their bowers on Parnassus, and to melt their ice-bound fountains. Castalia is flowing rapturously and lifting her foam on high. The hunter and the shepherd are abroad on the rock and the vallies echo to the merry, merry horn. The Poet, of course, is wandering, while Nature’s thousand melodies are warbling to him. This soft bewitching luxury of vernal gales and accompanying beauty overwhelms. It produces a lassitude which is full of mental enjoyment and which we would not exchange for more vigorous pleasure. Although so long as the spell endures, little or nothing is accomplished, nevertheless, I believe it operates to divest the mind of old and worn-out contemplations and bestows new freshness upon life, and leaves behind it imaginations of enchantment for the mind to mould into splendid forms and gorgeous fancies which shall long continue to fascinate, after the physical phenomena which woke them have ceased to create delight.
Judging from opportunity enjoyed, I ought to have this evening a flow of thought, rich, abundant and deep ; after having heard Mr.
1820 EVERETT’S LECTURE 21
Everett deliver his Introductory Lecture, in length one and one half hour, having read much and profitably in the Quarterly Review, and lastly having heard Dr. Warren’s introductory lecture to anatomy, â€” all in the compass of a day r â€” and the mind possessing a temperament well adapted to receive with calm attention what was offered. Shall endeavor to record promiscuously received ideas : â€” Though the literature of Greece gives us sufficient information with regard to later periods of their commonwealth, as we go back, before the light of tradition comes in, the veil drops. “All tends to the mysterious
1. Edward Everett was appointed in 1815, first to fill the chair of Greek Literature just founded anonymously by Samuel Eliot. He went to Europe to fit himself for it. Many years later, Mr. Emerson wrote, ,â€˜ Germany had created criticism in vain for us until 8 zo, when Edward Everett returned from his five years in Europe and brought to Cambridge his rich results, which no one was so fitted by natural grace and the splendor of his rhetoric to introduce and recommend.” (See long passage in his praise in Historic Notes of Life and Letters in New England ” in Lectures and Biographical Sketches, vol. x, Emerson’s Works.)
Dr. John Collins Warren, second in a line of eminent surgeons which still holds high place in Boston, and founder of the Warren Museum, after six years’ service as adjunct professor, had succeeded his father as Hersey Professor of Anatomy and Surgery.
22 JOURNAL AGE 16
East.” . . . From the time of the first dispersion of the human family to the time of Grecian rise, everything in the history of man is obscure, and we think ourselves sufficiently fortunate “if we can write in broad lines the fate of a dynasty,” though we know nothing of the individuals who composed it. The cause is the inefficiency and uncertainty of tradition in those early and ignorant times when the whole history of a tribe was lodged in the head of its patriarch, and in his death their history was lost. But even after the invention of letters, much, very much, has never reached us. This we need not regret. What was worth knowing was transmitted to posterity, the rest buried in deserved forgetfulness. Everything was handed down which ought to be handed down. The Phenicians gave the Greeks their Alphabet, yet not a line of all which they wrote has come down, while their pupils have built themselves an imperishable monument of fame.
I here make a resolution to make myself acquainted with the Greek language and antiquities and history with long and serious attention and study ; (always with the assistance of circumstances.) To which end I hereby dedicate
1820 VIRGILIAN LOT 23
and devote to the down-putting of sentences quoted or original, which regard Greece, historical, poetical and critical, page 47 of this time-honored register. By the way, I devote page 45 to the notation of Inquirenda and of books to
. . . Ethereal beings to whom I dedicated the pages of my “Wide World,” do not, I entreat you, neglect it ; when I sleep waken me; when I weary animate ! Wander after moonbeams, fairies ! but bring them home here. Indeed, you cannot imagine how it would gratify me to wake up from an accursed Enfield lesson and find a page written in characters of light by a moonbeam of Queen Mab ! I will give you a subject â€”a thousand if you wish ; â€” for instance ” Pen-dragon,” your own Pendragon ; record his life and his glories. ” Prince Arthur” if it is not too trite ; or “the Universe,” or a broom-stick ; either or all of these, or fifty thousand more.
A very singular chance led me to derive very sensible answers to the two questions I pro-
24 JOURNAL AGE 17
posed to Virgil.’ For the first I opened to the line â€”
0 crudelis Alexi, nihil mea carmina curas.2
For the other I opened to a line, Dryden’s translation of which is â€”
” Go, let the gods and temples claim thy care.”
Have been of late reading patches of Barrow and Ben Jonson ; and what the objectâ€” not curiosity? no â€” nor expectation of edification intellectual or moral â€” but merely because they are authors where vigorous phrases and quaint, peculiar words and expressions may be sought and found, the better ” to rattle out the battle of my thoughts.” I shall now set myself to give a good sentence of Barrow’s (the whole beauty of which he has impaired by a blundering collocation) in purer and more fashionable English;â€”Obvious manifestations may be sometimes seen
1. This passage refers to his consulting the Virgilianee Sorter, that is, opening Virgil at random and taking the first line the eye lighted on for an oracle. On the first occasion, he was a competitor for a college prize for verse. When the prizes were announced, he had won the second. It is probable that the other question he propounded was with regard to his vocation in life.
2. Virgil, Eclogue II.
1820 STYLE OF BARROW 25
of the ruling government of God. Sometimes in the career of triumphant guilt when things have come to such a pass that iniquity and outrage do exceedingly prevail, so that the life of the offender becomes intolerably grievous, a change comes upon the state of things, however stable and enduring in appearance, a revolution in a manner sudden and strange, and flowing from causes mean and unworthy, which overturneth the towering fabric of fortune and reduces its gigantic dimensions; and no strugglings of might, no fetches of policy, no circumspection or industry of man availing to uphold it: there is outstretched an invisible hand checking all such force and crossing all such devicesâ€”a stone cut out of the mountain without hands and breaking to pieces the iron and the brass and the clay and [the] silver and the gold.â€”In looking over the sentence however, though the grand outline of the whole was originally the Rev. Isaac Barrow’s, yet we very self-complacently confess that great alterations have rendered it editorially Mr. Ralph Emerson’s, and I intend to make use of it hereafter, after another new modelling, for it is still very susceptible of improvement.
26 JOURNAL AGE 17
When those magnificent masses of vapour which load our horizon are breaking away, disclosing fields of blue atmosphere, there is an exhilaration awakened in the system of a susceptible man which so invigorates the energies of mind, and displays to himself such manifold power and joy superiour to other existences, that he will triumph and exult that he is a man. . . . We feel at these times that eternal analogy which subsists between the external changes of nature, and scenes of good and ill that chequer human life. Joy cometh, but is speedily supplanted by grief, and we look at the approach of transient verities like the mists of the morning, fearful and many, but the fairies are in them and White Ladies beckoning.
I have been reading the Novum Organum. Lord Bacon is indeed a wonderful writer ; he condenses an unrivaled degree of matter in one paragraph. He never suffers himself ” to swerve from the direct forthright,” or to babble or speak unguardedly on his proper topic, and withal writes with more melody and rich cadence than any writer (I had almost said, of England) on a
1820 BACON 27
similar subject. Although I have quoted in my ” Universe ” of composition (by which presumptuous term I beg leave to remind myself that nothing was meant but to express wideness and variety of range), yet I will add here a fine little sentence from the thirtieth section of the second volume of the Novum Organum. Speaking of bodies composed of two different species of things, he says : ” but these instances may be reckoned of the singular or heteroclite kind, as being rare and extraordinary in the universe ; yet for their dignity they ought to be separately placed and treated. For they excellently indicate the composition and structure of things ; and suggest the cause of the number of the ordinary species of the universe ; and lead the understanding from that which is, to that which may be.” There is nothing in this sentence which should cause it to be quoted more than another. It does not stand out from the rest ; but it struck me accidentally as a very different sentence from those similarly constructed in ordinary writers. For instance, in the last three clauses (beginning ” For they excellently “) it is common to see an author construct a fine sentence in this way, with idle repetitions of the same idea, embellished a little for the sake of
28 JOURNAL AGE 17
shrouding the deception. In this, they all convey ideas determinate, but widely different and all beautiful and intelligent. â€” But, says Sterne, “the cant of criticism is the most provoking.”
There is a strange face in the Freshman class whom I should like to know very much. He has a great deal of character in his features and should be a fast friend or bitter enemy. His name is â€” I shall endeavour to become acquainted with him and wish, if possible, that I might be able to recall at a future period the singular sensations which his presence produced at this.’
1. The name is given, and later scratched out. The person referred to was Martin Gay of Hingham, who, born in the same year with Emerson, came to college two years later. The entries in prose and verse concerning this boy, which follow in Emerson’s journals for the Junior and Senior years, show how strong the fascination was, for there is a remarkable absence of mention of other students. It would seem that this was an imaginary friendship. There is no evidence that the elder student ever brought himself to risk disenchantment by active advances, and the younger boy could not understand why he was watched and even followed afar by this strange upper-class man. It would have been not unnatural that he should have resented it, being of an entirely different temperament, and called ” Cool Gay ” by his classmates. His active interests are said to have been scientific experiments and the
1820 ART 29
When we see an exquisite specimen of paintingâ€”whence does the pleasure we experience arise ? From the resemblance, it is immediately answered, to the works of nature. It is granted that this is in part the cause, but it can’t explain the whole pleasure we enjoy ; for we see more perfect resemblances (as a stone apple or fruit) without this pleasure. No, it arises from the power which we immediately recollect to be necessary to the creation of the painting.
College Military Company. Gay studied medicine and took his doctor’s degree in 18z6. He practised a short time in New Bedford, then for the rest of his life in Boston. He was modest and faithful, with a high sense of honour. His practice grew slowly but steadily, and he was much beloved. His interests were scientific, chemistry especially. He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and curator of the department of Mineralogy in the Boston Natural History Society. As an analytical chemist he acquired a high reputation, and it is said that his testimony in the courts in cases of death by poisoning ” marked an era in the history of medical jurisprudence in this country.” Yet although Dr. Gay lived within twenty miles of Emerson, and was a valued friend of his wife’s brother, Dr. Charles T. Jackson, whose claim to the discovery of anaesthesia by ether in surgical operations he loyally defended, it does not appear that Emerson ever really knew him; yet he always was interested to hear of him, and was grieved at his untimely death in 1850.
30 JOURNAL AGE 17
In the H [arvard] C [ollege] Atheneum I enjoyed a very pleasant hour reading the life of Marlborough in the ” Quarterly Review.” I was a little troubled there by vexatious trains of thought; but once found myself stopping entirely from my reading and occupied in throwing guesses into futurity while I was asking myself if, when, ten or a dozen years hence, I am gone far on the bitter, perplexing roads of life, when I shall then recollect these moments, now thought so miserable, shall I not fervently wish the possibility of their return, and to find myself again thrown awkwardly on the tilted chair in the Athenxum study with my book in my hand ; the snuffers and lamps and shelves around; and Moue’ coughing over his newspaper near me, and ready myself to saunter out into gaiety and Commons when that variously-meaning bell shall lift up his tongue.
“Sed fugit interea, fugit irreparabile tempus.”
August 23, 1820.
To-morrow finishes the Junior year. As it is
1. Emerson’s classmate, Mellish Irving Motte, from Charleston, S. C. He was minister of the South Congregational Church in Boston from 1828 to 184.2.
1820 REVIEW 31
time to close our accounts, we will conclude likewise this book which has been formed from the meditations and fancies which have sprinkled the miscellany-corner of my mind for two terms past. It was begun in the winter vacation. I think it has been an improving employment decidedly. It has not encroached upon other occupations and has afforded seasonable aid at various times to enlarge or enliven scanty themes, etc. Nor has it monopolized the energies of composition for literary exercises. Whilst I have written in it, I have begun and completed my Pythologian Poem of 260 lines,’ â€” and my Dissertation on the Character of Socrates. It has prevented the ennui of many an idle moment and has perhaps enriched my stock of language for future exertions. Much of it has been written with a view to their preservation, as hints for a peculiar pursuit at the distance of years. Little or none of it was elaborateâ€”its office was to be a hasty, sketchy composition, containing at times elements of graver order.
1.Emerson was secretary of a small literary (and, when fines permitted, mildly convivial,) club of this name, and on this occasion had written in “heroics” a didactic poem on Improvement. The record-book of the Club was found among his papers, and will be given to the College library. Some extracts from this book will be given later in this volume.
32 JOURNAL Age 17
So fare ye well, gay Powers and Princedoms! To you the sheets were inscribed. Light thanks for your tutelary smiles. Grim witches from Valhalla, and courteous dames from Faery-land, whose protection was implored and whose dreams were invoked to furnish forth the scroll, adieu to you all ;â€”you have the laughing poet’s benison and malison, his wish and his forgetfulness. Abandoning your allegiance, he throws you to the winds, recklessly defying your malice and fun. Pinch the red nose; lead him astray after Will-o’-the-wisp over wilderness and fen ; fright him with ghastly hobgoblinsâ€”wreak your vengeance as you will â€” He gives you free leave on this sole condition, â€” if you can.
August 24, 1820.
Books to be Sought
Wordsworth’s Recluse; Quarterly Review, September, 1819; Liber VIII, of Buchanan’s Scotlandâ€”Wallace; Spenser’s View of the State of Ireland; Camden’s Annals of Queen Elizabeth; Kennet’s Life and Characters of Greek Poets; Hody, De Illustribus Graecis; Middle-ton’s Cicero ; Burton’s Melancholy ; Barrow’s Sermons ; Hobbes’ Leviathan; Joinville’s Life
1819] PYTHOLOGIAN SOCIETY 33
of St. Louis; Froissart’s History of England;
Chaucer’s Works; Bayle’s Dictionaire; Corinne ;
Massinger’s Plays ; Fletcher’s do ; Bentley’s Phalaris;
Peter’s Letters ; Letters from Eastern States; Waverley ;
Cogan On the Passions; Sir Charles Grandison.
Extent, history of the Troubadours.â€”Pendragon.â€”
Sir Walter Raleigh’s conceipt of the ” Faery Queen.” â€”
Valhalla. â€” Archipelago. â€” Paestum.â€”
Taillefer at the battle of Hastings. â€”Illumination (graphic). â€”
Grise/da of Boccace.â€”
Walter Raleigh’s account of Theories of Paradise.â€”
EXTRACTS FROM THE RECORD OF THE (PYTHOLOGIAN ?) SOCIETY,
of which Emerson was for a time Secretary.
[Although in the Secretary’s book no name is given to the Society, and in the record of the
1. A book-club was organized by Emerson and some of his college friends. They subscribed for some of the English reviews and for the North American, then new. They also bought new poems and fiction, especially Scott’s novels ; and often read them aloud at their meetings. Of course, most of the serious reading mentioned in the journals, while in Cambridge, was done in the College library.
34 JOURNAL AGE 16
meeting of June 13, 1819, the committee appointed to consider the subject reported that “it is best that the society should have no name,” and that report was accepted, it there appears that Emerson was appointed to prepare a poem for the celebration of the first anniversary of the Society, and read one, as the accompanying extracts show. In the journal covering this period, however, he twice mentions the writing of his ” Py thologian Poem.”]
Several members of the Sophomore class met at Gourdin’s room,’ April 24th, 1819, for the purpose of forming a society, for exercise in composition and discussion : Present, Blood, Emerson, Frye, Gourdin 2d, Hill 2d,’ James, Reed, and Wood. The question, whether it be expedient to form a society for this purpose, was proposed and debated. Voted unanimously, to form a society, for these purposes ; Hill 2d, Wood and Emerson, were chosen to prepare regulations and laws, to be presented at the next meeting. They adjourned to meet at Frye’s room on the second of May, at half-past 7, P. M.
1. Also Emerson’s room.
2 There were two Gourdins and two Hills, brothers, in the class.
1819 PYTHOLOGIAN SOCIETY 35
LAWS AND REGULATIONS OF THE —-
The great design of public education is to qualify men for usefulness in active life, and the principal arts by which we can be useful are those of writing and speaking.
We are told by those from whose decision there is no appeal that by constant, unwearied practice only can facility and excellence in these arts be attained. We believe that societies, when well regulated, and supported with spirit, are of great use towards acquiring these important qualifications. We therefore agree to form ourselves into a society for writing and extemporaneous speaking, to be called
We engage to endeavour to promote the interests of the society and the mutual improvement of each other by freely receiving and imparting instructions, and we pledge our honour to be governed by the following laws and regulations :
a1. The society shall consist of no more than twelve members, and no person shall be
The more important of these, submitted by the committee at the meeting of May a, and adopted and signed by the members, are here given.
3 6 JOURNAL AGE 16
admitted without the consent of every member.
Article 4. Six members shall read compositions at every regular meeting, upon subjects given out by the society, as they are called upon by the Moderator, and six shall discuss subjects proposed at the preceding meeting, each upon the subject assigned him by the society.
Article 5. Two members shall be chosen from those who read compositions to decide the question, and, in case of disagreement, the Moderator shall decide it.
Article 6. Four members shall be chosen by the society to read essays before the society upon subjects of their own choice, two at the meeting nearest the middle of each term to perform at the meeting nearest the middle of the next term, and two at the end of each term to perform at the last meeting of the succeeding term. Any member neglecting or refusing to read a composition or discuss, shall be fined twelve and one-half cents ; for neglecting to read an essay, fifty cents. Disorderly or disrespectful conduct shall subject the offender to a fine of six and one-quarter cents ; non-attendance shall be fined twelve and one-half cents. Any member coming
1819] PYTHOLOGIAN SOCIETY 37
after the meeting shall be fined six and one-quarter cents.’
*JOHN ANGIER 2 *
GEO. B. JAMES
*BENJ. T. REED
*CHARLES W. UPHAM
RALPH W. EMERSON
JOHN G. K. GOURDIN
SAML. H. LYON
JOSEPH B. HILL
JOHN M. CHENEY JN. B. HILL
1. Spanish silver coins representing these amounts were in general circulation up to the year 185o; the six and one-quarter cents was however called fourpence-hapenny,” and the twelve and one-half cents ninepence ” in New England, and in the Western and Southern States a bit,”â€¢surviving still in “two bits ” for twenty-five cents.
2. Those whose names are marked with an asterisk were “honourably dismissed” at their own request.
A few words may be said of some of these members. Warren Burton, of Wilton, N. H., became a clergyman, first a Unitarian, afterwards an enthusiastic Swedenborgian. He preached in various Massachusetts and New Hampshire towns, and was minister-at-large among the poor in Boston. But he chiefly devoted himself to writing and lecturing upon domestic education and home-culture.
John Gourdin returned to his home in the South and died early.
John Boynton and Joseph Bancroft Hill, twin brothers, came from Mason, N. H. The former became a lawyer ; the
38 JOURNAL AGE 16
October 25th, 1819.
The next meeting being that of the essays, a committee of three were chosen to provide for the evening: Blood, Gourdin and Lyon. It was found necessary by the society to have a particular sum of money agreed on to be expended essay evenings.’
Accordingly, it was voted that two dollars should be the sum ; that what the fines did
latter also studied law, but was successively a printer, teacher and Presbyterian preaching elder, mainly in Tennessee. During the Civil War he was a field agent of the U. S. Christian Commission and died in that service at Chattanooga.
Charles W. Upham studied divinity and was a minister in Salem. Later, he was mayor of that city and was sent to Congress. His book on the Salem witchcraft is well known.
Edward Kent, a handsome, forcible, and dignified man, was born in Concord, N. H. He studied law and moved to Bangor, Maine, of which city he was mayor. He was twice Governor of Maine, later, Consul at Rio Janeiro, and finally a justice of the Supreme Court of Maine.
John M. Cheney lived in Concord, like Emerson, and was for most of his life cashier of the bank there.
1. On essay evenings (if the essays were forthcoming, and not without) there was some simple refreshment. Mr. Emerson used to say that he remembered the Malaga from War-land’s ( the grocer) as more delicious than any wine he had tasted since.
1820] PYTH0LOGIAN SOCIETY 39
not cancel should be paid by an assessment upon the members. Voted to adjourn till Monday evening, 6 o’clock, to Br. Gourdin’s room, November 7TH
NATHANIEL WOOD, Sec’y.
Monday Ev’g., March 6th, .
Met at Br. Wood’s room according to adjournment. Proceeded to confer on the admission of a new member, vice Upham. Cheney was nominated and elected, and Br. Wood appointed to inform him and invite him to join. Proceeded to the reading of themes. Brs. Lyon and Gourdin being absent, chose by lot as voluntary discussers Blood, vice Gourdin, and Wood, vice Lyon. The first discussion between Kent and Frye was decided in favour of Kent by Blood and Reed,judges. After discussion, chose Brs. Kent and Hill 1st to appoint subjects for discussion; Brs. Wood and Burton for themes. The committee for discussions report:-
1st: Which is most conducive to individual happiness, a state of celibacy or matrimony? â€”Burton and Reed.
2d: Whether Daddy Tracy can be justified in spending his days in Cambridge ? â€” Wood and Blood.
40 JOURNAL [AGE 16
3d : Which is the strongest passion, Love or Ambition ?â€”Emerson.
Committee for themes report, “Envy wishes, and then believes.” Both reports accepted.
Br. Reed requested that the fine which he had paid for non-performance of Essay might be refunded, as he had been sick for three weeks previous to the evening on which it was due, and was then sick and out of town. Much warm debate ensuing, he withdrew the request and it was Voted, That the members of the society as individuals in the situation of Br. Reed would consider an essay as due from them.
Adjourned till Monday evening, a fortnight hence, to meet at 7 o’clock at Br. Emerson’s room.
Attest, R. W. EMERSON.
Monday Evg., March loth .
Met according to adjournment, Br. Kent in the chair. Proceeded to reading themes,then to discussion. On account of the absence of Brs. Hill 1st, Gourdin and Lyon, it was Voted that Brs. Frye and Hill 2d be judges of all the discussions. Question arising with regard to the expediency of choosing by lot one who should voluntarily discuss with Br. Emerson, it was
1820] PYTHOLOGIAN SOCIETY 41
Voted, That in the present or a similar instance the single discussor should speak alone. The
judges decided the first discussion in favour of Br. Reed (for celibacy !). On examination of the second, the judges reported indecision, and the Moderator decided for Br. Wood. After discussion, proceeded to hear Br. Wood’s report as committee, who reported that Mr. Cheney will join the society with pleasure, but cannot appear till the next meeting. Proceeded to committees. Brs. Blood and Burton, committee for discussions, report : â€”
1st : Whether the accession of the Canadas to the territory of the U. S. A. would be for the best interest of this country.â€”Frye and Hill 1ST.
2d: Whether Commons be honourable to the progress of College literature.â€” Kent and Hill 2d.
3d: Whether Cicero or Demosthenes be the greatest orator. â€” Gourdin and Lyon.
Committee of themes report ” Futurity.”
Voted, That the anniversary of this society, the 24th of April next, be celebrated by Oration and Poem. Chose Br. Kent Orator, and Br. Emerson Poet. As the next meeting is Essay night, chose Br. Burton and Emerson committee of arrangements.
42 JOURNAL AGE 26
Adjourned to Monday Evg., 7 o’clock, to meet at Br. Burton’s room.
Attest, R. W. EMERSON, See y.
Monday Evg., April 3d .
Met according to adjournment. Br. Lyon in the chair. Proceeded to hear Br. Hill 1st’s Essay Voted, that the thanks of the society be presented to Br. Hill for his elegant and ingenious performance. Br. Gourdin not being present, proceeded to the convivial business of the evening. Afterwards Br. Gourdin appearing, on account of the lateness of the time, and other considerations, it was Voted, That Br. G.’s Essay should be read at the next ordinary meeting of the society.
Appointed Brs. Hill 2d and Wood to be the Essayists at the meeting in the middle of next term.
Adjourned till April 24th, the anniversary of the Society, to meet at Br. Emerson’s Room, to hear the Oration and Poem.
Attest, R. W. EMERSON, Sec’y.
April 26th, 1820.
Met by mistake two days later than the anni.. versary. Voted, that Br. Gourdin be requested
1820 PYTHOLOGIAN SOCIETY 43
to read his Essay this evening to the society. Proceeded to initiate Br. Cheney, then to hear the Essay. Voted, that the thanks of the society be presented to Br. Gourdin, for his correct and elegant essay. Br. Blood presented Br. Kent’s excuse for non-attendance, and it was Voted, that Br. Emerson be a committee to request Br. Kent to deliver his oration to the society at the earliest convenient opportunity. Proceeded to hear the poem. A treat was then given to the society by the liberality of Brs. Reed and Lyon.
Voted that the thanks of the society be given to Brs. Reed and Lyon for their unexampled munificence. Adjourned to a fortnight from next Monday evening.
Sec. R. W. EMERSON.
November 18, 1820
After several unsuccessful efforts, on the part of the Secretary, to call the society together, a few of the members (affording an instance of disinterestedness and self denial, which reflects the highest honour on themselves) met this evening at Br. Hill’s room. After spending some time in lively conversation, a sufficient number were found present to form a quorum ;
44 JOURNAL AGE 17
and, accordingly, the meeting was opened, when, agreeably to the object of the meeting, the Essays were called for.
But Br. Gourdin, from whom one has been some time due, not appearing, his of course was omitted ; as was Br. Blood’s for the same reason. The Essayists, whose performances became due this evening, were Brs. Cheney and Emerson. Br. Cheney was, therefore, called upon, and delivered a very elegant and patriotic Essay ; for which the sincere thanks of the society were bestowed upon him ; a mark of honour incomparably more valuable than medals, which time will tarnish and destroy, or statues, which violence will deface, and barbarism overthrow.
Here the Secretary would gladly close the record of this evening, and let the critics of Posterity suppose that what he has written above is merely a fragment of what he recorded ; and exercise their learning and ingenuity in supplying the deficiency, but truth and fidelity forbid. For (0 tempora ! 0 mores !) no sooner had Br. Cheney delivered his Essay, and received the thanks of the Society, as above recorded, than some of the members present began to express uneasiness at being any longer detained ; and that, although Br. Emerson was prepared to read the
1821] PYTH0LOGIAN SOCIETY 45
Essay due from him. Strange infatuation ! But such was their desire to depart that it was found impossible to keep them together any longer. The meeting was therefore adjourned. â€”
Attest, E. FRYE, Secretary.
February 26th, i8 2i.
Wonderful to relate ! within an hour of the time appointed, a larger number of the members than have attended any meeting since I have had the honour to be Sec’y, met at No. 4 H’y’ to hear the Essays due last time, and the anniversary oration due from time not quite immemorial, but so long that it should have been delivered almost a year ago. â€”The meeting was then opened (with Br. Kent in the chair) and the oration called for. But Br. Kent, not having had sufficient time, we may suppose, to prepare himself since he was chosen Orator, desired that it might be postponed till the next anniversary (April 24th) ; which was agreed to by the society. We shall then verify the old proverb, by killing two birds with one stone. Having settled this business, Br. Burton was called on for his Essay, which has been due almost as long as the Oration. But not being prepared, it was Voted, after hearing
1. Holworthy Hall.
46 JOURNAL AGE 17
his excuse, cc that it be delivered on the evening of the Monday nearest the fifteenth of April.” â€” Br. Gourdin being absent, his Essay of course was not read. Br. Blood, whose Essay was due at the same time with Br. Gourdin’s, was next called on.â€”But it appearing that, by some fatal mistake, he had left it in Sterling, or elsewhere, a vote was passed to hear it with Br. Burton’s. Thus we despatch business. No Essay now remained to be heard except Br. Emerson’s ; which was not read last term on account of circumstances mentioned page 46 of this volume. He was, therefore, called on to read now. And, oh ! how the Secretary’s heart beat with joy, when he actually saw him arise from his seat, and, taking a roll of paper from his pocket, seat himself by the table! Rejoice with me, my Brethren, for we shall yet hear an Essay this evening. â€” He accordingly read a very “Elegant and appropriate Essay,” for which he received the unanimous and (let me add) the most sincere thanks of the society.
All business relative to performances being thus finished, Br. Hill 2d was chosen committee of one to wait on Br. Gourdin, and inform him that, unless he, in future, attend the meetings of the society more regularly than in times
1821 PYTHOLOGIAN SOCIETY 47
past, he shall be expelled. Br. Blood was likewise chosen committee of one to wait on Br. Lyon for the same purpose. .. .
And now, as my term of service has expired, I must leave it with him [Hill, the new Secretary] to transmit to posterity the very interesting proceedings of this society, while I with true firmness of mind (Oh ! the sweets of power !), will descend to a private station. So farewell to all my greatness; Frye’s occupation ‘s gone !
Attest, ENOCH FRYE, Sec’y.
Wednesday, March 21, 1821.
Met at Br. Blood’s, and let us look up, for the day of restoration draweth nigh. With rapture do I record the proceedings of this joyful evening.
Imprimis : Br. Wood filled the chair with superior dignity, in which gravity and imposing majesty were predominant. The house was then called to order, and we were favoured with a most ingenious, amusing, and humorous performance by Br. Blood, entitled, “journal travels, etc” in the country. The effect which this produced upon us was â€” I cannot tell how powerfulâ€”and therefore shall not attempt to describe
48 JOURNAL AGE 17
it, it baffled description. Therefore we will drop that subject and turn to a milder atmosphere, and calmer sky. â€” Br. Emerson next advanced, with a neat, concise and pithy comparison of country and city life, much to the edification of the Brotherhood. Br. Wood then obliged us with an original and, no doubt, very accurate description of ” country life,” in which he drew aside the curtain, that is, opened the door and introduced us, at once, into the interior of a Yeoman’s dwelling. We were very much pleased with the mistake which the master of the house, “good easy soul” made, by taking his guest at first for an Ass, or some other outlandish beast. But on awaking from his nap, he saw his error, and gave him such a cordial reception, that we were charmed with ” country life.” Themes being despatched, proceeded to discussion. The first, Hill 2d so/us, Gourdin absent, decided in his favour of course. Then the important Dowling question was discussed by Kent and Frye.’ In the progress of which the former displayed an interest, an eloquence, warmth of feeling, and sensibility in defence of Patrick
1. At a meeting in the preceding August, the question had been assigned to these members, Whether Dowling be advantageous to the welfare of college ?”
1821 PYTHOLOGIAN SOCIETY 49
Dowling, a Catholic Irishman, which did equal honour to his head and his heart. He even rose to the Sublime in defence of this great and much injured man, interlarded with specimens of the most beautiful Pathos. His feelings indeed were so much affected, that they choked his utterance, but his expressive countenance did more for his cause than all the letters in the alphabet. Brother Frye on the contrary produced many “knockdown ” arguments, which had a manifest tendency to disprove all his opponent had advanced. He assailed him with invectives and contradictions in abundance. Displayed Much sophistry, satire, humour, in his attack upon the maculate Dowling. He would even gladly have buried him in a hole of his own digging, into which a fit of intoxication had plunged him. This being a case of peculiar importance, instead of committing the decision, as usual, to two members only, the secretary formally took the opinion of all present ; and notwithstanding the obstinate virulence, and the position of Mr. Attorney Frye, the Patrick was cleared by a majority of one. So may intemperance triumph !
Committees : Kent and Hill 2d, For Dis-
1. last sentence seems to have been written in later.
50 JOURNAL AGE 17
cussions, reported the following which were accepted.
1. Whether it be beneficial to the students to spend much time in the acquisition of the polite accomplishment.â€” Burton and Emerson.
2: A Conference. On the comparative interest excited by the lectures of Ware, Willard and Everett.â€”Blood, Cheney and Wood.
Blood and Cheney, for themes, reported : “The miseries of human life.” Accepted.
Voted to adjourn to the 5 April next, to meet at Burton’s, at 7 o’clock P. M.
April 5, 1821.
Met at Burton’s. . . .
Kent and Hill 2d, judges of the discussion by Burton and Emerson, decided in the negative, in favour of Burton.
Attest, Jos. B. HILL, Sec.
May 1st, 821.
Met at Brother Blood’s to hear Br. Kent’s anniversary oration. Liberal provision had been made for social conviviality, to which two bottles of wine, handed over by brother Emerson, not a little contributed, and for which by a public
1821] PYTHOLOGIAN SOCIETY 51
vote the society bestowed their warmest thanks to brother Emerson. Br. Cheney filled the chair, and after a cheerful glass the orator held forth on
[Here the records of the society come to an abrupt end, excepting certain accounts in the end of the books, and the following official declaration : â€”]
I, R.W. Emerson, committee of arrangements, have received of R. W. Emerson, Secretary, the sum of two dollars for each essay-meeting in the past term collected from fine and assessment, and likewise the donations made to the society on the anniversary meeting, &c., and have faithfully expended the same for the best interests of the society, as far as my limited apprehension would assist me. There remains in the Treasury the sum of one cent, being the donation of Br. Oliver Blood to the Society which I shall pay on the demand of the new Secretary.
Signed, R. W. EMERSON.
End of Journal II