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The great ‘ennobler’

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May 23, 2003

The great ‘ennobler’

By Richard Higgins

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s belief in the ”infinitude” of the soul had an ”ennobling influence” on many people, as William James once observed.

James’s novelist brother, Henry, however, was not one of them. He depicted Emerson as a bloodless preacher whose ”eyes were thickly bandaged” to evil and who could not appreciate fine art nor fiction. ”There were certain chords in Emerson that did not vibrate at all,” he wrote in 1887. In fact, ”certain chords were wholly absent.”

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