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sides, he has that peculiar quietistic, dreamy, mystic tone of mind which belongs to the Oriental character. In the midst of the brisk, practical, utilitarian society of New-England, he appears more like the resurrection of an Egyptian mummy or an Indian Fakir than one of their own number. Self-poised, self-possessed, viewing everything from his own stand-point, and spinning everything out of his own bowels, he moves about in his stilted elevation, a standing wonder to the mass, a rapt prophet to a chosen few. He seems to have attained the highest ideal indifferentism and isolation of the sage, so as to look at everything in the white light of a passionateless philosophy. Nothing can be cooler than the measured, oracular tone in which he pronounces upon vexed questions, or the heedlessness with which he dashes against this or that system or institution, however venerable, as though he moved with all the impersonality and weight of philosophy itself. If we understand him, and we are not at all certain that we do, Mr. Emerson's system of nature and man is quite outside of, and independent of the established science and religion of civilized society, and rests on a basis peculiarly its own. Symbolism is more to him than science, and consciousness than revelation. He keeps sidereal time, and holds his magnet ever pointed directly towards the north pole, irrespective of the varying force of terrestrial magnetism. He is an idealist of the most ideal stamp, having sublimated the ideal till it has become wholly divorced from the real.
This general character is preserved throughout Mr. Emerson's works, and is as applicable to the one under consideration as to his others, except, perhaps, this is as a whole a little less objectionable in spirit and doctrine than the rest. We attribute this slightly less obnoxious tone to the fact that these essays were prepared to be spoken in the presence of living assemblies of men, and not merely to be read; just as one will meditate alone, or pronounce, perhaps, to another in the dark, or with his face turned away, many things which he would never think of uttering to men when looking them fully in the eye. However, the book possesses substantially the same features as his others. There is the same vein of mysticism running through it. This lurks even in the very title, “Representative Men.” The Scriptures exhibit Adam and Christ as in some sense representative to the human race, though even this our theologians, of late, are fast explaining away.
Aside from these, we know of none who, in any intelligible sense, can be called representative men. Ву representative men, Mr. Emerson seems to mean men who personate or reflect the spirit and image of a class. This doubtless many men do more or less perfectly, but none, we contend, so perfectly as to give them an exclusive right to be considered representative above all others. To take his own examples, why should Plato be made the representative philosopher rather than Aristotle or Bacon? Plato represents one philosophic tendency, and Aristotle and Bacon another. Or why should Goethe be made the representative writer more than Scott or Voltaire ? And on what sound principle can Shakspeare be made the representative poet, rather than Homer, or Milton, or many others? He is pre-eminent, it may be, above them all, but not simply as a poet, and certainly not in every species of poetry.
We dwell thus upon this mere title, because it is a specimen of that vague, mystical generalization both of men and races, which is so common in many writers of the present day. It is presumption enough to set up one man as a representative of a class in his own nation, much more as the representative of that class throughout the world. Our creed on this point scarcely goes further than that of Lady Montague, that “God has created men, women, and Herveys," and these in all races alike. Eminence is not confined to any one age or nation, nor is any one race, in our opinion, so pre-eminent above all others as to deserve to be regarded as the representative or model race. They have all both great and small men and women, and are none of them, perhaps, without their “Herveys." Nearly all the principal races have been prominent in turn, and, in the revolution of ages, those which are now depressed will come up again in the progress of that spiral motion through which the world is constantly passing. Men and races differ, it is confessed, but it would be much more edifying to point out the circumstances which have contributed to make this difference, than to claim for some a natural preeminence by right divine.
But to pass to another point-for we must speedily bring our article to a close. Mr. Emerson has the same measured, oracular, prophet-like manner of delivering himself in this book, as in his others. This is his standing device for giving weight and importance to common thoughts. A person not understanding the trick, on reading one of these Lectures for the first time, or listening to it as pronounced in the impressive manner of its author, would take it for a very tissue of profundities. To test this question of profundity, let us give a synopsis of all the thoughts contained in one of the lectures,-say the first, on the “Uses of Great Men,"
translating the ideas from Emersonese into plain English. Thus :
“We naturally believe in great men.—Everything seems to exist for the great.-We search for them on all sides.—The credit of the race or community rests upon them.--Religion is the cherishing of them.-We are inspired by their example and instructed by their discourse, rather than benefited by any direct gift from them.—Great men are attracted each to the department of nature or art to which he is fitted, appropriating all that has been done by others in the department, and making further developments.—Great men are useful in inspiring others through the power of their intellect and heart, as seen in their thoughts and actions.--But the greatest benefactor of the race is the teacher of moral law.-Great men arouse others from that complacent mediocrity both in intellect and character, so prevalent in society.—But the influence of great men is limited by the general tendency to individuality among men, so that we need not fear to put ourselves under their influence.-Great men exist not for themselves, but the race; they are not merely served, but serving."
These are all the ideas, we believe, which are contained in this lecture of thirty pages. The thoughts by themselves are neither many nor great, and yet in merely listening to the measured cadence of its sentences, as delivered in solemn tone, you would almost think that an angel was passing slowly by, shedding riches from his rustling wings. See in what imposing garniture he tricks out the simple idea that each department of nature requires for its interpretation a genius adapted to it :
A man is a centre for nature, running out threads of relation through everything, fluid and soli material and elemental. The earth rolls; every clod and stone comes to the meridian : so every organ, function, acid, crystal, grain of dust, has its relation to the brain. It waits long, but its turn comes. Each plant has its parasite, and each created thing its lover and poet. Justice has already been done to steam, to iron, to wood, to coal, to loadstone, to iodine, to corn and cotton; but how few materials are yet used by our arts! The mass of creatures and of qualities are still hid and expectant. It would seem as if each waited, like the enchanted princess in fairy tales, for a destined human deliverer. Each must be disenchanted, and walk forth to day in human shape. In the history of discovery the ripe and latent truth seems to have fashioned a brain for itself. A magnet must be made man, in some Gilbert, or Swedenborg, or Oersted, before the general mind can come to entertain its powers. (P. 15.)
These Lectures, as already stated, contain, perhaps, rather fewer positively objectionable statements of doctrine, than some of Mr. Emerson's other works. They contain, however, some precious specimens in this line, besides being permeated, like all his writings, with a false and hurtful spirit
. Take the following passage as a specimen of his impious manner of treating religion :
Our religion is the love and cherishing of these patrons, [i. e. great men.] The gods of fable are the shining moments of great men. We run all our vessels into one mould. Our colossal theologies of Judaism, Christism, Buddhism, Mahometism, are the necessary and structural action of the human mind. The student of history is like a man going into a warehouse to buy cloths or carpets.
He fancies he has a new article. If he go to the factory he shall find that his new stuff still repeats the scrolls and rosettes which are found on the interior walls of the pyramids of Thebes. Our theism is the purification of the human mind. Man can paint, or make, or think nothing but man. He believes that the great material elements had their origin from his thought. And our philosophy finds one essence collected or distributed. (Pp. 10, 11.)
And are then Christianity, Buddhism, and Mahometism “ cast in the same mould ” ? Are they alike but the exaggerated pictures of hero-worship,-foul idolatries of the mind, which is purified only by theism? To say nothing of their relative historical claims to a divine origin, do they deserve, considered in reference to their effects, to be grouped thus ludicrously together? Would any candid, not to say devout mind, cognizant of the widely differing fruits and effects of the systems, cast them aside in one indiscriminate jumble, as “ colossal” mythologies which deserve no respect? But they can be, even the best of them, it seems, nothing but imperfect products of our own minds, because “man can paint, or make, or think nothing but man." And cannot, then, God reveal to us something which is not merely an imperfect product of our own minds? The coolness with which Mr. Émerson here assumes the negative of this question is characteristic of the man.
There are other passages in the book of a similar character with the above, as where he says: “Churches believe in imputed merit. But in strictness we are not much cognizant of direct serving.” Again : “ With each new mind, a new secret of nature transpires; nor can the Bible be closed, until the last great man be born.” Mr. Emerson can swear, too, it seems, in lectures delivered before polite audiences; but we must decline quoting his oaths here, --if any wish to study these pleasing amenities in this solemn prophet of the nineteenth century, they will find them on pages thirty-two and one hundred and fifty-four of his Lectures. How a person of any pretensions to seriousness and decency can thus outrage all sanctity and propriety in order to catch the applause of a few vulgar minds, and “ bring down the house," as it is called, is to us utterly unaccountable, except it be upon the Scripture principle, that those who do not like to retain the knowledge of God are given over to a reprobate mind. That Mr. Emerson has such a mind is certain; but forsooth, he belongs to that class of great men whose “ irregularities are not to be measured by village scales.”
But with all his grave defects,—and this only makes the matter worse, -Mr. Emerson is a man of unquestioned power, nay, of genius even. All his thoughts are perversely irregular, and most of them have a vein of mysticism in them, but he has thoughts,—he is by no means a mere word-grinder, though more so than his admirers seem to think. There is not always much coherence between his thoughts, but one who will take the pains to follow him, will generally find some idea, whim or conceit in each sentence. His style, too, with some peculiarities and innovations in language, is uncommonly neat. Every sentence seems to come out with a clearness and precision, as if he had touched his lips with pure water before its utterance. He is rich in happy allusions and quotations, particularly of the mystic kind, and abounds in apt illustrations, drawn mostly from common objects, something after the manner of Socrates. These qualities run through all his writings, his Lectures among the rest, which indeed do not differ from his other writings in any important point, and are scarcely better fitted to be read before a popular audience than his Essays. Indeed, they are essays, to all intents and purposes, and would much more advantageously, both for himself and others, have appeared as such.