Imagens das páginas

"Transcendentalism," and kindred subjects. The excitement was very great. He spoke to the young men around him with an emphasis that deprived them of sleep. He brought the age to the bar of judgment. "Our age," he cried, "is retrospective. It builds the sepulchers of the fathers. It writes biographies, his-, tories, and criticism. The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy our original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight, and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs? Embosomed for a season in nature, whose floods of life stream around and through us, and invite us, by the powers they supply, to action proportioned to nature, why should we grope among the dry bones of the past, or put the living generation into masquerade out of its faded wardrobe? The sun shines to-day also. There is more wool and flax in the fields. There are new lands, new men, new thoughts. Let us demand our own works and laws and worship." Of course a religious teacher could not go on in this strain without producing a panic in the churches. This came, and culminated in a formal condemnation of his doctrines by the Faculty of the Divinity College (Unitarian), upon his delivery of the celebrated address before the graduating class of that institution in 1838. That address was an era in the religious history of New England; it created a new school of Unitarianism, and planted the germ of an American philosophy. Thoodore Parker was, as yet, a comparatively unknown inquirer when he heard it; to him it was a crystallizing touch as to many others. In his private journal was found the following entry: Sunday, July 15th, 1838. Proceeded to Cambridge to hear the valedictory sermon by Mr. Emerson. In this he surpassed himself as much as he surpasses others in the general way. I shall give no abstract. So beautiful, so just, so true, and terribly sublime was his picture of the faults of the church in its present position. My soul is roused, and this week I shall write the long-meditated sermons on the state of the church and the duties of these times."


From this time Concord became a transcendental Mecca, and was visited by all manner of "come-outers." Men with leg


hair, long beards, and long collars; very many with long ears; those who believed that man was to reach the millennium by abstinence from meat; committees from the Female Short-Skirt Society; communists of every hue; all came with laughable pertinacity, each seeking to get the new candle for his altar, and each in full chase of the millennium which Mrs. Emerson had much reason to wish would make haste and come. But Emerson's mind was, like Thebes, hundred-gated. For tunately, though there are swarms of insects at the tropics, there are also to be found gorgeous growths and birds with sunset tints. Around him were Channing, Thoreau, Curtis, Hawthorne, Ripley, and above all, Margaret Fuller. Then Concord became a center of "extraordinary generous seeking." The effect of the presence of these superior persons upon the village itself was most remarkable: it was if a new climate had breathed upon it and evoked germs and growths which were hitherto unsuspected. This little agricul tural village presently had libraries, scientific classes, and lecturers, such as many large cities could not show. Emerson was looked up to as the good genius of the place and of the country; he was a prophet most honored in his own country.

The Aspasia of this high council was Margaret Fuller. Plain, and, to many, even repulsive in appearance, she had a light within which could shine out and in which she was easily transfigured. She had a special and personal relation to each of the magnates around her, discerning their individualities more clearly and swiftly than they themselves could. One of her most intimate friends described her peculiar power of reading faces and forms as a kind of spiritual fortune-telling. With a devotion akin to fascination, the old and the young gathered about this transcendental queen; and the young girls declared that they wilted if she left the village but for a day. They were freely admitted to her room, and the magic play of her voice was like the singing of a fountain. Nor was it with a few choice minds that her singular power was alone felt. "The Concord stage-coachman," says Emerson, "distinguished her by his respect, and the chambermaid was pretty sure to confide to her on the second day her homely romance," The better class of young Cambridge students came to see her, as if she had been a revisory Professor: through the prob



March 22d, 1841.-The question of the day was, What is Life? Let us define, each in turn, our idea of living. Margaret did not believe we had, any of us, a distinct idea of life.

lems which engaged them her all-revealing | first fruit of the "transcendental moveeye shot like lightning, and for each she ment" in New England: read the mystic characters of his destiny; and I know several distinguished men who have declared that they have ever since been living and toiling under standards erected for them by Margaret on such occasions. Of course, with this power and A. S. thought so great a question ought magnetism there was much that was to be given for a written definition. "No," strange and much that was morbid. She said Margaret, "that is of no use. When was a victim of pain nearly all her lifetime; we go away to think of any thing, we never read and wrote in bed, and fancied that do think. We all talk of life. We all she could understand any thing better when have some thought now. Let us tell it. suffering, and that " pain acted like a gir—C, what is life?" C― replied: “It dle to give tension to her powers." "Dur- is to laugh or cry according to our organing a terrible attack of headache," writes ization." "Good," said Margaret, "but one of her friends, "which made her totally not grave enough. Come, what is life? helpless, Margaret was yet in her finest I know what I think. I want you to find vein of humor, and kept those who were out what you think." assisting her in a strange painful excitement between laughing and crying by perpetual brilliant sallies."

There was a singular mixture of faculties and tendencies in this extraordinary woman, calculated to remind one of Mrs. Browning's address to George Sand: "Thou great-souled woman and largehearted man!" Margaret was fully conscious of the male intellect in which was incarnate her sensitively feminine heart. In some unpublished verses "To the Moon," she wrote:

Miss P. replied: "Life is division from one's principle of life in order to a conscious reörganization. We are cut up by time and circumstance in order to feel our reproduction of the eternal law." Mrs. E.: "We live by the will of God, and the object of life is to submit," and went on into Calvinism. Then came up all the antagonism of Fate and Freedom.

Mrs. H. said: "God created us in order to have a perfect sympathy from us as free beings." Mrs. A. B. thought the object of life was to attain absolute freedom. At this Margaret immediately and visibly kindled. C. S. said: "God creates from the fullness of life and can not but create;

"But if I steadfast gaze upon thy face, A human secret like my own I trace,

For through the woman's smile looks the male he created us to overflow without being


[blocks in formation]

exhausted, because what he created necessitated new creation. It is not to make us happy, but creation is his happiness and ours.


Margaret was then pressed to say what she considered life to be. Her answer was full, clear, and concise, and so inspiring that the reporter apologizes for not giving it: he was magnetized. He says: "She began with God as Spirit-life so full as to create and love eternally, yet capable of pause. Love and creativeness are dynamic forces, out of which we, individually, as creatures, go forth bearing his image, that is, having within our being the same dynamic forces, by which we also add constantly to the total sum of existence, and shaking off ignorance and its effects, and by becoming more ourselves, that is, more divine, destroying sin in its principle, we attain absolute freedom, we return to God, conscious like himself, and as his friends, giving as well as receiving felicity ever

more. In short, we become gods, and able to give the life which we now feel ourselves able only to receive."

With Margaret Fuller began the demand of women in America for social and legal existence; and what is known as the "Woman's Rights Movement" is the organization of her spirit, which, like that of John Brown, is still "marching on." Her claim for an independent development for women knew no bounds: "let them be sea-captains if they will!" The modifications of many hard laws in the States, relating to women, must be credited to the interest which she awakened.

In after years she went to Rome, and remained there during the revolutions of 1848, doing valuable service in the hospitals. Here also she married Count Ossoli.

There were, it is known, many ill-natured rumors concerning this marriage, the peculiarities of which were justified by circumstances. Many of her friends, and amongst them the Brownings, wished Margaret to make public explanations of these circumstances; but she stoutly refused, saying, "That no one for whose opinion she cared would be likely to believe that she had done any thing wrong in such a matter." In this she certainly did not underrate the confidence with which her friends in America regarded her. It was at Florence that Margaret enjoyed the friendship and acquaintance of Mr. and Mrs. Browning, who appreciated her rare powers fully as much as her friends in America did, during the last six months of her life. It was with them that she, with her husband and child, spent the last evening that she ever spent on land. As Margaret went to the ill-starred ship, Mrs. Browning pressed upon her finger a ring with a carbuncle in it, entirely unaware of her superstition already alluded to concerning that stone. Later they received from her a latter written-or scratched rather at Gibraltar, telling them of the ravages of the small-pox, which had deprived them of a captain, and of the rigors by which they were forbidden to land, and compelled to go on towards America with only the mate for captain, and with the disease still lurking in the ship. This was the last letter she ever wrote. I need not here renew the grief of recording the tragic end of this strange and noble life; nor the sorrow of the long-expectant relatives and friends who received her and

her husband and child, only as the waves washed them to the shore, within hailing distance of which they perished.

So long as Margaret Fuller lived at Concord, that "airy nothing," called Transcendentalism, had a local habitation and a name: those interested in it joined with each other to form a sort of body, of which Emerson was the brain and Margaret the blood. When Margaret left, it broke to pieces like a cosmical ring, each piece flying off to revolve on its own axis and orbit. Some, whose views had been in the direction of social reconstruction, went off to become the center of the socialistic movement on Brook Farm, others to form religious societies, others to become anti-slavery leaders, whilst Hawthorne took office and fell into the mire of the Democratic party, and Emerson, Thoreau, and others, remained to follow as individuals their congenial pursuits.

Somewhere about the year 1845, George W. Curtis, since then celebrated as a brilliant traveler and humorist, found his way to Concord. Curtis was fresh from Cambridge University, of high family, and with fair fortune; but thinking he had not had sufficient contact with the rough side of life, he, with his brother, hired himself as a farm laborer near Concord. The whimsical youths worked well for fair wages, and reserved enough leisure to enjoy the society of the village notabilities. He gives some amusing pictures of the Concord circle as it was then.

"Toward the end of the autumn," he writes, "Emerson suggested that they should meet every Monday evening through the winter at his library. I went the first Monday evening, very much as Ixion may have gone to his banquet. The philosophers sat dignified and erect. There was a constrained but very amiable silence, which had the impertinence of a tacit inquiry, seeming to ask, 'Who will now proceed to say the finest thing that has ever been said?' It was quite involuntary and unavoidable, for the members lacked that fluent social genius without which a club is impossible. It was a congress of oracles on the one hand, and of curious listeners on the other. I vaguely remember that the Orphic Alcott invaded the desert of silence with a solemn saying, to which, after due pause, the Hon. Member for Blackberry Pastures (Thoreau, the naturalist), "responded by


some keen and graphic observation, while the Olympian host, anxious that so much good material should be spun into something, beamed smiling encouragement upon all parties. But the conversation became more and more staccato. Miles Coverdale," (Nathaniel Hawthorne), "a statue of Night and Silence, sat, a little removed under a portrait of Dante, gazing imperturbably upon the group; and as he sat in the shadow, his dark hair and eyes, and suit of sable, made him, in that society, the black thread of mystery which he weaves into his stories; while the shifting presence of the Brook farmer" (Mr. Pratt), "played like heat-lightning round the room. I recall little else but a grave eating of russet apples by the erect philosophers, and a solemn disappearance into night. The club struggled through three Monday evenings. Plato was perpetually putting apples of gold in pictures of silver; for such was the rich ore of his thought, and the deep melody of his voice. Orson charmed us with the secrets won from his interviews with Pan in the Walden Woods; but still in vain. The oracular sayings were the unalloyed saccharine element, and every chemist knows how much else goes to practical food, how much coarse, rough, woody fiber is essential. The club struggled valiantly, discoursing celestially, eating apples and disappearing into the dark, until the third evening it vanished altogether."

Meanwhile the village of Concord enjoyed the solid privilege of hearing weekly lectures from these eminent men, and others whom they attracted from a distance. Amongst others they frequently listened to the eloquent voice of W. H. Channing, now chaplain to the House of Representatives at Washington. A firm friendship has long subsisted between Channing and Emerson. Channing was one who gave his earliest sympathies to the socialistic experiments of New England, and, when they failed, was known as an earnest champion of liberal ideas, and of emancipation. There was about him a crystal purity which attracted all, and none more than Emerson. Mrs. Emerson had always wished to have her children christened. Emerson declared that he would offer no objection when a minister could be found to christen the children "who was as good as they." When Channing came to Concord he agreed with his wife that the right man

had been found, and the children were christened.

At the other end of the village from the residence of Emerson stands the somewhat historic house known as the Old Manse, about which were gathered Hawthorne's "Mosses from an old Manse." It was built for the residence of an early Colonial functionary of Massachusetts, and, as its fine front gables and rich wainscoting indicate, was in its time a fine mansion.

In this old Manse came Nathaniel Hawthorne to dwell in those days when, as he afterwards wrote with a certain grim satisfaction, he "was the most unknown author in America." The twilight region of romance in which he loved to dwell found a congenial center in this quaint old home, haunted by so many traditions. As a phantom he came, and as a phantom he dwelt there; and, after several years, was still to the villagers a dark, somber stranger. He was a silent looker-on, and noted down with the interest of an artist the movements which were going on around him; and entering, with an artist's interest, even the community of Brook Farm-out of which experience grew his Blithedale Romance, in which all the enthusiasts of that experiment appear. A boat on the beautiful river Musketaquid, at twilight, a bath in the same river a little later, seemed to be the mortal routine of this most reserved and unsocial of men. Whatever befel him went at once into the scrap-bag, out of which came from time to time the finely-woven tales which have fascinated so many. The mother of Goethe said, "My son whenever he had a grief, made a poem of it, and so got rid of it." It was much the same with the life of Hawthorne, in whose works real events and characters are worked up more than in those of any other with whom I am acquainted. Many will remember the thrilling termination to the story of Zenobia (Margaret Fuller), in the Blithedale Romance. The terrible details of the dragging for the corpse of the suicide were made with a singular fidelity from an actual event which cast a deep shadow over the village. About a mile from the residence of Mr. Hawthorne lived a farmer of humble fortunes, who had much struggle to obtain a competence for his large family. Among these was a daughter of precocious talent, who had interested Emerson and others by her studies and earnestness.

But as she got older, the hard duties of life, and poverty, wore upon her delicate organization; and she was not yet twenty years of age when she disappeared. Through the night she was sought in every direction. At length one of the neighbors found some article of her clothing upon the river side; and, as Mr. Hawthorne's was the nearest house, he went there to get a boat and some assistance. It was after midnight, and Hawthorne went in his boat with the other; together they sat in the moonlight, a mile from the city, and silently dragged for the corpse. At last it was drawn up. Silently Hawthorne went home to spend the rest of the night in writing that chapter, which for tragic power is perhaps unsurpassed in the literature of the horrible.

President Polk took Hawthorne, who was very "impecunious," to use a new American coinage, away from Concord, and gave him the care of the Customs in Salem, Massachusetts; with the antiquities, particularly the witches, of which ancient city he made immediate acquaintance. His strange and reserved habits gave him the reputation in Salem of a man who was haunted by an evil conscience and by several unusually pertinacious ghosts whom he had, perhaps, helped to make ghosts in early life. After this he lived in other towns, but finally returned to Concord, declaring that it was, he suspected, the only place on the planet where a man could live as he liked without interference from his neighbors. Had he known how many spinsters his odd habits had tortured with curiosity, and how much tea he had spoiled, he would not have given so much credit even to Concord. Unhappily, Hawthorne had been a college classmate of Franklin Pierce; and when the latter was nominated by the Democrats, so-called (lucus a non lucendo), for the Presidency, the novelist wrote, a biography of Pierce. For this, his most remarkable work of fiction, he was, on the election of Mr. Pierce, made consul at Liverpool. To say any more about him here would be carrying coals to Newcastle. Nevertheless, I may add, that amongst those in America who knew Hawthorne best, his criticisms upon so much of English life and character as may be only seen in parlors, and especially his judgments concerning English or other women, are regarded as the breaking out of a comic genius in him, for which he has hitherto

had little credit. Upon entering a room where any company had assembled, Hawthorne was very sure to make for the darkest corner, and it would have taken more than a forty-dowager power to draw him out of it. At an evening company in Boston last year, at which I was present, and where he was the chief guest, he was found to have disappeared at about nine, and being sought for by the host, was discovered in a remote room of the house reading Defoe's Ghost Stories.

Though personally acquainted with the transcendentalists, Hawthorne was looked upon as having little or no real interest in the principles which they discussed or represented. He was more a keen-eyed intellectual huntsman, who knew where the finest game was to be found; and, as the forester must be unespied,

[blocks in formation]

"One pole on Olympus and t' other on 'Change."

Nevertheless, the majority of his neighbors could not consent that the transcendental philosopher was any thing but a dreamer. Yet they all agreed that he was a very charming dreamer, and his plain speech and simple manners with the rough farmers around him, won their hearts. Moreover, it was certainly true that the presence of this dreamer in Concord had largely raised the value of real estate. This "simple child, and wildly wise," must be taken care of; and so deli cate services were rendered him without his knowledge, and by some persons, doubtless, with whom he had never met. Some nurseryman in the gray of the morning had entered his garden and carefully pruned his vines and trees for the season. One put up a bird house near him, and

« AnteriorContinuar »