Emerson at Home and Abroad

By Moncure Daniel Conway | Go to book overview

IX. A LEGEND OF GOOD WOMEN.

EVERYBODY has been wrong in his guess, except good women, who never despair of an ideal right." These are words from a letter written by Emerson to Carlyle about the American civil war. They are pregnant with a great deal of experience. No man had more reason for his faith in "the moral genius of women" -- how well I remember the solemnity of his voice in that phrase! -- than Emerson. Something of that, indeed, has been told in a previous chapter, but more remains, and this fine influence will be found shedding its light upon the path of Emerson even to the grave.

The first teachers of Transcendentalism in New England were Anne Hutchinson and Mary Dyer (more than eight generations ago!). The one was its prophetess, the other its protomartyr. They were beautiful and refined, true ladies, of good education. Anne Hutchinson was a woman of genius, however apologists of Puritanism may call it fanaticism. Governor Harry Vane was not far wrong in regarding her as a prophetess; for with her "profitable and sober carriage," which her opponents admitted, she united a far-reaching spiritual instinct, a clear logical intel

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