Emerson at Home and Abroad

By Moncure Daniel Conway | Go to book overview
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XVI. EVOLUTION.

ACCORDING to an American myth, when Emerson visited Egypt the Sphinx said to him, "You're another!"

The enigmatic element, of which many complained in Emerson's earliest writings, is now explicable enough. He spoke from a generalisation at once poetic and scientific, which as yet had nothing corresponding to it in the popular mind. He could not prove it, but it was perfectly clear to him that the method of nature is evolution, and it organised the basis of his every statement. Thus in August, 1841, addressing the Literary Society of Watterville College, occur such passages as these: "The wholeness we admire in the order of the world is the result of infinite distribution. Its smoothness is the smoothness of the pitch of the cataract. Its permanence is a perpetual inchoation. Every natural fact is an emanation, and that from which it emanates is an emanation also, and from every emanation is a new emanation." "We can point nowhere to anything final; but tendency appears on all hands: planet, system, constellation, total Nature, is growing like a field of maize in July; is becoming somewhat else; is in rapid metamorphosis. The em

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