The Periodicals of American Transcendentalism

By Clarence L. F. Gohdes | Go to book overview
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APPENDIX TWO UNCOLLECTED EMERSON ITEMS

1. [JOHN STERLING]

Essays and Tales by John Sterling: with a Memoir of His Life, by Julius Charles Hare, London, 1848.

John Sterling, during his short life, was a valued ornament of the best literary circle, and the friend of Coleridge, Arnold, Carlyle, Mill, Hare, Tennyson, French, Maurice, and other noted scholars. He was the son of Edward Sterling, well known to politicians as "the thunderer of the Times," on account of certain powerful contributions to that newspaper. He was educated at Cambridge. To a fine literary talent he added extraordinary powers of conversation, a scholar devoted to the best books, a reader of Plato, of Aeschylus, of Simonides; of Dante, Calderon, Montaigne, Leibnitz; and of Goethe, Schiller, and the criticism of modern Germany. He had also, what is rare in the brilliant society in which he lived, a military love of action, which carried him over that bound which a scholar can rarely pass without ridicule or ruin, and drew him into various resolutions of charity and patriotism; mixed him up with anti-slavery in St. Vincent's in the West Indies; made him the strenuous friend of public education; put him forward in a disastrous Spanish insurrection in 1830, which ended in the death of his friend, General Torrijos. The same conscience and desire to serve men led him to take- orders in the church, though the progress of his mind, more than the state of his health, withdrew him from it afterwards. His hospitable mind was continually exploring books most distasteful to his countrymen, Schelling, Hegel, Schleiermacher, Strauss, and the neology of Germany and the socialism of France. He had a great range of friends and correspondents. Whatever belonged to thought or religion was sure of his sympathy, and he loudly complained of the torpor of the English mind, whilst the real strength of the nation seemed to him to be all of the brute mechanic sort. "Think," he says, "if we had a dozen men to stand up for ideas, as Cobden and his friends do for machinery!"

The Essays indicate the ardor and activity of his mind; they embrace a range of interesting topics, and furnish often the best insight into the spiritual condition of England. Ill health made

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