Emerson: A Collection of Critical Essays

Emerson: A Collection of Critical Essays

Emerson: A Collection of Critical Essays

Emerson: A Collection of Critical Essays

Excerpt

In his lecture on Emerson, Matthew Arnold told his Boston audience that when he had been an undergraduate student at Oxford, voices were in the air that still haunted his memory, one of them that of Emerson: "a clear and pure voice, which for my ear, at any rate, brought a strain as new, and moving, and unforgettable as the strain of Newman, or Carlyle, or Goethe." Other English critics confessed to the same lasting influence of Emerson. "What place Emerson is to occupy in American literature is for America to determine," said Augustine Birrell in 1887, ". . . but here at home, where we are sorely pressed for room, it is certain that he must be content with a small allotment, where, however, he may forever sit beneath his own vine and figtree, none daring to make him afraid. Emerson will always be the favorite author of somebody; and to be always read by somebody is better than to be read first by everybody and then by nobody." Sixteen years later, in 1903, when the Emerson centenary was celebrated in England and the United States, Birrell told his audience that after thirty-five years he still remembered lines and passages from Emerson which he had first read "with a shiver of excitement." Thousands of readers on both continents will never forget to their dying day, he said, "the very place and year when first their souls vibrated to the strange charm, the infinite courage, the inbred composure, the spiritual independence of this New Englander." Testimony abounds to the lasting impact that Emerson had on the minds and character of men in his own generation and later, in his own country and elsewhere. "The only firebrand of my youth that burns to me as brightly as ever," wrote Mr. Justice Holmes at the age of 89, "is Emerson." And Robert Frost in 1959 expressed his belief that--with Jeffer

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