Emerson, the Wisest American

By Phillips Russell | Go to book overview

Chapter Two

I

ONE day, shortly before the close of the eighteenth century, a certain Massachusetts young man, intent upon a career, resolved to remain single. In his journal he wrote large his determination never to "name marriage" to any woman. The rest can be surmised. In June, 1796, he "rode out with Miss R. H., and talked with her on the subject of matrimony." In the following October he married her.

"We are poor and cold," he wrote, "and have little meal, and little wood, and little meat, but thank God, courage enough."

These courageous young people were William Emerson and Ruth Haskins. They had children rapidly; the fourth was Ralph Waldo Emerson.

"Men," wrote this child subsequently, "are what their mothers made them"; and so to comprehend the man Emerson, we must begin with the woman who gave him birth, and much besides. She gave him many of her own features ("a man," wrote the child again, "finds room in his face for all his ancestors") -- the tall brow, the shapely head, the firm chin, and the somewhat pronounced nose, to which were added the "high, predaceous" elements native to the Emersons. It was she, too, perhaps, from whom he learned a love

-8-

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Emerson, the Wisest American
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Portraits *
  • Part One Doubting Youth 1
  • Chapter One 3
  • Chapter Two 8
  • Chapter Three 15
  • Chapter Four 20
  • Chapter Five 31
  • Chapter Six 48
  • Chapter Seven 56
  • Chapter Eight 60
  • Chapter Nine 71
  • Chapter Ten 76
  • Chapter Eleven 82
  • Chapter Twelve 89
  • Chapter Thirteen 110
  • Chapter Fourteen 124
  • Chapter Fifteen 138
  • Part Two Manhood and Mastery 151
  • Chapter Sixteen 153
  • Chapter Seventeen 167
  • Chapter Eighteen 176
  • Chapter Nineteen 181
  • Chapter Twenty 193
  • Chapter Twenty One 205
  • Chapter Twenty-Two 223
  • Chapter Twenty-Three 235
  • Chapter Twenty-Four 249
  • Chapter Twenty-Five 263
  • Part Three Silver Years 269
  • Chapter Twenty-Six 271
  • Chapter Twenty-Seven 280
  • Chapter Twenty-Eight 293
  • Chapter Twenty-Nine 298
  • Afterword 315
  • Index 317
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