Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

IX
JOSEPH NEUBERG INTRODUCED (1848)

WHEN lecturing at Nottingham in winter Emerson had been the guest of Joseph Neuberg, a man of forty-three, and a cosmopolitan. Originally from near Würzburg, Neuberg had long been a prosperous manufacturer at Nottingham, and was thinking now of retiring from business. His wife had died, he was childless, and he was feeling one had something else to do as well as money- making.1 What else? It is the sphinx riddle of life.

In taking Emerson about, to Newstead Abbey and elsewhere,2 Neuberg may have disclosed the modest thought he afterwards told to the Discussion Society3 he had started, that a man of business who lets himself go into making more and more can only satisfy the "meaner half" of his being, and failing to provide for the "spiritual life," becomes "blinded, dwarfed, stupefied" in soul and little better than the Helots described by "our master Carlyle." In plainer words, he remains more ignorant and stupid than he need have been.

Emerson discovered Neuberg's feelings towards Carlyle, and said to Miss Neuberg, who kept house for her brother,-- "I am surprised the acquaintance is confined to writing." She answered,--"I do believe my brother would give his little finger to know Carlyle." To which Emerson warmly responded,--"I shall not leave England without bringing the two together."4 And so about Saturday, 1.4.48, he took Neuberg with him to Cheyne Row. Emerson wrote

____________________
1
Nottingham Review, 5.10. 1849, p. 2.
2
R. W. Emerson, by A. Ireland, pp. 165-9 and 203.
3
Address to the Discussion Society at Nottingham, by Joseph Neuberg, p. 6.
4
For this and the letter following, see Macmillans Magazine, August, 1884, p. 280. The nephew of Mr. Neuberg, to whom we owe it and the documents already quoted, certifies that the article was by Dr. Sadler and authentic.

-32-

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