THIS chapter will be occupied with a review of Emerson's prose works; a succeeding chapter will handle the general characteristics of his prose, and a third will discuss his poetry.
"Nature" is exceptional as a first work in which both the thought and the style of the author are perfectly mature and in which--by an even rarer exception-- both are seen at almost their highest level. In the thought of this work, Emerson, always munificent, rises to sheer prodigality; it is, as Dr. Garnett says, "the most intense and quintessential of his writings"; with the exception of the doctrines of "Compensation" and "Self-Reliance," it virtually epitomizes his philosophy. Emerson's growth was that of a helix; first the core, central, vital, and compact, then the inner rings, then outer rings of more bulk and greater diameter as they recede successively from the central heart. "Nature" was the innermost, smallest, and most vital spire in the concentric structure. The review of the doctrine may be left to a future chapter, since it seems preferable to confine ourselves to the peculiarities or differentia of the works as we reach them in order of time and to reserve for subsequent collective discussion their common properties of thought and style.