EMERSON AS PROSE-WRITER
A GLANCE at Emerson's literary equipment may fitly precede a critique of his prose.
It is a fashion of late years to speak rather slightingly of Emerson's scholarship and culture. We deny him the general merits, unperturbed by the curiously good showing he makes in various particulars. We are clear that he was no linguist; in the comfort of which persuasion shall we not throw a crumb to his admirers in the admission that he knew--sparingly, of course-- Greek, Latin, Italian, German, and French? We are cheerfully agreed that his reading was desultory: no wise man will be moved by the fact that it was a most accommodating desultoriness--a desultoriness so liberal, indeed, as to permit its possessor to know Shakespeare almost by heart, to read Goethe through in the original, and to master pretty much all the material available in English in a field so abstruse as Neo-Platonist philosophy. We know that his reading was not catholic, whatever rash inferences the hasty reader may draw from the inclusion of five writers so diverse as Plato, Swedenborg, Montaigne, Shakespeare, and Goethe in the single volume of "Representative Men." We repose in his want of scholarship; in view of which