Emerson's Literary Criticism

By Eric W. Carlson; Ralph Waldo Emerson | Go to book overview

" Tennyson" is a magnificent statue,—the first adequate work of its kind,—his real traits & superiorities rightly shown.—But Shelley,— was he the poet? He was a man in whom the spirit of the Age was poured,—man of aspiration, heroic character; but poet? Excepting a few well known lines about a cloud & a skylark, I could never read one of his hundreds of pages, and, though surprised by your estimate, despair of a re-attempt. Keatshad poetic genius, though I could well spare the whole Endymion. The doubt has crossed my mind once or twice, that your friendships hoodwink your dangerous eyes.

* * *

With great regard, yours,
R. W. Emerson

J. H. Stirling, Esq.

J 6:114-15 (cf. JMN 8:61). J 6:213 (cf. JMN 8:178). L 6:19.


Tennyson

Emerson owned Tennyson's Poems, Chiefly Lyricalas early as 1831, obtained the 1833 Poemswhile in England, and in 1838 tried unsuccessfully to have Tennyson's poems republished in the United States. In his journals, his comments range from delight to distrust. In 1842 the Dialpublished Emerson's review of Tennyson's Poems. Although appreciably longer than any other of Emerson's commentaries on Tennyson, it is omitted here, being no better than the standard fare of the day. Emerson is satisfied to praise and illustrate Tennyson's "gorgeous music" and "picturesque representation," his "serene wisdom," "simplicity," "grace," and "nobleness and individuality of thoughts. " In the following year, in " Europe and European Books," after the usual tribute to Tennyson's elegance, wit, felicity, and rhythmic power and variety, Emerson complained of the lack of "rude truth." Tennyson is "too fine ... we have no right to such superfineness. " In " The Poet" the passage on "a recent writer of lyrics" (W 3:9) probably refers to Tennyson as an example of one whose technical skill

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Emerson's Literary Criticism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Emerson''s Literary Criticism *
  • Contents v
  • List of Abbreviations vii
  • Introduction *
  • I- Art as Experience *
  • Beauty (1836) 3
  • Language 8
  • Art 14
  • The Poet 24
  • Beauty (1860) 45
  • II- The Creative Process *
  • Intellect 59
  • Bacchus 70
  • Merlin 73
  • III- The Art of Rhetoric *
  • Diction and Style 81
  • Art and Criticism 84
  • The Craft of Poetry 96
  • IV- Toward a Modern Critical Perspective *
  • Emerging Critical Concepts 103
  • Thoughts on Modern Literature 108
  • The Novel of Character vs. the Costume Novel 121
  • V- Writers and Books *
  • Europe and European Books 127
  • Literature 134
  • Preface to Parnassus 143
  • Chaucer 151
  • Bacon 156
  • Montaigne 159
  • Shakespeare 162
  • Milton 179
  • Burns 187
  • Byron 190
  • Shelley 193
  • Tennyson 194
  • Wordsworth 197
  • Carlyle 204
  • Coleridge 206
  • Dickens 210
  • Scott 212
  • Margaret Fuller 216
  • Hawthorne 219
  • Thoreau 222
  • Whitman 227
  • Bibliography 237
  • Acknowledgments 245
  • Index *
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