Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ralph Waldo Emerson: Essays and Lectures. Book Two (10).

1803 -1882. New York: Literary Classics of the United States. 1983.

Why read it? Emerson’s unit of thought is the epigrammatic sentence. Emerson writes a poetic prose. Emerson’s beliefs—that each man shares in the Over-Soul, or God, that man possesses, within himself, the means to all knowledge—expressed in his memorable sentences, are of central importance in the history of American culture. The only trouble is most of his ideas are half-truths.

“The English…do not respect power, but only performance; value ideas only for an economic result.” P. 887. ………. “The gospel it [English church] preaches is, ‘By taste are ye saved.’ ” P. 888. ………. “The bias of Englishmen to practical skill….” P. 903. ………. Its [The Times’] existence honors the people who dare to print all they know, dare to know all the facts, and do not wish to be flattered by hiding the extent of the public disaster.” P. 913. ………. “…England, an old land and exhausted land, must one day be contented, like other parents, to be strong only in her children.” P. 916. ………. “An Englishman shows no mercy to those below him in the social scale, as he looks for none from those above him: any forbearance from his superiors surprises him, and they suffer in his good opinion.” P. 932. ………. “…by this sacredness of individual, they [the English] have in seven hundred years evolved the principles of freedom.” P. 933.

The end of this book of essays and lectures by Emerson. Next: Watchers at the Pond by Franklin Russell.

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