Friday, September 30, 2011

Emerson, Since You Asked

Noted by James Russell Ament and Frank Wilson, Aphorisms by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Emerson in his aphorisms reminds me of a woman I knew who had spent her early 20s teaching kindergarten. This had led her, it seemed to me, to believe that every situation taught something, but to be vague about what it taught. (Let me add that on the one hand, I'm sure that many kindergarten teacher think much more precisely, and on the other that the children probably thrived under her attention.)

I think that I read Emerson with prejudices inherited from Henry Adams, Santayana (more from The Last Puritan than from The Genteel Tradition), and from Yvor Winters. Yet I'm not sure that's wrong. Emerson seems to me very strong as journalist (say on England) or as controversialist, on emancipation in the West Indies or on the Fugitive Slave Law. In his more general essays--"The American Scholar", "Nature"--he seems to me to lose himself in exclaiming on analogies that are not thought out.

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