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Plutarch says that when Cicero, as a young man, visited the oracle at Delphi, the
One who of such a height hath built his mind,
nor pierce to wrong
Samuel DANIEL (1562-1619).
LONDON: SIMPKIN, MARSHALL, & CO.
MANCHESTER: J. E. CORNISH.
[The substance of this Memoir appeared in the Manchester
Examiner and Times of 29th April, the day after the news of Mr. Emerson's death reached England.
It is now reprinted, with additions, which extend it to more than three times its original length.]
May 20th, 1882.
HE grave has scarcely closed over the remains of the
great man whose renown all over the world is more firmly established than that of any Englishman of his time, when the news comes to us that the foremost thinker and philosopher of America has joined the ranks of the majority. America has produced great soldiers, distinguished men of science, and poets of world-wide fame, but it is not too much to say that since the Declaration of Independence no man has so powerfully influenced the intellect of the nation as Ralph Waldo Emerson. On Thursday night, April 27th, at nine o'clock, at his house in Concord, Mass., surrounded by those dearest to him, this great man peaceably departed. He leaves a widow, a son-Dr. Edward Emerson, of Concord, and two daughters. The eldest, Ellen—who was his tender and faithful companion whenever he left home, his amanuensis in his later years, and, as he sometimes lovingly called her, his “memory”—is unmarried. The youngest, Edith, is married
, to Colonel W. H. Forbes, of Milton Hill, Mass., and has a numerous family. When they visited England in 1872, bringing their children with them, Mr. Carlyle sat for a likeness, with Emerson's grandson, Ralph, then a fine boy of twelve or thirteen, standing by his knee. 1
Ralph Waldo Emerson, the most original and independent thinker and greatest moral teacher that America has produced, was born at Boston in 1803. He was a legitimate product of Puritanism. As far back as his family is traced it has been represented by ministers of the old faith of New England, the founder of it having journeyed thither with his congregation from Gloucestershire, in England, in 1635, and each of these ministers was associated with some phase of that faith, whether Calvinism, Universalism, or Unitarianism. His ancestry on both sides forms an indispensable explanation and background of every page of his writings. The Emerson family were intellectual, eloquent, with a strong individuality of character, robust and vigorous in their thinking-practical and philanthropic. His father was the Rev. William Emerson, pastor of the First (Unitarian) Church of Boston, and was noted for his vigorous mind, earnestness of purpose, and gentleness of manner. The boy lost his father when he was but eight
His mother was a woman of great sensibility, modest, serene, and very devout. "She was possessed of a thoroughly sincere nature, devoid of all sentimentalism, and of a temper the most even and placid—(one of her sons said that in his boyhood, when she came from her room in the morning, it seemed to him as if she always came from communion with God)—knew how to guide the affairs of her house, had the sweetest authority, and manners of natural grace and dignity. Her dark, liquid eyes, from which old age did not take away the expression, were among the remembrances of all on whom they ever rested." The young Emerson was very carefully educated, and entered Harvard University at an early age, where he graduated in 1821. Every graduating class in that institution elects a poet and an orator for its celebration, which is called “class-day," and Emerson was chosen as the poet of his class. In his junior year he received a Bowdoin prize for an essay on "The Character of Socrates," and in his senior year he again
gained a prize, his subject being “ The Present State of Ethical Philosophy.” Among his companions he was already distinguished for literary attainments, and more especially for a certain charm in the delivery of his addresses. After graduation he entered upon his studies in the Unitarian Divinity College connected with the University. After he had graduated from the Divinity College and been "approbated” for the ministry, he was led to visit the far South-South Carolina and Florida-on account of impaired health. On his return, he was settled as the junior pastor of a large congregation in Boston, and was afterwards appointed chaplain to the State Legislature. His preaching attracted considerable attention, though it brought no crowd. Many an old hearer afterwards remembered these discourses in reading his essays. A venerable lady of those days, a member of his congregation, when asked what was his chief characteristic as minister, said : "On God's law doth he meditate day and night."
Finding himself unable to continue to hold the creed and perform the rites of the sect with which hě was connected, he decided to relinquish his pulpit. He gave his reasons for this in a remarkable discourse. The Rev. Henry Ware, whose colleague Emerson was, addressed to him a friendly expostulation against the doctrines of this discourse. In reply Emerson said : “What you say about the discourse is just what I might expect from your truth and charity, combined with your known opinions. I am not a stick or a stone, as one said in the old time, and could not feel but pain in saying some things in that place and presence which I supposed would meet with dissent, I may say, of dear friends and benefactors of mine. Yet, as my conviction is perfect in the substantial truth of the doctrines of this discourse, and is not very new, you will see at once that it must appear very important that it be spoken ; and I thought I could not pay the nobleness of my friends so mean a compliment as to suppress