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Essays, Second Series by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Part 2 out of 4

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one or another law, which throws itself into relief
and form, but I am too young yet by some ages to
compile a code. I gossip for my hour concerning the
eternal politics. I have seen many fair pictures not
in vain. A wonderful time I have lived in. I am not
the novice I was fourteen, nor yet seven years ago.
Let who will ask Where is the fruit? I find a private
fruit sufficient. This is a fruit,--that I should not
ask for a rash effect from meditations, counsels and
the hiving of truths. I should feel it pitiful to
demand a result on this town and county, an overt
effect on the instant month and year. The effect is
deep and secular as the cause. It works on periods in
which mortal lifetime is lost. All I know is reception;
I am and I have: but I do not get, and when I have
fancied I had gotten anything, I found I did not. I
worship with wonder the great Fortune. My reception has
been so large, that I am not annoyed by receiving this
or that superabundantly. I say to the Genius, if he will
pardon the proverb, In for a mill, in for a million. When
I receive a new gift, I do not macerate my body to make
the account square, for if I should die I could not make
the account square. The benefit overran the merit the
first day, and has overrun the merit ever since. The
merit itself, so-called, I reckon part of the receiving.

Also that hankering after an overt or practical
effect seems to me an apostasy. In good earnest
I am willing to spare this most unnecessary deal
of doing. Life wears to me a visionary face.
Hardest roughest action is visionary also. It is
but a choice between soft and turbulent dreams.
People disparage knowing and the intellectual life,
and urge doing. I am very content with knowing, if
only I could know. That is an august entertainment,
and would suffice me a great while. To know a little
would be worth the expense of this world. I hear
always the law of Adrastia, "that every soul which
had acquired any truth, should be safe from harm
until another period."

I know that the world I converse with in the city
and in the farms, is not the world I think. I observe
that difference, and shall observe it. One day I shall
know the value and law of this discrepance. But I have
not found that much was gained by manipular attempts
to realize the world of thought. Many eager persons
successively make an experiment in this way, and make
themselves ridiculous. They acquire democratic manners,
they foam at the mouth, they hate and deny. Worse, I
observe that in the history of mankind there is never
a solitary example of success,--taking their own tests
of success. I say this polemically, or in reply to the
inquiry, Why not realize your world? But far be from
me the despair which prejudges the law by a paltry
empiricism;--since there never was a right endeavor
but it succeeded. Patience and patience, we shall win
at the last. We must be very suspicious of the deceptions
of the element of time. It takes a good deal of time to
eat or to sleep, or to earn a hundred dollars, and a
very little time to entertain a hope and an insight
which becomes the light of our life. We dress our garden,
eat our dinners, discuss the household with our wives,
and these things make no impression, are forgotten next
week; but, in the solitude to which every man is always
returning, he has a sanity and revelations which in his
passage into new worlds he will carry with him. Never
mind the ridicule, never mind the defeat; up again, old
heart!--it seems to say,--there is victory yet for all
justice; and the true romance which the world exists to
realize will be the transformation of genius into
practical power.


The sun set; but set not his hope:
Stars rose; his faith was earlier up:
Fixed on the enormous galaxy,
Deeper and older seemed his eye:
And matched his sufferance sublime
The taciturnity of time.
He spoke, and words more soft than rain
Brought the Age of Gold again:
His action won such reverence sweet,
As hid all measure of the feat.

Work of his hand
He nor commends nor grieves
Pleads for itself the fact;
As unrepenting Nature leaves
Her every act.


I HAVE read that those who listened to Lord Chatham
felt that there was something finer in the man than
any thing which he said. It has been complained of
our brilliant English historian of the French
Revolution that when he has told all his facts about
Mirabeau, they do not justify his estimate of his
genius. The Gracchi, Agis, Cleomenes, and others of
Plutarch's heroes, do not in the record of facts equal
their own fame. Sir Philip Sidney, the Earl of Essex,
Sir Walter Raleigh, are men of great figure and of
few deeds. We cannot find the smallest part of the
personal weight of Washington in the narrative of his
exploits. The authority of the name of Schiller is
too great for his books. This inequality of the
reputation to the works or the anecdotes is not
accounted for by saying that the reverberation is
longer than the thunder-clap, but somewhat resided
in these men which begot an expectation that outran
all their performance. The largest part of their power
was latent. This is that which we call Character,--a
reserved force which acts directly by presence, and
without means. It is conceived of as a certain
undemonstrable force, a Familiar or Genius, by whose
impulses the man is guided but whose counsels he
cannot impart; which is company for him, so that such
men are often solitary, or if they chance to be social,
do not need society but can entertain themselves very
well alone. The purest literary talent appears at one
time great, at another time small, but character is of
a stellar and undiminishable greatness. What others
effect by talent or by eloquence, this man accomplishes
by some magnetism. "Half his strength he put not forth."
His victories are by demonstration of superiority, and
not by crossing of bayonets. He conquers because his
arrival alters the face of affairs. "O Iole! how did
you know that Hercules was a god?" "Because," answered
Iole, "I was content the moment my eyes fell on him.
When I beheld Theseus, I desired that I might see him
offer battle, or at least guide his horses in the
chariot-race; but Hercules did not wait for a contest;
he conquered whether he stood, or walked, or sat, or
whatever thing he did." Man, ordinarily a pendant to
events, only half attached, and that awkwardly, to the
world he lives in, in these examples appears to share
the life of things, and to be an expression of the same
laws which control the tides and the sun, numbers and

But to use a more modest illustration and nearer
home, I observe that in our political elections,
where this element, if it appears at all, can only
occur in its coarsest form, we sufficiently understand
its incomparable rate. The people know that they need
in their representative much more than talent, namely
the power to make his talent trusted. They cannot come
at their ends by sending to Congress a learned, acute,
and fluent speaker, if he be not one who, before he
was appointed by the people to represent them, was
appointed by Almighty God to stand for a fact,--
invincibly persuaded of that fact in himself,--so
that the most confident and the most violent persons
learn that here is resistance on which both impudence
and terror are wasted, namely faith in a fact. The men
who carry their points do not need to inquire of their
constituents what they should say, but are themselves
the country which they represent; nowhere are its
emotions or opinions so instant and true as in them;
nowhere so pure from a selfish infusion. The constituency
at home hearkens to their words, watches the color of
their cheek, and therein, as in a glass, dresses its
own. Our public assemblies are pretty good tests of
manly force. Our frank countrymen of the west and south
have a taste for character, and like to know whether
the New Englander is a substantial man, or whether the
hand can pass through him.

The same motive force appears in trade. There are
geniuses in trade, as well as in war, or the State,
or letters; and the reason why this or that man is
fortunate is not to be told. It lies in the man;
that is all anybody can tell you about it. See him
and you will know as easily why he succeeds, as, if
you see Napoleon, you would comprehend his fortune.
In the new objects we recognize the old game, the
Habit of fronting the fact, and not dealing with it
at second hand, through the perceptions of somebody
else. Nature seems to authorize trade, as soon as
you see the natural merchant, who appears not so much
a private agent as her factor and Minister of Commerce.
His natural probity combines with his insight into
the fabric of society to put him above tricks, and he
communicates to all his own faith that contracts are
of no private interpretation. The habit of his mind is
a reference to standards of natural equity and public
advantage; and he inspires respect and the wish to
deal with him, both for the quiet spirit of honor
which attends him, and for the intellectual pastime
which the spectacle of so much ability affords. This
immensely stretched trade, which makes the capes of
the Southern Ocean his wharves, and the Atlantic Sea
his familiar port, centres in his brain only; and
nobody in the universe can make his place good. In his
parlor I see very well that he has been at hard work
this morning, with that knitted brow and that settled
humor, which all his desire to be courteous cannot
shake off. I see plainly how many firm acts have been
done; how many valiant noes have this day been spoken,
when others would have uttered ruinous yeas. I see,
with the pride of art and skill of masterly arithmetic
and power of remote combination, the consciousness of
being an agent and playfellow of the original laws of
the world. He too believes that none can supply him,
and that a man must be born to trade or he cannot learn it.

This virtue draws the mind more when it appears
in action to ends not so mixed. It works with most
energy in the smallest companies and in private
relations. In all cases it is an extraordinary and
incomputable agent. The excess of physical strength
is paralyzed by it. Higher natures overpower lower
ones by affecting them with a certain sleep. The
faculties are locked up, and offer no resistance.
Perhaps that is the universal law. When the high
cannot bring up the low to itself, it benumbs it,
as man charms down the resistance of the lower animals.
Men exert on each other a similar occult power. How
often has the influence of a true master realized all
the tales of magic! A river of command seemed to run
down from his eyes into all those who beheld him, a
torrent of strong sad light, like an Ohio or Danube,
which pervaded them with his thoughts and colored all
events with the hue of his mind. "What means did you
employ?" was the question asked of the wife of Concini,
in regard to her treatment of Mary of Medici; and the
answer was, "Only that influence which every strong
mind has over a weak one." Cannot Caesar in irons
shuffle off the irons and transfer them to the person
of Hippo or Thraso the turnkey? Is an iron handcuff so
immutable a bond? Suppose a slaver on the coast of
Guinea should take on board a gang of negroes which
should contain persons of the stamp of Toussaint
L'Ouverture: or, let us fancy, under these swarthy
masks he has a gang of Washingtons in chains. When
they arrive at Cuba, will the relative order of the
ship's company be the same? Is there nothing but rope
and iron? Is there no love, no reverence? Is there
never a glimpse of right in a poor slave-captain's
mind; and cannot these be supposed available to break
or elude or in any manner overmatch the tension of an
inch or two of iron ring?

This is a natural power, like light and heat, and all
nature cooperates with it. The reason why we feel
one man's presence and do not feel another's is as
simple as gravity. Truth is the summit of being;
justice is the application of it to affairs. All
individual natures stand in a scale, according to
the purity of this element in them. The will of the
pure runs down from them into other natures as water
runs down from a higher into a lower vessel. This
natural force is no more to be withstood than any
other natural force. We can drive a stone upward for
a moment into the air, but it is yet true that all
stones will forever fall; and whatever instances can
be quoted of unpunished theft, or of a lie which
somebody credited, justice must prevail, and it is the
privilege of truth to make itself believed. Character
is this moral order seen through the medium of an
individual nature. An individual is an encloser. Time
and space, liberty and necessity, truth and thought,
are left at large no longer. Now, the universe is a
close or pound. All things exist in the man tinged with
the manners of his soul. With what quality is in him he
infuses all nature that he can reach; nor does he tend
to lose himself in vastness, but, at how long a curve
soever, all his regards return into his own good at
last. He animates all he can, and he sees only what he
animates. He encloses the world, as the patriot does his
country, as a material basis for his character, and a
theatre for action. A healthy soul stands united with
the Just and the True, as the magnet arranges itself with
the pole; so that he stands to all beholders like a
transparent object betwixt them and the sun, and whoso
journeys towards the sun, journeys towards that person.
He is thus the medium of the highest influence to all
who are not on the same level. Thus, men of character
are the conscience of the society to which they belong.

The natural measure of this power is the resistance
of circumstances. Impure men consider life as it is
reflected in opinions, events, and persons. They cannot
see the action until it is done. Yet its moral element
preexisted in the actor, and its quality as right or
wrong it was easy to predict. Everything in nature is
bipolar, or has a positive and negative pole. There is
a male and a female, a spirit and a fact, a north and a
south. Spirit is the positive, the event is the negative.
Will is the north, action the south pole. Character may
be ranked as having its natural place in the north. It
shares the magnetic currents of the system. The feeble
souls are drawn to the south or negative pole. They look
at the profit or hurt of the action. They never behold a
principle until it is lodged in a person. They do not
wish to be lovely, but to be loved. Men of character
like to hear of their faults; the other class do not
like to hear of faults; they worship events; secure to
them a fact, a connection, a certain chain of circumstances,
and they will ask no more. The hero sees that the event
is ancillary; it must follow him. A given order of events
has no power to secure to him the satisfaction which the
imagination attaches to it; the soul of goodness escapes
from any set of circumstances; whilst prosperity belongs
to a certain mind, and will introduce that power and
victory which is its natural fruit, into any order of
events. No change of circumstances can repair a defect
of character. We boast our emancipation from many
superstitions; but if we have broken any idols it is
through a transfer of the idolatry. What have I gained,
that I no longer immolate a bull to Jove or to Neptune,
or a mouse to Hecate; that I do not tremble before the
Eumenides, or the Catholic Purgatory, or the Calvinistic
Judgment-day,--if I quake at opinion, the public opinion,
as we call it; or at the threat of assault, or contumely,
or bad neighbors, or poverty, or mutilation, or at the
rumor of revolution, or of murder? If I quake, what matters
it what I quake at? Our proper vice takes form in one or
another shape, according to the sex, age, or temperament
of the person, and, if we are capable of fear, will readily
find terrors. The covetousness or the malignity which
saddens me when I ascribe it to society, is my own. I am
always environed by myself. On the other part, rectitude
is a perpetual victory, celebrated not by cries of joy
but by serenity, which is joy fixed or habitual. It is
disgraceful to fly to events for confirmation of our truth
and worth. The capitalist does not run every hour to the
broker to coin his advantages into current money of the
realm; he is satisfied to read in the quotations of the
market that his stocks have risen. The same transport
which the occurrence of the best events in the best order
would occasion me, I must learn to taste purer in the
perception that my position is every hour meliorated, and
does already command those events I desire. That exultation
is only to be checked by the foresight of an order of
things so excellent as to throw all our prosperities into
the deepest shade.

The face which character wears to me is self-
sufficingness. I revere the person who is riches;
so that I cannot think of him as alone, or poor,
or exiled, or unhappy, or a client, but as perpetual
patron, benefactor, and beatified man. Character is
centrality, the impossibility of being displaced or
overset. A man should give us a sense of mass. Society
is frivolous, and shreds its day into scraps, its
conversation into ceremonies and escapes. But if I go
to see an ingenious man I shall think myself poorly
entertained if he give me nimble pieces of benevolence
and etiquette; rather he shall stand stoutly in his
place and let me apprehend if it were only his
resistance; know that I have encountered a new and
positive quality;--great refreshment for both of us.
It is much that he does not accept the conventional
opinions and practices. That nonconformity will remain
a goad and remembrancer, and every inquirer will have
to dispose of him, in the first place. There is nothing
real or useful that is not a seat of war. Our houses
ring with laughter and personal and critical gossip,
but it helps little. But the uncivil, unavailable man,
who is a problem and a threat to society, whom it cannot
let pass in silence but must either worship or hate,--and
to whom all parties feel related, both the leaders of
opinion and the obscure and eccentric,--he helps; he
puts America and Europe in the wrong, and destroys the
skepticism which says, 'man is a doll, let us eat and
drink, 'tis the best we can do,' by illuminating the
untried and unknown. Acquiescence in the establishment
and appeal to the public, indicate infirm faith, heads
which are not clear, and which must see a house built,
before they can comprehend the plan of it. The wise man
not only leaves out of his thought the many, but leaves
out the few. Fountains, the self-moved, the absorbed,
the commander because he is commanded, the assured, the
primary,--they are good; for these announce the instant
presence of supreme power.

Our action should rest mathematically on our
substance. In nature, there are no false valuations.
A pound of water in the ocean-tempest has no more
gravity than in a midsummer pond. All things work
exactly according to their quality and according to
their quantity; attempt nothing they cannot do, except
man only. He has pretension; he wishes and attempts
things beyond his force. I read in a book of English
memoirs, "Mr. Fox (afterwards Lord Holland) said, he
must have the Treasury; he had served up to it, and
would have it." Xenophon and his Ten Thousand were
quite equal to what they attempted, and did it; so
equal, that it was not suspected to be a grand and
inimitable exploit. Yet there stands that fact
unrepeated, a high-water mark in military history.
Many have attempted it since, and not been equal to
it. It is only on reality that any power of action
can be based. No institution will be better than the
institutor. I knew an amiable and accomplished person
who undertook a practical reform, yet I was never able
to find in him the enterprise of love he took in hand.
He adopted it by ear and by the understanding from the
books he had been reading. All his action was tentative,
a piece of the city carried out into the fields, and
was the city still, and no new fact, and could not
inspire enthusiasm. Had there been something latent in
the man, a terrible undemonstrated genius agitating and
embarrassing his demeanor, we had watched for its advent.
It is not enough that the intellect should see the evils
and their remedy. We shall still postpone our existence,
nor take the ground to which we are entitled, whilst it
is only a thought and not a spirit that incites us. We
have not yet served up to it.

These are properties of life, and another trait
is the notice of incessant growth. Men should be
intelligent and earnest. They must also make us
feel that they have a controlling happy future
opening before them, whose early twilights already
kindle in the passing hour. The hero is misconceived
and misreported; he cannot therefore wait to unravel
any man's blunders; he is again on his road, adding
new powers and honors to his domain and new claims
on your heart, which will bankrupt you if you have
loitered about the old things and have not kept your
relation to him by adding to your wealth. New actions
are the only apologies and explanations of old ones
which the noble can bear to offer or to receive. If
your friend has displeased you, you shall not sit
down to consider it, for he has already lost all
memory of the passage, and has doubled his power to
serve you, and ere you can rise up again will burden
you with blessings.

We have no pleasure in thinking of a benevolence
that is only measured by its works. Love is
inexhaustible, and if its estate is wasted, its
granary emptied, still cheers and enriches, and
the man, though he sleep, seems to purify the air
and his house to adorn the landscape and strengthen
the laws. People always recognize this difference.
We know who is benevolent, by quite other means than
the amount of subscription to soup-societies. It is
only low merits that can be enumerated. Fear, when
your friends say to you what you have done well, and
say it through; but when they stand with uncertain
timid looks of respect and half-dislike, and must
suspend their judgment for years to come, you may
begin to hope. Those who live to the future must
always appear selfish to those who live to the present.
Therefore it was droll in the good Riemer, who has
written memoirs of Goethe, to make out a list of his
donations and good deeds, as, so many hundred thalers
given to Stilling, to Hegel, to Tischbein; a lucrative
place found for Professor Voss, a post under the Grand
Duke for Herder, a pension for Meyer, two professors
recommended to foreign universities; &c., &c. The
longest list of specifications of benefit would look
very short. A man is a poor creature if he is to be
measured so. For all these of course are exceptions,
and the rule and hodiernal life of a good man is
benefaction. The true charity of Goethe is to be
inferred from the account he gave Dr. Eckermann of the
way in which he had spent his fortune. "Each bon-mot
of mine has cost a purse of gold. Half a million of my
own money, the fortune I inherited, my salary and
the large income derived from my writings for fifty
years back, have been expended to instruct me in
what I now know. I have besides seen," &c.

I own it is but poor chat and gossip to go to
enumerate traits of this simple and rapid power,
and we are painting the lightning with charcoal;
but in these long nights and vacations I like to
console myself so. Nothing but itself can copy
it. A word warm from the heart enriches me. I
surrender at discretion. How death-cold is literary
genius before this fire of life! These are the
touches that reanimate my heavy soul and give it
eyes to pierce the dark of nature. I find, where I
thought myself poor, there was I most rich. Thence
comes a new intellectual exaltation, to be again
rebuked by some new exhibition of character.
Strange alternation of attraction and repulsion!
Character repudiates intellect, yet excites it; and
character passes into thought, is published so, and
then is ashamed before new flashes of moral worth.

Character is nature in the highest form. It is of no
use to ape it or to contend with it. Somewhat is
possible of resistance, and of persistence, and of
creation, to this power, which will foil all emulation.

This masterpiece is best where no hands but nature's
have been laid on it. Care is taken that the greatly-
destined shall slip up into life in the shade, with no
thousand-eyed Athens to watch and blazon every new
thought, every blushing emotion of young genius. Two
persons lately, very young children of the most high
God, have given me occasion for thought. When I explored
the source of their sanctity and charm for the imagination,
it seemed as if each answered, 'From my nonconformity; I
never listened to your people's law, or to what they call
their gospel, and wasted my time. I was content with the
simple rural poverty of my own; hence this sweetness; my
work never reminds you of that;--is pure of that.' And
nature advertises me in such persons that in democratic
America she will not be democratized. How cloistered and
constitutionally sequestered from the market and from
scandal! It was only this morning that I sent away some
wild flowers of these wood-gods. They are a relief from
literature,--these fresh draughts from the sources of
thought and sentiment; as we read, in an age of polish
and criticism, the first lines of written prose and verse
of a nation. How captivating is their devotion to their
favorite books, whether Aeschylus, Dante, Shakspeare, or
Scott, as feeling that they have a stake in that book;
who touches that, touches them;--and especially the total
solitude of the critic, the Patmos of thought from which
he writes, in unconsciousness of any eyes that shall ever
read this writing. Could they dream on still, as angels,
and not wake to comparisons, and to be flattered! Yet some
natures are too good to be spoiled by praise, and wherever
the vein of thought reaches down into the profound, there
is no danger from vanity. Solemn friends will warn them of
the danger of the head's being turned by the flourish of
trumpets, but they can afford to smile. I remember the
indignation of an eloquent Methodist at the kind admonitions
of a Doctor of Divinity,--'My friend, a man can neither be
praised nor insulted.' But forgive the counsels; they are
very natural. I remember the thought which occurred to me
when some ingenious and spiritual foreigners came to
America, was, Have you been victimized in being brought
hither?--or, prior to that, answer me this, 'Are you

As I have said, Nature keeps these sovereignties
in her own hands, and however pertly our sermons
and disciplines would divide some share of credit,
and teach that the laws fashion the citizen, she
goes her own gait and puts the wisest in the wrong.
She makes very light of gospels and prophets, as
one who has a great many more to produce and no
excess of time to spare on any one. There is a class
of men, individuals of which appear at long intervals,
so eminently endowed with insight and virtue that
they have been unanimously saluted as divine, and who
seem to be an accumulation of that power we consider.
Divine persons are character born, or, to borrow a
phrase from Napoleon, they are victory organized.
They are usually received with ill-will, because they
are new and because they set a bound to the exaggeration
that has been made of the personality of the last divine
person. Nature never rhymes her children, nor makes two
men alike. When we see a great man we fancy a resemblance
to some historical person, and predict the sequel of his
character and fortune; a result which he is sure to
disappoint. None will ever solve the problem of his
character according to our prejudice, but only in his
own high unprecedented way. Character wants room; must
not be crowded on by persons nor be judged from glimpses
got in the press of affairs or on few occasions. It
needs perspective, as a great building. It may not,
probably does not, form relations rapidly; and we should
not require rash explanation, either on the popular
ethics, or on our own, of its action.

I look on Sculpture as history. I do not think the
Apollo and the Jove impossible in flesh and blood.
Every trait which the artist recorded in stone he
had seen in life, and better than his copy. We have
seen many counterfeits, but we are born believers in
great men. How easily we read in old books, when men
were few, of the smallest action of the patriarchs.
We require that a man should be so large and columnar
in the landscape, that it should deserve to be
recorded that he arose, and girded up his loins, and
departed to such a place. The most credible pictures
are those of majestic men who prevailed at their
entrance, and convinced the senses; as happened to
the eastern magian who was sent to test the merits
of Zertusht or Zoroaster. When the Yunani sage arrived
at Balkh, the Persians tell us, Gushtasp appointed a
day on which the Mobeds of every country should
assemble, and a golden chair was placed for the Yunani
sage. Then the beloved of Yezdam, the prophet Zertusht,
advanced into the midst of the assembly. The Yunani
sage, on seeing that chief, said, "This form and this
gait cannot lie, and nothing but truth can proceed
from them." Plato said it was impossible not to
believe in the children of the gods, "though they
should speak without probable or necessary arguments."
I should think myself very unhappy in my associates if
I could not credit the best things in history. "John
Bradshaw," says Milton, "appears like a consul, from
whom the fasces are not to depart with the year; so
that not on the tribunal only, but throughout his life,
you would regard him as sitting in judgment upon kings."
I find it more credible, since it is anterior information,
that one man should know heaven, as the Chinese say, than
that so many men should know the world. "The virtuous
prince confronts the gods, without any misgiving. He
waits a hundred ages till a sage comes, and does not
doubt. He who confronts the gods, without any misgiving,
knows heaven; he who waits a hundred ages until a sage
comes, without doubting, knows men. Hence the virtuous
prince moves, and for ages shows empire the way." But
there is no need to seek remote examples. He is a dull
observer whose experience has not taught him the reality
and force of magic, as well as of chemistry. The coldest
precisian cannot go abroad without encountering
inexplicable influences. One man fastens an eye on him
and the graves of the memory render up their dead; the
secrets that make him wretched either to keep or to
betray must be yielded;--another, and he cannot speak,
and the bones of his body seem to lose their cartilages;
the entrance of a friend adds grace, boldness, and
eloquence to him; and there are persons he cannot choose
but remember, who gave a transcendent expansion to his
thought, and kindled another life in his bosom.

What is so excellent as strict relations of amity,
when they spring from this deep root? The sufficient
reply to the skeptic who doubts the power and the
furniture of man, is in that possibility of joyful
intercourse with persons, which makes the faith and
practice of all reasonable men. I know nothing which
life has to offer so satisfying as the profound good
understanding which can subsist after much exchange of
good offices, between two virtuous men, each of whom
is sure of himself and sure of his friend. It is a
happiness which postpones all other gratifications,
and makes politics, and commerce, and churches, cheap.
For when men shall meet as they ought, each a benefactor,
a shower of stars, clothed with thoughts, with deeds,
with accomplishments, it should be the festival of
nature which all things announce. Of such friendship,
love in the sexes is the first symbol, as all other
things are symbols of love. Those relations to the best
men, which, at one time, we reckoned the romances of
youth, become, in the progress of the character, the
most solid enjoyment.

If it were possible to live in right relations with
men!--if we could abstain from asking anything of
them, from asking their praise, or help, or pity,
and content us with compelling them through the
virtue of the eldest laws! Could we not deal with
a few persons,--with one person,--after the unwritten
statutes, and make an experiment of their efficacy?
Could we not pay our friend the compliment of truth,
of silence, of forbearing? Need we be so eager to
seek him? If we are related, we shall meet. It was a
tradition of the ancient world that no metamorphosis
could hide a god from a god; and there is a Greek
verse which runs,--

"The Gods are to each other not unknown."

Friends also follow the laws of divine necessity;
they gravitate to each other, and cannot otherwise:--

When each the other shall avoid,
Shall each by each be most enjoyed.

Their relation is not made, but allowed. The gods
must seat themselves without seneschal in our
Olympus, and as they can instal themselves by
seniority divine. Society is spoiled if pains are
taken, if the associates are brought a mile to meet.
And if it be not society, it is a mischievous, low,
degrading jangle, though made up of the best. All the
greatness of each is kept back and every foible in
painful activity, as if the Olympians should meet to
exchange snuff-boxes.

Life goes headlong. We chase some flying scheme, or
we are hunted by some fear or command behind us. But
if suddenly we encounter a friend, we pause; our heat
and hurry look foolish enough; now pause, now possession
is required, and the power to swell the moment from the
resources of the heart. The moment is all, in all noble

A divine person is the prophecy of the mind; a
friend is the hope of the heart. Our beatitude
waits for the fulfilment of these two in one. The
ages are opening this moral force. All force is
the shadow or symbol of that. Poetry is joyful
and strong as it draws its inspiration thence. Men
write their names on the world as they are filled
with this. History has been mean; our nations have
been mobs; we have never seen a man: that divine
form we do not yet know, but only the dream and
prophecy of such: we do not know the majestic manners
which belong to him, which appease and exalt the
beholder. We shall one day see that the most private
is the most public energy, that quality atones for
quantity, and grandeur of character acts in the dark,
and succors them who never saw it. What greatness has
yet appeared is beginnings and encouragements to us
in this direction. The history of those gods and saints
which the world has written and then worshipped, are
documents of character. The ages have exulted in the
manners of a youth who owed nothing to fortune, and
who was hanged at the Tyburn of his nation, who, by
the pure quality of his nature, shed an epic splendor
around the facts of his death which has transfigured
every particular into an universal symbol for the
eyes of mankind. This great defeat is hitherto our
highest fact. But the mind requires a victory to the
senses; a force of character which will convert judge,
jury, soldier, and king; which will rule animal and
mineral virtues, and blend with the courses of sap,
of rivers, of winds, of stars, and of moral agents.

If we cannot attain at a bound to these grandeurs,
at least let us do them homage. In society, high
advantages are set down to the possessor as
disadvantages. It requires the more wariness in
our private estimates. I do not forgive in my
friends the failure to know a fine character and
to entertain it with thankful hospitality. When
at last that which we have always longed for is
arrived and shines on us with glad rays out of
that far celestial land, then to be coarse, then
to be critical and treat such a visitant with the
jabber and suspicion of the streets, argues a
vulgarity that seems to shut the doors of heaven.
This is confusion, this the right insanity, when
the soul no longer knows its own, nor where its
allegiance, its religion, are due. Is there any
religion but this, to know that wherever in the
wide desert of being the holy sentiment we cherish
has opened into a flower, it blooms for me? if none
sees it, I see it; I am aware, if I alone, of the
greatness of the fact. Whilst it blooms, I will
keep sabbath or holy time, and suspend my gloom
and my folly and jokes. Nature is indulged by the
presence of this guest. There are many eyes that
can detect and honor the prudent and household
virtues; there are many that can discern Genius on
his starry track, though the mob is incapable; but
when that love which is all-suffering, all-abstaining,
all-aspiring, which has vowed to itself that it will
be a wretch and also a fool in this world sooner than
soil its white hands by any compliances, comes into
our streets and houses,--only the pure and aspiring
can know its face, and the only compliment they can
pay it is to own it.


"HOW near to good is what is fair!
Which we no sooner see,
But with the lines and outward air
Our senses taken be.

Again yourselves compose,
And now put all the aptness on
Of Figure, that Proportion
Or Color can disclose;
That if those silent arts were lost,
Design and Picture, they might boast
From you a newer ground,
Instructed by the heightening sense
Of dignity and reverence
In their true motions found."


HALF the world, it is said, knows not how the other
half live. Our Exploring Expedition saw the Feejee
islanders getting their dinner off human bones; and
they are said to eat their own wives and children.
The husbandry of the modern inhabitants of Gournou
(west of old Thebes) is philosophical to a fault. To
set up their housekeeping nothing is requisite but
two or three earthen pots, a stone to grind meal, and
a mat which is the bed. The house, namely a tomb, is
ready without rent or taxes. No rain can pass through
the roof, and there is no door, for there is no want
of one, as there is nothing to lose. If the house do
not please them, they walk out and enter another, as
there are several hundreds at their command. "It is
somewhat singular," adds Belzoni, to whom we owe this
account, "to talk of happiness among people who live
in sepulchres, among the corpses and rags of an ancient
nation which they know nothing of." In the deserts of
Borgoo the rock-Tibboos still dwell in caves, like
cliff-swallows, and the language of these negroes is
compared by their neighbors to the shrieking of bats
and to the whistling of birds. Again, the Bornoos have
no proper names; individuals are called after their
height, thickness, or other accidental quality, and
have nicknames merely. But the salt, the dates, the
ivory, and the gold, for which these horrible regions
are visited, find their way into countries where the
purchaser and consumer can hardly be ranked in one
race with these cannibals and man-stealers; countries
where man serves himself with metals, wood, stone,
glass, gum, cotton, silk, and wool; honors himself with
architecture; writes laws, and contrives to execute his
will through the hands of many nations; and, especially,
establishes a select society, running through all the
countries of intelligent men, a self-constituted
aristocracy, or fraternity of the best, which, without
written law or exact usage of any kind, perpetuates
itself, colonizes every new-planted island and adopts
and makes its own whatever personal beauty or extraordinary
native endowment anywhere appears.

What fact more conspicuous in modern history than
the creation of the gentleman? Chivalry is that,
and loyalty is that, and, in English literature,
half the drama, and all the novels, from Sir Philip
Sidney to Sir Walter Scott, paint this figure. The
word gentleman, which, like the word Christian, must
hereafter characterize the present and the few
preceding centuries by the importance attached to
it, is a homage to personal and incommunicable
properties. Frivolous and fantastic additions have
got associated with the name, but the steady interest
of mankind in it must be attributed to the valuable
properties which it designates. An element which
unites all the most forcible persons of every
country; makes them intelligible and agreeable to
each other, and is somewhat so precise that it is
at once felt if an individual lack the masonic sign,--
cannot be any casual product, but must be an average
result of the character and faculties universally
found in men. It seems a certain permanent average;
as the atmosphere is a permanent composition, whilst
so many gases are combined only to be decompounded.
Comme il faut, is the Frenchman's description of good
Society: as we must be. It is a spontaneous fruit of
talents and feelings of precisely that class who have
most vigor, who take the lead in the world of this
hour, and though far from pure, far from constituting
the gladdest and highest tone of human feeling, is as
good as the whole society permits it to be. It is made
of the spirit, more than of the talent of men, and is
a compound result into which every great force enters
as an ingredient, namely virtue, wit, beauty, wealth,
and power.

There is something equivocal in all the words in
use to express the excellence of manners and social
cultivation, because the quantities are fluxional,
and the last effect is assumed by the senses as the
cause. The word gentleman has not any correlative
abstract to express the quality. Gentility is mean,
and gentilesse is obsolete. But we must keep alive
in the vernacular the distinction between fashion,
a word of narrow and often sinister meaning, and the
heroic character which the gentleman imports. The
usual words, however, must be respected; they will
be found to contain the root of the matter. The point
of distinction in all this class of names, as courtesy,
chivalry, fashion, and the like, is that the flower
and fruit, not the grain of the tree, are contemplated.
It is beauty which is the aim this time, and not worth.
The result is now in question, although our words
intimate well enough the popular feeling that the
appearance supposes a substance. The gentleman is a
man of truth, lord of his own actions, and expressing
that lordship in his behavior, not in any manner
dependent and servile, either on persons, or opinions,
or possessions. Beyond this fact of truth and real
force, the word denotes good-nature or benevolence:
manhood first, and then gentleness. The popular notion
certainly adds a condition of ease and fortune; but
that is a natural result of personal force and love,
that they should possess and dispense the goods of the
world. In times of violence, every eminent person must
fall in with many opportunities to approve his stoutness
and worth; therefore every man's name that emerged at
all from the mass in the feudal ages, rattles in our
ear like a flourish of trumpets. But personal force
never goes out of fashion. That is still paramount
to-day, and in the moving crowd of good society the
men of valor and reality are known and rise to their
natural place. The competition is transferred from war
to politics and trade, but the personal force appears
readily enough in these new arenas.

Power first, or no leading class. In politics and
in trade, bruisers and pirates are of better promise
than talkers and clerks. God knows that all sorts of
gentlemen knock at the door; but whenever used in
strictness and with any emphasis, the name will be
found to point at original energy. It describes a man
standing in his own right and working after untaught
methods. In a good lord there must first be a good
animal, at least to the extent of yielding the
incomparable advantage of animal spirits. The ruling
class must have more, but they must have these, giving
in every company the sense of power, which makes things
easy to be done which daunt the wise. The society of
the energetic class, in their friendly and festive
meetings, is full of courage and of attempts which
intimidate the pale scholar. The courage which girls
exhibit is like a battle of Lundy's Lane, or a sea-
fight. The intellect relies on memory to make some
supplies to face these extemporaneous squadrons. But
memory is a base mendicant with basket and badge, in
the presence of these sudden masters. The rulers of
society must be up to the work of the world, and equal
to their versatile office: men of the right Caesarian
pattern, who have great range of affinity. I am far
from believing the timid maxim of Lord Falkland ("that
for ceremony there must go two to it; since a bold
fellow will go through the cunningest forms"), and am
of opinion that the gentleman is the bold fellow whose
forms are not to be broken through; and only that
plenteous nature is rightful master which is the
complement of whatever person it converses with. My
gentleman gives the law where he is; he will outpray
saints in chapel, outgeneral veterans in the field, and
outshine all courtesy in the hall. He is good company
for pirates and good with academicians; so that it is
useless to fortify yourself against him; he has the
private entrance to all minds, and I could as easily
exclude myself, as him. The famous gentlemen of Asia
and Europe have been of this strong type; Saladin, Sapor,
the Cid, Julius Caesar, Scipio, Alexander, Pericles, and
the lordliest personages. They sat very carelessly in
their chairs, and were too excellent themselves, to value
any condition at a high rate.

A plentiful fortune is reckoned necessary, in the
popular judgment, to the completion of this man of
the world; and it is a material deputy which walks
through the dance which the first has led. Money is
not essential, but this wide affinity is, which
transcends the habits of clique and caste and makes
itself felt by men of all classes. If the aristocrat
is only valid in fashionable circles and not with
truckmen, he will never be a leader in fashion; and
if the man of the people cannot speak on equal terms
with the gentleman, so that the gentleman shall
perceive that he is already really of his own order,
he is not to be feared. Diogenes, Socrates, and
Epaminondas, are gentlemen of the best blood who have
chosen the condition of poverty when that of wealth
was equally open to them. I use these old names, but
the men I speak of are my contemporaries. Fortune will
not supply to every generation one of these well-
appointed knights, but every collection of men furnishes
some example of the class; and the politics of this
country, and the trade of every town, are controlled by
these hardy and irresponsible doers, who have invention
to take the lead, and a broad sympathy which puts them
in fellowship with crowds, and makes their action

The manners of this class are observed and caught
with devotion by men of taste. The association of
these masters with each other and with men intelligent
of their merits, is mutually agreeable and stimulating.
The good forms, the happiest expressions of each, are
repeated and adopted. By swift consent everything
superfluous is dropped, everything graceful is renewed.
Fine manners show themselves formidable to the
uncultivated man. They are a subtler science of defence
to parry and intimidate; but once matched by the skill
of the other party, they drop the point of the sword,
--points and fences disappear, and the youth finds
himself in a more transparent atmosphere, wherein life
is a less troublesome game, and not a misunderstanding
rises between the players. Manners aim to facilitate
life, to get rid of impediments and bring the man pure
to energize. They aid our dealing and conversation as a
railway aids travelling, by getting rid of all avoidable
obstructions of the road and leaving nothing to be
conquered but pure space. These forms very soon become
fixed, and a fine sense of propriety is cultivated with
the more heed that it becomes a badge of social and
civil distinctions. Thus grows up Fashion, an equivocal
semblance, the most puissant, the most fantastic and
frivolous, the most feared and followed, and which morals
and violence assault in vain.

There exists a strict relation between the class
of power and the exclusive and polished circles.
The last are always filled or filling from the
first. The strong men usually give some allowance
even to the petulances of fashion, for that affinity
they find in it. Napoleon, child of the revolution,
destroyer of the old noblesse, never ceased to court
the Faubourg St. Germain; doubtless with the feeling
that fashion is a homage to men of his stamp. Fashion,
though in a strange way, represents all manly virtue.
It is virtue gone to seed: it is a kind of posthumous
honor. It does not often caress the great, but the
children of the great: it is a hall of the Past. It
usually sets its face against the great of this hour.
Great men are not commonly in its halls; they are
absent in the field: they are working, not triumphing.
Fashion is made up of their children; of those who
through the value and virtue of somebody, have acquired
lustre to their name, marks of distinction, means of
cultivation and generosity, and, in their physical
organization a certain health and excellence which
secures to them, if not the highest power to work, yet
high power to enjoy. The class of power, the working
heroes, the Cortez, the Nelson, the Napoleon, see that
this is the festivity and permanent celebration of such
as they; that fashion is funded talent; is Mexico,
Marengo, and Trafalgar beaten out thin; that the
brilliant names of fashion run back to just such busy
names as their own, fifty or sixty years ago. They are
the sowers, their sons shall be the reapers, and their
sons, in the ordinary course of things, must yield the
possession of the harvest to new competitors with keener
eyes and stronger frames. The city is recruited from the
country. In the year 1805, it is said, every legitimate
monarch in Europe was imbecile. The city would have died
out, rotted, and exploded, long ago, but that it was
reinforced from the fields. It is only country which
came to town day before yesterday that is city and court

Aristocracy and fashion are certain inevitable
results. These mutual selections are indestructible.
If they provoke anger in the least favored class,
and the excluded majority revenge themselves on the
excluding minority by the strong hand and kill them,
at once a new class finds itself at the top, as
certainly as cream rises in a bowl of milk: and if
the people should destroy class after class, until
two men only were left, one of these would be the
leader and would be involuntarily served and copied
by the other. You may keep this minority out of sight
and out of mind, but it is tenacious of life, and is
one of the estates of the realm. I am the more struck
with this tenacity, when I see its work. It respects
the administration of such unimportant matters, that
we should not look for any durability in its rule. We
sometimes meet men under some strong moral influence,
as a patriotic, a literary, a religious movement, and
feel that the moral sentiment rules man and nature.
We think all other distinctions and ties will be slight
and fugitive, this of caste or fashion for example;
yet come from year to year and see how permanent that
is, in this Boston or New York life of man, where too
it has not the least countenance from the law of the
land. Not in Egypt or in India a firmer or more
impassable line. Here are associations whose ties go
over and under and through it, a meeting of merchants,
a military corps, a college class, a fire-club, a
professional association, a political, a religious
convention;--the persons seem to draw inseparably near;
yet, that assembly once dispersed, its members will not
in the year meet again. Each returns to his degree in
the scale of good society, porcelain remains porcelain,
and earthen earthen. The objects of fashion may be
frivolous, or fashion may be objectless, but the nature
of this union and selection can be neither frivolous
nor accidental. Each man's rank in that perfect
graduation depends on some symmetry in his structure or
some agreement in his structure to the symmetry of society.
Its doors unbar instantaneously to a natural claim of
their own kind. A natural gentleman finds his way in, and
will keep the oldest patrician out who has lost his
intrinsic rank. Fashion understands itself; good-breeding
and personal superiority of whatever country readily
fraternize with those of every other. The chiefs of savage
tribes have distinguished themselves in London and Paris,
by the purity of their tournure.

To say what good of fashion we can, it rests on
reality, and hates nothing so much as pretenders;
to exclude and mystify pretenders and send them
into everlasting 'Coventry,' is its delight. We
contemn in turn every other gift of men of the
world; but the habit even in little and the least
matters of not appealing to any but our own sense
of propriety, constitutes the foundation of all
chivalry. There is almost no kind of self-reliance,
so it be sane and proportioned, which fashion does
not occasionally adopt and give it the freedom of
its saloons. A sainted soul is always elegant, and,
if it will, passes unchallenged into the most guarded
ring. But so will Jock the teamster pass, in some
crisis that brings him thither, and find favor, as
long as his head is not giddy with the new circumstance,
and the iron shoes do not wish to dance in waltzes and
cotillons. For there is nothing settled in manners,
but the laws of behavior yield to the energy of the
individual. The maiden at her first ball, the country-
man at a city dinner, believes that there is a ritual
according to which every act and compliment must be
performed, or the failing party must be cast out of
this presence. Later they learn that good sense and
character make their own forms every moment, and speak
or abstain, take wine or refuse it, stay or go, sit in
a chair or sprawl with children on the floor, or stand
on their head, or what else soever, in a new and
aboriginal way; and that strong will is always in fashion,
let who will be unfashionable. All that fashion demands
is composure and self-content. A circle of men perfectly
well-bred would be a company of sensible persons in which
every man's native manners and character appeared. If the
fashionist have not this quality, he is nothing. We are
such lovers of self-reliance that we excuse in a man many
sins if he will show us a complete satisfaction in his
position, which asks no leave to be, of mine, or any
man's good opinion. But any deference to some eminent
man or woman of the world, forfeits all privilege of
nobility. He is an underling: I have nothing to do with
him; I will speak with his master. A man should not go
where he cannot carry his whole sphere or society with
him,--not bodily, the whole circle of his friends, but
atmospherically. He should preserve in a new company the
same attitude of mind and reality of relation which his
daily associates draw him to, else he is shorn of his
best beams, and will be an orphan in the merriest club.
"If you could see Vich Ian Vohr with his tail on!--" But
Vich Ian Vohr must always carry his belongings in some
fashion, if not added as honor, then severed as disgrace.

There will always be in society certain persons who
are mercuries of its approbation, and whose glance
will at any time determine for the curious their
standing in the world. These are the chamberlains of
the lesser gods. Accept their coldness as an omen of
grace with the loftier deities, and allow them all their
privilege. They are clear in their office, nor could
they be thus formidable without their own merits. But
do not measure the importance of this class by their
pretension, or imagine that a fop can be the dispenser
of honor and shame. They pass also at their just rate;
for how can they otherwise, in circles which exist as
a sort of herald's office for the sifting of character?

As the first thing man requires of man is reality,
so that appears in all the forms of society. We
pointedly, and by name, introduce the parties to
each other. Know you before all heaven and earth,
that this is Andrew, and this is Gregory,--they
look each other in the eye; they grasp each other's
hand, to identify and signalize each other. It is a
great satisfaction. A gentleman never dodges; his
eyes look straight forward, and he assures the other
party, first of all, that he has been met. For what
is it that we seek, in so many visits and hospitalities?
Is it your draperies, pictures, and decorations? Or do
we not insatiably ask, Was a man in the house? I may
easily go into a great household where there is much
substance, excellent provision for comfort, luxury,
and taste, and yet not encounter there any Amphitryon
who shall subordinate these appendages. I may go into
a cottage, and find a farmer who feels that he is the
man I have come to see, and fronts me accordingly. It
was therefore a very natural point of old feudal
etiquette that a gentleman who received a visit,
though it were of his sovereign, should not leave his
roof, but should wait his arrival at the door of his
house. No house, though it were the Tuileries or the
Escurial, is good for anything without a master. And
yet we are not often gratified by this hospitality.
Every body we know surrounds himself with a fine house,
fine books, conservatory, gardens, equipage and all
manner of toys, as screens to interpose between himself
and his guest. Does it not seem as if man was of a very
sly, elusive nature, and dreaded nothing so much as a
full rencontre front to front with his fellow? It were
unmerciful, I know, quite to abolish the use of these
screens, which are of eminent convenience, whether the
guest is too great or too little. We call together many
friends who keep each other in play, or by luxuries and
ornaments we amuse the young people, and guard our
retirement. Or if perchance a searching realist comes
to our gate, before whose eye we have no care to stand,
then again we run to our curtain, and hide ourselves as
Adam at the voice of the Lord God in the garden. Cardinal
Caprara, the Pope's legate at Paris, defended himself
from the glances of Napoleon by an immense pair of green
spectacles. Napoleon remarked them, and speedily managed
to rally them off: and yet Napoleon, in his turn, was not
great enough with eight hundred thousand troops at his
back, to face a pair of freeborn eyes, but fenced himself
with etiquette and within triple barriers of reserve; and,
as all the world knows from Madame de Stael, was wont,
when he found himself observed, to discharge his face of
all expression. But emperors and rich men are by no means
the most skilful masters of good manners. No rentroll nor
army-list can dignify skulking and dissimulation; and the
first point of courtesy must always be truth, as really
all the forms of good-breeding point that way.

I have just been reading, in Mr. Hazlitt's translation,
Montaigne's account of his journey into Italy, and am
struck with nothing more agreeably than the self-
respecting fashions of the time. His arrival in each
place, the arrival of a gentleman of France, is an event
of some consequence. Wherever he goes he pays a visit
to whatever prince or gentleman of note resides upon his
road, as a duty to himself and to civilization. When he
leaves any house in which he has lodged for a few weeks,
he causes his arms to be painted and hung up as a
perpetual sign to the house, as was the custom of gentlemen.

The complement of this graceful self-respect, and
that of all the points of good breeding I most require
and insist upon, is deference. I like that every chair
should be a throne, and hold a king. I prefer a tendency
to stateliness to an excess of fellowship. Let the
incommunicable objects of nature and the metaphysical
isolation of man teach us independence. Let us not be
too much acquainted. I would have a man enter his house
through a hall filled with heroic and sacred sculptures,
that he might not want the hint of tranquillity and
self-poise. We should meet each morning as from foreign
countries, and, spending the day together, should depart
at night, as into foreign countries. In all things I
would have the island of a man inviolate. Let us sit
apart as the gods, talking from peak to peak all round
Olympus. No degree of affection need invade this religion.
This is myrrh and rosemary to keep the other sweet. Lovers
Should guard their strangeness. If they forgive too much,
all slides into confusion and meanness. It is easy to
push this deference to a Chinese etiquette; but coolness
and absence of heat and haste indicate fine qualities. A
gentleman makes no noise; a lady is serene. Proportionate
is our disgust at those invaders who fill a studious
house with blast and running, to secure some paltry
convenience. Not less I dislike a low sympathy of each with
his neighbor's needs. Must we have a good understanding
with one another's palates? as foolish people who have
lived long together know when each wants salt or sugar.
I pray my companion, if he wishes for bread, to ask me
for bread, and if he wishes for sassafras or arsenic, to
ask me for them, and not to hold out his plate as if I
knew already. Every natural function can be dignified by
deliberation and privacy. Let us leave hurry to slaves.
The compliments and ceremonies of our breeding should
signify, however remotely, the recollection of the grandeur
of our destiny.

The flower of courtesy does not very well bide
handling, but if we dare to open another leaf and
explore what parts go to its conformation, we shall
find also an intellectual quality. To the leaders
of men, the brain as well as the flesh and the heart
must furnish a proportion. Defect in manners is
usually the defect of fine perceptions. Men are too
coarsely made for the delicacy of beautiful carriage
and customs. It is not quite sufficient to good-
breeding, a union of kindness and independence. We
imperatively require a perception of, and a homage
to beauty in our companions. Other virtues are in
request in the field and workyard, but a certain
degree of taste is not to be spared in those we sit
with. I could better eat with one who did not respect
the truth or the laws than with a sloven and
unpresentable person. Moral qualities rule the world,
but at short distances the senses are despotic. The
same discrimination of fit and fair runs out, if with
less rigor, into all parts of life. The average spirit
of the energetic class is good sense, acting under
certain limitations and to certain ends. It entertains
every natural gift. Social in its nature, it respects
everything which tends to unite men. It delights in
measure. The love of beauty is mainly the love of
measure or proportion. The person who screams, or uses
the superlative degree, or converses with heat, puts
whole drawing-rooms to flight. If you wish to be loved,
love measure. You must have genius or a prodigious
usefulness if you will hide the want of measure. This
perception comes in to polish and perfect the parts of
the social instrument. Society will pardon much to
genius and special gifts, but, being in its nature a
convention, it loves what is conventional, or what
belongs to coming together. That makes the good and bad
of manners, namely what helps or hinders fellowship.
For fashion is not good sense absolute, but relative;
not good sense private, but good sense entertaining
company. It hates corners and sharp points of character,
hates quarrelsome, egotistical, solitary, and gloomy
people; hates whatever can interfere with total blending
of parties; whilst it values all peculiarities as in the
highest degree refreshing, which can consist with good
fellowship. And besides the general infusion of wit to
heighten civility, the direct splendor of intellectual
power is ever welcome in fine society as the costliest
addition to its rule and its credit.

The dry light must shine in to adorn our festival,
but it must be tempered and shaded, or that will
also offend. Accuracy is essential to beauty, and
quick perceptions to politeness, but not too quick
perceptions. One may be too punctual and too precise.
He must leave the omniscience of business at the
door, when he comes into the palace of beauty. Society
loves creole natures, and sleepy languishing manners,
so that they cover sense, grace and good-will: the air
of drowsy strength, which disarms criticism; perhaps
because such a person seems to reserve himself for the
best of the game, and not spend himself on surfaces;
an ignoring eye, which does not see the annoyances,
shifts, and inconveniences that cloud the brow and
smother the voice of the sensitive.

Therefore besides personal force and so much
perception as constitutes unerring taste, society
demands in its patrician class another element
already intimated, which it significantly terms
good-nature,--expressing all degrees of generosity,
from the lowest willingness and faculty to oblige,
up to the heights of magnanimity and love. Insight
we must have, or we shall run against one another
and miss the way to our food; but intellect is
selfish and barren. The secret of success in society
is a certain heartiness and sympathy. A man who is
not happy in the company cannot find any word in his
memory that will fit the occasion. All his information
is a little impertinent. A man who is happy there,
finds in every turn of the conversation equally lucky
occasions for the introduction of that which he has
to say. The favorites of society, and what it calls
whole souls, are able men and of more spirit than wit,
who have no uncomfortable egotism, but who exactly
fill the hour and the company; contented and contenting,
at a marriage or a funeral, a ball or a jury, a water-
party or a shooting-match. England, which is rich in
gentlemen, furnished, in the beginning of the present
century, a good model of that genius which the world
loves, in Mr. Fox, who added to his great abilities
the most social disposition and real love of men.
Parliamentary history has few better passages than the
debate in which Burke and Fox separated in the House
of Commons; when Fox urged on his old friend the claims
of old friendship with such tenderness that the house
was moved to tears. Another anecdote is so close to my
matter, that I must hazard the story. A tradesman who
had long dunned him for a note of three hundred guineas,
found him one day counting gold, and demanded payment:
--"No," said Fox, "I owe this money to Sheridan; it is
a debt of honor; if an accident should happen to me,
he has nothing to show." "Then," said the creditor, "I
change my debt into a debt of honor," and tore the note
in pieces. Fox thanked the man for his confidence and
paid him, saying, "his debt was of older standing, and
Sheridan must wait." Lover of liberty, friend of the
Hindoo, friend of the African slave, he possessed a
great personal popularity; and Napoleon said of him on
the occasion of his visit to Paris, in 1805, "Mr. Fox
will always hold the first place in an assembly at
the Tuileries."

We may easily seem ridiculous in our eulogy of
courtesy, whenever we insist on benevolence as its
foundation. The painted phantasm Fashion rises to
cast a species of derision on what we say. But I
will neither be driven from some allowance to
Fashion as a symbolic institution, nor from the
belief that love is the basis of courtesy. We must
obtain that, if we can; but by all means we must
affirm this. Life owes much of its spirit to these
sharp contrasts. Fashion, which affects to be honor,
is often, in all men's experience, only a ballroom-
code. Yet so long as it is the highest circle in the
imagination of the best heads on the planet, there
is something necessary and excellent in it; for it
is not to be supposed that men have agreed to be the
dupes of anything preposterous; and the respect which
these mysteries inspire in the most rude and sylvan
characters, and the curiosity with which details of
high life are read, betray the universality of the
love of cultivated manners. I know that a comic
disparity would be felt, if we should enter the
acknowledged 'first circles' and apply these terrific
standards of justice, beauty, and benefit to the
individuals actually found there. Monarchs and heroes,
sages and lovers, these gallants are not. Fashion has
many classes and many rules of probation and admission,
and not the best alone. There is not only the right of
conquest, which genius pretends,--the individual
demonstrating his natural aristocracy best of the best;
--but less claims will pass for the time; for Fashion
loves lions, and points like Circe to her horned company.
This gentleman is this afternoon arrived from Denmark;
and that is my Lord Ride, who came yesterday from Bagdat;
here is Captain Friese, from Cape Turnagain; and Captain
Symmes, from the interior of the earth; and Monsieur
Jovaire, who came down this morning in a balloon; Mr.
Hobnail, the reformer; and Reverend Jul Bat, who has
converted the whole torrid zone in his Sunday school;
and Signor Torre del Greco, who extinguished Vesuvius
by pouring into it the Bay of Naples; Spahi, the Persian
ambassador; and Tul Wil Shan, the exiled nabob of Nepaul,
whose saddle is the new moon.--But these are monsters of
one day, and to-morrow will be dismissed to their holes
and dens; for in these rooms every chair is waited for.
The artist, the scholar, and, in general, the clerisy,
wins their way up into these places and get represented
here, somewhat on this footing of conquest. Another mode
is to pass through all the degrees, spending a year and a
day in St. Michael's Square, being steeped in Cologne
water, and perfumed, and dined, and introduced, and
properly grounded in all the biography and politics and
anecdotes of the boudoirs.

Yet these fineries may have grace and wit. Let
there be grotesque sculpture about the gates and
offices of temples. Let the creed and commandments
even have the saucy homage of parody. The forms of
politeness universally express benevolence in
superlative degrees. What if they are in the mouths
of selfish men, and used as means of selfishness?
What if the false gentleman almost bows the true out
Of the world? What if the false gentleman contrives
so to address his companion as civilly to exclude
all others from his discourse, and also to make them
feel excluded? Real service will not lose its nobleness.
All generosity is not merely French and sentimental;
nor is it to be concealed that living blood and a
passion of kindness does at last distinguish God's
gentleman from Fashion's. The epitaph of Sir Jenkin
Grout is not wholly unintelligible to the present age:
"Here lies Sir Jenkin Grout, who loved his friend and
persuaded his enemy: what his mouth ate, his hand paid
for: what his servants robbed, he restored: if a woman
gave him pleasure, he supported her in pain: he never
forgot his children; and whoso touched his finger,
drew after it his whole body." Even the line of heroes
is not utterly extinct. There is still ever some
admirable person in plain clothes, standing on the
wharf, who jumps in to rescue a drowning man; there
is still some absurd inventor of charities; some guide
and comforter of runaway slaves; some friend of Poland;
some Philhellene; some fanatic who plants shade-trees
for the second and third generation, and orchards when
he is grown old; some well-concealed piety; some just
man happy in an ill fame; some youth ashamed of the
favors of fortune and impatiently casting them on other
shoulders. And these are the centres of society, on
which it returns for fresh impulses. These are the
creators of Fashion, which is an attempt to organize
beauty of behavior. The beautiful and the generous are,
in the theory, the doctors and apostles of this church:
Scipio, and the Cid, and Sir Philip Sidney, and
Washington, and every pure and valiant heart who
worshipped Beauty by word and by deed. The persons who
constitute the natural aristocracy are not found in the
actual aristocracy, or only on its edge; as the chemical
energy of the spectrum is found to be greatest just
outside of the spectrum. Yet that is the infirmity of
the seneschals, who do not know their sovereign when he
appears. The theory of society supposes the existence
and sovereignty of these. It divines afar off their
coming. It says with the elder gods,--

"As Heaven and Earth are fairer far
Than Chaos and blank Darkness, though once chiefs;
And as we show beyond that Heaven and Earth,
In form and shape compact and beautiful;
So, on our heels a fresh perfection treads;
A power, more strong in beauty, born of us,
And fated to excel us, as we pass
In glory that old Darkness:
-------- for, 'tis the eternal law,
That first in beauty shall be first in might."

Therefore, within the ethnical circle of good
society there is a narrower and higher circle,
concentration of its light, and flower of courtesy,
to which there is always a tacit appeal of pride
and reference, as to its inner and imperial court;
the parliament of love and chivalry. And this is
constituted of those persons in whom heroic
dispositions are native; with the love of beauty,
the delight in society, and the power to embellish
the passing day. If the individuals who compose
the purest circles of aristocracy in Europe, the
guarded blood of centuries, should pass in review,
in such manner as that we could at leisure and
critically inspect their behavior, we might find
no gentleman and no lady; for although excellent
specimens of courtesy and high-breeding would
gratify us in the assemblage, in the particulars we
should detect offence. Because elegance comes of no
breeding, but of birth. There must be romance of
character, or the most fastidious exclusion of
impertinencies will not avail. It must be genius which
takes that direction: it must be not courteous, but
courtesy. High behavior is as rare in fiction as it is
in fact. Scott is praised for the fidelity with which
he painted the demeanor and conversation of the superior
classes. Certainly, kings and queens, nobles and great
ladies, had some right to complain of the absurdity
that had been put in their mouths before the days of
Waverley; but neither does Scott's dialogue bear
criticism. His lords brave each other in smart
epigramatic speeches, but the dialogue is in costume,
and does not please on the second reading: it is not
warm with life. In Shakspeare alone the speakers do not
strut and bridle, the dialogue is easily great, and he
adds to so many titles that of being the best-bred man
in England and in Christendom. Once or twice in a
lifetime we are permitted to enjoy the charm of noble
manners, in the presence of a man or woman who have no
bar in their nature, but whose character emanates freely
in their word and gesture. A beautiful form is better
than a beautiful face; a beautiful behavior is better
than a beautiful form: it gives a higher pleasure than
statues or pictures; it is the finest of the fine arts.
A man is but a little thing in the midst of the objects
of nature, yet, by the moral quality radiating from his
countenance he may abolish all considerations of
magnitude, and in his manners equal the majesty of the
world. I have seen an individual whose manners, though
wholly within the conventions of elegant society, were
never learned there, but were original and commanding
and held out protection and prosperity; one who did not
need the aid of a court-suit, but carried the holiday
in his eye; who exhilarated the fancy by flinging wide
the doors of new modes of existence; who shook off the
captivity of etiquette, with happy, spirited bearing,
good-natured and free as Robin Hood; yet with the port
of an emperor, if need be,--calm, serious, and fit to
stand the gaze of millions.

The open air and the fields, the street and public
chambers are the places where Man executes his will;
let him yield or divide the sceptre at the door of
the house. Woman, with her instinct of behavior,
instantly detects in man a love of trifles, any
coldness or imbecility, or, in short, any want of
that large, flowing, and magnanimous deportment
which is indispensable as an exterior in the hall.
Our American institutions have been friendly to her,
and at this moment I esteem it a chief felicity of
this country, that it excels in women. A certain
awkward consciousness of inferiority in the men may
give rise to the new chivalry in behalf of Woman's
Rights. Certainly let her be as much better placed
in the laws and in social forms as the most zealous
reformer can ask, but I confide so entirely in her
inspiring and musical nature, that I believe only
herself can show us how she shall be served. The
wonderful generosity of her sentiments raises her at
times into heroical and godlike regions, and verifies
the pictures of Minerva, Juno, or Polymnia; and by
the firmness with which she treads her upward path,
she convinces the coarsest calculators that another
road exists than that which their feet know. But
besides those who make good in our imagination the
place of muses and of Delphic Sibyls, are there not
women who fill our vase with wine and roses to the
brim, so that the wine runs over and fills the house
with perfume; who inspire us with courtesy; who unloose
our tongues and we speak; who anoint our eyes and we
see? We say things we never thought to have said; for
once, our walls of habitual reserve vanished and left
us at large; we were children playing with children
in a wide field of flowers. Steep us, we cried, in these
influences, for days, for weeks, and we shall be sunny
poets and will write out in many-colored words the
romance that you are. Was it Hafiz or Firdousi that
said of his Persian Lilla, She was an elemental force,
and astonished me by her amount of life, when I saw her
day after day radiating, every instant, redundant joy
and grace on all around her. She was a solvent powerful
to reconcile all heterogeneous persons into one society:
like air or water, an element of such a great range of
affinities that it combines readily with a thousand
substances. Where she is present all others will be
more than they are wont. She was a unit and whole, so
that whatsoever she did, became her. She had too much
sympathy and desire to please, than that you could say
her manners were marked with dignity, yet no princess
could surpass her clear and erect demeanor on each
occasion. She did not study the Persian grammar, nor
the books of the seven poets, but all the poems of the
seven seemed to be written upon her. For though the
bias of her nature was not to thought, but to sympathy,
yet was she so perfect in her own nature as to meet
intellectual persons by the fulness of her heart,
warming them by her sentiments; believing, as she did,
that by dealing nobly with all, all would show
themselves noble.

I know that this Byzantine pile of chivalry or
Fashion, which seems so fair and picturesque to
those who look at the contemporary facts for
science or for entertainment, is not equally
pleasant to all spectators. The constitution of
our society makes it a giant's castle to the
ambitious youth who have not found their names
enrolled in its Golden Book, and whom it has
excluded from its coveted honors and privileges.
They have yet to learn that its seeming grandeur
is shadowy and relative: it is great by their
allowance; its proudest gates will fly open at the
approach of their courage and virtue. For the
present distress, however, of those who are
predisposed to suffer from the tyrannies of this
caprice, there are easy remedies. To remove your
residence a couple of miles, or at most four, will
commonly relieve the most extreme susceptibility.
For the advantages which fashion values are plants
which thrive in very confined localities, in a few
streets namely. Out of this precinct they go for
nothing; are of no use in the farm, in the forest,
in the market, in war, in the nuptial society, in
the literary or scientific circle, at sea, in
friendship, in the heaven of thought or virtue.

But we have lingered long enough in these painted
courts. The worth of the thing signified must
vindicate our taste for the emblem. Everything that
is called fashion and courtesy humbles itself before
the cause and fountain of honor, creator of titles
and dignities, namely the heart of love. This is the
royal blood, this the fire, which, in all countries
and contingencies, will work after its kind and
conquer and expand all that approaches it. This gives
new meanings to every fact. This impoverishes the
rich, suffering no grandeur but its own. What is rich?
Are you rich enough to help anybody? to succor the
unfashionable and the eccentric? rich enough to make
the Canadian in his wagon, the itinerant with his
consul's paper which commends him "To the charitable,"
the swarthy Italian with his few broken words of
English, the lame pauper hunted by overseers from town
to town, even the poor insane or besotted wreck of man
or woman, feel the noble exception of your presence and
your house from the general bleakness and stoniness; to
make such feel that they were greeted with a voice
which made them both remember and hope? What is vulgar
but to refuse the claim on acute and conclusive reasons?
What is gentle, but to allow it, and give their heart
and yours one holiday from the national caution? Without
the rich heart, wealth is an ugly beggar. The king of
Schiraz could not afford to be so bountiful as the poor
Osman who dwelt at his gate. Osman had a humanity so
broad and deep that although his speech was so bold and
free with the Koran as to disgust all the dervishes,
yet was there never a poor outcast, eccentric, or insane
man, some fool who had cut off his beard, or who had
been mutilated under a vow, or had a pet madness in his
brain, but fled at once to him; that great heart lay
there so sunny and hospitable in the centre of the
country, that it seemed as if the instinct of all
sufferers drew them to his side. And the madness which
he harbored he did not share. Is not this to be rich?
this only to be rightly rich?

But I shall hear without pain that I play the
courtier very ill, and talk of that which I do not
well understand. It is easy to see, that what is
called by distinction society and fashion has good
laws as well as bad, has much that is necessary,
and much that is absurd. Too good for banning, and
too bad for blessing, it reminds us of a tradition
of the pagan mythology, in any attempt to settle
its character. 'I overheard Jove, one day,' said
Silenus, 'talking of destroying the earth; he said
it had failed; they were all rogues and vixens, who
went from bad to worse, as fast as the days succeeded
each other. Minerva said she hoped not; they were
only ridiculous little creatures, with this odd
circumstance, that they had a blur, or indeterminate
aspect, seen far or seen near; if you called them bad,
they would appear so; if you called them good, they
would appear so; and there was no one person or action
among them, which would not puzzle her owl, much more
all Olympus, to know whether it was fundamentally bad
or good.'


Gifts of one who loved me,--
'T was high time they came;
When he ceased to love me,
Time they stopped for shame.


IT is said that the world is in a state of bankruptcy;
that the world owes the world more than the world can
pay, and ought to go into chancery and be sold. I do
not think this general insolvency, which involves in
some sort all the population, to be the reason of the
difficulty experienced at Christmas and New Year and
other times, in bestowing gifts; since it is always
so pleasant to be generous, though very vexatious to
pay debts. But the impediment lies in the choosing.
If at any time it comes into my head that a present
is due from me to somebody, I am puzzled what to give,
until the opportunity is gone. Flowers and fruits are
always fit presents; flowers, because they are a proud
assertion that a ray of beauty outvalues all the
utilities of the world. These gay natures contrast with
the somewhat stern countenance of ordinary nature: they
are like music heard out of a work-house. Nature does
not cocker us; we are children, not pets; she is not
fond; everything is dealt to us without fear or favor,
after severe universal laws. Yet these delicate flowers
look like the frolic and interference of love and beauty.
Men use to tell us that we love flattery even though we
are not deceived by it, because it shows that we are of
importance enough to be courted. Something like that
pleasure, the flowers give us: what am I to whom these
sweet hints are addressed? Fruits are acceptable gifts,
because they are the flower of commodities, and admit
of fantastic values being attached to them. If a man
should send to me to come a hundred miles to visit him
and should set before me a basket of fine summer-fruit,
I should think there was some proportion between the
labor and the reward.

For common gifts, necessity makes pertinences and
beauty every day, and one is glad when an imperative
leaves him no option; since if the man at the door
have no shoes, you have not to consider whether you
could procure him a paint-box. And as it is always
pleasing to see a man eat bread, or drink water, in
the house or out of doors, so it is always a great
satisfaction to supply these first wants. Necessity
does everything well. In our condition of universal
dependence it seems heroic to let the petitioner be
the judge of his necessity, and to give all that is
asked, though at great inconvenience. If it be a
fantastic desire, it is better to leave to others
the office of punishing him. I can think of many
parts I should prefer playing to that of the Furies.
Next to things of necessity, the rule for a gift,
which one of my friends prescribed, is that we might
convey to some person that which properly belonged
to his character, and was easily associated with
him in thought. But our tokens of compliment and
love are for the most part barbarous. Rings and
other jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts.
The only gift is a portion of thyself. Thou must
bleed for me. Therefore the poet brings his poem;
the shepherd, his lamb; the farmer, corn; the miner,
a gem; the sailor, coral and shells; the painter,
his picture; the girl, a handkerchief of her own
sewing. This is right and pleasing, for it restores
society in so far to its primary basis, when a man's
biography is conveyed in his gift, and every man's
wealth is an index of his merit. But it is a cold
lifeless business when you go to the shops to buy me
something which does not represent your life and
talent, but a goldsmith's. This is fit for kings,
and rich men who represent kings, and a false state
of property, to make presents of gold and silver
stuffs, as a kind of symbolical sin-offering, or
payment of black-mail.

The law of benefits is a difficult channel, which
requires careful sailing, or rude boats. It is not
the office of a man to receive gifts. How dare you
give them? We wish to be self-sustained. We do not
quite forgive a giver. The hand that feeds us is in
some danger of being bitten. We can receive anything
from love, for that is a way of receiving it from
ourselves; but not from any one who assumes to bestow.
We sometimes hate the meat which we eat, because there
seems something of degrading dependence in living
by it:--

"Brother, if Jove to thee a present make,
Take heed that from his hands thou nothing take."

We ask the whole. Nothing less will content us. We
arraign society if it do not give us, besides earth
and fire and water, opportunity, love, reverence,
and objects of veneration.

He is a good man who can receive a gift well. We
are either glad or sorry at a gift, and both emotions
are unbecoming. Some violence I think is done, some
degradation borne, when I rejoice or grieve at a gift.
I am sorry when my independence is invaded, or when a
gift comes from such as do not know my spirit, and so
the act is not supported; and if the gift pleases me
overmuch, then I should be ashamed that the donor
should read my heart, and see that I love his commodity,
and not him. The gift, to be true, must be the flowing
of the giver unto me, correspondent to my flowing unto
him. When the waters are at level, then my goods pass
to him, and his to me. All his are mine, all mine his.
I say to him, How can you give me this pot of oil or
this flagon of wine when all your oil and wine is mine,
which belief of mine this gift seems to deny? Hence
the fitness of beautiful, not useful things, for gifts.
This giving is flat usurpation, and therefore when the
beneficiary is ungrateful, as all beneficiaries hate
all Timons, not at all considering the value of the
gift but looking back to the greater store it was taken
from,--I rather sympathize with the beneficiary than
with the anger of my lord Timon. For the expectation of
gratitude is mean, and is continually punished by the
total insensibility of the obliged person. It is a great
happiness to get off without injury and heart-burning
from one who has had the ill-luck to be served by you.
It is a very onerous business, this of being served, and
the debtor naturally wishes to give you a slap. A golden
text for these gentlemen is that which I so admire in the
Buddhist, who never thanks, and who says, "Do not flatter
your benefactors."

The reason of these discords I conceive to be that
there is no commensurability between a man and any
gift. You cannot give anything to a magnanimous
person. After you have served him he at once puts
you in debt by his magnanimity. The service a man
renders his friend is trivial and selfish compared
with the service he knows his friend stood in
readiness to yield him, alike before he had begun
to serve his friend, and now also. Compared with
that good-will I bear my friend, the benefit it is
in my power to render him seems small. Besides, our
action on each other, good as well as evil, is so
incidental and at random that we can seldom hear
the acknowledgments of any person who would thank
us for a benefit, without some shame and humiliation.
We can rarely strike a direct stroke, but must be
content with an oblique one; we seldom have the
satisfaction of yielding a direct benefit which is
directly received. But rectitude scatters favors on
every side without knowing it, and receives with
wonder the thanks of all people.

I fear to breathe any treason against the majesty
of love, which is the genius and god of gifts, and
to whom we must not affect to prescribe. Let him
give kingdoms or flower-leaves indifferently. There
are persons from whom we always expect fairy-tokens;
let us not cease to expect them. This is prerogative,
and not to be limited by our municipal rules. For
the rest, I like to see that we cannot be bought and
sold. The best of hospitality and of generosity is
also not in the will, but in fate. I find that I am
not much to you; you do not need me; you do not feel
me; then am I thrust out of doors, though you proffer
me house and lands. No services are of any value, but
only likeness. When I have attempted to join myself to
others by services, it proved an intellectual trick,--
no more. They eat your service like apples, and leave
you out. But love them, and they feel you and delight
in you all the time.


The rounded world is fair to see,
Nine times folded in mystery:
Though baffled seers cannot impart
The secret of its laboring heart,
Throb thine with Nature's throbbing breast,
And all is clear from east to west.
Spirit that lurks each form within
Beckons to spirit of its kin;
Self-kindled every atom glows,
And hints the future which it owes.


THERE are days which occur in this climate, at
almost any season of the year, wherein the world
reaches its perfection; when the air, the heavenly
bodies and the earth, make a harmony, as if nature
would indulge her offspring; when, in these bleak
upper sides of the planet, nothing is to desire
that we have heard of the happiest latitudes, and
we bask in the shining hours of Florida and Cuba;
when everything that has life gives sign of
satisfaction, and the cattle that lie on the ground
seem to have great and tranquil thoughts. These
halcyons may be looked for with a little more
assurance in that pure October weather which we
distinguish by the name of the Indian summer. The
day, immeasurably long, sleeps over the broad hills
and warm wide fields. To have lived through all its
sunny hours, seems longevity enough. The solitary
places do not seem quite lonely. At the gates of the
forest, the surprised man of the world is forced to
leave his city estimates of great and small, wise
and foolish. The knapsack of custom falls off his
back with the first step he makes into these precincts.
Here is sanctity which shames our religions, and
reality which discredits our heroes. Here we find
Nature to be the circumstance which dwarfs every other
circumstance, and judges like a god all men that come
to her. We have crept out of our close and crowded
houses into the night and morning, and we see what
majestic beauties daily wrap us in their bosom. How
willingly we would escape the barriers which render
them comparatively impotent, escape the sophistication
and second thought, and suffer nature to intrance us.
The tempered light of the woods is like a perpetual
morning, and is stimulating and heroic. The anciently
reported spells of these places creep on us. The
stems of pines, hemlocks, and oaks almost gleam like
iron on the excited eye. The incommunicable trees
begin to persuade us to live with them, and quit our
life of solemn trifles. Here no history, or church,
or state, is interpolated on the divine sky and the
immortal year. How easily we might walk onward into
the opening landscape, absorbed by new pictures and
by thoughts fast succeeding each other, until by
degrees the recollection of home was crowded out of
the mind, all memory obliterated by the tyranny of
the present, and we were led in triumph by nature.

These enchantments are medicinal, they sober and
heal us. These are plain pleasures, kindly and native
to us. We come to our own, and make friends with matter,
which the ambitious chatter of the schools would
persuade us to despise. We never can part with it; the
mind loves its old home: as water to our thirst, so is
the rock, the ground, to our eyes and hands and feet.
It is firm water; it is cold flame; what health, what
affinity! Ever an old friend, ever like a dear friend
and brother when we chat affectedly with strangers,
comes in this honest face, and takes a grave liberty
with us, and shames us out of our nonsense. Cities give
not the human senses room enough. We go out daily and
nightly to feed the eyes on the horizon, and require
so much scope, just as we need water for our bath.
There are all degrees of natural influence, from these
quarantine powers of nature, up to her dearest and
gravest ministrations to the imagination and the soul.
There is the bucket of cold water from the spring, the
wood-fire to which the chilled traveller rushes for
safety,--and there is the sublime moral of autumn and
of noon. We nestle in nature, and draw our living as
parasites from her roots and grains, and we receive
glances from the heavenly bodies, which call us to
solitude and foretell the remotest future. The blue
zenith is the point in which romance and reality meet.
I think if we should be rapt away into all that we
dream of heaven, and should converse with Gabriel and
Uriel, the upper sky would be all that would remain of
our furniture.

It seems as if the day was not wholly profane in
which we have given heed to some natural object.
The fall of snowflakes in a still air, preserving
to each crystal its perfect form; the blowing of
sleet over a wide sheet of water, and over plains;
the waving ryefield; the mimic waving of acres of
houstonia, whose innumerable florets whiten and
ripple before the eye; the reflections of trees
and flowers in glassy lakes; the musical steaming
odorous south wind, which converts all trees to
windharps; the crackling and spurting of hemlock
in the flames, or of pine logs, which yield glory
to the walls and faces in the sittingroom,--these
are the music and pictures of the most ancient
religion. My house stands in low land, with limited
outlook, and on the skirt of the village. But I go
with my friend to the shore of our little river,
and with one stroke of the paddle I leave the village
politics and personalities, yes, and the world of
villages and personalities behind, and pass into a
delicate realm of sunset and moonlight, too bright
almost for spotted man to enter without novitiate
and probation. We penetrate bodily this incredible
beauty; we dip our hands in this painted element;
our eyes are bathed in these lights and forms. A
holiday, a villeggiatura, a royal revel, the proudest,
most heart-rejoicing festival that valor and beauty,
power and taste, ever decked and enjoyed, establishes
itself on the instant. These sunset clouds, these
delicately emerging stars, with their private and
ineffable glances, signify it and proffer it. I am
taught the poorness of our invention, the ugliness of
towns and palaces. Art and luxury have early learned
that they must work as enhancement and sequel to this
original beauty. I am overinstructed for my return.
Henceforth I shall be hard to please. I cannot go back
to toys. I am grown expensive and sophisticated. I can
no longer live without elegance, but a countryman shall
be my master of revels. He who knows the most; he who
knows what sweets and virtues are in the ground, the
waters, the plants, the heavens, and how to come at
these enchantments,--is the rich and royal man. Only
as far as the masters of the world have called in

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