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Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Short studies of American authors, Thoreau. (search)
ay, like the early classification of Emerson as a second-hand Carlyle. All three were the children of their time, and had its family likeness; but Thoreau had the lumen siccum, or dry light, beyond either of the others; indeed, beyond all men of his day. His temperament was like his native air in winter,--clear, frosty, inexpressibly pure and bracing. His power of literary appreciation was something marvellous, and his books might well be read for their quotations, like the sermons of Jeremy Taylor. His daring imagination ventured on the delineation of just those objects in nature which seem most defiant of description, as smoke, mist, haze; and his three poems on these themes have an exquisite felicity of structure such as nothing this side of the Greek anthology can equal. Indeed, the value of the classic languages was never better exemplified than in their influence on his training. They were real humanities to him; linking him with the great memories of the race, and with hi