book or magazine essay, in which he perhaps benignantly complimented the intelligence of his audience --an intelligence which he never could fairly compute, since he never found out how it had criticised him. I forget which of these excellent gentlemen it was who gravely recommended to the good people of Boston
a wholly new means of mental improvement-reading aloud in the evening!
What is it that carries us calmly through these inflictions?
No doubt good-nature has something to do with it, and the feeling of hospitality ; but it is also largely due to the tradition of humility, the habit of thinking that light and grace come from Europe
-ex oriente lux
We early overcame this humility in political matters, because it took a race of strong men to free us from the parental yoke, and we recognized their strength; but literature and art and science and refined manners come more slowly, and in these we do not yet trust ourselves.
That was true of our early days which Aulus Gellius
as saying of early Rome
: “Poetry was not held in honor; if any one devoted himself to it, or went about to banquets, he was called a vagabond” (grassator vocabatur
). Hence we were slower to assert ourselves in these finer arts, and when we did, it was with becoming modesty.
It was thought daring in Emerson
to sing of the bumblebee, or Lowell