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[316] owes much of its original impulse to the life and labors of a poor, unlearned workingman of New Jersey, whose very existence was scarcely known beyond the narrow circle of his religious society.

It is only within a comparatively recent period that the journal and ethical essays of this remarkable man have attracted the attention to which they are manifestly entitled. In one of my last interviews with William Ellery Channing, he expressed his very great surprise that they were so little known. He had himself just read the book for the first time, and I shall never forget how his countenance lighted up as he pronounced it beyond comparison the sweetest and purest autobiography in the language. He wished to see it placed within the reach of all classes of readers; it was not a light to be hidden under the bushel of a sect. Charles Lamb, probably from his friends, the Clarksons, or from Bernard Barton, became acquainted with it, and on more than one occasion, in his letters and Essays of Elia, refers to it with warm commendation. Edward Irving pronounced it a godsend. Some idea of the lively interest which the fine literary circle gathered around the hearth of Lamb felt in the beautiful simplicity of Woolman's pages may be had from the Diary of Henry Crabb Robinson, one of their number, himself a man of wide and varied culture, the intimate friend of Goethe, Wordsworth, and Coleridge. In his notes for First Month, 1824, he says, after a reference to a sermon of his friend Irving, which he feared would deter rather than promote belief:

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