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Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Margaret Fuller Ossoli, Chapter 9: a literary club and its organ. (search)
enry James, turning on Thoreau the reverse end of a remarkably good telescope, pronounces him parochial, because he made the woods and waters of Concord, Massachusetts, his chief theme. The epithet is curiously infelicitous. To be parochial is to turn away from the great and look at the little; the daily newspapers of Paris afford the best illustration of this fault. It is not parochial, but the contrary, when Dr. Gould spends his life in watching the stars from his lonely observatory in Paraguay; or when Lafarge erects his isolated studio among the Paradise Rocks near Newport; or when Thoreau studies birds and bees, Iliads and Vedas, in his little cottage by Lake Walden. To look out of the little world into the great, that is enlargement; all else is parochialism. It is also to be remembered that people in America, in those days, if they had access to no great variety of thought, still had — as in the Indian's repartee about Time-all the thought there was. The sources of intell