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III. the period of the newness Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven. Wordsworth, The Prelude, Book XI. The above was the high-sounding name which was claimed for their own time by the youths and maidens who, under the guidance of Emerson, Parker, and others, took a share in the seething epoch sometimes called vaguely Transcendentalism. But as these chapters are to be mainly autobiographic, it is well to state with just what outfit I left college in 1841. I had a rather shallow reading knowledge of six languages, English, French, Spanish, Italian, Latin, and Greek, and had been brought in contact with some of the best books in each of these tongues. I may here add that I picked up at a later period German, Portuguese, and Hebrew, with a little Swedish; and that I hope to live long enough to learn at least the alphabet in Russian. Then I had acquired enough of the higher mathematics to have a pupil or two in that branch; something of the f
orge Sand and of Mrs. Child's Letters from New York, to put myself on more equal terms with that vast army of hand-workers who were ignorant of much that I knew, yet could do so much that I could not. Under these combined motives I find that I carefully made out, at one time, a project of going into the cultivation of peaches, an industry then prevalent in New England, but now practically abandoned,--thus securing freedom from study and thought by moderate labor of the hands. This was in 1843, two years before Thoreau tried a similar project with beans at Walden Pond; and also before the time when George and Burrill Curtis undertook to be farmers at Concord. A like course was actually adopted and successfully pursued through life by another Harvard man a few years older than myself, the late Marston Watson, of Plymouth, Massachusetts. Such things were in the air, and even those who were not swerved by the Newness from their intended pursuits were often greatly modified as to the
September, 1843 AD (search for this): chapter 5
I read, as Emerson says of Margaret Fuller, at a rate like Gibbon's. There was the obstacle to be faced, which has indeed always proved too much for me,--the enormous wealth of the world of knowledge, and the stupendous variety of that which I wished to know. Doubtless the modern elective system, or even a wise teacher, would have helped me; they would have compelled me to concentration, but perhaps I may have absolutely needed some such period of intellectual wild oats. This was in September, 1843. I read in that year, and a subsequent similar year, the most desultory and disconnected books, the larger the better: Newton's Principia and Whewell's Mechanical Euclid; Ritter's History of Ancient philosophy; Sismondi's Decline and fall of the Roman empire; Lamennais' Paroles d'un Croyant and Livre du Peuple; Homer and Hesiod; Linnaeus's Correspondence; Emerson over and over. Fortunately I kept up outdoor life also and learned the point where books and nature meet; learned that Ch
Andromeda (search for this): chapter 5
ark and Judge Foster's always helped me to justify to myself that early choice. With all this social and intellectual occupation, much of my Brookline life was lonely and meditative; my German romances made me a dreamer, and I spent much time in the woods, nominally botanizing but in reality trying to adjust myself, being still only nineteen or twenty, to the problems of life. One favorite place was Hammond's Pond, then celebrated among botanists as the only locality for the beautiful Andromeda polifolia, so named by Linnaeus because, like the fabled Andromeda, it dwelt in wild regions only. The pond was, and I believe still is, surrounded by deep woods and overhung by a hill covered with moss-grown fragments of rock, among which the pink Cypripedium or lady's slipper used to grow profusely. The Andromeda was on the other side of the lake, and some one had left a leaky boat there, which I used to borrow and paddle across the dark water, past a cedar forest which lined it on one
d Maria Fay was a cousin of some of the Brothers and Sisters, they made the house an occasional rendezvous; and as there were attractive younger kindred whom I chanced to know, I was able at least to look through the door of this paradise of youth. Lowell's first volume had just been published, and all its allusions were ground of romance for us all; indeed, he and his betrothed were to me, as they seemed to be for those of their circle, a modernized Petrarch and Laura or even Dante and Beatrice; and I watched them with unselfish reverence. Their love-letters, about which they were extremely frank, were passed from hand to hand, and sometimes reached me through Thaxter. I have some of Maria White's ballads in her own handwriting; and I still know by heart a letter which she wrote to Thaxter, about the delay in her marriage,--It is easy enough to be married; the newspaper comers show us that, every day; but to live and to be happy as simple King and Queen, without the gifts of for
Ludwig Von Beethoven (search for this): chapter 5
launched, and indeed was the best launched man of his time, as Willis said. I used to go to his room and to read books he suggested, such as Puttenham's Arte of Poesie, and Chapman's plays. He did most of the talking; it was a way he had; but he was always original and trenchant, though I sometimes rebelled inwardly at his very natural attitude of leadership. We occasionally walked out together, late in the evening, from Emerson's lectures or the concerts which were already introducing Beethoven. Sometimes there was a reception after the lecture, usually at the rooms of a youth who was an ardent Fourierite, and had upon his door a blazing sun, with gilded rays emanating in all directions, and bearing the motto Universal unity. Beneath this appeared a neat black-and-white inscription, thus worded: Please wipe your feet. Our evening walks from Boston were delightful; and Longfellow's poem of The bridge does little more than put into verse the thoughts they inspired. The walk
Joseph Bem (search for this): chapter 5
of the French Eclecticism, then beginning to fade, but still taught in colleges. There, too, were Schubert's Geschichte der Seele and many of the German balladists who were beginning to enthrall me. There was also Miss Peabody herself, desultory, dreamy, but insatiable in her love for knowledge and for helping others to it. James Freeman Clarke said of her that she was always engaged in supplying some want that had first to be created; it might be Dr. Kraitsir's lectures on language, or General Bem's historical chart. She always preached the need, but never accomplished the supply until she advocated the kindergarten; there she caught up with her mission and came to identify herself with its history. She lived to be very old, and with her broad benevolent face and snowy curls was known to many as The grandmother of Boston. I best associate her with my last interview, a little before her death, when I chanced to pick her out of a snowdrift into which she had sunk overwhelmed duri
William Blackstone (search for this): chapter 5
Paul Richter, whose memoirs had just been written by a Brookline lady, Mrs. Thomas Lee. This biography set before me, just at the right time, the attractions of purely literary life, carried on in a perfectly unworldly spirit; and his story of Siebenkas, just then opportunely translated, presented the same thing in a more graphic way. From that moment poverty, or at least extreme economy, had no terrors for me, and I could not bear the thought of devoting my life to the technicalities of Blackstone. Not that the law-book had failed to interest me,--for it was a book,--but I could not consent to surrender my life to what it represented, nor have I ever repented that decision. I felt instinctively what the late Dwight Foster said to me long after: The objection to the study of the law is not that it is not interesting,--for it is eminently so,--but that it fills your mind with knowledge which cannot be carried into another stage of existence. Long after this, moreover, my classmate
III. the period of the newness Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven. Wordsworth, The Prelude, Book XI. The above was the high-sounding name which was claimed for their own time by the youths and maidens who, under the guidance of Emerson, Parker, and others, took a share in the seething epoch sometimes called vaguely Transcendentalism. But as these chapters are to be mainly autobiographic, it is well to state with just what outfit I left college in 1841. I had a rather shallow reading knowledge of six languages, English, French, Spanish, Italian, Latin, and Greek, and had been brought in contact with some of the best books in each of these tongues. I may here add that I picked up at a later period German, Portuguese, and Hebrew, with a little Swedish; and that I hope to live long enough to learn at least the alphabet in Russian. Then I had acquired enough of the higher mathematics to have a pupil or two in that branch; something of the
Giovanni Boccaccio (search for this): chapter 5
It is easy enough to be married; the newspaper comers show us that, every day; but to live and to be happy as simple King and Queen, without the gifts of fortune, this is a triumph that suits my nature better. Probably all the atmosphere around this pair of lovers had a touch of exaggeration, a slight greenhouse aroma, but it brought a pure and ennobling enthusiasm; and whenever I was fortunate enough to hear Maria White sing or say ballads in moonlight evenings it seemed as if I were in Boccaccio's Florentine gardens. If this circle of bright young people was not strictly a part of the Transcendental Movement, it was yet born of the Newness. Lowell and Story, indeed, both wrote for The Dial, and Maria White had belonged to Margaret Fuller's classes. There was, moreover, passing through the whole community a wave of that desire for a freer and more ideal life which made Story turn aside from his father's profession to sculpture, and made Lowell forsake law after his first clien
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