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To Miss Lucy Osgood.

Wayland, 1869.
I have read a good many of Taine's papers on Art, and always with great zest. His descriptions of Venice in “Les Deux Mondes” is wonderfully glowing and poetic. It was almost like seeing that city of enchantment. Max Muller's “Clips” I have never seen. The greatest extravagance I have committed for years was buying his “Science of language,” [201] price seven dollars, as a birthday present for my philological mate. His habit of digging for the origin of words has proved contagious, and he often expresses surprise at the help my quick guesses afford him in his patient researches. I resolutely read Max Muller's “Science of language,” and picked up a good many new ideas and valuable suggestions; but to read it with full understanding required a great deal more learning than I possess.

A friend is accustomed to say that my “bark is worse than my bite ;” and it is something so with regard to my theological intolerance. For instance, I have given yearly to the American Missionary Association, ever since emancipation, twenty dollars a year, to help them support a teacher among the freedmen, true blue orthodox. Yet when I proposed to them to aid me in the circulation of my “Freedmen's book,” offering them several hundred volumes at the mere cost of materials, they were not willing to do it unless they could be allowed to cut out several articles, and in lieu thereof insert orthodox tracts about “redeeming blood,” etc. Yet my book contained not one sectarian word, except here and there an orthodox phrase in articles written by colored people. I do sincerely believe that all creeds which make faith in doctrines of more importance than the practice of morality have an injurious effect on character, and I abominate them.

One of my neighbors told me there was a biographical sketch of me in the “Christian Register,” copied from the “Chicago Tribune.” But I did not wish to see it, having a great aversion to newspaper publicity. I care a good deal what my friends think of my performances, but I am singularly indifferent [202] to notices of the press. They are so indiscriminate, and so much done up in a spirit of trade between publishers and editors, that they have little value. I do not see the “Westminster review,” but I care very little about being “respectfully cited” in it. The same honor befalls hundreds below the level of mediocrity. I think few things are more inconvenient and disagreeable than being a “small” lion. One loses the advantage of complete obscurity, without attaining to the advantages of great fame. If what I have written has been the means of doing any good in the world, I am thankful; but as for personal gratification in receiving, as a lion, what you call “the homage of smaller animals,” I have none. All I want is to be left in peace to do quietly the work which my hands find to do.

I agree with you in thinking that there are many good things in the article, “New chapter of Christian evidences,” in the “Atlantic.” But if Christianity is, as the writer says, better adapted for a universal religion than any other, is it not simply because Christianity is an accretion of all the antecedent religious aspirations of mankind? How many rivulets of thought had been flowing from various parts of the world, and through continuous ages, all drawn toward each other by the extension of the Roman Empire! And in the midst of those gathering tides stood Paul! He was the man, by whose agency a Jewish reformation was widened into a world-religion. All the world being represented in the system, it may well be better adapted for a universal religion than any of its component parts. But it is still receiving accretions from present inspirations, and so it will go on. Swedenborg has not established a “new church,” [203] but he has greatly modified the old one. I opine that Paul would recognize in the teachings of our day few of the distinctive features of Christianity as it presented itself to his mind. It is curious to read the sermons that were admired a hundred years ago, and compare them with the preaching of the present day. What congregations would now be edified by the thunder of those old guns of the Gospel? There is not a parish that would hear them as “candidates.”

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