previous next

To Miss Augusta King.

New York, October 30, 1844.
Emerson has sent me his new volume.1 As usual, it is full of deep and original sayings, and touches of exceeding beauty. But, as usual, it takes away my strength .... What is the use of telling us that everything is “scene-painting and counterfeit,” that [57] nothing is real, that everything eludes us? That no single thing in life keeps the promise it makes? Or, if any keeps it, keeps it like the witches to Macbeth? Enough of this conviction is forced upon us by experience, without having it echoed in literature. My being is so alive and earnest that it resists and abhors these ghastly, eluding spectres. It abhors them and says: “Be ye ghosts, and dwell among ghosts. But though all the world be dead, and resolved into vapory elements, I will live?” Emerson would smile at this; because it shows how deeply I feel the fact I quarrel with. But after all, if we extend our vision into the regions of faith, all this mocking and unreality vanishes; and in the highest sense all things keep the promises they make. Love, marriage, ambition, sorrow, nay even strong religious impressions, may and will fall short of the early promise they made, if we look at this life only. But they are all means, not ends. In that higher life we shall find that no deep feeling, no true experience, has slid over the surface of our being, and left no impression.

What have you seen and heard of Theodore Parker since his return? A friend requested him to buy a few engravings in Italy, and I think he chose admirably. One of them was intended for me, and if my spirit had been with him (as perhaps it was) he could not have chosen to my more complete satisfaction. It is the Cumaean Sibyl, by Domenichino. She holds a scroll of music in her hand, and seems listening intently to the voices of the universe. It is the likeness of my soul in some of its moods. Oh, how I have listened!

It is curious, but, standing as I am on the verge of declining life, my senses are all growing more acute [58] and clear; so acute that my sources of pain and pleasure are increased tenfold. I am a great deal more alive than I used to be.

I live in the same quiet, secluded way. I am never seen in public, and the question is sometimes asked, “Where on earth does she pick up all she tells of New York in her letters to the ‘ Courier?’ for nobody ever sees her.” Willis saw my “cap,” though, on one occasion. A bit of lace outside of my head was as much as I should expect him to see of me. I suppose you have seen his announcement to the public in what box I sat at Niblo's; a fact doubtless of great importance to the public, fashionable and literary. If you have seen the paragraph in his paper, you will know what I mean by the “cap.”

1 Essays, Second Series.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (2)
N. P. Willis (1)
Theodore Parker (1)
Macbeth (1)
Augusta King (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
October 30th, 1844 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: