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A subtle chain of countless rings The next unto the farthest brings; The eye reads omens where it goes, And speaks all languages the rose; And, striving to be man, the worm Mounts through all the spires of form. Unfortunately in Germany, Nietzsche misused central Emersonian ideas, which Hitler and the Nazis then further perverted. Fortunately, in other countries, especially France and England, he had more accurate adherents — from Baudelaire to Camus, George Eliot to Kipling.
Greek philosopher and classical advocate of idealism, who postulated a pristine unseen realm of ideas as a model for their imperfect reflection in this rough real world.
Emerson thus revealed an unstated pattern in his selections: These great men exhibited interests and abilities that he either shared already or that he admired and adopted as his own. For his fourth subject, Emerson chose Shakespeare , a close reader of Montaigne, as the poet-dramatist par excellence for his penetrating eye and idiosyncratic creativity. Finally, Goethe , the poet, dramatist, novelist, and scientist, epitomized the universally talented, all-encompassing writer.
He was intrigued, too, by the later neo-Platonists Plotinus and Proclus, who refined and synthesized these two images. Proclus united old and new ideal views of the cosmos with pagan theological imagery. On a more immediate note, the Stoics Seneca and Marcus Aurelius complemented the Bible in instructing Emerson on how to deal with hardship. And Plutarch, model enough as a moral essayist, also taught Emerson to see history through the lens of biography.
For a time, he found some comfort in the Scottish School of Common Sense adopted by Unitarianism, but rejected its pure rationality as he moved toward a Transcendentalism of the heart.
So, too, did J. Complementing these thinkers, the startlingly fresh power of the French women novelists Mme. Previously unrecognized as Emerson followers, certain Hispanic writers in the New World deserve first mention. Afterward, he studied in Spain, then left for Mexico, and, for a time, taught in Guatemala. Moving to New York City, he reported on the U. When he saw enslaved men, and thought of them, he spoke as if, at the foot of a new biblical mountain, the Tablets of the Law were once again being smashed.
His anger was Mosaic. In , he started the Cuban Revolutionary Party, and three years later, returning to the island to help lead its second struggle for independence, was almost immediately killed in battle. On his first trip , he was only twenty-nine and unknown, yet succeeded in meeting four leading writers. Coleridge, Wordsworth, and Landor represented an older, already distinguished generation. Their ensuing letters for a time document an intensely appreciative exchange.
Each served the other as literary critic, agent, and press officer in their respective countries. Later, they would maintain their ties but differ over social issues, especially slavery in America. Fearful I call it; and yet it is great, and the greatest. As early as , he wrote of the favorable opinion of Harriet Martineau, the English feminist and social observer.
She had met Emerson during her two-year tour of America in Great things are expected from him, and great things, it seems, he cannot but do He is a thinker without being solitary, abstracted, and unfitted for the time.
Perhaps exaggerated, it nonetheless came six years before his Concord abolitionist speech showed his true colors to family and friends. In contrast, Emerson was in fundamental disagreement now with Carlyle over a range of economic, political, and social issues. In this context, he re-encountered Wordsworth. After silently pulling himself together, the poet gave way to a spate of bitterness about the French and then the Scots, intoning that Scotsmen were incapable of writing English. Where is the thing that now passes for philosophy at Boston to stop?
The Ode on Immortality is the high-water-mark which the intellect has reached in this age. But he disagreed with Emerson about Plato, whom he disliked.
He also regretted that his friend had ended each of his profiles with criticism. By , he especially liked The Conduct of Life , and ten years later, Society and Solitude as well. Eventually, he edited the Emerson-Carlyle correspondence. In America in , Stephen met Norton and, probably through him, Emerson.
Later, he adopted some of his more substantial ideas. To be great is to be misunderstood. They have forgotten the highest of all duties, the duty that one owes to oneself. Most people are other people. Whitehead and the novelist-lecturer John Cowper Powys That relationship, generally overlooked by mainstream criticism, especially in Europe, had already excelled any other in scope and rich ramification in the West.
He rarely traveled without his Emerson. The American had already magnetized him a year before he began studying Plato and three years before he took up Schopenhauer. His treatment of fate and freedom heads the list of misinterpretations. But he went further, proposing a cultural revolution that far exceeded anything Emerson had envisioned: the subversion of the entire Christian tradition.
By the s, Nietzsche was adding to Christianity other traditions he thought equally injurious, whether religious or not: Buddhism, Platonic idealism, Socialism, and Democracy. For him, their valuation of equality and an ethic aligned with the poor, weak, and diseased promoted false goals and a debilitating herd mentality. As for Platonism, Buddhism, and other philosophies or faiths, Emerson explored them with deep curiosity, looking for spiritual enlightenment.
Too individualistic to support socialism, he nevertheless firmly and with vigor championed both equality and democracy. Their effects could disappoint, but they were infinitely preferable to a hermetic hierarchy or monarchy. Their actual goal is all-encompassing power, from worldly influence and infinite fame to physical, political, and technological control. But in addition, his attitude, an apparent realism laced with cynicism, added an amoral touch.
God is one and omnipresent; here or nowhere is the whole fact. Intellect annuls Fate. So far as a man thinks, he is free. The two differed on such major issues as progressive democratic goals, abolition, feminist ideals, peace, and war. Contrary to his posthumous reputation, Nietzsche was not a Nazi, nor was he a fascist, nationalist, socialist, pan-German enthusiast, or racial purist. He hated anti-Semites and mass movements.
In turn, the Nazis, heralding Nietzsche as a prophet, either perpetuated earlier untruths about him or invented new ones. Thus, any alleged claims of a link between the real Emerson and the National Socialists, past or present, are quite false. In turn, their writings referred to both. He was also drawn to his exaltation of individual action and his aversion to both philosophical systems and the slavish adulation of history. I am only an experimenter. Do not set the least value on what I do, or the least discredit on what I do not, as if I pretended to settle any thing as true or false.
As though before everything. With a thousand and one dreams behind us and no act. Notable, too, is the figure of the poet-speaker whose work implants his perceptions in everyone. To know when you need to join in: that is the secret of your solitude: just as the art of true interactions with others is to let yourself fall away from high words into a single common melody. Metamorphosis was its major theme, with at least four poems probably inspired by Emerson.
The same year his Book of Hours , vol. The book also repeats other favorite Emerson themes such as the creative glance of the poet and existence as a state of perpetual becoming. In the period , Mickiewicz and Quinet quoted and copied several passages from Emerson in both their journals and course lectures.
The latter book, especially, was a guide to an empowering ethics for modern life, a project for which Poe was no model. Although Bergson rarely referred to Emerson — only three times in thirty years — the span of his references testifies to a lasting regard.
Like Dickinson and Nietzsche, he may also have resisted compromising his own originality by too frequent reference. Bergson echoes Emerson in his similar interest in the nature of time, organic vital force, intuition, and the comic.
His final notice was in , when he once again spoke of William James, this time to say his work reminded him of Emerson. Totally eliminating criticism and polemics — From now on, the single and constant affirmation The worst of fortunes is a bad temperament.
Camus may now be added to those who have attempted to rescue Emerson from an army of critics who, early and late, have erroneously dismissed him as a cosmic optimist, ignoring the reality of evil and thus failing to effectively protest against it. This was not the case in Italy. The future belongs to the poets. Only a few Emerson followers perceived his tragic sense. In the end, he betrayed even his own ideal of the poet-duce, living a sequestered life of private consumption at his paradise-retreat, the Vittoriale, adored by fans and financially supported by continuous aid from Mussolini.
Thus his claims in and that Emerson was among his favorite authors should be taken seriously, not as mere political or diplomatic boasting. But he went further. For a time, that sentiment grew into an anti-Emerson tradition. But influenced by F. And in the fall of , a large International Bicentennial Conference was held, an event honoring Emerson that was unprecedented in Europe. Rigoni, a leading critic of the poet Leopardi, noted affinities between the Italian and Emerson.
The greater Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy more fully commented on Emerson in his diaries, more positively than Turgenev on the whole and over many more years.
Profound, bold, but often capricious and confused. And his two collections of classic wisdom, The Cycle of Reading and Path of Life begun in , included many Emerson excerpts.
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