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tea, and bread and butter or tea-bread, and after that preserved fruits, mostly peach, and cream. One custom, which appears to me to be especially excellent, is to place little tables beside the guests, one to each two persons, before the tea is handed round. In this way people place themselves together, two and two, and have the most delicious little téte-à-tête, and that you know I am very fond of. I can not converse well except when téte-à-tėte.
My happiest hours here are those which I spend alone in the forenoon, in my own room, with American books which Mr. Downing lends me, and those passed in the evening with my host and hostess, sitting in the little darkened parlor with book-cases and busts around us, and the fire quietly glimmering in the large fireplace. There, by the evening lamp, Mr. Downing and his wife read to me by turns passages from their most esteemed American poets. The books I afterward carry with me up into my chamber; in this way I have become acquainted with Bryant, Lowell, and Emerson, all of them representatives, in however dissimilar a manner, of the life of the New World. Bryant sings especially of its natural life, of its woods, its prairies, its peculiar natural scenes and phenomcna-and his song breathes the quiet, fresh inspiration of natural life. One feels the sap circulating through the growth of the tree, and the leaves shooting forth. His “ Thaunatopsis,” or night song, is a largely conceived, although a short poem, in which the whole earth is regard . ed as a huge burial-place. Lowell is inspired by the great social questions of the New World, by the ideal life of the New World, which he calls forth into existence in his songs about freedom, about the bliss of a free and contented noble life, and about the honor and beauty of labor. Again and again I beg Mr. Downing to read to me that beautiful little poem, " The Poor Man's Son," which charms me by its melody, and by its impartial spirit—which is moral melody, and by that cheerful truth
which it utters in the prospects for the poor man's son on the soil of the New World. Would that I could translate for you that beautiful poem, and that Mr. Downing could read it to you with his musical voice! His little wife, Caroline, prefers reading a short epic poem, called “Sir Launfall's Vision." Lowell's ideas are purely moral, and a deep vein of religious feeling runs through them. One of his most beautiful songs, in which burns a strong and noble patriotism, is directed against a political measure in Congress favorable to the maintenance of slavery in the United States. By this and many anti-slavery songs has this young poet taken his place among the leaders of that great party in the country which calls itself Abolitionist, and which insists upon the abolition of slavery. He must express himself in verse he does not make the verse, he sings it, and in his song there is that overflowing sentiment which makes the heart overflow, and the mind spread forth her wings.
Emerson, rather a philosopher than poet, yet poetical in his prose philosophical essays, strikes me as a new and peculiar character, the most unusual of the three. He seems to me as an American Thorild, who, by his own strong, powerful nature, would transform the world, seeking for law and inspiration merely within his own breast. Strong and pure, self-collected and calm, but at the same time fantastical, he puts forth from his transcendental point of view aphorisms on nature and history, on God (whom he does not regard as a personal God, but as a superior soul in harmony with laws) and on men, criticising men and their works from the ideal of the highest truth and the highest beauty. “The world," says Emerson, “has not seen a man,” and he looks forward with longing to that man, the man of the New World, in whose advent he believes. What this new man shall really be, and what he is to do, is somewhat undecided-merely that he shall be true and beautiful, and further, I suspect,
he must be very handsome and tall of stature, if he is to find favor with Emerson, who is himself, they say, a man of singular beauty, and who regards any personal defect as à sort of crime. The new man regards no laws but those within his own breast; but there he finds the unfalsified wells of truth and beauty. The new man believes in himself alone; he demands every thing from himself, and does all for himself, reposes upon himself and in himself. The new man is a stoic, but not stern as such; he is beautiful and gentle. Wherever he comes, life blooms: in the circle of friends it becomes as a holy day; nectar and ambrosia pour forth at his approach; but he himself needs no friend: He needs none, not even God; he himself becomes god-like, inasmuch as that he does not need him. He conquers heaven, inasmuch as he says to heaven, “I desire thee not!" He descends down into nature as a restorer, governs and places it under the spell of his influence, and it is his friend. In it he has that which suffices him; the divinities of the woods whisper to him their peace and their self-sufficingness; there is not a mole-hill which has not a star above it; there is no sorrow which the healing life of nature can not heal. He says farewell to the proud world; he tramples upon the greatness of Rome and Greece in this little rural home, where he in the trees can see God. Emerson's language is compressed and strong, simple, but singularly plastic. His turns of thought are original; old ideas are reproduced in so new and brilliant a manner, that one fancies them heard for the first time. The diviningrod of genius is in his hand. He is master in his own domain. His strength seems to me peculiarly to be that of the critic, a certain grand contempt and scorn of the mediocre of the weak and paltry wherever he sees it, and he sees it in much and in many things. He chastises it without mercy; but, at the same time, with wonderful address. Emerson's performances in this way are really quite regal. They remind me of our King Gustavus Adol.
phus the Great, when he took the criminal soldier by the hair and delivered him over to punishment, with the friendly words, "Come, my lad, it is better that thy body now suffer chastisement than that thy soul go to hell." Yet there is more in Emerson even than the intention of chastisement. The writings of this scorner of imperfection, of the mean and the paltry, this bold exacter of perfection in man, have for me a fascination which amounts almost to magic! I often object to him; I quarrel with him; I see that his stoicism is one-sidedness, his pantheism an imperfection, and I know that which is greater and more perfect, but I am under the influence of his magical power. I believe myself to have become greater through his greatness, stronger through his strength, and I breathe the air of a higher sphere in his world, which is indescribably refreshing to me. Emerson has more ideality than is common among thinkers of the English race, and one might say that in him the idealism of Ger. many is wedded to the realism of Britain.
I have as yet never gone a step to see a literary lion; but Emerson, this pioneer in the moral woods of the New World, who sets his ax to the roots of the old trees to hew them down, and to open the path for new planting-I would go a considerable way to see this man. And see him I will—him who, in a society as strictly evangelical as that of Massachusetts and Boston (Emerson was the minister of a Unitarian congregation in Boston), had the courage openly to resign his ministration, his church, and the Christian faith, when he had come to doubt of its principal doctrines; who was noble enough, nevertheless, to retain universal esteem and old friends; and strong enough, while avoiding all polemical controversy and bitterness of speech, to withdraw into silence, to labor alone for that truth which he fully acknowledged, for those doctrines which the heathen and the Christian alike acknowl. edge. Emerson has a right to talk about strength and
truth, because he lives for these virtues. And it will ben. efit the world, which is slumbering in the Church from the lack of vital Christianity, to be roused up by such fresh winds from the Himalaya of heathenism. But how can Emerson overlook - - ? Yet I will not ask about
Emerson is just and true. Would that many were like him!
But now I must tell you something of my late doings in society. Miss Catherine Sedgwick, the author of “Redwood,” came here, together with her young niece, Susan, a few days after my arrival. Mr. Downing, who greatly esteems her, wished me to make her acquaintance. She is between fifty and sixty, and her countenance indicates a very sensible, kind, and benevolent character. Her figure is beautifully feminine, and her whole demeanor woman. ly, sincere, and frank, without a shadow of affectation. felt my
soul a little slumbrous while with her for the first few days; but this feeling was, as it were, blown quite away in a moment by a touching and beautiful expression of cordiality on her side, which revealed us to each other; and since then I have felt that I could live with her as with a heavenly soul, in which one has the most undoubting trust. I derived pleasure, also, from her highly sensible conversation, and from her truly womanly human sympathies. She has a true and gentle spirit ; and I feel that I could really depend upon her. Of late years she has written much for what I will call the people of lower degree in society ; because here, where almost every person works for their living, one can not properly speak of a working class, but quite correctly of people of small means and narrow circumstances-a class which has not yet worked itself up. Franklin, himself a workman, and one who worked himself upward, wrote for this class. Miss Sedgwick writes for the same; and her little novels and stories are much liked, and produce a great deal of good. People praise, in particular, a story called