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Wherein the race has so far lost and gained, in being transplanted from Europe to the New England soil and climate, is well illustrated by the writings of Emerson. There is greater refinement and sublimation of thought, greater clearness and sharpness of outline, greater audacity of statement, but, on the other hand, there is a loss of bulk, of unction, of adipose tissue, and shall we say of power?

Emerson is undoubtedly a master on the New England scale,–such a master as the land and race are capable of producing. He stands out clear and undeniable. The national type, as illustrated by that section of the country, is the purest and strongest in him of any yet. He can never suffer eclipse. Compared with the English or German master, he is undoubtedly deficient in viscera, in moral and intellectual stomach; but, on the other hand, he is of a fibre and quality hard to match in any age or land. From first to last he strikes one as something extremely pure and compact, like a nut or an egg. Great matters and tendencies lie folded in him, or rather are summarized in his pages. He writes short but pregnant chapters on great themes, as in his “English Traits,” a book like rich preserves put up pound for pound, a pound of Emerson to every pound of John Bull. His chapter on Swedenborg in “Representative Men” is a good sample of his power to abbreviate and restate with added force. His mind acts like a sun-lens in gathering the cold pale beams of that luminary to a focus which warms and stimulates the reader in a surprising manner. The gist of the whole matter is here; and how much weariness and dullness and plodding is left out!

In fact, Emerson is an essence, a condensation; more so, perhaps, than any other man who has appeared in literature. Nowhere else is there such a preponderance of pure statement, of the very attar of thought, over the bulkier, circumstantial, qualifying, or secondary elements. He gives us net results. He is like those strong artificial fertilizers. A pinch of him is equivalent to a page or two of Johnson, and he is pitched many degrees higher as an essayist than even Bacon. He has had an immediate stimulating effect upon all the best minds of the country; how deep or lasting this influence will be remains to be seen.

This point and brevity has its convenience and value especially in certain fields of literature. I by no means would wish to water Emerson; yet it will not do to lose sight of the fact that mass and inertia are indispensable to the creator. Considering him as poet alone, I have no doubt of his irremediable deficiency here. You cannot have broad, massive effect, deep light and shade, or a torrent of power, with such extreme refinement and condensation. The superphosphates cannot take the place of the coarser, bulkier fertilizers. Especially in poetry do we require pure thought to be well diluted with the human, emotional qualities. In the writing most precious to the race, how little is definition and intellectual formula, and how much is impulse, emotion, will, character, blood, chyle! We must have liquids and gases and solvents. We perhaps get more of them in Carlyle. Emerson’s page has more serene astral beauty than Carlyle’s, but not that intense blast-furnace heat that melts down the most obdurate facts and characters into something plastic and poetical. Emerson’s ideal is always the scholar, the man of books and ready wit; Carlyle’s hero is a riding or striding ruler, or a master worker in some active field.

The antique mind no doubt affords the true type of health and wholeness in this respect. The Greek could see, and feel, and paint, and carve, and speak nothing but emotional man. In nature he saw nothing but personality,–nothing but human or superhuman qualities; to him the elements all took the human shape. Of that vague, spiritual, abstract something which we call Nature he had no conception. He had no sentiment, properly speaking, but impulse and will-power. And the master minds of the world, in proportion to their strength, their spinal strength, have approximated to this type. Dante, Angelo, Shakespeare, Byron, Goethe, saw mainly man, and him not abstractly but concretely. And this is the charm of Burns and the glory of Scott. Carlyle has written the best histories and biographies of modern times, because he sees man with such fierce and steadfast eyes. Emerson sees him also, but he is not interested in him as a man, but mainly as a spirit, as a demigod, or as a wit or a philosopher.