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EVERY book is a quotation: and
VERY every house is a quotation out of all forests, and mines, and stonequarries; and every man is a quotation from all his ancestors. And this grasping inventor puts all nations under contribution.
NO MEET a great man in real life, to feel the
pressure of his hand; to catch the gleam of I his friendly eye, to thrill to the call of his spoken word, to be warmed by the radiance of his presence, to strike the spark of recognition between Soul and Soul, this is both an inspiration and a benediction.
To most of us such occasions are rare. Whether this is due to the absence of great men, or to our own eyesight, we will not question, but the fact stands that the supreme ecstacy of living is this divine contact of life with life, the recognition of common ideals, a mutual understanding, and kindred sympathies.
How these rare moments illuminate our after life! We are no longer alone in the world. Our Soul has met another Soul and has been understood. Henceforth our life has a new circumference, and we travel with a new sense of companionship and a new joy.
Most of our meetings with great men are accidental. A formal introduction would have spoiled it all. All barriers must be down, we must be alone and the moment must be psychic. It is not often that the stage can be so carefully set, which no doubt accounts for the infrequency of these precious occasions.
There is no such handicap, however, in a meeting of minds between us of the living Present and the great men of the Past. They are the intellectual and spiritual giants, the sole survivors of a crowded Past, to tell us of those divine thoughts that reach back to chaos and forward to the end of Time. It is true that each brings a fragmentary message, yet all the wealth of our present civilization and culture is based on the handful of catchwords that these seers and poets and prophets have preserved to us from their glimpse of the Infinite Mind.
So, this book of quotations is its own justification. It is neither representative nor complete. It is not arranged chronologically or topically, it is not even indexed. It is made for use, not for reference, to be taken in small doses as a tonic, and not read at a sitting. It makes no pretensions. It is exactly what its title proclaims,“My Little Book of Emerson.”
Here one may meet Emerson as on a winter evening in the Old Manse at Concord, without formality or restraint or any barrier. Here Emerson speaks those“ thunder words” that were the inspiration of his hearers and which have come down to us with a Proverb-like authority that drives them into our minds like nails. Every extract is a surprise. The “illogical” arrangement is a perpetual stimulant to curiosity and desire.
In a word, the whole purpose of this little book is to present in an attractive and companionable form, those sayings of Emerson that represent his contribution to the inspirational literature of the world. It is hoped that behind these“ quotations, the reader will see, standing, the man Emerson, and feel the radiance of his kindly spirit, the greatness of his intellectual courage, and the universality of his sympathy.
If an excuse were needed for this book, or the series of which it is a part, it would be this: that after digging out for himself the gold of these inspiring passages, the writer is fain to share them with others. Coupled with the joy of sharing, however, is the regret that each one may not have for himself the pleasure of discovery.
However, if this volume serve as “a letter of introduction” to one of the greatest and wisest of men, it will have done its whole duty.
TIS easy to paint a picture of a man; to indicate the color of his eyes and hair, the fullness of his
cheek, the kind of clothes he wears. Only a master artist, however, can paint a Portrait-can reveal the spirit and personality that makes the man what he is.
Every great painter, every great poet, every great writer in a very real sense paints his own Portrait. We know the man, Burns, as well as Browning, from his poetry. We know the kind of man Corot was from his landscapes, as well as the character of Bouguereau from his paintings of lovely women.
Without attempting to paint a Portrait of Emerson—for he has done that for us in his writings which have been distilled in this little book of quotations- I would call attention to some of the more individual characteristics that make Emerson one of the great figures of modern times. Born in 1803, of a long line of ministers who built their lives into the formative life of New England, he inherited their self-reliance, their love of liberty, their loyalty to ideals and many other of their strenuous virtues. Trained at Harvard University, ordained to the ministry, he remained a preacher, even after he gave up his last pulpit in 1847. He combined in a remarkable degree, the vision and spiritual insight of a seer and prophet with the didactic quality of the natural teacher. His teaching, however, was not of the sciences, his only concern was with the moral law and the inner life
His philosophy was formed from the liberating philosophy of Coleridge, the mystical visions of Swedenborg, the intimate poetry
of Wordsworth, and the stimulating Essays of Carlyle”; yet he missed in all of these that spiritual insight into religious truth that was to be his unique contribution.
During the forty-seven years that Emerson spent in the Old Manse at Concord, he was the central figure and intellectual leader of a group of idealists who profoundly affected American life for the remainder of the 19th Century, and whose influence is still felt in the midst of these materialistic times. During all these years Emerson added to his inherited income of $2,000.00 a year by lecturing in all
parts of America. In reality he was not a writer, but a speaker, and his “Essays" were but lectures written out. His lectures dictated his style, and if his writings are often chaotic and unorganized, they are of such stuff as stars are made of. All his writings have the radiance that shone from his personality. His greatness came from his character, not from his philosophy. He discovered nothing. He was simply a man. Yet by what he was he enriched the whole earth.
During his entire life Emerson was the archradical of America, and the world. He fought tyranny in all its forms, in religions, creeds, parties, forms of government, even in Democracy, condemning in biting, words, the tyranny of the masses.” He was all for the individual, and wrote in his diary in 1840, “In my lectures I have taught one doctrine, namely, the infinitude of the private man. Emerson's goal was personal liberty; his gospel, the self-sufficiency of the individual; his philosophy, the transcendency of Mind in the visible world. To him Nature was tremulous with Mind, and he held that “all things are saturated with the moral law. There is no escape from it.