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Emerson and Dr. Channing

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Lenthiel Howell Downs
A dissertation submitted in partial fulfullraent of the
requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy*
In the Department of English* in the Graduate
College of the State University of Iowa
June* 1940
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Hubert H. HoeltJe
Statement ..*.... ♦.,. *.............. 1
Elaboration * *•....
...... *.........
Notes to
**. 60
Appendix ...
In th# movement 0# liberal religious thought
miefe characterised the first .half of' the nineteenth century
in H#w England* the two mem who stood above the crowd were
Htoeraon and Dr* Charming*
this study examinee Emerson and.
m -parallel figure© In. the first part of the meet
idliplfiient phase not only of Amen learn idealism but alee
e# jttttWiean literature> for religion opened into ethics and
.eUti&w lute literary expression*
Charming and Emerson were
each in his own plsc#! their angles of departure
from conservative Boston were singularly altte*
There are
also point# of contact between the men* their meetings and
withdrawal# physical and Intellectual, influence# of the
older upon the younger*,, their association with the group of
liberal# who became .known a# tranee©ndentalls10 *
relatlomahlp# are considered* a# they occur* for their own
importance and for the IT' pertinence to- the parallelism- of
two men against the 0&ivihl#tle world -and its pessimism.
wiliiu© Ellery eh&nnlhg* b*
d *,
and Ralph Waldo
Emerson were equally familiar names to Boston between 182Q
and l§40f #now showing.* at the Odeon* Divinity Hall or the
$£&#cnl.e Tempi#,*
Both men made a stir in the dry intellectual
leave# of the street* and doors were closed along the way
fbom Beacon Hill to- Harvard Square*
Emerson and Charming
w#r# delleub# In health* ^somewhat cold” to friends* and
uneasy In -social gathering#! they could bend the line around
and were most happy, most complete, in the sweetness
my nature for society.*.10 the want of animal spirits,*1
■to might Channlng*
The passions and aonsu&l appetite© I M
not quit# touch them* nor would they understand a lusty sense
#f humor in quit# the way Chancer did*
These good Bostonians*
if they lived' nh-t as much as other men in the tody* lived
more than other men in mind and soul#
Bh&nning announced
iaimft,, requires all our oare#H^
The m u ® emiId
hast ha hoard si^th# edge of Concord on the Cambridge turnplb&*.
Emerson and Chaining were.preachers* on# leaving the pulpit
for the lecture platform and returning to the pulpit a# a
visitor by gracious consent for almost ten year# after the
modus* the other remaining within the church but making
frequent excursions to the lecture platform by consent equally
The preachers were also, prophets* though th^r
message' m e not tt'f*or three transgressions and for four** so.
much as **These things* all men,, y© should knows
the goodness
Of' Cod* the -gpe&tneea of ;H a % the importance of morality
were differences between these two
prophets of on age*
lib e r a l
Cb&nnlng was all hi® life a clergyman,
* who called any institution a shadow*
the iMper&t.ive to stand alone* not within walls* for
enunclation of his ideas-#
Charming was a little man
physically* with a sweet* almost feminine* countenance!
gaunt* at least on his Vankee half*
an Intellectual and
He l i V M the hummer
in meter and hrilllastly
hut a single fccCt m£ an ides at shy one time*
other-'poacher wes'si^it half a mystic# hut hie essential
was preeeie*
He was a man of long* hsXaaeed periods*
toensen was interested la an all*-
reform of man* the little man spent much of his
energy on purtienisr reformat
temperance* education* anti*
Oh&nning* a soper prophet, was led through gravity
to eost&ayi, i&eraer# drunk with grant Meus^eversouX# ©elf*
reliance* ewpensstion^esms through inehri&tion to high
Bmerten looked ever a wider expense* ever more
time* jpwest and' future* over more problems* over more Ideas
than Ch&nnlrgi. perhaps he also over looked somewhat the scope
Of the other* who had set his terminal hounds by a smaller
A doe trine of airelse may he applied to &©or son
and -Oh&aning-*
Bash man is circumscribed by years* people*
Burner1© circle %m larger than Ch&naingfe*
circles are not concentric* hut they are on the same plane
and intersect one the other*
This area of activity and
which the two have in common can he hr ought into focus *
personal relationship between the men is one of few facts
and much reserve.* hut they did nod to each other with feelings
respect if not with deference,^
Their religious
central and source ideas which are similar*
IS O S t
im p o r t a n t
gaw p
th e s e
the eXeseei axtoin&iien on the common .ground of their inter*
The religious ideas of dimming & M
point. to the parallel Ism of the two men, may beet.Into foeu# by first looking at the background of
Hew England against which the 'now liberalism wan
to revolt*
'"sign© of the -new direction© might have been read
by ©ibyl©| but until 1800 had com© a© far1m
and orthodox rode Hew England* a neeb*
IS 15* conservatism
Channing and Emerson
were' the fifavvolee© to deny Calvinism with sufficient vigor
to force a hearing in the stronghold of the Furiisn mind*
fbeir earliest ideas to meet the public* because of the nature
of the situation* had to be negative ones*
of these ideas is the second line of attack#
An examination
dhannXng and
Imersen had -to clear land before they could plow*
fh© five
thorny points of Calvinism were barriers to be overthrown*
The ooneenrative policy of ^exclusion ana denunciation^ had
to be exposed as inimical to the inter©ate of an open mind*
narrowness of sectarian spirit in religion had to be sprung
A third and moat important focus on the parallel
figure a of the two. preacher© brings to view their positive
Calvinism could m
and- e a ly a t id m *
O h n to te g
E m e rs o n
o ffe re d
dxplamtien#* ■ If they- >epre##mted a return to Chrlstian
in the lew feetament itself#
they were no- loo# sIgnitfleant in the history of American
In the ir oornblmtion ©no emph&el#* however, they
were a# now a# any Ideas are newj they were la®allm m
shewed Itself 4n Boston Between 1820 and 1840#
fh® fourth
View of Emerson ana Chaiming a® parallel Iin@# aeroi# Uew
England1'-# literal resolution must consider trimseeadentallem
a# a'movement In the foreground*
fhe two preacher# withdrew
•fro® the lunatic fringei they were a# critical of sound and
fury- m
they had Been of the- gray alienee® of Oalvmi silo
Channing and Emereon faced the same two hundred
year conservative h&e&gneundf they reacted against iti they
acted in their own positive affirmation#! they reacted against
the reformers who- had allowed these®lye# to he carried too
It ©net he- remembered that Ohannlng:wa# ahead of Emerson
in ye&ra# that Emerson was .ahead of Charming In the extent of
hi# 'literalias*- fhe parallelism iseep# Its significance#- how~
fhe two- thinicer#.* religion# XlBeruI®* who w©re the
mo#% prominent figure# In intellectual Boston for at least
two decade#* were ■sufficiently alike in ideological
to merit the historian*## the scholar1a# the
c r itic * #
a tte n tio n *
It le-m&turul that liti'W, should be much ©onc-erned
with religious &&#&#*
The f e w ministers in hie paternal
M m England ! » ' H a W often been pointed to, together with
bb© daughter# ©f'minister# whom they married*
The Reverend
Peter pnl&eley* Father M©e#;#..&n& tte I w w M
Pumtel Bite©
tonbrfbuied their tr$ullbtoh''b© that whieh came to eetbX©
on. the head of one creature, Ralph Waldo,
The parsonage
where he ©pent the' first eight year# ©f hib 11fe w e t have
been the eeene of many ministerial visit©*
Emerson a eye
©eul& not have 'been far from the gown in hie youth#
three and a half yaar% 1SR9 In the spring until the fall.
Of 1 8 ^ >'"he wan pastor' of Second Ohnrohj he preached from
a pulpit more than less regularly from I$26 until 1840,
Even when Emerson was not in a church, he was a- preacher,
a prophet#
When he was in a position no longer to oar© about
Ohpiatologyy miracle®! soterioiogy*, nod wbhe ■Father,* he
© w e d infinitely about the Overhaul, compensation, the miracle
that is *©» with the blowing clover and the falling rain**
deeus the man whose name la rtploughed lute the history of thi©
©harming*® life was more surely .circumscribed by
the ©huroh.f
His political# social, even literary idea#
obviously spring up from root# in religion#
ywnty* three
year# Emereon*® senior * ©banning was ordained to the ministry
■one we#h after the younger man*# birth and wae p&etor of the
same church in Federal W w l
for the fhlrfy^nlm year# until
his death*
fb# ©banning family contributed almost am many
Sort to tha church as the 'Emerson# had*
Cfncle Henry and
It baa been .suggested that* there ware three main
iws«i td th© liberalism of law England* 0 religious thought
,ta the first half of the nineteenth century* that to the first
belong in pombmimenne ©banning and Emerson, to the second
Emerson, and to the third ranker*
Here is some truth*
Emerson* until he resigned his Boston church* belonged very
much with Channing in ideology; their differemeee at that ilm#
were largely:of temperament and background, but in those &tf~
fweneem lay the germ of Baereou*'# growth*
After ISJS Emerson
enlarged* expanded* opened wider the doors of his religious
th o u g h t
whore Christianity had
wo f
fie tallyn lived
to .admit with growing conviction the Creek philosophers* heoFlsbeaista, Hindu writers of scripture* Persian poets, the
great of "the world*
But one should not see in Emerson any
about-face or abrupt change., In spit® of hi® salutary remark,
^namn consistency*tt When he was forty, and fifteen years
after he became minister of second 0hureb, he said,
do not
think that violent changes of opinion very often occur in
4s far am J know they do not see new light a and turn
sharp corners, but commonly, after twenty or fifty years you
shall find the individual true to his early tendencies.”5
person wrote in lit® ypurnsl that “Every man is a wonder
until you learn his studio#* hie aseoeiabee# hin early act®
and th# floating opinions of hie times and then he develop©#
himself as naturally from a point as a river is made from
r i l l s * the analogy is true of the man and true of the more*
meni* which m
it® first, surge covered the years 1810 to. 1830 *
liberal versus conservative religious thought had
been haying something of a bug^of^war In Hew England for at
least ene hundred fifty years when the nineteenth -century
turned its first corner*
But the conservative# had definitely
the upper hand all this time*
Bem&ulnm and progress are the
wonder# In the development of any idea# that of religion
perhaps mere than ethers $ the hands of the sleek move# yet
they return*
Arlus, Pelagius, Socinus, Armlniu® and their
followers from the beginning of the fourth century to the
mature years of the seventeenth were in the liberal tradition!
heretics to Catholicism and to Calvinism# they objected to
tenet® of belief which their reason;- would not sanction*
and Boelnus did not find the elaborate# fixed Ghristology of
the Church reasonable! yet, although their arguments were
different, they turned on the same point and were almost as
elaborate as the orthodox view#
But the orthodox view was
subjected to their private Judgment#
against strict Calvinism*
arminius protested
Felaglu## although in the fifth
century he could not set himself up against Calvinism* denied
original sin and asserted man* # freedom of will, incurring
bb# e& cathedra wrath of Augustine, Bishop of Hippo*
there w&e $,100 a return to
0 r&m.m- mu&t finally Judge* and m m to the
light of
to net ^totally depraved**1 so ran tto tenor
of'religious ittor&iiem* when if® vote© Woke through* to.
tot Itk the seventeenth century the Fur it ana
ttoir Oatv totem to Mew England*
themselves# net ter ofher®*
Religion® litorfy was fen
ftolr® was the irreverent- seal,
the vlge^ou® sense# the practical genius.#
to eon1©alasfio&l
tyranny they leaned backward® until ttoir two hundred years
done| their etoatrtoe was not removed until nr# dhanntog
and the young Emermon were at hand, for the work*
thou^it made It® cry to the wilderness# to he sure# the
Stronger when it was seen by the few that the old*tin© religion
had outlived it® utofuMtne®®#
William- Fynehon had written a
feook* Ihe jegaiMgAfflJjtff. Eg*** M
SSE SSSglBMeB* whleu was
burned to the mrtotplaoe for tendencies to the direction
of Unitarian- doctrine#
fhe tame William lynch on# founder
of the town of sprtogf-told# tettaohueett®# fined one hundred
pound® for his heresy# went hack to England*
fht® was wisdom
in the year® when Quakera were being hung In the new England*
Solomon Stoddard# pastor from 1669 until 1729 of the
Morthampton 0'hurch and grandfather of Jonathan Edward®# was
litoral in hi® time# willing to admit rtnon* regene rate hut
eame®t*mtoded member® of the churches to th© lord’® Supper «-ft
dbarie® Chauncy and Jonathan Mayhew of Boston churches were
wlitoral®** of the eighteenth century.
In % f m
th o u g h ts
Xu New
w o rk e d
th e
th e
been town m
$ i& 4 e
o f
r e p u b lis h in g
wthe first
and openly opposed
of 11)0
#** hemuel Brtant*
and hie aymp&iht&ere among the 'CMters&iiste wore all names
side of the
But those namea are little
o f
warmed to their task by the opposition*
th o u g h t
w o re
increase and dotton
father* ^enafe&n Edwards* and B m m l Hopkins are the men re­
They were
'© r i m *
earnest* capable*
** stern
of that stern soot** Calvinists in whom the Iron race eooM
find justification*
Edwards had met more opposition than
the Mathers^ but he was &qu&l to it at the
least*- fbere
were-still* and later to be* signs of struggle in the religions
But the free thought and rationalism which accompanion
Thomas faine were* in the religious orthodox reaction which
began about 1790, tied down; clamps were applied and the screw
In 1800 many preachers in Hew England might still
have asked the ehild* wAre you willing to be damned for the
glory of Gc
It was Charming who first vigorously opposed* and
successful ly* within, the church the doctrines of Calvinism
and those who held on to them most rigidly*
Emerson followed
Ch&nnlng in the essential points of the opposition* and th©
% M # swung*'- -the long ,n#m«tored names'of toe nineteenth
to be. toes# of ,
4 b® literal®! de&i&isb M m m and
century w
.-Batot#! Wore©s t e p
& r©
the forgotten men. Emerson
mu w o l d
Oh&nhlng had noticed that too covering of How England Oalvlnlem
woo ao tightly stretched that lb woo thin) too worn epots and
to# patches w o w seen*
Gone were toe earnest, vigorous,
practical menf there remained ^unpalnted churches, strict
platforms, and sad offices, M
11to© iron^gray deacon andtho
wearisome prayer.*1' Emerson' wrote in his deurnal that to©
run liana “h
our last days,..haws declined into ritualists*®®
If the progress in. liberal religious thought had been slow
In Hew England, it was now to he accelerated.
Every decade
of the. century the liberals of toe decade before faded into
a conservative and orthodox group, unless seen in careful
relation to their o m times*
In the early years of his pastorate, Gh&nning had
GalvInistlc affinities*
he never believed, it is reported.
In the doctrines of the trinity, and the depravity of man*
his asceticism .and his strong admiration for hr*- Samuel Hopkins
of Hewpert, perhaps the last of the ©tern, earnest men, kept
him in some sympathy with the Oalvlnlstle temper*
He was
attracted to Hopkins ”malnly by his theory ef die inter® ©to
lights and shadows of toe coming liberalism were
cast In the early sermons, In one one of which Is- found,
**f#rhsps bhri&b when on earth won to# hearts of publicans, and
sinners more by his gentle manners and office© of kindness.*.
,. ... the rectification of the soull
%% t& inward healths it is the direction of the
affection# to the most interesting objects. It
consists of feelings and disposition# v/hich In*
eiilte^W'#|ythit^ generoua# disinterested,
But Shamming was more orthodox than not until 1810, and
hi# evolution to the ole&p*yoleed denunciation of Calvinism
Wee so gradual as,not to startle many of his parishioners#
In a., letter dated beeember &$# 181& dimming wrotei
1 m o w that Oafviniaa is embraced by many
emellemi people# hut 1 knew that on some minds
It ha«. the moat mournful effects# that it spreads
over thorn an Impenetrable gloom,#, that It generates
a spirit of bondage and fear# that it chills the
best affections#, that it represses virtuous effort#
that It sometimes shakes the throne of reason*H
Any hold that Calvinism may have had on his mind was gone*
fhe famous Unitarian. Controversy# famous at least to
Unitarians.# which, broke out in quiet Boston in ‘the year 1818,
brought Charring* s anti^Calvirietle thought to a firm and
clear statement and split the churches of Mow Kmgl&md Into
two fairly distinct groups#
A declaration of principle was
It is mot necessary to elaborate on the nature of
that controversy^ many of the accusations and refutations
were close to theological hair-splitting#
But something
happened# - X% seems that Mr# ^orse (later joined by Samuel
Worcester) engineered the publication in America of a part
of 'the
htfft $g *## ^pdsey by Belsham, with his own
introductory remarks and with reviews# calculated to identify
the American liberals whom he wished to surpress with the
English Unitarians*
Wherein lay the poison?
Xi also seems
that tli# Engl 1ah Unitarians ware def initely Boeinian* whloh
means they denied net only the trinity but alee the divinity
of Christ#
And American liberals with Channlng in their
front ranks were only Ariane; they denied the trinity and that
Christ was the eternal Son of Sod or of the sane substance—
not that he was divine*
theologians state the ease with as much lucidity as
they distinguish between transubetantiation and eonsub*
atantiaiion* In 1815 there were public letters in the
More Important* the conservatives
wanted to
deny to all “Unitarians* the name Christian ard to demand
“their exclusion from all Christian courtesy and fellowship#*
Channlng retaliated not only in the letters* but in sermons*
discourses* and articles as well*
He pleaded not only for
toleration but declaimed against “the System of Exclusion and
Denunciation in Religion,*
Channlng was brought by his
Calvinistle opponents to a
clearer statement of his arguments
against Calvinism* Insisting that he was* however* not willing
to exclude “the disciples of Calvin* whose errors we also
deeply lament,,*,*
Channlng sounded his controversial
trumpet with a flourish In the 1819 Baltimore sermon.
In an article* a review of a work entitled *A
General View of the Doctrines of Christianity*.#** Channlng
stated most directly “the Moral Argument Against Calvinism •*
He gave careful attention to the “five thorny points of
Calvinism** not neglecting to add in introduction that
"hostility to the doctrine does not oxtena to its advocates* w
tat there Is no equivocation*
Calvinism teaches that* in consequence of
Adames Sin in eating the forbidden fruit* 0od
brings into life all his posterity with a nature
wholly corrupt# so that they are utterly indisposed*
disabled# and node opposite to all that is spiritu­
ally good* and shelly inclined to all evil* and that
continually* It teaches that all mankind# having
fallen in Adam* are under Gk>a#s wrath and curse#
and so made liable to all miseries in this life#
to death Itself* and to the pains of hell for ever#
It teaches that from this ruined race Cod# out of
his mere good pleasure* has elected a certain
number to be saved by Christ# not induced to
this choice by any foresight of their faith or
good works, but wholly by his free grace and love;***
and brings them into a state of grace from which
they cannot fall and perish* It teaches that the
rest of mankind He is pleased to pass over* and
ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sins*
to the honor of his justice and power ***♦12
the five points of Calvinism* its f,crown of thorns#” are
best briefly stated as total depravity# unconditional
election and reprobation (the predestination clause),
limited atonement* irresistible grace and perseverance of
In the single paragraph Channlng has considered
them all# although the irresistibility of grace must be
In the face of such a creed# says Channlng# the
moral argument against Calvinism "must seem irresistible to
common and unperverted minds*”
the question which must arise
"How is it possible that men can hold these doctrines and
yet maintain Cod*s goodness and equity?"
that Calvinists will say that man has not the
capacity of comprehend!ng Cod* because of "the weakness and
Imperfection of the human mind#” Channlng has prepared him*
self against by a defense of man* s rational and moral faculties
r e lig io n *
There is an affected humility* wo think* as
dangerous'as pride* we may rate our faculties
too meanly, as well as too boastlngly..**Xt Is an
Important truth***that the ultimate reliance of
human heing Is and must he on his own mind*...A
trust in our ability to distinguish between truth
and falsehood is Implied In every aot of belief. *.♦
nothing Is gained to piety by degrading human nature* ♦
the occasional abuse of our faculties* he it ever
so enormous* does not prove them unfit for their
highest end* which is to form clear and consistent
view© of 0ad**9'
Channlng traces his arguments with all the lucidity and
heavy-footedn©ss ©f a Matthew Arnold*
dod le Incomprehensible
but not unintelligible; we can form some clear ideas of him*
"Oed* * goodness* because infinite* does not cease to be good­
ness* or essentially differ from the same attribute in man;
nor does Justice change its nature* so that it cannot be
understood* because It is seated In an unbounded mind*”
wWe know not and we cannot conceive of any other Justice
or goodness than we learn from our own nature; and if Ood
have not these* He is altogether unknown to ue as a moral
being. *»”
In his conclusion Channlng bows once more to hie
opponents who would exclude and denounce*
”With these views*
we have no disposition to disparage the professors of the
system which we condemn* although we believe that its Influence
is yet so extensive and pernicious as to bind us to oppose
Emerson* apparently* never prepared for the public
a similar statement against Calvinism*
It was not
The outer shell had been effectively cracked
by gfeatmiag.
In 1813 saarson was twelve years old} bat at
any age the oootreversy weald Hardly have Interested him,
except perhaps be point out Its irrelevaneles.
But these
years of Channlng with sword were a time when Emerson had
least qualified admiration for the pastor*
His own
development had points of similarity as well as contact with
If the ooetor was given a syrapathetio Insist
tote Calvinism-*with his fingers crossed— by Hopkins, Emerson*s
Aunt Vary Moody fulfilled a like function for him*
first remarks about Calvin and his followers are, for the
most part, addressed to his aunt in letters*
His words are
measured to both a Idee of the question, and it is clear that
he Is more interested in philosophical implieations of idea
than in the movement*
He writes in December, 1824, to Aunt
M a ry s
I am blind, I fear, to the truth of a
theology which I caent11 hut respect for the
eloquence it begets•* *t but it sounds ilk©
mysticism in the ear of the understanding# the
finite and flirting kingdoms of this world may
forget In the course of ages their maxims of
government* *##But that the administration of
eternity la fiefcjoj that the God of Revelation
hath seen cause to repent and botch up the
ordinances of the God of Mature****I hold It not
irreverent, but impious in us to assume****
Calvin1s deity* **, a foe to that capacity of
Order and right, to that understanding which is
made in us arbiter of things seen, the prophet of
things unseen*.. *1 cannot help revolting from the
double deity, gross Gothic offspring of Genevan
s c h o o l,!*
Emerson goes on to suggest that liberalism, even with
concomitant dangers of"lleentiouaness and deism," Is better
than such an orthodoxy*
It should be noted that Charm ing* s
Objection to the unreasonable^©© of Calvinism It here, but
that Kmorsou has p u t ,stress upon another idea, nthe God of
In August, X8a6* again to Aunt Mary, Waldo writes
of tbe congratulation that ought to be heard in the earth,
when god is aeon not ae *th© ancient inviolable sternness of
an unreepee ting providence11 but as harmony between the order
of nature and Hthe moral exigence® of humanity#w
prophetic paean rings outs
Arise from the duet, put on thy beautiful
clothing oh thou that west despised for depravity,
for want, & for presumption! Human nature will
go daft In our times like the Grecian father who
embraced two Olympian Victors In on© day #15
Some men and women In Hew England were to go ^daft11 In
quit© another way from the meaning of this letter writer;
but Charming and Emerson were to draw themselves in and
maintain an Independence of the wild hair’s growth#
Within a few year© pi X&26 Emerson* s remarks
against Calvinists were against them as a sect or party
and, by analogy, against all sects In religion#
Unitarians com© in for equal strokes with the Calvinists*
" m i .Ulffl&ltffifc* s m ■
said Augustin©.
*y speech to the Calvinist and Unitarian.*1®
It shall be
Such a speech
or sermon, was delivered to hi© congregation in May, 1830,
^Religious liberalism and Rigidity**1 Young Emerson speaks,
Mow the first great objection to the state
of the church (10) that it is the effect of a party
spirit and all party is exclusive*.## the
question is n o W W h a t did God lntend?^What
aaith the human heart? But, how do the Unitarians
bellevet. And what must I a© a Galvlnlet ©ay? 2*7
At first Bight one might think ©uo % a ©poach far removed
from Chaming* who be© am© id®iitifl©d with the Unitarians#
But "party* was the aspect of Unitar lantern which Channlng
His word had been ag0inst the exclusive spirit
from 1815 on#
"the fear and dread of making on© more sect
were strong in many liberal mindsj in Charming1© very strong*
Indeed## ##w28
Xat the American Unitarian Association was
organized In 1825$ and Channlng was connected with it©
activities* although he declined to become president#
gave support to Unltarianism in so far as he felt it was not
a sect| his suspicion© and disapproval were often aroused#
In a sermon of 1828# two years before Emerson1b sermon
against religious parties* Channlng wrote that indeed he
took the name Unitarian but that
I wish to regard myself as belonging not
to a sect* but to the community of free minds*
of lovers of truth* of followers of Christ, both
on earth and in he&verw I desire to ©soape the
narrow wall© of a particular church* and to live
under tb# open sky* in the broad light* looking
far and wide* seeing with my own eyes* hearing
with my own ears* and following Truth meekly but
resolutely* however arduous or solitary be the
path in which she leads* I am, then* no organ
of a sect* but speak form myself alone**9
This has a ring not greatly different from Emerson*
Calvinistic dragon curled up its tail* lying in the sun
and waiting for the night #
stick of attack#
Channlng had taken the big
Emerson*e chief blow© were to be In the
positive ideas he expressed* some of which were Charming4©
Th« transition from opponent to proponent In
Smeraon and Channlng Ib relative to time, if not hound by
lt» By l830 the need for the attaoh on "pemicioue Calvinism,N
. 1.
which tod togun in 1815, wa© no laager pressing*
victory belonged to the litoral©, together with the right
t# ©ay what they felt to he the true aspect ©f religion* to
allow for the overlapping of periods, it may he predicated
that the year© from X8&5 to 1840 gave Channlng and Emerson
the opportunity to set up religious shop in the vacated
quarters they appropriated#
Positive religious ideas always seem to revolve
around conceptions of Codf man, sin, and salvation#
conceptions in both Emerson and Channlng are predominantly
and essentially rational and moral#
To call the basic
philosophy of these two men monistic is not only dangerous j
it is untrue#
Christianity is philosophically dualistle,
and both m n tod their deepest roots In Hew Testament
Man toe two natures, a lower and a higher#
universe is matter and spirit#
Channlng and Emerson directed
their attention to the development of man1s higher self,
to an exploration of spirit#
They were leaning away from
Mew England’s two hundred year preoccupation with the sup­
pression of the lower ©elf, with its Old Testament negation,
w¥hou ©halt net**
What can to said fcr man?
Cod’s hand had town seen*
The back of
How looks the palm?
Channlng* s God almost never left the scriptures,
certainly not for long} ©** Intense biblielem characterises
his nature*
But only those scriptural aspects of deity
which the reason might alee approve were acceptable*
Cod, who seemed to Channlng as "depraved* as man and malefloent as well as fickle, had to give way to goodness and
we know the nature of Codby contemplating our own
mature! our "notion of an Absolute, Infinite existence, an
Uncaused Unity” must have the- intellectual and moral'attributes
Of our own souls#
"the grand ideas of Fewer, Reaeon, Wisdom,
Love, Rectitude, Holiness, Bleeee&ness, that is, of all
Cod1s attributes, eome from within, from the action of our
own spiritual mature**®**
For this reason, channlng believed,
we can. say man was created in the likeness of Cod#
Channlng the unity, the oneness, of Cod was absolute and
necessary to an understanding of his nature,
that an
omnipotent, omniscient, eternal Cod should divide himself
Into three persons or Into two was net reasonable.
fatherhood of Cod, "Divine paternity,tt was a biblical idea
of deity on which Channlng laid almost equal stress#
burden to which he always returned was the likeness of
manvs soul to Cod, stopping Just short of, but suggesting,
the identification and equation of the two*
"The idea of
Cod, sublime and awful as it is, Is the idea of our own
spiritual natures purified and enlarged to infinity*"
He pervades, he penetrates our souls*.*
We do not discern him because he is too near,
too Inward, too deep to be recognised by our
present Imperfect consciousness* And he is thus
near, not only to discern, but to act, to influence,
to give his spirit, to communicate to us divinity.
This is the great paternal gift of Cod.***®1
Many things ahcrut Qod we cannot at the present time know,
hut to "form elear and consistent views of Sod" is the
highest activity of man,
Emerson, too, felt that it was a high and noble
activity to learn the nature of Sod, although words in
crystallizing the thought falsified it.
Suspicious of
expressions which traditionally represented Sod in Chris*
tianlty**oncs verities hut now forms, Emerson after 1332
gradually came to speak in his own tongue.
While still
pastor of Second' Church he had been careful to say, "It is
not our soul that Is Qod but Cod is
our soul.M22
later in the thirties that Ood became the Oversoul.
It was
rational and moral nature of man, for Emerson as for Channlng,
became the channel of Insight into the Idea of Cod,
sense, moral government, moral sentiment, moral character,
moral law, moral good*-these are the dominant religious
ideas of the early Journals*
Cod in Emerson’s mind becomes
one with Moral goodness, with Reasons in the later, lectur­
ing years he denies personality to Cod because it la too little,
not too mueh*
"This intelligence is Reason, let some there
are who tell you, as If it Involved no inconsistency, and
certainly no sin, to avoid profaning the revelations of Ood
by submitting them to the tribunal of man's reason,*...they
refuse to apply.*,that light with which their maker has
furnished them."23
Our "firmest faith in intellectual and moral
truths" must be compatible with sod.\ To his*aunt;:baldo
writes# mt% was om of ay youngest thoughts that dod would
not confound the woak*eye& understandings of hi© children
•whilst they road on earth the alphabet of morale#*2^ Emerson
sitting in Federal Street Church when a boy# might hare
heard Charming utter the same thought often and often?
la in the essay^ *$fco Dtrereoul^H that Emerson gives one of
J&iS most distinct expression© of the idea of Cod*
fhe Supreme Critic on the errors of the
past and the present t and the only prophet of
that which must he* Is that great nature in which
we pest as the earth lies in the soft arms of the
atmosphere f that Unity* the Over-Soul, within
which every ©an*s particular being is contained
and made one with all other $ that common heart
of which all-si user# conversation is the worship#
to which all right action is submission# *»?and
which evermore tends to pass Into our thought and
hand and become wis&cm and virtue and power and
beauty**• .Meanwhile within man is the soul of the
whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty to
which every part^esd particle is equally related;
the eternal
Emerson after his fashion*. the poet**, #Channlng after his#
the pastor* s; yet there Is a common thread in both?
Emerson* s eternal One was associated in his mind with the
One of the Keo-#platonl@ts, the oriental scriptures# a
mystic Is® with which 0banning expressed hi© lach of sympathy#
But the unity of cod and his nearness to the soul were cardinal
points of both men; in Emerson the nearness became identity#
Eow near?
A wise old proverb says# lG©& comes t© us
without belli* that Is# as there is no screen
or ceiling between our heads and the infinite
heavens# so is there no bar or wall in the soul#
where man# the effect# ceases# and Cod, the cause
begins# ' The walls are taken away* We lie open
on m m side to the deeps of spiritual nature,
to the attributes of ®od# Just loo wo so# and
know, Loro* Freedom, Fow#r*26
fo the attributes of 0od stated by both m m Ghannlng added
Holiness and Rleseedne##, a good ohurchly benediction*
Emerson added the wise silence, universal beauty, and Freedom*
Emerson1# idea of ood was hardly given to him by Charming;
hut Charming, It seems to me, had helped plow the ground.
fhe word® of Plato, Plotinus, Proclus, word# from the East,
did not fall on ears totally unprepared to receive them*
Orestes Brownson, that mercurial seeker after
truth who became known a# the MWeathercook,*1 at one time
called Charming1© discourse on "likeness to dodM the most
remarkable sermon since the sermon on the M o u n t f h e
discourse was an eloquent affirmation of man1# divinity*
It was preached in Provide no©, Rhode Island at the ordination
of the Rev* F«A« Farley in 1028 and was soon published*
subject is man; the statement is a dualism*
1 begin with ob#ervingt what all Indeed
will understand# that the likeness to $od**•
belongs to man*# higher or spiritual nature*
It ha# its foundation in the original and
essential capacities of the mind* In proportion
a# these are unfolded by right and vigorous
exertion, It is extended and brightened* In
proportion as these lie dormant# it is obscured.
In proportion a# they are perverted and over*
powered by thg appetites and passion©, It I#
blotted out•
Charming continue# to say that in so far a# we approach
and resemble the mind of dod we are in harmony with the
creation and the principle© of the universe; "we carry
within ourselves the 'perfection© of which it# beauty, ■•
magnificence, order*•♦are the result#***
.He reiterate# that we learn about God from our own
"kindred nature *w .■ "in ourselves are. the element* of the
Divinity,*1 But Ohanning would>also add a word of caution*
"iexhort yOu to no extravagance*
I reverence human nature
too- much to do it violence#.. *Ta grow In the likeness of Cod
we need not cease to he man*. This likeness doe# mot consist
in extraordinary or miraculous gifts#*», or in any thing
foreign to ear original constitution; hut in our essential
faculties* ** ."29
in an
earlier sermon Charming had declared
$1. am surer that my rational nature is from God than that
any hook is an expression of his will *"3°
when he later
said that his writing# were "distinguished by nothing more
than by the high estimate which they express of human nature,
he indicated the subject matter of the discourses of which
Emerson said, "Dr* Cfaanning is preaching sublime sermons
every Sunday morning In Federal St*"3s
The elements of this higher human nature which
the Doctor stressed were reason, freedom of will, and moral
M m * # freedom of will was a postulate of Charming* ©
Man*s reason is "from God;" so is his moral
This moral prlnelpl©**the supreme law In man—
1# the law of the universe— 'the very law to which
the highest beings are subject..«.Then man and the
highest beings are essentially of one order* **«
The asm# spirit of goodness enlivens all**..This
goodness is seen by us intuitively to be confined
to no place, to no time*.., but to be universal,
eternal, immutable, absolute....33
Obanning ia careful to point out that this idea rtbas been
mournfully obscured by human passions*"
eulogies for the present condition
There are no
of man*
"Our whole
social fabric needs thorough, searching, complete
But the darkness is put on the other side of a wall;
Channlng* a message is affirmation*
X do and 1 must reverence human nature *..«
I know its history* X shut my eyes to none of
its weaknesses and crime©. *. .But the signatures
of its origin and its end are impressed too deeply
to be ever wholly effaced* l bless it for its kind
affections, for its strong and tender love* I
honor it for its struggles against oppression,
for its growth and progress under the weight of
so many chains am. prejudices, for its achieve*
manta in science and art, and still more for
its examples of heroic and saintly virtue.34
This quotation in its context from "Likeness to 0odM was
thought sufficiently characteristic of Channlng to be
carved in stone behind his statue in Boston Commons.
It is even more difficult in Emerson1 s ease? than
In Charming* s to separate the Ideas of God and man; there
is an open door between them*
If the worth of the human
soul which is man1 a higher nature and which Is both reason
and moral goodness Is Charming1s "one sublime idea," It is
also central to Bmerson*s thought*
Is not this the thought that always invests
human nature, though in rags and filth* with
s u b l i m i t y , w h e r e s o e v e r a man goeth, there
goes an animal containing In his soul an image
of the Being by whom the Universe subsists?
The Mind is his image and mirror* Is it not that,
with whatever depravations blotted and disguised,
0 ©d makes the m&ih $&©& therein t© which all
otherr awange them©elves m threads of steel to
a magnet# m as all the magnets of the world
to the polar axis?3§
People are living* religion aims to sot them right*
are on a wrong scent; they art undoing themselves; they
are living Ilk© animals*
We would have them live like yaen***^
Once again the subject is mant and the approach is dualistic*
the writer is Emerson*
If man Is both animal and more than animal # the
conduct ©f life demands the use of reins*
channlng wrote
two discourses on the subjest of ^self-denial*11 We must
not deny ourselves reason, the intellectual faculty, or
conscience, the moral faeulty-***up©n which Channlng spends
more than half of one discourse*
What is to he denied?
I answer, that there are other principles
in our nature* Man is not wholly reason and
conscience* He has various appetites, passions#
desires# resting on present gratification and on
outward objects; some of which we possess in common
with Inferior animals**#♦fhese are to he denied or
renounced# -fcjrywhich I mean not exterminated# hut
renounced as masters# guides# lords# and brought
into strict and entire subordination to our moral
and Intellectual powers*37
fhls discourse was written in 1825*
On January 22# 1830
Emerson wrote in his Journal with the same subject in view*
I think that self-denial is only one form
of expression for perfection of the moral
character* It means the denial of selfindulgences * It means the subordination of all
lower parts of man1© nature to the hi^ier# so
that the individual doth nothing contrary to
fbe pinch come® because ttthere is almost no such thing as
this self-denial|men are careless of their actions*
Stt©neon and Ohanning were almost equally rhapsodic about th©
“perfect* man who could accomplish the subordination of hie
lower self*
To him were all thing® possible#
In a Journal passage of 1833 Emerson enumerate®
some of the wremarkable properties*1 of human natural
A man contains all that is needful to hi®
government within himself# He la m d i a law unto
himself* All real good or evil that can befal him
must be from himself *. ..Nothing can be given to
him or taken away from him but always there is a
compensation# There is a correspondence between
the human soul and everything that exist® In the
world $ more properly, everything that Is known
to man#.. -The highest revelation is that God is
In every man#39
The doctrine of compensation seems not to be a part of
Ohanning* a philosophy5 for the other statements one can
find either the seed or the flower In Charming1® discourses.
What la man, O Emerson, that God Is mindful of him?
A man is
the facade of a temple wherein
all wisdom and all good abide* What we commonly
call man, the eating, drinking, planting* count*
Ing man, does not, as we know him, represent
himself, but misrepresents himself* Him we do
not respect* but the soul, whose organ he is,
would he lei It appear through his action, would
make our knees bend#^®
Every man Is sometime sensible of this truth,
but “our faith comes In moments, 11 brief moments*
But study and toll as we may, we cannot
Infuse into the mind,
SlJti# that living energy
which islia inspiration* Mere knowledge seems to
be, inv some degree, permanent and under our controls
but that Inward fire and force of intellect, on
which the usefulness of knowledge depends, 1 © of
all possession® most insecure* wealth is a©
available at one hour of the day as another, and
it may be so Invested a© to be insured from
ordinary changes. But the life of the intellect,—
how mutable it isj Thor® are hours of every day
when it drobps* Sometimes weeks may pass, and no
bright thoughts will Visit uau^*
So writes Charming of inspiration, which come®, as ISmerson
says* in flashes.
W® would bend the point into a line if
we could but cannot*
The brief moments, Emerson thought,
were when the flowing river, or Sod, poured Mfor a season*1
its streams Into man*s soul*
Charming would each® such a
thought in scriptural language, but the wstream* and Mray
of divinity* appear in the same context with G*od the father
and Jesus*
A new concept, old and new, of tremendous possi­
bilities within man1a reach, was the primary thought in the
minds of Emerson and Channlng, preach era and prophets to man*
Of much less importance to their religious ideas,
except to emphasise their dualism, were the subjects sin
and salvation*
Prerequisite to the significance of the second
is an emphasis upon the first.
Sin and its sequel, damnation,
were in the main tent of the Calvtnlstlc show*
nSixmers in
the Hands of an Angry God"was reportedly a vigorous picture
sufficient for the fainting of women and the trembling of
stror^ men*
Charming and Emerson among the liberals were in
revolt against such doctrine, and ©In as a subject was not
often discussed.
But it was net, therefor®, completely
absent from their thinking*
First of all, ©in was associated
with the lower part of man* © nature, particularly as retarding
or making impossible the development of the higher*
enemy of the best,
It was
Channlng even wrote a sermon on *The
Evil of Sin*11 Most of the Ideas expressed were based closely
mpem scripture and interpretation© were not far from the
orthodox point of view*
'He turned his argument, however, to
hie own enda; "he found humanity 1magnificent in sin1 .. •,proofs
of Its grandeur in the height a from which it falls, the daring
of its d I®obedience, energy of its aelf-recovery**^
found implied in great sin a great capacity, Mthe abuse of
a noble nature."
Sin is punished here and hereafter hut not infinitely#
^fhoee sins which are followed by no palpable pain are yet
terribly avenged even In this life*
They abridge our
punishments of sin are talked about, says
Channlng, as if they were the greatest evils which might occur*
"But sin, 1 am sure, is itself more terrible than all its
consequences, more terrible than any hell, and its chief
misery is bound up in its own hateful nature.*^ If one*©
greatest interest Is to avoid punishment, as orthodoxy leads
man to think, there is no positive desire for virtue.
redemption was not remission In cancelling accounts*
Ko influence in the universe seems to us so
glorious as that over character; and no redemption
so worthy of thankfulness as the restoration of the
soul to purity* Without this, pardon, were It possi­
ble, would be of little value* Why pluck the
sinner from hell* if a hell be left to burn In
his own breast?*!*
Quite seriously Charming says, "I see no need of a local hell
for the ©inner after death#*
Wherever sin goes, working
according to Its own nature, there is the universe a bell*
Salvation is
to be saved from ©in.
the ealvatlon which man chiefly needs, and
that which brings with it all other deliverance,
is salvation from the evil of his own mind* there
is something far worse that outward punishment...;
it la the state of the soul which has revolted
from &©&;..*whloh has capacities of bouhdiess
and ever-growing love, and shuts itself up in
the dungeon of private interests; which, gifted
with a self*directing power, consents to be a
slave**..No rulntcan he compared to this.4®
Most people expect salvation "from what Jesus does abroad.”
But you should expect it from what he does in your own
*To you salvation, heavep, and hell have their seat
in the soul*11^
I know hut one salvation for a sick man,
and that is to give him healtft. So I know hut
one salvation for a had man, and that is to make
him**.good.*..An intelligent and moral being is
saved and blessed just so far as he chooses fgeely~~
fully^what is good, great, and god^Iike...*4®
And this Is the substance of what Charming has to contribute
to the ideas of sin and salvation, except for more thorough*
going objections to what others believe and a founding of
his ideas in **scriptural rock."
In Emerson1 s writing the thought revolving about
sin and salvation In those terms is even more slightly developed
than in Charming1a*
fhere was a sermon written in 1830 on
^Cod1 s Wrath and Man 10 Sin,H which is still In manuscript.
As a minister, however, he did consider the subject.
Ch a rming he looked upon sin as wrong conduct, upon salvation
as right conduct.
Men are to *leav© off sinning;" they are
t© beware "the suicide of the soul, that lets the immortal
faculties, each in their orbit of light, wax dim and feeble.
and star by star expire#"*®
minister, is self•■lore*
Sin la principle, to the young
Xet salvation again must come from
fhe largest consideration the human mind
can give to the subject, makes moral distinctions
still more Important....Xt will not teach any
expiation by Jesus; it will not teach any mysterious
relations to him. Xt will teach that he only is
a mediator, as he brings us truth, and we accept
it, and live by It) that he only saves us, by
inducing us to save o u r s e l v e s . -’O
. /
The essay, "Compensation, 11 represents Emerson* ©
most mature thought on Bin and salvation, Incorporated In
the text of a higher law*
fhe stupid preacher, "esteemed
for his orthodoxy,rt whom Emerson makes his Introductory
figure, seemed to sajr for his people to all s inners, "ICou
sin now, we shall sin by and by; we would sin now, if we
could; not being successful we expect our revenge tomorrow*11
the assumption was wrong, nthat the bad are successful; that
justice Is not done now*'1 "you cannot do wrong without
suffering wrong*1* "The league between virtue and nature
engages all things to assume a hostile front to vice#11
"On the other hand the law holds with equal sureness for
all right action..*.The good man has absolute good....”
everything is there compensation, except in the soul which
isi and Being is Ood*
influx from thence*
"Nature, truth, virtue, are the
Vice is the absence or departure of the
same**1 Bin then is so much less being*
Salvation Is in
gaining those things which do not have to b© bought by any
"There is no penalty to virtue; no penalty to wisdom;
they are proper additions of
b e i n g , "51
Etooreon' had ©aid much the ©am© tiling In th© Divinity
School Address#
WH© who doe® a good deed I® instantly
He who doe© a mean deed la by the action itself
contracted#*** the good* by affinity* seek the good; the
vile* by affinity* the vile*
Thu® of their own volition*
souls proceed Into heaven* into hell*,,52
Emerson has
separated Gbanning1a incipient thoughts from the traditional
language of the church, even as he separated himself from
the church* and added to their stature from other sources
and from his own mind#
Thor© are further religious ideas which might be
considered* but In the case of Emerson and Channing they
seem to me peripheral*
Christology* Arlan, Socinian or
neither* gave Charming considerable concern#
He is
supposed to have said In 1041* 111 am more and more
Inclined to believe in the simple humanity of Jesus*M
Emerson worried little* If at all* about Christology*
the time of the Divinity School Address In 1858 he saw
Jesus as a man* only more so*
estimated the greatness of man#
Is In you and as# *53
11Alone In all history be
On© man was true to what
He was divinej so are all men*
Attitude toward miracles Is another consideration by
the way*
Emerson as a young man almost eighteen years old
was more than favorably impressed by Channing1s Dudleian
Lecture on “The Evidences of Revealed Religion11 and a few
years later by a sermon on the subject of Revelation in
Federal Street ** wa full view of the subject of th© light
of Revelation compared with Mature <& to shew the
insuffioienoy of the latter alone*”54
Emerson as a
minister* using the same text from John that had been
Channlng*© 1m the Dudlelan address* wrote a sermon on
wMiracles*ft the arguments of which* like Ohanning*sf were
of the supernatural rationalism of the times*
to a higher power than the order of nature* which was
seen not a© end but as means, they felt that any ©vent*
however much it might contradict th© latter* if it was in
accord with the moral purpose of th® former* should not
seem strange nor offend th® reason#
Yet for isolated
manifestations of this higher power Emerson is “apologetic”
and writes another sermon on ”Th® Miracle of Our Being*”
There was a change from the minister s&l&eas In Piracies”
to the lecturer* s In “The Divinity Bchool Address” and
the writer1& In “Self-Reliance”*
In particular miracles#
In 1831 he still believed
Ten years later he wrote* “All
things are dissolved to their centre by their cause* and
in the universal miracle petty and particular miracles
The steel thread which seems to bind together* In
far as they are bound* the religious Ideas of Emerson and
Charming tslices Its strength from arguments ad homlnem#
Does a doctrine accord with man1a moral and intellectual
If so* well and good; It Is law#
it the axe#
If not* give
There 1© another thread holding them together*
not so often seen* but nevertheless there#
It is th©
element of wonder* of mystery, the ego mirabor#
Ohanning writ©©# for instance*
Nature everywhere testifies to the infinity
of It© Author**** Behold th@##*wlld flower* To
reduce that weed all Nature has conspired* into
it receives the Influences of all the
elements*-♦* Thus each minutest particle ©peaks
of the Infinite On©*#**
Again# there i© an Impenetrable mystery in
every action and force of the universe# that
envelops our daily existence with wonder and
makes sublime the familiar processes of th®
commonest arts****
What blessedness it is to dwell amidst this
transparent air# which the ©ye can pierce without
limit# amidst these flood© of pur©* soft* cheering
light* under this 1mm®a©ur©able arch of heaven*
and in sight of these countless stars'. An
infinite universe is each moment opened to our
view*•*• What unutterable import is there in th®
teaching of such a revelation* What a name Is
written,.©!! through it in characters of celestial
light 156
That Channlng could b© thus amaaed 1© little known*
Emerson* s wonder 1© America*© poetry and is remembered by
th© heart*
Th© grass grows# the buds burst* th© meadow
Is spotted with fir© and gold in the tint of
flowers#**# Night brings no gloom to the heart
with its welcome shade* Through the transparent
darkness* the ©tars pour their almost spiritual
rays***# The cool night bathes the world as
with a river*#** The mystery of nature was never
displayed more happily* The corn and the wine
have been freely dealt to all creatures* and
th© never-broken silence with which the old
bounty goes forward ha® not yielded yet on©
word of ©xplanation*57
The background of th© religious liberalism in which
Emerson and Charming took part was th© dark curtain of
Calvinism* against which* in its two hundred year domination
of New England* only faint and intermittent flashes of
light could be detected*
But the points flowed and became
a line*
The f oreground in which Ohanning and Eateraon were
to move and to which the finger pointed was transcendentalism
a strange manifestation for Boston and vicinity# to say the
Charming approached transcendentalism sympathetically
gave a good word to those who whould follow it further#
and then withdrew#
J&aeraon came even closer to its center
but always remained standing! certainly he did not approve
the exaggerated theories which became identified with the
Historically# lew England* & transcendentalism grew
out of Unit&rianlara*
When the Unitarians reclined back on
their haunches and became an orthodoxy * the tendency
Ohanning noticed in the thirties with disgust, the new
movement of liberal spirit became transcendentalism#
outlines became visible in the I838 Divinity School Address!
and Emerson*s lecture# "The Transcendentalist#tt was given
In Boston in the winter of 1841 <* 42 as one of a series on
The Tlmeff#
But it is almost impossible to give th© movement
a date of birth#
Elizabeth Peabody# according to her own
statement# became a transcendentallst In 1826.58
she was
anticipatory If not premature#
The western Messenger (1835 *■ 41) was the first
periodical to show that a new group of thinkers thinking
new thoughts were In America* and Transcendentalism I
(for th© critics who find two) hardly went In strength
beyond 1850#
Among the better known of the earlier
transcendental1ste in the narrower sense of the word were
Dr* Chans*tag# Emerson, Aloott# Grest©® Brownson# Parker#
HApley# Convers Francis* w* H* Ghannlng* f* H* Hedge# Jam©©
Freeman Clarke*. W* H. Furness# John S* Dwight, C* F* Craneh*
Elisabeth Peabody* and# possibly# Margaret Fuller*59
If we
out the list down to two# the "must names1* are Charming and
Emerson# leaders of a movement which# however# they did not
follow In all Its motions*
With the Divinity School Address#
It is reported# ^Emerson tools; th© place of Dr* Ghannlng as
the leader in the attack upon American Fundamentalism*
Ther® wa© also a statement in the western Messenger* shortly
after Emerson1© “storm in a washbowl11 address# that “If we are
asked who is the leader of this Hew School# we should not
name Mr* Emerson so soon as Dr* Ghanning* H^1
Members of
th© select body named above were themselves Unitarians for
the most part*^
Transcendentalism then# as a revolt# was a separation
Of Unitarians from Unitarian orthodoxy, Just as twenty years
earlier all Unitarians were Congregational in revolt against
orthodox Congregationalism*
Flow and ebb were always
Ghannlng and Emerson were not by nature contro*
verslalj although In 1815 Ghannlng put on such a cowl# he
put it off as soon as integrity would let him*
happened# in brief# was something Ilk© this;
splitting wedge was driven In th© 1819 Baltimore sermon#
the opposition gathered force# and Andrews Norton led th©
Unitarians In battle; Emerson*s thunderbolt was thrown In
183&* Horton in the ranks of conservative Unitarians accused#
and Theodore Packer led the transcendent&ltsts in reply#
Ch&nning and Emerson were never quite willing to tie
ihe&selve© to party*
The greatest obstacle to any scholar1a treatment of
transcendentalism arises in trying to define It*
To seek
past definitions of the word Is to go from the sublime to
the ridiculous in on© very easy lesson*
When Emerson was
asked by a Williams College student In 1865 what
transcendentalism was* he said among other things*
It isnH. I suppose* a commodity or *Plan
of Salvation** or anything concreteg not, surely*
an *established church;1 rather* unesbafolishe&j
not even bread* perhaps* but a leaven hidden***#
The Transaendehtallst sees everything as
ideal1st*®3 '
Rohdes reports the definition of a teacher riding down
the Mississippi by steamboats
bank yonder by
wSe@ the holes made In the
the swallows#Take away the bank* and
leave the apertures* and this is Transcendentalism*
Th© traditional explanation of the word -* encyclopedia*
dictionary * avoids the issue nicely by calling American
transcendentalism a movement circulating about H* W* Emerson
and his group*
a name given "more in derision than in honour#**
A critic might
well consider* as does aohdes* that it
demands more Interpretation than exposition*
Emerson decided that th© **n©w views** were really very
"What is popularly called Transcendentalism among us*
is Idealism; Idealism as it appears in 1842*ӣ5
There are
two kinds of men* materialists and idealists; the first
begin to think fro® experience, the senses* "facts," and
th® &©©©$xd founding their knowledge on consciousness*
thought# will# Inspiration*
Th© *!idealist concedes all
that the other affirm©**9 but he goes also behind the
illusions of sense to affirm higher facts#
materialist will be an idealist; but an idealist can never
go backward to b© a materialist***86
This definition covers
much territory! and the cloak of transcendentalism In New
England did cover a multitude of sinners, if not their sins.
When, at the Char&on street Convention In 1840, “Madmen#
madwoman# men M t h beards# Dunkerc* Muggletoniens* Corner
outers# Oroaners# Agrarians* Bev©hth*&ay Baptists# Quaker©#
Abolitionist©* Calvinists# Unitarians* and Philosophers* all came successively to the top* and seized their moment#
If not their hour# wherein to chide# or pray# or preach*
or protest*
'Ohanning and person were thereby
But they
Were where they belonged, outside the charmed circle* as
ready to M a m © as to praise#
In “The Tr&naoendentallst19 Emerson continued to define#
The name# he said# has been applied to Idealism from the
use of the name by “Immanuel Kant* of Konigeberg, who replied
to the skeptical philosophy of Look©** by showing that there
was a class of Ideas which came from experience and a second
©lass of “imperative form©91 which were “Intuitions of the
mind itself#M
The latter forms were called Transcendental*^®
German thought# centering in Kant* and French thought#
centering in Cousin# did com© to America; but New England1©
idealism was Indigenous*
Emerson and his followers found
in European thinkers what they wanted to find and welcomed
authoritative footnotes for what they already believed#
One must always Carlyle and Coleridge with the
function of intermediaries for Americans seeking European
philoeophioal Ideal1©m*
Definition goes on*
0* A* B&rtol# an acknowledged
transcendental1st* wrote*
transcendentalism relies on those idea© in
the mind which are laws in the life# Pantheism
is said to sink man and nature In Cod*
materialism to sink God and man in nature* and
Transcendentalism to ©ink Cod and nature in man*
But the Tr&nscen&entalist# at least* I© belied and
put In jail by the definition* which Is so neat
at the expense of truth* He made consciousness*
not sen©®* the ground of truth***# The mistake
is to make the everlasting things subjects of
argument Instead of sight*** * Our soul Is older
than our organism* It precedes it© clothing* Xt
Is the cause* not the consequence, of its
mat ®rlal element © ****wThis is mysticism* as Parrington observes* and the
transcendentalists were all “potential mystics**1 A new
attempt at definltlon to Indicate at least f our main
strands of thought in New England*s Transcendentalism is
at hand*
Belief In the Oversoul* if you use Emerson* s
language* In the Immanence of God# if you want more
objective philosophy* was a cardinal assumption with most*
If not all# the new thinkers#
& second postulate wa© a
which might be resolved In an ultimate monism *
solid In Its conception of the nature of the world# mind
and matter* things seen and thing© unseen*
A third idea
was the perfectibility of man «* “Be ye perfect# even as
your Father*#* w ** or at least a belief In th© improveability
of man, a respect for the higher self,
perhaps most
important of all was an insist©nc© upon Intellectual
freedom; only with such a flexible yet sure axiom could
such diverse thinkers aa made up the {group called
Transcendental ever gather under a single umbrella*
These strand® of thought which allow for the ©over chars#
of idealism and potential my atie lam make up transcendentalism*
Call it romanticj it was# but In Puritan soil* ethical
rather than pathetic*
And In all its vagaries it wa® man*
If by definition transcendentalism spring® from
Emerson and his followers# one ask® how far Ghannlng went
In precedence*
A believer in ideas arid ideals he was*
was also a potential my©tie# although he often issued
warning against extravagance and although his writings are
for the most part pedestrian enough*
Ghannlng was# In an
initial religious experience# more of a mystic than Emerson*
He had experienced conversion# a rebirth, In a particular
place and hour while a student at Cambridge* One biographer
* *
compared, this ©vent with similar oocurrenSes In th© lives
of Ezekiel# Paul, Luther, and Wordsworth*
w© are told that
11there suddenly burst upon his mind that view of the dignity
of human nature,11 which was ever afterwards to be central
In his thought*
The experience was both vision and conversion*
MThe place and the hour were always sacred in his memory,
and he frequently referred to them with grateful awe*w7°
With the first of our four postulates Ghannlng would
have taken exception, yet ©ven there he would not have been
eumpletely unsympathetic with the newer views.
God had
for Channing all the hlblleal personality of a father*
But as we have seen* his Idea of God stood between Calvin' e
and Emerson's, very much nearer to the latter,
when the
human soul has been raised as high as Channing raised it*
the immanence of Ood aeons assured*
to a dualism of mind
and matter, to the perfectibility of nan Channing gave
unqualified assent.
And intelleotual freedom, the open
mind, was more Channing' e contribution to the movement than
any other person's*
It la not a singular opinion that all
four ideas we have mentioned ean be found in the hew
In a similar was they oould
Channing*s mind*
be at home in
to say that "Channing was interested
solely in a purer Christianity. He was not a transcendental*
1st*.."71 involves a serious misunderstanding first of Channing,
then of Christianity, and finally of transcendentalism.
Sinoe the Ideas of transcendentalism were a loose net,
it is net surprising that strange fish were caught.
Emerson and Channing never approved all the fish we know.
The name "transcendental" was oast at but not affixed to the
Hew England group until shortly before Channing*s death.
However, he gave it attention.
Emerson wrote to Carlyle in
1835, speaking of Channing, "Moreover, he lay awake all night,
be told my friend
last week, because he had learned inthe
evening that sense
young men proposed to Issue a Journal, to
be called The Tranaoendentalist. as the organ of a spiritual
philosophy."72 Just what his staying awake all night indicated
w© can never fee'certain*
Ghannlng performed a large part in bringing about
meetings of lik© or -unlik© minded people for conversation#
On© meeting never got to serious discussion; "an oyster
supper* crowned by excellent winesw Interfered#
Ghannlng induced the Ripleys to entertain a party where
were* besides themselves* Margaret Fuller, Dr# Gonvers
Francis* Theodore Parker, Dr# Hedge, Mr* Brownscm, James
Freeman Clarke, William H# Channing, and ismerson#T3
is a large portion of the transcendental group#
In 1840
Ghannlng wrote to Lucy 4IkIn,
We have some sighs among us of a 1transcend-*
©trial1 school, as It is ©ailed, l»e* we have some
noble-minded men, chiefly young, who are die*
satisfied with th© present, have thrown off all
tradition, and talk of deriving all truth from
their own souls* They have some great truth© at
bottom, but of course wanting the modification
which always come© from looking over the whole
ground and seeing what is due to other truths*
One discussion ha© Pisan out of this movement,
respecting the place which miracles hold In
Christianity * This school rest the religion
wholly on internal evidence.**** In all these
things I see aspiration after something better,
not always wise * how can It be? «* but a presage
of good, whether near or distant*?4
Xt will be noted that Charming speaks of th© transcendent*
©list© in the third person*
So, too, most often, doe©
ISmerson, as may be seen in his lecture on th© subject*
EJmerson wrote in his Journal for April JO, I3j8, tt£ven th©
disciples of the new unnamed or misnamed Transcendentalism
that now is, vain of the same, do already dogmatize and rail
at such a© hold it not, and cannot see the worth of the
antagonism aXsa*tt?5
And four years later he wrote again.
^transcendentalism la the Saturnalia of faith*
faith run mad*
It Is
Charming expressed m&dified approval and
Corson expressed modified censure of the new movement*
Both were modified transoendentaliat© themselves, yet
remained aloof from the dance of the whirling dervish.*
Religious Idea®, man*eentered, were of first Importance
to Channing and Emerson*
thus a large segment of their
Interlocking circles has been considered#
It must be
remembered that each man had much of his circle to himself
For Channing*s Ideas of the Imitation of Christ,
ant ^Catholicism, and the Sunday School, Emerson had little
For Emerson*e jM©w^Platon 1am, Oriental scripture®,
Creek philosophy Channing had little interest*
But the fact
remains that many of their interests In religious ideas were
Identical, and their processes of thought had ©any subtle
It was natural that th© older man, friend and
pastor of the Emerson family as well as an eloquent speaker
and stimulating thinker, should exert an influence on the
Most of the ideas which Emerson expressed to the
world he would probably have developed had there been no
Channing, but the paths of direction might not have been so
clearly staStred*
The ideas of these two m n who almost filled
the Boston sky between 1810 and 1840 would, If arrived at
with complete Independence, be interesting in their slmlX**
aritiea as clarifying each the other and as representative
of the
Channing and Emerson were all their lives
preachers, with exhortation on their tongues rather than
denunciation^ and with a belief that in each man* if he
will* lie© hi© own salvation*
Time play© It© own trick© with the names that ar©
on th© public tongue In any age*
Until hi© death In 1842
th© Rev* William Ellery Channing undoubtedly had wider
recognition than Emerson* who had already published ffatuye
SSSM&. £i£f£ .S*.r**». and who had already given hi©
Phi Beta Kappa and Divinity School Addresses*
In a
hundred years Channing has receded into th© distance*
Orestes Brownson* according to a recent biographer* was
known throughout America in i860} In 1957 a gang of boys
knocked hi© statue off its pedestal in Riverside Park and
there were ttdifficulties in identifying th© subject of the
memorial**1 Channing has riot com© to such a state of affairs*
but how faintly his light shines beside Emerson* s brighter
Why should the balance tremble and swing so wide and
great an arc within a century?
An analysis of the difference
between Ghannlng and Emerson should give us hints*
Ghannlng is not completely dead but walks his little eire le­
st 111* may best be seen* if not fully seen* in a summary of
his point© of contact with Emerson*
An evaluation* a peace
for our times* will bring th© wheel to rest* at least for
th© present*
As a writer Channing was circumspect} Emerson was bold*
Ghannlng*s already heavy style* his long balanced sentences*
his full Arnoldian periods, was made more ponderous by hi©
Every statement 1© qualified, expanded to
preclude misunderstanding*
The argument is slow*
Emerson did not mind being misunderstood*
To state one
side of a question with vigor was sufficient for the
The other side might be stated with equal vigor
at a later time*
Emerson1s sentences are for the most part
direct and unqualified*
They stir up, provoke*
In Emerson1s
style the question mark, th© exclamation point, the simple
sentence with the period, predominate*
to Channing?e style
there are semicolons, colons, and a long awaited period*
Channing was essentially prosaic and sober in style*
editorial Wwett outweighs the ^X"*
His analogies, when he
uses them, are conventional rather than striking*
was always the poet, even In his prose, Intoxicated by his
po@tfs eye, speaking new analogies, new metaphors*
back from Europe in September, 1833* he wrote quietly in his
Journal about a storm at seas
wBut it is a queer place to
make on©*® bed In, the hollows of this immense Atlantic;
Mazeppa^like we are tied to the ©id© of these wild horses
of the Horthwest*,#T?
Emerson himself analyse© style*
A sermon, my own, I read never with Joy,
though sincerely written; an oration, a poem,
another*s or my own, I read with Joy* Is it
that from th© first species of writing, we
© in-not banish tradition, convention, and that
th© last is more easily genuine? Or is It
that the last, being dedicated to Beauty, and
th© first to Goodness, to Burfcy, the Spirit
flies with hilarity and delight to the last;
with domestic obligation and observance only
to th© first? Or is It that the sentiment of
Duty, and the Divinity, shun demonstration,
and do retreat Into silence; they would pervade
all, but they will not be unfolded, exhibited
apart, and a© matter of soienG©?T8
Ghannihg, ©incer© always, nevertheless always wrote
His discourses, addresses, essays wore all
I&ierson according to his own word, saved himself as
a writer by withdrawing from the ministry of a church* by
avoiding the tradition and convention of a system*
though liberal* was always a minister*
to defend*
Charming had a, position
If on© reads much of Charming* one becomes un­
comfortably aware that he is continually urging hi© points
against, object ion e*
He sees always that
some will say*
but we say****11 When hi© objector© weakened and died* so
did much of what Charming had to say*
Emerson could speak
*I*W look around him* and not see the little men at his
feet who might object*
Channing threw his efforts with
good will Into the reforms* the movements of his age*
Emerson ©aid that hi© reform Included all others*
He wrote
in the Journal* *1 have no hope of any good in this piece
of reform from those who wish to reform one thing*
partial reform* like Palmer*©, or Graham1s, or th© praiser
of the country life* Is always an © x t r a v a g a n & a * W h e n
Individual reform© are carried through* th© writing© which
sponsored them* pertinent Indeed for the times* are no
longer pertinent*
Charming*s reform writings, however,
have a large applicability*
War, &nti~slavery, the poor,
laboring classes, temperance, education, associations,
prison reform were hie subjects*
Most of wh&t h© desired
has not been achieved, but h© wrote In terms of hi© age*
Emerson pulled himself out of the ago Into universal
applicability by the bootstraps Of a larger view*
Charming Is saved from complete eclipse by hi® stand
on principles* the goodness of Cod* the greatness of man*
the Importance of morality and reason*
These are the
Informing principle® of the religious ideas of both
Charming and Emerson#
Such a philosophy led them to
object to the Galvlnistlc atmosphere into which they were
It gave the tone to their ideas of religious reform
and to their positive religious concepts*
It also kept
them from th© excesses of transcendentalism*
Because th® Influence of Calvinism In New England
was still extensive and pernicious# as Channlng thought* in
the years Just following 1800# his own stand for liberal
Unitarian thought and freedom of inquiry urged against a
system of exclusion and denunciation was particularly
From 1819 on for more than a decade Channlng
pointed out that the five thorny points of Calvinism were
incompatible with human reason* and h© preferred that men
should follow truth rather than a sect*
Emerson* having
shaken off Calvinism in his young years# preached to his
parish In 1830 against the dangers of party spirit in re­
ligion because party Is exclusive*
In their positive re­
ligious ideas Channlng and Emerson filled the gap which
would be l©ft by retreating orthodoxy#
Channlng# although
usually biblical In language about deity, ©tressed the like­
ness of man*s soul to Cod# stopping just short of an equation
of th© two*
Emerson completed th© equation*
on© sublime idea was a high estimate Of human n&tur®* of
man*© reason* freedom of will* and moral power*
The respect
which the individual must have for himself* for his moral
and Intellectual ©elf* is at the core of Emerson’s mees&g©
to th© world*
Channlng ©aw that sin was its own greatest
punishment* that it was negative* he ©aw that salvation for
a b©d man is to make him good*
Emerson felt even more
©trongly that crime and punishment are inseparable flower
and fruit* that virtu© and wisdom as additions of being are
the only things for which man doe© not hove to pay in being
Channlng and Emerson earn© from the background of
Calvinism to the foreground of transcendentalism*
own liberal religion* coupled with an insistence on th©
©pen mind* led their contemporaries to consider them th©
two leader© of th© transcendental movement#
The leaders*
however* reserved the right to criticise as well as to
commend and held themselves aloof from extravagance*
There were no other men* approaching equal stature*
who In the ©am© period took the stand of Charming and
Th© parallelism of the two men rests primarily
in their notably single voice in declaring large ideas
of (3-od and man* In crying HMind* mind*11 in seeing th©
Importance of individuals and of character* in tailing a
stand of optimism for th© future and criticism for the
present* in returning to moral goodness aa a summum bonum#
These ideas are eentral in the thought of the two men*
Early express©#* they are never forgotten} and th© last
utterance affirms them as strongly aa th© first#
that Emerson speaks to th© modern mind, that his star
Is high, hardly needs statement#
Listen to the preacher,
the orator, who can find little hotter to say than what he
has already said#
And It is Emerson who will carry Channlng
along with him, at least for a way#
Taken out of the hands
of ministers Channlng would say much to the present to make
it hear*
His writings would have to be cut to th© bone;
throw away ten parts for every part retained#
But a strong
enunciation of the worth of man, of hi© human capacities,
should not be lost in a world where man has com© to a sorry
state of affairs#
Channlng to th© historian of American
thought must continue to be a figure of primary Importance*
Channlng1s permanent, Intrinsic value may be bound by a
small circle; but it deserves to be seen, somewhere below,
but in the path of, Emerson*s larger light*
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals. VI, p* 447,
thla tltlo will ho referred ho as Journals.
See John White Chadwick, William Slier* SteBlSS.
st Sails,las,
p- 5a
Nor dleoueelon of thla personal relationship see
The ideas of Emerson and Channlng about man In
society gather themselves around concepts of reform
and Americanism.
The state and the individual,
self-reliance, American Intellectual Independence of
Europe, literature, the arts, and biography are all
aspeots of a parallelism In social doctrine which
would make a logical study for a future paper.
Arthur C. MoGiffert, Jr., ed., young Emerson jpeafe.a,
p. xxxviil
Journals. Ill, p. 466
See Earl M. Wilbur, Our Ilnltarlan Heritage, p. 389 ff.,
J. w. Chadwick,
olt., p. 84 ff., G. W. Cooke,
Unltarlanlsa 1b
P* 57 ff.
Journals, VI,p53
J. w. Chadwick, jjp. clt.. p. 64
I£M*» P79
William Henry Channlng, jThe Mfc.
o£ William
Channlng. £. £.. p. 185
William Ellery Channlng, Works, p. 461
Ibid.. pp. 462-63
I28EB&&S. II. PP. 32*53
Ralph L. Rusk, ed., I M tetters. £f Ralph WftMg
Emerson. X, p. 170.
Hereafter thla title will he
referred to aa Letters.
Journals. II, p* 304
. ait.,
A. 0 . neoiffert, Jr., ed.,00
J. w. Chadwick, pp. clt..p. 179
Bee Ibid.. p. 337
w. S. Channlng, Works, pp. 6*7
pp. 86*7
See J. w. Chadwlok, ap.clt.. p. 256
See A. C. HoOlffart,Jr.,ed., as*olt.. p. x n
Xbid.. I, p. 325
I. P* 169
Ralph Waldo Emerson, S M Complete Works. II, pp. 268-69.
Hereafter this title will be referred to ae works,
Xbid.. XX, pp. 271-72
see Arthur M. Schlesinger,Jr., Orestes a* Brownaon,
p * 26
w. E. Channlng, works, p. 291
JSii*. P* 297
Ibid.. p. 338
Ibid.. p. 1
Letter?. X, p. 138
w. E. Channlng, Works, p. 944
Ibid.. p. 299
£SB£2$&M» II. P* 224
Ibid.. XX, 239
W, E. Channlng, Works.
Journal?. XI, pp.- 286-87
I M A . . Ill, pp. 200-01
m s M » H , p ST1
p. 340
w. e. Channlng, Works. p. 970
J. w. Chadwick, 22. clt.. p. 246
w. E. Channlng, Works, p. 350
J M S * , P* 1012
Ibid.. p. 380
Ibid.. p. 232
Ibid.. p. 419 ff.
Ibid.. p. 1010
A. C. MeOlffert, Jr., ed., ofi* elt..p.7 ff.
Xbid.. p. 177 ff.
Works. XI, p. 94 ff.
Xbid.. X, pp. 122-23
Xbid.. I,p.l28
MttflEft. X,pA38
Works. IX, p. 66
w. e. Channlng, Works, pp. 940-41
works. X, p. 119
See Clarence L. F. Gohdes, Xhe
Periodicals of American
59 Xbid.. p. 9
Ibid.. p. 11
Xbid., p • 25
A reeent article, both superficial and misleading,
ha* brought the author* b spotlight on Channlng,
and has attempted to establish at least two points.
First, Channlng was not a transoendentallst; second,
Emerson "does not indicate that Channlng had ever
particularly influenced his thinking, nor does there
appear definite evidence to that effeot in Emerson* s
writing." (Arthur I. Ladu, "Channlng and
Transcendentalism," American Literature. XI, pp. 13537$
There is "definite evidence," however, to render
the article suspect-
A definition of transcendentalism
in four lines by Frothinghaa, who said that
transcendentalism "had a creed, and a definite one"
and who proceeded to give it one, is rather glibly
and too faoilely accepted by the writer.
A more
reputable eritio has stated that "Amsrioam
transcendentalism-.-has never been satisfactorily
It is as difficult to deal with as the
Mew Humanism.
"A clear-cut analysis is hindered not
only by the ramifications of the subject into every
field of human thought, but by the absence of a
definite set of principles with whloh to deal."
( C. L. F. Gobies, o p
clt.. p* 1, p. 10)
There is
further evidence.
In view of Emerson*s long acquaintance
with Channlng, the most striking fact,
perhaps, about his references to the
great preacher is their infrequency and
their casual character. Only in seven
entries in his dournale does Emerson
mention Ohannlng, and when he does, his
comments, as we have seen, are brief
and meetly matter-of-fact.
(A. 1. Ladu, op,* olt■. p. 135)
with the first of these two sentences, remembering
the "perhaps11 and hawing reached a different
oonelueion as to Channlng* a Influence on Emerson
from the author'e, 1 could agree*
umfortunately not true*
fhe second Is
One can look in the laden
volume to the Journals and find very neatly seven
references to Dr. Channlng, two of which are "death
If, however, one reads the Journals
themselves, at least thirty-two times, by count,
does Emerson "mention" Dr. Channlng before October
S, 104sj and there are several references to the
Doeter after his death.
Channlng was, in a sense,
a transeendentallst; and he did, In a degree not
negligible, Influence Emerson.
It was not quite
wisdom to contradict flatly Charles P. Richardson,
Harold c. Ooddard, Vernon U
Farrington, Henry K.
Rowe, Clarence Cohdes, John White Chadwick, Cabot,
and Holmes, not to mention Channlng and Emerson.
C. J. Woodbury, Talks with
pp. 108 - 09
C. L. P. Qohdes, OB. clt..p. 8
w o r k s . I,
Ibid.. I, p. 330
lyid., I, pp. 339-40
Quoted in v. L. Farrington, Main Currente jp
Amorloan fbonabt. IX,p3S3*p»384
W« H, Cbanning, mop#
mmm* •clt..
mmtmmmm w «
A* 1* ladu, gp. olt.. p. 137
q. E. Morton, 1£& Correapondonce
si Tboaae
sad £aie£ g&Ma seessb. *» p* 47 **“•
Oliver Wendell Holnoa, jt&lpb Waldo SSS$E2B» P* 149
william Siler? Churning, Correspondence
Ellers' Cbannlm. J>. j»., an# Issey AUK In, from 1626.
to 1842. p. 367
Journal*, »r,pA34
&mmmjimm w
Xbid.. Ill, p, 203
Xbid., V, p. 39
Ibid.. V, p. 228
VI*w *p.
Channlng, william Ellery, JJ* S a $ M M
Channlng. jg. jg.
i B M s a SUOEK
Beaton: American Unitarian
Association, 1886.
Complete in one volume.
Churning, William Ellery, Correspondence si william
mmat fiMaMsa. £• »• to 1842.
iaisz ilMa. hbbi
Boston: Roberta, 1874*
Chadwick, Cohn White, William Ellery Channlng. mlnlater
Si religion. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 190?.
Channlng* william Henry, £ M
Channlng. g» g,
si flMLlii IM.Siar.
Boston: American Unitarian
Association, 1904.
Frothlnghaa, Paul R., lilllsi gll « , ffMaMaa. M s
ite smeis-
n- p*. 1903.
orear, Claude, The SlgnifioanciLe of phannlng* a Unltarlanlsa..
University of Chieago, M. A. Thesis, 1910.
Peabody, Elizabeth Palmer, Reminiscences si SSt* William
Ellery Channlm. jg. jg.
Boston: Roberts, 1880.
Rellhan, Theodore, "Quelques idees do Channlng sur l’hoame
et sur Jesus*Christ au point do la redemption."
Strasbourg: n. p., 1359.
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, ££& Complete Works o£ Ralph Waldo
Emerson. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1903.
12 vol.
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, The Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1914.
«*** «*•» l&t .fasIftsgi
10 vol.
st Sate.
Mow fork: Columbia University Frees,
6 vol .
St S & S 1 M
Norton, c. E., od., £ M
Carlyle ana Ralph Waldo Baerepn.
Boston: 1888.
3 vol.
MoOiffert, Arthur c., Jr.. od., %ggag HfflMflR g»Hfct«
Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1938.
Cabot, Janos E» , & Memoir pf Ralph Waldo Eperspn,,.
Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1887 *
2 vol.
Holmes, Oliver Wendell, Ralph S d M S SlSESaS*
Houghton Mifflin, 1898.
Perry, Bliss, Emerson Today. Princeton, New Jersey:
Woodbury, Charles J., Talks with ftalph Waldg
London: 1890.
Brooks, Van wyok,
at JSffit iBSUffii.
»* P»*
E. p. Dutton, 1937*
Cooke, George Willis, UnltartantSR is &aasig&*
American Unitarian Association, 1910.
Oohdes, Clarence L. F.,
perlodloals si American
Durham, North Carolina: Duke
University Press, 1951*
y&rringicn, V c r m n hou%&9 Mato Currents in Amsrioan
Hew Xorfei Haro ourt , Brace and G ompany, 1927 •
Sohlesinger, Arthur u. Jr., SESlSSS ipilgrim*a progress.
®£2SMM> &
Boston: Little, Brown, 1939*
Wilbur, Earl Morse, Oar Unitarian Heritage.
The Be&eon Frees, 1925•
Isfln, Arthur 1., "Channlng and Transcendentalism,"
American Literature, Bay, 1939, XX, Ho. a.
On the twenty-*fifth day of May, 1803, Halpb Waldo
Emerson was horn in Boston*
On® week later, on June the
first, William Ellery Cbaimlng was ordained to the ministry
and installed as pastor to the congregation of the Federal
Street Church, also In Boston*
It would be plausible to
suppose that Channlng soon became aware of the child*
Ministers in the city of Boston certainly knew
each other
better then than today, oven if they did frown on theological
departures from their own views*
And Channlng would have
been sympathetic rather than not with the views of th© Rev*
William Emerson, Waldo*a father and minister sine© 1799 of
the First Church in Boston*
For they both had liberal
In the earliest years of th© nineteenth century
the face on th© conservative side of the coin was Jedi&lah
A Dr* Archibald Alexander relates in 1801,
I was presented to Dr* Morse, who greeted
me oordially, and invited me to Charlestown* A
dozen venerable looking clergymen were present,
some with fullbottomed white wigs* there is as
yet no public line of demarcation among th© clergy*
One might learn with ease what each man believed#
or rather did not believe, for few positive
opinions were expressed by th© liberal party* Dr*
Kirkland was said to be a Soolnian, as was Mr*
Popish! and Dr# Howard an Arian* Dr* Eekley had
professed to be an Edward©an, but he came out#
after my visit, a high Arlan* Mr* Emerson a
Unitarian of some sort**.*Dr* ireeman# one of
the first who departed from orthodoxy, was the
lowest of all, a mere humanitarian* ** -Dr. Morse
was considered a rigid Trinitarian*^
Dr* Charles JLwwo.ll noted at on© time that "Mr* Emerson was
a man of good sense* **.im his theological opinions he was#
to say it*© least, far from having any sympathy
church and parsonage and religious
sympathies of William Emerson were not very far removed from
Oharming* a$ there were only a few blocks between Ohauneey
tlaee and the c o m e r of Federal and Franklin streets*
good clergymen of Boston would remark the birth of a eon to
one of themselves*
But at this time Channlng was not the unorthodox
religious thinker he later became*
Members of the Federal
Street Society were Inclined toward conservatism, and they
did not find their new minister in a position incompatible
with their own*
Furthermore, although Channlng this early
expressed his dissatisfaction with certain views of Calvinism,
the trinity, the depravity of man, and a© he saw it, the
depravity of 0odf there was a Calv inistic streak In the man
partly due to his asceticism and the ill health and gloomy,
sober outlook which accompanied It,
He had in the years Just
preceding his pastorate been strongly impressed by th© ©tern,
forceful Dr# Samuel Hopkins of Hewport, at the same time
that he was repelled by his doctrine of predestination*?
But there was a ^steady gravitation” of Charming* © mind toward
the liberal party of a liberal church and toward transcend
dental Ism*
fhe members of his congregation for the most
part grew with him or were not offended by the change so
slowly effected*
Until 1811 Charming gave almost no indications
of th© theological fight to com© t fron 1811 until 1815 such
Indications f e U with In creasing frequency one upon th© other*
On May 12* 1811* the Rev# William Emerson, being
young and not full of years, died*
event the widow moved her family to
Shortly after this sad
a house on Beacon
street, Where the Athenaeum was to be erected some four
decades later*
the Emersons were still not far from
Charming* s church* which they attended in these years and
Channlng became not only pastor of Ruth H&skIns
Emerson and sons but apparently of Mary Moody Emerson as
well, which may seem strange*
It was said of Aunt Mary that
she wanted everyone to be a Calvinist but herself, although
It seems she winked at some of Channlng1© sermons and saved
the breadth of her hand for Ralph Waldo when she thought
her nephew went Mtoo far#11
In the year 1815 the minister
at Federal Street took up the gage for the liberal
Unitarians and made himself conspicuous In a controversy*
standing over against Dr* Mores and the Rev* Samuel Worcester*
His sermons In these years must have shown Increasing fire;
and in 1815 Waldo was twelve years old*
Rusk, In his introduction to Emerson*s Correspon&ance,^
is surprised that Dr* Channlng leaves such a 11small mark” on
the letters*
Xet In the very casualness of Emerson* a
references to his pastor there seems to b© a recognition
that their relationship Is not so new and strange as to
demand special comment*
On October 1, 1817 the boy of
fourteen wrote to his brother, Edward,
As to Intelligence, we have none here but
what 1a melancholy....Dr. McKesn is going a
voyage for health from which it is very much
feared he will never return:-— and Mr Thatcher
was spoken of today In prayer as if it were
doubtful If be be ret gllve**»Mr Lowell and Mr
Channlng are both feeble ©spec ially the former*6
It la* perhaps, natural that the eon of a minister in the
ministers! Boston of the 1010* s Should regard the health
of the city* s ministers as Important HIntelligence #w
In the
last years of the decade Emerson was at Harvard* studying
enough to satisfy but not to astonish his professors and
writing in his Journal#
And In 1819 Channlng preached hie
most famous sermon at Baltimore for the ordination of the
Rev# Jared Sparks* of which sermon Bseveral edition© were
at once p r i n t e d ; h e had summed up the controversy, stated
a position for liberal Unitarians* and left the quarrel*
except for a few scattered shots in the twenties* to those
who llfced, better than he, theological argumentation#
ffee ministry as a profession could never have been
very long out of I&ersdn* © head#
%n 181? at th© beginning
of his college life* MB©0 volente*w he wrote to his brother,
Aunt Betsy is very much grieved she says that
I go to Cambridge instead of ProvIdenee***#I
hope going to ffabridge will not prevent some
future time my being as good a minister as if 2
came all Andovered from Providence *.«
Emerson was graduated from Harvard, quietly enough, on
August 39, 1821#
But there had been an event of the spring
before which made a lasting, if not an Immediate, impression
on him*
Ralph Waldo, the Harvard senior, heard Channlng* s
Budielan Lecture* delivered before the University in
th© 14th of March# 1821#
Th® subject of the
lecture ©as wfhe Evidence© of Revealed Religion;11 and It
contained# at
least germinally# many ideas which would have
theyoung man1 a attention# although tie seemed even
more Impressed by the manner and the approach*
For the three years following his graduation
Emerson found himself at what was to him# to say the least#
a pedestrian task# helping his brother william teach a school
for girls in Boston*
Waldo was "marking time**1
was still a subject for the Journals
Mr* Charming, and Mr* Morton# and Mr. Buck*
minister make good the place of Athanasius, at*
Cyril# and Bernard..*, and Mr* Everett will
serve for many arpollie and dignified archbishop
who staid at hose and kept his choice rhetoric
for the ear of kings....What can th© reason be
why a priest of whatever god# under whatever form#
should in every clime and age be Open to suchQ
liberal abuse# and to ineradicable suspicion?*
In October of 1823 Emerson was particularly struck by a
sermon of Channlng1©.
He wrote to Aunt Mary,
Br Channlng is preaching sublime sermons
every Sunday rnorlng in Federal St. on© of which
I heard last Sunday# A which infinitely surpassed
Everett1© eloquence* It was a full view of the
subject of the light of Revelation compared with
Mature A to shew the Insufficiency of the latter
alone* Revelation was as much a part
of the order of things as any other event iu the
In his Journal f&erson noted this same sermon*
"I have heard
no sermon approaching in excellence to this, since the Dudleian
The language was a transparent medium, conveying
with the utmost distinctness the pictures in his mind to th®
mind of th© hearers."
Emerson adds several sentences to
indicate more precisely the content of the sermon, concluding
with th® remark* 11it would h&v© boon wise to have made an
abstract of the Discourse immediateiy*®XI 'Th© time for a
decision was at hand*
Emerson* as he often did* took inventory and
rendered an account of his stock* this on April 18* 1824s
I am beginning my professional studies# In
a month I shall b© legally a man# ted I Caliber*
ately dedicate my time* my talents* and my hopes
to the Church# Man is an animal that looks before
and after j and I should be loth to reflect at a
remote period that I took so solemn a step in my
existence without some careful examination of my
past and present life# *•#
X cannot dissemble that my abilities are
below my ambition#*## X have* or had* a strong
imagination* and consequently a keen r©li(
sh for
the beauties of poetry###* My reasoning faculty
is proportionably weak* nor can I ever hope to
writ© a Sutler*s Analogy or an Essay of Hume. Nor
is it strange that with this confession X should
choose theology* which is from everlasting to
everlasting *debate able ...-ground#* For the highest
species of reasoning upon divine subjects is
rather the fruit of a sort of moral imagination*
than of the *Reasoning Machines*1 such as Locke
and Clark© and David Hume* Dr# Channlng* s
Dudleian Lecture is the model of what X mean*
and the faculty which produced this is akin to
the higher flights of th© fancy
Channlng was in his mind when h© made his decision! more
eannot safely be said*
In a letter to William* his brother*
Emerson wrote on July 8 * 1824*
I would add that Gannett is ordained Colleague
of Dr Channlng A the Dr*& Ordination Sermon is
expected from the press with unmeasured applause#.**
I take a hebdomadal walk to Mr \Cunnj Ingham or
Dr# c# for the sake of saying X am studying divinity#
& not to have 3 years of poprtith when school
deserts me# as it may* nay* will* for they wax
old* ***13
"wax old** are th© girl© of the school in which
Emerson was teaching*
Dr* 0* is, of course* Charming.
Cabot reports in th© Memoir that at this time Iverson turned
to "one or two clergymen1* whom h© knew well for assistance*
©specially to Channlng*
Dr* Ohanning received him. kindly, gave him
a list of hooks to read, and was ready to talk
with him from time to time, hut would not under**
take the direction of hie studies; Indeed* seemed
to h© hardly capable, Emerson said, of taking another
person1 a point of view, or of communicating himself
freely in private conversation. Neither of them
was particularly gifted in this respect, and they
never really came together* 14
nevertheless the lists of hooks and the talks were some
direction; and it was undoubtedly on Channlng1s advice that
iSmeraon continued M s work, well begun on his own Initiative,
at the newly organised Harvard Divinity School, returning to
11college chamber* at Cambridge, ae he himself said,
*a little changed for better or worse since 1 left it in
Waldo had, of course, written to his aunt about
his proposal to study theology at Harvard; and Aunt Mary had
answered her nephew
with her usual vigor in a letter which
was recorded in the journal, December 6 , 1824*
H© talks of th© Holy Ghost. God of Mercy
what a subject*... .Would to God thou wert more
ambitlous-^respeoted thyself more and the world
less. Thou wouldst not to Cambridge..**Xi is
but a garnished sepulchre where may be found some
relics of the body of Jesus— some grosser parts
which he took not at his ascent, and which tthe
College, ©d.j will be forgotten and buried forever
beneath the flowrets of genius and learning, if
the master**spirits of such as Appleton, Chalmers
and Steward and the consecrated Channlng do not
rescue it by a crusade of faith and lofty
devotion*.»* ■*
Them you do not go to Stewart |at Andover*
©d.1 you might lihe him* though ho m k m mouths
at th© heartless*.. .He ihln&s a man.-in pursuit
ox greatness feels no little wants* Why did
you not study under the wing of Ghanning which
was never pruned at Cambridge? If he advised
Cambridge|*#.Alas that you are thereil©
ti spite of his aunt*s admonishment on February 9* 1825
Halph Waldo went to Cambridge*,
Channlng*© part in the founding of the Divinity
School at Harvard ahswid be noted in passing#
If* as Aunt
Mary said* his wing© were never pruned there, he had never*
the less studied theology at Cambridge in 1002 Hunder the
guidance of President Willard and Professor fappan***^
provisions for such study were manifestly inadequate and
were still so in 1810* when Channlng wrote and published
Observations on the proposition for increasing the means
Of theological education at the University In Cambridge*H
This was the opening gun In a campaign to raise fund© for
the establishment of professorships and for a building to
house the activities of a theological school.
name led the list of subscribers* and its h o m y attracted
many citizens to follow suit.
The professorships were
established first* and the school was organized* or re­
organized* In 1819#
Chammlng delivered th© discourse at
th© dedication of Divinity Hall In 1826*
The Doctor1®
personal Interest in the theological school at Gambridge*
together with its liberal theology* undoubtedly led him to
urge Emerson to go there#
Because of unfortunately poor
health and failing eyes* however* Emerson1© residence at
Cambridge for hi© ministerial preparation was spasmodic
He was* In ©pit® of the interruption© to hi© study*
^Approbated to preach” by & proper association of proper
ministers without a very thoroughgoing examination on
aetbberio* 1 8 2 6 *
Emerson wrote again ©f Channlng to his aunt shortly
after his approbation and in the following winter* when
he had gone south for his health* recalled his "pastor* to
mind with enthusiasm*
To William he wrote In April* 1827*
*1 rejoice in the triumphs of truth*
I am glad when &o&
touches with fire such minds aa Charming I feel the swift
contagion that Issues from such as he & stimulates the young
to purposes of great & awful effort* etc**1®
And to Edward
in May he wrote* "aiad of Br* Channlng* as some amends for
the dullness* 1 fear X can* t say degeneracy* of the pulpit
in the whole c o u n t r y * T o Aunt Mary* "Edward hath a ©parte
of grace for he writes me with enthusiasm almost about sundry
sermons of Dr* Channlng*"^0
for two years Emerson fulfilled
various preaching engagements* and at the same time was caught
up In personal and family troubles*
His own health was still
weak; he became engaged to Ellen Tucker* who was consumptives
his brother Edward* s health was ruined to the point of insanity*
On the 11th March, 1829 Emerson was ordained as colleague of
the Bev* Henry Ware at Second Church in Boston and became
the sole pastor shortly afterward when Mr* Ware resigned to
accept a theological professorship at Harvard*
In the course
of the next three years Emerson was married to Ellen, who
died in the second year of ,their marriage; and he came to
a s e c o M and gf&yer professional deeislon*
tn the year I&&9 Emerson noted several times,
usually with approval, that Channlng wa® writing for a
"Quarterly*1 Into'which *fhe Christian Examiner** had been
He mentioned particularly the article on Fenelon.
On the 26th May, I83 O Emerson and Channlng shared In the
election day ceremony in the city of Boston#
Charles wrote
to William, "Waldo was chaplain on Election day.
I envied
him his comfortable seat In the Pulpit*11 The election
sermon, "before the governor and both houses of the legist
lature," was Channlng* 0 , as Emerson wrote to William, 11Dr
Channlng entertained us one hour thirty five minutes
yesterday with a noble discourse*"2^
If the minutes of the
discourse were carefully noted, so was the nobility*
in these years Channlng and Emerson were often in conversation
with one another#
In the winter of 1830^31 Channlng went
to St# Croix in the West Indies for his own and his wife1©
He saw there th© unfortunate Edward, who had been
sent, after a nervous er&ok^up, to th© Islands where h© was
to die*
In June, 1831 Waldo wrote to Edward, "I rejoice to
hear of yr mending health#
Pleas© Cod It mend more & faster*
Dr Channlng gave mother in y© street a good account of you &
has promised to come and tell the rest*"22
An exchange of
pulpits was at this time customary in Boston#
W© know that
Emerson preached from the pulpit at Federal Street for
Channlng in 183®*^
And on December 25# 1831 he wrote to
Edward, "The Sunday Evg lectures begin this Evg Dr Channlng
wae %e have ■preached ye ftret at my church*
when I told Mr
Parkman yt he wdi not, he broke out #with all my respect for
genlua that man 1 ® a plague to Christendom #*
That1© for
It Is clear that "genius" felt It had certain
rights, also
w&© at times annoying#
But it is
reasonable to suppose that Chaming did fulfill obligations
and had preached or would preach at Second Church for
In a letter to Charles, January 19, 1832 Emerson,
who was becoming more critical of the Doctor, wrote,
Friend Taylor of Eebulon of ships made his
plea in behalf of ye Sailors last Monday Ev®
to a .crowded congregation at Dr Channlng*® with
most impressive eloquence* Dr C# heard ye whole*
G r l a d was I to have y© Dr hear somebody as good
~ as himself do what he could not* Fifteen thousand
dollars will be subscribed, tls thot, to the
Port See *®
It isremarked
by William Henry Channlng in the Memoir of
his unel© that Dr* Channlng headed Taylor*© subscription
list and was heldin
th© gratitude of Father Taylor for
opening the door© of
th© Federal Street Church to him#2®
In December, 1832, two month© after resigning his pastoral
care, Emerson sailed for Europe*
In England Wordsworth and Coleridge spoke to Emerson
about Charming whom they had seen on Ills European trip In
Emerson returned to America In September, 1833,
refreshed and ready to work on lectures and th© writing
of hi© book, Mafeuriju.
- He continued to preach as a supply
minister, It should be remembered, until 1840#
Charmin® 1&
name often made its way Into the Journal, at time® In such
good company as Homer* Sh&kapearc* ©nd Webster*
bewailed the hypocrisy into which a writer or a man Mnoi
alone* might be led* indicting himself and by analogy
identifying himself with Channlng*
What mischief is in this art of writing* An
unlettered man considers a fact* to learn what
it means!.the lettered man does not sooner see
it than it occurs to him how it can be told*#*#
He has a. morbid growth of ©y@s| he sees with
his feet# What an unlucky creature is pr*
Channlng* Let him into a room} would not all
the company feel that, simple as he looked*
the oat was not more vigilant* that he had th©
delerlum tremens and its insomnolency, that he
heard what dropped from any as if he read it in
Emerson applauded as a sign of the times a growing cry for
*a systematic Moral Education® and listed the names of the
criers*1Channlng* Coleridge* Wordsworth* Owen* DeGerando*
Spursheim* Bentham#fi®
But the balances of Judgment must
rest on the precious stone1s edge* he Implied! *fhat the
merit of Paul shall not be less because that of Aristotle
is genuine and great* «* 1 call that mean-spirited* if it
were Channlng or Luther that did lt*w $9
Having given Boston a foretaste of his lectures during
the winter of 183>*3Af Emerson prepared a series for the
public In the following year*
Elisabeth Peahody wrote to
her sister about the lecture on Edmund Burk© and told her
that Shierson had promised to lend her th© lectures of the
series to read to Dr* Channlng#?®
Channlng apparently was
made aware of* and was interested in* what Emerson was doing
in the public eyej his daughter* Mary* and Miss Peabody were
the moot enthusiastic of bis informants*
Since Dr* Channlng, on account of the delicacy
of bis health and because be was deaf in one
ear, eould not attend these lectures with
enjoyment or safety# his daughter often borrowed
the manuscripts to read to him; and I never heard
him express anything but pleasure and essential
agreement with them* 3*
Charming was f lfty«*flve years old in April, 1835*
picture of the Doctor is @iv*m by his nephew, William Henryi
After tea, he usually listens for an hour
or more to reading from some of his young relatives
or female friends* interspersing illustrative
remarks, and leading off conversation upon inter**
acting points* then guests come in, strangers to
be Introduced, earnest reformers seeking his
sympathy or advice, familiar acquaintances with
Interesting topics of the day, or member s of the
family who have been to hear Dr* James Walker* e
profound discourses on philosophy, or <alph Waldo
Emerson1s brilliant lectures, where ancient
wisdom smiles with new-born beauty* On the rich
topics thus presented he discourses with full,
soaring thought that lifts the hearer to unwonted
heights, and yet with unaffected deference to t h e „
most careless word of the youngest in the circle*58
And so the years of the thirties pass*
fhese are the years of barter Hesartua. of Channingfs
writings on fiiamx* of Hteerson's yivinlto gfflfrafll *£&£££&•
On 12 March, 1835 Emerson wrote to Carlyle from Concord,
X esteem It the best sign that has shone
in my little section of space for many days,
that some thirty or more intelligent persons
understand and highly appreciate the Say&or*
Dr* Charming sent to m© for it the other day,
and I have since heard that h© had read It with
groat Interest# As soon as I go into town 1
shall so© him and measure hie love***# He
possesses the mysterious endowment of natural
eloquence, whose effect, however intense, is
limited, of course, to personal communication*
I can see myself that his writings, without his
voice, may be meagre and feeble* But please
love his catholicism, that at his age can relish
the Sartor, born and inveterated as he is in the
tld booKii Moreover* he lay awake all night*
he told my friend last week* because he had
learned in the evening that some young men
proposed to issue a Journal* to be called
jEfig. 'frange end gutalleft » as the organ of a
spiritual nhllosoph;;# So much for the gossip
of to*day*53
Carlyle* somewhat surprised and with a slight tone of
deference* asked Emerson to offer his respectful regards
to Dr* Charming*
whom certainly I could not count on for a reader*
or other than a grieved condemnatory onef for 1
reckoned tolerance had its limits* His own
faithful* long^coniinued striving toward what Is
Best, X knew and honored; that he will let me go
my own way thitherward* with a Cfodyspeed from him,
is surely a new honor to us both*5^
In 1836 Emerson sent to Carlyle* "with Dr* Charming* s
regards and good, v/lsiies," the Doctor*s "little work, lately
published" on Slavery*
Emerson wrote in his Journal for
May 4 of that year,
The .Marino Railway* the United States Bank*
the Bunker Hill Monument* are perfectly genuine
works of the times* So is a speech in Congress*
so is a historical discourse, a novel, Chancing1s
work on Slavery* and the volume of Revised
Person often wrote Charming* s name in these months and
those that followed, sometimes to note Channlng9s sympathy
with the Emerson family in distress* or to remark a
conversation with him, sometimes to offer* the good minister
praise, increasingly often to search the man and his works
and to find them wanting#
He had long ago decided that
fulsome praise of anyone, Shakspeare, Hilton, Homer, Plato,
to Include some of his rare enthusuasms, without laying
bare and rejecting, was Impossible for a man with the proper
11Why Is there no genius In the Fin® Arts
in this oonntry?
In sculpture Greenough Is picturesque;
In painting, Alleton; in Boetry, Bryant; in Eloquence,
Channing*** j in all* feminine, no character** 36
on May
19* 1637 Emerson wrote,
Men are continually separating, and not
nearing hy acquaintance# Once Dr# Channing
filled our sky# How we become so conscious of
his limits and of the difficulty attending any
effort to show him our point of view that we
doubt if it be worth while. Best amputate* Then
w- come to speak with those who most fully accord
in life and doctrine with ourselves, arid io*
what mountains high and rivers wide; how still
the word is to seek which can, like a ferry-man,
transport either into the point of view of the
other# Invisible repulsions take effect also.
The conversation Is tentative, groping, only
partially successful; and although real
gratification arises out of It, both parties
are relieved by solitude; I more# I hug the
absolute being* unbroken* undefined, of my
On August
31 of this year Emerson deliverer his Phi Beta
Kappaaddress, The American Scholar, beating on
the bell
with hie silver hammer of "s©lf*trust,M which was to
re§cho in his later lectures*
In Fay, 1038, Emerson wrote
to Margaret Fuller that which he also noted in hie Journal#
So the meeting (of Hedge's Club} was good#
I nevertheless read today with wicked pleasure
the saying ascribed to Kant that 'detestable was
the society of mere literary men *1 It must be
tasted sparingly to keep its gueto* If you do not
quit the high chair, lie quite down, <1 roll on the
ground a good deal, you become nervous & heavy heart-’
ed* The poverty of topics the very names of
Carlyle Cambridge Dr Channl? g & the reviews be*
come presently insupportable* The dog that was
fed on sugar died# no all this summer I shall
talk of chenangoes# & my new garden spout that is
to be* fls>v© you heard of my pig?*.* - and never a
word more of Goethe or Tenbyson#3®
On July 15 h© who would talk ahout Chenango©a ©poke
before th® senior ©la©# In Divinity College# Cambridge*
This was th© occasion of a big tempest in a small teapot#
or# as Emerson ©ailed it# wstorm in our washbowl**
Everybody reacted in some way or other to the speech#
Elisabeth Peabody heard th©'1address# and some time later
wrote to a friend In England that wPr* Channing regarded
the address at Divinity Hall as an entirely justifiable
and needed criticism on the perfunctory character -of
service creeping over th© Unitarian churches at the time#
He hailed the commotion of thought It stirred up as a
sign that 1something did live In th© ©mber©1 of that
spirit which had developed Unltarlanlsm out of the decaying
Puritan churches*1139
That Channing had become annoyed by
the exclusive# 11static direct ion11 of the Unitarian churches#
we know*
We also hear that he did not express complete
approval of the Divinity School Address*
When Miss
Peabody heard ttthat Dr# Channing had said that Mr* Norton
and Mr* Ware had a right to b© off ended# because Mr* Emerson
had gone to an institution expressly founded on the Hew
Testament# to contravene its fundamental principles** she
could not only not believe It but also went to see him to
^hav© a good long t&Xk**^
A biographer of Charming notes
of this conversation reported by Miss Peabody that *th@
main Impression is ©f the extraordinary meekness and
patience with which he submitted to her long drawn series
of q'uestlan©**
Bis replies indicate that he "found
himself In essential agreement with the Address, hut
deprecated its indifference to the miracles and other
fact© of the Hew Testament narration*
He thought Henry
Ware fighting a shadow when contending against Emerson1©
denial of the personality of Cod*
in the Address#
Charming found personality
Be thought* considering on what basis the
Divinity School was founded* that Mr* Emerson would have
been more courteous If he had given the Address elsewhere* W^1
There is yet another story told by a man "who heard that a
man had heard1* Channing expre & surprise that there was a
commotion over the Divinity School Address since he had
himself expressed similar ideas in th© Baltimore sermon of
Evidence seems to indicate the Doctor1© interest
and reserved approval with reserved censure*
In 1840 Emerson1© attention was engaged by the forth*
coming Dial*
He wrote to Margaret Fuller in May about the
difficulty of getting a ©ati©factory Introduction,
Fay have fairly got .Mr Ripley at work to
try his hand in drafting a Declaration of
Independence * when he has tried, suppose we
apply to Dr Channing * Indeed I would ©end
the requisition all round the Table to every
member, & then print the Dial without any, &
publish th©■Rejested Introduction® in a volum©*43
It 1© ©aid that Channing "was at -'irst very hopeful* when
the Dial mad© Its appearance, but afterwards disappointed*
Bo was Emerson#
In 1341 Emerson wrote some letters to
Margaret Fuller with superscriptions, "Care of Rev# Dr*.
Channing," at Hewport, R* I*
In July he told Margaret,
*1 give you Joy off your two friends «# for w* 0* will bo
* oivo a* tiding* 'mm Ouch a# you can of these
relations Say to thou Ecu have a deaf & dumb brother* *■
by nature 0 condition the equal friend of all
t h r e e * * ##*44
In the Journal* Oct* 24* 1841*
I cannot heir aoeing that Doctor Channing
would have been a much greater writer had he
found a strict tribunal of writers* a graduated
Intellectual empire established In the land* and
knew that had logic would not pace* and that the
most severe exaction was to be made on all who
enter these lists*#** Doctor Channing* had he
found Wordsworth* Southey* Coleridge* and Lamb
around him* would as easily have been severe
with himself and risen a degree higher as he has
stood where he i*#45
On October 2* 1842* ft1111am Ellery Channing* minister
and preacher* died In Vermont! and on October 12* Emerson
Inthe Journal* nl think Doctor Channing was intellectual
by dint
of his fine moral sentiment* and not prliosrlly###*”
According to the Journal of a week later Emerson apparently
wrote to Aunt Mary*
Nothing has occurred to interest us so
much as Doctor Channing1s departure* and perhaps
it is snddest that this should interest us no
more* Our broad country has few menj none that
one would die for; worse* none that one could
live for##** For a sick man* b© ha© managed to
shame many sound ones* and seems to have made the
most of his time#*.* A most respectable life; and
deserves the more praise that there Is so much
merely external.#, in it* He seems sometimes
the sublime of calculation* as the nearest that
mechanism could get to the flowing of genius*...
Perhaps 1 think better of him too# His MlMon
and Napoleon were excellent for the time#**# 46
other "death notices* which Emerson wrote of Charming
Ina similar vein* some of them published in the later
essays* Mfh© Preacher* and "Life and letter® in New England11*
Emerson tried to get Margaret Fuller to writ©.an article
about Channing for the Dial. without success*
H© quoted
with approval, as not being superlative, the remark of a
friend who thought Dr* Channing ^capable of virtue*w
Possibl© letter© from Emerson to Channing, a very few,
are suggested by Rusk, but not known*
Letters from Channing
to Emerson, listed as nnot mentioned,w there may have been?
we do not know*
Apparently in only two places does Channing
write the name of Mr* Emerson, and then casually, although
his conversation about him is variously reported*
lips do not willingly open*
The thin
Of Channing*s relatives whom
Emerson knew, two nephews who were cousins to each other,
William Henry and W* Ellery, may have been an occasional
Channel between himself and the Doctor*
He said of the
Channing© that 11they are men of the world? have a little
silex ,in their composition, which gives a good edge, and
protects them like a coat of mail* **^7
On© segment of th© circle has been sketched and filled
Emerson made his entrance In the cradle? Channing bowed
out in the grave#
Of Emerson and Channing we can says here
their lives crossed paths, touched? there a line was drawn **
all with
and respect but with little warmth of feeling*
They were too much alike in temperament for that*
Their real
meetings and departure© were of the mind, not of the body*
Hotea m
3em» m%n& Morse,
Holmes, Ralph Waldo Bmeyson.
John W. CbaawiBk, william SUfflEX
21 religion.
js&iaiah n m m > *•* p* 85
p. 11
P- 55 ff.
Arthur a . McGlffert, Jr., «A., Xounx Emerson gpeahs.
p. all
Ralph L. Ruek, ad., S M
X, p. j&.
IMM,m 9£ lfite& gfcMtt
Hereafter this title will ha
referred to as Lettgra.
I6M-. 1. P* *6
William H. Channing, JJie M I S S£ IW A 8B S B S S I
Letters. I, p. 47
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journala. I, pp. 336-37Hereafter this title will he referred to ae journals.
hatters, r, p. 138
Journals. 1, p * 291
Lett eye.. X, p . 146
James S. Cahot, 4 MemoirRetell
1. pp- 360-61
X, p. 108
Xhld.. 1, H O
Journals. II, pp. 27-29
J. W. Chadwick, £p. felt., p. 59
letters. I, p. 193
Journals. II, p. 202
betters. X, pp» 199*300
Ibid.. I. p. 334
A. c. McOiffert, Jr., ed., 22* & U j.*» P* 2®2
*. P* 309
®4 l&MfiSt#
2® HIS* • *» P* 3** **•
J2ME2Sifi. Ill, PP* 332-33
Ibid.. Ill, p. 348
Ibid.. Ill, p. 419
$&&&&£&» I, P» *39. note.
Elisabeth Palner Peabody, Reminiscences of Or.
. Channing, £g>. olt.. p. 487
P* 388
W. H. Channing,
330. E. Morton,
alt., p. 684
ed., ££$ SS£?»m9Bftf!.Sfla 2l TfefflWft
ff^ide. Emerson. X, pp. 47 ff.
Ibid.. I,pp. 65 ff.
P* 33
Ibid.. IV, p. 239
&S&2SS. Ii» P* 135
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Works, quoted in note, I, p. 423
E. P. Peabody, j®. Pit.» P* 374
y. w. Chadwick, g®. olt.. p. 353 ff.
See E. D. Head, "Emerson and Theodore Parker"
Ibid.. II, pp. 437-3®
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