Van Wyck Brooks on: Emerson

More excellence from The Flowering of New England

…generations later, when people spoke of Emerson’s “education,” they put the word in quotation-marks – it was not that he did not know his Greek and Latin, but that he was never systematic.  He had read, both then and later, for “lustres” mainly.  He had drifted first to Florida and then to Europe, and finally settled at Concord…As for the lectures that Emerson was giving in Boston, on great men, history, the present age, the famous lawyer, Jeremiah Mason, when he was asked if he could understand them, replied, “No, but my daughters can.”

To the outer eye, at least, Emerson’s life was an aimless jumble.  He had ignored all the obvious chances, rejected the palpable prizes, followed none of the rules of common sense.  Was he pursuing some star of his own?  No one else could see it.  In later years, looking back, Emerson’s friends, remembering him, thought of those quiet brown colts, unrecognized even by the trainers, that outstrip all the others on the race-course.  He had had few doubts himself.  He had edged along sideways towards everything that was good in his life, but he felt that he was born for victory…

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