Monday, November 21, 2005


Transcendentalist Party Animals

Walter Harding, The Days of Henry Thoreau (1970; rpt. New York: Dover, 1982), p. 137:
Shortly after the newlyweds' arrival, Emerson and Thoreau together paid a formal call of welcome. It was not a success. Each sat in his chair bolt upright and completely ill at ease. Much of the time they sat in embarrassed silence. Hawthorne occasionally propounded a question which Thoreau would answer in a monosyllable. Emerson tried to start a conversation only to have each sentence sound like a royal pronouncement. Finally, in desperation the guests departed.
Harding, p. 174:
Emerson, delighted to have so many stimulating young men gathered around him, decided in the fall of 1844 to organize a weekly discussion group, which was to meet Monday evenings in his library. Alcott, Hawthorne, Thoreau, George Bradford, the Curtis brothers, and Channing were all invited to attend. The first Monday evening there was an uneasy silence as though, as George Curtis recalls, each were asking, "Who will now proceed to say the finest thing that has ever been said?" Finally Alcott made one of his most orphic sayings. Silence. Thoreau made a brief observation. More silence. Emerson beamed and said nothing. Hawthorne shrunk further into the shadowed corner of the room. Finally a bowl of apples was brought in and each munched in silence. When the end of the long evening came, each disappeared his own way into the darkness. Two more Monday evenings they assembled but with no more success.

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