Minor Prophets.

From: Transcendentalism in New England: A History (1880)
Author: Octavius Brooks Frothingham
Published: G.P. Putnam's Sons 1880 New York



  THE so-called Minor Prophets of the Old Testament owed that designation to the brevity, rather than to the insignificance of their utterances. They were among the most glowing and exalted of the Hebrew bards, less sustained in their flight than their great fellows, but with as much of the ancient fire as any of them. It is proper to say as much as this to justify the application of the title to the men who claim mention now as prominent in the transcendental movement.

  William Henry Channing is not quite fairly ranked among minor prophets, even on this explanation, for he has been copious as well as intense. A nephew of the great Doctor Channing—a favorite nephew, on account of his moral earnestness, and the close sympathy he felt with views that did honor to human nature and glorified the existence of man,—he grew up in the purest atmosphere that New England supplied—the most intellectual, the most quickening. He was born in the same year with Theodore Parker, and but three months earlier, and was native to the same spiritual climate. He was educated at Harvard, and prepared for the ministry at Cambridge Divinity School, where the new ideas were fermenting. He was graduated the year before Parker entered. His name was conspicuous among the agitators of the new faith. He was a contributor to the “Dial.” In 1848 he published the Memoirs of his uncle, in three volumes, proving his fitness for the task by the sincerity in which he discharged it. In 1840 he translated Jouffroy’s Ethics, in two volumes, for Ripley’s “Specimens of Foreign Standard Literature.” In 1852 he took part in writing the Memoirs of Margaret Fuller, the second volume being chiefly his work. “The Life and Writings of James H. Perkins,” of Cincinnati, a pioneer of rationalism at the West, came more fitly from his pen than from any other. In the “Western Messenger,” which he edited for one year; the “Present,” and the “ Spirit of the Age,” short-lived journals, of which he was the soul; in the “ Harbinger,” to which he was a generous and sympathetic contributor-he exhibited a fine quality of genius. The intensity of his nature, his open-mindedness, frankness, and spiritual sensitiveness, his fervency of aspiration and his outspokenness, made the office of settled pastor and steady routine preacher distasteful to him. He was a prophet who went from place to place, with a message of joy and hope. Meadville, Cincinnati, Nashua, Rochester, Boston, and New York, were scenes of his pastoral service. His preaching was every where attended by the clearest heads and the deepest hearts. In New York his society was composed of free elements altogether, come-outers, reformers, radicals of every description. His command of language, his free delivery, his musical voice, his expressive countenance, his noble air, his extraordinary power of kindling enthusiasm, his affluence and boldness of thought, his high standard of character, made him in his prime an enchanting speaker.

  Very early in his career Mr. Channing committed himself to the transcendental philosophy as interpreted by the French School, for he possessed the swiftness of perception, the felicity of exposition, the sensibility to effects, the passion for clean statement and plausible generalization that distinguish the French genius from the German and the English. The introduction to Jouffroy’s Ethics contained the principles of the French school of philosophy, which, to judge from his approving tone he had himself accepted.

  That Psychology is the basis of Philosophy.

  That the highest problems of Ontology may be solved by inductions from the facts which Psychology ascertains. That Psychology and the History of Philosophy reciprocally explain each other.

  With these ideas firmly fixed in his mind he went forth on a prophetic mission, to which he remained unfalteringly true.

  We saw him first at a convention in Boston called by the reformers who demanded the abolition of the gallows. There were several speakers—Edwin H. Chapin, then in the days of his moral enthusiasm, Wendell Phillips, already known as an agitator and an orator—all spoke well from their different grounds, but the image of Channing is the most distinct in mind to-day. His manner, attitude, speech, are all recalled. The arguments he used abide in memory. He wasted words on no incidental points of detail, but at once took his I stand on the principle of the idealist that man is a sacred being, and life a sacred gift, and love the rule of the divine law. Chapin thundered; Phillips criticized and stung; Channing burned with a pure enthusiasm that lifted souls into a celestial air and made all possibilities of justice seem practicable. He did not argue or denounce; he prophesied. There was not a word of scorn or detestation; but there were passages of touching power, describing the influence of gentleness and the response that the hardest hearts would give to it, that shamed the listeners out of their vindictiveness. On the anti-slavery platform his attitude was the same” There was no more persuasive speaker.

  In the controversy between the Unitarians of the transcendental and those of the opposite school, Mr. Channing’s sympathies were with the former, but he took no very prominent public part in it. He was averse to controversy; questions of sectarian opinion and organization had little interest for him. His mind lived in broad principles and positive ideas; the method he believed in was that of winning minds to the truth by generous appeals, and so planting out error. Against everything like injustice or illiberality, his protest was eager, but he was willing to leave polemics to others; what he said was in the strain of faith in larger and more inclusive beliefs. He had a passion for catholicity, which came partly from his temperament, and partly from the eclecticism he professed. His word was reconciling, like his influence, which was never associated with partisanship.

  Mr. Channing was early attracted to the bearings of the spiritual philosophy on the problems of society, the elevation of the working classes, the rescue of humanity from pauperism and crime. As an interpreter of Christian socialism his activity was incessant. He took part in the discussions .that led to the experiment of Brook Farm, and was acquainted intimately with the projecting of it, having himself entire faith in the reorganization of society on principles of equity. Had circumstances permitted—he was then minister to a church in Cincinnati and much occupied with professional duties—he would have connected himself with the Brook Farm Association. As it was, he visited it whenever he could, spending several days at a time. In 1844, when the union was formed with the New York Socialists and the leaders went out to enlighten and stimulate public sentiment on the subject, Mr. Channing did faithful work as a lecturer. He was president of the Boston Union of Associationists, and wrote a book on the Christian Church and Moral Reform. From the first, being of a speculative, philosophical and experimental turn of mind, he entertained more systematic views than were common among New England socialists, but the principle of love was always more to him than opinions or schemes. His views coincided with Fourier, but his heart was Christian. On the failure of the associated plans of his friends, and the cessation of interest in Socialism on this side of the Atlantic, his thoughts turned towards the Christian Church as the providentially appointed means of obtaining what the Utopians had failed of reaching. He was never a Churchman; never abandoned the views that made him an independent preacher; but he never lost faith in the ministry; his hopes turned toward the institutions of religion as having in them the ideal potencies he trusted; he looked for faith and love in the Gospel, and sought to draw out the lessons of charity that were inculcated by Jesus; to deliver these from the hands of the formalists and sectarians; to make peace between parties and churches; to discover common ground for all believers to stand and labor on—was his aim. Had his faith not been inclusive of all forms of the religious sentiment, he might, in England, where he resided so long, have been a broad churchman. But Christianity, in his view, was but one of many religions, all essentially divine, and he could not belong to any church less wide than the church universal.

  During a portion of the civil war, Mr. Channing was in Washington preaching the gospel of liberty and loyalty, and laboring in the hospitals with unflagging devotion, thankful for an opportunity to put into work the enthusiasm of his passionate soul. Later, he revisited his native country and showed his interest in the cause of religious freedom and unity.

  The name of Channing is conspicuous in the history of American idealism. Another nephew of Dr. Channing, William F. Channing, was a man of original force of mind and character, a bold adventurer in literature and life, of independent ideas, principles and deeds, an abolitionist, a friend of Garrison and Parker, reformer and philosopher. W. E. was author of many volumes, wrote poetry and prose for the “Dial,” and, in 1873, a life of Henry Thoreau.

  In the list of the Transcendentalists Cyrus Augustus Bartol must not be forgotten, a soaring mind enamored of thoughts on divine things, inextricably caught in the toils of speculation. Acute and brilliant, but wayward; with a quick eye for analogies, fanciful and eccentric, of clear intuitions, glimpses, perceptions astonishingly luminous; but without fixed allegiance to system, and therefore difficult to classify under any school. In the Unitarian controversy, which was a tryer of spirits, it was not always plain to observers in which camp he belonged; not that his fundamental principle was unsteady, but because his curious and critical mind was detained by considerations that others did not see; and his absolute sincerity gave expression to the moods of feeling as they passed over him. Some words in Parker’s farewell letter to him seem to imply that at critical junctures they had been on opposite sides, but the difference could scarcely have touched fundamental truths. No man was further from the school of Locke, Paley or Bentham than C. A. Bartol. His Transcendentalism had a cast of its own; it was not made after any pattern; it took its color from an original genius illuminated by various reading of books, and by deep meditation in the privacy of the closet, and the companionship of nature of which he is a child-like worshipper. No wealth of human sympathy prevents his being a solitary. His song is lyrical; his prophecy drops like a voice from the clouds. In the agitations of his time he has had small share; organized and associated effort did not attract him. To many he represents the model Transcendentalist, for he seems a man who lives above the ~louds,-not always above them, either.

  His faith in the soul has never known eclipse. It waxes strong by its wrestling: and becomes jubilant in proportion as nature and life try to stare it out of countenance. Ballast is wings to him.

  “Transcendentalism relies on those ideas in the mind which are laws in the life. Pantheism is said to sink man and nature in God; Materialism to sink God and man in nature, and Transcendentalism to sink God and nature in man. But the Transcendentalist at least is belied and put in jail by the definition which is so neat at the expense of truth. He made consciousness, not sense, the ground of truth; and in the present devotion to physical science, and turn of philosophy to build the universe on foundations of matter, we need to vindicate and reassert his promise. Is the soul reared on the primitive rock? or is no rock primitive, but the deposit of spirit-therefore in its lowest form alive, and ever rising into organism to reach the top of the eternal circle again, as in the well one bucket goes down empty and the other rises full? The mistake is to make the everlasting things subjects of argument instead of sight.”

  “Our soul is older than our organism. It precedes its clothing. It is the cause, not the consequence, of its material elements; else, as materialists understand, it does not exist.”

  “What is it that accepts misery from the Most High, defends the Providence that inflicts its woes, espouses its chastiser’s cause, purges itself in the pit of its misery of all contempt of His commands, and· makes its agonies the beams and rafters of the triumph it builds? It is an immortal principle. It is an indestructible essence. It is part and parcel of the Divinity it adores. It can no more die than he can. It needs no more insurance of life than its author does. Prove its title? It is proof itself of all things else. It is substantive, and everything adjective beside. It is the kingdom air-things will be added to.”

  This was published in 1872, and proves that one Transcendentalist has kept his faith.

  James Freeman Clarke as little deserves to be ranked among the Minor Prophets as any, for he was one of the earliest Transcendentalists, a contemporary and intimate ally of Parker, a co-worker with Channing, a close friend and correspondent of Miss Fuller, a sympathizer with Alcott in his attempts to spiritualize education, a frequent contributor to the “Dial,” the intellectual fellow of the brilliant minds that made the epoch what it was. But his interest was not confined to the school, nor did the technicalities or details of the transcendental movement embarrass him; his catholic mind took in opinions of all shades, and men of all communions. His place is among theologians and divines rather than among philosophers. But, though churchly tastes led him away from the company of thinkers where he intellectually belonged, and an unfailing common sense saved him from the extravagances into which some of them fell, a Transcendentalist he was, and an uncompromising one. The intuitive philosophy was his guide. It gave him his assurance of spiritual truths; it interpreted for him the gospels and Jesus; it inspired his endeavors to reconcile beliefs, to promote unity among the discordant sects, to enlighten and redeem mankind. His mission has been that of a spiritual peacemaker. But while doing this, he has worked faithfully at particular causes; was an avowed and earnest abolitionist in the anti-slavery days; was ever a disbeliever in war, an enemy of vindictive and violent legislation, a hearty friend and laborer in the field of woman’s election to the full privileges of culture and citizenship; a man in whom faith, hope and charity abounded and abound; a man of intellectual convictions which made a groundwork for his life.

  Mr. Clarke is a conspicuous example of the way in which the intuitive philosophy leavened the whole mind. It associated him closely both with radicals and conservatives; with the former, because his principle involved faith in progress; with the latter, because it implied respect for the progress of past times which institutions preserved. His conservatism attested the fidelity of his radicalism, and both avouched the loyalty of his idealism. The conservative aspect of Transcendentalism which was exhibited in the case of Mr. Channing, who never left the Christian Church, was yet more strikingly illustrated by Mr. Clarke. All his books, but particularly the “Ten Great Religions,” show the power of the transcendental idea to render justice to all forms of faith, and give positive interpretations to doctrines obscure and revolting. It detects the truth in things erroneous, the good in things evil.

  A more remarkable instance of this tendency is Samuel Johnson’s volume on the religions of India. None save a Transcendentalist could have succeeded in extracting so much deep spiritual meaning from the symbols and practices of those ancient faiths. The intuitive idea takes its position at the centre, and at once all blazes with glory.

  “Man is divinely prescient of his infinity of mind as soon as he begins to meditate and respire.”

  “That a profound theistic instinct, the intuition of a divine and living whole, is involved in the primitive mental processes we are here studying, I hold to be beyond all question.”

  “From the first stages of its growth’ onwards, the spirit weaves its own environment; nature is forever the reflex of its life, and what but an unquenchable aspiration to truth could have made it choose Light as its first and dearest symbol, reaching out a child’s hand to touch and clasp it, with the joyous cry, Tis mine, mine to create, mine to adore!’”

  “Man could not forget that pregnant dawn of revelation, the discovery of his own power to rekindle the life of the universe.”

  “Man is here dimly aware of the truth that he makes and remakes his own conception of the divine; that the revealing of duty must come .in the natural activity of his human powers.”

  “As far back as we can trace the life of man, we find the river of prayer and praise flowing as naturally as it is flowing now; we cannot find its beginning, because we cannot find the beginning of the soul.”

  These passages give the key to Mr. Johnson’s explanation of the oriental religions, and to his little monograph on “The Worship of Jesus,” and to the printed lectures, addresses, essays, sermons, in which subjects of religion, philosophy, political and social reform have been profoundly treated.

  Mr. Johnson came forward when the excitement of transcendentalism was passing by; the “Dial” no longer marked the intellectual hours; the Unitarian controversy had spent its violence. It was in part owing to this, but more to the spiritual character of his genius, that his Transcendentalism was free from polemic and dogmatic elements; but it was none the less positive and definite for that—if anything, it was more so. In the divinity school he was an ardent disciple of the intuitive philosophy. On leaving Cambridge he became an independent minister of the most pronounced views, but of most reverent spirit; a “fideist” or faith man, he loved to call himself; his aim and effort was to awaken the spiritual nature, to interpret the spiritual philosophy, and to apply the spiritual laws to all personal, domestic and social concerns. Like all the Transcendentalists, he -was a reformer, and an enthusiastic one; interested in liberty and progress, but primarily in intellectual emancipation and the increase of rational ideas. The alteration of the lot was incidental to the regeneration of the person. So absolute is his faith in the soul that he renders poetic justice to its manifestations, seeing indications of its presence where others see none, and glorifying where others are inclined to pity. The ideal side is never turned away from him. He discerned the angel in the native African, the saint in the slave, the devotee in the idolater. During the civil war, his faith in the triumph of justice and the establishment of a pure republic, converted every defeat into a victory; as in the vision of Ezekiel, the Son of Man was ever visible riding on the monstrous beasts. If at any-time his sympathy has seemed withdrawn from any class of social reformers, it has been because the phase of reform they presented held forth no promise of intellectual or moral benefit.

  Mr. Johnson illustrates the individualism of the Transcendentalist. While Mr. Channing trusted in social combinations, and Mr. Clarke put his faith in organized religion, he had a clear eye to the integrity of the separate soul. He attended no conventions, joined no societies, worked with no associations, had confidence in no parties, sects, schemes, or combinations, but nursed his solitary thought, delivered his personal message, bore his private witness, and there rested.

  Were Mr. Johnson more known, were his thoughts less interior, his genius less retiring, his method less private, his form of statement less close and severe, he would be one of the acknowledged and conspicuous leaders of the ideal philosophy in the United States, as he is one of the most discerning, penetrating, sinewy, and heroic minds of his generation.

  A contemporary and intimate friend of Johnson, a Transcendentalist equally positive, but of more mystical type, is Samuel Longfellow. The two are interestingly contrasted, and by contrast, blended. Between them they collected and published a book of hymns—“Hymns of the Spirit”—to which both contributed original pieces, remarkably rich in sentiment, and of singular poetical merit. Johnson’s were the more intellectual, Longfellow’s the more tender; Johnson’s the more aspiring, Longfellow’s the more devout; Johnson’s the more heroic and passionate, Longfellow’s the more mystical and reflective. Like his friend, Longfellow is quiet and retiring—not so scholarly, not so learned, but meditative. His sermons are lyrics; his writings are serene contemplations, not white and cold, but glowing with interior and suppressed radiance. A recluse and solitary he is, too, though sunny and cheerful; a thinker, but not a dry one; of intellectual sympathies, warm and generous; of feeble intellectual antipathies, being rather unconscious of systems that are foreign to him than hostile to them. He enjoys his own intellectual world so much, it is so large, rich, beautiful, and satisfying, that he is content to stay in it, to wander up and down in it, and hold intercourse with its inhabitants; yet he understands his own system well, is master of its ideas, and abundantly competent to defend them, as his essays published in the “Radical” during its short existence, testify. He has published little; ill health has prevented his taking a forward place among reformers and teachers; but where he has ministered, his influence has been deep and pure. Not few are the men and women who ascribe to him their best impulses, and owe him a debt of lasting gratitude for the moral faith and intellectual enthusiasm he awakened in them.

  Another remarkable man, of the same school, but of still different temper—a man who would have been greatly distinguished but for the disabilities of sickness—is David A. Wasson. Though contemporary, he came forward later; but when he came, it was with a power that gave promise of the finest things. As his latent faith in the intuitive philosophy acquired strength, he broke away from the Orthodoxy in which he had been reared, with an impulse that carried him beyond the lines of every organized body in Christendom, and bore him into the regions of an intellectual faith, where he found satisfaction. He has been a diligent writer, chiefly on Ethical and Philosophical themes, on the border land of theology. His published pamphlets ‘and sermons on religious questions, even the best of them, give scarcely more than an indication of his extraordinary powers. He is a poet too, of fine quality; not a singer of sentimental songs, nor a spinner of elegant fancies, but a discerner of the spirit of beauty.· “All’s Well,” “Ideals,” “The Plover,” “At Sea,” are worthy of a place in the best collections.

  It has been the appointed task of Mr. Wasson to be on the alert against assaults on the intuitive philosophy from the side of material science. Like Transcendentalists generally, he has accepted the principles of his philosophy on the testimony of consciousness and as self evidencing; but more than most, he has regarded them as essential to the maintenance of truths of the spiritual order; and as a believer in those truths, he has been holily jealous of the influence of men like Herbert Spencer, Mill, Bain, and the latest school of experimental psychologists. His doctrine, in its own essence, and as related to the objective or material system, is closely stated in the essay on the “Nature of Religion, contained in the volume, entitled “Freedom and Fellowship in Religion,” recently published by the Free Religious Association. It is not easily quotable, but must be read through and attentively. Whoever will take pains to do that, may understand, not merely what Mr. Wasson’s position is, but what fine analysis the intuitive philosophy can bring to its defence. A volume of Mr. Wasson’s prose essays and poems would be a valuable contribution to the literature of Transcendentalism; for he is, on the whole, the most capable critic on its side. Unfortunately for the breadth of his fame and the reach of his power, he writes for thinkers, and the multitude will never follow in his train.

  The names of the disciples and prophets of Transcendentalism multiply as they are told off. There is T. W. Higginson, the man of letters—whom every body knows—a born Transcendentalist, and an enthusiastic one, from the depth of his moral nature, the quickness of his poetic sensibility, his love of the higher culture. His sympathies early led him to the schools of the ideal philosophy. He edited the works of Epictetus; speaks glowingly on the “ Sympathy of Religions;” is interested in the pacification of the sects and churches on the basis of spiritual fellowship in truths of universal import; lectures appreciatingly on Mohammed and Buddha; holds Spencer in light esteem by the side of Emerson. In the controversial period—which was not ended when he left the Divinity School—he was entirely committed to the party of progress. Hennell’s “Christian Theism” lay on his table at Divinity Hall. He was an ally of Parker; an abolitionist; the colonel of a black regiment in the civil war; and from the first has been a champion of woman’s claim to fulness of culture and the largest political rights. A clear and powerful mind, that in controversy would make its mark, if controversy were to its taste, as it is not.

  Earlier mention should have been made of John Weiss, who wrote philosophical articles thirty years ago, that won encomiums from the most competent judges a student at Heidelberg, a scholar of Kant; and an admirer of his system. He too has a paper on “Religion and Science,” in the volume of “Freedom and Fellowship,” which will convince the most skeptical that the days of Transcendentalism are not numbered; a man of insight; poetical, according to Emerson’s definition; supremely intellectual, capable of treading, with steady step, the hair lines of thought; a poet too, as verses in the “Radical” bear witness. The Philosophical and Æsthetic Letters and Essays of Schiller were presented to the American public by his hand. He wrote the preface to the American edition of Smith’s Memoir of Fichte. The “Boston Quarterly,” the “Massachusetts Quarterly,” the “Christian Examiner,” the “Radical,” were illuminated by his brilliant thoughts on subjects of religious philosophy. The volume entitled “American Religion,” published in 1871, shows the power of the spiritual philosophy to extract noble meanings from the circumstances of the New World. Weiss treads the border-land between religion and science, recognizing the claims of both, and bringing to their adjustment as fine intellectual scales as any of his contemporaries. His method is peculiar to himself; his is not the exulting mood of Emerson, or the defiant mood of Wasson; it is purely poetic, imaginative. The doctrine of the divine immanence is glorious in his eyes; the faith in personal immortality is taken into the inner citadel of metaphysics, where Parker seldom penetrated.

  These men, Weiss and Wasson and Higginson, nursed in the transcendental school, thoroughly imbued with its principles, committed to them, wedded to them by the conflicts they waged in their defence when they were assailed by literalists, dogmatists, and formalists, look out now upon the advancing ranks of the new materialism as the holders of a royal fortress looked out on a host of insurgents; as the king and queen of France looked out on the revolution from the palace at Versailles: the onset of the new era they instinctively dread, feeling that dignity, princeliness, and spiritual worth are at stake. They will fight admirably to the last; but should they be defeated, it is yet possible that the revolution may bring compensations to humanity, which will make good the overthrow of their “diademed towers.”

  In these sketches of transcendental leaders—as in this study of the transcendental movement,—few have been included but those whom the intuitive philosophy drew away from their former church connections and gathered into a party by themselves—a party of protestants against literalism and formalism. The transcendental philosophy in its main ideas, was held by eminent orthodox divines who accepted it as entirely in accordance with the Christian scheme, and used it in fact as an efficient support for the doctrines of the church. The most eminent divines of New England did this, and were considered entirely orthodox in doing it, their Christian faith gaining warmth and color from the intuitive system. As has already been said, the Trinitarian scheme has close affinities with Platonism. But none of these men called themselves or were called Transcendentalists. The Transcendentalist substituted the principles of his Philosophy and the inferences therefrom for the creed of the church, and became a separatist. With him the soul superseded the church; the revelations of the soul took the place of bible, creed and priesthood. The men that have been named all did this, with the exception of James Freeman Clarke, who adhered to the ministry and the church. But his intimacy with the transcendental leaders, and his cooperation with them in some of their most important works, to say nothing of the unique position his transcendental ideas compelled him to assume, as well in ecclesiastical matters as in social reform, entitle him to mention. Convers Francis—parish; minister at Watertown from 1819 till 1842, and Parkman professor of Pulpit Eloquence and the Pastoral Care at Cambridge from 1842 till 1863—though never conspicuous either as preacher or minister, and never recognized as a representative apostle, was influential as a believer in the spiritual philosophy, among young men. To him Theodore Parker acknowledged his debt; to him successive classes of divinity students owed the stimulus and direction that carried them into the transcendental ranks; Johnson, Longfellow, Higginson were his pupils at Cambridge, and carried thence ideas which he had shaped if not originated. In many things conservative, disagreeing on some points with Emerson, whom he revered and loved as a man, regretting much that seemed sarcastic, arrogant, derisive in Parker’s “Discourse of Religion,” he gave his full assent to the principles of the intuitive philosophy, and used them as the pillars of Christianity. Had he been as electric and penetrating as he was truthful and obedient, high-minded and sincere, hearty and simple, he would have been a force as well as an influence. In 1836 he foresaw the rupture between” the Old or English school belonging to the sensual and empiric philosophy,—and the New or German school, belonging to the spiritual philosophy,” and gave all his sympathy to the latter as having the most of truth. He was the senior member of the “Transcendental Club,” composed of the liberal thinkers who met to discuss literary and spiritual subjects on the ground of reason and the soul’s intuitive perceptions. With deep interest he followed the course of speculative and practical reform to the close of his life. Some, of whom he was not one, engaged in the discussions for a little while, attended the meetings, and set forth bold opinions, but retired within their close fellowships as soon as plans for propagandism or schemes of organization were proposed. Their sympathies were literary and within the recognized limits of literature; but they had either too little courage of conviction, or too little conviction, to depart from accustomed ways or break with existing associations. The number of professed transcendentalists in the restricted sense, was never large, and, after the first excitement, did not greatly increase. There was but one generation of births. The genuine transcendentalists became so in their youth, ripened into full conviction in middle life, and, as a rule, continued so to old age. The desertions from the faith were not many. Half a dozen perhaps became catholics; as many became episcopalians; but by far the greater part maintained their principles and remained serene dissenters, “in the world, but not of it.”

  Transcendentalism was an episode in the intellectual life of New England; an enthusiasm, a wave of sentiment, a breath of mind that caught up such as were prepared to receive it, elated them, transported them, and passed on,—no man knowing whither it went. Its influence on thought and life was immediate and powerful. Religion felt it, literature, laws, institutions. To the social agitations of forty years ago it was invaluable as an inspiration. The various reforms owed everything to it. New England character received from it an impetus that never will be spent. It made young men see visions and old men dream dreams. There were mounts of Transfiguration in those days, upon which apostles thought they communed visibly with lawgivers and prophets. They could not stay there always, but the memory will never cease to be glorious. Transcendentalism as a special phase of thought and feeling was of necessity transient—having done its work it terminated its existence. But it did its work, and its work was glorious. Even its failures were necessary as showing what could not be accomplished, and its extravagances as defining the boundaries of wise experiment. Its successes amply redeemed them all, and would have redeemed them had they been more glaring and grotesque. Had it bequeathed nothing more than the literature that sprung from it, and the lives of the men and women who had their intellectual roots in it, it would have conferred a lasting benefit on America. The philosophical school has taken refuge in St. Louis, and there comes to surprising life in “The Journal of Speculative Philosophy” conducted by Wm. T. Harris, an accomplished thinker and educator, who keeps alive the interest in German thought in the West. Through him and his little band of helpers the names of Kant, Schelling and Hegel are made illustrious again. Eastern Transcendentalism turns its eyes thitherward, if not with glowing anticipations for the future, still with hearty satisfaction in the present.

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