12 JANUARY 1850, Page 18

EXERSON'S REPRESENTATIVE MEN. • THE distinction between Thomas Carlyle and his

few followers is that which mostly exists between originals and imitations. How- ever peculiar or discursive Carlyle may be, his principal subject is coherent, forming a definite whole and driving at a distinct object. If all of his successive works do not exhibit an advance upon- their predecessors, (which we think they generally do,) they at least dis- play variety ; they are not mere repetitions. His followers, among -whom Mr. Emerson is the most conspicuous, do not possess this , coherence, or show much substantial improvement ; doing, in fact, little more than repeat themselices. The -diction, which with Car- lyle is merely a mode, reflective of a cast of thought, or rather of a peculiar conception of ideas, is -with Emerson a thing of itself, a substantive being. Hence, Carlyle has a style, odd as it may be ; Emerson's is more a mannerism than a style. Not the mannerism of habit, haste, or too much work, but a cultivated mannerism ; a something which the writer not only sees but pronounces good. He not only moves in a rut, but makes the rut to move in. As far as close and pointed expression, the present book may occasionally exhibit an improvement upon Mr. Emerson's for- mer 'writings. In other respects it makes no advance, if indeed it does not fall back. Paradox, which formerly was confined to par- ticular ideas, now extends to whale sections of the book ; the views,

• if not the arguments, are often vague or unsatisfactory ; except in certain passages, the composition seems to us rather in- ferior—there is effort without effect.

'The idea of Representative Men seems to be derived from Carlyle's Hero-Worship. But in Carlyle's book the conceptions were consist- ent, whatever might be thought of the logic. It may be denied that hero-worship is the good thing Mr. Carlyle represents it, or that the .00ntemporary disposition to scrutinize heroes is so bad as he inti- mates. There is no doubt that Knox and Luther are hero-priests ; that if there be such a thing as a hero-poet, Dante and Shakspere are the men ; that Johnson, Rousseau, and Burns, are good enough representatives of hero-men of letters ; that Mahomet, if we throw aside the idea of impostor, was a hero-prophet ; and in short, as we remarked when noticing the book some nine years ago, Carlyle's heroes were selected with profound judgment or intuitive sagacity. Little of either is exhibited by Mr. Emerson in his "representative .men": indeed, he gems to mistake his men ; Napoleon does not -represent "the mob of the world," or, as the writer explains the title in his text, " the popular external life and aims of the nine- teenth century." Bonaparte had little in common with the man of the world, the business, or the pinetkal man. He wanted the (motion, the coolness, the measure and moderation or wariness, which diathignish the members of that " tria juncta in ima." As little did he represent the life or aims of the nineteenth een- , even that portion of it contemporary with himself. Much as he hated the Jacobins, he was really the "child and champion of dacobinism," with its reckless energy, its indifference to rights or agreements, its defiance of custom or precedent, and its daring because its ignorant-audacity, which often procured it success, but insured its defeat when resolutely opposed. To all which quali- ties Bonaparte added a personal selfishness, that always exhibit, and a childish vanity, which the party would have despised. Again, Shakspere, though undoubtedly a poet, was much more than a mere poet : he was a moral and social phi- losopher, a man of the world, and if not a statesman the reader of statesmen. Spenser was a better representative of the " verypoet." Shakspere, so far as he was bounded, represented the English elm- -rooter in its zenith of thought, action, and speculation. Goethe only represents the writer by a forced definition to make him fit Mr. Emerson's notions ; and "the fit" is not a very good one, although made to order. Montaigne also represents the sceptic, Tinder a definition on purpose ; which first means an Epicurean, - and then the beau ideal of a man of thought and action. The two other "representative men." are Plato, the philosopher,— - though his philosophy was of an imaginative kind ; and Sweden- borg, "or the mystic."

It may be said that the fault indicated is mere error of opinion. This praetical result, however, is produced. The introductory face on the general subject is of necessity paradoxical, where it

, any bearing upon the representative man ; and the "character" itself is in a measure made subordinate to the writer's precon- ceived opinion. It is true that this cause does not operate so extensively as it might with a more logical genius ; because Mr. Emerson does not always stick to his text even in exhibiting his man, while sometimes, in the introduction or essay to each person, he goes away from it almost altogether. Representative Men, therefore, may be described as a series of what are called " eha-

- meters," generally prefaced by an essay on the idea which the character is assumed to represent, and containing plenty of sin- :solar or paradoxical opinions clearly expressed ; some of which are not very remarkable either in .thought or diction, and others pos- sess great force and justness.

The following is one of these. It is taken from the introductory remarks to " G-oethe, or the Writer," and may be called natural re- porting.

• Representative Men. By It. W. Emerson. Published by Chapman. "Nature will be reported. All things are engaged. in writing their history. The planet, the pebble, goes attended by its shadow. The rolling reek leaves its seratehes on the mountain; the river its channel in the soil; the animal its bones in the stratum; the 'fern and leaf its modest epitaph in the coal. The falling drop makes its sculpture in the sand or the stone. Not a foot steps into the snow, or along the ground, but prints in characters more or less lasting a map of its march. Every act of the man inscribes itself . in the memories of his fellows, main his own manners and face. The air is full of sounds, the sky of tokens, the ground is all memoranda and signatures, and every object covered over with hints, which speak to the intelligent."

There is more truth here than Mr. Emerson wots of. Nature records as much as is needful to be known ; but there she stops, and does not over-record. Every falling drop may make its sculpture in the sand, (when it falls upon sandj but it is obliterated as quickly as footsteps in snow. Peculiar circumstances alone pre- serve the scratches of the rolling rock, or the bones in the stratum, or the' fern in the coal. To be preserved, these things must occur at-remarkable epochs, which in fact they record ; all the rest pass away. Mementoes of litterateurs !

The following passage is worth notice; not so much for the re- mark on Montaigne, as for the explanation of the grossness of the old writers.

"Montaigne is the frankest and honestest of all writers : his French free- dom runs into grossness, bat he has anticipated all censure by the bounty of his own confessions. In his times books were written to one sex only, and almost all were written in Latin ; so that, in a humorist, a certain naked- ness of statement was permitted, which our manners of a literature addressed equally to both sexes do not allow. But though a Biblical plainness, coupled with a most uneanonical levity, may shut his pages to many sensitive read- ers, yet the offence is superficial. He parades it, he makes the meet of it : nobody can think or say worse of him than he does. He pretends to most of the vices ; and if there be any virtue in him, he says it got in by stealth. There is no man, in his opinion, who has not deserved hanging five or six times ; and he pretends no exception in his own behalf."

The best or at least the most informing paper is that on Sweden- borg; whose writings Mr. Emerson has been reading in the Eng- lish edition of his works, published by the zeal of a disciple. Mr. Emerson, indeed, grossly exaggerates, as is his wont, the merits of the mystical philosopher ; but this is neutralized by the manner in which he is compelled to depict his subjects faults, and which faults are quite inconsistent with the panegyric. The paper, 1.0w- ever, gives a succinct summary of Swedenborg's life and character, and some notion of his works and system. The following passage is from the opening.

"Among eminent persons, those who are most dear to men are not of the class which the economist calls producers : they have nothing in their hands ; they have not cultivated corn, nor made bread; they have not 1ed out a colony, invented nvented a loom. A higher class in the estimation and love of this city- building, market-going race of mankind1 are the poets1 who, from the intel- lectual kingdom, feed the thought and imagination with ideas and pictures, which raise men out of the world of corn and money, and console them for the shortcomings of the day and-the meannesses of labour and traffic. Then also the philosopher has his value,. who flatters the intellect of this labourer; by engaging him with subtilties which instruct him in new faculties. Others may build cities; he is to understand them, and keep them in awe.

"But there is a class who lead us into another region, the world of morals or of will. 'What is singular about this region of thought is, its claim. Wherever the sentiment of right comes in, it takes precedence of everything else. For other things, I make poetry of them ; but the moral sentiment makes poetry of me."