By Sterling Professor of the Humanities Harold Bloom
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Additional info for Emerson's Essays-Ralph Waldo Emerson (Bloom's Modern Critical Interpretations)
The poet, too, is defined by his landscape (and here Emerson brings the senses of nature as character and nature as countryside together), which if he is true to himself will be found, down to the last straw, in what he writes. For “character,” whatever our conscious intention, “communicates” itself in our every “breath” or utterance. In order to create this impressive piece of double-entendre, Emerson, as my notations show, drew on two and perhaps three lectures, and two journal passages, adding several new aphorisms.
Therefore they have not been able to speak directly to the assumption that Emerson failed to synthesize his raw materials where Thoreau, in Walden, succeeded. To know where Emerson succeeds and fails in composition, one has to catch him in the act. ), important as these implications are. I do not mean to argue that Emerson mastered form as he did the aphorism; but I would contend that he was far more in control than at first appears, and that the appearance of formlessness is to a large extent a strategy on Emerson’s part calculated to render his thoughts more faithfully and forcefully than direct statement would permit.
Buell journal or lecture, it would seem that the former strategy was deliberately manufactured for the occasion. But is the rest of the paragraph under control? To be sure, some of it is memorable, but is it any more than a bag of duckshot? Even where a connection may be traced from point to point there may be no real development. In much of the passage Emerson seems to repeat himself rather than move forward. But again a close look shows more sophistication than at first appears. Though the last five sentences could be rearranged, there is a logic to their order: from the divine to the homely and back again, from “God” to “characters” in general, to a representative man, to a specific historical example, to a contemporary example which is more earthy and concrete and yet at the same time, by contrasting Crump with a great “soul” or “angel,” brings us back to God and clinches Emerson’s point about the divine quality of spontaneity.