Mr. Hawthorne, Mr. Thoreau, Miss Alcott, Mr. Emerson, And Me

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And you must try to imagine, too, what it was for sensitive intelligent children to hear that courtly, gentle and charming Mr. Emerson had stood unmoved amid the hisses and insults of Harvard College and said of their idol Daniel Webster after his 7th of March speech, “Every drop of his blood has eyes that look downward. He knows the heroes of 1776 but cannot see the heroes of 1851 when he meets them in the street. It is not a question of ability, expediency, or even legality. It is a question of sides. How come Daniel Webster on that side?”

And even more powerful in the formation of character than these heroic examples was the daily environment, the common atmosphere. Concord was perhaps the only town in New England at that time when the house you lived in, the clothes you wore, the servants you did or did not keep were matters of absolutely no importance. It was not possible to take conventional matters seriously; it was inconceivable that you should subjugate your life to such trifles as fashion and ceremony when those whom you were taught to respect walked before you in such straight and narrow paths. Realizing this, is it any wonder that the memory of those days is tenderly cherished and that some who were once children on the green banks of the Concord say often one to another, “Honor to the town which was simple to hardship, where the intellect was awake and read the laws of the universe, where the soul worshipped truth and love, and where honor and courtesy flowed in every action.”

Andover, Mass., November 10, ’91.