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Transcendentalists > Emerson > Analysis and Criticism > 1837 Review: Nature

1837 Review: Nature

"... it certainly will be called remarkable ..."

Excerpts from an 1837 review of Emerson's Nature:

[387]The work is a remarkable one, and it certainly will be called remarkable by those, who consider it "mere moonshine" as well as those, who look upon it with reverence as the effusion of a prophet-like mind. Whatever may be thought of the merits, or of the extravagances of the book, no one, we are sure, can read it, without feeling himself more wide awake to the beauty and meaning of Creation....

[388] Coming to the chapter on Idealism, many will be tempted to shut the book in disgust, and lament, that so sensible a man as the writer has before shewn himself to be, should shew such folly. And we ourselves doubt much the wisdom of the speculation in this chapter, although we would not call him insane, who thinks the material world only ideal, believing as we do, that as Turgot has said, "He, who has never doubted the existence of matter, may be assured, he has no aptitude for metaphysical inquiries."...

[391] We are unable to perceive the bearing of the writer's argument, in proof of Idealism, or to allow the advantage, which he claims for his theory. All his arguments, it seems to us, go to prove merely the superiority of mind over matter. And all the advantage, which he claims for Idealism, is owned by that common spiritual philosophy, which subordinates matter to mind....

[392] The many will call this book dreamy, and perhaps it is so -- It may indeed naturally seem, that the author's mind is somewhat onesided, that he has not mingled enough with common humanity, to avoid running into eccentricity, that he has been so careful to keep his own individuality, that he has confounded his idiosyncrasies, with universal truth. All this may be. But it is not for the vulgar many to call such a man a dreamer. If he does dream, the many are more deluded dreamers. His dreams are visions of the eternal realities of the spiritual world: theirs are of the fleeting phantoms of earth.

[393] He sees the world as it really is. He looks on the temporal in the light of the Eternal. "So he comes to look on the world with new eyes." So he learns the high truths which nature teaches.


Excerpts from: Samuel Osgood. "Nature." The Western Messenger, Vol. II, No. 6, January, 1837, pp. 385-393.

Notes on the author: Samuel Osgood (1812-1880), a Unitarian minister, was editor of The Western Messenger and was a member of the Transcendental Club. He was living in Louisville, Kentucky, at the time this article was published. He also wrote for magazines such as Harper's Monthly and The North American Review.


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