Another source of Emerson’s strength is his extraordinary compactness of style and his range and unexpectedness of illustration. His gift for epigram is, indeed, such as to make us long for an occasional stretch of leisurely commonplace. But Emerson always keeps us up—not less by his memorable terseness than by his startling habit of illustration. He loves to dart from the present to the remotest past, to join names not usually associated, to link pagan with Christian, or human with divine, in single rapid sentences, such as that〖H. C., V, 213.〗 about “Scipio, and the Cid, and Sir Philip Sidney, and Washington, and every pure and valiant heart, who worshiped Beauty by word or by deed.”

Not less notable than his universality of thought, his compactness of style, and his swiftness and range of illustration, is Emerson’s delightful benignity of tone. It would be hard to find any one whose opposition is so high minded, whose refusal is so gentle, whose good will—though perhaps never anxious—is so uniformly evident. The sweetness of Emerson’s face, as we know it from his most famous portrait, is to be felt throughout his work.

If, in spite of all these admirable qualities, Emerson’s ideas seem too vague and unsystematic to satisfy those who feel that they could perhaps become Emersonians if there were only some definite articles to sign, it must be remembered that Emerson wishes to develop independence rather than apostleship, and that when men revolt from a system because they believe it to be too definite and oppressive, they are likely to go to the other extreme. That Emerson did go so far toward this extreme identifies him with a period notable for its enthusiastic expansion of thought. That he did not systematize or restrict means that he was obedient to the idea that what really matters is not that by exact terminology, clever tactics, and all the niceties of reasoning a system of philosophy shall be made tight and impregnable for others to adopt, but rather that each of us may be persuaded to hitch his own particular wagon to whatever star for him shines brightest.

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