Saturday, August 12, 2017

Theodore Parker to Ralph Waldo Emerson, December 9, 1859

Dec. 9, 1859.

My Dear Emerson, — Mr. Apthorp leaves me a corner of his paper, which I am only too glad to fill with a word or two of greeting to you and yours. I rejoiced greatly at the brave things spoken by you at the Fraternity Lecture, and the hearty applause I knew it must meet with there. Wendell Phillips and you have said about all the brave words that have been spoken about our friend Captain Brown — No! J. F. Clarke preached his best sermon on that brave man. Had I been at home, sound and well, I think this occasion would have either sent me out of the country — as it has Dr. Howe — or else have put me in a tight place. Surely I could not have been quite unconcerned and safe. It might not sound well that the minister of the Twenty-Eighth Congregational Church had “left for parts unknown,” and that “between two days,” and so could not fulfil his obligations to lecture or preach. Here to me “life is as tedious as a twice-told tale;” it is only a strennous idleness, — studying the remains of a dead people, and that too for no great purpose of helping such as are alive, or shall ever become so. I can do no better and no more. Here are pleasant Americans, — Mrs. Crawford, my friend Dr. Appleton, and above all the Storys, — most hospitable of people, and full of fire and wit. The Apthorps and Hunts are kind and wise as always, and full of noble sentiments. Of course, the great works of architecture, of sculpture and painting, are always here; but I confess I prefer the arts of use, which make the three millions of New England comfortable, intelligent, and moral, to the fine arts of beauty, which afford means of pleasure to a few emasculated dilettanti. None loves beauty more than I, of Nature or Art; but I thank God that in the Revival of Letters our race — the world-conquering Teutons — turned off to Science, which seeks Truth and Industry, that conquers the forces of Nature and transfigures Matter into Man; while the Italians took the Art of Beauty for their department. The Brownings are here, poet and poetess both, and their boy, the Only. Pleasant people are they both, with the greatest admiration for a certain person of Concord, to whom I also send my heartiest thanks and good wishes. To him and his long life and prosperity!

Theodore Parker.1

1 Parker's letter to Francis Jackson on the deed and death of Brown was one of his last public utterances, — for he died and was buried in Florence, where Mrs. Browning was afterwards buried, in May, 1860.

SOURCE: Franklin B. Sanborn, The Life and Letters of John Brown, p. 513

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