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Literary and Social Essays   By: (1824-1892)

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E text prepared by Eric Eldred, Marc D'Hooghe, Charles Franks, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team

LITERARY AND SOCIAL ESSAYS

BY

GEORGE WILLIAM CURTIS

CONTENTS

EMERSON Homes of American Authors, 1854.

HAWTHORNE Homes of American Authors, 1854.

THE WORKS OF NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE North American Review , Vol. XCIX., 1864.

RACHEL Putnam's Magazine , Vol. VI., 1855.

THACKERAY IN AMERICA Putnam's Magazine , Vol. I., 1853.

SIR PHILIP SIDNEY Hitherto unpublished. Written in 1857.

LONGFELLOW HARPER'S MAGAZINE, Vol. LXV., 1882.

OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES HARPER'S MAGAZINE, Vol. LXXXIII., 1891.

WASHINGTON IRVING Read at Ashfield, 1889. Printed by the Grolier Club, 1892.

EMERSON

The village of Concord, Massachusetts, lies an hour's ride from Boston, upon the Great Northern Railway. It is one of those quiet New England towns, whose few white houses, grouped upon the plain, make but a slight impression upon the mind of the busy traveller hurrying to or from the city. As the conductor shouts "Concord!" the busy traveller has scarcely time to recall "Concord, Lexington, and Bunker Hill" before the town has vanished and he is darting through woods and fields as solitary as those he has just left in New Hampshire. Yet as it vanishes he may chance to "see" two or three spires, and as they rush behind the trees his eyes fall upon a gleaming sheet of water. It is Walden Pond or Walden Water, as Orphic Alcott used to call it whose virgin seclusion was a just image of that of the little village, until one afternoon, some half dozen or more years since, a shriek, sharper than any that had rung from Walden woods since the last war whoop of the last Indians of Musketaquid, announced to astonished Concord, drowsing in the river meadows, that the nineteenth century had overtaken it. Yet long before the material force of the age bound the town to the rest of the world, the spiritual force of a single mind in it had attracted attention to it, and made its lonely plains as dear to many widely scattered minds as the groves of the Academy or the vineyards of Vaucluse.

Except in causing the erection of the railway buildings and several dwellings near it, steam has not much changed Concord. It is yet one of the quiet country towns whose charm is incredible to all but those who, by loving it, have found it worthy of love. The shire town of the great agricultural county of Middlesex, it is not disturbed by the feverish throb of factories, nor by any roar of inexorable toil but the few puffs of the locomotive. One day, during the autumn, it is thronged with the neighboring farmers, who hold their high festival the annual cattle show there. But the calm tenor of Concord life is not varied, even on that day, by anything more exciting than fat oxen and the cud chewing eloquence of the agricultural dinner. The population of the region is composed of sturdy, sterling men, worthy representatives of the ancestors who sowed along the Concord shores, with their seed corn and rye, the germs of a prodigious national greatness. At intervals every day the rattle, roar, and whistle of the swift shuttle darting to and from the metropolitan heart of New England, weaving prosperity upon the land, remind those farmers in their silent fields that the great world yet wags and wrestles. And the farmer boy sweeping with flashing scythe through the river meadows, whose coarse grass glitters, apt for mowing, in the early June morning pauses as the whistle dies into the distance, and, wiping his brow and whetting his blade anew, questions the country smitten citizen, the amateur Corydon struggling with imperfect stroke behind him, of the mystic romance of city life.

The sluggish repose of the little river images the farmer boy's life. He bullies his oxen, and trembles at the locomotive. His wonder and fancy stretch towards the great world beyond the barn yard and the village church as the torpid stream tends towards the ocean. The river, in fact, seems the thread upon which all the beads of that rustic life are strung the clew to its tranquil character... Continue reading book >>




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