because now I can't give today's Emerson (King of Blowhards) essay the attention it deserves. I think I'll bullet-point my way through it. (One of these days I should live-blog one of these suckers -- it's hard to believe from my 1/8th-inch-thick analysis, but I actually do read these before starting to type.) OK:
• Emerson is to assertion what In-N-Out 100x100 is to lunch -- heavy on the overkill. For instance:
What fact more conspicuous in modern history, than the creation of the gentleman?How about...the steam engine? But he's writing about "Manners" so manners is the most important and crucial thing that anyone could possibly imagine, and the proof of it is that he, Emerson, is writing about it.
The gentleman is a man of truth, lord of his own actions, and expressing that lordship in his behavior, not in any manner dependent and servile either on persons, or opinions, or possessions.Although he also said this, about the non-gentlemanly life, awhile back:
He who knows the most, he who knows what sweets and virtues are in the ground, the waters, the plants, the heavens, and how to come to these enchantments, is the rich and royal man.Truly this man was King of the Blowhards.
• It's also worth noting that, for an American scholar, he is quite into the natural aristocracy of everything. I'm a horrible elitist myself (that is, I believe in it, but I'm bad at it) so I don't disagree. In fact, I give him credit for recognizing that this elitism must be based in flux because the people you want in it might come from someplace completely un-obvious:
It is a spontaneous fruit of talents and feelings of precisely that class who have most vigor, who take the lead in the world of this hour, and, though far from pure, far from constituting the gladdest and highest tone of human feeling, is as good as the whole society permits it to be.Emphasis added there at the end, because I think that's right too -- nobody's forcing us to have stumblebums and airheads as our most powerful and admired people, that's just who we've anointed, though they are mighty far for purity or the gladdest tone of human feeling. In fact, their next human feeling with be their first, it seems like.
• And dig, if you will, this passage:
Fine manners show themselves formidable to the uncultivated man. They are a subtler science of defence to parry and intimidate; but once matched by the skill of the other party, they drop the point of the sword,—points and fences disappear, and the youth finds himself in a more transparent atmosphere, wherein life is a less troublesome game, and not a misunderstanding rises between the players.Doesn't it seem like they should be making out? And this:
Know you before all heaven and earth, that this is Andrew, and this is Gergory;—they look each other in the eye; that grasp each other’s hand, to identify and signalize each other. It is a great satisfaction.Mm-hmm. No wonder he doesn't talk about women in this excerpt.
• Finally, here's the meat: