Emerson and the Art of the Diary by Lawrence Rosenwald

By Lawrence Rosenwald

This primary prolonged literary description and research of Emerson's journals, argues that they, and never his essays, are Emerson's masterpiece, constituting one of many maximum commentaries on nineteenth-century the USA by means of certainly one of our such a lot acute formal intelligences. First constructing the severe technique had to learn the magazine shape, a style lengthy overlooked via literary students, Rosenwald is going directly to ponder how Emerson the diarist chanced on his shape and what shape he came upon. incorporated are comparisons among the journals and Emerson's lectures and essays, different Transcendentalist journals, the German aphorism-book, and books of citation through Montaigne and Eckermann. ultimately, the writer supplies an account of ways, in his previous age, Emerson misplaced his mastery of the shape.

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28 But we may also justify it, and more powerfully, on the grounds of our common experience, as poker players, used car buyers, jury members, friends, and lovers. Stating is indeed "performing an act," whether by "act" we mean action or simulation. We need not accept our friends' sincerest self-assessments as truth; on the other hand, we know how our coolest antagonists' most adroit deception can reveal their inward parts and how much we give away of ourselves in our best attempts at concealment.

Like handwriting it expresses rather than describes the writer; like handwriting it can reliably distinguish one individual from another; and like handwriting it can be read as evidence not only of identity but also of character, by a reader knowing the conventions within which the writer operates. But of course making a diary offers more expressive room than does writing a word. For one thing, the one includes the other,—and that 24. See as examples of this sort of practice Rosenwald, "Cotton Mather as Diarist," and Fothergill's comparison of Boswell with Dudley Kyder and William Windham (Private Chronicles [London: Oxford University Press, 1974], pp.

24 We can look at his diary in light of the diaristie precepts he in fact thought pertinent to it, notably Samuel Johnson's, 25 just as graphologists studying a writer's hand insist on knowing the system by which the writer was taught. We can also compare him with the diarists he actually read, though here as almost everywhere the pattern of influences radically differs from that linking artists in other genres with one another, since novelists, say, read their major predecessors, while diarists cannot—Pepys is in some obvious way Boswell's natural father, but neither Boswell nor any other eighteenth-century diarist could ever have read him.

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