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Transcendentalism in New England
A History

written by "Frothingham, Octavius Brooks, 1822-1895"
...for effect. It is worth remarking that its chief disciples have been clergymen. In Germany, Schleiermacher—if we may count him a Transcendentalist; he was the author of the doctrine, that the essence of religion consisted in the sense of dependence, which figured largely in the sermons of New England divines—was a clergyman; Fichte assumed the prophetic tone; the German professors associated religious teaching with the duties of their chairs. In England, Coleridge was a preacher by practice, and, part of his life, by profession; Carlyle was never anything else, his essays and even his histories being sermons in disguise, and[Pg 303] disguise of the most transparent sort. In New England, Emerson began his career as a Unitarian minister; so did Walker; so did Ripley; so did W. H. Channing; so did J. S. Dwight; so did C. P. Cranch. Dr. Channing, a Transcendentalist without knowing it, was the greatest preacher of his generation. Brownson was a preacher of all orders in succession; Bartol preaches still; Clarke preaches still. Of the younger men, Johnson, Longfellow, Wasson, Higginson, are, or were, Unitarian clergymen. Alcott is a preacher without a pulpit. The order of mind that was attracted to the ministry was attracted to the Transcendental ideas. The explanation is easy; Transcendentalism possessed all the chief qualifications for a gospel. Its cardinal "facts" were few and manageable. Its data were secluded in the recesses of consciousness, out of the reach of scientific investigation, remote from the gaze of vulgar skepticism; esoteric, having about them the charm of a sacred privacy, on which common sense and the critical understanding might not intrude. Its oracles proceeded from a shrine, and were delivered by a priest or priestess, who came forth from an interior holy of holies to utter them, and thus were invested with the air of authority which belongs to exclusive and privileged truths, that revealed the...

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