Prof. William James has collected in this volume some writings of his father, which had not before seen the light in book form. The only properly "literary" portion is the "Personal Recollections of Carlyle," a paper surely unique in all the mass of matter poured out since the death of that
Prof. William James has collected in this volume some writings of his father, which had not before seen the light in book form. The only properly "literary" portion is the "Personal Recollections of Carlyle," a paper surely unique in all the mass of matter poured out since the death of that "literary desperado," as this modern mystic humorously entitles him. The portrait of Mr. Emerson, in one of the fifteen chapters loosely grouped under the heading "Spiritual Creation," is, however, just as little to be matched: "The only thing that I was sure of! concerning Emerson] being that he, like Christ, was somehow divinely begotten. He seemed to me unmistakably virgin-born whenever I looked at him, and reminded me of nothing so much as of those persons dear to Christ's heart who should come after him, professing no allegiance to him, having never heard his name pronounced, and yet perfectly fulfilling his will.... He was fundamentally treacherous to civilization, without being at all aware himself of the fact.... He had no conscience, in fact.... This was Emerson's incontestable virtue to every one who appreciated him: that he recognized no God outside of himself and his interlocutor, and recognized him there only as the "liaison" between the two, taking care that all their intercourse should be holy with a holiness undreamed of before by man or angel." Some fragmentary chapters of an autobiography complete the list of contents, to which Prof. James has prefixed an admirable Introduction. This will probably give most readers a far better idea of Henry James' system of thought than all the latter's own writings. Those who had but a very slight acquaintance with these recognized in Mr. James one of the rarest minds of the age, with incomparable power of literary expression. If only these powers had labored to set forth anything short of the inexpressible! But Mr. James was a thorough mystic, possessed with an exceeding sense of sin, annihilating the human in the divine, and ever full of scorn for morals as a source of possible salvation. "He first and last and always made moralism the target of his hottest attack, and pitted religion and it against each other as enemies, of whom one must die utterly, if the other is to live in genuine form. The accord of moralism and religion is superficial, their discord radical." How these things can so be to Prof. James, as to his father, we cannot here explain. There can be little doubt that the thoughtful perusal of this volume will at least make such words seem much more reasonable to even the most earnest moralists; for Mr. James was indeed "one member of that band of saints and mystics, whose rare privilege it has been, by the mere example and recital of their own bosom experience, to prevent religion from becoming a fossil conventionalism, and to keep it forever alive." Possibly, no readers will find more profit in the mystical thought of these pages than those who have had to preserve morality itself from neglect by the religious!
-"The Unitarian Review," Volume 23.
- Category: Biographies & Memoirs
- Binding: Paperback
- Language of Text: English
- Author(s): Henry James Sr, William James
- Publisher: Createspace
- ISBN: 9781505370690
- Number of Pages: 472
- Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.95 inches