Page 1


SUCCESS


SUCCESS BY

RALPH WALDO EMERSON

So/ton

and

New

York

Houghton Mifflin Company

1912


Copyright, 1870, by Ralph

Waldo Emerson

Copyright

2883, 1898, and 1904, by

Edward W.

All rights reserved

Emerson


INTRODUCTION and the varying stand-

SUCCESS, ards of success, seem often to have occupied Emerson's mind. In Decem' ' Success ber, 1858, he lectured upon ' '

at Hartford,

and the following March

opened his course at the Freeman Place Chapel, Boston, with The Law of Suc' '

cess." These lectures without doubt are essentially the

same

which was

as the present essay,

printed in Society

and

first

Solitude in 187O.

Long before, however, Emerson

in substance

as Dr.

Edward

points out in the notes to the

Centenary Edition of Emerson's writings, the notion that success is something subjective and, so to speak, accioften the sum of many faildental, ures,

had come

into his

v

mind and


INTRODUCTION clung there in connection with the course of his own life. In the

autumn of

1

833,

when he had

was facing at the of an uncertain future as a age thirty "free lance," Emerson wrote in his

left

the ministry, and

diary, "Charles's

nai'f

censure

night provoked me to show him apparently entirely

new

to

that

him,

my entire success, such as it is,

last

a fact

is

com-

posed wholly of particular failures, every public work of mine of the least importance having been, probably without exception, noted at the time as a failure.

...

line for

"

And

my

the

But

I will

reference 4 '

motto [of a brook]

more

it is

Success

falls I get,

not for

that ' '

take Mrs. Barbauld's

its

move

faster on."

autobiographic

Emerson's essay on

has been chosen for separvi


INTRODUCTION ate publication in the series of Riverside Press Editions

rather for

its

.

It has been selected

peculiar timeliness.

almost of the minute

is

the terse Concordian

How

the accent of

wisdom

essay's opening paragraph

in the

:

Our American people cannot be taxed with slowness in performance or in praising their

performance.

The

We

engineries.

nerve and bone.

earth

is

shaken by our

are feeling our youth

and

We have the power of terri-

tory and of seacoast, and know the use of these.

We count

our census,

valuations,

we

we

read our growing

survey our map, which be-

comes old in a year or two. Our eyes run approvingly along the lengthened lines of rail-

We have gone nearest to We have discovered the Antarctic continent. We interfere in Central and South road and telegraph.

the Pole.

Canton and in Japan; we are adding to an already enormous territory. Our

America,

at

vii


INTRODUCTION hope of the world, and we value ourselves on all these constitution

political

is

the

feats.

We are no slower now than we were in

870, either in performance or in the

1

praising of it; shaking the earth by our engineries has not ceased, territories

des. are

and seacoasts

The lines

still

and we have

in the antipo-

of railroad and telegraph

lengthening.

We have not only

gone nearest to the Pole, but an American explorer, amid the plaudits of the press and the contestation of competitors,

has stood upon

constitution

may

not

Our political be now so unaniit.

mously the hope of the world our youth

.

We feel

our nerve perhaps, and bone. Yet still we value ourselves less,

and symbols of objective the Emersonian maxims and success, have a pertinence deeper and more faron these

feats

viii


INTRODUCTION reaching than they could have had for audiences in 1858, or readers in 187O.

Many writers have exalted

since

Emerson's time

sensibility over talent in

the scale of powers, but no one

even Walter Pater

Yet not a

little

so persuasively.

of the attractiveness of

the Emersonian view of success

the fact that

not

it is

by no means

lies

limited

to the intangible achievements. all

true

New

we might entalists,

in

Like

Englanders, or perhaps

say like

all

true Transcend-

Emerson valued

that success

which the neighbors can see, though he valued more enormously more that respect for ourselves

as he says, if

we have

which comes,

succeeded.

this self-respect springing

It is

from "quiet

' '

that Emerson exalts wise perception and expounds both subtly and convinc-

ingly in the following pages

ix

.

Who can


INTRODUCTION say that in the scramble of business big and little, tri-partite politics, conversational culture, science that

education that ' '

ligion that

room

for

is

vocational,

pays dividends

"the

' '

is

applied,

and a

re-

there is

no

tranquil, well-founded,

far-seeing soul" which, as Emerson is no express-rider, no says, attorney, ' c

l 4

' '

no magistrate which lies in the sun and broods on the world." ;

F. G. OCTOBER 11, 1912.


SUCCESS


One

thing

isfor ever

'That one thing

Dear

to the

is

good;

Success ,

Eumenides y

And to all the heavenly brood. Who bides at home, nor looks abroad. Carries the eagles and masters the sword.


But

if thou do thy best,

Without

remission, without rest.

And invite the sunbeam, And abhor to feign or seem Even

to those

And thy it

thee should love

behavior approve;

If thou go

Be

who

in thine

health or be

own

it

likeness,

sickness

If thou go as thy father s If thou wear no mask or

;

son, lie,

Dealing purely and nakedly;


SUCCESS

OUR

American people cannot

be taxed with slowness in

performance or performance.

by our

in praising their

The earth is shaken

engineries.

We

are feel-

ing our youth and nerve and bone.

We

have the power of territory and of seacoast, and know the use of these.

We count our census, we

read our growing valuations,

we

survey our map, which becomes old in a year or two.

Our eyes run

approvingly along the lengthened lines of railroad and telegraph.


SUCCESS

We have gone nearest to the Pole. We have discovered the Antarctic continent. We interfere in Central and South America,

and

in

Japan

;

we

at

Canton

are adding to an

Our

already enormous territory. constitution

political

of the world, and selves

'T

on

is

all

the

is

we

the hope

value our-

these feats.

way

of the world

;

't is

the law of youth, and of unfold-

ing strength.

Men are made each

with some triumphant superiority, which, through some adaptation of fingers or ear or eye or ciphering

or pugilistic or musical or literary craft, enriches the

community with


SUCCESS a

new

art;

men

all

and not only we, but

of European stock, value

these certificates.

draw a perfect

Giotto could

circle:

Erwin of

Steinbach could build a minster; Olaf, king of

round

Norway, could run

his galley

on the blades of

the oars of the rowers ship

was

in

when

the

motion; Ojeda could

run out swiftly on a plank projected from the top of a tower,

turn round swiftly and

come back

;

Evelyn writes from Rome: "Bernini,

the Florentine sculptor, archi-

tect, painter

and poet, a little before

my

to

lic

coming

Rome, gave

a pub-

opera, wherein he painted the 3


SUCCESS scenes, cut the statues, invented

the engines, composed the music, writ the

comedy and

the

built

theatre."

" There Napoleon,

is

nothing

" which

my own hands.

I

war/' said

in

cannot do by

If there

is

nobody

make gunpowder, I can manufacture it. The gun-carriages I

to

know how necessary to

is

If

make cannons

it

is

at the

make them. The

de-

of working them in battle,

if it

forge, tails

to construct.

I

can

necessary to teach,

I

shall teach

them. In administration, alone

who have arranged

nances, as you know/'

4

it

is

the

I fi-


SUCCESS It is

recorded of Linnaeus, among

many proofs of his beneficent skill, that when the timber in the shipyards of Sweden was ruined by rot,

Linnaeus was desired by the

government

to find a

remedy.

He

studied the insects that infested the

timber, and found that they laid their tain

eggs

days

in the logs within cer-

in April,

and he directed

that during ten days at that season

the logs should be immersed under

water

in the

docks; which being

done, the timber was found to be uninjured.

Columbus

at

Veragua found

plenty of gold; but leaving the 5


SUCCESS coast, the ship full of

and

fifty skilful

of them old

one hundred

some

seamen,

pilots,

and with too

much experience of their treachery to him,

craft

and

the wise ad-

miral kept his private record of his

homeward

path.

And when he

reached Spain he told the King and

Queen

that " they

who came

pilots

may ask

all

the

with him where

is

Veragua. Let them answer and say lies.

if I

they

know where Veragua

assert that they can give

no

other account than that they went to lands

where there was an abun-

dance of gold, but they do not

know

the

way

to return thither,

6


SUCCESS but would be obliged to go on a

voyage of discovery as much as if they had never been there before.

There

is

a

mode of reckoning," he

proudly adds, "derived from astronomy, which is sure and safe to

any one who understands it." Hippocrates in Greece knew

how to

stay the devouring plague

which ravaged Athens in his time, and his skill died with him. Dr.

Benjamin Rush,

in

Philadelphia,

carried that city heroically through

the yellow fever of the year 1793-

Leverrier carried the Copernican

system in his head, and knew where to look for the new planet. 7


SUCCESS

We

have seen an American wo-

man

write a novel of which a

million copies

were

sold, in all lan-

guages, and which had one merit, of speaking to the universal heart,

and was read with equal to three audiences,

nursery of every house.

women who

hospitals and

We

and

in the

We have

could institute in armies.

schools

have seen a

in the

namely,

parlor, in the kitchen,

seen

interest

woman who by

pure song could melt the souls of

whole populations And there is no .

limit to these varieties of talent.

These are for,

arts to

each one as 8

be thankful it

is

a

new


SUCCESS direction of

We

human power.

cannot choose but respect them.

Our

civilization

is

made up of

a

million contributions of this kind.

For success, it

to be sure

we esteem

a test in other people, since

do

first in

more

ourselves

ceeded.

ourselves. if

We

respect

we have

Neither do

we

suc-

we grudge

to each of these benefactors the

praise or the profit which accrues

from

his industry.

Here are already quite

different

degrees of moral merit in these examples.

I

don't

know but we and

our race elsewhere set a higher value on wealth, victory and coarse

9


SUCCESS superiority of all kinds, than other

have

men,

of

less tranquillity

mind, are less easily contented.

The Saxon

is

taught from his in-

fancy to wish to be

Norseman was fighter,

a restless rider,

freebooter.

The

ancient

Norse ballads describe him flicted

thirst

as af-

with this inextinguishable

of victory.

to her son "

The

first.

The mother

says

:

Success shall be in thy courser Success in thyself, which

is

tall,

best of all,

Success in thy hand, success in thy foot,

In struggle with man, in battle with brute

:

The holy God and

Saint Drothin dear

Shall never shut eyes on thy career ;

Look out, look

out,

1O

Svend Vonved

" !


SUCCESS These

feats that

signify so

much

as

we extol do not we

These

say.

boasted arts are of very recent origin.

They

are local conven-

do not really add to

iences, but

our stature.

The

greatest

men of

the world have

managed not to want them. Newton was a great

man, without telegraph, or gas, or steam-coach, or rubber shoes, or lucifer-matches, or ether for his pain

;

so

was Shakspeare and

Alfred and Scipio and Socrates.

These are

local conveniences, but

how easy to go now to

parts of the

world where not only arts are

all

these

wanting, but where they 11


SUCCESS are despised.

The Arabian

sheiks,

the most dignified people in the planet,

do not want them

;

yet

have as much self-respect as the English, and

impress

the

are easily able to

Frenchman or the

American who

them with

visits

the respect due to a brave and sufficient

man.

These feats have to be sure great difference of merit, and

some of

them involve power of a high kind. But the public values the invention

more than the inventor

does.

The

inventor knows there is much more

and better where

The

this

public sees in

12

it

came from. a lucrative


SUCCESS Men

secret.

see the reward which

the inventor enjoys, and they think,

'How and

shall

we win

that?'

effect are a little tedious

to leap to the result

Cause ;

how

by short or by

We are not scrupu-

false

means

lous.

What we ask is victory, with-

?

out regard to the cause

Rob Roy

rule, after the

;

after the

Napoleon

rule, to be the strongest to-day,

the

way

of the Talley rands, pru-

dent people, whose watches go faster than their neighbors',

who detect the first moment cline

and

of de-

and throw themselves on the

on the winning side. I have heard that Nelson used to say, instant

13


SUCCESS ' <

Never mind the

impudence, only

justice or the

let

me

succeed."

Lord Brougham's single duty of counsel is, "to get the prisoner clear."

Fuller says

'tis a

maxim

of lawyers that "a crown once

worn

cleareth all defects of the

wearer thereof. mieux que

"

le succes.

Rien ne

r'eussit

And we Amer-

icans are tainted with this insanity, as our bankruptcies less politics

may

and our reck-

show.

We

are

great by exclusion, grasping and egotism. all

what

Our it

success takes from

gives to one.

'Tis a

haggard, malignant, careworn run-

ning for luck.

14


SUCCESS Egotism that gives

buckram

a kind of

is

momentary strength and

concentration to men, and seems to

be

much used

in

which

ergy

men

is

in

local

Nature

and spasmodic en-

required.

in this

for fabrics

I

could point to

country, of indispensa-

ble importance to the carrying

of American

life,

whom we could

ill

of this humor, spare;

any one

of them would be a national

But

it

spoils conversation.

will not try conclusions

They are

on

ever thrusting

loss.

They

with you. this

pam-

pered self between you and them. It is

plain they have a long educa-

tion to

undergo to reach simplicity 15


SUCCESS and plain-dealing, which are what a wise

man mainly cares

for in his

companion. Nature knows convert evil to good izes misers,

how to

Nature

;

util-

show-men,

fanatics,

egotists, to accomplish her ends

but

we must

not think better of

The

the foible for that. for

;

sudden success

puerile, just as war,

is

passion

rude and

cannons and

executions are used to clear the

ground of bad, lumpish, irreclaimable savages, but

damage of I

the conquerors.

hate this shallow Americanism

which hopes to get to

always to the

rich

by credit, get knowledge by raps on mid16


SUCCESS night tables, to learn the

economy

of the mind by phrenology, or

skill

without study, or mastery without apprenticeship, or the sale of goods

through pretending that they

sell,

or power through making believe

you are powerful, or through a packed jury or caucus, bribery and "repeating" votes, or wealth by fraud. it,

They

think they have got

but they have got something

else,

a crime which calls

for

another crime, and another devil

behind that cide,

;

these are steps to sui-

infamy, and the harming of

mankind.

We

other in this

countenance each

life

of show, puffing,

17


SUCCESS advertisement and manufacture of public opinion lost sight

;

and excellence

of in the hunger for sud-

den performance and

There was ian

is

artist,

a wise

praise.

man, an

Michel Angelo,

writes thus of himself:

Ital-

who

"Mean-

while the

Cardinal Ippolito, in

whom

my

all

best hopes

placed, being dead,

I

were

began to un-

derstand that the promises of this

world are for the most part vain phantoms, and that to confide

in

and become something of worth and value, is the best and

one's

self,

safest course."

Now, though I am

by no means sure 18

that the reader


SUCCESS will assent to all

yet

I

first

think

we

my

shall

propositions,

agree in

rule for success,

that

my we

drop the brag and the advertisement, and take Michel Anshall

" to confide

gelo's course, self,

in one's

and be something of worth

and value/'

Each man has an with him. to say this it

oftener.

aptitude born

Do

your work. I have often, but Nature says 'T is clownish to

insist

on doing all with one's own hands, as if

every

man

should build his

own clumsy house, forge mer, and bake is

to dare to

his

ham-

dough but he do what he can do his

19

;


SUCCESS best; not help others as they direct him, but as

would

he knows

his

helpful

power to be. To do other-

wise

to neutralize all those ex-

is

traordinary special talents distrib-

uted

among men. Yet

self-truth

is

tion of the

whilst this

essential to the exhibi-

world and to the growth

and glory of each mind,

it is

rare

man who believes his own thought or who speaks that which to find a

he was created to say. As nothing astonishes men so much as common

sense and plain dealing, so nothing is

any man than an act own. Any work looks won-

more

of his

rare in

derful to him, except that which he

20


SUCCESS can do.

We do not believe our own

we must serve somebody; we must quote somebody; we dote thought;

on the old and the tickled

distant

;

we

by great names we import ;

the religion of other nations

quote their opinions

The

laws.

are

;

we

;

we

cite their

gravest and learnedest

courts in this country shudder to face a

new question, and

months and years

will wait

for a case to

occur that can be tortured into a precedent, and thus throw on a

bolder party the onus of an tive.

Thus we do not carry a coun-

sel in it;

initia-

our breasts, or do not

know

and because we cannot shake off 21


SUCCESS from our shoes

this

dust of Europe

and Asia, the world seems to be born old, 'society

every

man

mimic,

life is

is

is

under a

spell,

a borrower and a

theatrical

and

litera-

ture a quotation; and hence that that furrow

depression of

spirits,

of care, said to

mark every Ameri-

can brow. Self-trust

is

the

first

success, the belief that

secret of if

you are

here the authorities of the universe put you here, and for cause, or with

some task your

strictly

appointed you in

and so long as that you are well and

constitution,

you work

at

successful. It

by no means consists 22


SUCCESS in

rushing prematurely to a showy

feat that shall catch the It is

satisfy spectators.

you work in the far

eye and

enough

right direction.

if

So

from the performance being the

real success,

cess

it is

was much

namely, when

clear that the sucearlier than that,

all

the feats that

make our civility were the thoughts of good heads.

The fame

of each

discovery rightly attaches to the

mind that made the formula which contains

all

the details, and not to

the manufacturers their gain

who now make

by it; although the mob

uniformly cheers the publisher, and not the inventor.

It is

23

the dulness


SUCCESS of the multitude that they cannot see the house in the ground-plan ;

the working, in the model of the projector. Whilst

though

it

it is

a thought,

were a new fuel, or a new

food, or the creation of agriculture, it is

cried

when

down, it is a chimera

it is

a fact, and

comes

;

but

in the

shape of eight per cent, ten per cent, a

hundred per cent, they cry,

<It is the voice

God/

of

Greenough the sculptor of Robert Fulton's

"Fulton knocked

Horatio

said to

visit to

at the

me

Paris

:

door of

Napoleon with steam, and was reand Napoleon lived long jected ;

enough

to

know

that he

24

had ex-


SUCCESS eluded a greater power than his

own." Is there

no loving of knowledge,

and of our design, for itself alone ? Cannot we please ourand of

art,

selves with performing our

work,

or gaining truth and power, without being praised for point,

I

gain

I

it?

all points, if I

gain

my

can reach

my companion with any statement which teaches him

The sum time

is

his

of wisdom

never lost that

own is,

is

worth.

that the

devoted to

work. The good workman never says, 'There, that will do'; but, '

There, that

is it

:

try

it,

and come

again, it will last always.' If the art-

25


SUCCESS ist,

in

on

his

whatever art,

own

is it

design,

well at

work

signifies little

that he does not yet find orders or

customers.

I

pronounce that young

man happy who

is

content with

having acquired the skill which he had aimed at, and waits willingly

when

the occasion of

making

appreciated shall arrive,

well that

it

it

knowing

will not loiter.

The

time your rival spends in dressing

up

his

work

for effect, hastily,

and

for the market,

you spend in study and experiments towards real knowledge and

efficiency.

He

has

thereby sold his picture or machine, or

won

the prize, or got the ap-

26


SUCCESS pointment; but you have raised yourself into a higher school of art,

and a few hours will show the

advantage of the real master over the short popularity of the show-

man.

I

know

it is

a nice point to

discriminate this self-trust, which is

the pledge of

all

mental vigor

and performance, from the disease to

which

it

is

allied,

the exag-

geration of the part which

we

can

play;

yet they are two things.

But

sanity to

it is

my talent

know

that,

over

or knack, and a million

times better than any talent,

is

the

central intelligence which subordi-

nates and uses

all talents

27

;

and

it is


SUCCESS only as a door into talent or the is

of value.

into this

this, that

knowledge

He

only

it

any

gives

who comes

central intelligence, in

which no egotism or exaggeration can be, comes into self-possession.

My next point of powers ibility

fines,

it is

which

is

that in the scale

not talent but sensis

best: talent con-

but the central

relation to

all.

life

puts us in

How often it seems

the chief good to be born with a

cheerful temper and well adjusted to the tone of the

Such a man

human

race.

feels himself in har-

mony, and conscious by his recep28


SUCCESS tivity

of an

infinite strength.

Like

"good fortune accompanhim like a gift of God/' Feel

Alfred, ies

yourself, and be not daunted things. 'Tis the fulness of

by

man

that runs over into objects, and

makes

his Bibles

and Shakspeares

and Homers so great. The joyful reader borrows of his own ideas to fill

their faulty outline,

and knows

not that he borrows and gives.

There in

something of poverty assume that our criticism. is

We

there are few great men, rest are little ; that there

is

all

the

but one

Homer, but one Shakspeare, one Newton, one Socrates. 29

But the


SUCCESS soul in her

beaming hour does not

acknowledge these usurpations.

We

should

know how

to praise

Socrates, or Plato, or Saint John,

without impoverishing us. In good

we do not find Shakspeare or Homer over-great, only to have hours

been translators of the happy present, and every man and woman divine possibilities.

'T

is

the good

reader that makes the good book

;

a good head cannot read amiss, in

every book he finds passages

which seem confidences or asides hidden from

all else

and unmis-

takably meant for his ear.

The

light

by which we see 30

in


SUCCESS this

world comes out from the soul

Wherever any noble sentiment dwelt, it made the

of the observer.

faces

and houses around to shine.

Nay, the powers of this busy brain are miraculous and illimitable. Therein are the rules and form-

by which the whole empire of matter is worked. There is no ulas

prosperity, trade, art, city, or great

material wealth of any kind, but

you

trace

it

home, you

rooted in a thought of vidual

will find

some

if it

indi-

man.

Is all life

a surface

affair?

'T

is

curious, but our difference of wit

appears to be only a difference of

31


SUCCESS impressionability, or

power

to ap-

preciate faint, fainter and infinitely faintest voices

the

scholar

and

or

pumped his brain verses,

visions.

the

When

writer

for thoughts

has

and

and then comes abroad

into Nature, has

that there

is

he never found

a better poetry hinted

in a boy's whistle of a tune, or in

the piping of a sparrow, than in all his literary results

health.

What

is

?

We call

it

so admirable as

the health of youth?

with his

long days because

eyes are

his

good, and brisk circulations keep

him warm

in cold

rooms, and he

loves books that speak to the im-

32


SUCCESS agination

and he can read Plato,

;

covered to his chin with a cloak in a cold

upper chamber, though

he should associate the Dialogues ever after with a woollen smell.

'T is the bane of effects

out,

are

and

life

continually crowded

artificial

substituted.

that natural

We

arrangements

remember when

youth the earth spoke and the heavens glowed when

in early

;

an evening, any evening, grim and wintry, sleet and snow, was

enough

for us; the houses

in the air.

Now

it

were

costs a rare

combination of clouds and lights to

overcome the common and 33


SUCCESS What

mean.

is

we

it

look for in

the landscape, in sunsets and sunrises,

and the firma-

in the sea

ment? what but a compensation for the

cramp and

pettiness of

We

bask

mind

finds

human performances? in

the day, and the

somewhat Nature

as great as itself.

all is

large massive repose.

Remember what who goes

befalls a city

boy

for the first time into the

October woods. initiated

In

into a

that brings

He

is

suddenly and pomp glory

to pass for

dreams of romance.

him the

He is the king

he dreamed he was

;

he walks

through tents of gold, through

34


SUCCESS bowers of crimson, porphyry and topaz, pavilion on pavilion, garlanded with vines, flowers and sun-

beams, with incense and music, with so

many

ished senses

;

and pique and

hints to his aston-

the leaves twinkle flatter

him, and his

eye and step are tempted on by

what hazy distances solitudes.

to happier

All this happiness he

owes only to his finer perception. The owner of the wood-lot finds only a number of discolored trees,

and says,

down

;

<

They ought

to

come

they are n't growing any

better; they should be cut and

corded before spring/

35


SUCCESS Wordsworth lights of the

"

For never

Of

writes of the de-

boy

in

Nature

come back

will

:

the hour

splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower."

But

have just seen a man, well

I

knowing what he spoke of, who told me that the verse was not true for

him; that

his

eyes opened as

he grew older, and that every spring was more beautiful to him

than the

We own

last.

live

among gods

creation.

Does

that

of our

deep-

which has shortened

toned

bell,

many

a night of

ill

nerves, ren-

der to you nothing but acoustic

36

vi-


SUCCESS brations

Is

?

the old church which

gave you the gious

life,

first

lessons of reli-

or the village school, or

the college where

you

first

knew

the dreams of fancy and joys of

thought, only boards or brick and

mortar?

Is

the house in which

you were born, or the house which your dearest friend

in

lived,

only a piece of real estate whose value

is

covered by the Hartford

insurance?

You walk on

the beach

and enjoy the animation of the picture. Scoop up a little water in the hollow of your palm, take up a handful of shore sand; well, these are the elements.

37

What

is

the


SUCCESS beach but acres of sand ? what the ocean but cubic miles of ter? a

little

more or

nothing. No,

matter

is

brute. It

held

it is

less signifies

somewhat not

that the sand floor

is

gravity, and bent

by spheral

to be a part of the

round globe,

under the optical sky, the

wa-

that this brute

part of is

is

astonishing

part of

astronomy, and

existing at last to moral ends and

from moral causes.

The world

is

not

made up

the eye of figures, that half;

it is

also

that element

with

its

to

is,

only

made of color.

How

washes the universe

enchanting waves

38

!

The


SUCCESS sculptor had ended his work, and

behold a

new world

glory. 'T

is

of dream-like

the last stroke of Na-

ture ; beyond color she cannot go.

In like manner,

life

is

made

up,

not of knowledge only, but of love also.

If

ment

is

is

thought color.

It

form, senti-

clothes the skel-

eton world with space, variety and

life

The

hues of sunset

make

great; so the affections

make

glow.

some

little

web of cottage and fire-

side populous, important,

and

fill-

ing the main space in our history.

The fundamental metaphysic

fact in

constitution

correspondence

of

39

man

our

is

the

to

the


SUCCESS world, so that every change in that writes a record in the mind.

mind

The

yields sympathetically to the

tendencies or law which stream

through things and make the order of Nature; and in the perfection of

this

correspondence or expres-

siveness, the health

man consist. into

If

follow this hint

our intellectual education,

shall find that tions, ical

we

and force of

not

it

is

we

not proposi-

new dogmas and

a log-

exposition of the world that

are our

first

need; but to watch

and tenderly cherish the intellectual and moral sensibilities, those fountains of right

40

thought, and


SUCCESS woo them home

and make their

with us. Whilst they abide

with us

Our

to stay

we

shall not think amiss.

perception far outruns our

talent.

We

bring a welcome to

the highest lessons of religion and

of poetry out of

yond our

proportion be-

all

skill to teach.

And,

fur-

and symmore true and wise

ther, the great hearing

pathy of men

is

than their speaking

A

deep sympathy

is

is

wont

to be.

what we

re-

any student of the mind; the chief difference between

quire for for

man and man is a difference

of im-

pressionability. Aristotle or

Bacon

or Kant propound some

41

maxim


SUCCESS which

is

the key-note of philoso-

phy thenceforward. But I am more interested to know that when at last

they have hurled out their

grand word, iliar

it is

only some fam-

experience of every

the street. If it be not,

it

man

will

in

never

be heard of again. Ah if one could keep this sens!

ibility,

and

live in the

ficing present,

happy

suf-

and find the day

cheap means contenting, which only ask receptivity in you,

and

its

and no strained exertion and cankering ambition, overstimulating

head of your class and the head of society, and to have to be at the

42


SUCCESS distinction

and laurels and con-

sumption

We

!

are not strong

by

our power to penetrate, but by

The world is ennot by new objects,

our relatedness. larged for us,

but by finding more potencies in those

affinities

we

and

have.

This sensibility appears

in the

homage to beauty which exalts the faculties

of youth; in the power

which form and color exert upon the soul

;

when we see eyes that are

a compliment to the features ian

that

sculpture.

"There which

I

human

race,

explain the Phid-

Fontenelle

are three things

said

about

have curiosity, though

43

:

I


SUCCESS know nothing

of them,

The

poetry and love/'

music,

great doc-

tors of this science are the greatest

men,

Dante, Petrarch, Michel

Angelo and Shakspeare. The wise Socrates treats this matter with a certain

marked

archness, yet with very expressions. "I

am

al-

ways,'' he says, "asserting that

happen to know, thing but a

mere

matters of love of learning

I

skilled than

;

I

may

trifle

I

say, no-

relating to

yet in that kind

lay claim to be

more

any one man of the

pastor present time/'

They may

well speak in this uncertain

man-

ner of their knowledge, and

in this

44


SUCCESS manner of

confident

for the secret of

it

tect, so

;

is

it is

deep

measured by

is

their

will,

hard to de-

and yet genius

its

skill

in

this

in

ma-

science.

Who

is

he

in

even

turity or

youth or in old

age,

who

does not like to hear of those sensibilities

round

which turn curled heads at church,

and send wonassem-

derful eye-beams across blies,

from one to one, never miss-

ing in the thickest crowd?

keen

statist

hundreds

;

The

reckons by tens and

the genial

man

is

ested in every slipper that into the assembly.

45

The

inter-

comes

passion,


SUCCESS everywhere, creeps under the snows of Scandinavia, under alike

the fires of the equator, and swims in the seas

of Polynesia. Lofn

as puissant a divinity in the

Edda

as

Camadeva in

is

Norse

the red vault

of India, Eros in the Greek, or in the Latin heaven.

Cupid

what that

is is

it

And

specially true of love

a state of

is

extreme im-

pressionability; the lover has

more

senses and finer senses than others; his

graphs

;

eye and ear are telehe reads omens on the

flower, and cloud, and face, and

form,

them

and aright.

gesture,

and

reads

In his surprise at

46


SUCCESS the sudden and entire understand-

ing that

between him and the

is

beloved person,

it

occurs to him

might somehow meet independently of time and place.

that they

How

delicious the belief that

could elude

all

he

guards, precau-

tions,

ceremonies, means and de-

lays,

and hold instant and sempi-

ternal communication! In solitude, in

banishment, the hope returned,

and the experiment was eagerly tried.

The

supernal powers seem

to take his part. lips to

say

is

What was on

uttered

by his

his

friend.

When he went abroad, he met, by wonderful

casualties, the

47

one per-


SUCCESS son he sought. If in his walk he

chanced to look back,

his friend

was walking behind him. And has happened that the often

drawn

in

his

it

has

artist

pictures the

face of the future wife

whom

he

had not yet seen. But also in complacencies nowise so

strict as this

sion, the

man

it

of the pas-

of sensibility counts

a delight only to hear a child's

voice fully addressed to him, or to see the beautiful

manners of

the youth of either sex. the event

is

insignificant

When

past and remote,

the

greatest

how

com-

pared with the piquancy of the

48


SUCCESS present

!

To-day

at the school ex-

amination the professor interrogates Sylvina in the history class

about Odoacer and Alaric.

Syl-

vina can't remember, but suggests that

Odoacer was defeated; and *

the professor tartly replies,

he defeated the Romans/ 'tis

No, But

plain to the visitor that 'tis

of no importance at acer and

't is

all

about Odo-

a great deal of im-

portance about Sylvina, and says he

was

defeated,

if

she

why he

had

better a great deal have been de-

feated than give her a

annoy. Odoacer, particle of the

if

moment's

there

gentleman

49

was a in

him,


SUCCESS would have

Let

said,

me

be de-

feated a thousand times.

And as our tenderness for youth and beauty gives a new and just importance to their fresh and manifold claims, so the like sensibility

gives

welcome

to all excellence,

has eyes and hospitality for merit

in corners.

An Englishman

marked character and

talent,

of

who

had brought with him hither one or two friends and a library of mystics, assured

me

that

nobody

and nothing of possible interest was left in England, he had

I

all that

was

alive

away. was forced to reply: "No, next

brought

50


SUCCESS door to you probably, on the other side of the partition in the

same

man than any Every man has a

house, was a greater

you had seen/' history worth knowing, tell

it,

or

if

we

if

he could

could draw

it

from

him. Character and wit have their

own magnetism. Send into

any town, and he

other deep

man

a deep

man

will find an-

there,

unknown

hitherto to his neighbors.

the great happiness of

That

life,

is

to

add to our high acquaintances.

The very law

of averages might

have assured you that there will be in every hundred heads, say ten or five good heads.

Morals are


SUCCESS generated as the atmosphere

'T

is

is.

a secret, the genesis of either;

but the springs of justice and cour-

age do not

fail

any more than

salt

or sulphur springs.

The world

is

always opulent,

the oracles are never silent; but the receiver

must by a happy

temperance be brought to that top of condition, that frolic health, that

he

can

easily

take

and

give these fine communications.

Health

is

the condition

dom, and the sign

is

of wis-

cheerfulness,

open and noble temper. There was never poet who had an

not the heart in the right place.

52


SUCCESS The

old trouveur, Pons Capdueil,

wrote, u

Oft have I heard, and deem the witness true,

Whom man

delights in,

God

delights in

too."

All beauty

warms

the heart,

is

a sign of health, prosperity and the

favor of God. Everything lasting

and

fit

for

men

Power

the Divine

has marked with this stamp. delights,

what

what emancipates, not

scars and pains us,

and good

What

in

is

speech and in the

wise arts.

For, truly, the heart at the centre

of the universe with every throb hurls the flood of happiness into

53


SUCCESS every artery, vein and

whole system

that the

is

inundated

The

with the tides of joy. of the poorest place

veinlet, so

is

plenty

too great :

the harvest cannot be gathered.

Every sound ends

The

in music.

edge of every surface

is

tinged

with prismatic rays.

One more

trait

The good mind positive,

what

is

of true success.

chooses what

tem

is

em-

advancing

braces the affirmative.

Our

one of poverty. 'T

sumed, as

I said,

there

is

is

is

sys-

pre-

but one

Shakspeare, one Homer, one Jesus,

not that

be inspired. But

all

are or shall

we must

54

begin


SUCCESS by affirming. Truth and goodness subsist

forevermore.

there

evil

is

It

true

is

and good, night and

day but these are not equal. The day is great and final. The night :

is

for the day, but the

What

for the night.

day

is

is

this

not

im-

mortal demand for more, which belongs to our constitution? this

enormous critic

Soul.

ideal

?

There

and beggar as

No historical

to content us.

is

no such

this terrible

person begins

We know the satis-

factoriness of justice, the suffic-

iency of truth.

We know the

an-

swer that leaves nothing

to ask.

We know the

victor-

Spirit

55

by

its


SUCCESS ious tone.

The

apply to every

amount and

searching tests to

new

is

mind he leaves me is

what does

quality,

he add? and what

ory

pretender are

unimportant

;

the state of

Your

the-

but what

new

in?

stock you can add to humanity, or

how

high you can carry

man

is

a

man

I

?

A

only as he makes

and nature happier to

life

life

us.

fear the popular notion of suc-

cess stands in direct opposition in all

points to the real and whole-

some

success.

One

adores public

opinion, the other private opinion

;

one fame, the other desert; one feats, the

other humility

56

;

one lu-


SUCCESS ere, the other

love; one

mono-

poly, and the other hospitality of

mind.

We law

may

apply

to letters, to

this affirmative

manners, to

to the decorations of etc.

I

art,

our houses,

do not find executions or

tortures or lazar-houses, or grisly

photographs of the

day after the

field

on the

battle, fit subjects for

think that

some

so-called "sacred subjects"

must

cabinet pictures.

I

be treated with more genius than I have seen in the masters of Italian

or Spanish art

to

be right

pictures for houses and churches.

Nature does not

57

invite

such ex-


SUCCESS Nature lays the ground-

hibition.

plan for each creature accurately, sternly

then

how

fit

for all his functions

veils

it

scrupulously.

carefully she covers

skeleton.

weaves her

ments of

See

up the

The eye shall not

the sun shall not shine on

;

see

it.

it

;

She

and integuand skin and hair

tissues

flesh

and beautiful colors of the day over it, and forces death down underground, and makes haste to cover

it

up with leaves and

vines,

and wipes carefully out every trace

by new

creation.

are

that

you

Who

and what

would lay the ghastly

anatomy bare

?

58


SUCCESS Don't hang a dismal picture on the wall, and do not daub with sables and sation.

glooms in your converDon't be a cynic and dis-

consolate preacher. Don't bewail

and bemoan. Omit the negative propositions.

Nerve us with

in-

cessant affirmatives. Don't waste

nor bark

yourself in

rejection,

against the

bad, but chant the

beauty of the good.

When

that

spoken which has a right to be spoken, the chatter and the crit-

is

icism will stop. Set

down nothing

that will not help somebody ; " For every gift of noble origin Is

breathed

upon by Hope's perpetual

breath."

59


SUCCESS The is

affirmative of affirmatives

As much

love.

perception. so

and so

makes

insight,

to the sea

a river.

I

seek one get or

as

so

it

enlarges,

Good

will

one finds

his

it.

by embarking on

have seen scores of peo-

who can

ple

;

empowers

it

who

silence shall

me, but

make me

overcome the

us,

I

for-

frigidities

and imbecilities into which

The

much

caloric to matter,

love to mind

is

way

As

love, so

I fall.

painter Giotto, Vasari tells

renewed

art because

he put

more goodness into his heads. To awake in man and to raise the sense

of worth, to educate his

60


SUCCESS feeling and

judgment so

that he

shall scorn himself for a

bad ac-

tion, that is

'T

is

There

the only aim.

cheap and easy to destroy. is

not a joyful boy or an

innocent girl buoyant with fine

purposes of duty, in full

all

the street

of eager and rosy faces, but

a cynic can chill and dishearten

with a single word. Despondency

comes readily enough sanguine.

The

to the

most

cynic has only to

follow their hint with his bitter confirmation, and they check that

eager courageous pace and

home with

go

heavier step and pre-

mature age.

They 61

will

them-


SUCCESS quickly enough give the

selves

hint he wants to the cold wretch.

Which

of them has not

failed to

where they most wished or blundered where they were

please it ?

most ambitious of success? or found

themselves or

tedious

thought

awkward or

incapable

or

heroism,

of

study,

and only

hoped by good sense and fidelity to do what they could and pass

unblamed? And factor

makes

this witty

their little

male-

hope

less

with satire and skepticism, and slackens the springs of endeavor.

Yes,

this is

young

soul,

easy

;

but to help the

add energy, inspire

62


SUCCESS hope and blow the coals useful flame ; to

new is

redeem defeat by

thought, by firm action, that

not easy, that

divine

We

the

is

work of

men. on

live

different planes or

There

platforms. life,

into a

which

is

is

an external

educated at school,

taught to read, write, cipher and trade

;

taught to grasp

all

the

boy

can get, urging him to put himself forward, to

make himself

and agreeable ride, run,

in

useful

the world,

to

argue and contend, un-

fold his talents, shine,

conquer and

possess.

But the inner

life sits at

63

home,


SUCCESS and does not learn to do things, nor value these feats at all. 'T is a quiet, wise perception. truth, because

it

wise in our

now; turity in

loves

itself real;

it

knows nothing else makes no progress; was as

loves right,

but

is

it

It

is

it

;

first

just the

memory of it as same now in ma-

and hereafter

youth.

in age,

it

was

We have grown to man-

hood and womanhood; we have powers, connection, children, reputations, professions: this

no account of them

all.

the great present;

it

makes

It lives in

makes the

present great. This tranquil, well-

founded, wide-seeing soul

64

is

no ex-


SUCCESS no attorney, no magit lies in the sun and broods

press-rider, istrate

:

on the world.

A

person of

man

this

of

temper once

said to a

much

" I will pardon you

that

activity,

you do so much, and you

me

do nothing." And Euripides " Zeus hates busybodies says that do too who much." and those

that

I


FIVE

HUNDRED AND FORTY NUMBERED

COPIES PRINTED

AT THE RIVERSIDE PRESS

CAMBRIDGE, MASS., IN NOVEMBER, 1912 NO.


UNIVERSITY

CFCSlffflRMAUBW


Ralph Waldo Emerson - Succes, an Essay, 1912  

Source: Internet Archive; Digitizing Sponsor: Microsoft; Contributor: University of California Libraries

Ralph Waldo Emerson - Succes, an Essay, 1912  

Source: Internet Archive; Digitizing Sponsor: Microsoft; Contributor: University of California Libraries

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