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work came, in some measure freeing the elder brothers to pursue their education for the ministry. Ralph, at the age of nineteen, assisted William, the eldest and the prop of the family, in his “finishing school” for the first young ladies of Boston. Later, he taught the school alone, a sore trial for a bashful boy. The relief when he got away from these daunting fair ones to his rural home found expression in “Goodbye, Proud World.” He taught later in Brookline, Cambridge and Chelmsford, and began his studies at the Divinity School
The health of the young teacher suffered from too ascetic a life, and unmistakable dangersignals began to appear, fortunately heeded in time. Disappointment and delay resulted, borne, however, with sense and courage. A certain serene acceptance of physical and temperamental limitations came even at that early age into play and saved his life, balancing the drivings of conscience or ambition which cost his two brilliant younger brothers their lives, and made William, the brave and faithful bearer of the family burdens, a sufferer through most of his life.
William studied for the ministry at Göttingen, but the same honest doubts which later came to
his brother turned him aside to the Law, and the hereditary mantle fell on Waldo's shoulders. Weak lungs and eyes interrupted his studies; nevertheless, in October, 1826, he was “approbated to preach” by the Middlesex Association of Ministers. A winter at the North at this time threatened to prove fatal, so, helped by his generous kinsman, Rev. Samuel Ripley, he sailed for Charleston and thence to Florida, where he passed the winter with benefit at St. Augustine. In the spring he worked northward, preaching in the cities through which he passed, and later near home, as opportunity offered, while pursuing his studies.
In 1829 Mr. Emerson was ordained in the Second or Old North Church in Boston as associate pastor with Rev. Henry Ware, and soon after, because of his senior's delicate health, was called on to assume the full duty. In this year he also was chosen chaplain of the Senate. The young minister entered earnestly upon his duties, although, quoting the words of one of the Fathers of the Church, he called it Onus angelicis humeris formidandum. Theological dogmas, even such as the Unitarians of Channing's day accepted, did not appeal to Emerson, nor did the supernatural in religion, in its ordinary
acceptation, interest him. The living God, the solicitations of the Spirit, the daily miracle of the universe, the secure compensations, the dignity of man, were what he taught, and, though the older members of the congregation may have been disquieted that he did not dwell upon revealed religion or the offices of the Christ, his words reached the young people, stirred thought, and wakened aspiration.
Because of his shyness the pastoral visits to his parishioners were less easy for him than helping them by his thought. At this time he lived with his young wife, Ellen Tucker, and his mother, in Chardon Street. For nearly four years he ministered to his people in Boston, then his expanding spirit found itself cramped by custom and tradition even in the most liberal church of his day. Though endeavoring to conform to blameless usage, he presently felt it his duty to tell his congregation that he could not regard the rite of the Lord's Supper as a sacrament established by Christ for observance through the ages, and proposed to them a merely commemorative service without the elements. This change was not adopted, and the question whether he ought to resign his charge came to him. To decide this he went for solitary thought to the
White Mountains. The temptation not to sacrifice, on a matter of form, a position of usefulness for which he had been trained, and in which he was happy and valued, was great, but he put it behind him and bravely offered his resignation. He and his people parted in all friendship, many desiring that he should remain on his own terms. The use of prayer at stated times, whether the spirit moved or not, had been distressing to Mr. Emerson, and thereafter he always declined engagements where this was required. In his farewell to his church he spoke of himself as still “engaged to the love and service of the same eternal cause. ... To me, as one disciple, is the ministry of truth, as far as I can discern and declare it, committed.”
This was the darkest time in Mr. Emerson's life. His wife, a beautiful and spiritual woman, had died. His noble brother Edward had broken down from overwork, and gone to Porto Rico, where, after three years' exile for health, he died. He himself was sick and sad. On Christmas Day, 1832, he sailed for the Mediterranean to recover as he might.
He landed in Malta and went thence to Sicily and Naples. The sea always helped him, and, though never a sight-seer and constantly urged
homeward by his spirit to begin the new life, he found useful diversion in these old-world sights. As the philosophy and poetry of ancient Greeks always spoke to him, so now in Italy, seeing their sculptured deities and heroes and the contrast between these faces and those of the living throng around, he said, “These are the countenances of the first-born, the face of man in the morning of the world.” The Elgin marbles, seen later in London, he always remembered with delight. Sculpture seemed nobler to him than painting, and, though greatly moved by Raphael's Transfiguration, the work of Michel Angelo— St. Peter's, his statues, and the sculpturepainting in the Sistine Chapel — was the principal gift that Rome had for him. The engravings of the Sibyls and a copy of the Fates thereafter adorned his study walls. He tarried in Florence and enjoyed acquaintance with Landor. There, he tells us, he did homage at the tomb of Galileo. But he quickly sped northward, over the Alps, made but short stay in Paris, crossed the Channel, and in the lonely moorlands of the Scottish Border sought out the man, then hardly recognized in England, whose writings had stirred him at home, and who drew him thither like a magnet. There began the friendship of Emer