Friday, April 06, 2007

a puzzling soul-mate

Jounal of Ralph Waldo Emerson
April 6, 1827 Charleston

25 March weighed 152 lb.
A new event is added to the quiet history of my life. I have connected myself by friendship to a man who with as ardent a love of truth as that which animates me, with a mind surpassing mine in the variety of its research, & sharpened & strengthened to an energy for action, to which I have no pretension by advantages of birth & practical connexion with mankind beyond almost all men in the world - is, yet, that which I had ever supposed a creature only of the imagination - a consistent Atheist, and a disbeliever in the existence, &, of course, in the immortality of the soul. My faith in these points is strong & I trust, as I live, indestructible. Meantime I love & honour this intrepid doubter. His soul is noble, & his virtue as the virtue of a Sadducee must always be, is sublime.
Emerson is 26 when he writes this. He is traveling in the South to improve his health. In his life, he would lose two brothers and his first wife to tuberculosis and he had symptoms of the disease himself. The previous autumn he had also had eye trouble -- difficulty reading almost to blindness -- and, though impecunious, found money to travel to St. Augustine and Charleston over the winter months. On ship between the two cities he met the man he describes in this passage, Achille Murat, a nephew of Napoleon. Murat was, as Emerson indicates, sophisticated, worldly-wise, and free of conventional regligious pieties. Emerson took him to be morally upright as well. As Joel Porte says, Emerson was amazed to find "that a man without belief or adherence to a creed could nevertheless be good and true." Porte, Emerson in His Journals (52).

Although these days we tie romantic love to erotic attachment, it wasn't so in Emerson's day. He had no cause to restrain the strength of his ardor.

The notation of weight is interesting. Emerson was tall and carried himself well. At 152lb. he wasn't wasted by disease nor at all fleshy.

{Portrait of Achille Murat, scanned from an illustration in Porte. Click to enlarge.}

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