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Emerson

Posted 12/31/2014 8:04am by Eugene Wyatt.

So he (Sainte-Beuve) differs from Emerson, who said one must hitch one’s waggon to a star. He tried to hitch his waggon to what is nearest at hand, to politics: and said, “I thought it interesting to collaborate in a great social movement.” He harped on what a pity it was that Chateaubriand, Lamartine, Hugo, should have taken up with politics, but in reality politics play less part in their writings than in his criticism. Why did he say of Lamartine: “The talent is left out”? Of Chateaubriand: “These Memoires in fact, are not very kind and that is their main defect. For as far as talent goes, mingled with a vein of bad taste, and with verbal abuses of all kinds—which for that matter are to be found in almost all M. de Chateaubriand’s writings—there are many pages bearing the stamp of the master, the claw-mark of the old lion; sudden flights side by side with childish whimsies, and passages of such grace, such magical suavity, that one owns the enchanter’s voice and wand.” “I really should not be able to discuss Hugo.”

Marcel Proust on Art and Literature (containing Contre Sainte-Beuve ~1908, p. 19 to p. 276) translated by Sylvia Townsend Warner 1957, p. 113.