Robert Darnton

Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and University Librarian, Emeritus

Ralph Waldo Emerson. Essays
Boston, 1847

While a freshman at Harvard in 1957, I visited Houghton Library to view Melville’s copy of Emerson’s Essays. Melville had written extensive notes in the margins, and the bit of marginalia on this page has remained fixed in my memory. While Emerson expatiates on the transient nature of suffering, which, as any sailor could testify, would blow over like a storm, Melville wonders in the margin whether Emerson has any idea of the terror faced by sailors at Cape Horn. There is nothing like holding an old copy of Emerson’s Essays in your own hands and working through it from cover to cover, while situating Cape Horn in the mental geography of transcendentalism. To do that, you have to go to Houghton.

7.25 L x 4.75 W x 1 Th (in)
AC85.M4977.Zz847e, Gift of Henry K. Metcalf, 1942

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Darnton speaks about Melville’s Emerson