Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

To contact me about organizing, email me at rpwolff750@gmail.com




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Saturday, July 13, 2013

PERAMBULATORY MUSINGS


While taking my morning walk, I found my mind turning to the Dickinson poem that I chose as the epigraph of my Autobiography.  I have always been fascinated by those transcendently great creative artists who masquerade as commonplace folk and, by refusing to proclaim themselves, are persistently underestimated by those who know them personally.  Jane Austen and David Hume come to mind.  It always astonishes me that even their biggest fans sometimes imagine that the artists themselves are unaware of their own true quality.  As though one could actually write Pride and Prejudice and yet not be certain whether it were any good.

As I walked, I tried to conjure up a scene -- quite imaginary, of course -- in the Amherst of the 1870's, let us say.  The Editor of the Springfield Republican, Samuel Bowles, has gathered a group of literary types to an afternoon tea in honor of a visiting poet from Boston who has lately been much praised in the pages of the Atlantic Monthly.  Bowles has persuaded his friend and correspondent, Emily Dickinson, to make the long trip down to Springfield for the event.  Dickinson is dressed plainly, and contents herself with standing quietly at the margins of the room while the guests swirl around her, chattering and gossiping about writers and publications.

One of those present is an eager ambitious young man, just launching himself into the literary world, who very much wants to be sure that he has met every important person in the gathering and has made an impression.  After thrusting himself into each cluster of conversation, he notices Dickinson sipping her tea.  Although he doubts that she can be very important, inasmuch as no one is talking to her, he decides to take no chances, and walks up to her boldly.  "Who are you?" he asks, rather impertinently.

Dickinson smiles shyly, takes another sip of tea, and replies:  "I am nobody/who are you/are you nobody too?/Then there's a pair of us/shh don't tell/they'd banish us you know/How dismal to be somebody/how dismal like a frog/to tell your name the live long day/to an admiring bog"

 

3 comments:

James Camien McGuiggan said...

Dickinson's reply struck me just as it should have struck the artist you imagine Dickinson talking to. Brilliant, brilliant post.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Thank you. I would perhaps surprise you how much it means to me that you saw what I was trying to do.

Jerry Fresia said...

I too was very much heart felt by the context...brilliant post, indeed.