Here’s an excerpt from an unfinished interview I did with Pete Anatra for the Chocolate Submarine Review
But isn’t Emerson fairly stodgy?
Let’s do some comparative literature. Here’s Emerson from an essay that appears late in his second series, “Nominalist and Realist”: “We are amphibious creatures, weaponed for two elements, having two sets of faculties, the particular and the catholic.”
And here’s the Marquis de Sade early on in La Philosophie dans le Boudoir: “Ultimately, my dear, I’m an amphibious creature: I love everything, I enjoy everything, I want to try all kinds of pleasure.”
Different contexts—out of context—wouldn’t you say?
Absolutely. I’m not suggesting that Emerson would have anything to do with Sade and most certainly vice versa. Emerson was about moderation for himself personally, Sade about excess.
Still. You’ve got Emerson saying things that continually point to his radicalism
I remember an answer which when quite young I was prompted to make to a valued adviser, who was wont to importune me with the dear old doctrines of the church. On my saying, What have I to do with the sacredness of traditions, if I live wholly from within? my friend suggested, —“But these impulses may be from below, not from above.” I replied, “They do not seem to me to be such; but if I am the Devil's child, I will live then from the Devil.”
Emerson the orgiastic pleasure-monger?
Hardly. Kinda the point though. If that works for you, great. He’d probably go take a walk.
He seems like a stick in the mud.
Quite the opposite. Or at least his advocacy is for the opposite. It’s the ability to adapt that makes one steady. I point, again, to our amphibious nature. It’s pretty plain in “Circles”
I am not careful to justify myself. I own I am gladdened by seeing the predominance of the saccharine principle throughout vegetable nature, and not less by beholding in morals that unrestrained inundation of the principle of good into every chink and hole that selfishness has left open, yea, into selfishness and sin itself; so that no evil is pure, nor hell itself without its extreme satisfactions. But lest I should mislead any when I have my own head and obey my whims, let me remind the reader that I am only an experimenter. Do not set the least value on what I do, or the least discredit on what I do not, as if I pretended to settle any thing as true or false. I unsettle all things. No facts are to me sacred; none are profane; I simply experiment, an endless seeker, with no Past at my back.