By Michael T. Gilmore
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Extra info for American Romanticism and the Marketplace
Heaven and earth: Caesar called his house, Rome; you perhaps call yours, a cobler's trade; a hundred acres of ploughed land; or a scholar's garret. Yet, line for line and point for point, your dominion is as great as theirs, though without fine names. Build, therefore, your own world. [CW 1 :4-4-45] The malleability of nature, of which the Orphic poet sings here, is a commonplace of Romantic thought. In the context established by Emerson, however, the poet's song is a mimicry of the capitalist spirit it otherwise condemns.
Indeed, the sentiments of 'Wealth" seem to constitute a rebuttal not only to Thoreau's economic views but to those expressed by Emerson himself before his drift toward conservatism. ''4 This Emerson takes his ideal of self-reliance from the agrarian or Jeffersonian past rather than the commercial and industrial future. In common with many of his contemporaries, he sees the new economic order as a threat to individual autonomy, an indication not so much of man's power over his environment as of the instability of the material world.
Now, the farmer buys almost all he consumes-tinware, cloth, sugar, tea, coffee, fish, coal, railroad tickets and newspapers" ( W 6 :118- 19). The Jeffersonian tradition is no longer alive in the Emerson of The Conduct of Life. Even a work like "Farming," written around the same time and often anthologized as an example of Emerson's agrarianism,19in fact only shows how far he has traveled from this strain in his original philosophy. " It pictures nature, not as fluid and volatile, but as a "machine .