Quotation by Louis Kronenberger

America's two most important intellectual forebears are conceivably Franklin and Emerson. Franklin, however, makes us a little uneasy. Poor Richard is at once too goody-goody and too worldly. He argues the prudential approach to life almost too well: he blends copybook morality with eighteenth-century realism; his is the philosophy of the main chance without the cushioning of the noble motive. The special quality in Franklin is that he foreshadowed, with his philistine counsel, what America was to become, while indicating, through his unflinching worldliness, what it would cease to be. The better, the more central, the more congenial spokesman was Emerson, whose gift for giving a special emphasis and elevation to words has offered us a method for sliding over or circumventing things; whose fine aphorisms are the ancestors, at times even the blood brothers, of our trademarks and slogans; whose own transcendental visions coagulated or curdled into a great variety of mystical con-games; and whose deep concern for ideas could be made a kind of evasion of realities. Unlike Poor Richard, Emerson doesn't show us up—nor for that matter, pin us down. He is genuinely great without being uncomfortably specific.
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