Unresolved Annotations

Mary Moody Emerson’s Almanacks offer rich material for researchers, primarily because one of the genres from which Emerson borrowed heavily is the commonplace book. From classical times, commonplace books enabled writers to copy, arrange, and index excerpts (“commonplaces”) from their reading. She and other commonplace book writers frequently comment on their commonplaces and even place them on the page to represent graphic as well as linguistic meaning. The genre is innately “dialogic” (conversational) and subject to many forms of authorial experimentation.

One of the benefits that The Almanacks of Mary Moody Emerson offers readers is the ability to view the sources of Emerson’s commonplacing. From Plato and Aristotle to David Hume, Immanuel Kant, and Isaac Newton; to Johann Wolfgang von Goëthe and Louis Agassiz; and to Germaine de Staël and Mary Wollstonecraft, the Almanacks assemble an astounding range of individuals. Almost ad infinitum, digital publication allows us to identify Emerson’s copious references and, simultaneously, to provide readers with the bibliographical details for these sources.

In addition to locating the sources of Emerson’s reading, we also “annotate” (identify) her biographical, historical, religious, political, philosophical, artistic, and geographical references–books, people, events, places, and ideas. After having edited and partially annotated six Almanacks, our amazing team of research assistants has already completed over 300 Annotations, with thousands remaining before we finish editing these rich manuscripts.

Not surprisingly, some Annotations remain unresolved. The list below offers some examples of such incomplete references as well as others not yet researched, and we welcome your help! If you think that you have solved the puzzle, let us know (Noelle Baker: noelle.baker@me.com; Sandy Petrulionis: shp2@psu.edu). All successful Annotators will be acknowledged on our web site and in the final digital edition of the Almanacks.

Emerson’s Fascicle 7 (1817-1818)

3.25-29            “Oh it is an <MS damaged> humble thing to be a woman <MS damaged> God himself can not–will <MS damaged> not do me hurt–Yet at <MS damaged> times fear his worms.

Identify source of quotation and locate the ending of it if possible, since Mary Moody Emerson doesn’t provide a close quotation mark.

7.15-22            15 Reading Macknight. And with delight I recognise that the Philosophers discovered God’s natural attri and did not diffuse the knowledge–that is I rejoice those perfetions are discoverable–They without athority knew not the duty of disclering the Cause of all things to minds ignorant & stupid. It was left for the Son of God to illumine the world.

Identify Macknight and which of his works Mary Moody Emerson is reading; describe philosophers likely referred to in Macknight’s text. Note that Emerson may misspell “Macknight” and that “attri” is an abbreviation for “attributes.”

8.13-14            .–“a substance immaterial in which they adhere.”

Identify source (see full Almanack entry below for context).

What darkness do the Scepticks throw on the subject of mind. How blessed the light of the gospel–It is bet-ter to depart & be with Christ But if this power of life assumes other organisation, and by degrees in <other> degrees acquires or recovers the past powers–yet it will be under the govt and care & designs of God. But tho’ our state in that high place, where Jesus has gone to prepare mansions, may well resemble our infancy in this, yet that the loss of any visible organs shall reduce the immortal immaterial part to to darkness & ignorance is not rational, philosophical & scriptural. Rather all concur to say that the celestial body will exist a vehicle for tho’t and all the powers of mind.–“a substance immaterial in which they adhere.” immortal–invisible matter if I may so say. Then why the resurrection? Perhaps that doc-trine was among the allegories. Perhaps–some powers of the human mind may depend on the organization of some part of the buried body–and the resurrection be necessary to complete the mature man.

19.22-24          –On all I trace “the bright impession of thy Hand,”

Identify source of quotation.

39.6-8              Foster says what shall we think of our history in future eyes?

Identify Foster and source of this reference if possible.

Emerson’s Fascicle 8 (1826)

4.5-18              That the gifts of miracles [&] tongues were distinct from the virtues of the heart is a proof that virtue is not a miraculous thing–that is, not impelled by the giving of that spirit w’h some teach. Virtue miraculous–Great God it is thy gift most most miraculous & glorious in it’s origin–and sure & certain in it’s existence–not of education or circumstance altogether–no–not of opinion–With these how often there exists at bottom a sore & oblique–at others–a foul & rancorous disposition–ripened beneathe the same sun like the carrion & violet. We see but some of the effects of the machine of the mighty whole–but the finger of omnipotence is on it–and freedom of will to use the means of virtue is offered to all.

Locate the source of this theological view that miracles and the ability to speak in tongues is separate from “virtues of the heart”; and identify who believed that virtue was “impelled by the giving of the spirit.”

5.18-6.7           Brown labours in Cause & effect to prove that there is nothing intermediate between them but antecedent & sequence. But he cant prove it; as it is out of the limits of human mind. He defines power to be not latent not man who has power–but man willing & till the volition & consequent nervous change whatevr that be, man has no power to move his own arm than another’s. The real antecedent (as far as we are ca


pable of judging) ^ of the muscular motion, is a certain invisible  and indistinguishable state of the nerves of the part.”–“power unexerted is the absence of the very circumstances w’h are nessecary to constitute power.” Does this apply to the divine Being?–And there may not be a moment in all eternity when his power is not exerted. I do not–am not able to find that [the] anylist has removed the antient and modern [view] that regards the powers of nature as somthing differen[t] from the physical antecedents themselves.” He says “God [is] one, tho’ the greatest of the powers of nature”

Identify Brown and his views on cause and effect; locate source of the four quotations (and hopefully determining where the first one begins). Noelle’s research suggests that this is likely Thomas Brown, Relation of Cause and Effect.

15.3-8              The opinion of Bacon, “in considering the great end of science to be the increase of the outward accomodations & enjoyments of human life” talies with his low & bribery taking practices. What a wonder that a man who could comprehend so vastly was led to follow the ill practice of the times in corruption

Identify [most likely Francis] Bacon, locate source of quotation, and explain Mary Moody Emerson’s reference regarding his practice of taking bribes. She probably read this commonplace source in a periodical review—start with reviews of books on/including discussion of Bacon—perhaps a new biography—at this time.

17.20-23          Chalmers gives one of the most fascinating views of influence in describing the true patriot–But the widow exceeded the virtue who cast in obscurely her living.

Identify Chalmers and explain this reference to the “true patriot” and “widow.” Perhaps begin looking in any of the periodicals reviews of a book by, about, or mentioning Chalmers.

18.17-20          Oh but the laws of mind are as immutable as those [o]f other stuff–therefore I would fain, that His hand “who made the seven stars & orion” were loosened for me–

Identify source of quotation.


by a

God governs by “we see ^ fixed order of causes and [ef]fects, such as is not disturbed by invisible beings; & [th]e preservation of this order seems essential to the happ[i]ness of universe” and therefore some argue that prayer can do nothing.

Identify source of quotation and who argues that prayer is ineffectual.

19.22-27          The apostles giving the holy Gh. by laying hands must b[e] these miraculous gifts–& it seems to argue strongly that the holy gh. must be a figurative expression–Unless it were to believe with Leibnitz that the hands were the occasio[n] al cause of Gods spirit or God descending into human n[a] ture

Locate biblical source (in Acts?) regarding the apostles receiving the holy ghost; identify Leibnitz and his belief that the hands transmitted God’s spirit. Locate source of non-trinitarian theological argument that the holy ghost is only a “figurative expression” rather than a concrete member of the holy trinity.

19.32-35          [Pl]otinus said “of the unity of God nothing can be predicated, neither being, nor [e]ssence, nor life, for it is above all these.” A noble saying

Identify Plotinus and locate the source of this quotation.

21.3-8              [L]eighton calls Menanders verses excellent & quotes [“]Cease [t]o improve your mind for the mind of man is nothing at all. The govt of all things is solely in the hand of <fortune? future?>, whether this <fortune? future?> be a mind, or the spirit of God, or whatever else it is it carries all before it. Human prudence is but a vapour a mere trifle.”

Identify Leighton and Meanders; locate source of quotation.

23.4-10            her[oes] who might have been <MS damaged> rocks when flying from persecution of the chh or hell <viz> saw little grottos where sylphs & genie might


have slept before Homer awoke them for the use of the world.

Identify this story of sylphs and genies sleeping in caves until poets awoke them. Source may be Homer’s Iliad or Odyssey.

34.34-38          [If the] logical co[n] of an opinion a[re false,] the opinion itself mus[t] also be false.”

Locate source of quotation. Note that “co[n]” is probably an abbreviation for “conception,” “continuation,” “connection,” etc.

37.17-20          Oh it is pleasant to read of Jone’s devotion to his “kindred parents friends & Country which was the chief source of all his joys & pains”

Identify [likely linguist, Sir William] Jones and source of this quotation.

44.27-30          “It is not possible to make any argumentative defence of calvinism which is not founded on the principle of nessisity. Tho’ this a phi. opinion relating to will–prede[s]tination a theo. doc. concerning the moral gov. of world.”

Locate source of quotation. Note that abbreviations, “theo.”, “doc.”, “gov.”, and “phi.” are “theological,” “doctrine,” “government,” and “philosophical,” respectively.

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