All that Shakespeare says of the king, yonder slip of a boy that reads in the corner feels to be true of himself.
This quote comes from “History,” the first entry in Emerson’s “Essays: First Series,” first published in 1841.
As the mother of a strong-spirited person who quotes Shakespeare as if it is her own and grew up craving reading as if books are the only true vitamins, I find this quote to be very touching, very dear, very… complete.
It is the universal nature which gives worth to particular men and things. Human life as containing this is mysterious and inviolable, and we hedge it round with penalties and laws. All laws derive hence their ultimate reason; all express more or less distinctly some command of this supreme, illimitable essence. Property also holds of the soul, covers great spiritual facts, and instinctively we at first hold to it with swords and laws, and wide and complex combinations. The obscure consciousness of this fact is the light of all our day, the claim of claims; the plea for education, for justice, for charity, the foundation of friendship and love, and of the heroism and grandeur which belong to acts of self-reliance. It is remarkable that involuntarily we always read as superior beings. Universal history, the poets, the romancers, do not in their stateliest pictures — in the sacerdotal, the imperial palaces, in the triumphs of will or of genius — anywhere lose our ear, anywhere make us feel that we intrude, that this is for better men; but rather is it true, that in their grandest strokes we feel most at home. All that Shakespeare says of the king, yonder slip of a boy that reads in the corner feels to be true of himself. We sympathize in the great moments of history, in the great discoveries, the great resistances, the great prosperities of men; — because there law was enacted, the sea was searched, the land was found, or the blow was struck for us, as we ourselves in that place would have done or applauded.History, by Ralph Waldo Emerson
This is thick, Victorian era prose with a very modern sentimentality. We are one, and at the same time, we are individuals with individual responsibility for our lives and our learning:
Every soul must know the whole lesson for itself — must go over the whole ground. What it does not see, what it does not live, it will not know.History by Ralph Waldo Emerson