[Boston—Saturday, 20 February 1869]
Feby 20. Heard Emerson again and Laura was with me; we drank up every word eagerly. He read Donne, Daniel and especially Herbert; also “vers de société”; the facility of these old divines giving them a power akin to what has produced these familiar rhymes. He said Herbert was full of holy quips; fond of using a kind of irony towards God, and, quoted appropriately. Beautiful things of Herrick too; he read but treated Vaughn rather unjustly we thought.
Lowell sat just behind; I could imagine his running commentary on many of Mr. Emerson’s remarks which were often more Emersonian than universal or true. The facility of the old poets seemed to impress him with almost undue reverence. He is extremely natural and easy in manners and speech during these readings. He bent his brows and shut his eyes endeavoring to recall a passage from Ben Jonson as if he were at his own dinner-table and at last when he gave it up said “It is all the more provoking as I do not doubt many a friend here might help me out with it.” His respect for literature, often in these degenerate days smiled upon from some imaginary hill by non-reading multitudes, is absolute and regnant. It is religion and life and he reiterates them in every form.