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Excerpt from "Satisfying the Head as Well as the Heart: James Marsh, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the American Transcendentalist Movement"

Diane Yoder, M. A. Thesis in Theology and Literature, Antioch College McGregor

Chapter Two Early Beginnings: James Marsh and the Formation of His Thought

We love and hate by letters.
-James Marsh, quoting Moses Mendelsohn, in "Ancient and Modern Poetry," 1822

James Marsh was born in Hartford, Vermont, July 19th, 1794, in the house that had belonged to his grandfather along the Otta Qheehee River (Torrey 14), the younger of two sons, just a scant seven years after the ratification of the Constitution of the United States. Born to Daniel Marsh, who is described by James Marsh's friend and biographer Joseph Torrey as "a respectable farmer" (2), James Marsh was born into a family that had as its inheritance a proclivity for having in the past, been actively involved in politics. Marsh's grandfather, Joseph Marsh, had been a man of stature, with considerable influence in state politics, having been active in the struggle to secure statehood for Vermont.

It was a time of turbulence in what were then the British colonies. The French and Indian War had ended in 1763, giving the region that would become Vermont to the British through the Treaty of Paris; and England was causing civil unrest with her insistence on taxation of the colonies. Class war as a result of heavy British taxation was raging from north to south; tenant riots in New Jersey had raged during the 1740s, and has spread to New York, beginning in 1750 and continuing through 1760, and in North Carolina the Regulators formed and rioted to prevent collection of taxes at all, resulting in the British sending in the military to suppress it in 1771. The British had already decided to quarter troops in the colonies-two thousand troops alone were quartered in Boston in 1768. Meanwhile, because the State of New York was refusing to acknowledge New Hampshire land titles granted by the New Hampshire Land Grants, the colonists who had gotten their land based on these grants organized against New York and the conflagration led eventually to the hacking off of the piece of New York State under dispute, giving birth to what would eventually become the state of Vermont (Zinn 50). Once statehood was granted in 1791, Joseph Marsh helped form the Vermont state constitution, and later, became Vermont's first Lieutenant Governor (Torrey 13).

Marsh's father lived quietly with his sons Roswell and James; Roswell was raised with the intention that he should go to university, while James should inherit the family farm. Farm work seemed to agree well with young James, for it was work he was readily contented by (14). There is little mention in Torrey's biography regarding what the young James Marsh was like before the age of eighteen, and his record is silent as to the intellectual pursuits of Marsh during his time growing up on the farm; however, Torrey does mention that Marsh was instructed from childhood in religion (18), and being raised on a farm heightened the young James' appreciation for nature and the steady rhythms of country life (3). As a result, Marsh never lost his love of the country; in later years, it would be the country to which Marsh would retire to work on translations of Biblical commentaries.

For the moment, however, the hard work of farm life seemed to suit James, and reading Torrey's depiction of him there is a sense of romanticism in Torrey's idyllic depiction of Marsh's life at this time. "No man was ever more strongly attached to the place of his birth; and the independent life of the farmer had a charm for him, which never lost its hold on his imagination. In his letters, he often speaks of those woods and meadows in which he had spent so many pleasant days; and even at the close of his professional studies, thought seriously of returning to his father's farm, where he hoped to find that leisure and freedom for the activity of his mind, which he did not expect to enjoy in more immediate contact with the world" (14).

However, at the age of eighteen, he found the country life he so quietly enjoyed interrupted when his older brother Roswell suddenly refused to go to college. While the reason why is not revealed by Torrey himself, who states he does not know (14), Peter Carafiol in his book Transcendent Reason: James Marsh and the Forms of Romantic Thought gives the particulars: "But Roswell was not a dutiful son. He balked at the indignity of carrying a leg of mutton off to Dartmouth in partial payment of his board and ran away from home, leaving the way to Dartmouth open for James" (19). Consequently, James found himself, after completing preparatory studies at William Nutting's Academy in Randolph, Vermont, going, leg of mutton in hand, to Dartmouth College in his brother's place in 1813, (Torrey 15), at which time Joseph Torrey also entered the college.

John Duffy notes that Dartmouth had a rather small enrollment at this time, having awarded just 157 degrees between 1816 and 1820 (9), with half the graduates becoming clergymen. Torrey describes Marsh at this point in time as being extremely intellectually curious and interested in everything; Marsh loved reading, and read a wide range of literature. He also had a love of ancient languages, and became proficient in ancient Greek, a language he seems to have studied throughout his life (16). Marsh was also keenly interested in literary history and criticism, and while not as good in mathematics and the sciences, managed to rise to the challenge and do well (17), despite the troubles over the charter of Dartmouth that were brewing.

The New Hampshire Legislature revoked the school's charter, converting it from a private to a public institution; the case turned into a dispute over state's rights, and was not settled until 1819 by the Supreme Court (Dartmouth College vs. Woodward). Torrey describes the atmosphere at Dartmouth during this time as being turbulent, but does not go into the specifics of the difficulties, (indeed, he leaves any mention of himself out of Marsh's memoir); only that the students' studies were not interrupted, and mentions that the troubles at Dartmouth resulted in the creation of a "rival university, whose brief existence began and ended, I believe, within the period of Mr. Marsh's residence at Hanover" (15), and further states that "some of the best scholars ever educated at Dartmouth went through the worst of these days" (15). Duffy provides further details:

With an intense religious tradition, it was perhaps inevitable that the beginning of the controversy which resulted in the Dartmouth College Case and Webster's tear-compelling plea to John Marshall and the United States Supreme Court for his small, beloved college would have a religious, as well as political and personal source. The whole affair began in 1804 with the appointment of Roswell Shurtleff as professor of divinity and pastor of Hanover Congregational Church against the wishes of President John Wheelock, son of Dartmouth's founder, Eleazer Wheelock. Shurtleff fostered the revivalist tradition at Dartmouth during the Second Great Awakening in the early nineteenth century; in one month in 1815, the year Francis Brown replaced John Wheelock as president of the college, 120 students and townsfolk, including James Marsh and his future wife, Lucia Wheelock, John's niece, were formally accepted into the church as a result of Shurtleff's sermons on such texts as the "harvest is past, the summer is ended." Shurtleff, Torrey recorded in his Memoir of Marsh, was their "beloved pastor," as well as professor of divinity. By 1817, the controversy between ex-President Wheelock and the board of trustees of the college over Shurtleff's appointment had developed into a personal and political dispute which resulted in the Legislature of New Hampshire establishing a rival university and prohibiting faculty and students from entering or using the buildings of Dartmouth College. Factions formed among the students; some violent battles were fought over the possession of the libraries of several student societies; and litigation, as it will, engendered further litigation. Yet at least six students--the two Marshes, Torrey, Wheeler Tracy and Choate--were able to resist the distraction of intra-and extramural conflict by regular meetings in a small discussion group or literary club which had been formed in 1813-14, Marsh's first years at Dartmouth. Choate's biographer, Samuel Gilman Brown, believed that 'the students were stimulated by the unusual circumstances.' It seems just as likely, however, that Marsh's small group with its weekly meetings for readings and discussions, having been formed prior to the "unusual circumstances" of 1815-1817 as a response to the inadequacies of Dartmouth's formal curriculum, was available to fill the void created by the dissolution of academic and intellectual life at the college. (9-10).

The value of independent, interdisciplinary study is a recurring theme in Marsh's life. Even after he was out of college he was very much an independently engaged scholar for the rest of his life. Torrey describes Marsh's intellectual interests as being interdisciplinary in nature, which reflects Marsh's later attempts to unify the University of Vermont at Burlington's curriculum through interdisciplinary study: "Without being ambitious to shine in any particular branch of learning, he seemed intent in exploring the whole field of knowledge, and exercising his faculties in every right direction. This expansive tendency of his mind did not lead him, however, to overlook the importance of thorough and exact discipline. He aimed at becoming an accurate and profound as well as general scholar, and never allowed himself to be satisfied with superficial attainments. Although a great devourer of books, he was not in the habit of reading at random, and as fancy led him, but was uniformly guided by a leading purpose, which he had distinctly conceived and settled in his own mind" (16). Torrey describes Marsh's academic interests as including, but not limited to, ancient and modern languages, psychology, philosophy, literature, Biblical history, and biology, and devoted a great deal of his life to improve university education through initiating innovative programs at the University of Vermont during his tenure as President there.

Conversion of James Marsh

Along with the turbulence at Dartmouth, (and, perhaps, largely because of it), having discovered the benefit of independent study with his classmates, the year 1815 also proved to be a year of spiritual transformation for Marsh. Having had what seems to have been at the very least a cursory education in religion at home, and living in the middle of mass conversions at Dartmouth led to Marsh becoming caught up in the latest round of religious revivals, and a sincere in-depth contemplation of the state of his own soul.

His conversion is in line with the Puritanical American tradition--coming to repentance through sincere desire for closeness to God, strengthened in faith through distress in the Spirit, deep reflection on the turmoil of his soul, culminating in conversion with a public profession of faith, and the doing of good works as a proof of Godly conversion. Self-examination (and the desire for it, to see oneself as one truly is in God's eyes) was a huge part of Puritan theology; Allen Carden in Puritan Christianity in America states that the reason for self-examination (reflection) was to see oneself from God's perspective; such self-examination would bring a person to a sense of smallness, and a real sense of how lacking in everything that God is that a human being is (47). Along with this realization of utter humility, is the pricking of conscience that tells us when we are doing wrong; and in the half-light between doing wrong and doing right, we have a choice. The half-light, or the space wherein we decide what choice we are going to make is uncomfortable to a person of conscience; and this discomfort should propel a person (of the elect) to seek God in order to have peace in his conscience. This would seem to infer that conscience is attached to the will.

Jonathan Edwards, in The Nature of True Virtue describes this internal discomfort as a struggle between self-love and love of God; the desire for the love of God has true virtue in it, but comes from conscience: "Thus, has God established and ordered that this principle of natural conscience is "a disposition in man to be uneasy in a consciousness of being inconsistent with himself, and as it were against himself in his own actions…no wonder that such a self-opposition, and inward war with a man's self, naturally begets unquietness, and raises disturbance in his mind….and thus, men's consciences may justify God's anger and condemnation. When they have the ideas of God's greatness, their relation to Him, the benefits they have received from him, the manifestations he has made of his will to them, etc, strongly impressed on their minds, a consciousness is excited within them… (61, 64).

While Edwards describes conscience as partially the desirable result of external influences, Coleridge discusses consciousness in similar terms (with a Kantian flavor) in "An Essay on Faith" but connecting the divinity/conscience within a person to the internal, rather than the external: "That I am conscious of something within me peremptorily commanding me to do unto others as I would they should do unto me;--in other words, a categorical (that is, primary and unconditional) imperative;--that the maxim (regula maxima or supreme rule) of my actions, both inward and outward, should be such as I could, without any contradiction arising therefrom, will to be the law of all moral and rational beings…I know I possess this knowledge as a man, and not as Samuel Taylor Coleridge; hence, knowing that consciousness of this fact is the root of all other consciousness, and the only practical contradistinction of man from the brutes, we name it the conscience (ATR 341).

Coleridge also attaches conscience to the will, describing the senses as morally passive, but just as a person can pretend not to hear something that is said to him, Coleridge says that a person can also ignore the pricking of conscience and so deaden conscience within themselves; (giving a reason as to why some become brutes), acknowledging the conscience is an act of faith, an act of allegiance to oneself. Once we take that allegiance to oneself, then we have a moral responsibility to act upon our conscience. Conscience is to Coleridge the "root of all consciousness a fortiori the precondition of all experience, and that consciousness cannot have been in its first revelation deduced from experience" (344).

Prior to Marsh's public profession of faith, although he had made a spiritual commitment to God, Marsh seesawed between faith and doubt: "I envied those around me whom I looked upon as in a more hopeful condition than myself, and my heart rose in opposition to the divine sovereignty. Yet I struggled with my misery, and was in the greatest fear, lest I should be left to blaspheme the name of my Creator. Filled with dismay, and almost overcome by the suggestions of a rebellious heart, I went to visit one whom I knew to be, like myself, in great darkness and depression, in order to join with him in lamenting our wretched state" (qtd. by Torrey 19). In consultation with his friend, Marsh came to a temporary sense of clarity regarding his spiritual condition. "The things of another world [he says] completely filled my mind, and God appeared to me to be all in all. I have no apprehension that I experienced any remarkable displays of his character; I saw no application of his mercy to myself; but he appeared infinitely glorious, and I felt that if I had ten thousand souls, I could with confidence commit them to his mercy and care. I experienced no fears respecting my own situation, and no particular joys or exulting hopes; but a calm and tranquil peace of mind, such as the world could neither give nor take away" (Ibid.).

Marsh saw these struggles, no doubt, in a typically New England theological tenor; the desire to be closer to God, the struggles between faith and doubt, the fear his faith and state of grace was not lasting or based in reality, all comprised a classic struggle between the head and the heart. Marsh's spiritual struggle between his head and his heart, which is a universal struggle, seemed to foreshadow the spiritual struggle continuing in New England; a struggle between rationality, skepticism and idealism. Torrey quotes Marsh as going through further disquietude regarding whether his state of grace resulted from "the decay of religious affections, than from true evangelical faith. Yet I thought from self-examination, that I discovered some marks of a growing principle of Christian life. I thought my desires after holiness and an increase of the Christian graces, together with the sense of my own sinfulness and the imperfection of my best performances, were becoming more strong, and furnished some evidence of a state of grace" (20).

As Duffy notes, exactly how Marsh found his way out of the maze of despair and indifference is not easily determined because his journals, diary and book are lost (Duffy 15). All that is known is that Marsh, and his love interest, Lucia Wheelock were among those present when they took the confession of faith and joined the church at Dartmouth College on 7 August, 1815. Torrey observed in his memoir of Marsh that conversion "had neither contracted his mind, nor diminished his enthusiasm in the pursuit of knowledge. It rather stimulated him to greater exertion; his mind expanded with the more ennobling principle by which its energies were now directed; and instead of contracting his aims, and seeking to content himself with humbler attainments in human science, he felt himself bound, more than ever, to cultivate to the utmost possible extent and in every direction, the powers which God had given him" (21).

Post Graduate Work, Teaching and Writing

In 1817, Marsh received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Dartmouth, and, probably encouraged by his own religious conversion and also perhaps, by virtue of his interest in philosophy, proceeded to enter Andover Theological Seminary that November, where Torrey says Marsh continued his interest in a wide range of studies, including "the writers of antiquity, [Plato and Aristotle among them] studying the various forms of ancient languages…to make himself familiar with the spirit of ancient literature, to penetrate to the ground of all its diversified forms, and to master the secret of the mighty charm by which it binds all hearts that come within its influence.

While investigating this subject, in which he was led to compare the spirit of the ancient literature with the modern, he became interested in the study of the middle ages, and read everything he could get access to on this important period, which, as containing within itself the germ of modern cultivation, he thought deserving of more attention than it usually received" (23). Marsh also studied modern Romantic literature, discovering a great liking for Byron, while finding Pope quite dry in comparison to him; moreover, Marsh made a rather Romantic connection and experienced something of the aim of the Romantic poet in feeling higher things, while reading the work of Byron, by connecting the sensory and inspirational experience of Byron's poetry to the human experience of being inspired by God:

How vastly does every thing of a religious nature swell in importance, when connected in our minds with a being of such capacities as Byron seems to us to be! When I speak as I do of this author, I know you will not imagine that I can ever intend to approve his moral feelings, or commend the moral tenor of his works. By why should not the disciple of Christ feel as profoundly, and learn to express as energetically, the power of moral sentiment, as the poet or the infidel? It is this that I aim at in my devotion to Byron. I love occasionally to hold communion with his spirit, and breathe its energy. It gives me new vigor, and I seem in reality to live a being more intense. (Torrey 25)

In this experience of reading the words of Byron, by connecting the heightened feeling to religion and spirituality, this, more than any other experience seems to foreshadow the connection Marsh would make later to Coleridge's Aids to Reflection. In Marsh's "Preliminary Essay," he justifies the use of Aids to Reflection as non-Biblical literature by combining the study of philosophy with theology and highlighting Coleridge as an inspired writer. "So far it seems to me, that our philosophy ought to modify our views of theological doctrines, and our mode of interpreting the language of an inspired writer" (ATR 23).

Marsh also made the observation that the literature of the day did not have enough religious influence upon the young people who read it: "How little," he says, "of the literature that falls in the way of young people, and of that which is most fascinating, is what we could wish in this respect (viz. its religious influence.) The works and life of Sir Walter Scott leave the reader, to say the least indifferent to religious principle; those of Charles Lamb are certainly no better; and with all the high aspirations of Wordsworth, there is much in his writings that is more favorable to an undefined naturalism or pantheism, than to the truth of the gospel" (Torrey 124)

Coleridge then, appealed to Marsh because of Coleridge's ability to synthesize religious influence with philosophy and word choice that moved the reader's heart to contemplation of religious affections. Becoming a minister would seem to have been a natural result of Marsh's thinking and feeling, but the ministerial calling came to Marsh not as a pastoral calling, but as a scholarly passion, to unite the head and the heart of the country, through his vigorous promotion of Aids to Reflection.

An opportunity arose in 1818 which interrupted Marsh's ministerial studies at Andover after his first year. Marsh was asked back to Dartmouth to work as a tutor, and he retained this post for two years. His teaching style with the students, according to Torrey, was rather free. (ATR 25). Marsh allowed students unlimited freedom when choosing their studies. Marsh is quoted by Torrey as saying "There are some, who seem to know no way of managing young men, but by the terror of authority; but such a method tends to break down all the independent spirit and love of study for its own sake, which I thought it of so much importance to cherish" (26). He is described by Torrey as being a "pleasant and profitable instructer [sic], though his mode of teaching, and his habits of familiar discourse with his pupils, were quite different, I suspect, from what had been customary before" (25).

His experience of tutoring is in contrast with that of Jonathan Edwards, who served as a tutor at Yale, also for two years. Yale at the time had no real leadership, since the departure of Timothy Cutler, and the board of trustees were having a difficult time replacing Cutler, having to get local ministers to serve as rectors. In the resulting confusion of this time, Edwards was one of two tutors who had sole responsibility over 40 to 50 teenage boys (who were taking advantage of the confusion to drink to excess and carouse), as well as teaching two courses, starting at 6 A.M., hearing recitations all day, six days a week (Marsden 100, 102). George M. Marsden describes Edwards' experience:

Even though the students were to be the future clergy or magistrates of the colony, many took advantage of the freedom from their families to cut loose in the meantime. Yale had perennial problems with drinking and rowdiness. The sudden exodus of Rector Cutler at a commencement season made the situation worse. The trustees' penalties for frequenting taverns, bringing rum into the dorms without permission, and contempt for tutors. The college was particularly out of hand during Jonathan's years as tutor…A number of his diary entries suggest his concerns with student discipline. In one he commented, "if I had more of an air of gentleness, I should be much mended." In another he resolved, "When I reprove for faults, whereby I am in any way injured, to defer, till the thing is quite over and done with" (102).

In contrast, Torrey describes Marsh's experience of tutoring seems much more quiet and studious; Torrey presents Marsh's tutoring as an opportunity to continue his self-education. Ronald Wells commented on Marsh's speaking style as being of a rather free style; Marsh "rarely used lecture notes of any kind, but talked from the fullness of his own mind" (Three Christian Transcendentalists, 15). This free style shows Marsh's aversion to being fenced in by lecture notes, as well as an aversion to the confinement of words that he would express later in his paper "Ancient and Modern Poetry."

While words can free the mind with knowledge, Marsh became aware that words also had the capacity to fence in beliefs, philosophies and religion, an awareness that would come to be a major impetus in his work to bridge the divide between the Congregationalists and the Unitarians with Aids to Reflection. During his time tutoring, he also visited Cambridge and Harvard to attend evening lectures (Duffy xiii). After his two year post tutoring was up, in 1821 he returned to Andover to complete his seminary studies, graduating in 1822, and after two years spent travelling to visit various colleagues in Virginia and New York, a short three month stint tutoring at Hampden-Sydney College, and spending the summer of 1824 with his brother Roswell, James Marsh was ordained as a minister 12 October, 1824.

Ancient and Modern Poetry, the Influence of Coleridge, and Marsh's Conception of Christianity as Philosophy

It was at Andover, shortly before his graduation, that Marsh wrote his first academic paper entitled "Ancient and Modern Poetry," a review of Ludovico di Breme's defense of Romantic literature which was published in The North American Review. This paper, written in a partially self-conscious neo-classical style, is a criticism of European art, religion and literature, a history of Christianity as a religion of the mind and imagination, than just a religion of the book, and also a paper that recognizes the function of art and literature in defining not only Western European society, but also American society; American society being a continuation of the history of Europe up to the American Revolution since the early settlers of America were mostly of European stock.

When relating the history of the art, religion and literature of the ancients, Marsh is rather pedantic, but becomes passionate in decrying the deadness of letters, the separation of intellectualism from feeling, and institutions that also become dead when perceived as objects of too much reverence to rules, or when these pursuits become devoid of meaning with no higher aims fueling their creation. The pursuit of happiness cannot revolve solely around material gain; it must have a spiritual higher purpose, or happiness is hollow, and meaningless. He also appears to have American independence on his mind throughout the paper, as an impetus for creation of art and literature. American independence did engender some great works of American political literature such as The Federalist Papers, Thomas Paine's treatise Common Sense, and Franklin's "Silence Dogood" letters; most notably, passion for American independence had contributed to the creation of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. Duffy also notes:

As some historians have recently and pointedly reminded us, at the advent of the Industrial Revolution, Americans floundered between the two worlds of the disappearing frontier and civilized progress, powerless to be reborn. Their yearnings for a simple transcendent unity, as Charles Sanford has remarked, were expressed in government by the Monroe Doctrine, in the arts by the repeated use of the themes of a return to nature and antiquity, in religion by the revivalistic version of a new heaven and new earth. Yet they lived in a society experiencing the strains of a multiplicity of competing self-interests of the kind associated with Justice Marshall's decisions defining, like the Dartmouth Case, the sanctity of contracts and private property. Marsh, like his world and time, was in need of an ideology that could give form to, and ritualize a common world of experience, a community of experience; and he intensely and personally felt the need to be reborn into such a world from the crucial summer of 1815 onward. (CAD 28-29)

However, American literature throughout American history up to the time Marsh wrote this article consisted mainly of imported books from Europe. There was no American literature reflecting the spiritual state of the nation, and perhaps this dearth of creativity spoke volumes about the spiritual state of the nation; the intellectual atmosphere at this time was decidedly antagonistic towards German Romantic thought. That Marsh's article had been published in The North American Review was something of a miracle:

Marsh's first published essay demonstrated that as a student at a decidedly conservative New England seminary--Moses Stuart himself incurred heresy investigations for introducing German scholarship into his courses--Marsh had a knowledge of European literature unique for his time and place and an attitude toward contemporary American culture at odds with other regular contributors to The North American Review spoke for Unitarian Boston and, for all its scholarly virtues, as Van Wyck Brooks pointed out, was hostile to the philosophical forms of feelings which characterize the Transcendental Movement of the 1830s and '40s. Richard Henry Dana, Sr., Marsh's good friend and perhaps the first real literary Romantic in New England, had broken his relationship with the magazine in 1819 because other members of the editorial board had objected to his championing of Wordsworth, Byron and Coleridge. Early in 1823 Alexander Hill Everett attacked Schiller and by 1829 had repeatedly published attacking reviews of German, French, and English philosophical and literary Idealism in the pages of The North American Review. (Duffy 18).

In this paper Marsh seems fueled by the American independent spirit which, he recognized needs to be fueled by religion. Not only does this paper appear to be a clarion call for a sort of "religious conversion" of the American artistic spirit, this paper is important in that Marsh saw the connection between the arts and religion, with one being rather dead without the other. This fusion of spirituality and literature would be the child of the Concord Transcendentalists, in the literature of Emerson and later, the poetry of Whitman, national poet-priest of America. That this idea is first found in Marsh is important, because it shows that the seeds of American Transcendentalism began with Marsh and the Vermont Transcendentalists, and shows how much influence the literature of the Romantics, and Coleridge, had on him:

The arts accordingly, and especially poetry, have reached their highest elevation in periods, when religion, and the great business of securing national independence and freedom have awakened men to serious feeling and to bold and vigorous action, when they were the dignified and worthy resort for solace and amusement of minds, which more powerful causes had developed, and made susceptible of their highest pleasures. When they are not sustained by such circumstances, they too naturally become the idle and effeminate employment of effeminate men. Truth, and with it, all serious and ennobling aims are forgotten, and literature becomes a business of mechanism, a childish amusement. Such to a great extent has been much of the literature of the Italians, as described by their own writers. (97)

Though careful to denote that not all the literature of Italy suffers from this artistic emptiness, Marsh is careful to note that art can lead to such emptiness without the driving force and passion of some kind of higher goal to fuel it. This can be read allegorically as well; religion can lead to such emptiness without the driving force and passion of some kind of higher feeling to fuel it. He then goes on to explain poetry and drama of the ancients using Coleridge's definition of object and subject: "According to Coleridge's definition of object and subject, all the productions of which we are speaking, considered as creations of the mind, would be subjective. But though we are aware of the importance of his definition in a philosophical point of view, we conceive the terms as used in the text, denote an important distinction, and one which we could not so clearly express by other language" (from "Coleridge's Letters in Blackwood's Mag. N. 56 in "Ancient and Modern Poetry" (103). He also references Coleridge's Biographia Literaria (Coleridge's commentary on Byron's Don Juan) in commenting on creative genius:

So in dramatic poetry, it makes little difference in relation to this point, whether a production contain a simple representation of objects and events in the external world, or a profound development of the internal; whether the tendency of the poet's mind be with that of the ancients 'to reflect the world without,' or 'with the allegorizing fancy of the moderns to project the inward,' if the work be a perfect objective exhibition, and a finished product of creative genius, it will be modified by the laws, to which genius, in the free exercise of its powers, invariably conforms; it will have a principle of unity somewhere, it will be a harmonious and organized whole, with as strict a subordination of every part, as is found in the ancient drama. (104)

Carafiol notes:

In the English Romantic poets, however Marsh found spirit enacted in a Christian life, and moral strength and spiritual vitality expressed in a passionate language that promised to satisfy his need for a practical faith. Romantic poetry reminded Marsh of the spiritual fervor he admired in the sermons of seventeenth century preachers and missed in the coldly formal, logically structured dogmatic discourses of his contemporaries" (Transcendent 41). Marsh also, like the Romantics, notes the importance of nature (which for Marsh, starts and stops with only the external influence of nature on the Greeks, exemplified by Greek nature worship). "Their imaginations clung to the objects of nature; the air around them was filled with beauty, and the earth teemed with new forms of ideal perfection. Those ideal creations were cheerful and joyous, because the scenes that gave them birth were prevalently animated and lovely. They were characterized by harmony and by that unity, which has been described, because the minds of the Greeks could fix on nothing more fascinating, or more glorious, than the objects and events which the world around them presented to their observation. (106)

Marsh seems especially determined to note that the Greeks could not be bothered with internal contemplation of nature, because they didn't have Christianity, and that they had no conception of an invisible world, as their poetry and drama were bound by the rules of convention and concerned primarily with imitation (no doubt considering Aristotle here) (107).

Sentiment and feeling are in modern literature what the divinity of the Egyptians was in the material world. Mind and its attributes, the spiritual and "the things that are not seen,' are more the direct and immediate objects of our thoughts,--more the world, in which imagination wanders and strives to give unity and consistency to its breathing harmonies. Our views are no longer bounded, as those of the Grecian poets were, by 'this goodly frame the earth and the brave o'erhanging firmament,' but in the language of the ancient philosophers, the two doors of nature are thrown open, and our spirits pass upward and downward to hold converse with other spirits. Not only so: the objects of inanimate nature themselves have something of 'a spirit's feeling…' To our imagination, as to our faith, what we see is shadow, and all beyond is substance. It is not the visible itself, which we regard, but that, which looks out from 'behind the elements' and, like the bright eye of the Ancyent Marinere, attracts and fixes our attention as by a magic power… What then, are the great causes, which have acted to efficiently in awakening and developing the powers of the human mind, and removed the centre of its thoughts and feelings from 'the world without' to 'the world within?' What are the causes that have communicated those deeper and more intense emotions, to embody and unbosom which, all the powers of language, and imagery are exhausted in vain? In answer to these questions, it may be said, undoubtedly, that the Christian religion is the great and sufficient cause, and that all others have been subordinated to its influence.

Marsh sees the Greeks as rather like children at play, childlike in their thought because they were representative of early humanity, without Christianity, revering nature externally through their nature gods and goddesses. However, Marsh does note that the Greek philosophers "opened the door to other worlds, and learned to indulge their speculations on a more splendid, and more extensive field of creation" (111). It is at this point he sets up his argument for unifying philosophy with religion and literature, setting up his idea of the re-formation of Christianity as a philosophy and as a religion of the book, and to the observation that in our modern world, we are further removed from nature, yet more contemplative because of the influence of Christianity:

Marsh shows that when Greek philosophy was merged with Christianity that Christianity was made more enlarged and something to which the early Christians (and the Greeks) could relate:

The Gehenna of the Hebrews, which seems originally to have conveyed no conception of place beyond the scene of idolatrous abomination in the valley of Hinnom, would naturally receive enlargement and locality from the Greek and Roman conceptions of Hades and Tartarus, and thus by the aid of natural and metaphysical philosophy, of poetry and revelation, both the upper and nether world, where spirits dwell, were amplified with a magnificence, and gifted with characters of joy and sorrow, of glory and shame, altogether unknown to the imaginations, to the hopes and fears of the ancient Greeks (112).

And it was in the Christian rejection of idolatry and paganism that the inward life of the early Christian began--as well as the decline of the study of the art and philosophy of the Greeks--the only place for the early Christian to turn, when rejecting the gods of nature, was within:

...they were now seized upon with avidity; anchorites, monks, and virgins sought by abstinence and chastity, and the charm of holy prayer, to rise above the grossness of this world, and attain, while yet in the flesh, something of the purity and perfection of spiritual existence…from the deserts of Thebais and the mountains of Palestine, they spread themselves during the fourth century over most of the countries of the east, and two thousand disciples, who in Gaul followed St. Martin to his tomb, multiplied the triumphs of monachism through all the countries of the west…and in the dreaming life of the cell, confounding perhaps their waking with their sleeping thoughts, fancied themselves contending with all the powers of darkness." (115)

Marsh then follows the spread of Christianity across Europe as the gods of Europe and the rest of the world were overthrown and Christianity taken up in place of them, and in many cases, Christianity merged with them. Christianity, at this point, has not yet become a religion of the book, but a religion of the mind, which accounts for its rapid growth. And it is at this point in his article that he begins to discuss how the written word is killing the imagination, and the mind, which in former times was found to be so powerful. Worse, Marsh sees that while in former times, art was the product of religion, in modern times, religion is becoming mere formality, empty of meaning, a religion of the book, rather than of the mind, imagination and heart:

Since the revival of classical learning and the invention of printing, these have furnished so exclusively the means of education, and of disseminating knowledge, that we are in danger of undervaluing all the other and the powerful instruments made use of in former times. Thus the whole intellectual character of the middle age has been estimated by their knowledge, or rather ignorance of the literature and science of the ancients (which, as we have already seen, were almost forgotten before the conquest of the empire,) and by their number of schools and written productions. To all these they made small pretensions, but are not, we think, to be estimated at all, as to their general character, by this fact. Though, as we should very willingly admit, the scattered rays of philosophy and classical literature, even after the time of Charlemagne, produced little or no effect on the people at large, their minds were of course, not inactive. The inexhaustible treasures of legendary lore relating to the real or fabulous history of their northern ancestors, and gradually supplanted through the efforts of their religious teachers, by the more Christian adventures of Charlemagne and his paladins, and Arthur and his knights, formed a more living and efficient literature, and acted with more power upon the mind, than classic learning could have done, had it been fully known. They were every where diffused, rehearsed to the listening circle at the fire-side of the peasant, and in the spacious hall of the baron, and acted upon the imaginations and feelings or all ranks of society, in a manner hardly to be understood in an age of books…It cannot be distinctly remembered, that religion was almost the only thing taught professedly, and that it is the central point, from which alone all the institutions of the age can be well understood…It is not essential to our present object, that much of what was communicated was but the fabrication of fancy, the legends of the blessed Virgin, of saints, and invisible agents;--it is sufficient for us, that, received in full faith, as it was, it was fitted to produce a deep and powerful effect upon the mind…What [Moses] Mendelsohn has said so eloquently of Jewish rites applies here with redoubled force. They were themselves a species of record full of meaning, and continually furnishing occasion for oral instruction, while they aroused the heart to religious feelings. They addressed themselves to the senses, and among the Christians, of whom we are speaking, were generally at the same time allegorical, carrying the imagination to objects of the other world. Every festival or saint's day had its legend, and every procession, with the ceremonies attending it, had a meaning, which was undoubtedly better understood, and more deeply felt earlier than in later times. 'We learn, says Mendelsohn, in contrasting instruction by books with that before mentioned, 'we learn and teach each other only by books. We fatigue and refresh, instruct and amuse ourselves by writing.-The preacher does not converse with his church, he reads or declaims to them a written treatise. The instructer from his desk reads his written pamphlet. All is dead letter, with none of the spirit of living intercourse. We love and hate by letters. We wrangle, and are reconciled by letters; our whole intercourse is but an epistolary correspondence, and when together we know of no other conversation but to play or read. In one word, we are literati, letter-men. Our whole being depends upon our alphabet, and we can hardly conceive how it is possible for a child of this world to form and perfect his character without a book.' No one, we think, c can deny that these remarks are so far true in regard to the multiplication of books by the press, that it has diminished the necessity and much of the interest of actual intercourse in society, and diminished too, most essentially the interest and importance of all the external institutions connected with the religion of the middle age…the thin abstractions of morality and religion cannot now take to themselves bodies, and walk abroad in individual existence with the same boldness, as in the age of the mysteries and moralities, or even, as they did in the imagination of Bunyan… Reason and philosophy gradually distinguished from each other the worlds of faith and imagination, before so intimately blended, and as our sober ancestors turned all their poetry into religion, we are in danger of turning all our religion to poetry. (124-127,131).

Emerson's "Divinity School Address" echoes the sentiments of Marsh's paper, when he decries the emptiness of religion, religious institutions, and Christianity itself. For Marsh, institutionalized religion has become divorced from the imagination and the heart, and much like the Apostle Paul rants against legalism in Romans, Marsh rails against the death of imagination in religion in a more mechanized society that includes books as part of the mechanization of society. Duffy notes that "the thrust of Marsh's search for a meaningful emotional and intellectual unity in a bleakly mechanical world was distinctly modern.

Moreover, his three most important published works in the 1820's--a long review-essay in The North American Review [Ancient and Modern Poetry], on Ludovico di Breme's defense of Romantic literature, a review of Moses Stuart's Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews for the Quarterly Christian Spectator, and the "Preliminary Essay" and notes for Aids to Reflection--all exhibit Marsh's continuing efforts to satisfy his own need for an integrated sensibility and at the same time bring into the theological and philosophical disputes of New England in the 1820s and early '30s a method of reconciling the disparate parties and their arguments (Coleridge's American Disciples 15). In decrying the mind becoming a prisoner of the book, Marsh also anticipates his "Preliminary Essay" in which he notes that the religious growth of America is arrested by the empirical thought of Locke and the Scottish philosophers, which in turn is causing division amongst the Congregationalists and Unitarians rather than unifying both factions as Christians, and in which he offers Aids to Reflection as an ideological "open door" to revitalize American theology.

In addition to his scholarly work, the study group formed at Dartmouth reconvened at Andover. Ronald V. Wells describes the activities of this independent study group: "While in the seminary he and his friends Torrey, Rufus Choate, and his cousin G.P. Marsh formed and sustained a club for the purpose of reading papers and exploring fields merely touched in the classroom. They bought an entire library of classic Greek and Latin and set about reading it until they had mastered all of it" (Three Christian Transcendentalists 15-16). Torrey describes the club as having quite lively debates, with a "free, unrestrained interchange of thought" (28). The sociability of Marsh is apparent in his interactions with his students, and with his study group; Torrey noted that "no man had a stronger love for cultivated society, nor understood better what society ought to be. He had a constant longing after more freedom of intellectual discourse, and thought the benefit to be derived from such intercourse incomparably greater than could be gained from books alone and solitary studies" (26). Marsh thought that society dies without emotion and passionate discourse and interaction, which he clearly preferred to rote indoctrination.

In 1823, he was appointed tutor at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, a post he held for three months. He returned to Hampden-Sydney College later in the year, after being ordained a minister, as a professor of languages and . He kept the position for three years, at which point he was offered a wonderful leadership opportunity. In 1826, Marsh was appointed President of the University of Vermont. Torrey says Marsh had been offered the post back in 1821, while he was a theology student at Andover, but he had declined the post, to which UVM responded by appointing a temporary head.

The University was in somewhat of a rag-tag condition. A fire had destroyed the previous building, but by the time Marsh was made president, new buildings had been erected, supported by donations from the public (Remains 77). There were very few students, and Torrey states that the library was in rather poor shape, but these obstacles did not deter Marsh from accepting the post in 1829. Torrey quotes Marsh's journal (non-extant), and states that Marsh, while feeling he was not the most qualified prospect felt the call of duty, and with Divine help thought he could do UVM some good in re-establishing the institution as a place of distinction (78).

Marsh made major changes in the acceptance of students, accepting part time students who could not afford to be full time students, rather than just accepting students who could afford to pay full tuition. He instituted a form of social pressure to do right from a moral perspective; just as Christ was the teacher of humanity, pointing human beings in the way to right action, professors were to be parental figures exerting direct influence on the students; if a student persisted in acting up, he would simply be excluded from any privileges enjoyed by the others (83). He also overhauled the curriculum; rather than pounding facts into the minds of the students as had been the norm, he introduced a relaxed, informal classroom atmosphere into the curriculum where students could interact more fully with their instructors in classroom discussion, and let their own minds work freely while being shaped through active discourse with instructors--much like his tutoring style at Dartmouth (80).

Torrey states that Marsh "thought the whole collegiate system of study, as existing in this country, too much of a mechanical routine, wherein each individual who had taken the prescribed number of steps and gone through all the forms, might be sure of his degree in the arts at the end of the course; it mattered little whether he had been idle or industrious. The mere formal examinations which were then deemed sufficient at many of the colleges appeared to him to be, on the whole, rather worse than useless" (83). Students who did well based on the whole of their studies were offered more advanced courses after consultation with faculty members. Students did not graduate unless they could pass an examination at the end of their course of studies; thus, it was not enough to follow proscribed steps; students had no opportunity to slack off, for they had to demonstrate mastery of their course of study (84). Students would not merely serve the community; they would serve both the community and God, then go out into the world to heal it "by closing the distance between the spirit in man and in the world" (Carafiol 163).

Torrey praises Marsh's tenure as President of UVM a rousing success; he had created a curriculum that contained a unified system within an organic whole; a practical Coleridgian application of uniting Reason with Understanding (Duffy 27). Wells notes that Dr. Marsh "evolved a well-rounded four-year course which reflects Coleridge's "laws and regulative principles" (Three Christian Transcendentalists 16). Wells also states that there were four subjects: English literature, language, mathematics, and physics, with philosophy as the "synthesizing principle, the oscillating nerve that should connect the various studies together" (Ibid). However, it was not as successful as Torrey intimates; Marsh was not a good administrator, and due to poor financial management of the university, he ended up resigning his post in 1833.

Marsh's theories on education had wide ranging effects. John Dewey, American philosopher probably best known for his theories on education that has influenced American public school education for decades, was one of Marsh's students. Peter Carafiol, in his book Transcendent Reason, explains the pitfalls of Marsh's theories of education and how his theories of education influenced the Transcendentalists and Dewey:

The spiritual intent of Marsh's educational system was, however, also its greatest practical weakness. To many, Marsh's system imposed too few restraints on the individual, did too little of obvious social benefit, and provided insufficient guidance and direction. Although it was highly valued at the University of Vermont by most students and dramatically raised the reputation of the University in academic circles, it had a disastrous effect on college finances, and the policy of advancement by merit discouraged some of the less able students…Marsh's educational ideas were never designed or destined for social acceptance. They flourished at Vermont-and were adopted by the Transcendentalists in Boston-during a spiritual interlude in American thought after nature had been lifted from the grip of mere mechanism and reinvested with spiritual import and before scientific study stripped away nature's innocence and benevolence and revealed its uncompromising laws of competition. Marsh's spiritual communication between nature and the mind was as out of place in the world of Darwin as it had been in that of symmetrically balanced mental faculties prior to 1820. His principles were never widely implemented because they stubbornly refused to serve social purposes, and the school was, after all, a social institution. When Marsh's principles reappeared decades later in the hands of John Dewey, they had taken on a new social direction that ran counter to their original drift. In Marsh's thought on education, we see an institution trying awkwardly to disappear in favor of the individuals it serves. But institutions do not disappear, though their energies may be directed elsewhere. Even if they remain only as empty forms, those forms still shape action, imposing the past on the present. The ultimate goal of education for Marsh was the establishment of relationship with God, not with other men…Marsh's educational theory concerned itself with the state of the soul rather than status in society. Education was to be, not simply a medium through which grace might pass, but a way of bringing oneself closer to God. Thus Marsh's theory was a step toward giving a heightened human perception the role of determining truth. (161-162)

However, for the moment, Marsh was reasonably happy in his post as President of UVM, but the death of his wife two years later in 1828 due to a lengthy illness was a shock from which he did not easily recover. His activities during the year after her death suggest a man trying to escape his grief through keeping himself busy through work. Even Torrey, his closest friend, describes that year as one of "uncommon activity." The year saw Marsh in a flurry of publication; he published a review of Moses Stuart's Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews in the Christian Spectator (the reward for which Marsh faced harsh criticism for his introduction of German concepts and Coleridge's terminology) (Duffy 19), and in the winter and spring of 1829 he published nine articles on popular education in Vermont Chronicle(Duffy xiv). November of 1829 would be the month in which Marsh would do his arguably most important work; it was at this time he published his "Preliminary Essay" and the first American edition of Aids to Reflection.

Chapter Three
The American Transcendentalists, Aids to Reflection, and James Marsh

At this point, it is interesting to contrast and compare various academic views as to how Transcendentalism began in America, including contemporary anthologies of American literature. Early academic works such as F.O. Matthiessen's American Renaissance (1941), Ronald V. Wells' Three Christian Transcendentalists: James Marsh, Caleb Sprague Henry and Frederic Henry Hedge (1972), John J. Duffy's Coleridge's American Disciples: The Selected Correspondence of James Marsh, (1973), and Robert E. Spiller's Literary History of the United States (1974). Matthiessen gives one line on two separate pages to Marsh, while discussing Coleridge's Aids to Reflection's contribution to American Transcendentalism as a prelude to Emerson's thought, describing Coleridge as "the most immediate force behind American Transcendentalism" (6-7), and Transcendentalism itself as "romanticism in a Puritan setting" (104). Wells' more complete study of American Transcendentalism seeks to correct the impression that Transcendentalism is solely a secular movement:

We have been accustomed to evaluate the contributions of transcendentalism, as representative of an American school, by the works of Emerson, Thoreau, and other more prominent and secular leaders of the movement. Theodore Parker is generally presented as the synthesis of transcendentalism and the Christian ministry, and he is justly known as the chief embodiment of Christian transcendentalism. It is even a common impression that he is the only such embodiment, but in this study three of his colleagues, Marsh, Henry and Hedge, less known, are considered for the significant philosophical contribution which they made to transcendental theology. Marsh was the much beloved leader of a Vermont version of transcendentalism, a tradition which lasted locally for almost a century. (1)

John J. Duffy's study of Marsh reinforces Wells' theological study of Transcendentalism independently, while giving a decent biography of James Marsh, as well as a look at his thought and how Aids to Reflection contributed to American Transcendentalism, including much of Marsh's personal correspondence.

Spiller acknowledges Aids to Reflection briefly as a "secondary source" for the movement, again as a prelude explaining Emerson's understanding of Reason and Understanding in terms of his own religious experience rather than in terms of a national religious experience. In 1982 Peter Carafiol, Fulbright-Hays Professor of American Literature at the University of Regensburg in Germany, came out with a book dealing solely with James Marsh and Aids to Reflection entitled Transcendent Reason: James Marsh and the Forms of Romantic Thought which gives a thorough background in how religion and the philosophical thought of Coleridge caused Marsh to print the American edition of Aids to Reflection, discusses how the Transcendentalist movement began in Vermont, and not Concord or Boston.

The 1989 edition of The Norton Anthology of American Literature, Vol. 1, 3rd Edition, leaves out Marsh, while giving a nod to Coleridge's Aids to Reflection in terms of Emerson's own faith, and his own understanding of Reason and Understanding, and also discusses in an abbreviated fashion the religious temperament of Boston, mentions William Ellery Channing as a leader of Boston Unitarianism, but includes none of Channing's writings, nor any excerpted material from Aids to Reflection; the four sentence background is again only a prelude to the literature of Emerson.

The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Vol. 1 (1998) does not discuss Transcendentalism in terms of Marsh, Coleridge, or religion at all, but discusses the movement in terms of "the revolutionary impulses of Romanticism, with its emphasis on openness to nature and feeling, its idea of grand individual selves set free--or at least capable of being set free--from the constraints of tradition and decorum, with its view of society as a set of illegitimate constraints on free development of the self" (1561-62). While this description is not entirely wrong, it is certainly incomplete.

The most recent anthology, The American Tradition in Literature, (2007) gives an excellent discussion of Transcendentalism in terms of religious and social change in New England, discussing the movement in terms of "a fertile conjoining of New England Unitarianism and romanticism" (865), but does not mention Marsh or Coleridge's Aids to Reflection at all, not even in terms of Emerson's thought.

The questions that come to mind immediately is given what academia knows about Marsh, Coleridge and the contribution of Aids to Reflection, given that academics such as Matthiessen, Carafiol and Duffy have acknowledged that the movement began in Vermont, and not Boston or Concord, why there are such gaps of knowledge in the sections of the anthologies given over to Transcendentalism which are the foundation of undergraduate English survey courses; secondary to this question is why as the years progress in our examination of the above anthologies and academic works, why Coleridge and Marsh gradually drop out of the discussion altogether.

All of the anthologies give the impression that Transcendentalism began in Boston/Concord, and seem very selective as to whether to bring anything of the religious background of the movement into the discussion or not. In other words, what students learn is completely at the mercy of the English department in the texts it selects for its survey courses. Due to the fast pace which survey courses tend to be subject to, it is understandable that not everything can be discussed; however, it seems a great disservice to both the amount of research and work that scholars have done on the subject, and to students in academia that this research does not seem to trickle down to the undergraduate level.

Let us proceed then, to fill in the gaps; to discuss where the American Transcendentalism movement began, the religious foundations of the movement, a discussion as to why the great theological and philosophical contributions of James Marsh and Samuel Taylor Coleridge through Aids to Reflection to the movement were important, culminating in the more secular contributions of Emerson and Thoreau to Transcendentalism. James Marsh is a transitional figure embodying the unity he so passionately sought in education and religion; as Peter Carafiol so notes in Transcendent Reason: James Marsh and the Forms of Romantic Thought, Transcendentalism was a

cultural outburst of the nineteenth century to its intellectual 'origins' in American Puritanism. At once more Puritan than Emerson's works and more Romantic than Jonathan Edwards's, Marsh's writings identify the gap between, a gap which the myth of national identity had been designed to cover over. Attempts to make connections between Puritan and Transcendentalist, to identify their shared essence, have generally been tenuous, depending for their coherence on impressionistic appeals to temperamental affinities, or at best on thematic or stylistic similarities between texts written by different authors at different times and places. In his Janus-faced embodiment of Puritan and Romantic, expressing both, yet blind to the divisions within himself, Marsh dramatizes the distinctions and hence the relationships between them. (xiii)

The Beginnings of American Transcendentalism

The American Transcendentalist movement began in Vermont, not Concord, and not Boston. Lewis S. Feuer, in his article "James Marsh and the Conservative Transcendentalist Philosophy: A Political Interpretation," which appeared in the March 1958 edition of The New England Quarterly places the origination of the movement in Burlington, Vermont in 1829 headed by Marsh, who had just published the first American edition of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Aids to Reflection. Feuer also notes the religious patina of Vermont Transcendentalism:

The Vermont transcendentalists have always been a sort of enigma in the history of American thought. The idealistic philosophy in nineteenth-century America had its beginnings at the University of Vermont in Burlington. But the story is obscure. What were the relations between the Vermont and Concord transcendentalists? What was the original impulse which led to the search for the transcendentalist philosophy? The story, as I shall try to reconstruct it, is one of an ultimate discord which was latent in the transcendentalist metaphysics, and which its applications made manifest. In November, 1829, the young president of the University of Vermont, James Marsh, thirty-five years old, published the first American edition of the Aids to Reflection written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The book, which began with a long "Preliminary Essay" by Marsh himself, soon became the "Old Testament of American Transcendentalism." Encouraged by the success of his first book, Marsh published two years later in 1831 an edition of Coleridge's Friend: A Series of Essays to Aid in the Formation of Fixed Principles in Politics, Morals, and Religion. Ralph Waldo Emerson, then in his latter twenties, studied these books carefully. He wrote that he was reading "Coleridge's Friend with great interest; Coleridge's Aids to Reflection with yet deeper…." Bronson Alcott, pursuing his schoolmaster's vocation at Germantown, Pennsylvania, found in them a new revelation…Frederic M. Hedge, among the first in the inner transcendentalist circle, welcomed the Aids to Reflection "as a very valuable work," and judged its "distinctions between prudence and morality, and between natural and spiritual religion" to be "sound and important." Readers would be grateful to James Marsh, he said, not only for his editorial work, but also to the "valuable dissertation" which he had prefaced to the book. Marsh, he added, "has evinced a philosophical talent of his own which we cannot but hope will some day be employed in more extensive undertakings." (3-4)

Ronald V. Wells states that "the appearance of this book became the rallying point for a constructive attack on both Lock and Scottish common sense thinkers who are now known as the transcendentalists" (Three Christian Transcendentalists 18). Carafiol also adds that "the whole of Marsh's work incarnates the intellectual flux that gave rise to Transcendentalism and figures forth the profound consequences of Transcendental thought" (Transcendent Reason xiv). Marsh's thought is that of philosophical idealism, rooted in his conservative Congregationalist background, straddling the line between orthodoxy and Romanticism. He is the figurehead of a conservative Transcendentalism that sought to preserve orthodoxy in the quest to unite the warring factions of Congregationalism and Unitarianism.

Emerson, on the other hand, is the figurehead of the more liberal, and much more secularized Concord/Boston Transcendentalists, a group that formed in 1836 during the bicentennial celebration of Harvard University (Gura 50), who sought, while discussion religious and philosophical issues of their day, to, in the words of Orestes Brownson, to "democratize religion and philosophy…he walked shoulder to shoulder with other liberal Christians who derived from Romantic philosophy and religion the impetus to reinvigorate their faith and work toward a realization of more democratic ideals" (53). The space between these two groups, the book that unites them, Aids to Reflection, the book that Marsh saw as a healing force, fell victim to differing interpretations; what Marsh saw as the answer to the problems of stale orthodoxy Emerson saw as a route to a uniquely American mysticism in which man could be freed from the bonds of religion entirely because where the Puritans saw humanity as subject to God, Emerson saw humanity as gods. The unity that Marsh so desired instead served to simultaneously divide the two groups.

There is controversy amongst the major scholars of Marsh about Marsh himself; whether he was a major thinker or a minor one, whether he relied too heavily on Coleridge, or not enough. All seek to defend Marsh as a thinker on his own merits, as do scholars of Coleridge. Carafiol believes that Marsh was no Transcendentalist (Transcendent Reason xv), and while a pivotal figure, he is simply a marginal one who understood what Coleridge's Aids to Reflection had to offer American religion; John J. Duffy believes that James Marsh was a disciple of Coleridge as evidenced by the title of his book Coleridge's American Disciples: The Selected Correspondence of James Marsh, while Wells denies that Marsh would ever have thought himself a disciple of Coleridge at all (TCT 18). Because of the lack of autobiographical works of Marsh, all of these scholars, have had to rely heavily on Joseph Torrey, James Marsh's great friend and biographer. One can readily see that all three of these major scholars of Marsh have differing interpretations of Torrey; yet Torrey states unequivocally that Marsh was a disciple of no one, and that his thought was wholly original based on his interdisciplinary education:

From his familiarity with the writings of Coleridge, and the high respect which he ever felt and expressed for Coleridge's authority in matters of this sort, it has been hastily inferred that he was no more than a disciple of that great master. It would be a mistake, however, to suppose that the opinions of Dr. Marsh were taken up immediately from any particular author or school. Submission to the authority of great names was something wholly alien from the character of his mind: although no man was more modest in the estimation of his own powers, or more ready to confess his obligations, in all cases where he had been benefitted by others. It may be said of him with greater justice than of many who have laid far higher claims to originality that his system was the result of his own profound meditation, and one to which he was irresistibly led, in endeavoring to construct for himself a consistent and connected whole, out of the materials of his knowledge. He acted upon his own maxim, laid down at the beginning of the "Preliminary Essay" that "it is by self-inspection only, we can discover the principle of unity and consistency, which reason instinctively seeks after, which shall reduce to a harmonious system all our views of truth and being, and destitute of which, all the knowledge that comes to us from without, is fragmentary, and in its relation to our highest interests as rational beings, the patch-work of vanity. (112-113)

Torrey's evaluation of Marsh's originality of thought raises its own questions: what is Torrey's intent? A major consideration is that he wished to memorialize a man who he greatly admired and thus show him as a great man in the best possible light, in his own right, a man who endlessly searched for truth in all that he studied and learned, a man who sought to unify knowledge with "the development of his spiritual being" (Torrey 116), not a man who rested in the shadow of Coleridge. It would seem that because there is no autobiography of Marsh that Marsh falls victim to what Whitman in Leaves of Grass wittily observed about biographies:

When I read the book, the biography famous,
And is this then (said I) what the author calls a man's life?
And so will some one when I am dead and gone write my life?
(As if any man really knew aught of my life,
Why even I myself I often think know little or nothing of my real life,
Only a few hints, a few diffused faint clews and indirections
I seek for my own use to trace out here.) (9)

Thus it becomes necessary to dig deeper; to look at the religious controversy of the time; and to look at Marsh's "Preliminary Essay" on its own terms, and Coleridge's Aids to Reflection on Coleridge's terms in order to put the pieces together and understand Transcendentalism as a whole; thus, like Marsh's aim to unify dissenting sects, this thesis aims to unify the study of American transcendentalism. Religion was the foundation of Transcendentalism; religious orthodoxy; and it is to this we will now turn.

The American Religious Problem and the "Preliminary Essay" of James Marsh

In order to properly understand how influential Coleridge's Aids to Reflection as well as Marsh's "Preliminary Essay" was to American Transcendentalism, it is necessary to review the impasse to which American theology had come to, that set the stage for the cultivation and growth of America's reflection upon human nature and destiny, topics entwined in the nation's introspection upon itself. New England, (and by extension, America post-Revolution), home to Puritanism, was fast outgrowing such authoritarian orthodoxy; yet paradoxically, that same Puritanism via Jonathan Edwards also anticipated and prepared New England for transcendent theology. Ever on the borderline between orthodox and mystic, Jonathan Edwards has unfortunately been rather underrepresented in the academy as well. His most anthologized work, the sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," may be representative of the Puritan sermon model, but is not representative of Edwards himself. Like Marsh, Edwards was keenly interested in uniting the head with the heart as he expressed so eloquently in "The Nature of True Virtue." Dr. Mark Noll, in his introductory essay to the Yale University Jonathan Edwards Center website summarizes Edwards' philosophy of the heart:

The unifying center of Edwards's life was the glory of God experienced as an active, harmonious, ever unfolding source of absolutely perfect Being marked by supernal beauty and love. The dynamic activity of the Godhead, especially as manifest in the Trinity, was ever in the forefront. Against many of the optimistic opinions of his century, Edwards defended Calvinistic convictions about the lostness of humanity and the need for divine grace to initiate redemption. Yet with the spirit of his age, Edwards also promoted an affectional view of reality in which "the sense of the heart" (one of his favorite phrases) was foundational for thought and action alike. The cast of Edwards's mind was relentlessly intellectual-"many theorems, that appeared hard and barren to others, were to him pleasant and fruitful fields, where his mind would expatiate with peculiar ease, profit and entertainment," was the way his friend and student, Samuel Hopkins, put it (Ethical Writings, 401). As a result, Edwards delighted in abstruse metaphysical questions almost as much as in theological or biblical challenges. In this respect, Edwards shared much with his near contemporaries, the Catholic Nicholas Malebranche and the Anglican George Berkeley, both of whom also developed forms of theistic idealism in response to what they perceived as the philosophical drift of their age. Edwards was fascinated by the discoveries of Newton and his successors. Yet, fearing the threat of materialism in such work, he argued that the laws of science were not self-subsisting. Rather, they were products of God's self-conscious intellectual activity. Edwards was not threatened by these discoveries because he felt they revealed the regularity, harmony, and beauty of the Divine Being. A division between the spiritual and the material was as uncongenial to Edwards's thought as it was commonplace in the Enlightenment more generally. To Edwards, progress in science showed more about the character of God than it did about the character of the physical universe. His solution to the Newtonian challenge was a strong dose of philosophical idealism: "that which truly is the substance of all bodies is the infinitely exact and precise and perfectly stable idea in God's mind, together with his stable will that the same shall gradually be communicated to us, and to other minds, according to certain fixed and exact established methods and laws" (Scientific and Philosophical Writings, 344).

Edwards's ethics showed the same concern for establishing God as the foundation. Behavior that was moral in the strictest sense of the term arose, in his view, only from a heart regenerated by God's mercy. This case was made fully in The Nature of True Virtue, which was published posthumously in 1765, but it was also a persistent theme in much of his other work. Edwards agreed with contemporary British moralists like Francis Hutcheson that humans possessed a natural capacity for recognizing morality and following the internal "moral sense." But he also contended that this kind of morality was inevitably prudential, pragmatic, and, ultimately an expression of self-love. Such socially useful behavior fell far short of true virtue, since "'tis evident that true virtue must chiefly consist in love to God, the Being of beings, infinitely the greatest and best of beings" (Ethical Writings, 550). Soon after Edwards died, his intellectual descendents turned away from the affectional idealism of his philosophy to forms of common sense realism. (

Common sense realism satisfied the head, but required no heart; and Marsh, like Edwards, tied moral behavior to a regenerative heart; "the man must become what he knows; he must make his knowledge one with his own being; and in his power to do this, joined with the infinite capacity of his spirit, lies the possibility of his endless progress" (Torrey 115). Further, Marsh believed that as a philosopher and a Christian, that the "ultimate ground of truth must also be a living ground. The soul, as a living and life-giving principle, could not be satisfied with abstractions, nor its hollow cravings be stilled with unsubstantial shadows and barren formulas. The great question with him as not alone what is truth? but, what is that which imparts to truth its living reality; which connects knowing with being; and in the clear perception and contemplation of which, the whole aggregate of our knowledge begins to reduce itself to the form, not merely of a systematic, but of an organic unity?" (Ibid.) In this, Marsh is a mirror of Coleridge as described by John Stuart Mill in Mill's essay "Coleridge:"

The influence of Coleridge, like that of Bentham, extends far beyond those who share in the peculiarities of his religious or philosophical creed. He has been the great awakener in this country of the spirit of philosophy, within the bounds of traditional opinions. He has been, almost as truly as Bentham, 'the great questioner of things established;' for a questioner need not necessarily be an enemy. By Bentham, beyond all others, men have been led to ask themselves, in regard to any ancient or received opinion, Is it true? and by Coleridge, What is the meaning of it? The one took his stand outside the received opinion, and surveyed it as an entire stranger to it; the other looked at it from within, and endeavored to see it with the eyes of a believer in it; to discover by what apparent facts it was at first suggested, and by what appearances it has ever since been rendered continually credible-has seemed, to a succession of persons, to be a faithful interpretation of their experience. Bentham judged a proposition true or false as it accorded or not with the result of his own inquiries; and did not search very curiously into what might be meant by the proposition, when it obviously did not mean what he thought true. With Coleridge, on the contrary, the very fact that any doctrine had been believed by thoughtful men, and received by whole nations or generations of mankind was part of the problem to be solved, was one of the phenomena to be accounted for. (100)

As has been shown throughout, the driving force of Marsh's thought and faith was unity of philosophy and religion, in order to engender a unified, living religious spirit in individuals. This he hoped to accomplish through the distribution of Aids to Reflection. Previously in this thesis it has been noted that up to this point in time, there was a dearth of American or English literature that would engender any kind of a spiritual awakening. This is something that Marsh noted, and sought to do something about:

How little, Marsh said, "of the literature that falls in the way of young people, and of that which is most fascinating, is what we could wish in this respect, (viz. its religious influence.) The works and life of Sir Walter Scott leave the reader, to say the least, indifferent to religious principle; those of Charles Lamb are certainly no better; and with all the high aspirations of Wordsworth, there is much in his writings that is more favorable to an undefined naturalism or pantheism than to the truth of the gospel. The fact is, I fear, that the Christian world has, of late, enjoyed too much worldly prosperity for the spiritual interests of the church itself, and our Christianity hangs so loosely upon us, that we are in danger of forgetting and denying both the Father and the Son. We want men, who, comprehending the philosophy and the spirit of the age, have at the same time the spirit, the active zeal and the eloquence of Paul. The young men about Cambridge and Boston among Unitarians, and to some extent among others, I have no doubt, will adopt the "spiritual philosophy" so called against Locke and Edwards; and will they stop with the Eclecticism of Cousin? As the young men of education go, so goes the world. The popular religious works, and the general style of preaching among all classes and denominations, have too superficial and extraneous a character to protect speculative minds at all against the philosophical dogmas and criticisms with which our popular literature is so abundantly furnished. We need either a deeper and more heartfelt and heart-protecting practical piety, or else a more vigorous and profound philosophical spirit, in the interest of truth, and armed for its defence. We ought indeed to have both; but how are we to obtain them?" (Torrey 123-124)

The answer came in the form of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his odd collection of the aphorisms of English divines, mostly comprised of aphorisms of Anglican Archbishop Robert Leighton, with Coleridge's commentary throughout entitled Aids to Reflection in the Formation of a Manly Character, on the Several Grounds of Prudence, Morality, and Religion, Illustrated by Select Passages from our Elder Divines, Especially from Archbishop Leighton.

Aids to Reflection
It is a common delusion that Coleridge is well-known. -F.J.A. Hort

Fundamentally, Marsh and Coleridge were progressive conservatives. Both sought to revitalize orthodoxy rather than secularizing Christianity. Torrey remarked that Marsh's religious beliefs were no different than that "professed and taught by the early reformers," (120), and a reading of Coleridge's Biographia Literaria, Anima Poetae, and Confessions of an Inquiring Spirit is enough to convince the reader that Coleridge was no Emerson; he did not come to destroy the Scripture, but to relate an operative Christianity in which the Word, Christ, is the identity, the driving, living highest force unifying the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit and the Church, the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit, and the Church are coordinate, Christ the Word, the Holy Spirit synthesizing in the preacher, and the preacher being the physical unifying force between the Scriptures and the Church (the earthly messenger):

Prothesis: Christ the Word

Thesis              Mesothesis, or the Indifference           Antithesis
The Scriptures.          The Holy Spirit                          The Church
The Preacher

This Coleridge calls the "hand of God in the World" (Confessions iii). The driving force behind the hand of God in the World is the logos, the word, "living word," encapsulated in John 1:1, and Genesis 1; the word that creates, and makes flesh, the word that breathes life and makes humans living souls. This is more than just metaphor; for Coleridge too realized the lifelessness of religion in England during his time, and like Marsh, strove to unify Christianity with philosophy, through reflection upon living words, through the living Word:

But you are likewise born in a CHRISTIAN LAND: and Revelation has provided for you new subjects for reflection, and new treasures of knowledge, never to be unlocked by him who remains self-ignorant. Self-knowledge is the key to this casket; and by reflection alone can it be obtained. Reflect on your own thoughts, actions, circumstances, and -which will be of especial aid to you in forming a habit of reflection-accustom yourself to reflect on the words you use, hear , or read, their birth, derivation, and history. For is words are not THINGS, they are LIVING POWERS, by which the things of most importance to mankind are actuated, combined and humanized. Finally, by reflection you may draw from the fleeting facts of your worldly trade, art, or profession, a science permanent as your immortal soul; and make even these subsidiary and preparative to the reception of spiritual truth, "doing as the dyers do, who having first dipt their silks in colours of less value, then give them the last tincture of crimson in grain." (ATR xix)

It is by reflection that truth is ascertained; reflection is the bridge between the head and the heart. For Marsh as well, as outlined in his "Preliminary Essay" to Aids to Reflection, individual reflection upon the contemplative words of the English divines in the work, to reveal to the reader the truth of our being as created (and creative) individuals put on earth by God, is the highest, and central ideal of the work:

Now it is not too much to say, that most men, and even a large proportion of educated men, do not reflect sufficiently upon their own inward being, upon the constituent laws of their own understanding, upon the mysterious powers and agencies of reason, and conscience, and will, to apprehend with much distinctness the objects to be named, or of course to refer the names with correctness to their several objects. Hence the necessity of associating the study of words with the study of morals and religion; and that is the most effectual method of instruction, which enables the teacher most successfully to fix the attention upon a definite meaning, that is, in these studies, upon a particular act, or process, or law of the mind-to call it into distinct consciousness, and assign to it its proper name, so that the name shall thenceforth have for the learner a distinct, definite, and intelligible sense. To impress upon the reader the importance of this, and to exemplify it in the particular subjects taken up in the Work, is a leading aim of the Author throughout; and it is obviously the only possible way by which we can arrive at any satisfactory and conclusive results on subjects of philosophy, morals, and religion. The first principles, the ultimate grounds, of these, so far as they are possible objects of knowledge for us, must be sought and found in the laws of our own being, or they are not found at all. The knowledge of these, terminates in the knowledge of ourselves, of our rational and personal being, of our proper and distinctive humanity, and of that Divine Being, in whose image we are created. "We must retire inward," says St. Bernard, "if we would ascend upward." It is by self-inspection, by reflecting upon the mysterious grounds of our own being, that we can alone arrive at any rational knowledge of the central and absolute ground of all being. It is by this only, that we can discover that principle of unity and consistency, which reason instinctively seeks after, which shall reduce to an harmonious system all our views of truth and of being, and destitute of which all the knowledge that comes to us from without is fragmentary, and in its relation to our highest interests as rational beings but the patch-work of vanity. (xxiv-xxvi)

Coleridge, Marsh, Psychology and the Human Mind in Aids to Reflection

Inherent in Marsh's and Coleridge's words is, like Marsh's loose organization of the University of Vermont, a deep faith in the individual reader to interpret Coleridge's work for a deeply psychological religious conversion experience, anchored by philosophy and propelled by literature. Reflection is not for the faint of heart in the thought of Marsh and Coleridge; it is not an excursion to be taken lightly. To be propelled to the depths of one's own being is often a frightening journey, the end of which cannot be seen with perfect clarity. It takes faith to begin such an inward journey; faith in oneself, and faith in something greater than oneself to look into the mirror which Marsh and Coleridge hold up in the form of Aids to Reflection, and dare to look upon the reflection of oneself in the mirror of divinity. Marsh knew the difficulty years before he undertook to publish the first American edition of Aids to Reflection. In a letter to his wife, July 1st, 1821, Marsh confided to his wife:

The simple, unlearned Christian, who knows only his Bible, and daily reads that with an unquestioning confidence in the more simple truths which he reads, and which he that runs may read, may well be, in some respects the envy of the puzzled though learned man of books. He goes on in the even tenor of his way, with his head at ease, and his heart unmoved, but by the feelings of penitence and love. He knows nothing of the ten thousand distracting questions, the harrowing doubts and maddening skepticism, that dry up the heart and seethe in the brain of the unfortunate student, who has ventured to pass the consecrated limit of his traditional faith, and look back upon it with the cool eye of critical investigation…no wonder they choose the upper air, and leave unruffled the abyss below…But woe to the daring and ill-starred adventurer who plunges into the metaphysic depths of controversial theology! Well may he ponder his voyage; for it is little less difficult than that of our great adversary when he passed 'the throne/Of chaos, and his dark pavilion spread/Wide on the wasteful deep.'" (Torrey 44-45).

Coleridge was no stranger to the difficulties of the spiritual inward journey either; Rime of the Ancient Mariner is the ultimate archetypal journey to the abyss within, with no clear comfort of absolution after the journey has been made. Ross Woodman, in his article "Literature and the Unconscious: Coleridge and Jung," in The Journal of the Society of Analytical Psychology makes the observation that "the experience of letting oneself drop into the seething life below the threshold of consciousness is enacted over and over again in the work of the major Romantics" (363). He discusses this theme in terms of Wordsworth's "awful power" of the Prelude, Shelley's "suicidal plunge" into the fire "for which all thirst" in "Adonais," and Coleridge's "deep romantic chasm" of "Kubla Khan" (364).

The divinity of humanity is revealed in the creative process--for Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley and Coleridge--in the creative use of words. Yet the plunge into the awful abyss is also sublime, for in the plunge is the faith in the later subjugation of the shadow side; the sublimity in the exorcism of the fear of looking into the mirror. In the Bible, Jonah is swallowed up by the whale; Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are thrown into the fiery furnace; all come out the other side humbled, egos subjugated, praising God. Tied to redemption for all of the Romantics is how humanity interacts with the nature that humans are a part of; God's creation without is subject to the free will of the created people of God who reside within it. Wordsworth escapes the industrialized deadness of the cities to walk amongst the living meadows in his beloved Lake District; Shelley wandered through his hauntingly beautiful Europe, Keats drank from his "fountain of immortal drink/Pouring unto us from the heaven's brink," in "Endymion," and Coleridge contemplated the "supreme beauty" of Christ in terms of the nature which surrounded him in "Religious Musings." It is only when the Mariner who has been doomed to the psychic nightmare of "Ancient Mariner" looks kindly on the sea serpent (thus sublimating ego in favor of conscience) that redemption becomes even a hope to the Mariner; those who are Dead in Life are lost forever. Yet the ego is never really sublimated, for the Mariner is doomed (or blessed) to repeat his tale over and over again in the endless tortured ecstasy of creative process.

More than this, the beauty of the natural world for the Romantics is a mirror of the beauty of "something" that Marsh calls the "distinctively spiritual in man," that intellectual Lockean empirical a priori philosophy alone cannot hope to reveal, but which can be apprehended and explained by Christian philosophy. Marsh states in his essay on psychology, included in Torrey's memoirs of Marsh: "The phenomena of our inward life, on the other hand, can be known only by reflection upon our own consciousness, and cannot be exhibited under the relations of space, or explained by reference to the modifications of extension, form and motion in the material organs" (31). (Marsh's study of psychology would make an interesting topic for further study; the influence of Coleridge is readily apparent in this lengthy treatise; Marsh, ever the champion of unity, links psychology to geometry, biology, physiology, and anthropology. This where the philosophy of Locke and the Scottish "Common Sense" philosophy breaks down. In the "Preliminary Essay" to Aids to Reflection Marsh quotes Coleridge's Biographia Literaria when he says

He [Coleridge] proves that "the scheme of Christianity, though not discoverable by human reason, is yet in accordance with it; that link follows link by necessary consequence; that Religion passes out of the ken of Reason only where the eye of Reason has reached its own horizon-and that Faith is then but its continuation." Instead of adopting, like the popular metaphysicians of the day, a system of philosophy at war with religion, and which tends inevitably to undermine our belief in the reality of any thing spiritual in the only proper sense of that word, and then coldly and ambiguously referring us for the support of our faith to the authority of Revelation, he boldly asserts the reality of something distinctively spiritual in man, and the futility of all those modes of philosophizing, in which this is not recognized, or which are compatible with it. He considers it the highest and most rational purpose of any system of philosophy, at least of one professing to be Christian, to investigate those higher and peculiar attributes, which distinguish us from the brutes that perish-which are the image of God in us, and constitute our proper humanity. It is in his view the proper business and the duty of the Christian philosopher to remove all appearance of contradiction between the several manifestations of the one Divine Word, to reconcile reason with revelation, and thus to justify the ways of God to man. (xxxi-xxxii)

It is here that Marsh provides the reader with the key to Aids to Reflection--the distinction between nature and free will and between the understanding and reason (ibid). What Marsh calls "the science of words" (xxiv) is fundamental to "reconcile reason with revelation" and unify humanity with their Creator. Marsh also links the science of words with the study of psychology and metaphysics. In comparing empirical psychology with what he terms "rational psychology" (metaphysics of being):

We cannot, for this reason, adopt the method pursued by some writers, of commencing with the inward, and as it were central, powers of life in the soul, in order to show in our progress, the relation of the various phenomena to these as their origin. This view may be taken with advantage by those already accustomed to reflection and familiar with the facts, but would be necessarily unintelligible, in the commencement of the study. We must then, first observe and analyze with care those things which can be most easily designated…Hence one of our greatest obstacles to the progress of knowledge here, is the vagueness of the language relating to the subject, and the difficulty of one's determining the precise distinction, which another has intended to mark by a particular word. Connected with the difficulties of the language belonging to the subject, we must bear in mind the fact so often noticed, that all the terms which designates facts of our inward consciousness, were originally metaphorical in this use of them, and in their literal signification applied to objects of the outer world…Another consideration of importance here is, that while terms are vague and fluctuating, they lead much more unavoidably to indistinctness and misapprehension in our views of the facts designated by them, than in the study of physical science. Chemists may employ different terms to the same substance, and yet perfectly understand each other in regard to it…In other words, our language here is nearly inseparable from the theory which we adopt; and we cannot speak of facts of our inward consciousness, without betraying by our language, the system by which we express our views of their nature and relations….Yet with all the difficulties which attend the pursuit of this study, the interest and importance of it are such as amply repay the labor which it imposes. As an introduction to logic and metaphysics, a knowledge of psychology is indispensable. It lays open to us, and teaches us to observe and contemplate with ever growing admiration, that inner world of our own consciousness, which, rightly understood, is far more wonderful than all the phenomena of the world without. It reveals to us, in a word, our own being, the power by which we are actuated, and the laws of nature by which we are governed. (243-247)

For Marsh, the act of reflection is a way to "view" scientifically and metaphysically, the activities of the soul on an external and internal level. Unlike Locke, who thinks that there are "things in themselves" we cannot know, Marsh, by comparing the human soul to a plant in order to describe the soul on a physical external level both humans and plants are affected by external circumstances: the human thirsts, the plant thirsts; plants and humans need food in order to grow. The second meaning of "soul" to Marsh is when he describes what separates the human "soul" from the plant-the plant has no knowledge of morality; it must do as it was created to do according to the laws of nature; whereas the human has the ability to make decisions contrary to nature, we have a state of consciousness about self, and we have the faculty of the will to make determinations about our life and goals.

Most importantly, Marsh observes that "it is this power of voluntary self-inspection and self control which places man above nature, even his own nature, and constitutes him a free and responsible agent, and the deliberate resolves of his will, made, that is, in the exercise of his understanding, his own acts. The brute is incapable of conscious and deliberative resolve; and what it does is therefore the product of the power of nature working in it, and cannot be imputed to its own work (269). Marsh also links imagination to the soul, in a Coleridgean sense, making the distinction between the primary and secondary imaginations linked to the inward life of the soul, and thus, to religious experience. Similarly, for Coleridge, as Stephen Prickett notes in his book Coleridge and Wordsworth: The Poetry of Growth:

The 'defensive positions' of inward religious experience are themselves the product of a particular view not so much of religion, but primarily of the human mind; a view which succeeded in bringing together both the inwardness of religious experience and his recognition of his own apparently tortuous and rambling associative logic. Coleridge saw the human mind itself as essentially a myth-making and symbolizing structure. We can see the movement of his thought from his earliest poems through his literary criticism and political pamphleteering to his final philosophic and religious position as the history of his attempt to produce a satisfactory formulation for this basically intuitive concept of the mind. (176)

Aids to Reflection, then, aims to support the reader so that the reader does not become lost in the abyss of the mind. With Leighton and Coleridge as teachers, and Aids to Reflection the guide, a sort of biblio-Virgil, guiding the reader into gentle contemplation of the self, during the descent, to arise to the other side a new person in Christ. Marsh goes out of his way to describe Aids to Reflection in his "Preliminary Essay" as an "instructive and safe guide to the knowledge of what it concerns all men to know" (xxvi, emphasis mine). It is safe because the English divines have traversed the same road that the reader is about to. It is safe because of the running commentary that Coleridge provides throughout Aids to help the reader along in interpretation. It was also safe for a reason that perhaps Marsh did not know but would certainly sympathize with; Coleridge had walked the walk before, wavering between skepticism and faith. According to Ben Brice, in Coleridge and Scepticism:

Throughout 1814 and 1815, Coleridge fitfully struggled with theological questions of Election, Predestination, Free Will, and Atonement. In a letter to Joseph Cottle written in April 1814, Coleridge quotes with evident relief the 'true Divine, Archbishop Leighton' for whom faith in the spiritual fruits of prayer was accompanied 'not by Reasons and Arguments; but by an inexpressible kind of Evidence, which they only know who have it'. According to John Beer, Leighton's writings 'were assisting Coleridge's fight for spiritual survival at this time'. This was partly a consequence of Leighton's ability to reconcile St. John and St. Paul, so as to speak 'of the inward light in a way that accorded with Christian Platonism while also affirming the depravity of man and his need for redemption.'

Coleridge discovered that unlike his Mariner, he did not have to go through his journey to the abyss alone. In Marsh's apologia--his "Preliminary Essay" to Aids to Reflection, Marsh assures readers that the guide is safe-in reading we are not alone in our wavering faith, we are not alone in our fear of the abyss that lives within all of us; simply-we are not alone. If the reader can be subject to willing suspension of disbelief in reading fiction or poetry, then in reading Aids to Reflection the reader can be subject to the same, thus bringing the reader around to willing belief. The work of the poet-priest is thus extrapolated into Aids to Reflection:

The poet, described in ideal perfection, brings the whole soul of man into activity, with the subordination of its faculties to each other, according to their relative worth and dignity. He diffuses a tone and spirit of unity that blends and (as it were) fuses each into each, by that synthetic and magical power, to which we have exclusively appropriated the name of imagination. This power, first put in action by the will and understanding, and retained under their intermissive, though gentle and unnoticed, control (laxis effertur habenis) reveals itself in the balance or reconciliation of opposite or discordant qualities: of sameness, with difference: of the general, with the concrete; the idea, with the image; the individual, with the representative; the sense of novelty and freshness, with old and familiar objects; a more than usual state of emotion, with more than usual order; judgment ever awake and steady self-possession, with enthusiasm and feeling profound or vehement; and while it blends and harmonizes the natural and the artificial, still subordinates art to nature; the manner to the matter; and our admiration of the poet to our sympathy with the poetry. "Doubtless," as Sir John Davies observes of the soul (and his words may with slight alteration be applied, and even more appropriately, to the poetic IMAGINATION)…Finally, GOOD SENSE is the BODY of poetic genius, FANCY its drapery, MOTION its LIFE, and IMAGINATION the SOUL that is everywhere, and in each, and forms all into one graceful and intelligent whole. (Biographia Literaria 12-13)

Coleridge links the imagination to the soul. Only the imaginative soul can reconcile oppositions. Only the soul can reconcile the head and the heart. Just as the poet must invest the natural objects of his poetry with emotion so that the reader may have sympathetic feelings, so Coleridge's commentary throughout Aids to Reflection functions to invest the aphorisms with the necessary refinements in defining Leighton's words in order to invest the words of Leighton with the clearest, highest possible meaning for the reader. Coleridge states in Aphorisms I-III:

In philosophy equally as in poetry, it is the highest and most useful prerogative of genius to produce the strongest impressions of novelty, while it rescues admitted truths from the neglect caused by the very circumstances of their universal admission. Extremes meet. Truths, of all others the most awful and interesting, re too often considered as so true, that they lose all the power of truth, and lie bed-ridden in the dormitory of the soul, side by side with the most despised and exploded errors.

II. There is one sure way of giving freshness and importance to the most common-place maxims-that of reflecting on them in direct reference to our own state and conduct, to our own past and future being. III. To restore a common-place truth to its first uncommon luster, you need only translate it into action. But to do this, you must have reflected on its truth. (ATR 1)

Already the word "reflection" is being used again and again; reflecting takes on a multitude of definitions in just two usages--the first usage is meditation concurrent with comparison of our being in the past and present, with the possibility of our being in the future. Without ever saying so, the symbolism is of a mirror in which one looks into the soul, and how one uses a mirror to reflect the sun outward to the external world beyond. Indeed, in Aphorism IV (2), Coleridge brings us the actual mirror to show the difference between "Reflection and Fore-thought." He brings us the actual "eye, which is the light of this house, the light which is the eye of the soul" in Aphorism IX (4). Prickett adds that "in using the image of a reflecting mirror, Coleridge is determined to clear it of all passive and mechanistic associations. Behind the idea of 'reflection' there is a theory of imitation analogous to that of artistic 'mimesis'...This process of artistic reproduction is turned inwards to what Coleridge defines as the 'authentic documents' of certain 'states of consciousness.'

In other words, in 'reflection' our attention is fixed on certain inward experiences to be found, say, in literature, art, or even religion, which are to be re-created in our own minds not as pure copies, but having the same relation to the original experience as say a contemporary landscape painting by Constable had to life" (185). , as has been widely discussed by scholars, the imagination is twofold-the primary and the secondary. The primary imagination is "the living power and prime agent of all human perception . . . a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I am;" (linked to the Divine through the "infinite I AM") the secondary "an echo of the [primary], coexisting with the conscious will . . . identical with the primary in the kind of its agency . . . differing only in the mode of its operation. It dissolves, diffuses, dissipates, in order to recreate." The secondary imagination struggles with the primary, not having the infinite ability to create, endeavoring to create the ideal, but never able to attain the perfection it seeks. So it is with Reason and Understanding. Reason is the higher faculty; encapsulating imagination and faith; experiences which cannot be perceived by experience alone occur here. Understanding is the mechanical, lower faculty, by which we calculate means, and sense; it is incapable of arriving at moral judgments, and has a logic of its own by which it perceives ideas. Coleridge explains the difference between Reason and Understanding in The Friend: from Volume I, The Landing-Place, or Essays Interposed for Amusement, Retrospect, and Preparation, Essay v:

... I must warn against an opposite error--namely, that if Reason, as distinguished from Prudence, consists merely in knowing that Black cannot be White--or when a man has a clear conception of an inclosed figure, and another equally clear conception of a straight line, his Reason teaches him that these two conceptions are incompatible in the same object, i.e. that two straight lines cannot include a space--the said Reason must be a very insignificantfaculty. But a moment's steady self-reflection will shew us, that in the simple determination ``Black is not White''--or, ``that two straight lines cannot include a space''--all the powers are implied, that distinguish Man from Animals--first, the power of reflection--2d. of comparison--3d. and therefore of suspension of the mind-- 4th. therefore of a controlling will, and the power of acting from notions, instead of mere images exciting appetites; from motives, and not from mere dark instincts. Was it an insignificant thing to weigh the Planets, to determine all their courses, and prophecy every possible relation of the Heavens a thousand years hence? Y et all this mighty chain of science is nothing but a linking together of truths of the same kind, as, the whole is greater than its part:--or, if A and B = C, then A = B--or 3 + 4 = 7, therefore 7 + 5 = 12, and so forth. X is to be found either in A or B, or C. or D: It is not found in A, B, or C, therefore it is to be found in D.--What can be simpler? Apply this to an animal--a Dog misses his master where four roads meet--he has come up one, smells to two of the others, and then with his head aloft darts forward to the third road without any examination. If this was done by a conclusion, the Dog would have Reason--how comes it then, that he never shews it in his ordinary habits? Why does this story excite either wonder or incredulity?--If the story be a fact, and not a fiction, I should say--the Breeze brought his Master's scent down the fourth Road to the Dog's nose, and that therefore he did not put it down to the Road, as in the two former instances. So aweful and almost miraculous does the simple act of concluding, that take 3 from 4, there remains one, appear to us when attributed to the most sagacious of all animals.
from Volume II, Section the First, Essay iii:

STC's footnote:... Under the term SENSE, I comprise whatever is passive in our being, without any reference to the questions of Materialism or Immaterialism; all that man is in common with animals, in kind at least--his sensations, and impressions, whether of his outward senses, or in the inner sense of imagination. ... By the UNDERSTANDING, I mean the faculty of thinking and forming judgments on the notices furnished by the sense, according to certain rules existing in itself, which rules constitute its distinct nature. By the pure REASON, I mean the power by which we become possessed of principle, (the eternal verities of Plato and Descartes) and of ideas, (N.B. not images) as the theorems of a point, a line, a circle, in Mathematics; and the Ideas of Justice, Holiness, Free-Will, &c. in Morals. Hence in works of pure science the definitions of necessity precede the reasoning, in other works they more aptly form the conclusion. ... (

Jeffrey W. Barbeau further notes:

The distinction between Reason and Understanding is one that Coleridge made numerous times over the course of his career. Among the most noteworthy definitions of these terms appears in The Statesman's Manual: "Reason is the knowledge of the laws of the WHOLE considered as ONE: and as such it is contradistinguished from the Understanding, which concerns itself exclusively with the quantities, qualities, and relations of particulars in time and space. The UNDERSTANDING, therefore, is the science of phaenomena, and their subsumption under distinct kinds and sorts (genus and species)" (LS 59). Reason is not a faculty of the mind, but the source of ideas; it is "the science of the universal, having the ideas of ONENESS and ALLNESS as its two elements or primary factors" (LS 59-60). Reason approximates Kant's speculative or theoretic reason. The Appendix to Aids to Reflection, added to the 1831 edition of the work, describes the theoretic Reason as a Light:

The Practical Reason alone is Reason in the full and substantive sense. It is reason in its own Sphere of perfect freedom; as the source of IDEAS, which Ideas in their own conversion to the responsible Will, become Ultimate Ends.

On the other hand, Theoretic Reason, as the ground of the Universal and Absolute in all Logical Conclusion, is rather the Light of Reason in the Understanding, and known to be such by its contrast with the contingency and particularity which characterize all the proper and indigenous growths of the Understanding. (AR 413)

While the practical reason is primarily concerned with the adjudication of moral choices, theoretical reason knows immediately by intuition. The influence of the Cambridge Platonists once again provides a key to Coleridge's distinction.

In Aids to Reflection Coleridge quotes John Smith (1618-52) in order to explain that Reason is not a faculty of our own souls, but "far rather a Light, which we enjoy, but the Source of which is not in ourselves, nor rightly, by any individual to be denominated mine" (AR 253). For Coleridge, the words of the Wisdom of Solomon are instructive in conceptualizing Reason, which contains the Sense, Understanding, and the Imagination: "one only, yet manifold, overseeing all, and going through all understanding; the breath of the power of God, and a pure influence from the glory of the Almighty, which remaining in itself regenerateth all other powers, and in all ages entering into holy souls maketh them friends of God and prophets. (135-136)

Having thus noted the similarities of thought between Marsh and Coleridge it is easy to understand why Marsh would see Aids to Reflection as such an important bridge between the Congregationalists and Unitarians; and how American Transcendentalism could take root in this ambivalent metaphysics. If Coleridge is often ambivalent and difficult to understand, so is Marsh in his "Preliminary Essay." The essay is apologetic in nature; Marsh writes with the understanding that Aids may not be received well by the theological and intellectual community: "In republishing the Work in this country, I could wish that it might be received by all, for whose instruction it was designed, simply as a didactic work, on its own merits and without controversy. I must not, however, be supposed ignorant of its bearing upon these questions, which have so often been, and still are, the prevailing topics of theological controversy among us. It was indeed incumbent on me, before inviting the attention of the religious community to the Work, to consider its relation to existing opinions, and its probable influence on the progress of truth" (ATR xxvii).

Marsh then goes into a defense of Aids through a prolonged and involved discussion on the relevance of philosophy to religion. He notes that Aids has inconsistencies of "some of its leading principles with much that is taught and received in our theological circles" (Ibid). Peter Carafiol in his article "James Marsh's American Aids to Reflection: Influence Through Ambiguity" observes that "although Marsh saw Coleridge as the solution both to the factional disputes that fragmented American religion and to his own personal conflicts between philosophy and faith, the uncertainty and ambiguity of the "Preliminary Essay" suggest the inadequacy of Coleridge's system for Marsh's purposes. Instead of reconciling rationalism and dogmatism, either personally or socially, Marsh vacillates between the two, turning from one to the other on the pivot of faith.

Consequently, as Marsh responds to the respective biases of his different audiences, the essay frequently lapses into self-contradiction and achieves clarity only at the expense of philosophical precision. In trying to tread the very thin doctrinal line between rational and spiritual religion, Marsh created an ambiguous document, rather than a faithful exposition of Coleridge's thought. Yet, had Marsh's version of the Aids not been subject to such a variety of interpretations, it could never have spread Coleridge's thoughts so widely, or exerted its crucial influence on the Transcendentalist movement" (27-28). Here Coleridge and Marsh share another similarity; that of being ambiguous and difficult to understand. Yet this very ambiguity lends itself to a greater platform to discussion and application.

It has been noted previously as well that the work of Jonathan Edwards had its elements of a sort of Christian mysticism however much the empirical thought of Locke may have influenced Edwards. America had also been prepared for transcendentalism because of the Enlightenment; the basic assumption of the Enlightenment is that one is born to be what we are outside of religious considerations; rather than God dictating for us whether we are one of the "elect" through the Calvinistic sense of pure theological determinism and utter reliance on the Bible as the inerrant Word of God.

As Prickett has also noted, one cannot understand Aids to Reflection purely on theological grounds, but must take into account Coleridge's previous poetic development. It is in this that Marsh is similar as well; his affinity for Byron, as noted earlier was the possibility Marsh saw in poetry to move a person to religious affection, and not just to passion for passion's sake. It is here we can contemplate the influence of Immanuel Kant upon the thought of Coleridge. In a letter to Coleridge in 1829, Marsh wrote to Coleridge noting the need for an infusion of Kantian philosophy, and illustrating the split between the Congregationalists and Unitarians. Marsh also relates to Coleridge how he feels Coleridge's thought could benefit American religion and literature:

I trust, however, that I have derived some degree of profit and of clearer insight from the study of your writings, and have sometimes ventured to hope that they would acquire an influence in this country which would essentially benefit our literature and philosophy…The miscalled Baconian philosophy has been no less talked of here than there, with the same perverse application. The works of Locke were formerly much read and used as text books, in our colleges; but of late have been very generally given place to the Scotch writers; and Stewart, Campbell and Brown are now almost universally read as the standard authors on the subjects of which they treat. In theology, the works of Edwards have had, and still have, with a large portion of our thinking community, a very great influence; and we have had several schemes of doctrine, formed out of his leading principles, which have had each its day and its defenders. You will readily see the near affinity that exists between his philosophical views and those of Brown; and yet it happens that the Unitarians, while they reject Edwards, and treat him with severity for his Calvinism, as it is here called give currency to Brown for views that would seem to lead to what is most objectionable in the work on the Freedom of the Will. There has lately risen some discussions among our most able orthodox divines, which seem to me likely to shake the authority of Edwards among them; and I trust your "Aids to Reflection" is, with a few, exerting an influence that will help to place the lovers of truth and righteousness on better philosophical grounds. The German philosophers, Kant and his followers, are very little known in this country; and our young men who have visited Germany, have paid little attention to that department of study while there. I cannot boast of being wiser than others in this respect; for thought I have read a part of the works of Kant, it was under many disadvantages, so that I am indebted to your own writings for the ability to understand what I have read of his works, and am waiting with some impatience for that part of your works, which will aid more directly in the study of those subjects of which he treats…I am myself making efforts to get into circulation some of the practical works of the older English divines, both for the direct benefit which they will confer upon the religious community, and because, in this country, the most practical and efficient mode of influencing the thinking world, is to begin with those who think from principle and in earnest; in other words, with the religious community. It is with the same views, that I am aiming to introduce some little knowledge of your own views, through the medium of a religious journal, which circulates among the most intelligent and serious clergy, and other Christians…I can say, that as you seemed in your Literary Life, to be gratified with the use made of your political essays in this country, I have also a farther motive in the supposition that you might be gratified with knowing that your philosophical writings are not wholly neglected among us…I beg that you will pardon my boldness, and write as suits your convenience, to one who would value nothing more highly than your advice and guidance in the pursuit of truth, and the discharge of the great duty to which I am called, of imparting it to those who are hereafter to be men of power and influence in this great and growing republic. (Torrey 138-139)

In Kantian philosophy, rationalism and empiricism come together. As Marsh illustrated in his study of psychology, what we know is determined by our bodily apparatus. Locke says that what we know is limited by what there is; we can go on finding out more and more until in the end there is nothing left to find out. Rooted in this thought, Kant says that in addition to this, our knowledge is subject to the limitations of our bodily apparatus-our five senses, our brains and our central nervous system. Anything that this apparatus is capable of dealing with is capable of being experience for us. What it cannot deal with can never be experience for us. Our ears cannot see, our eyes cannot hear, thus, there is more than one limitation on what we can know. There is the external world that exists independently of us, and there is also what we have the means of experiencing, which appeals to faith. There is the phenomenal world, which we apprehend through our senses, and the noumenal world, which we cannot verify scientifically.

Kant does not discount the existence of God; rather, he discounts knowledge of the existence of God. This makes room for faith. God cannot be proven, or disproven. American theology had depended upon reasoning the existence of God, particularly through nature; Jonathan Edwards' writings are full of this sort of thought. Dennis Sweet, in his introduction to Kant's Critique of Practical Reason states that the importance of Kant thusly:

The significance of the Critique of Practical Reason can only be understood when it is placed in the context of Kant's other works; specifically, the first Critique and the Foundations. In the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant had attempted to show the failure of previous attempts to establish metaphysical claims beyond the domain of human knowledge, and to answer the question, how are a priori synthetic judgments possible? In the former context, traditional metaphysics and 'rational theology' had attempted to prove the existence of God, the immortal soul, and human freedom by the use of discursive reason. Kant contends that such arguments are, however, misguided attempts to employ reason beyond its proper domain. In criticizing the traditional dogmatic arguments for God and the soul, he earned for himself the title Allszerstorer, the "all destroyer." In the latter context, Kant attempts to establish the truths of mathematics, and metaphysics as a priori, i.e., necessary and universally true assertions, and as synthetic judgments, i.e., judgments about experience. The issues Kant deals with in the Critique of Pure Reason have to do more or less exclusively with the domain of theoretical reason; the realm of human knowledge wherein truth can be verified through empirical procedures. The concerns that had traditionally been the subject matter of metaphysics, e.g., the existence of God, the immortal soul, and human freedom, inasmuch as they are unverifiable by empirical means, are, for Kant, excluded from the domain of metaphysics. They are outside the limits of theoretical reason. Yet, they fall within the purview of what Kant calls practical reason. Practical reason has to do with issues that have pragmatic significance for human beings, but which, alas, cannot be known by us in any normal manner. For Kant, questions of faith and morality are issues of practical reason. (ix-x).

Marsh notes in his "Preliminary Essay" that "it is not the method of the genuine philosopher to separate his philosophy and religion, and adopting his principles independently in each, to leave them to be reconciled or not, as the case may be. He has, and can have, rationally but one system, in which his philosophy becomes religious, and his religion philosophical" (xxxvii). For Marsh, philosophy and religion are inseparable; indeed, that philosophy is essential to religion; "that we should endeavor by profound reflection to learn the real requirements of reason, and attain a true knowledge of ourselves (xxxix).

Reception of Coleridge's Aids to Reflection

As Marsh noted in his Preliminary Essay to Aids to Reflection, he expected that Coleridge's work would not be accepted or understood easily. America was in a state of flux politically and theologically, and German romanticism was looked upon by the theological community as heresy. Marsh also did not receive strong support from colleagues or friends regarding the project. John J. Duffy succinctly summarizes this point when he says "preparing to publish Aids was not a simple matter; it demanded a keen awareness of the politics of American theological studies and no small amount of courage" (195).

Puritanism in its early years had served as a unifying force; all were believers, and those who dissented were punished or banished from the community. As the years progressed and the new country grew, keeping a unified religious community became more and more difficult. Agrarian communities gave way to cities, with people of various religions living side by side with one another; separated from England by an ocean, a sense of individual identity as Americans (no doubt influenced by the overthrow of the monarchy in France by the people) propelled the colonies to the American Revolution.

Yet the old empiricist theological ideas remained a part of the identity of the new nation. Marsh no doubt had this in mind when he vocalized the realization that Aids might generate controversy between the Congregationalists (Old Lights) and the Unitarians (New Lights). The Boston-Concord Transcendentalists were appreciative of Aids to Reflection; in 1837 this appreciation was given a voice by George Ripley, who wrote Marsh inviting him to contribute a translation of some German philosopher to his Specimens of Foreign Standard Literature. (Ibid.) Yet as Duffy notes, "outside the circle of "New Lights" as Ripley, borrowing a hallowed eighteenth-century name, called the Boston-Concord group, the Aids gained a mixed reception" (196).

In March of 1829, Marsh attempted to pave the way for Aids to Reflection by writing letters to the leading theological and intellectual minds of the day; he wrote to Reverend Archibald Alexander, holder of the first chair of theology at Princeton Theological Seminary, and Reverend James Richards, professor of theology at Auburn Theological Seminary, telling them that he wished to introduce "a selection of practical religious works from the best English divines of the seventeenth century with the view of recalling them to a more general circulation among our fellow Christians" and also to request their views on the subject (Letters,7 March 1829 and 21 March 1829 Duffy, CAD 76-80). He mentions that works by Leighton will be included, but it is interesting to note he does not mention Coleridge explicitly. During this same time he posted a letter to Coleridge, explaining his purpose expressly as "aiming to introduce some little knowledge of your own views" (Letter, 23 March 1829).

John Holt Rice, at Union Theological Seminary felt that

the theological taste has been too long formed on the model of metaphysics. Systems and sermons are moulded into this form--Rhetoric is extinct--Eloquence, instead of being like the garden of Eden, bright in celestial light, and breathing the airs of heaven, is a very Hortus Siccus, [A collection of specimens of plants, dried and preserved, and arranged systematically; an herbarium].with every flower labeled, and pasted on blank paper; the colours are all faded, the fragrance gone, and "behold all is very dry." There must be a new model. But it will never be framed by our teachers of Sacred Rhetoric. Indeed I have no doubt but that they will impede the progress of Reformation. Something may be expected from an increased study of the Bible. If it were studied right great improvements would of course follow…but as to the business part of your undertaking, I hardly know what opinion to give. I should think that you would do well to have a subscription sufficient to cover your expenses. Selections have generally sold badly…I think that there have been several English Editions of Leighton. His whole works then would scarcely do well" (Letter to Marsh, 14 April 1829, Duffy, CAD 87-88)

. Francis Wayland, formerly minister to the Baptist Church of Boston and at the time President of Brown University, refused to give any comment, admitting he knew little of Coleridge, until he had seen the work in question (Letter, 20 October 1829, 94). Rufus Choate, in a letter to Marsh dated 14 November, 1829, declining Marsh's invitation to review such a work, and responding to Marsh's query as to how such a work would be received at Andover, added insult to injury when he stated a bit tongue in cheek when he said "I should no more stop to consider how a volume of matured and brilliant thoughts would be received at Andover, than how it would be received by the Pope or President Jackson" ( Duffy 101). Duffy further notes in "Problems in Publishing Coleridge," that

Although he never told Coleridge of the problems he face, Marsh's first efforts at revitalizing and intellectually disciplining theological studies had already met opposition. In the issue of the Christian Spectator for March, 1829, he had reviewed Moses Stuart's Commentary on Hebrews. The review, he told Coleridge, presented "a view of the Atonement, or rather Redemption, I believe nearly corresponding with yours and indeed…made free use of your language." But Moses Stuart, Marsh's professor at Andover and the best informed student of German scriptural scholarship in America, "professed not to comprehend it." Even the footnote crediting the idea to Coleridge had been deleted by the editor, Nathaniel Taylor himself, and four paragraphs correcting Marsh and Coleridge appended to the review…Taylor's outright disagreement with Marsh on the theory of Atonement, and apparently without Coleridge's knowledge, that "child-like man" as Richard Henry Dana, Jr., called Marsh, decided to go on without the support of the theological Establishment and publish the Aids…Even though he would tell Coleridge in a letter written in February, 1830, that the entire first edition of fifteen hundred copies of the Aids had been sold and that "another edition may be called for in a year," Marsh was to continue to receive in 1830 personal communications, like the letter from Woods, expressing antagonism to Coleridge from those very places where he had hoped in early 1829 to prepare a receptive attitude to the Aids and its author's ideas (202, 207)

Resistance to Coleridge came under cover of resistance to German romanticism and philosophy. Leonard Woods, first professor of theology at Andover Theological Seminary, in a letter dated January 11, 1830 stated in response to reading Aids to Reflection that although "most of his [Coleridge's] practical views, I mean his views of the nature of Christian piety and of the Christian life seem to me scriptural and excellent" (Duffy, CAD 106), Woods stated that Coleridge was "obscure and unintelligible in phraseology," making "plain things obscure and easy things difficult" (Ibid), and that his "chief error to Christianity to be a defective view of the doctrine of redemption; and the chief source of error, a philosophical exegesis" (107).

William Allen, President of Bowdoin College, in response to Marsh's "Preliminary Essay" told Marsh in plain terms that he found his remarks to be "rather heretical;" (111), although he reluctantly admitted that he had "for some years been inclined to adopt what I suppose are also your own views-and have occasionally given such instruction to the Senior Class" (Ibid). One of the few sources of support came from Charles Follen, first professor of German language and literature at Harvard (1825-35):

Your edition of Coleridge with the excellent prefatory aids has done and will do much to introduce and naturalize a better philosophy in this country and particularly to make men perceive that there is still more in the depths of their own minds that is worth exploring, and which cannot be had cheap and handy in the works of the Scotch and English dealers in philosophy. Still there is a want of good text-books, of works in which that spirit of a better philosophy is carried into each of its special branches. And here the important question arises, which of the various disciplines which constitute the highest department of human knowledge, should be selected to begin the work of reformation. There are two on which I rest my hopes as the pioneers in philosophy. In a community which is deluged with superficial discussions on momentous questions which can be settled only by philosophic principles. I look upon Psychology and the history of Philosophy as the parents of a new race of thoughts and modes of reasoning. Those, therefore, who would dispose and prepare the public mind for the reception of philosophy in all its branches, who would lead men not only to use, but to understand their own reason, should lend the whole weight of their intellectual eminence to those two sciences. (Letter to Marsh, dated 14 April, 1832, Duffy, CAD 125-126)

The only community that embraced Aids to Reflection, then, were the Concord Transcendentalists. As Duffy states in "Problems in Publishing Coleridge,"

Ironically, then, the first and strongest resistance to this attempts at establishing a modern philosophical basis for traditional theology appeared in those very centers of theological studies where Marsh had initially hoped to gain support for Coleridge and the . Fortunately for the development of his own sensibility and indeed the whole of American Transcendentalism in the 1830's, Emerson, in the meantime, was writing to his brother that Coleridge's distinction between the Reason and Understanding was "a philosophy itself."…but in those places where Marsh in 1829 had first hoped that the influence of Coleridge would most beneficially exert itself, it would take at least another ten years before any clear acknowledgement of a debt to Marsh would be heard. It was only in 1847, five years after Marsh had died, that Noah Porter, the president of Yale, publicly acknowledged the debt American theological studies owed to Marsh:

Coleridge had the advantage of being introduced to our theological arena by one of the most distinguished of our scholars…President Marsh will not soon be forgotten….

His essay preliminary to Aids to Reflection and his criticism of Stuart's Commentary on the Hebrews are among the first specimens of writing of their kind….The influence of Coleridge on the philosophy and theology of New England has been, in some respects, what President Marsh desired it should be. It has opened new fields of inquiry and put us in possession of other modes of viewing religious truths. …Above all, it has contended for a wakeful, thorough, and scientific theology, in which, let alarmists and incapables say what they will, rests the hope of the church. (207-208)

Vermont Transcendentalism vs. Concord Transcendentalism

[Chapters 1, IV, and the Bibliography do not appear here. You may contact the author at for further information.]

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