Theodore Parker by Elbert Hubbard

Story type: Essay

He tells of the rhodora, the club-moss, the blooming clover, not of the hibiscus and the asphodel. He knows the bumblebee, the blackbird, the bat and the wren. He illustrates his high thought by common things out of our plain New England life: the meeting of the church, the Sunday-School, the dancing-school, a huckleberry party, the boys and girls hastening home from school, the youth in the shop beginning an unconscious courtship with his unheeding customer, the farmers about their work in the fields, the bustling trader in the city, the cattle, the new hay, the voters at a town meeting, the village brawler in a tavern full of tipsy riot, the conservative who thinks the nation is lost if his ticket chances to miscarry, the bigot worshiping the knot-hole through which a dusty beam of light has looked in upon the darkness, the radical who declares that nothing is good if established, and the patent reformer who screams in your unwilling ears that he can finish the world with a single touch–and out of all these he makes his poetry, or illustrates his philosophy.

—Theodore Parser’s Lecture on Emerson

Among wild animals, members of each species look alike. Horses, wolves, deer, cattle, quails, prairie-chickens, rabbits–think it over!

Breeds in birds and animals are formed by taking individual peculiarities and repeating them through artificial selection until that which was once peculiar and unique becomes common. White pigeons are simply albinos. But all breeds in time “run out” and form a type, just as a dozen kinds of pigeons in a loft will in a few years degenerate into a flock, where all the members so closely resemble each other that you can not tell one from another.

A religious denomination or a political party is a breed. When it is new it has marks of individuality; it means something. In a few years it reverts to type. Political parties grown old are all equally bad. They begin as radical and end as conservative. That which began in virtue is undone through profligacy. Among successful religions there is no choice–they all have a dash of lavender.

When the man who founded the party, or upon whose name, fame and influence the party was founded, dies, the many who belong to it are tinted by the whims and notions of Thomas, Richard and Henry, and it reverts to type.

Only very strong and self-reliant characters form sects. Moses founded a denomination which has been kept marvelously pure by persecution, and healthy by constant migration. Jesus broke away from this sect and became an independent preacher. Naturally he was killed, for up to very recent times all independent preachers were killed, and quickly. Paul took up the teachings of Jesus and interpreted them, and by his own strong personality founded a religion. Paul was crucified, too, head downward, and his death was really more dramatic than that of his chief, but there was a lack of literary men to record it.

So we get the religion of Christ interpreted by Paul, and finally viseed and launched by a Roman Emperor. Now, countries are this or that, because the reigning ruler is. This must be so where there is a state religion and forth thousand priests look to the king for their pay-envelope and immunity from all taxation. Henry the Eighth and his daughter Elizabeth decreed that England should be Protestant. They gave the Catholic clergy the choice of resigning their livings or swearing allegiance to the new faith. Only seventy-nine out of ten thousand dropped out. If Mary Tudor and Mary Stuart had succeeded politically, England would today have been Catholic. The many have no belief of any kind: they simply accept some one’s else belief.

When Constantine professed Christianity, every pagan temple in Rome became a Christian Church. Had Constantine been circumcised, instead of baptized, all the pagan temples would have become synagogues, and every priest a rabbi. They do say it was a Christian woman who influenced Constantine in favor of Christianity, If so, it is neither remarkable nor strange. Constantine made the labarum the battle-flag of Rome. “By this sign I conquer.” And he did. So we get the religion of Jesus, siphoned through the personality of Paul, fused with paganism, and paganism being the stronger tendency, the whole fabric reverts to type.

We loose the pouter, the tumbler is forgot, and we get slaty-gray men and women ruled by ruffed Jacobins.

* * * * *

Christianity is one thing; the religion of the Christ is another. Christianity is a river into which has flowed thousands upon thousands of streams, springs, brooks and rills, as well as the sewage of the cities. In the main it traces to pagan Rome, united with the cool, rapid-running Rhone of classic Greece. But the waters of placidly flowing Judaism, paralleling it, have always seeped through, and the fact that more than half of all Christianity prays to a Jewess, and that both Jesus and Paul were Jews, should not be forgotten.

The blood of all the martyrs, rebels and revolters who have attempted to turn the current of this river has tinted its waters. That its ultimate end is irrigation, and not transportation, is everywhere evident.

To keep religion a muddy, polluted, pestilential river, instead of allowing it to resolve itself into a million irrigating-ditches, has been the fight of the centuries. The trouble is that irrigation is not an end–it is just a beginning. Irrigation means constant and increasing effort, and priests and preachers have never prayed, “Give us this day our daily work.” Their desire has been to be carried–to float with the tide, and he who floats is being carried downstream. Men who have tried to tap the stream and divert its waters to parched pastures have usually been caught and drowned in its depths. And this is what you call history.

All new religions have their beginning in exactly this way: they are streams diverted from the parent waters. And the quality and influence of the new religion depend upon the depth of the new channel, its current, and the territory it traverses.

As before stated, most of the rebels were quickly caught, Moses rebelled from the religion of Egypt; Jesus rebelled from the religion of Moses; Paul rebelled from Judaism, adopted the name and led the little following of the martyred Savior; Constantine seized the name and good-will, and destroyed rebellion and competition by a master stroke of fusion–when you can not successfully fight a thing, all is not lost, you can still embrace it; Savonarola was an unsuccessful rebel from Constantine’s composite religion; Luther, Calvin and Knox successfully rebelled; Henry the Eighth defied the Catholic Church for reasons of his own and broke from it; Methodism and Congregationalism broke from both the canal of John Knox and that of Queen Elizabeth and her lamented father; Unitarianism in New England was a revolt from the rule of the Congregational Church, and Emerson and Theodore Parker were rebels from Unitarianism.

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Emerson and Parker were irrigators. They gave the water to the land, instead of trying to keep it for a fishpond. Neither one ever ordered the populace to cut bait or fall in and drown. As a result we are enriched with the flowers and fruits of their energies; they bequeathed to us something more than a threat and a promise–they gave us the broad pastures, the meadows, the fertile fields, and the lofty trees with their refreshing shade.

* * * * *

Theodore Parker was the first of his kind in America–an independent, single-handed, theological fighter–a preacher without a denomination, dictated to by no bishop, governed by no machine. He has had many imitators, and a few successors. The number will increase as the days go by. Parker was a piece of ecclesiastical nebulae thrown off by the Unitarian denomination, moving through space in its orbit towards oblivion, the end of all religions, where one childless god presides, Silence. The destiny of all religions is to die and fertilize others. It is yet too soon to say what man’s final religion will be.

Parker’s business was not to start a new world; rather, it was to collide with old, reeling, wobbling worlds, break them into pieces, and send these pieces spinning through space.

For fourteen years Theodore Parker spoke at Music-Hall, Boston, every Sunday, to congregations that varied from a thousand to three thousand, the capacity of the auditorium. During these years he was the dominating intellectual factor of Boston, if not all New England. People went to Boston, for hundreds of miles, just to hear Parker, as they went to Brooklyn to hear Beecher. And as for many people, Plymouth Church and Beecher were Brooklyn, so to others Music-Hall and Parker were Boston.

Churchianity can only be disintegrated by the slow process of erosion. Joseph Parker’s work in London tended to make all English clergymen who desired freedom, free. For over twenty years he preached every Thursday noon, and often twice on Sunday. No topic of vital human interest escaped him. He was a self-appointed censor and critic– sharp, vigilant, alert, yet commending as well as protesting. The two Parkers, one in America and one in England, made epochs. In point of time Theodore Parker comes first, and his discourses were keyed to a higher strain. Less theatrical than his gifted namesake, not so fluid nor so picturesque, his thought reduced to black and white reads better. What Theodore Parker said can be analyzed, parsed, taken apart. He always had a motif and his verb fetches up. He said things.

His best successor was David Swing, a man so great that the Presbyterian Church did not need him. Gentle, deliberate, homely, lovable, eloquent–David Swing was made free by those who had not the ability to appreciate him, and of course knew not what they did. You keep freedom by giving it away. Swing swung wide the gates that the captives might go free. Truly was it said of him that he liberalized every denomination in the West. Contemporary with Swing was Hiram W. Thomas, the door of the Methodist cage opening for him, because he believed in the divinity of everybody. Thomas believed even in the goodness of bad people. Swing and Thomas prepared the way, and are the prototypes of these modern saints: Felix Adler, Minot Savage, Brand Whitlock, B. Fay Mills, Rabbi Fleischer, M. M. Mangasarian, Henry Frank, Thomas Osborne, John Worthy, Ben Lindsey, Margaret Lagrange, Levi M. Powers, John E. Roberts, Winifred Sackville Stoner, Sam Alschuler, Katharine Tingley, James A. Burns, Jacob Beilhart, McIvor Tyndall, and all the other radiant rationalists in ordinary who gratify the messianic instinct of their particular group.

It is the unexpected that happens. One of the peculiar, unlooked-for results of independent preaching was to evolve the sensational preacher, who, clinging like a barnacle to orthodoxy, sought to meet the competition of the independent by flaunting a frankness designed to deceive the unwary. This species announced on blackboards and in the public prints that he would preach to “Men Only,” or “Women Only,” and his subjects were “Girls, Nice and Naughty,” “Baldheads, Billboards and Bullheads,” “Should Women Propose?” “Love, Courtship and Marriage,” “Lums, Tums and Bums,” “The Eight Johns,” “The Late Mrs. Potiphar,” or some other subject savoring of the salacious.

The Reverend T. DeWitt Talmage was the high priest of all sensational preachers. He was without the phosphorus to attract an audience of intellectual people, but he did draw great crowds who came out of curiosity to see the gyroscopic gyrations. Talmage never ventured far from shore, and he of all men knew that while the mob would forgive vulgarity–in fact, really enjoyed it–unsoundness of doctrine was to it a hissing. Orthodoxy is very tolerant–it forgives everything but truth. Every fetish of the superstitious and cringing mind, Talmage repeated over and over in varying phrase. He was the antithesis of an independent, exactly as Spurgeon was. It is the fate of every man who lives above the law to be hailed as brother by some of those who are genuine lawbreakers.

Talmage thought he was an independent, but he was independent in nothing but oratorical gymnastics. Talmage spawned a large theological brood who barnstorm the provinces as independent evangelists. These base, bawling, baseball ranters, who have gotten their pulpit manners from the bleachers, do little beyond deepening superstition, pandering to the ignorance of the mob, holding progress back, and securing unto themselves much moneys. They mark the degeneration of a dying religion, that is kept alive by frequent injections of sensationalism. Light awaits them just beyond.

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Theodore Parker drew immense audiences, not because he pandered to the many, but because he deferred to none. He challenged the moss-covered beliefs of all denominations, and spoke with an inward self-reliance, up to that time, unknown in a single pulpit of America.

* * * * *

In the year Eighteen Hundred Ten, Lincoln, Darwin, Tennyson, Gladstone, Elizabeth Browning, Mary Cowden Clarke, Felix Mendelssohn, Edgar Allan Poe, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Cyrus McCormick were each and all a year old.

The parents of Theodore Parker had been married twenty-six years, and been blessed with ten children, the eldest, twenty-five years old, and the youngest five, when Theodore persistently forced his presence upon them. Of course, no one suspected at the time that it was Theodore Parker, but “Theodore” was the name they gave him, meaning, “One sent from God.” That this implied no disrespect to the other members of the family can be safely assumed.

The Old-World plan of making the eldest son the heir was based upon the theory that the firstborn possessed more power and vitality than the rest. The fact that all of Theodore Parker’s brothers and sisters occupy reserved seats in oblivion, and he alone of the brood arrived, affords basis for an argument which married couples of discreet years may build upon if they wish.

Theodore Parker was born in the same old farmhouse where his father was born, three miles from the village of Lexington. The house has now disappeared, but the site is marked with a bronze tablet set in a granite slab, and is a place of pilgrimage to many who love their historic New England.

The house was on a hillside overlooking the valley, pleasant for situation. Above and beyond were great jutting boulders, over which the lad early learned to scramble. There he played I-Spy with his sisters, his brothers regarding themselves as in another class, so that he grew up a girl-boy, and picked flowers instead of killing snakes.

The coming of Spring is always a delight to country children, and it was a delight that Theodore Parker never outgrew. In many of his sermons he refers to the slow melting of the snow, and the children’s search for the first Spring flowers that trustingly pushed their way up through the encrusted leaves on the south side of rotting logs. Then a little later came the violets, blue and white, anemones, sweet- william, columbine and saxifrage. In the State House at Boston the visitor may see a musket bearing a card reading thus: “This firearm was used by Captain John Parker in the Battle of Lexington, April 19, 1775.” Then just beneath this is another musket and its card reads: “Captured in the War for Independence by Captain John Parker at Lexington. Presented by Theodore Parker.” These two guns were upon the walls of Theodore Parker’s library for over thirty years. And of nothing pertaining to his life was he so proud as that of the war record of his grandfather. When little Theodore was four years of age his sisters would stand him on a chair and ask, “What did grandpa say to the soldiers?” And the chubby cherub in linsey-woolsey dress would repeat in a single mouthful, “Do not fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war let it begin here!”

John Parker, son of the man who captured the first British musket in the War of the Revolution, lacked the proverbial New England thrift. Instead of looking after his crops and flocks and herds, he preferred to putter around a little carpenter-shop attached to the barn, and make boats and curious windmills, and discuss that wonderful day of the Nineteenth of April, Seventeen Hundred Seventy-five, when he was fourteen years old, and had begged to try just one shot from his father’s flintlock at the straggling British, who had innocently stirred up such a hornets’ nest.

That storied twenty-mile march from Boston to Concord was mapped, re- mapped, discussed and explained, and is still being explained and wondered at by descendants of the embattled farmers.

All of which is beautiful and well; and he who cavils concerning it, let his name be anathema. But the actual fact is that, instead of the War of the Revolution beginning at Lexington, it began several years before at Mecklenburg, North Carolina, where the mountaineers arose in revolt against laws made in London and in the making of which they had no part. There at Mecklenburg over two hundred Americans were killed by British troops, while the “massacre” at Lexington cost the Colonists just seven lives.

And the moral seems to be this: Parties about to perform heroic deeds would do well to choose a place where poets, essayists and historians abound. It was Emerson who fired the shot heard ’round the world.

* * * * *

All good writing men exercise their privilege to use that little Pliocene pleasantry about the boy who is not strong enough to work being educated for a preacher. We are apt to overlook the fact, however, that the boy not strong enough to work is often the only one who desires an education–all of this according to Emerson’s Law of Compensation.

Theodore Parker in his youth was slight, slender and sickly, but he had a great hunger for knowledge. Those who have brawn use it, those without fall back on brain–sometimes.

It can not be said that Theodore Parker’s parents set him apart for the ministry: he set himself apart and got his education in spite of them. At fifteen, he once created a small seismic disturbance by announcing to the family at supper, “I entered Harvard College today.”

This educational move was scouted and flouted, and the fact pointed to that there was not enough money in the ginger-jar to keep him at Cambridge a week. And then the boy explained that he was going to borrow books and do his studying at home. He had passed the examinations and been duly admitted to the freshman class.

Let the fact stand that Theodore Parker kept up his studies for four years, and would have been entitled to his degree had he not been a non-resident. In Eighteen Hundred Forty, when Parker was thirty years of age, Harvard voted him the honorary degree of A.M. This was well, but if a little delay had occurred Parker would not have been so honored, and as it was, it was suggested by several worthy persons that the degree should be taken away without anesthetics. Both Parker and Emerson seriously offended their Alma Mater and were practically repudiated.

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When eighteen years old Theodore Parker was a fairly prosperous pedagogue, and at twenty had saved up enough money to go to Harvard Divinity School.

Here he was very studious, and his skill in Greek and Latin made the professors in dead languages feel to see that their laurels were in place. Everybody prophesied that the Parker boy would be a great man– possibly a college professor! Theodore was passing through the realistic age when every detail must be carefully put in the picture. He was painstaking as to tenses, conscientious as to the ablative, and had scruples concerning the King James version of Deuteronomy. About the same time he fell in love–very much in love. Some one has said that an Irishman in love is like Vesuvius in a state of eruption. A theological student in love is like a boy with the hives. Theodore thought that all Cambridge was interested in his private affairs, so he wrote to this one and that advising them of the engagement, but cautioning secrecy, the object of secrecy in such cases being that the immediate parties themselves may tell everybody. He asked his father’s consent, intimating that it made no difference whether it was forthcoming or not–the die was cast. He asked the consent of the girl’s parents, and they having a grudge against the Parkers assented. Having removed all obstacles, the happy couple waited four years, and were safely married. Lydia Cabot’s character can all be summed up in the word “good.” She went through Europe, and remembered nothing but the wooden bears in Switzerland, of which she made a modest collection. When her husband preached, her solicitude was that his cravat might not become disarranged, for once when he was discussing the condition of sinners after death, his necktie gravitated around under his ear, and his wife nearly died of mortification. When he began to lose his hair she consulted everybody as to cures for baldness, and brought up the theme once at prayer-meeting, making her appeal to the Throne of Grace. This led Parker to say that the calamity of being bald was not in the loss of hair; it was that your friends suddenly revealed that they had recipes concealed on their person. Before his marriage Parker had positive ideas on the bringing up of children, and intimated what he proposed to do. But Fate decreed that he should be childless, that all religious independents might call him father. There is only one thing better than for a strong man to marry an absolutely dull woman. She teaches him by antithesis: he learns by contrast, and her stupidity is ever a foil for his brilliancy. He soon grows to a point where he does not mentally defer to her in the slightest degree, but goes his solitary way, making good that maxim of Kipling, “He travels the fastest who travels alone.” He learns to love the ideal. The mediocre quality of Parker’s wife was, no doubt, a prime factor in bringing out the self-reliant qualities in his own nature.

Parker’s first pastorate was the Unitarian church at West Roxbury, ten miles from Boston, and an easy drive from Concord and Lexington. This was in the year Eighteen Hundred Thirty-six, a year memorable to lovers of Emerson, because it was during that year that the “Essay on Nature” was issued. It was put forth anonymously, and published at the author’s expense. Doctor Francis Bowen, Dean of Harvard Divinity School, had denounced the essay as “pantheistic and dangerous.” He also discovered the authorship, and expressed his deep sorrow and regret that a Harvard man should so far forget the traditions as to put forth such a work. Theodore Parker came to the defense of Emerson, and this seems to have been Parker’s first radical expression.

Emerson was seven years older than Parker, but Parker had the ear of the public; whereas at this time Emerson was living in forced retirement, having been compelled to resign his pastorate in Boston on account of heretical utterances.

Theodore Parker was very fortunate in his environment. It will hardly do to say that he was the product of his surroundings, because there were a good many thousand people living within the radius of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Thoreau, Bronson Alcott, George Ripley and William Ellery Channing, who were absolutely unaware of the presence of these men. The most popular church in Concord today is the Roman Catholic. Theodore Parker fitted his environment and added his aura to the transcendental gleam. He was the lodestone that attracted the Brook-Farmers to West Roxbury. It is easy to say that if these Utopians had not selected West Roxbury as the seat of the new regime, they would have performed their transcendental tricks elsewhere; but the fact remains, they did not.

Parker was on the ground first; Ripley used to come over and exchange pulpits with him. Charles A. Dana, Margaret Fuller, Bronson Alcott, George William Curtis and Henry Thoreau once walked out from Boston to hear him preach.

All these people exercised a decided influence on Theodore Parker; and when “The Dial” was published, Parker was one of the first contributors.

Parker preached for thinking people–his appeal was not made to punk. A sermon is a collaboration between the pew and the pulpit; happy is the speaker with listeners who are satisfied with nothing but his best.

The Thursday lecture was an institution in Boston intermittently for two hundred years, being first inaugurated by Anne Hutchinson and the Reverend John Cotton. The affair was mostly for the benefit of clergymen, in order that they might hear one another and see themselves as others saw them. To be invited to give a Thursday lecture was a great honor.

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Theodore Parker was invited to give one; he gave the address and then was invited back, in order that his hearers might ascertain whether they had understood correctly. Parker had said that to try to prove the greatness of Jesus by his miracles was childish and absurd. Even God was no better or greater through diverting the orderly course of Nature and breaking His own laws by strange and exceptional acts. Parker did not try to disprove the matter of miracles. He only said that wise men would do well not to say anything about them, because goodness, faith, gentleness and love have nothing to do with the miraculous, neither does a faith in the miraculous tend to an increased harmony of life. A man might be a good neighbor, a model parent and a useful citizen, and yet have no particular views concerning the immaculate conception.

This all sounds very trite to us: it is so true that we do not think to affirm it. But then it raised a storm of dissent, and a resolution was offered expressing regret that the Reverend Theodore Parker had been invited to address a Boston Christian assemblage. The resolution was tabled, but the matter had gotten into the papers, and was being discussed by the peripatetics.

Parker had at his church in Roxbury substituted Marcus Aurelius for the Bible at one of his services; and everybody knew that Marcus Aurelius was a Pagan who had persecuted the Christians. Was it the desire of Theodore Parker to transform Christian Boston into a Pagan Rome? Parker replied with a sermon showing that Boston sent vast quantities of rum to the heathen; that many of her first citizens thrived on the manufacture, export and sale of strong drink; and that to call Boston a Christian city was to reveal a woeful lack of knowledge concerning the use of words. About this time there was a goodly stir in the congregation, some of whom were engaged in the shipping trade. After the sermon they said, “Is it I–Is it I?” And one asked, “Is it me?”

The Unitarian Association of Boston notified Theodore Parker that in their opinion he was no better than Emerson, and it was well to remember that Pantheism and Unitarianism were quite different. That night Theodore Parker read the letter, and wrote in his journal as follows:

The experience of the last twelve months shows me what I am to expect of the next twelve years. I have no fellowship from the other clergy; no one that helped in my ordination will now exchange ministerial courtesies with me. Only one or two of the Boston Association, and perhaps one or two out of it, will have any ministerial intercourse with me. “They that are younger than I have me in derision.” I must confess that I am disappointed in the ministers–the Unitarian ministers. I once thought them noble; that they would be true to an ideal principle of right. I find that no body of men was ever more completely sold to the sense of expediency.

All the agitation and quasi-persecution was a loosening of the tendrils, and a preparation for transplanting. Growth is often a painful process. Socially, Parker had been snubbed and slighted by the best society, and his good wife was in tears of distress because the meetings of the missionary band were held without her assistance and elsewhere than at her house.

Here writes Parker:

Now, I am not going to sit down tamely, and be driven out of my position by the opposition of some and the neglect of others, whose conduct shows that they have no love of freedom except for themselves–to sail with the popular wind and tide. I shall do this when obliged to desert the pulpit because a free voice and a free heart can not be in “that bad eminence.” I mean to live with Ripley at Brook Farm. I will study seven or eight months of the year; and, four or five months. I will go about and preach and lecture in the city and glen, by the roadside and fieldside, and wherever men and women may be found. I will go eastward and westward, and northward and southward, and make the land ring; and if this New England theology that cramps the intellect and palsies the soul of us does not come to the ground, then it shall be because it has more truth in it than I have ever found.

Then came the suggestion from Charles M. Ellis, a Boston merchant, that Parker quit sleepy Roxbury and defy classic Boston by renting the Melodeon Theater and stating his views, instead of having them retailed on the street from mouth to mouth. If the orthodox Congregationalists wanted war, why let it begin there. The rent for the theater was thirty dollars a day; but a few friends plunged, rented the theater, and notified Parker that he must do the rest.

Would any one come–that was the question. And Sunday at eleven A. M. the question answered itself. Then the proposition was–would they come again? And this like all other propositions was answered by time.

The people were hungry for truth–the seats were filled.

What began as a simple experiment became a fixed fact. Boston needed Theodore Parker.

An organization was effected, and after much discussion a name was selected, “The Twenty-eighth Congregational Society of Boston.” And the Orthodox Congregationalists raised a howl of protest. They showed that Parker was not a Congregationalist at all, and the Parkerites protested that they were the only genuine sure-enoughs, and anyway, there was no copyright on the word. Congregational Societies were independent bodies, and any group of people could organize one who chose.

In the meantime the society flourished, advertised both by its loving friends and by its frenzied enemies.

Parker grew with the place. The Melodeon was found too small, and Music-Hall was secured.

The audience increased, and the prophets who had prophesied failure waited in vain to say, “I told you so.”

There sprang up a demand for Parker’s services in the Lyceum lecture- field. People who could not go to Boston wanted Parker to come to them. His fee was one hundred dollars a lecture, and this at a time when Emerson could be hired for fifty.

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Parker had at first received six hundred dollars a year at Roxbury, then this had gradually been increased to one thousand a year.

The “Twenty-eighth” paid him five thousand a year, but the Lyceum work yielded him three times as much. The sons of New England who fight poverty and privation until they are forty acquire the virtue of acquisitiveness.

Parker and his wife lived like poor people, as every one should. The saving habit was upon them. Lydia Parker had her limitations, but her weakness was not in the line of dress and equipage. She did her own work, and demanded an accounting from her Theodore as to receipts and disbursements, when he returned from a lecture-tour. To save money, she did not usually accompany him on his tours. So God is good. To get needful funds for personal use he had to juggle the expense-account.

Reformers are supposed to live on half-rations, and preachers are poor as church mice; but there may be exceptions. Both Emerson and Parker contrived to collect from the world what was coming to them. Emerson left an estate worth more than fifty thousand dollars, and Theodore Parker left two hundred thousand dollars, all made during the last fourteen years of his life.

Theodore Parker preached at Music-Hall nine hundred sermons. All were written out with great care, but when it came to delivering them, although he had the manuscript on his little reading-desk, he seldom referred to it. The man was most conscientious and had a beautiful contempt for the so-called extemporaneous speaker. His lyceum lectures were shavings from his workshop, as most lectures are. But preparing one new address, and giving on an average four lectures a week, with much travel, made sad inroads on his vitality. Every phase of man’s relationship to man was vital to him, and human betterment was his one theme. In Eighteen Hundred Fifty-five he was indicted, along with Colonel Higginson and William Lloyd Garrison, for violation of the Fugitive-Slave Law. And when John Brown made his raid, Theodore Parker was indicted as an “accessory before the fact.” Had he been caught on Virginia soil he would doubtless have been hanged on a sour-apple tree and his soul sent marching on.

In his sermons he was brief, pointed, direct and homely in expression. He used the language of the plain people On one occasion he said: “I have more hay down than I can get in. Whether it will be rained on before next Sunday I can not say, but I will ask you to use your imaginations and mow it away.”

Again he says: “I do not care a rush for what men who differ from me do or say, but it has grieved me a little, I confess, to see men who think as I do of the historical and mythical connected with Christianity, who yet repudiate me. It is like putting your hand in your pocket where you expect to find money and discovering that the gold is gone, and that only the copper is left.”

Recently there has been resurrected and regalvanized a story that was first told in Music-Hall by Theodore Parker on June Nineteenth, Eighteen Hundred Fifty-six. The story was about as follows:

Once in a stagecoach there was a man who carried on his knees a box, on which slats were nailed. Now a box like that always incites curiosity. Finally a personage leaned over and said to the man of the mysterious package:

“Stranger, may I be so bold as to ask what you have in that box?” “A mongoose,” was the polite answer.

“Oh, I see–but what is a mongoose?”

“Why, a mongoose is a little animal we use for killing snakes.”

“Of course, of course–oh, but–but where are you going to kill snakes with your mongoose?”

And the man replied, “My brother has the delirium tremens, and I have brought this mongoose so he can use it to kill the snakes.”

There was silence then for nearly a mile, when the man of the Socratic Method had an idea and burst out with, “But Lordy gracious, you do not need a mongoose to kill the snakes a fellow sees who has delirium tremens–for they are only imaginary snakes!” “I know,” said the owner of the box, tapping his precious package gently, “I know that delirium-tremens snakes are only imaginary snakes, but this is only an imaginary mongoose.”

And the moral was, according to Theodore Parker, that, to appease the wrath of an imaginary God, we must believe in an imaginary formula, and thereby we could all be redeemed from the danger of an imaginary hell. Also that an imaginary disease can be cured by an imaginary remedy.

Theodore Parker died in Florence, Italy, in Eighteen Hundred Sixty, aged fifty years. His disease was an excess of Theodore Parker. His body lies buried there in Florence, in the Protestant cemetery, only a little way from the grave of Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

At his funeral services held in Boston, Emerson said:

Ah, my brave brother! It seems as if, in a frivolous age, our loss were immense, and your place can not be supplied. But you will already be consoled in the transfer of your genius, knowing well that the nature of the world will affirm to all men, in all times, that which for twenty-five years you valiantly spoke. The breezes of Italy murmur the same truth over your grave, the winds of America over these bereaved streets, and the sea which bore your mourners home affirms it. Whilst the polished and pleasant traitors to human rights, with perverted learning and disgraced graces, die and are utterly forgotten, with their double tongue saying all that is sordid about the corruption of man, you believed in the divinity of all, and you live on.

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