Background of novel- At the Houghton Library at Harvard, I had access to the personal journals of every member of the Emerson Family, as well as relatives. The dialogue is as close to an extapolation as possible of the relationships of each. Emerson was one of the greatest minds of his time. His influence is apparent even today. His influence upon his protege, Henry David Thoreau set the stage for civil disobedience, and his wave crashed into the 20th Century with Ghandi and on to Martin Luther King.


ONE FIRST LOVE

(The Unauthorized Autobiography of Ralph Waldo Emerson)

PARADISE LOST


By

James William Witt

Registered with Writers Guild of America, West


“WE DO NOT COUNT A MAN’S YEARS

UNTIL HE HAS NOTHING ELSE TO COUNT”

(April 27, 1882)


     A New England breeze scraped a leaf-bare limb against the second story Victorian window like the pendulum of a grandfather clock counting heartbeats.   Suddenly a gust stripped the remaining apple from the branch and engaging the complicity of gravity, hurled it to the ground with a thump, where it shattered into three pieces, and reposed on a blanket of leaves as its final resting place. Allowing its lone occupant to slither into the daylight and gasp the last breathe of fall, just ahead of winter’s intrusion.

     The evening light disappeared inch by inch, moving up the roots, the trunk, across the branches, through the window, and into the bedroom above.

     Where Ellen Emerson sat in a chair-- across from her bedridden father as he slipped nearer to death-- and read from a copy of Paradise Lost, its cover having long ago been destroyed and discarded.  “Of man’s first disobedience and the fruit of that forbidden tree.”

     There was no response.  At 79, life’s energy had nearly deserted him.  He was once Ralph Waldo Emerson, but aphasia had stolen his identity.  Only those who loved him remembered, now gathered around awaiting his final step on the journey into another world.  His wife Lidian, a mere 100 lbs of flesh clinging to bone, balzarine, dress of sun-worn beige, her hair partially covered by a day cap of batiste-- straight-parted with the sides turned under her ears, and the back drawn into a chignon like a salt and pepper snail shell-- wearing a plaintive expression, she sat erect in a chair across from her husband, a skein of yarn in her lap as she rhythmically knitted one pearled two on a gray scarf she was knitting.  While daughter Ellen, a reflection of her mother, (except for a sentimental heart and curious mind) helped keep that vigil.  Recently, they had been joined by the family doctor, and bedraggled Bronson Alcott, leaning forward, elbows on knees, his hair splayed across his forehead, waistcoat straining to restrain a cannonball belly, with his sharp eyes peering through the fleshy lids, perched upon his cantaloupe cheeks.  He was Emerson’s oldest friend.

     Ellen continued to read, “Whose mortal taste brought death into this world, and all our woe.”

     Emerson stirred.  Moved by the words he opened his eyes and parted his lips but there was no sound...Pointing to a pencil and piece of paper on the nightstand.

     Ellen snatched them up and offered that last remaining means of communication to her father.  

     But only after timeworn minutes had passed did he manage to scrawl but a few words, until the pencil, paper, his head and eyes fell under the insistence of death.  As the parchment seesawed ground-ward like a wounded dove, the pencil sped to the floor, clattered and rolled, until restrained by a gap of separation between the wooden planks.  Lidian fell across her lover in an embrace awash with forty years of companionship. Through a haze of tears Ellen stared at the distant message.  Finally she reached for it and silently read her father’s last words, "My sweet, Queen Lidian, I am only sorry I could never give you what you always wanted and deserved...” the words trailed and wove an illegible path until the faint tinge of gray lead had left only a ghost.


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