The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). rn VOLUME XVII. Later National Literature, Part II.

XIII. Later Essayists

§ 13. Emma Lazarus

Nor was the regard wherein Emma Lazarus (1849–87) was held by such men as Emerson, Gilder, Stedman, Channing, Eggleston, Dana, and Godkin due alone to those poems and essays which did more than the writings of any other American author to instil among Christians a sympathy for that people of whom Emma Lazarus was so brave an exponent. Quite apart from her poems and articles on Jewish themes, there can be no question that, if one excepts Margaret Fuller, there was no woman among our authors more ardent than Emma Lazarus in her interminable search for æsthetic culture, no woman whose conversation, to quote the words of the great editor Charles A. Dana, was more “deeply interesting and intensely instructive.” Stedman once said that she was the “natural companion of scholars and thinkers,” a comment borne out by Emerson’s abiding affection and admiration for her. In the field of prose, some of her most memorable achievements were her essays on Russian Christianity versus American Judaism, and her paper on Disraeli. The first of these, written some twoscore years ago at the time of Russian massacres, presents, without undue apology, or undue praise of her race, the basic attitude that should be taken in regard to the persecution of the Jews, and as the problem is still one that civilization has not solved with fearless honour, let us listen again to Emma Lazarus, as, reverting to the thought expressed by one of our most high-minded statesmen, she concludes that essay:

  • Mr. Evarts has put the question upon the only ground which Americans need consider or act upon. It is not that it is the oppression of Jews by Russians—it is the oppression of men and women by men and women; and we are men and women!