"A General Union Of Total Dissent"

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Last Updated on January 19, 2017, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 261

Context: Lowell began A Fable for Critics, he says in his first Preface, "to please only myself and my own private fancy." Readers have, for several generations now, been pleased with his humorous satire–pleasant enough, and usually true to the mark, of Emerson, Thoreau, Bryant, Whittier, Hawthorne, Cooper, Poe, and...

(The entire section contains 261 words.)

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Context: Lowell began A Fable for Critics, he says in his first Preface, "to please only myself and my own private fancy." Readers have, for several generations now, been pleased with his humorous satire–pleasant enough, and usually true to the mark, of Emerson, Thoreau, Bryant, Whittier, Hawthorne, Cooper, Poe, and others well known at the time who have slipped, unlike those named, into a literary Limbo. Though his own reputation as a poet has diminished in the decades since his death, Lowell's Fable, as well as some selections from The Biglow Papers, is still, at least in part, often read. The quotation about "general union of total dissent" is found in Lowell's comments about Theodore Parker, whom he calls the "Orson of parsons":

Here comes Parker, the Orson of parsons, a man
Whom the Church undertook to put under her ban
(The Church of Socinus, I mean),–his opinions
Being So-(ultra)-cinian, they shocked the Socinians;
They believed–faith, I'm puzzled–I think I may call
Their belief a believing in nothing at all,
Or something of that sort; I know they all went
For a general union of total dissent:
He went a step farther; without cough or hem,
He frankly avowed he believed not in them;
And, before he could be jumbled up or prevented,
From their orthodox kind of dissent he dissented.
There was heresy here, you perceive, for the right
Of privately judging means simply that light
Has been granted to me, for deciding on you;
And in happier times, before Atheism grew,
The deed contained clauses for cooking you too.

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