On this date RALPH WALDO EMERSON the poet & essayist was born. Emerson had a wild crush on a classmate at Harvard. Martin Gay, the subject of Emerson’s growing infatuation, was the subject of numerous entries in Emerson’s journals which modern editors have been able to reconstruct. As the scholar Martin Greif has written, “they provide a rare view of the future philosopher in the thrall of same-sex love.” With an unembarrassed frankness he wrote in his journal about the disturbing power of the glances he and Gay exchanged.
Emerson wrote of Martin Gay in his notebook, “Why do you look after me? I cannot help looking out as you pass.” Emerson heavily crossed out the Martin Gay journal notes at some later time. He would later tell Walt Whitman to cross out the homoerotic portions of the Calamus cluster of poems in Leaves of Grass. Fortunately for us and for posterity Whitman did not take the “advice.” In Emerson’s mature life “his craving for friendship and love seldom found adequate satisfaction,” as his biographer Stephen Whicher put it.