A stranger: what is the meaning of that? The fork falling sticks upright in the floor and the children say, a stranger is coming. A stranger is expected or announced & and an uneasiness betwixt pleasure & pain invades all the hearts of a household. A commended stranger appears and almost brings fear to the good hearts that would welcome him. The house is dusted; all things fly into their places; the old coat is exchanged for the new; & we must get up a dinner if we can. Of a commended stranger, only the good report is told by others, only the good & new is heard by us. He stands to us for humanity. The stranger is what we wish: the best possibilities of a man. Having thus imagined & clothed him, we ask how we should stand related in conversation & action to such a man & are uneasy with fear. The same Idea exalts conversation with a stranger. We talk better than we are wont. We have no obstructions. For a long time we can continue a series of sincere, graceful, rich communications, drawn from the oldest, secretest experience, so that they who sit by of our own kinsfolk & acquaintance shall feel a lively surprise at our unusual powers. But as soon as the stranger begins to intrude his partialities, his definitions, his defects into the conversation, it is all over. He has heard the first, last & best he will ever hear from us. He is no stranger now. Vulgarity, ignorance, misapprehension, are old acquaintances. Now, when he comes, he may get the order, the dress, & the dinner, but the throbbing of the heart, & the communications of the soul, no more.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks 7:76