Ralph Waldo Emerson

Easton Press Ralph Waldo Emerson books

The Essays - 100 Greatest Books Ever Written - 1979
The Life of Ralph Waldo Emerson - The Library of Great Lives - 1995

Franklin Library Ralph Waldo Emerson books

Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson - 100 Greatest Books of All Time - 1981
Poems of Ralph Waldo Emerson - 100 Greatest Masterpieces of American Literature - 1983
Essays: First and Second - Ralph Waldo Emerson - 100 Greatest Masterpieces of American Literature - 1984
Essays: First and Second - Ralph Waldo Emerson -  World's Best Loved Books - 1985

Ralph Waldo Emerson biography

Ralph Waldo Emerson, (1803-82), was an American poet and essayist, born in Boston, Mass. Seven of his ancestors were ministers, and his father, the Rev. William Emerson, was minister of the first church (Unitarian) of Boston. Ralph Waldo Emerson was graduated from Harvard at the age of eighteen, and for the next three years taught at his brother's school for young ladies in Boston. In 1825 he entered the Harvard Divinity School, and in 1826 was "approbated to preach" by the Middlesex Association of Ministers, becoming minister of the Second Church (Unitarian) of Boston in 1832, after declaring that he had ceased to regard the Lord's Supper as permanent sacrament and could not continue to administer it. On Christmas Day, 1832, he left the U.S. for a tour of Europe, and stayed for some time in England, where he made the acquaintance of Walter Savage Landor, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Thomas Carlyle, and William Wordsworth. His meeting with Carlyle was the beginning of a life long friendship. On his return in 1833, he settled in Concord, Mass., and became active as a lecturer in Boston. His Addresses, delivered on such subjects as The Philosophy of History, Human Culture, Human Life, and The Present Age, were based on material in his Journals (published posthumously, 1904-14), a collections of observations and notes which he had begun when still a student at Harvard. His most detailed statement of belief, however, was reserved for his first published book, Nature (1836), which appeared anonymously but was soon correctly attributed to him. The volume had a small sale and received almost no popular notice, but it has come to be regarded as Ralph Waldo Emerson's most original and significant work, offering the essence of his philosophy of transcendentalism. This doctrine opposed the popular materialist and Calvinist views of life with idealism, and at the same time voiced a plea for freedom of the individual for man-made restraints. The next year he applied these ideas to cultural and intellectual problems, in his lecture The American Scholar, delivered before the Phi Beta Kappa Society of Harvard; a second address, commonly referred to as "The Divinity School Address", delivered in 1838 to the graduating class of Cambridge Divinity College, aroused considerable controversy, because it attacked formal religion and argued for self-reliance and intuitive spiritual experience.

In 1841 appeared the first volume of Ralph Waldo Emerson's Essays, containing several of the writings that have remained the most popular of all his works. It comprised "History", "Self-Reliance", "Compensation", "Spiritual Laws", "Love", "Friendship", "Prudence", "Heroism", "The Over-soul", "Circles", "Intellect", and "Art". The second series of Essays appeared in 1844, and included "The Poet", "Manners", and "Character". In the interval between the publication of these two volumes, Ralph Waldo Emerson had done much writing for the Dial, the organ of New England transcendentalism. This paper was founded in 1840 with Margaret Fuller as editor. Ralph Waldo Emerson succeeded her in 1842 and remained its editor until the paper failed in 1844. In 1846 Ralph Waldo Emerson's first volumes of Poems was published. Ralph Waldo Emerson again went abroad, in 1847, and lectured with considerable success in England, where he was welcomed by Carlyle. Several of his lectures were later collected in the volume Representative Men (1850), a work reminiscent, on the whole, of Carlyle Heroes and Hero-Worship (1840).  Ralph Waldo Emerson's visit abroad resulted also, in 1856, in a brilliant travel book, English Traits. His Journals give evidence of his growing interest in national issues; on his return to America he became active in the Abolitionist cause, delivering many antislavery speeches, and welcomed the advent of the Civil War. In 1860 appeared The Conduct of Life, the first of his books to enjoy immediate popularity, a volume of essays which included "Power", "Wealth", "Fate", and "Culture". This was followed in 1867 by a collection of poems entitled May Day and Other Pieces, which had previously been published in the Dial and the Atlantic Monthly. Ralph Waldo Emerson did little new writing after this time, gradually declining in mental power; Society and Solitude (1870) contained material he had been using on western lecture tours, and Parnassus (1874) was merely a collection of his favorite poems.

Ralph Waldo Emerson's positions in American letters are unique; he was the first distinctively "American" author to influence European thought and the work of writers as diverse as Friedrich Nietzsche, Maurice Maeterlinck, and Henri Bergson.

Ralph Waldo Emerson believed that an appreciation of its vast natural resources would become the foundation of American culture. His assertion that human thought and actions proceed from nature, was a radical departure from the traditional European emphasis on domesticating nature to suit human needs. His philosophy is rich in common natural scenes of daily life, and expresses the inherent harmony between man and nature.

Perhaps no writer has so dramatically shaped the course of American philosophy as Ralph Waldo Emerson, whose meditations on spirituality, freedom, and the power of knowledge have informed and inspired generations of activists, scholars, and thinkers.

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