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A biography and life work of ralph waldo emerson an american author

Ralph was one of eight children. Although his brother William was educated for the ministry, he eventually studied law, as did two other brothers. The sole exception was Bulkeley Emerson, who was mentally retarded and was boarded out on various farms until his death.

Young Ralph was sent to the Boston Latin School in 1812. His career at Harvard was undistinguished: At the same time, though, Waldo—as he had begun to call himself in about 1820—was expanding his private life.

Emerson indexed his entries and would later copy them out when composing his literary works. This practice of composition, formed early in life, of journal entry to lecture to published work, stayed with him throughout his career. In 1825—1826 he studied theology and divinity at Harvard, and on 10 October 1826 he was licensed to preach.

But ill health, which had plagued him for many years, put the brakes on his career. He had earlier been afflicted with problems with his eyes and with consumption. He visited Charleston, South Carolina, and St.

Augustine, Florida, for their warmer climates, returning home in the late spring of 1827. In Charleston he first saw in person the institution of slavery and was repelled by it.

Emerson supplied various pulpits over the next two years. Both strands of his life came together in 1829: She died on 8 February 1831. Emerson returned to his ministerial duties with a heavy heart. In October 1832 he submitted his resignation, and it was accepted with genuine regret. He was impressed by the scenery and by the great buildings of past civilizations, but he was less charmed by the famous people he met, including William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Two events during this trip affected him greatly. Emerson returned to the United States in October 1833. He began a period of introspection and reading, supporting himself on the income derived from stocks left him by Ellen.

In October 1834 his brother Edward died from tuberculosis. But Charles died of tuberculosis in May 1836 before either plan was realized. The year 1835 was important for two other reasons.

Unlike his first marriage, which was for love, this one seemed to be based on more practical, companionable reasons than those of youthful romance.

Also in 1835 Emerson began his career as a lecturer. Earlier he had enjoyed the public performance aspect of his ministerial role, seeing the possibilities of using language as a means to affect the lives of his parishioners.

Lecturing was a secularization of this role, a means of converting the public to his views. He never really left the lecture platform, traveling throughout the Northeast and Midwest, and his last lecture was delivered in 1881, the year before his death. Transcendentalism The year 1836 saw the public recognition of the new movement, Transcendentalism, in which Emerson was an active participant.

The Transcendentalists, mainly a group of dissident, Harvard-educated Unitarian ministers, expressed their disagreement with the current state of affairs on three fronts.

In literature they championed English and Continental writers such as Carlyle and Goethe. In philosophy they followed Immanuel Kant in believing that people had an innate ability to perceive that their existence transcended mere sensory experience, as opposed to the prevailing belief of John Locke that the mind was a blank tablet at birth that later registered only those impressions received through the senses and experience.

In religion they denied the existence of miracles, preferring Christianity to rest on the spirit of Christ rather than on his supposed deeds, as was the belief of the conservative Unitarians. Even then, though, a higher end is desired: The perception of this divinity is often accomplished through an intuitive, almost mystical merging of viewer and object. Emerson also uses the terms Materialism and Idealism for these concepts.

Once nature is seen as a microcosm of divinity, and Idealism or Reason the method of discovering this by applying our intuition, then progress is possible. Although the book was published anonymously, Emerson was widely known to be its author, and he became the central figure among the Transcendentalists. In September, when Nature was published, Emerson helped to form the Transcendental Club, which served as a forum for the Transcendentalists over the next four years, as they met some thirty times.

Emerson was also instrumental in establishing the semiofficial journal of the Transcendentalists, the Dial, in July 1840 and edited it from July 1842 until its demise in April 1844. The Dial had grown out of the Transcendental Club meetings.

Emerson had assisted its first editor, Margaret Fullerand assumed the major role when Fuller resigned after her salary had not been paid. Emerson, too, worked without compensation. The Dial published the writings of nearly all the Transcendentalists; but reviewers abused the Dial, making it a scapegoat for all the unpopular aspects of Transcendentalism, and the public, unable to understand its varied articles, failed to buy it.

Emerson did not regret his work on a biography and life work of ralph waldo emerson an american author journal. It had offered a convenient outlet for his own work as well as that of his friends whom he was trying to encourage and promote.

During this time Emerson formed friendships with many of the major figures of the Transcendentalist movement, including Amos Bronson AlcottFuller, Theodore Parkerand Henry David Thoreauas well as lesser personalities, such as Ellery Channing whose poetry he published in the DialElizabeth Palmer Peabody to whose journal Aesthetic Papers he contributedand Jones Very whose Essays and Poems he edited in 1839.

He also befriended some opponents of the movement, including Nathaniel Hawthornehis neighbor in Concord for a while.

Pounding beans is good to the end of pounding empires one of these days, but if, at the end of years, it is still only beans! Although he coedited Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli 1852 after her death in 1850, he remained ambivalent about her refusal to accept the passive role assigned women by her times. Indeed, his daughter Louisa May Alcott considered Emerson one of the most important influences in her life.

The scholar must also use books but use them carefully, for too often people are content to repeat the ideas of others and fail to strike out on their own, becoming mere bookworms. Also, the scholar must be an active participant in the world and not isolated in a study. The religion of the day, Emerson argues, has, through its reliance on the existence of miracles, changed our view of Jesus Christ from that of a prophet who showed us the divinity within ourselves to that of a remote demigod, far removed from our daily lives.

Likewise, ministers preach a historical Christianity that no longer inspires us. Emerson gives as an example of this a minister who preached so poorly during a snowstorm that the white flakes outside seemed more substantial than the words spoken within.

The conservative Unitarians reacted vigorously against this address. Emerson was not officially invited back to Harvard for nearly thirty years. Self-reliance is, in his view, the belief that since all people contain a spark of divinity within them, the nurturing of this divinity by ignoring the conformist demands of society would result not only in self-reliance but god-reliance as well. Compensation is a sort of Newtonian law of morality, that for every negative event there is also a positive one.

Friendship is the art of taking the best your friends have to offer as a means of enhancing self-development. During this period his personal life flourished as well.

But the death of Waldo from scarlet fever in January 1842 devastated Emerson. A biography and life work of ralph waldo emerson an american author 1847 By 1844 whatever unity had existed among the Transcendentalists was gone, and they pursued separate careers, still loosely tied together by a belief in reform, yet differing widely on how much was needed and what means were necessary to achieve it.

To some, such as George Ripley at the Brook Farm community, changing existing laws would result in better laws producing better people; others, such as Emerson and Thoreau, believed that the reformation of the individual would result in better people making better laws. In 1846—1848 he visited Britain and gave a series of lectures to great acclaim. A new edition of Essays appeared in 1847 as Essays: These men are representative of the people of their times and of the potential of all people in various areas at all times.

The next two decades were marked by many successes. Here he discusses the people he had met in England, the sights he had seen, and the characteristics he had observed. The book had a mixed reception. American audiences felt he was too friendly to the English, and the English felt he was too critical of their customs and culture.

He joined the Saturday Club of Boston and began to enjoy—too much so for those who remembered the idealistic young Transcendentalist—his literary fame.

This was not a new direction for Emerson. His first major address on the subject had been in 1844, and in 1845 he had refused to lecture in New Bedford before a congregation that had excluded blacks from membership. The decade began with Emerson denouncing Daniel Webster for his support of the Fugitive Slave Law, which Emerson furiously promised not to obey.

Mid-decade saw the Kansas-Nebraska Act, repealing the antislavery provisions of the Missouri Compromise, which caused Emerson to embark on a new series of abolitionist lectures. He published a second volume of poems, May-Day and Other Pieces, in 1867. He also delivered hundreds of lectures, going as far west as Iowa and Minnesota.

He was now accepted by reformers and conservatives alike. Harvard bestowed an honorary doctor of laws degree in 1866 and named him an overseer of the college the next year.

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He had long since overcome his eye and lung problems, but now his mental faculties were diminished. A type of aphasia, in which he could not remember the names of people and common objects, affected him.

The publication of Society and Solitude 1870 represented the last book for which he was solely responsible. To recuperate, in the spring of 1871 he visited the West Coast, where he met naturalist John Muir.

With the assistance of his daughter Edith, Emerson edited a poetry anthology, Parnassus 1875. Emerson died quietly in Concord and was buried at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, close to the graves of the Alcotts, Hawthornes, and Thoreaus. During his life Emerson exerted great influence on his contemporaries, both by his financial support of them, as in the cases of Alcott and Ellery Channing, and by his intellectual companionship, as in the case of his Concord neighbor Thoreau.

His discussions of organic form everything proceeds from a natural order, followed by but not imposed upon by manself-reliance, optimism evil does not exist as an actual force, merely being the absence of goodcompensation, universal unity or the over-souland the importance of individual moral insight were all influential in forming the literature and philosophy of nineteenth-century America.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

The later nineteenth century embraced Emerson as an establishment figure. His writings are seen as unstable texts that challenge the very process by which we read and think, and his ideas are considered to be at the very heart of questions about the development of American literature and identity.

  1. This subject is not new with him.
  2. There is always one line that ought to be chosen, one proportion that should be kept, and every other line or proportion is wrong....
  3. They can too easily intimidate us and make us forget that "the one thing in the world of value, is, the active soul. To hold up the text of the Bible as infallible was to divert attention from the creation of the text.
  4. Emerson had been an admirer of ancient Persian poetry since the mid s, though he only published his essay on Persian poetry in the volume Letters and Social Aims. He resigned in 1832 after her death from tuberculosis, troubled by theological doctrines such as the Lord's Supper, and traveled extensively in Europe, returning to begin a career of lecturing.
  5. More recently, Alfred North Whitehead has spoken of the same concept in referring to "the full scientific mentality, which instinctively holds that all things great and small are conceivable as exemplifications of general principles which reign throughout the natural order.

Edward Waldo Emerson 10 vols. Rusk and Eleanor M. An important collection is Len Gougeon and Joel Myerson, eds. A Descriptive Bibliography 1982. Days of Encounter 1984 ; and Robert D.