86 Introduction





Ralph Waldo Emerson was born May 25th, 1803, in Boston, Massachusetts. He was an American poet, essayist, and lecturer. After he graduated from Harvard, he became a preacher for a few years, but had to discontinue due to grief over his wife, Ellen Tucker, who died from Tuberculosis. Her death sparked Emerson to write a poem titled Fate that was about needing to strike balance between liberty and fate. It also conveyed Emerson’s love for his wife although she had passed, and how he thought everything should be given to love. About a year later in 1832, Emerson sailed to Europe and met with literary figures, Thomas Carlyle, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth. When he returned home in 1833, it was then he began to lecture on topics concerning ethical living and spiritual experience. Upon his return, he also became remarried to a woman named Lydia Jackson. Emerson was known as the “Sage of Concord” because his local literary circle thought of him as the most advanced of their time’s knowledge. Sages were believed to be able to see beyond the universe.

Something that set apart Emerson in his time was his transcendental beliefs. A transcendentalist is someone who believes that each individual could move beyond the physical world and delve deeper into the spiritual senses through free will and intuition. He was also one of several figures that took a pantheist approach by not thinking of God as a separate being from nature. His first book that he published in 1836, Nature, is his best work that expresses his transcendentalism as well as his pantheism.  In Nature, Emerson conveys that humans do not fully appreciate nor fully see nature’s beauty, that instead they take it for granted. It is a very spiritual essay that channels Emerson’s views about nature contrasted with society. Some other famous essays that followed Emerson’s transcendental beliefs are “Self-Reliance” and “The American Scholar” which was based off of a lecture he gave in 1837.

In the 1840s, Emerson founded and co-edited the literary magazine The Dial, from which he published two volumes of essays. Although it ceased publication in 1844, Horace Greeley proclaimed it was the “most original and thoughtful periodical ever published in this country.” The 1840s were also the time where he was blessed with four children, two sons and two daughters. Throughout the 1860s, he continued to advocate for the abolition of slavery and kept lecturing throughout the country even though he was not in good health. Emerson then passed away on April 27th, 1882, in Concord, Massachusetts due to pneumonia. Not only was Emerson an influential person to the common society, but also to other famous writers such as Margaret Fuller and Henry David Thoreau.



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openamlitGU by Timothy Robbins is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.


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