Ralph Waldo Emerson

American essayist, lecturer, and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson sadly died 27 April 1882. He was born May 25, 1802 and his formal schooling began at the Boston Latin School in 1812 when he was nine. In October 1817, Emerson went to Harvard College and was appointed freshman messenger for the president.Midway through his junior year, Emerson began keeping a list of books he had read and started a journal in a series of notebooks that would be called “Wide World”. He took outside jobs to cover his school expenses. By his senior year, Emerson decided to go by his middle name, Waldo. Emerson served as Class Poet And graduated on August 29, 1821, when he was 18. In 1826, Emerson went to seek out warmer climates, travelling to Charleston, South Carolina and St. Augustine, Florida, where he met Prince Achille Murat. Murat, the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, and they became extremely good friends and engaged in enlightening discussions on religion, society, philosophy, and government, and Emerson considered Murat an important figure in his intellectual education.

Emerson met his first wife, Ellen Louisa Tucker, in Concord, New Hampshire on Christmas Day, 1827, sadly Ellen died at the age of 20 on February 8, 1831, After his wife’s death, he began to disagree with the church’s methods, His disagreements with church officials over the administration of the Communion service and misgivings about public prayer eventually led to his resignation in 1832. Emerson toured Europe in 1833 and later wrote of his travels in English Traits (1856). Leaving on Christmas Day, 1832, sailing first to Malta, spending time in Italy, visiting Rome, Florence and Venice, before sailing north to England, Emerson met William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Thomas Carlyle. He returned to the United States on October 9, 1833, and lived with his mother in Newton, Massachusetts, until October, 1834, when he moved to Concord, Massachusetts, to live with his step-grandfather Dr. Ezra Ripley. Seeing the budding Lyceum movement, Emerson saw a possible career as a lecturer. On November 5, 1833, he made the first of what would eventually be some 1,500 lectures, discussing The Uses of Natural History in Boston. This was an expanded account of his experience in Paris.

Emerson formulated the philosophy of Transcendentalism in his 1836 essay Nature. His first two collections of essays – Essays: First Series and Essays: Second Series include Self-Reliance, The Over-Soul, Circles, The Poet andExperience. In May 1843 Emerson purchased a 90-acre (360,000 m2) farm in Harvard, Massachusetts, for what would become Fruitlands, a community based on Utopian ideals inspired in part by Transcendentalism. The farm would run based on a communal effort, using no animals for labor; its participants would eat no meat and use no wool or leather. In 1844, Emerson published his second collection of essays, entitled “Essays: Second Series.” This collection included “The Poet,” “Experience,” “Gifts,” and another essay entitled “Nature,” Emerson made a living as a popular lecturer And by the 1850s he was giving as many as 80 per year.Emerson was also introduced to Indian philosophy when reading the works of French philosopher Victor Cousin. He also read the Bhagavad Gita and Henry Thomas Colebrooke’s Essays on the Vedas, which influenced much of his writing. From 1847 to 1848, he toured England, Scotland, and Ireland.He also visited Paris between the February Revolution and the bloodyJune Days. On May 21 he stood on the Champ de Mars in the midst of mass celebrations for concord, peace and labor and this trip influenced Emerson’s later work. His 1856 book English Traits is based largely on observations recorded in his travel journals and notebooks. Emerson later came to see the American Civil War as a ‘revolution’ that shared common ground with the European revolutions of 1848. In February 1852 Emerson, James Freeman Clarke and William Henry Channing edited an edition of the works and letters of Margaret Fuller, and In 1855 he published an innovative poetry collection called Leaves of Grass.

Emerson—earned the nicknamed the Concord Sage— and became the leading voice of intellectual culture in the United States because of his ability to influence and inspire others, his work not only influenced his contemporaries, such as Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau, but would continue to influence thinkers and writers worldwide to the present. Notable thinkers who recognize Emerson’s influence include Nietzsche and William James. Walt Whitman, and Henry David Thoreau. Several of Emerson’s poems were included in Bloom’s The Best Poems of the English Language and Self-Reliance, Circles, Experience, and Conduct of Life” are considered his best essays. Emerson was staunchly anti-slavery and from 1837 give a number of lectures during the pre-Civil War years and in 1844. He gave a number of speeches and lectures, and welcomed John Brown to his home during Brown’s visits to Concord. Emerson believed in immediate emancipation of the slaves. In 1860, Emerson published The Conduct of Life, his seventh collection of essays. In this book, Emerson “grappled with some of the thorniest issues of the moment,” and “his experience in the abolition ranks is a telling influence in his conclusions.

Emerson also embraced the idea of war as a means of national rebirth and in 1862 he visited Washington, D.C, and gave a public lecture at the Smithsonian and also met Lincoln at the White House. Lincoln was familiar with Emerson’s work, having previously seen him lecture.Emerson’s misgivings about Lincoln began to soften after this meeting. In 1865, he spoke at a memorial service held for Lincoln in Concord. Emerson also met a number of high-ranking government officials, including Salmon P. Chase, the secretary of the treasury, Edward Bates, the attorney general, Edwin M. Stanton, the secretary of war, Gideon Welles, the secretary of the navy, and William Seward, the secretary of state. On May 6, 1862, Emerson’s protégé Henry David Thoreau died of tuberculosis at the age of 44 and Emerson delivered his eulogy. Another friend, Nathaniel Hawthorne, died in 1864. Emerson served as one of the pallbearers as Hawthorne was buried in Concord. That same year Emerson was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

From 1867, Emerson’s health began declining; he wrote much less in his journals and also started having memory problems then in 1872 Emerson’s Concord home caught fire And theEmersons ended up staying with family at the Old Manse, The fire marked an end to Emerson’s serious lecturing career; from then on, he would lecture only on special occasions and only in front of familiar audiences. While the house was being rebuilt, Emerson took a trip to England, continental Europe, and Egypt with his daughter Ellen, and returned in 1873 on the ship Olympus along with friend Charles Eliot Norton. In late 1874 Emerson published an anthology of poetry called Parnassus. Sadly Emerson ceased his public appearances by 1879 and on April 21, 1882, Emerson Is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, Massachusetts.

During his life he led the transcendentalist movement in the 19th century and was a champion of individualism and critic of the pressures of society. He published dozens of essays and gave more than 1,500 public lectures across the United States. Emerson wrote on a number of subjects, such as individuality, freedom, the ability for humankind to realize almost anything, and the relationship between the soul and the surrounding world. His essays greatly influenced many thinkers, writers and poets.

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