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A biography of ralph waldo emerson one of the great geniuses

Letter from the Rev. Emerson, to the Second Church and Society Boston: Munroe, 1837 ; republished as Man Thinking London: Essays [First Series] Boston: Fraser, 1841; expanded, Boston: Orations, Lectures, and Addresses London: Chapman Brothers, 1847; Boston: Munroe, 1847 ; enlarged and revised as Selected Poems Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1884 [volume 9, Riverside Edition]; London: Houghton Mifflin, 1904 [volume 9, Centenary Edition].

Phillips, Sampson, 1856 ; republished as Miscellanies London: Phillips, Sampson, 1850; London: Phillips, Sampson, 1856; London: The Conduct of Life Boston: May-Day and Other Pieces Boston: Fields, Osgood, 1870; London: Letters and Social Aims Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1884 [volume 11, Riverside Edition]; London: Houghton Mifflin, 1884; London: Houghton Mifflin, 1893 [volume 12, Riverside Edition]; London: The Character of Socrates: Whicher and Robert E.

Harvard University Press, 1972. Harvard University Press, 1960-1983. Emerson's Complete Works, 12 volumes, edited by J. Houghton Mifflin, 1883-1893 [Riverside Edition]; London: Houghton Mifflin, 1903-1904 [Centenary Edition].

Chapter 16

Harvard University Press, 1971. Phillips, Sampson, 1852 ; 3 volumes London: Parnassus, edited by Emerson Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1899; London: Records of a Lifelong Friendship, 1807-1882: Emerson-Clough Letters, edited by Howard F. Lowry and Ralph Leslie Rusk Cleveland: Rusk, 6 volumes New York: Columbia University Press, 1939.

Harvard University Press, 1962. Columbia University Press, 1964.

Yet he was for America what Samuel Taylor Coleridge was for England, the major spokesman for a new conception of literature. From his early essays on English literature and his important first book, Nature 1836to his greatest single literary essay, "The Poet" 1844to his late essays on "Poetry and Imagination" and "Persian Poetry" in 1875, Emerson developed and championed a concept of literature as literary activity.

The essence of that activity is a symbolizing process. Both reader and writer are involved in acts of literary expression which are representative or symbolic. Emerson always cared more for the present than the past, more for his reader than for the text in hand or the author in question. Poets, he said, are "liberating gods"; and Emerson at his best is also a liberator.

Transcendentalism is complex, drawing upon Platonic, Christian, Stoic, and Hindu thought, but its most immediate affinity is with German Idealism as worked out from Kant to Schelling. Indeed Emerson himself said in a lecture called "The Transcendentalist," delivered in December 1841, "What is popularly called Transcendentalism among us, is Idealism. The materialist insists on facts, on history, on the force of circumstances, and the animal wants of man; the idealist on the power of Thought and of Will, on inspiration, on miracle, on individual culture.

  • The group around Emerson, usually called the Transcendentalists, were defined in one way by Emerson's 1838 Divinity School address, which offended orthodox Unitarians by locating religious authority in the religious nature of human beings, rather than in the Bible or the person of Christ;
  • It turns out somewhat new, and very unlike what he promised himself.

Emerson's ethical and idealist criticism concentrates almost entirely upon the reader and his or her response to a text. Emerson is mainly concerned not with the fact of literary history but with the uses of literature, with its effects on the reader, and its power or lack of power to move us. Emersonian Idealism was extremely influential in the middle third of the nineteenth century, though it was eventually supplanted by realism and naturalism and the rise of the realist movement.

Emerson's father, William Emersonthe Unitarian minister at Boston's First Church from 1799 until his death in 1811, was an active, popular preacher and a staunch Federalist of very limited means but descended from a long line of Concord, Massachusetts, ministers.

Emerson was eight when his father died. His mother, Ruth Haskins Emerson, a quiet, devout, and undemonstrative woman, lived till 1853, long enough to see her fourth child's fame.

Emerson had seven siblings. Three died in infancy or childhood. Of those who lived to maturity, Edward died young, at twenty-nine, in 1834 as did Charles at twenty-eight in 1836, while Robert Bulkeley, who lived to age fifty-two, dying in 1859, was feeble-minded. Besides Ralph, only William lived a full and reasonably long life, dying at sixty-seven in 1868. After college, he tried teaching, then attended divinity school at Harvard. In 1829 he was ordained minister of Boston's Second Church.

That same year he married Ellen Tucker. It was very much a love match, and Emerson was deeply shaken by her death only a year and a half later on 8 February 1831. At the same time, he was becoming increasingly reluctant to remain as minister to his church.

In October 1832 he resigned, the immediate reason being that he felt he could no longer officiate at a ceremony communion that had become meaningless to him.

With his wife dead and his career broken off, Emerson now sold his house and furniture and set out for Europe. In Paris, at the Jardin des Plantes, he experienced the full power and appeal of the new botanical and zoological sciences, and he now turned decisively from theology to science, vowing to become a naturalist.

Going on to England and Scotland, he met Samuel Taylor ColeridgeWilliam Wordsworthand, particularly, Thomas Carlyle, who became a lifelong friend and correspondent. Returning home in October 1833, Emerson immediately embraced a new career, that of public lecturer.

One month after disembarking, he was invited by the Boston Natural History Society to deliver the first of his four lectures on science. That winter he lectured in Concord and Bedford on his Italian trip, and, beginning in January 1835, at Boston's Masonic Temple, he delivered his first open public lecture series, six lectures on "Biography. The Milton lecture was published, posthumously, in Natural History of Intellect 1893but the other five lectures in the "Biography" series of 1835, like the ten lectures he gave on "English Literature" later that same year, the twelve lectures on "The Philosophy of History" in 1836-1837, and the ten on "Human Culture" of 1837-1838, were only published beginning in 1959 as The Early Lectures of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Many of the ideas and phrases were incorporated by Emerson in subsequent lectures and books, which is why he did not publish them. But the early lectures show vividly the development of Emerson's characteristic views about literature.

Also in 1835, Emerson moved to Concord and, in September, married Lydia Jackson of Plymouth whom he came to call Lidian and, sometimes, Asia and who he tried to get to call him something besides Mr.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

He once told his cousin Sarah Ripley that those "who had baptised the child Lydia had been ill-advised, for her name was Lidian. Eighteen thirty-six also saw the publication of Emerson's first book and the birth of his first child, Waldo. Each winter he would travel through New England and the East Coast, and as far west as there were cities on his annual lecture tour, for which he was his own booking agent, advertiser, and arranger.

The group around Emerson, usually called the Transcendentalists, were defined in one way by Emerson's 1838 Divinity School address, which offended orthodox Unitarians by locating religious authority in the religious nature of human beings, rather than in the Bible or the person of Christ.

The Dial, a new magazine founded by the group and edited first by Margaret Fullershowed the group's interest in the literature of Idealism. In religion, in philosophy, and in literature, the group around Emerson was liberal, learned, forward-looking and reform-minded.

  • Men resist the conclusion in the morning, but adopt it as the evening wears on, that temper prevails over everything of time, place, and condition, and is inconsumable in the flames of religion;
  • The history of literature -- take the net result of Tiraboschi, Warton, or Schlegel,--is a sum of very few ideas, and of very few original tales,--all the rest being variation of these.

The Emersonian "movement" it was Emerson who said there are always two parties in society, the Establishment and the Movement or "the newness" was eventually overshadowed by the Civil War, the coming of industrialism, and the rise of realism. His contributions to literary criticism begin with the lecture called "Milton," given first in February 1835. Many of what would become Emerson's characteristic emphases are already evident in the Milton lecture.

What Emerson really values in Milton is not his high critical reputation but his power to inspire, which is, Emerson says, greater than that of any other writer. Indeed Emerson is always more interested in the author than the text, and he quotes with approval Milton 's comment that "he who would aspire to write well hereafter in laudable things, ought himself to be a true poem; that is, a composition and pattern of the best and honorablest things. Milton 's great subject, says Emerson, is not so much the fall of man as liberty.

The English poet advocated civil, ecclesiastical, literary, and domestic liberty. He opposed slavery, denied predestination, argued a biography of ralph waldo emerson one of the great geniuses freedom of the press, and favored the principle of divorce. Milton 's writings are valuable not as literary artifacts, Emerson argues, but as pathways to the man. Emerson insists on linking the person and the writing. Milton 's poems, like his prose, reflect the "opinions, the feelings, even the incidents of the poet's life.

It is, he says, a major principle "that a truth or a book of truths can be received only by the same spirit that gave it forth. Emerson also makes a distinction between types of reading and warns us "reading must not be passive. They convey truths or wisdom, they stand for and convey to us things that exist in nature. It is the recorded thinking of man. More important, in this lecture Emerson describes all language as "a naming of invisible and spiritual things from visible things," and he here first gives his famous two-part definition of language.

First, words are emblematic of things; "supercilious" means literally "the raising of an eyebrow. Emerson was never willing, as this lecture demonstrates, to separate literature from the general culture that produced it. In the next lecture, "The Age of Fable," Emerson contrasts Greek fable with Gothic fable, the former having produced classical myth, the latter medieval romance.

Emerson also praises English literature for its instinct for what is common.