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As Robert D. Richardson says, "Emerson's moment of insight into the interconnectedness of things in the Jardin des Plantes was a moment of almost visionary intensity that pointed him away from theology and toward science". Carlyle in particular was a strong influence on him; Emerson would later serve as an unofficial literary agent in the United States for Carlyle, and in March , he tried to persuade Carlyle to come to America to lecture. Emerson returned to the United States on October 9, , and lived with his mother in Newton, Massachusetts. In October , he moved to Concord, Massachusetts to live with his step-grandfather, Dr.

Ezra Ripley , at what was later named The Old Manse. On November 5, , he made the first of what would eventually be some 1, lectures, "The Uses of Natural History", in Boston. This was an expanded account of his experience in Paris. Nature is a language and every new fact one learns is a new word; but it is not a language taken to pieces and dead in the dictionary, but the language put together into a most significant and universal sense. I wish to learn this language, not that I may know a new grammar, but that I may read the great book that is written in that tongue.

On January 24, , Emerson wrote a letter to Lydia Jackson proposing marriage.

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He gave a lecture to commemorate the th anniversary of the town of Concord on September 12, Emerson quickly changed his wife's name to Lidian, and would call her Queenie, [63] and sometimes Asia, [64] and she called him Mr. Edward Waldo Emerson was the father of Raymond Emerson.

Ellen was named for his first wife, at Lidian's suggestion. Emerson was poor when he was at Harvard, [67] but was later able to support his family for much of his life. On September 8, , the day before the publication of Nature , Emerson met with Frederic Henry Hedge , George Putnam and George Ripley to plan periodic gatherings of other like-minded intellectuals. Its first official meeting was held on September 19, Emerson invited Margaret Fuller , Elizabeth Hoar and Sarah Ripley for dinner at his home before the meeting to ensure that they would be present for the evening get-together.

Emerson anonymously published his first essay, "Nature", on September 9, A year later, on August 31, , he delivered his now-famous Phi Beta Kappa address, " The American Scholar ", [75] then entitled "An Oration, Delivered before the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Cambridge"; it was renamed for a collection of essays which included the first general publication of "Nature" in In , Emerson befriended Henry David Thoreau.

Though they had likely met as early as , in the fall of , Emerson asked Thoreau, "Do you keep a journal?

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  4. Some scholars consider the journal to be Emerson's key literary work. In March , Emerson gave a series of lectures on the philosophy of history at the Masonic Temple in Boston. This was the first time he managed a lecture series on his own, and it was the beginning of his career as a lecturer. He eventually gave as many as 80 lectures a year, traveling across the northern United States as far as St. Louis, Des Moines, Minneapolis, and California.

    On July 15, , [84] Emerson was invited to Divinity Hall, Harvard Divinity School , to deliver the school's graduation address, which came to be known as the " Divinity School Address ". Emerson discounted biblical miracles and proclaimed that, while Jesus was a great man, he was not God: historical Christianity, he said, had turned Jesus into a "demigod, as the Orientals or the Greeks would describe Osiris or Apollo". He was denounced as an atheist [85] and a poisoner of young men's minds. Despite the roar of critics, he made no reply, leaving others to put forward a defense.

    He was not invited back to speak at Harvard for another thirty years. The transcendental group began to publish its flagship journal, The Dial , in July In Emerson published Essays , his second book, which included the famous essay "Self-Reliance". This book, and its popular reception, more than any of Emerson's contributions to date laid the groundwork for his international fame. In January Emerson's first son, Waldo, died of scarlet fever. In the same month, William James was born, and Emerson agreed to be his godfather.

    Bronson Alcott announced his plans in November to find "a farm of a hundred acres in excellent condition with good buildings, a good orchard and grounds". So we fell apart", he wrote. The Dial ceased publication in April ; Horace Greeley reported it as an end to the "most original and thoughtful periodical ever published in this country". In , Emerson published his second collection of essays, Essays: Second Series.

    Ralph Waldo Emerson facts for kids

    This collection included "The Poet", "Experience", "Gifts", and an essay entitled "Nature", a different work from the essay of the same name. Emerson made a living as a popular lecturer in New England and much of the rest of the country. He had begun lecturing in ; by the s he was giving as many as 80 lectures per year. Emerson spoke on a wide variety of subjects, and many of his essays grew out of his lectures.

    This was more than his earnings from other sources. He wrote that he was "landlord and waterlord of 14 acres, more or less". Emerson was introduced to Indian philosophy through the works of the French philosopher Victor Cousin. One of the clearest examples of this can be found in his essay " The Over-soul ":. We live in succession, in division, in parts, in particles. Meantime within man is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related, the eternal ONE. And this deep power in which we exist and whose beatitude is all accessible to us, is not only self-sufficing and perfect in every hour, but the act of seeing and the thing seen, the seer and the spectacle, the subject and the object, are one.

    We see the world piece by piece, as the sun, the moon, the animal, the tree; but the whole, of which these are shining parts, is the soul. The central message Emerson drew from his Asian studies was that "the purpose of life was spiritual transformation and direct experience of divine power, here and now on earth. In —48, he toured the British Isles. When he arrived, he saw the stumps of trees that had been cut down to form barricades in the February riots. On May 21, he stood on the Champ de Mars in the midst of mass celebrations for concord, peace and labor.

    His 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 The act of Congress is a law which every one of you will break on the earliest occasion—a law which no man can obey, or abet the obeying, without loss of self-respect and forfeiture of the name of gentleman.

    This filthy enactment was made in the nineteenth century by people who could read and write. I will not obey it. Walt Whitman published the innovative poetry collection Leaves of Grass in and sent a copy to Emerson for his opinion. Emerson responded positively, sending Whitman a flattering five-page letter in response. Ralph Waldo Emerson, in the summer of , would venture into the great wilderness of upstate New York.

    Joining him were nine of the most illustrious intellectuals ever to camp out in the Adirondacks to connect with nature. William James Stillman was a painter and founding editor of an art journal called the Crayon. Stillman was born and grew up in Schenectady which was just south of the Adirondack mountains. He would later travel there to paint the wilderness landscape and to fish and hunt.

    He would share his experiences in this wilderness to the members of the Saturday Club, raising their interest in this unknown region. James Russell Lowell [] and William Stillman would lead the effort to organize a trip to the Adirondacks. They would begin their journey on August 2, , traveling by train, steam boat, stagecoach and canoe guide boats. News that these cultured men were living like "Sacs and Sioux" in the wilderness appeared in newspapers across the nation.

    This would become known as the " Philosophers Camp [] ". This event was a landmark in the 19th-century intellectual movement, linking nature with art and literature. Although much has been written over many years by scholars and biographers of Emerson's life, little has been written of what has become known as the "Philosophers Camp". Yet, his epic poem "Adirondac" [] reads like a journal of his day to day detailed description of adventures in the wilderness with his fellow members of the Saturday Club.

    This two week camping excursion in the Adirondacks brought him face to face with a true wilderness, something he spoke of in his essay "Nature" [] published in He said, "in the wilderness I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages". Emerson was staunchly opposed to slavery, but he did not appreciate being in the public limelight and was hesitant about lecturing on the subject.

    He did, however, give a number of lectures during the pre-Civil War years, beginning as early as November, He gave a number of speeches and lectures, and notably welcomed John Brown to his home during Brown's visits to Concord. Around this time, in , 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 visited Washington, D. C, at the end of January He gave a public lecture at the Smithsonian on January 31, , and declared:, "The South calls slavery an institution I call it destitution Emancipation is the demand of civilization".

    Lincoln was familiar with Emerson's work, having previously seen him lecture. 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. Emerson delivered his eulogy. He often referred to Thoreau as his best friend, [] despite a falling-out that began in after Thoreau published A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers.

    Emerson served as a pallbearer when Hawthorne was buried in Concord, as Emerson wrote, "in a pomp of sunshine and verdure". Starting in , Emerson's health began declining; he wrote much less in his journals. In the spring of , Emerson took a trip on the transcontinental railroad , barely two years after its completion. Along the way and in California he met a number of dignitaries, including Brigham Young during a stopover in Salt Lake City.

    Part of his California visit included a trip to Yosemite , and while there he met a young and unknown John Muir , a signature event in Muir's career. Emerson's Concord home caught fire on July 24, He called for help from neighbors and, giving up on putting out the flames, all attempted to save as many objects as possible. While the house was being rebuilt, Emerson took a trip to England, continental Europe, and Egypt.

    He left on October 23, , along with his daughter Ellen [] while his wife Lidian spent time at the Old Manse and with friends. His outspoken, uncompromising support for abolitionism later in life caused protest and jeers from crowds when he spoke on the subject. He continued to speak on abolition without concern for his popularity and with increasing radicalism. He tried very hard to not join the public arena as a member of any group or movement, and always kept a strong independence that reflected his individualism.

    Ralph Waldo Emerson Biography

    He always insisted that he wanted no followers, but sought to give man back to himself, as a self-reliant individual. Asked to sum up his work late in life, he said it was his doctrine of "the infinitude of the private man" that remained central. Emerson is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord.

    Although he is more generally recognized as an essayist, Emerson also wrote and translated poetry. Emerson's poetry includes:. The one thing in the world, of value, is the active soul. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall.

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    Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates , and Jesus , and Luther , and Copernicus , and Galileo , and Newton , and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood. But it turns out to be scene-painting and counterfeit. The only thing grief has taught me, is to know how shallow it is.

    That, like all the rest, plays about the surface, and never introduces me into the reality, for contact with which, we would even pay the costly price of sons and lovers. Was it Boscovich who found out that bodies never come in contact? Well, souls never touch their objects. An innavigable sea washes with silent waves between us and the things we aim at and converse with.

    Grief too will make us idealists. Emerson's mother, Ruth, and his aunts raised him and his five remaining siblings a brother and sister had previously died young. After studying at the Boston Latin School which is now the oldest school in the U. At Harvard College, he learned Latin, Greek, geometry, physics, history, and philosophy.

    In , after four years of studying there, Emerson agreed to write and deliver a poem for Harvard's Class Day then called Valedictorian Day , a pre-graduation event. Was he the best poet in the class?

    Ralph Waldo Emerson Facts

    Not exactly. The faculty asked a few other students to be Class Poet, but they turned down the post, so Emerson got the gig. After graduating from Harvard, Emerson went home to teach young women. His older brother, William, ran a school for girls in their mother's Boston home, and Emerson helped him teach students. Later, when William left to study in Germany, Emerson ran the school himself.

    He reportedly disliked teaching , though, so he moved on to plan B: grad school. In , Emerson enrolled at Harvard Divinity School. He decided to become a minister, following in his father's and grandfather's footsteps. Despite struggling with vision problems and failing to graduate from his program, Emerson became licensed to preach in He then worked at a Unitarian church in Boston. In late , Emerson wasn't feeling well. He suffered from tuberculosis, joint pain, and vision problems, so he followed medical advice and went south for a warmer climate near the ocean.

    Augustine, Florida, where he preached and wrote poetry. He also met and befriended Prince Achille Murat, the nephew of the former French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, who had renounced his European titles though his father had already been overthrown and immigrated to the United States. Murat was also a writer, and the two young men reportedly discussed religion, politics, and philosophy.

    When Emerson was 26, he married year-old Ellen Louisa Tucker. The newlyweds lived happily in Boston, but Tucker was suffering from tuberculosis.


    Emerson's mother helped take care of her son's ailing wife, but in , less than two years after getting married, Ellen passed away. Emerson dealt with his grief by writing in his journals "Will the eye that was closed on Tuesday ever beam again in the fullness of love on me? Shall I ever be able to connect the face of outward nature, the mists of the morn, the star of eve, the flowers and all poetry with the heart and life of an enchanting friend? There is one birth and baptism and one first love and the affections cannot keep their youth any more than men.

    The next year, after an extended period of soul-searching, he decided to leave the ministry to become a secular thinker. In , Emerson turned his love of writing into a career as a frequent lecturer. He traveled around New England reading his essays and speaking to audiences about his views on nature, the role of religion, and his travels. In , Emerson gave one of his most famous talks, a commencement speech to graduating students of the Harvard Divinity School.