Ralph Waldo Emerson Biography & Facts
Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803 – April 27, 1882), who went by his middle name Waldo, was an American essayist, lecturer, philosopher, abolitionist, and poet who led the transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century. He was seen as a champion of individualism and a prescient critic of the countervailing pressures of society, and his ideology was disseminated through dozens of published essays and more than 1,500 public lectures across the United States.
Emerson gradually moved away from the religious and social beliefs of his contemporaries, formulating and expressing the philosophy of transcendentalism in his 1836 essay "Nature". Following this work, he gave a speech entitled "The American Scholar" in 1837, which Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. considered to be America's "intellectual Declaration of Independence."Emerson wrote most of his important essays as lectures first and then revised them for print. His first two collections of essays, Essays: First Series (1841) and Essays: Second Series (1844), represent the core of his thinking. They include the well-known essays "Self-Reliance", "The Over-Soul", "Circles", "The Poet", and "Experience." Together with "Nature", these essays made the decade from the mid-1830s to the mid-1840s Emerson's most fertile period. Emerson wrote on a number of subjects, never espousing fixed philosophical tenets, but developing certain ideas such as individuality, freedom, the ability for mankind to realize almost anything, and the relationship between the soul and the surrounding world. Emerson's "nature" was more philosophical than naturalistic: "Philosophically considered, the universe is composed of Nature and the Soul." Emerson is one of several figures who "took a more pantheist or pandeist approach by rejecting views of God as separate from the world."He remains among the linchpins of the American romantic movement, and his work has greatly influenced the thinkers, writers and poets that followed him. "In all my lectures," he wrote, "I have taught one doctrine, namely, the infinitude of the private man." Emerson is also well known as a mentor and friend of Henry David Thoreau, a fellow transcendentalist.
Early life, family, and education
Emerson was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on May 25, 1803, a son of Ruth Haskins and the Rev. William Emerson, a Unitarian minister. He was named after his mother's brother Ralph and his father's great-grandmother Rebecca Waldo. Ralph Waldo was the second of five sons who survived into adulthood; the others were William, Edward, Robert Bulkeley, and Charles. Three other children—Phoebe, John Clarke, and Mary Caroline—died in childhood. Emerson was entirely of English ancestry, and his family had been in New England since the early colonial period.Emerson's father died from stomach cancer on May 12, 1811, less than two weeks before Emerson's eighth birthday. Emerson was raised by his mother, with the help of the other women in the family; his aunt Mary Moody Emerson in particular had a profound effect on him. She lived with the family off and on and maintained a constant correspondence with Emerson until her death in 1863.Emerson's formal schooling began at the Boston Latin School in 1812, when he was nine. In October 1817, at age 14, Emerson went to Harvard College and was appointed freshman messenger for the president, requiring Emerson to fetch delinquent students and send messages to faculty. 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, including as a waiter for the Junior Commons and as an occasional teacher working with his uncle Samuel and aunt Sarah Ripley in Waltham, Massachusetts. By his senior year, Emerson decided to go by his middle name, Waldo. Emerson served as Class Poet; as was custom, he presented an original poem on Harvard's Class Day, a month before his official graduation on August 29, 1821, when he was 18. He did not stand out as a student and graduated in the exact middle of his class of 59 people. In the early 1820s, Emerson was a teacher at the School for Young Ladies (which was run by his brother William). He would next spend two years living in a cabin in the Canterbury section of Roxbury, Massachusetts, where he wrote and studied nature. In his honor, this area is now called Schoolmaster Hill in Boston's Franklin Park.In 1826, faced with poor health, Emerson went to seek a warmer climate. He first went to Charleston, South Carolina, but found the weather was still too cold. He then went farther south, to St. Augustine, Florida, where he took long walks on the beach and began writing poetry. While in St. Augustine he made the acquaintance of Prince Achille Murat, the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte. Murat was two years his senior; they became good friends and enjoyed each other's company. The two engaged in enlightening discussions of religion, society, philosophy, and government. Emerson considered Murat an important figure in his intellectual education.While in St. Augustine, Emerson had his first encounter with slavery. At one point, he attended a meeting of the Bible Society while a slave auction was taking place in the yard outside. He wrote, "One ear therefore heard the glad tidings of great joy, whilst the other was regaled with 'Going, gentlemen, going!'"
After Harvard, Emerson assisted his brother William in a school for young women established in their mother's house, after he had established his own school in Chelmsford, Massachusetts; when his brother William went to Göttingen to study law in mid-1824, Ralph Waldo closed the school but continued to teach in Cambridge, Massachusetts, until early 1825. Emerson was accepted into the Harvard Divinity School in late 1824, and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa in 1828. Emerson's brother Edward, two years younger than he, entered the office of the lawyer Daniel Webster, after graduating from Harvard first in his class. Edward's physical health began to deteriorate, and he soon suffered a mental collapse as well; he was taken to McLean Asylum in June 1828 at age 25. Although he recovered his mental equilibrium, he died in 1834, apparently from long-standing tuberculosis. Another of Emerson's bright and promising younger brothers, Charles, born in 1808, died in 1836, also of tuberculosis, making him the third young person in Emerson's innermost circle to die in a period of a few years.
Emerson met his first wife, Ellen Louisa Tucker, in Concord, New Hampshire, on Christmas Day, 1827, and married her when she was 18 two years later. The couple moved to Boston, with Emerson's mother, Ruth, moving with them to help take care of Ellen, who was already ill with tuberculosis. Less than two years after that, on February 8, 1831, Ellen died, at the age of 20, after uttering her last words: "I have not forgotten the peace and joy". E.... Discover the Ralph Waldo Emerson popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Ralph Waldo Emerson books.