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  • Published: 4 March 2010
  • ISBN: 9781598530674
  • Imprint: Library of America
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 992
  • RRP: $75.99

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Essays




When Emerson died in 1882 he was the most famous public intellectual in America. Yet his most remarkable literary creation--his journals--remained unpublished. Begun when he was a precocious Harvard junior of 16 and continued without significant lapse for almost 60 years, Emerson's journals were his life's work. They were the starting point for virtually everything in his celebrated essays, lectures, and poems. It would be a hundred years after his death before these intimate records would appear in print in their entirety, and they are still, at over three million words, among the least known and least available of Emerson's writings.

With Selected Journals 1820-1842 and its companion volume Selected Journals 1841-1877, The Library of America presents the most ample and comprehensive nonspecialist edition of Emerson's great work ever published--one that retains the original order in which he composed his thoughts and preserves the dramatic range of his unique style in long, uninterrupted passages, but without the daunting critical apparatus of the 16-volume scholarly edition. Each volume includes a 16-page portfolio of images of Emerson and his contemporaries, a note on the selections, extensive notes, biographical sketches, a chronology, and an index.

This volume begins with Emerson's first journal entry, on January 25, 1820, in a homemade booklet he titled The Wide World, and follows him through his early years at Harvard College and the Divinity School, his ordination as a Unitarian minister, his marriage to Ellen Tucker and her untimely death, his fateful decision to leave the ministry, and his travels in England and on the Continent. It offers an irreplaceable perspective on the intellectual currents of the day--the emergence of Transcendentalism; the furor over Emerson's "Divinity School Address"; the founding of The Dial; experiments in communal living at Fruitlands and Brook Farm--and intimate sketches of Emerson's friends and contemporaries, including Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, Thomas Carlyle, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and others.

LIBRARY OF AMERICA is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nation’s literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, America’s best and most significant writing. The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries.

  • Published: 4 March 2010
  • ISBN: 9781598530674
  • Imprint: Library of America
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 992
  • RRP: $75.99

About the author

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Date: 2013-08-06
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803­-1882) was a renowned lecturer and writer, whose ideas on philosophy, religion, and literature influenced many writers, including Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman. After an undergraduate career at Harvard, he studied at Harvard Divinity School and became an ordained minister, continuing a long line of ministers in his family. He traveled widely and lectured, and became well known for his publications Essays and Nature.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the son of a Unitarian minister and a chaplain during the American Revolution, was born in 1803 in Boston. He attended the Boston Latin School, and in 1817 entered Harvard, graduating in 1820. Emerson supported himself as a schoolteacher from 1821-26. In 1826 he was 'approbated to preach,' and in 1829 became pastor of the Scond Church (Unitarian) in Boston. That same year he married Ellen Louise Tucker, who was to die of tuberculosis only seventeen months later.

In 1832 Emerson resigned his pastorate and traveled to Eurpe, where he met Coleridge, Wordsworth, and Carlyle. He settled in Concord, Massachusetts, in 1834, where he began a new career as a public lecturer, and married Lydia Jackson a year later. A group that gathered around Emerson in Concord came to be known as 'the Concord school,' and included Bronson Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Margaret Fuller.

Every year Emerson made a lecture tour; and these lectures were the source of most of his essays. Nature (1836), his first published work, contained the essence of his transcendental philosophy, which views the world of phenomena as a sort of symbol of the inner life and emphasizes individual freedom and self-reliance. Emerson's address to the Phi Beta Kappa society of Harvard (1837) and another address to the graduating class of the Harvard Divinity School (1838) applied his doctrine to the scholar and the clergyman, provoking sharp controversy. An ardent abolitionist, Emerson lectured and wrote widely against slavery from the 1840's through the Civil War.

His principal publications include two volumes of Essays (1841, 1844), Poems (1847), Representative Men (1850), The Conduct of Life (1860), and Society and Solitude (1870). He died of pneumonia in 1882 and was buried in Concord.

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Praise for Ralph Waldo Emerson

“In his journals, Emerson focused on a wide range of topics, from moral truth to domestic gossip, from Concord to European travels, from solitude to democracy, slavery, and the US economy. His frame of reference oscillates between nature and human character (of both historical figures and his contemporaries). Both history and autobiography, these volumes are captivating. Highly recommended.” Choice

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