Ralph Waldo Emerson Essay

Ralph Waldo Emerson Essay

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Ralph Waldo Emerson


Ralph Waldo Emerson was born on May 25, 1803 in Boston, Massachusetts. Early in his life, Emerson followed in the footsteps of his father and became minister, but this ended in 1832 when he felt he could no longer serve as a minister in good conscience. He experienced doubts about the Christian church and its doctrine. These reservations were temporarily alleviated by his brief association with Unitarianism, but soon Emerson became discontent with even their decidedly liberal interpretation of Christianity. After a while, however, he discovered the writings of British poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, and used their works to shape his own.

Emerson’s wife died in 1831, an event that likely pushed him towards a path of self-discovery. At the end of 1832, Emerson left for Europe. While there, he had the opportunity to meet some of his literary idols: William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Thomas Carlyle. These relationships would continue to inspire Emerson as he forged his unique relationship with the universe.

When Emerson returned to America in 1833, he began a career as a lecturer and published his first book, the now famous, Nature. After a series of radical lectures, Emerson shifted from sometime preacher and scholar to speaker and full-time author. His work, Essays, was published in 1841. This work only added to his notoriety as a nonconformist. He continued to intermittently publish and lecture in the United States, until he embarked upon a series of lectures in Europe in 1847. Emerson returned to the United States, and resumed lecturing and writing. He made numerous trips to speak around the nation, and again in Europe, until his death o...


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... scholars all over the world, and taught at some of the earliest levels in the American education system. He is the embodiment of the American spirit, a man full of freedom and determination, restless in his search for a unique understanding of life.



Works Cited

Baym, Nina, ed. The Norton Anthology of American Literature: Sixth Edition. Vol. A of

Literature to 1820. New York: Norton, 2003.

Buell, Lawrence. “Ralph Waldo Emerson.” Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 1: The

American Renaissance in New England Ed. Joel Myerson. Gale, 1978.

48-60. Literature Resource Center.

Porte, Joel. Representative Man: Ralph Waldo Emerson in His Time. Oxford UP, 1979. A Short Biographical Sketch of Ralph Waldo Emerson. 11 Nov. 2002

Yannella, Donald. Ralph Waldo Emerson. Boston: Twayne, 1982.

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