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Ralph Waldo Emerson
Transcript of Ralph Waldo Emerson
Emerson was born on May 25, 1803 in Boston, Massachusetts to William and Ruth Haskins Emerson. William, a Unitarian minister, died when Emerson was only eight years old, making his childhood hard for him and his brothers. He was the second of five boys that survived childhood.
Emerson's grave in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord.
Full name: Ralph Waldo Emerson
Occupation: Philosopher, Poet, and Journalist
Born: May 25, 1803
Died: April 27, 1882
Education: Boston Public Latin School, Harvard University, and Harvard Divinity School
Birth Place: Boston, Massachusetts
Death Place: Concord, Massachusetts
Despite his rough childhood, Emerson received a excellent education. After his father's death, Emerson's mother and aunt, Mary Moody Emerson, were in charge of his well-being and education. At the age of nine, Emerson attended the Boston Public Latin School. He would later attend Harvard College in 1817 until he graduated in 1821. Lastly, after wishing to pursue the study of theology, he would attend Harvard's Divinity School in 1825.
Following his father's footsteps, Emerson began preaching as a Unitarian in October 1826 and in July 1829 was ordained by the Unitarians as a pastor at Boston's Second Church. Also in 1829, Emerson married Ellen Tucker Emerson. When she later died in 1831 due to tuberculosis at the age of nineteen, Emerson faced a spiritual crisis and would later resign his pastorate in December 1832. He would remarry in 1835 to Lydia Jackson of Plymouth.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
-Successful Career and Death-
Emerson was quickly acquainted with the group known as "Transcendentalists" after publishing his first piece of work, "Nature", in 1836. This group consisted of people who rejected the view of the philosopher John Locke. Throughout his career, Emerson wrote numerous essays that would make him famous. These included widely known essays such as "Experience" (1844), "The American Scholar" (1837), "Self-Reliance" (1841), and many more. He also wrote a handful of poems. Emerson continued to give speeches and write until his health would not let him continue. Emerson died on April 27, 1882. He is buried in Concord's Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.
"Self-Reliance" is widely argued as Emerson's most famous and inspiring essay. This widely-known essay
wasn't actually published until 1841 in Emerson's first series of essays. However, long before it's publication, Emerson had given numerous speeches that contained many of the same ideas and thoughts that later appeared in "Self-Reliance." Some believe that Emerson's philosophy for "Self-Reliance" was ignited when his first wife was struggling with tuberculosis.
-Theme and Purpose-
The theme in many of Emerson's writings, that individuals should be more independent minded and avoid conformity and false consistency, is clearly apparent in "Self-Reliance." Emerson believes that society as a whole have become accustomed to following the "norm" even if it makes them unhappy. He urges each individual to be more independent and follow his or her own instincts and ideas. In the essay, Emerson insists that true happiness can't be attained by giving into popular opinion or social pressure, but instead by following your own heart, regardless if it's against the social standard. His famous saying "trust thyself" simply refers to his viewpoint on how to live life.
-Influence and Popularity-
Emerson is widely considered the most influential American writer in the nineteenth century. His writings were known to influence other writers including Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, Emily Dickinson, Louisa May Alcott, William James, Theodore Dreiser, Robert Frost, John Dewey, and his namesake Ralph Waldo Ellison. Emerson changed the way literature was written and viewed.
-List of Popular Essays-
"The American Scholar"
"New England Reformers"
Old Manse in Concord, Massachusetts