Emerson, Ralph Waldo (1803-1882)

   Ralph Waldo Emerson was born May 25,1803, in Boston to William Emerson and Ruth Haskins Emerson. By the time he was seventeen, he was on his way to becoming one of America's most influential authors and thinkers. He began keeping journals which he would continue throughout most of his life. His first series was called "Wide World" because they expressed his thoughts on a wide range of topics.
   From 1821- 1825, he attended Harvard College but did not excel. He was admitted to the Harvard Divinity School and after graduating, served as a traveling preacher for several years. In 1829, he was ordained a junior Unitarian minister of Boston's Old North Church. In September, he married Ellen Tucker who was to die two years later of tuberculosis. Within the year, Emerson was to resign because of doctrinal disputes.
   On a fateful trip to Europe at Christmastime, Emerson met Thomas Carlyle, Samuel Coleridge, and William Wordsworth, whose ideas assisted him in the creation of a philosophy that embraced both the sciences and spirituality. Buoyed by his embrace of transcendentalism, he returned home in 1835 where he settled in Concord, Massachusetts. He married again later that year to Lydia Jackson.
   Accompanied by Margaret Fuller, Thoreau, and others, he created a center for Transcendental studies. A noted lecturer, Emerson called for American intellectual independence from Europe in his Phi Beta Kappa address at Harvard ("The American Scholar," 1837). In an address at the Harvard divinity school (1838), he asserted that redemption could be found only in one's own soul and intuition. Emerson developed the transcendentalist themes from his famous Journal in the magazine The Dial and in a series of Essays from 1840 to 1844. Throughout the remainder of his life, he traveled, lectured, wrote, and raised a family. Among the best known of his essays are "The Over-Soul," "Compensation," and "Self-Reliance." He is also noted for his poems, including "Threnody," "Brahma," and "The Problem." He occasionally touched on the Arthurian realm.
   Emerson died in Concord on April 27,1882, at the age of 78 and was buried in Sleepy Hollow. For the next almost thirty years, his lectures and journals were slowly published. He was a prolific writer and thinker for a changing America.

Poetry Section