A finely honed abridgement of Emerson's principal essays with an introduction that clarifies the essence of Emerson's ideas and establishes their relevance to our own troubled era. This is the first truly accessible edition of Emerson's work, revealing him to be one of America's wisest teachers.
About the Author
< div> < div> Richard Whelan edited with Cornell Capa < i> Robert Capa Photographs< /i> . Whelan studied art history at Yale University and has written extensively about art and photography. His books include < i> Drawing the Line: Volume 1: The Korean War, 1950-1953< /i> .< /div> < /div>
Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803 - April 27, 1882) was an American essayist, lecturer, 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 he disseminated his thoughts 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 ground-breaking 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, then revised them for print. His first two collections of essays - Essays: First Series and Essays: Second Series, published respectively in 1841 and 1844 - represent the core of his thinking, and include such well-known essays as 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 humankind 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."
His essays remain among the linchpins of American thinking, and his work has greatly influenced the thinkers, writers and poets that have followed him. When asked to sum up his work, he said his central doctrine was "the infinitude of the private man." Emerson is also well known as a mentor and friend of fellow Transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau.
"Emerson is the sweetest singer of our highest moments. For anyone in search of a tonic draft of his wisdom, this book, collecting some of his most radiant moods, is a rapture and an inspiration."
"These selections from Emerson's essays, equally severe and consoling, are remarkably current in their wisdom. They are chosen with great care by Richard Whelan, and offer a special unextinguishable light."
-- Roger Rosenblatt