Ralph Waldo Emerson was the most widely known man of letters in America during his lifetime, establishing himself as a prolific poet, essayist, popular lecturer, and supporter of social change who was skeptical of reform and reformers. He pioneered the practice of self-improvement through reading and writing, and influenced many other American thinkers and writers including Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Thomas Carlyle, and Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.
Emerson is best known for his book Nature, which was published in 1836 when he was 26 years old. The book was an immediate success and is considered one of the first treatises on ecology. In it, Emerson argues that humanity has a duty to respect and preserve nature because it is only through understanding our connection with nature that we can appreciate "our own little value."
He also played an important role in the development of American transcendentalism, a philosophical movement that began in 1780 with John Locke's publication of Two Treatises of Government. Transcendentalists believed that human beings are capable of reaching beyond the material world to find eternal truths about the universe. They looked to poets, artists, and philosophers for insight into how to live a good life.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–822) began his career as a Unitarian preacher in Boston but rose to international prominence as a lecturer and author of writings such as "Self-Reliance," "History," "The Over-Soul," and "Fate."
He is considered one of the most important American philosophers and poets. His ideas on individualism, self-reliance, and nature worship have influenced many thinkers and writers including Henry David Thoreau, William Wordsworth, and John Muir.
Emerson is also regarded as an influential social thinker who helped to transform American society by advocating an end to slavery, women's rights, and ethnic prejudice. He called for a new form of American civilization built upon moral principles rather than material wealth.
In addition to his writing, lectures, and essays, Emerson is best known today for his famous poem "Nature." First published in 1836, it has been interpreted by several scholars as a reflection on America's founding documents: the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
Many phrases that are now part of our everyday language were first used by Emerson. These include "soul-searching" and "self-reliance."
Emerson is also responsible for some words that have been adopted into common usage despite not being part of his vocabulary.
Emerson's concept of man-thinking is used to represent the ideal scholar, who encompasses both unity and individuality, or what Emerson refers to as a scholar in "the right state." Man According to Emerson, thinking is something that every scholar can and should aim for by studying nature, reading books, and participating in activities.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803–April 27, 1882), better known by his middle name Waldo, was an American writer, speaker, philosopher, abolitionist, and poet who headed the mid-century transcendentalist movement. Called the "intellectual Declaration of Independence" of the United States
Concord, Massachusetts, United States Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803–April 27, 1882), better known by his middle name Waldo, was an American writer, speaker, philosopher, abolitionist, and poet who headed the mid-century transcendentalist movement. A leading voice of the New England conscience, he is regarded as one of the most important philosophers in American history.
Emerson rose to national prominence during his lifetime. His essays published in various magazines brought him fame during the 1820s and 1830s. In 1837, he delivered the famous "Address at the Opening of the First International Peace Conference" in Geneva. This address helped draw attention to the cause of international peace and laid out a framework for resolving conflicts that has been followed ever since. In 1841, he married Mary Ann Osgood, with whom he had three children. The following year, he left Boston for a period of foreign travel that lasted nearly five years. Upon his return home in 1846, he gave up teaching to focus on writing. That same year, he joined William Lloyd Garrison and other activists in founding the American Anti-Slavery Society. In 1850, he delivered the keynote speech at the first convention of the Free Speech League. In 1852, he traveled to Europe again, this time for nine months. Back in America, he began to give lectures more frequently, especially after the start of the Civil War in 1861.
Ralph Waldo Emerson influenced other writers, advocated for a national literature, and imbued his writings with the goal of spiritual harmony as opposed to the supremacy of temporal gain. That harmony is mirrored in his poems, which embraces the natural world that surrounds him. He also encouraged other writers to express themselves freely without concern for social convention.
Emerson's belief that all people have a spirit within them that connects them to a greater whole made him fight against slavery and injustice throughout his life. These beliefs led him to write essays and poems about politics, religion, and society with an eye toward improving humanity.
He started publishing essays in newspapers that focused on politics, religion, and morality. Many of these pieces were inspired by letters he received from friends and readers. This form of writing became known as "Essayism" and was later adopted by other authors who wanted to share their ideas with the public.
Emerson's belief that individual consciousness makes up the universe led him to advocate for a national literature that would express the best qualities of each citizen. In 1837, he published "The American Scholar", a poem that expresses this idea through imagery of nature. The work has been interpreted as both a call for Americans to take pride in their country and to open their minds to different cultures around them so that they can understand why other countries are like they are.