Ralph Waldo Emerson

Philosopher, Author

1803 – 1882

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Who was Ralph Waldo Emerson?

Ralph Waldo Emerson 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.

Famous Quotes:

  • Conversation is an art in which a man has all mankind for his competitors, for it is that which all are practising every day while they live.
  • Men cease to interest us when we find their limitations. The only sin is limitation. As soon as you once come up with a man's limitations, it is all over with him.
  • A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.
  • Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
  • Cities force growth and make people talkative and entertaining, but they also make them artificial.
  • Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.
  • No one can cheat you out of ultimate success but yourself.
  • If a man knew anything, he would sit in a corner and be modest; but he is such an ignorant peacock, that he goes bustling up and down, and hits on extraordinary discoveries.
  • The sea, washing the equator and the poles, offers its perilous aid, and the power and empire that follow it... Beware of me, it says, but if you can hold me, I am the key to all the lands.
  • The reason why men do not obey us is because they see the mud at the bottom of our eye.

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Born
May 25, 1803
Boston
Also known as
  • Waldo Ralph Emerson
  • Waldo Emerson Ralph
Parents
Children
Religion
  • Transcendentalism
Nationality
  • United States of America
Profession
Education
  • Boston Latin School
  • Harvard Divinity School
  • Harvard University
  • Harvard College
Lived in
  • Boston
  • Massachusetts
  • Concord
  • New York City
Died
Apr 27, 1882
Concord
Resting place
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery

Submitted
on July 23, 2013