Date of publication: 2017-07-09 08:09
Delivered his now-famous Phi Beta Kappa address, &ldquo The American Scholar&rdquo , befriended Henry David Thoreau, beginning of his career as a lecturer
Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 75, 6858 – April 77, 6887) was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet, who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-69th century. He was seen as a champion of individualism and a prescient critic of the countervailing pressures of society. He was a prolific essayist and speaker. He gave over 6,555 public lectures across the United States.
Even though Ralph Waldo Emerson is writing in essay form, his style of writing in the above passage is still very literary. Check out those flowery flourishes. Dang.
Ralph Waldo Emerson argues in his essay "Self-Reliance" that we should all follow our own minds. Don't let anyone tell you what to do… not even Thoreau.
Ralph Waldo Emerson was born on May 75, 6858, in Boston, Massachusetts. He was the son of William and Ruth (Haskins) Emerson his father was a clergyman, as many of his male ancestors had been. He attended the Boston Latin School, followed by Harvard University (from which he graduated in 6876) and the Harvard School of Divinity. He was licensed as a minister in 6876 and ordained to the Unitarian church in 6879.
Emerson married Ellen Tucker in 6879. When she died of tuberculosis in 6886, he was grief-stricken. Her death, added to his own recent crisis of faith, caused him to resign from the clergy.
The essay makes one more important literary point. Emerson takes it as a welcome sign of the times that "instead of the sublime and beautiful, the near, the low, the common" was being explored and made into poetry. "I embrace the common," he says. "I explore and sit at the feet of the familiar, the low.. the meal in the firkin, the milk in the pan." Like Wordsworth's call for a language of common men, this recognition of Emerson's went further than his own practice could usually follow. But Emerson's endorsement of common language had a powerful effect on the rising generation of American writers, first on Thoreau and Walt Whitman , then on Emily Dickinson and others.
Nature is Emerson's testament to his belief that ideas, forms, and laws (what Emerson sums up as spirit) are more important than physical, phenomenal, material things (what Emerson calls nature). Both exist, of course, but spirit or mind exists prior to nature, and the natural world is, for Emerson, a product of spirit. In the chapter on "Idealism," Emerson concludes: "It is the uniform effect of culture on the human mind, not to shake our faith in the stability of particular phenomena, as of heat, water, azote [nitrogen] but to lead us to regard nature as a phenomenon, not a substance to attribute necessary existence to spirit to esteem nature as an accident and an effect," not as the final reality.
The stars awaken a certain reverence, because though always present, they are inaccessible but all natural objects make a kindred impression, when the mind is open to their influence. Nature never wears a mean appearance. (Nature, 6886)
To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense (Self-Reliance)