Essayist, poet, and philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882) propounded a transcendental idealism emphasizing self-reliance, self-culture, and individual expression. The six essays and one address included in this volume, selected from Essays, First Series (1841) and Essays, Second Series (1844), offer a representative sampling of his views outlining that moral idealism as well as a hint of the later skepticism that colored his thought. In addition to the celebrated title essay, the others included here are "History," "Friendship," "The Over-Soul," "The Poet," and "Experience," plus the well-known and frequently read Harvard Divinity School Address.
He was an ordained minister, renowned orator, and beloved author and poet whose ideas on nature, philosophy, and religion influenced authors such as Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman. Through his writings, Emerson ardently professed the importance of being an individual, resisting the comfort of conformity, and creating an art of living in harmony with nature. This soul-satisfying anthology of twelve favorite essays is a treasure. In the title essay, Emerson writes about the extraordinary power of nature as a way of bringing the divine into our lives. In "Gifts," he reminds us that flowers and gold may be acceptable to those we love, but "the only gift is a portion of thyself." "Spiritual Laws" points out that because a higher law than our own rules the world, there is no need for struggle. Other essays include "Character," "Prudence," "Intellect," "Love," "Beauty," "The American Scholar" address and others. Readers of all ages will want to keep this volume on hand to inspire and refresh the spirit
Introduction by Mary Oliver Commentary by Henry James, Robert Frost, Matthew Arnold, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Henry David Thoreau
The definitive collection of Emerson’s major speeches, essays, and poetry, The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson chronicles the life’s work of a true “American Scholar.” As one of the architects of the transcendentalist movement, Emerson embraced a philosophy that championed the individual, emphasized independent thought, and prized “the splendid labyrinth of one’s own perceptions.” More than any writer of his time, he forged a style distinct from his European predecessors and embodied and defined what it meant to be an American. Matthew Arnold called Emerson’s essays “the most important work done in prose.”
The major works of one of the nineteenth century’s most influential philosophers
In the early days of the American experiment, as the states spread across the continent and the young nation was reshaped by the Industrial Revolution, no intellectual held more power than Ralph Waldo Emerson. The leading light of the Transcendentalists, Emerson spent his life devising a uniquely American philosophy, a worldview as suited to the bustling docks of Boston as it is to the endless expanses of the West. Through lectures, letters, and essays, Emerson helped a nation discover its identity.
In this collection, which includes such monumental essays as “Nature,” “Self-Reliance,” and “The American Scholar,” Emerson brilliantly articulates his philosophy of individualism and nonconformity. An inspiration to Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, and countless other literary and political figures, Emerson exerted a profound influence that continues to be felt more than a century after his death.
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Ralph Waldo Emerson is one of the most important figures in American nature writing, yet until now readers have had no book devoted to this central theme in his work. "The Best Read Naturalist" fills this lacuna, placing several of Emerson’s lesser-known pieces of nature writing in conversation with his canonical essays. Organized chronologically, the thirteen selections—made up of sermons, lectures, addresses, and essays—reveal an engagement with natural history that spanned Emerson’s career. As we watch him grapple with what he called the "book of nature," a more environmentally connected thinker emerges—a "green" Emerson deeply concerned with the physical world and fascinated with the ability of science to reveal a correspondence between the order of nature and that of the mind. "The Best Read Naturalist" illuminates the vital influence that the study of natural history had on the development of Emerson’s mature philosophy.
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