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Emerson, Ralph Waldo

(1803–82). B. Boston, Massachusetts; ancestry formed an unbroken line of clergymen reaching back to early New Eng. hist.; educ. Harvard Coll. and Divinity School, Cambridge, Massachusetts; pastor, Second Ch., Unitarian, Boston, 1829; resigned 1832 because of unwillingness to administer the Lord's Supper; traveled abroad 1832–33; personally acquainted with S. T. Coleridge,* W. Wordsworth,* and T. Carlyle* (b. 1795); settled in Concord, Massachusetts, 1833; essayist, lecturer, poet. His 1st vol., Nature (1836), in which he announced his transcendentalist viewpoint, met with only mild reception. But 2 significant addresses, The American Scholar (1837) and The Divinity School Address (1838), secured him a wide following. Common themes move through his essays, addresses, and poetry: man can know truth intuitively through Reason, which links him to the progressively unfolding revelation of the Oversoul* in nature; man, Am. man particularly, should exercise the private capacities of mind and esp. his moral qualities, an emphasis Emerson felt was lacking in prominent thinkers of his time. Emerson's ability to convince his audiences and readers of the individual's great personal worth has led to his being considered a moral teacher, effective essayist, inspiring speaker, and experimental poet. Works include Nature; The American Scholar; The Divinity School Address; Essays (2 series); Poems; Representative Men; English Traits; The Conduct of Life. See also Idealism; Transcendentalism. WGR

R. L. Rusk, The Life of Ralph Waldo Emerson (New York, 1949); The Transcendentalists: An Anthology, ed. P. Miller (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1950); S. E. Whicher, Freedom and Fate: An Inner Life of Ralph Waldo Emerson (Philadelphia, 1953).

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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