Biography of Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Famous English Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson Biography

Ralph Waldo Emerson Famous as Poet, essayist and Transcendentalist
Ralph Waldo Emerson Born on 25 May 1803
Ralph Waldo Emerson Born in Boston, Massachusetts
Ralph Waldo Emersont Died on 27 April 1882
Ralph Waldo Emerson Nationality United States
Ralph Waldo Emerson Works & Achievements : Society and Solitude, Letters and Social Aims, Nature

Ralph Waldo Emerson was a successful essayist, poet and philosopher of America who stirred up controversies with his contemptuous views on Christianity and church and contributed in the New Thought movement as one of its prominent leaders by developing the ‘Transcendentalism’.

Ralph denounced the social and religious beliefs of his equals and expressed his philosophy of Transcendentalism in his essay such as Nature and lectures worldwide. The great orator of all time, he delivered his famous speech The American Scholar in 1837, which would mark its presence in the history of America.

Ralph once again stir fresh controversies from all sides for his support to abolitionism in his later life and was often subjected to the criticism and harm from his countrymen.

As poet and essayist, Emerson’s best selected works include Society and Solitude (1870) Letters and Social Aims, Nature and The American Scholar.

Ralph Waldo Emerson Childhood & Education
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Ralph Waldo Emerson was born on 25 May 1803 in Boston, Massachusetts, America. Of five sons of Ruth Haskins and the Rev. William Emerson, Ralph was their second son to survive into adulthood. His other surviving siblings were William, Edward, Robert Bulkeley and Charles. Ralph’s father died of stomach cancer when he was as young as eight, which shook his tranquil childhood for a while.

Now with increased responsibilities, his mother raised him with the help of his aunt Mary Moody Emerson, who would become a great influence in his later life. A woman of intellect and virtue, she spent most time with Ralph and maintained a cordial relation with the family until her death in 1863. After initial schooling at home, Ralph was sent to the Boston Latin School in 1812, at the age of nine.

Later in 1817, when he was 14, Emerson enrolled in to Harvard College, where he acted as the class poet citing his original poetries on occasions. He received his graduation degree in 1821, when he was eighteen.

Ralph Waldo Emerson Early Life & Career

Upon finishing his education, Emerson took on helping his brother with running a school for young ladies. He began to teach there and for the next several years, earned his living as a teacher. In 1825, Ralph went on to joining the Harvard Divinity School.

In March 1829, Emerson was called by Boston’s Second Church to serve as its junior priest; he accepted and was ordained on 11 March 1829. In the same year, he met his first wife Ellen Louisa Tucker and married her. The couple settled in Boston where Ellen died of Tuberculosis on 8 February 1831, at the age of 20.

A devastated Emerson deeply mourned over her death for a long time. His faith in Christianity and church was shaken by the tragic death of his wife and he began to question the church’s system.

Ralph Waldo Emerson further qualms about public prayers and Communion services ultimately resulted in his resignation in 1832 after he fell out with the officials ofthe church. According to the journals maintained by him, he believed that ‘Jesus was a great man, but not the God’.

In 1832, Emerson set off on a tour to Europe where he met William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and several other contemporary authors. He returned from the trip on 9 October 1833 and went on to live with his mother in Massachusetts.

On 14 September 1835, Emerson married for a second time to Lydia Jackson who would give birth to their four children Waldo, Ellen, Edith and Edward Waldo Emerson.

The Transcendentalism movement of Ralph Waldo Emerson

With the help of his mated and supporters, Emerson founded the Transcendental Club which was supposed to be the hub for their movement. The first meeting of its members was held on 19 September 1836. In the same year, Emerson’s first essay called Nature was published under an unknown identity.

The next year Emerson gave his best known lecture The American Scholar in which he addressed the American calling them to establish it own literary identity.

In 1840, The Transcendental group issued a journal The Dial with George Ripley as its managing editor and Margaret Fuller as its first editor. The journal which was became popular as the most ‘thought provoking’ journal ever, served as the official publication of  Transcendentalist movement until 1944. The next year 1942, proved to be unfortunate for Emersion, whose son died of scarlet fever leaving him in utter despair and depression.
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Ralph Waldo Emerson Later Years & Death

Ralph was anti-slavery person but it was not until the American Civil War broke that he came forward for the cause. Towards the end of his life, Emerson suffered from a memory loss and by the end of 1972, it became known to public. In 1872, Emerson’s home caught fire in a tragic incident.

Though he tried saving as many documents and important objects as possible, the incident put an end to his lecturing career. In 1874, an anthology was published by Emerson which consisted poetries by other contemporaries such as Anna Laetitia Barbauld, Julia Caroline Dorr and Lucy Larcom.

Though Emerson remained active during his last years, by 1879, he had completely ceased appearing in public for lectures on account of hismemory loss and ailing health and only people close to him were allowed to visit him. On 19 April 1882, Emerson fell sick with what was diagnosed as pneumonia and died on 27 April 1882. His body now rests in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord in Massachusetts.

Ralph Waldo Emerson Notable Works

Emerson wrote his first book ‘Nature’ in 1836, which consists of his essays Nature, Commodity, Beauty, Language, Discipline, Idealism, Spirit, Prospects, The American Scholar, Divinity School Address, Literary Ethics, The Method of Nature, Man the Reformer, Introductory Lecture on the Times, The Conservative, The Transcendentalist, and The Young American. In 1856, he wrote the accounts of his travels which became known as English Trait.

Essays written by him in 1841, in the first series include History, Self-Reliance, Compensation, Spiritual Laws, Love, Friendship, Prudence, Heroism, The Over-Soul, Circles, Intellect and Art. The Second Series, written in 1844 includes The Poet, Experience, Character, Manners, Gifts, Nature, Politics, Nominalist and Realist, and New England Reformers.

Ralph Waldo Emerson poetry collection ‘Poems’ was published in 1847. The Conduct of Life was published in 1860, just before Emerson went on a North American lecture series followed by his next collection of poetry May-Day and Other Pieces in 1867. He next wrote Society and Solitude, published in 1870. Apart from these, Emerson authored “Natural History of Intellect” -a series of lectures- delivered at Harvard University.

Timeline of Ralph Waldo Emerson :

1803 – Ralph Waldo Emerson was born on 25 May 1803.
1812 – Ralph was sent to the Boston Latin School in 1812.
1817 – Emerson enrolled in to Harvard College.

1821 – He received his graduation degree in 1821.
1825 – Ralph went on to joining the Harvard Divinity School.
1829 – Emerson was called by Boston’s Second Church to serve as its junior priest.
1829 – Emerson married his first wife Ellen Louisa Tucker in 1829.
1831 – Ellen died of Tuberculosis.
1832 – Emerson resigned from the Church.
1832 – Emerson set off on a tour to Europe.
1835 – Emerson married to Lydia Jackson on 14 September 1835.
1836 – Emerson founded the Transcendental Club and first meeting of its members was held on 19 September 1836.
1840 – The Transcendental group issued a journal The Dial.
1842 – Emerson’s son died of scarlet fever.
1844 – The publication of The Dial was ceased.
1872 – Emerson’s home caught fire and he suffered from a memory loss.
1874 – An anthology was published by Emerson.
1882 – Emerson fell sick with what was diagnosed as pneumonia.
1882 – He died on 27 April 1882.