Synopses & Reviews
When Emerson died in 1882 he was the most famous public intellectual in America. Yet his most remarkable literary creation-his journals- remained unpublished. Begun when he was a precocious Harvard junior of 16 and continued without significant lapse for almost 60 years, Emerson's journals were his life's work. They were the starting point for virtually everything in his celebrated essays, lectures, and poems; a "Savings Bank," in which his occasional insights began to cohere and yield interest; a commonplace book, in which he gathered the choicest anecdotes, ideas, and phrases from his voracious and wide-ranging reading; and a fascinating diary in the ordinary sense of the term. It would be a hundred years after his death before these intimate records would appear in print in their entirety, and they are still, at over three million words, among the least known and least available of Emerson's writings. The journals reveal what Emerson called "the infinitude of the private man"-by turns whimsical, incisive, passionate, curious, and candid-in astonishing new ways.
With Selected Journals 1841-1877 and its companion volume Selected Journals 1820-1842, The Library of America presents the most ample and comprehensive nonspecialist edition of Emerson's great work ever published-one that retains the original order in which he composed his thoughts and preserves the dramatic range of his unique style in long, uninterrupted passages, but without the daunting critical apparatus of the 16-volume scholarly edition.
This volume opens with an Emerson at the height of his powers, soon to write his celebrated essays "Experience" and "Self-Reliance," and in the midst of a vibrant intellectual circle. It follows his anguished reactions to the nation's intensifying political turmoil: his anger at the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, his antislavery activism, and his day- to-day experience of the Civil War (including a wartime trip to Washington, D.C., where he met President Lincoln). Along the way, he laments untimely losses: his first-born son Waldo at the age of five, and his friends Henry David Thoreau and Margaret Fuller. By the end of his life, Emerson was a revered national figure; the volume includes his final journal writings.
Edited by Lawrence Rosenwald-Anne Pierce Rogers Professor of American Literature at Wellesley College and author of Emerson and the Art of the Diary-each volume includes a 16-page portfolio of images of Emerson and his contemporaries, a note on the selections, extensive notes, biographical sketches, a chronology, and an index.
This major new volume offers a wide selection of works from Emerson's lectures and essays, including some that have seldom been reprinted such as Quotation and Originality. In addition, leading Emerson critic Richard Poirier provides helpful annotations to a generous selection of poems, making this the most accessible edition of Emerson currently available.
About the Author
Ralph Waldo Emerson, the son of a Unitarian minister and a chaplain during the American Revolution, was born in 1803 in Boston. He attended the Boston Latin School, and in 1817 entered Harvard, graduating in 1820. Emerson supported himself as a schoolteacher from 1821-26. In 1826 he was "approbated to preach," and in 1829 became pastor of the Scond Church (Unitarian) in Boston. That same year he married Ellen Louise Tucker, who was to die of tuberculosis only seventeen months later. In 1832 Emerson resigned his pastorate and traveled to Eurpe, where he met Coleridge, Wordsworth, and Carlyle. He settled in Concord, Massachusetts, in 1834, where he began a new career as a public lecturer, and married Lydia Jackson a year later. A group that gathered around Emerson in Concord came to be known as "the Concord school," and included Bronson Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Margaret Fuller. Every year Emerson made a lecture tour; and these lectures were the source of most of his essays. Nature (1836), his first published work, contained the essence of his transcendental philosophy , which views the world of phenomena as a sort of symbol of the inner life and emphasizes individual freedom and self-reliance. Emerson's address to the Phi Beta Kappa society of Harvard (1837) and another address to the graduating class of the Harvard Divinity School (1838) applied his doctrine to the scholar and the clergyman, provoking sharp controversy. An ardent abolitionist, Emerson lectured and wrote widely against slavery from the 1840's through the Civil War. His principal publications include two volumes of Essays (1841, 1844), Poems (1847), Representative Men (1850), The Conduct of Life (1860), and Society and Solitude (1870). He died of pneumonia in 1882 and was buried in Concord.