Ralph Waldo Emerson: Selected Journals 1820-1842

Overview

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 Yet his most remarkable literary creation-his journals- remained unpublished.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 ...

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Overview

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 Yet his most remarkable literary creation-his journals- remained unpublished.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 1820-1842 and its companion volume Selected Journals 1841-1877, 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 begins with Emerson's first journal entry, on January 25, 1820, in a homemade booklet he titled The Wide World, and follows him through his early years at Harvard College and the Divinity School, his ordination as a Unitarian minister, his marriage to Ellen Tucker and her untimely death, his fateful decision to leave the ministry, and his travels in England and on the Continent. It offers an irreplaceable perspective on the intellectual currents of the day-the emergence of Transcendentalism; the furor over Emerson's "Divinity School Address"; the founding of The Dial; experiments in communal living at Fruitlands and Brook Farm-and intimate sketches of Emerson's friends and contemporaries, including Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, Thomas Carlyle, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and others.

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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781598530674
  • Publisher: Library of America, The
  • Publication date: 3/4/2010
  • Pages: 910
  • Sales rank: 775,800
  • Product dimensions: 8.20 (w) x 5.16 (h) x 1.17 (d)

Meet 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.

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