Representative Men: Seven Lecturesby Ralph Waldo Emerson
In 1845 Ralph Waldo Emerson began a series of lectures and writings in which he limned six figures who embodied the principles and aspirations of a still-young American republic. Emerson offers timeless meditations on the value of individual greatness, reconnecting readers with the everyday virtues of his “Representative/b>
Introduction by Brenda Wineapple
In 1845 Ralph Waldo Emerson began a series of lectures and writings in which he limned six figures who embodied the principles and aspirations of a still-young American republic. Emerson offers timeless meditations on the value of individual greatness, reconnecting readers with the everyday virtues of his “Representative Men”: Plato, in whose writings are contained “the culture of nations”; Emanuel Swedenborg, a “rich discoverer” who strove to unite the scientific and spiritual planes; Michel de Montaigne, “the frankest and honestest of all writers”; William Shakespeare, who “wrote the text of modern life”; Napoleon Bonaparte, who had the “virtues and vices” of common men writ large; and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who “in conversation, in calamity…finds new materials.”
This Modern Library Paperback Classic reflects the author’s corrections for an 1876 reprinting.
Read an Excerpt
"Emerson is a writer who grows restless if he stays too long with any proposition. And so, as one of his most intelligent modern readers, Judith Shklar, has pointed out, he built Representative Men around the principle of 'rotation,' which had become a political axiom in Jacksonian Americathe idea that no man, no matter how imposing, should be accorded permanent authority. Representative Men honors the language of democracy in its very title, and it employs political metaphors throughout. 'We are multiplied,' the opening chapter declares, 'by our proxies.' "
From the Introduction by Andrew Delbanco
Meet the Author
RALPH WALDO EMERSON (1803?—1882) was a renowned lecturer and writer, whose ideas on philosophy, religion, and literature influenced many writers, including Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman. After an undergraduate career at Harvard, he studied at Harvard Divinity School and became an ordained minister, continuing a long line of ministers in his family. He traveled widely and lectured, and became well known for his publications Essays and Nature.
About the Introducer
BRENDA WINEAPPLE is the author of Hawthorne: A Life and Sister Brother: Gertrude and Leo Stein. She has twice a fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities. She lives in New York City.
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