The facts on Ralph Waldo Emerson are as interesting as his poetry. This famous poet and essayist contributed to the literary community in the mid and late 1800s. Although trained as a minister and deeply interested in the influence of the divine in everyday life, Emerson was a very modern thinker and a champion of the power of individuals.
Ralph Waldo Emerson was a leader in the Transcendentalism movement in America. He and his colleagues believed formal organized religion was too conventional and limiting. He asserted that the only way to true spirituality was through communion with nature and contemplation. In the realm of literature, Transcendental writers focused on the interactive aspect of a piece of work and how the writing affected both the author and the reader, rather than studying the mechanics of writing. Transcendentalists believed that writing and reading was an experience that connected both the reader and writer with the divine and with nature, rather than a rigid, mechanical process.
Ivy League Education
Emerson was ordained as a Unitarian minister after graduating from Harvard Divinity School. A prodigy as a child, Emerson began his time at Harvard at the age of 14, making him the youngest boy in his classes.
Ralph Waldo Emerson collected writer friends. He was close to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, Thomas Carlyle, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Margaret Fuller and Bronson Alcott.
He Published One Book Anonymously
Emerson's book on transcendentalism, Nature, was published anonymously. He did not want his name on the book because the topic was so controversial at the time of publication.
He Had a Nickname
His circle of friends called Emerson "The Sage of Concord," because they considered him wise.
He Was Forward-Thinking
Emerson was both in favor of women's rights and opposed to slavery. His views were quite progressive for his time, and his audiences would sometimes shout him down at public appearances.
He Outlived His Mind
Sadly, Emerson, who was known in his youth for his sharp wit and impressive intellect, lost his memory as he got older. He was consistently late for appointments and became so forgetful that he did not even remember the name of his dear friend Henry Wadsworth Longfellow when he attended Longfellow's funeral. His lack of memory sometimes caused him to forget his own name and details of his life. Emerson stopped appearing in public in 1879 and died three years later at his home in Concord, Massachusetts.