Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803–1882

[Mentioned in Retrospection and Introspection, p. 37; Unity of Good, p. 17; and Miscellany, pp. 305, 306]

Emerson earned his title "the Sage of Concord" by his lectures, philosophy, essays, and poems. He first thought that he would, like many of his Puritan forebears, become a minister. But before he could enter Harvard Divinity School, he had to teach in order to help support his mother and brothers. Illness interrupted his course at the Divinity School, but finally he was "approbated to preach" in 1826. Two years later he became pastor of the Second Church of Boston. His independence of thought was already asserting itself, and when he failed to persuade his parishioners to his gradually won conviction that the observance of the Lord's Supper was not a necessary rite, he resigned.

This break provided the opportunity for a trip abroad, on which he met Lafayette, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Carlyle. Emerson kept a journal during his Harvard undergraduate days, and the continuing of it gave him constant practice in writing. Now the subject matter of his first book was taking shape, although it was not published until three years after his return home. In the meantime he lectured, preached, and settled a home in Concord. His appreciation of this home is glimpsed in these words: "When I bought my farm, I did not know what a bargain I had in the bluebirds, bobolinks, and thrushes.... As little did I guess what sublime mornings and sunsets I was buying."

Signs of the Times
December 22, 1956

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