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Nature and Selected Essays (Penguin Classics) Paperback – May 27, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

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 ofEssays (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.

Larzer Ziff is a research professor of English at Johns Hopkins University who has written extensively on American literary culture.
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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (May 27, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014243762X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142437629
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #76,442 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

There are few people as quoted and quotable as Ralph Waldo Emerson, founder of the transcendental movement and author of classic essays as Self-Reliance, Nature, and The American Scholar. Emerson began his career as a Unitarian minister and later put those oratory skills to move us toward a better society. More remains written on him than by him.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Emerson is one of the greatest of essayists. His thoughts have a poetic power. But they are often complex and paradoxical and difficult to understand.

The title essay of this collection, 'Nature' is one of Emerson's most famous works. In it he in a sense talks about forgetting the fundamentalist reading of Scriptures and finding a true meeting with God through Nature.

For Emerson , Nature is the great harmonizer and harmony. He writes of our proper moral relation to it as a way of bringing the divinity into our lives.

Emerson makes an analogy between the moral and the spiritual which he claims we can only understand intellectually in proportion to our virtue or the goodness of our character.

In writing of Language and Nature he writes that true poetic speech has a command over, and can move and shape Nature.

Emerson is famous for his optimistic tone and message, but as Stephen Whicher long ago pointed out Emerson also has a darker side and knows the evils that can come in life.
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Format: Paperback
When Ralph Waldo Emerson published "Nature" in 1836, he combined many of the transcendental ideas that were soon to be identified with his name. Not all of his readers were pleased. Those who were strict Calvinists opposed him since he repudiated the notion that humanity was irrevocably sinful and doomed to suffer the torments so well described by Jonathan Edwards in his Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. Nor were the Unitarians pleased since Emerson relegated logic and reason, the central pivots of their creed, to a much reduced status. Finally, even for those who might have otherwise been receptive to his message that intuition trumps logic, Emerson's prose style--abstract, allusive, and at times inconsistent--served to distance this message from the reader. It was hardly surprising that the sales of his initial book of essays were dismally few.

Nevertheless, Emerson's essays in general and "Nature" in particular eventually caught on with an American readership that was becoming increasingly literate and attuned to similar such beliefs that were then slowly filtering in from Europe. In "Nature," Emerson took the essentials of Neo-Platonism, a system of values that connected objects of the material world with their spiritual counterparts, and allied them with the Wordsworthian creed that the world of physical nature is but a reflection of a higher nature that is itself a manifestation of God in nature. The philosophical glue binding man to nature and to God was Emerson's solid belief that man needed more than the evidence of his senses to apprehend a "true" picture of the universe.
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Emerson is amazing, one of the most talented writers in the english language, full of dialectic sophistication, loving intuition, poetic beauty and astute observation. This is a great collection of essays, which contains a rare assortment of favorites: experience, self-reliance, history, and the skeptic.
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If you are not acquainted with Emerson you must read a least several chapters of this book. His transcendental philosophy is both fascinating and enriching to the soul!
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