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The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson (Modern Library Classics) Paperback – September 12, 2000
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"I was simmering, simmering, simmering. Emerson brought me to a boil."
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The definitive collection of Emerson's major speeches, essays, and poetry, The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson chronicles the life's work of a true "American Scholar."
As one of the architects of the transcendentalist movement, Emerson embraced a philosophy that championed the individual, emphasized independent thought, and prized "the splendid labyrinth of one's own perceptions." More than any writer of his time, he forged a style distinct from his European predecessors and embodied and defined what it meant to be an American. Matthew Arnold called Emerson's essays "the most important work done in prose."
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Top Customer Reviews
One of the golden nuggets in this Emerson anthology is the famous essay on "Self-Reliance." Modern readers might imagine that this essay would be about economics, but not so: the heart of it is this ---
"There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself, for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried."
To put it in other words, "Know thyself" (Socrates would agree) and "Be thyself." Aping celebrities and adopting ideologies are no part of self-reliance; in fact, Emerson explicitly deplores men who have become slaves of an ideology. "If I know your sect I anticipate your argument." In fact, "whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist." Conformity makes men not just false in a few small things, but false in everything.
This is most excellent advice, and should be followed while reading Emerson --- or anyone else. You will find yourself disagreeing with him from time to time, and Emerson himself would surely approve and applaud.
The physical book reviewed here is extremely well-edited and well-made. The introduction by Mary Oliver is excellent and helpful. Unless you become a true Emerson devotee, this volume is likely to be all you need.
The books contains his most essential, influential essays. Each contain classical Emerson thought, unique, hard to pin down, literary... Emerson was known for "trumping the logicians" and appealing to the soul of man. Indeed he does.
I have not read this book in its totality, but of the works I have, I have read thoroughly, as thoroughly as I have read perhaps anything, and I must say there is something undeniable about Emerson's reasoning. It is not logical in the dry fashion of philosophy, yet it is poetically, "humanly" appealing.
All I can say is read Emerson. He was and is one of America's most influencital writers. Some like him, some hate him, some appreciate though not totally agree with things he sets for (like myself). This particular book presents a good overview of his most renowned works, is affordable, and has a nice introduction. Highly recommended.