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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
For those who are not familiar with his works, it should be noted that Emerson is, without a doubt, a very unique writer. I was surprised when I realized that there is more poetry in his philosophy than in most verse books, yet he is always lucid; and that his poems, although hued by an impressive depth of thought, remain always passionate. He was renown as a brilliant lecturer, and his essays have all the force and simplicity of the oral form. Few people are so rich in memorable aphorisms, and one finds a treasure of a quote in every sentence: "A drop is a small ocean"; "We are not built like a ship to be tossed, but like a house to stand"; "Whoso be a man, must be a non conformist"; "Punishment is a fruit that unsuspected ripens within the pleasure which concealed it"...
Those looking for a good introduction to Emerson can't do wrong buying this Modern Library Edition. In fact, those who are familiar with Emerson but are looking for an inexpensive paperback to carry around probably should pick this one up too. It includes all his major works; a very generous selection of his lesser writings; 23 poems, and a great introduction by Mary Oliver. I was a little puzzled when I saw that they included very little from Representative Men and kept English Traits in its entirety, instead of the other way round. It then occurred to me that in English Traits one gets a glimpse of the journal-writer, the philosopher, and the poet interwoven all in one. Those looking for a more complete, durable edition of Emerson's works should probably go with the Library of America ed. (2 volumes), or the very expensive and very thorough Centenary ed. (12 volumes!!). You can easily find all his oeuvre on the internet, though, so you don't need to buy book after book just to glean everything he wrote in his lifetime.
To put it simply, if you have any interest in philosophy, literature, poetry, religion, or life, read Emerson. You may not be convinced by his arguments, but there's no point in nodding your way through a book. What remains after you finish reading it is what counts, and few writers can be found whose works are as pervasive and fondly remembered as Emerson's are.
30 years ago, when I entered high school, we studied the Transcendentalists in a basic lit class, and something about Emerson just glowed in my mind. The teacher told me that with time I'd get to know other authors better, and Emerson would take his place alongside a legion of others. But he was in a degree mistaken. Emerson never did diminish. I have never fallen out of love with him. And the relationship is a serious one. When the shadow of doubt creeps over me that my presence on this planet might be some kind of horrendous mistake, I still crack open a volume of Emerson. And he has never failed to recall me to myself.
Self-Reliance has to be one of the most understood pieces in the collection. Mr. Emerson speaks in a tone that is easily understood and thoughts explained in plain english, no degree required to understand. And once understood, ideas are easy to apply to our own life to better understand what we have read.
Without a doubt, this book is a must in any thinkers library. Walt Whitman says it best about this book, "I was simmering, simmering, simmering. Emerson brought me to a boil." A genius of a book.
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.
I refer this book to so many people.
I read parts and poems once in a while to remind myself of the wisdom and insights of Emerson .
Example: envy is ignorance, imitation is suicide"