Ralph Waldo Emerson


Ralph Waldo Emerson


Emerson, Ralph Waldo Born May 25, 1803, in Boston, Massachusetts, United States; died of complications resulting from pneumonia, April 27, 1882, in Concord, Massachusetts; son of William (minister of a liberal Congregationalist [later Unitarian] parish) and Ruth (Haskins) Emerson; married Ellen Louisa Tucker, September 30, 1829 (died of tuberculosis, c. 1831); married Lydia Jackson, September 14, 1835; children: (second marriage) Waldo (died of scarlatina in 1842), Ellen, Edith, Edward.
A founder of the Transcendental movement and the founder of a distinctly American philosophy emphasizing optimism, individuality, and mysticism, Emerson was one of the most influential literary figures of the nineteenth century. Raised to be a minister in Puritan New England, Emerson sought to "create all things new" with a philosophy stressing the recognition of God Immanent, the presence of ongoing creation and revelation by a god apparent in all things and who exists within everyone. Also crucial to Emerson's thought is the related Eastern concept of the essential unity of all thoughts, persons, and things in the divine whole. Traditional values of right and wrong, good and evil, appear in his work as necessary opposites, evidencing the effect of German philosopher G. W. F. Hegel's system of dialectical metaphysics. Emerson's works also emphasize individualism and each person's quest to break free from the trappings of the illusory world (maya) in order to discover the godliness of the inner Self.


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Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes

A chief event of life is the day in which we have encountered a mind that startled us.

A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature.

A good indignation brings out all one's powers.

A great man is always willing to be little.

A great part of courage is the courage of having done the thing before.

A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.

A man in debt is so far a slave.

A man is usually more careful of his money than he is of his principles.

A man is what he thinks about all day long.

A man's growth is seen in the successive choirs of his friends.

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.

All diseases run into one, old age.

All I have seen teaches me to trust the creator for all I have not seen.

All life is an experiment.

All mankind love a lover.

All sensible people are selfish, and nature is tugging at every contract to make the terms of it fair.

Always do what you are afraid to do.

America is another name for opportunity.

An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.

As a cure for worrying, work is better than whiskey.

As soon as there is life there is danger.

As we grow old, the beauty steals inward.

Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss.

Be an opener of doors.

Beauty is an outward gift, which is seldom despised, except by those to whom it has been refused.

Beauty without expression is boring.

Beauty without grace is the hook without the bait.

Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.

By necessity, by proclivity, and by delight, we all quote.

Can anything be so elegant as to have few wants, and to serve them one's self?

Cards were at first for benefits designed, sent to amuse, not to enslave the mind.

Character is higher than intellect. A great soul will be strong to live as well as think.

Children are all foreigners.

Commerce is of trivial import; love, faith, truth of character, the aspiration of man, these are sacred.

Commit a crime, and the earth is made of glass.

Common sense is genius dressed in its working clothes.

Culture is one thing and varnish is another.

Curiosity is lying in wait for every secret.

Death comes to all, but great achievements build a monument which shall endure until the sun grows cold.

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

Do the thing we fear, and death of fear is certain.

Doing well is the result of doing good. That's what capitalism is all about.

Don't be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment.

Earth laughs in flowers.

Enthusiasm is the mother of effort, and without it nothing great was ever achieved.

Every actual State is corrupt. Good men must not obey laws too well.

Every artist was first an amateur.

Every burned book enlightens the world.

Every hero becomes a bore at last.

Every man has his own courage, and is betrayed because he seeks in himself the courage of other persons.

Every man has his own vocation, talent is the call.

Every man I meet is in some way my superior.

Every man is a quotation from all his ancestors.

Every man supposes himself not to be fully understood or appreciated.

Every mind must make its choice between truth and repose. It cannot have both.

Every natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact.

Everything in Nature contains all the powers of Nature. Everything is made of one hidden stuff.

Fate is nothing but the deeds committed in a prior state of existence.

Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.

Fear is an instructor of great sagacity, and the herald of all revolutions.

Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.

Fine manners need the support of fine manners in others.

Flowers... are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty outvalues all the utilities of the world.

Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.

For every benefit you receive a tax is levied.

For every minute you remain angry, you give up sixty seconds of peace of mind.

Genius always finds itself a century too early.

Getting old is a fascination thing. The older you get, the older you want to get.

God enters by a private door into every individual.

God screens us evermore from premature ideas.

Good men must not obey the laws too well.

Great geniuses have the shortest biographies.

Great hearts steadily send forth the secret forces that incessantly draw great events.

He builded better than he knew; the conscious stone to beauty grew.

He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.

Hitch your wagon to a star.

I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.

I hate the giving of the hand unless the whole man accompanies it.

I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching.

If a man can... make a better mousetrap, the world will make a beaten path to his door.

If you would lift me up you must be on higher ground.

In art, the hand can never execute anything higher than the heart can imagine.

In skating over thin ice our safety is in our speed.

In the morning a man walks with his whole body; in the evening, only with his legs.

Intellect annuls Fate. So far as a man thinks, he is free.

It is not length of life, but depth of life.

It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.

It was high counsel that I once heard given to a young person, 'always do what you are afraid to do.'

Judge of your natural character by what you do in your dreams.

Knowledge is knowing that we cannot know.

Let every man shovel out his own snow and the whole city will be passable.

Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.

Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods.

Life consists in what a man is thinking of all day.

Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art.

Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.

Make yourself necessary to somebody.

Manners require time, and nothing is more vulgar than haste.

Men achieve a certain greatness unawares, when working to another aim.

Men are what their mothers made them.

Men love to wonder, and that is the seed of science.

Money often costs too much.

Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.

Nature and books belong to the eyes that see them.

Nature hates calculators.

Nature is a mutable cloud which is always and never the same.

New York is a sucked orange.

Night hovers all day in the boughs of the fir tree.

No change of circumstances can repair a defect of character.

No great man ever complains of want of opportunity.

No man ever prayed heartily without learning something.

Nobody can bring you peace but yourself.

Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing.

Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.

Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.

One must be an inventor to read well. There is then creative reading as well as creative writing.

Our best thoughts come from others.

Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.

Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.

Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding.

People only see what they are prepared to see.

People that seem so glorious are all show; underneath they are like everyone else.

People with great gifts are easy to find, but symmetrical and balanced ones never.

Perpetual modernness is the measure of merit in every work of art.

Pictures must not be too picturesque.

Reality is a sliding door.

Revolutions go not backward.

Science does not know its debt to imagination.

Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.

Society is always taken by surprise at any new example of common sense.

Some books leave us free and some books make us free.

Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis.

The ancestor of every action is a thought.

The believing we do something when we do nothing is the first illusion of tobacco.

The best effort of a fine person is felt after we have left their presence.

The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet.

The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.

The desire of gold is not for gold. It is for the means of freedom and benefit.

The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization.

The first wealth is health.

The fox has many tricks. The hedgehog has but one. But that is the best of all.

The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.

The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.

The louder he talked of his honor the faster we counted our spoons.

The man of genius inspires us with a boundless confidence in our own powers.

The method of nature: who could ever analyze it?

The miracles of genius always rest on profound convictions which refuse to be analyzed.

The only way to have a friend is to be one.

The real and lasting victories are those of peace, and not of war.

The revelation of thought takes men out of servitude into freedom.

The reward of a thing well done is having done it.

The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.

The sum of wisdom is that time is never lost that is devoted to work.

The value of a dollar is social, as it is created by society.

The value of a principle is the number of things it will explain.

The whole secret of the teacher's force lies in the conviction that man are convertible.

The world is all gates, all opportunities, strings of tension waiting to be struck.

The years teach much which the days never knew.

Then beauty is its own excuse for being.

There are no days in life so memorable as those which vibrated to some stroke of the imagination.

There is a tendency for things to right themselves.

There is creative reading as well as creative writing.

There was never a child so lovely but his mother was glad to get him to sleep.

This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.

To be great is to be misunderstood.

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.

Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.

Trust the instinct to the end, though you can render no reason.

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.

Trust your instinct to the end, though you can render no reason.

Truth is beautiful, without doubt; but so are lies.

Truth is the property of no individual but is the treasure of all men.

Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.

Use what language you will, you can never say anything but what you are.

Washington, where an insignificant individual may trespass on a nation's time.

We acquire the strength we have overcome.

We aim above the mark to hit the mark.

We are always getting ready to live but never living.

We are rich only through what we give, and poor only through what we refuse.

We are symbols, and inhabit symbols.

We are wiser than we know.

We do what we must, and call it by the best names.

We find delight in the beauty and happiness of children that makes the heart too big for the body.

We gain the strength of the temptation we resist.

We must be our own before we can be another's.

What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have never been discovered.

What would be the use of immortality to a person who cannot use well a half an hour.

What you do speak so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.

When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.

When nature has work to be done, she creates a genius to do it.

When we quarrel, how we wish we had been blameless.

Who you are speaks so loudly I can't hear what you're saying.

Win as if you were used to it, lose as if you enjoyed it for a change.

Wisdom has its root in goodness, not goodness its root in wisdom.

With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now.

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.

You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.

Quotes originally compiled by www.brainyquote.com


Ralph Waldo Emerson Chronological Biography


1803 - born May 25 in Boston to William Emerson and Ruth Haskins Emerson

1807 - (April 26), death of brother John Clarke

1811 - (May 12) father, William Emerson, dies

1812-17 - attends Boston Latin School

1817-21 - attends Harvard College, in a rather undistinguished manner

1820 - begins keeping journals which he would continue throughout virtually all his life. The first series are called "Wide World", expressing his current thoughts on any and all topics.

1821-25 - teaches "school for young ladies"

1822 - publishes first article, in The Christian Disciple

1825 - admitted to middle class of Harvard Divinity School

1826 - preaches first sermon in Samuel Ripley's pulpit

1827 - sails to South Carolina and St. Augustine, Florida seeking better health

1827-29 - serves as "supply" preacher

1828 - engaged to Ellen Tucker, age 17
- mental breakdown of brother Edward

1829 - ordained as junior minister of Second Church (Unitarian) in Boston
- (September 10) - marries Ellen Tucker

1831 - (February 8) - Ellen dies of tuberculosis

1832 - preaches "Last Supper" sermon, (October 28) resigns from Second Church
- (December 25) first trip to Italy, France, England and Scotland
- formulates many of his self-reliance, "Nature" ideas on trip

1833 - meets Coleridge, Wordsworth, has inspiring meeting with Carlyle
- interest in science rises, sees connections with spirituality and the unity of all
- returns (October 9), enthusiastic about his new embracement of Transcendentalism
- gives first lecture "The Uses of Natural History" at the Masonic Temple, Boston (November 5)

1833 - Frederic Hedge publishes article on Coleridge in The Christian Examiner which provides the first American recognition of the claims of Transcendentalism

1834 - settles in Concord. Boards with Ezra Ripley, his step-grandfather. "Nature" and next set of lectures written there.
- (October 1) - brother Edward dies unexpectedly, age 29. Edward once said, "the arrow of the angel had gone too deep".
- Aunt Mary came to live with them for a year.
- Coming together of influences encourage Emerson's conviction that what is beyond nature is revealed to us through nature, that the miraculous is revealed through the scientific and the natural, and that the inner life is revealed through the life of the senses. - Bronson Alcott establishes Temple School in Boston, a "remarkable" experiment in Transcendental education

1835 - lectures on "Biography" from January - March
- meets Bronson Alcott
- (September 14) - marries Lydia (Lydian) Jackson
- Margaret Fuller gives her "Conversations" to "interested persons"

1835-36 - Lecture Series on "English Literature" - November-January

1836 - (May 9) - brother Charles dies
- (September 9) "Nature" published
- meets Margaret Fuller
- helps form Transcendental Club in September
- (October 30) - son Waldo born
- Carlyle publishes "Sartor Resartus"

1837 - RWE gives "The American Scholar" address at Harvard to seniors, one of whom is Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau, responding to a suggestion of Emerson's, begins to keep a journal. Leads to an extraordinary lifetime of journal-keeping.
- writes "The Concord Hymn" and delivers "The American Scholar," the Phi Beta Kappa Society oration, at Harvard

1838 - (July 15) gives "Divinity School Address" at Harvard. Later the prominent Andrews Norton attacks Emerson's views as "the latest form of infidelity"
- delivers "Literary Ethics" lecture at Dartmouth
- Jones Very makes first visit to Concord

1839 - (February 24) - daughter Ellen born
- Lecture series "The Present Age" from December to February, 1840
- Elizabeth Peabody opens a bookshop that becomes the gathering place for Transcendentalists.
- Jones Very publishes Essays and Poems

1840-44 - writes for The Dial with Margaret Fuller as editor First issue comes out July 1, 1840.

1841 - (March 20) "Essays" (First Series) - published
- includes "Self-Reliance", "The Over-Soul" among others
- Thoreau moves into Emerson home (April 26) for two-year stay, becomes household handyman, and father figure when Emerson is on lecture tour
- (November 22) - daughter Edith born
- Brook Farm, an experiment in communal living, established by George Ripley and colleagues. Emerson does not join.
- Theodore Parker attacks historical Christianity in his sermon "A Discourse of the Transient and Permanent in Christianity"

1842 - (January 27) - son Waldo dies lectures in New York, meets Henry James
- assumes editorship of The Dial (July)
- visits Shaker community with Nathaniel Hawthorne (September)
- William Ellery Channing dies

1843 - delivers lecture series "New England" in Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia, Newark
- Bronson Alcott and friends establish Fruitlands
- Nathaniel Hawthorne reveals attitude toward Transcendentalism in his allegory "The Celestial Railroad"

1844 - Emerson's "Essays: Second Series" published (October 19) . Sells well.
- (July 10) - son Edward born
- delivers address "Emancipation in the British West Indies", first public statement against slavery

1845 - Close friend Margaret Fuller publishes Woman in the Nineteenth Century.
- Henry David Thoreau moves into self-built cabin on Walden Pond (on Emerson's property) for 2 years and 2 months, in order to "live deliberately."

1845-46 - Lecture series "Representative Men" (December - January)

1846 - Poems published (December 25)

1847-48 - second trip to England and France, British lecture tour. Visits Carlyle, Martineau, Wordsworth

1849 - "Nature; Addresses and Lectures published again (September)

1850 - "Representative Men" published
- first western (Cleveland & Cincinati) lecture tour (May - June)
- (July 19) - Margaret Fuller Ossoli drowns at sea off Long Island, New York on her return from Italy

1851 - speaks on the Fugitive Slave Law (May)
- Melville publishes Moby Dick

1852 - speaks on the Fugitive Slave Law (May)
- edits memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli
- western lecture tour (December - January 1853)
- Hawthorne publishes The Blithedale Romance based in part on Brook Farm

1853 - (November 16) - mother, Ruth Haskins Emerson, dies at 85, at Emerson's home

1854 - lectures on poetry at Harvard Divinity School (April)
- meets Walt Whitman in New York City (December)
- Walden by Thoreau is published. He also publishes Life Without Principle, a definition of his transcendental criticism of materialism.

1855 - Whitman publishes Leaves of Grass Emerson believes Whitman to be a true American genius yet suggests to Whitman that some overtly sexual passages be omitted. Whitman declines.

1856 - "English Traits" published

1859 - (May 27) - brother Bulkeley dies

1860 - "The Conduct of Life" published

1861 - mobbed at Tremont Temple by pro-slavery agitators

1862 - meets Abraham Lincoln (February)
- (May 6) - Henry David Thoreau dies. Emerson gives funeral oration.

1863 - hails Lincoln's "Emancipation Proclamation" with "Boston Hymn" (January)
- (October 3) - aunt Mary Moody Emerson dies

1865 - daughter Edith marries William Hathaway Forbes

1866 - given honorary doctorate at Harvard College

1867 - "May-Day and Other Pieces" published
- elected Harvard "Overseer"

1868 - (September 13) - brother William dies

1870 - "Society and Solitude" published (March)
- launches lecture series "The Natural History of the Intellect"
- Emerson's memory noticeably begins to fail

1871 - trip to California, meets with famed naturalist John Muir who is enchanted with RWE. (April - May)
- gives second Harvard lecture series

1872 - (July 24) Emerson's house (Bush) burns

1872-73 - third trip to Europe (October - May), including England (farewell visit to Carlyle) and Egypt...while house is repaired
- the town celebrates his return much to Emerson's surprise

1874 - "Parnassus" published
- son Edward marries Annie Keyes

1875 - "Letters and Social Aims" published
- discontinues regular journal entries

1876 - lectures at University of Virginia

1881 - reads paper at Massachusetts Historical Society on the death of Carlyle (February)

1882 - Emerson dies in Concord on April 27, at age 78 and is buried in Sleepy Hollow.

1883-86 - Emerson-Carlyle correspondence published

1884 - "Lectures and Biographical Sketches" published. "Miscellanies" published.

1892 - (November 13) Lydia Emerson dies at age 90

1893 - "Natural History of the Intellect" and "Other Papers" published

1909-1910 - "Journals' edited by son Edward Emerson and Waldo Emerson Forbes, published in ten volumes.

(Chronology taken from "Emerson: The Mind on Fire" by Richardson, "Ralph Waldo Emerson: Days of Encounter" by McAleer, and others volumes. Compiled by Watershed Online.)

(For more information see Wikipedia)

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