April 1, 2004

English III

Ralph Waldo Emerson was a leader of Transcendentalism which was a literary and philosophical movement that began in the United States in 1836. Transcendentalists did not agree with the strict ritualism of established religious institutions. They supported individualism. They believed that they could understand themselves better if they study nature and their surroundings. Transcendentalists also believed in an "Over-Soul" where all forms of being are united spiritually. Emerson\'s lectures and writing were based mostly on transcendentalism, but also believed in English Romanticism, Neo-Platonism, and Hindu Philosophy. Ralph Waldo Emerson was born in Boston, Massachusetts on May 25, 1803. His father, Reverend William Emerson, was a Unitarian minister at the famous First Church in Boston.

Emerson graduated from Harvard at age 18 and went into teaching. He returned and enrolled in Harvard Divinity School in 1825. The following year, he was sanctioned to preach by the Middlesex Association of Ministers. Emerson resigned from his pastoral appointment in 1832 (Encarta 04). He had personal doubts about administering the sacrament of the Lord\'s Supper. Emerson always stood up for what he believed in. The same year he traveled to Europe where he visited with British notables such as Walter Savage Landor, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Thomas Carlyle, and William Wordsworth. Carlyle was a Scottish born, English writer best know for his volatile attacks of hypocrisy and materialism, distrust of democracy, and a high belief of transcendentalism (Exhibits 01).

Carlyle and Emerson’s relationship increased from then on. Often they would stay up well into the night in eager talks. Emerson was confident in knowing he could relate to Carlyle on equal terms. They became close friends, and shared many different ideas and thoughts. Carlyle taught Emerson how to formulate his own philosophies (Encarta).

Upon his return to America, Emerson began to reconstruct his life so he could bring more interest to his thoughts and work (American 52). He began to express his ideas of transcendentalism through writing and speaking. He became known for challenging traditional thought (Exhibits). Emerson communicated his ideas very fluently and poetically, which best distinguishes him from other authors.

Emerson influenced many people through his books and speeches. In 1837, he amplified his thoughts announced in Nature, in his Phi Beta Kappa speech, “The American Scholar”. Like Carlyle, he urged others to think for themselves, and to find God in their own souls, untraditionally.

To conclude, Emerson was the father of transcendentalism who was greatly influenced by those closest to him. Through his books, essays, and speeches, he was better able to communicate his thoughts and beliefs. By the time of his death, he had published many books and articles. Some of his most notes works include Nature and Self-Reliance. Like many authors, his work did not draw interest until after his death. He is known now as “The father of Transcendentalism”.