Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882)
Emerson was the son of a Unitarian minister who died while Emerson was still a boy. After graduating from Harvard in 1821, it appeared that he would follow in his father’s footsteps when he enrolled as a student at the Divinity School at Harvard and was later admitted as a candidate to the ministry. In 1832, however, following the death of his first wife, Emerson resigned from his pastorate at the Second Church of Boston and left for a tour of Europe where he met Carlyle, Coleridge, and Wordsworth. Emerson and his second wife, Lydia, relocated to Concord, Massachusetts where he wrote his first book, Nature (1836), which became a manifesto for the philosophical movement known as Transcendentalism. Emerson soon established a reputation as one of America’s leading writers and philosophers and made the small village of Concord an intellectual center of the United States. As Walt Whitman wrote in a letter to Emerson that was included in the 1856 edition of Leaves of Grass, “You have discovered that new moral American continent without which ... the physical continent remained incomplete ... It is yours to have been the original true Captain who put to sea, intuitive, rendering the first report. “
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