Emerson at 200

Cover Story

March/April 2003

Emerson at 200

Emerson’s Mirror What do we see in the legacy of Ralph Waldo Emerson, "the most recognized and revered figure in the Unitarian movement"? His two-hundredth birthday makes this a good time to ask.

by Richard Higgins

One of the most famous public speakers of his day, Ralph Waldo Emerson drew all sorts of listeners. A scrubwoman who went to his lyceum lectures is reported to have said that she didn’t really understand him, "but I like to go and see him stand up there and look as though he thought everyone else is as good as he is." A version of this story appears in most Emerson biographies. Sometimes it is a workman or farmer who braves a snowstorm to hear Emerson talk and explains his devotion by saying, "We don’t know what he said, but we’re sure he’s giving us the best there is." As Wesley Mott, the founder and president of the Emerson Society, puts it: "People went away tremendously uplifted — and had no idea what they just heard."


Illuminating Emerson’s spiritual development

July 2, 2003

Illuminating Emerson’s spiritual development

The Spiritual Emerson: Essential Writings

by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edited by David M. Robinson

Beacon, 288 pp., $25

By Richard Higgins
Globe Correspondent

Even now, as we mark the 200th anniversary of his birth, people still believe that Ralph Waldo Emerson left the ministry in 1832. He resigned the pastorate of the Second Church of Boston, yes, but as Elizabeth Palmer Peabody and others have noted, he took the pulpit with him and carted it around for 40 years. Emerson could no more have stopped being a minister than he could have stopped being Emerson.


Getting to the Root of Bush

Getting to the Root of Bush: Nickname,
Metaphor and the Biblical “George Bush”

Reading and researching Emerson in preparation for the recent bicentennial filled many gaps, corrected mistakes and clarified at least some of the haze in my knowledge of this great American. But one puzzle that remained unsolved was how Bush, the Emerson House, got is name.

The consensus of the scholars and Emerson family members I asked was that it was either picked up from the Coolidges, which built the place, or that it was a sort eccentric family nickname, somewhat like Emerson referring to Lidia as “Queenie,’’ the origins of which (Bush, not Queenie, that is) were shrouded in mystery.


La Conducta De La Vida

Dos capítulos de

Ralph Waldo Emerson

La conducta de la vida

Edición, traducción y cronología de

Javier Alcoriza y Antonio Lastra


Articles Translations of RWE

Escapar de Vinculos Falsos (Spanish translation)

Escapar de vínculos falsos*

Richard G. Geldard


Demasiado a menudo se acusa a Emerson de ser quijotesco. Cuando se le preguntó a la difunta Susan Sontag por qué en sus primeros años de profesión no escribió sobre las figuras literarias americanas más importantes, incluida la de Emerson, respondió que siempre había querido que sus ensayos fueran útiles. La ausencia de cursos universitarios sobre “Emerson aplicado” confirmaría que el razonamiento de Sontag es correcto. El propio visionario ya lo dijo con suficiente claridad en ‘Consideraciones tempestivas’ (uno de los capítulos de La conducta de la vida): “Hay tanto hado, tanto irresistible dictado del temperamento y de la inspiración desconocida en ella, que dudamos de poder decir nada sobre nuestra experiencia que sirva de ayuda a los demás”. Mi pregunta, a pesar de este descargo de responsabilidad, es si podemos decir que Emerson es, al final, un autor útil. ¿Cómo podrían interpretarse estos dos versos del prólogo poético?

El más rico de los señores es el uso
Y la musa más rubicunda, la salud.


Thomas Taylor in America

          Thomas Taylor in America – by George Mills Harper

      Offered by with temporary permission of Princeton University Press

Editorial note: This text comes from a book entitled Thomas Taylor, The
published by Princeton U. Press in 1969 and now out of
print. Because Princeton wants to charge us over $200.00 to place this
piece on our web site (excessive in the extreme), we will post it for
only three months (until May 1), when the permission period ends.


Thomas Taylor in America


The Correspondence Of Thomas Carlyle And Ralph Waldo Emerson – 1834-1872 – Volume I

The Correspondence Of
Thomas Carlyle And Ralph Waldo Emerson

Volume I.

“To my friend I write a letter, and from him I receive a letter. It is a spiritual gift, worthy of him to give, and of me to receive.”–Emerson

“What the writer did actually mean, the thing he then thought of, the thing he then was.”–Carlyle


Emerson’s Memorabilia of Philosophy

This excerpt from Richard Geldard’s book God In Concord is the epilogue of the book and provides an insight into the core ideas which influenced Emerson throughout his life.

In the early 1860s, at a point
in his life when he had seen himself waning in strength–indeed even
dreamed once that he had fallen asleep while lecturing–Emerson took
the time to jot down in his notebooks the essentials of his journey as
a seeker. It was an exercise in review and recollection. In notebook
DL, in use from 1860 through 1866, he noted what he called “The
Memorabilia of philosophy,” those ideas and statements which were for
him most worthy of recollection. These were:
        Plato’s doctrine of Reminiscence
       Berkeley’s Ideal World
        Socrates’ interpretation of the Delphian oracle
        The Dance of Plotinus
        Doctrine of Absorption [Nirvana]
        Greek saying, that the soul is absorbed into God as a phial of water broken in the sea
        Plotinus’s saying: “There however every body is pure, (transparent), and each inhabitant is as it were an eye.”
       Heraclitus said: “War is the father of all things.”
        “A dry light makes the best soul.”
        “Like can only be known by like.”
         Nec sentire deum nisi qui pars ipse deorum est.” [“Only if a man be himself the infinite, can the infinite be known by him.”]
        Ne te quaesiveris extra (Persius, Satires, I,7) [“Look to no one outside yourself.”]
        “Natura in minimus existit.” (Aristotle) [“. . . the nature of everything is best seen in its smallest proportions.”] trans. Francis Bacon
        Hunger & thirst after righteousness. (Matt. 5:6)
        Kingdom of God cometh not by observation. (Luke 17:20)
        . . . is received as a little child (Luke 18:17)
        Christianity, pure deism
        God considers integrity not munificence. ( Socrates)

Articles Contemporary

The Escape From All False Ties

This article was prepared for the 2005 ALA Convention in Boston in celebration of the publishing of The Conduct of Life volume in Harvard’s series of the Collected Works.

Also see:
Escapar de Vinculos Falsos (Spanish translation)