The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson - by R.W. Emerson Institute, Jim Manley, Director -

Time Line


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

Younger RW 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.)

The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson