Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on May 25, 1803. He graduated from Harvard in 1821, then helped his brother with his finishing school for girls. After spending a month as a student at Harvard Divinity School, he had to leave due to ill health. He eventually became a popular New England preacher, and was elected to serve as one of the ministers at the Second (Unitarian) Church of Boston in 1829. He resigned in 1832, however, because he felt that he could not longer administer communion, which he believed to have become a meaningless ritual far removed from its original significance.
In 1832-33, he traveled in Europe, meeting individuals such as Samuel T. Coleridge, William Wordsworth and Thomas Carlyle. He began a correspondence with Carlyle which continued for almost forty years.
Emerson helped start the Transcendental Club with Henry David Thoreau in Concord, Massachusetts in 1834. In 1836, he published Nature, which represented the first full explanation of American transcendentalism. According to Emersons mystical beliefs, human beings could go beyond the limits of reason and perceived capacity through faith in himself and in the basic goodness of the universe. In 1840, Emerson helped found the Dial, a transcendentalist magazine which he edited from 1842 to 1844. He also published his famous Essays (first series, 1841; second series, 1844). In 1847-48, Emerson traveled in Europe, lecturing in England and France. A poet as well as an essayist, he published his Poems in 1847. Despite his travels to Europe and friendships with European intellectuals, Emerson urged Americans to seek inspiration in American culture and set aside their occupation with European traditions.
After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law in 1850, Emerson, long an opponent of slavery, became more outspoken as an abolitionist. Emerson was invited to lecture at Harvard in 1870, but his health failed him in his later years. He died on April 27, 1882, in Concord, Massachusetts.