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Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882) was a highly educated American lecturer and essayist, considered a leader in the genre of writing known as Transcendentalism. Many of his most important ideas were often presented first as lectures, then refined over time and published as essays. But he reversed the order with his first landmark work, his ground-breaking essay, Nature, which was published in 1836. and then followed by his 1837 speech The American Scholar. Interestingly, Nature, was first published anonymously.
“To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, that is genius.” — Self-Reliance
Like Ben Franklin before him, Emerson subscribed to moderation and self-improvement. In Emerson’s hands, a periodic gathering of other intellectuals grew into the Transcendental Club. Early meetings included Margaret Fuller, who would become an important figure in the Transcendental movement as well. Emerson’s association with Henry David Thoreau also seems to have budded around 1837.
Visit our Transcendentalism Study Guide and American History in Literature for other important historical documents and figures which gave voice to what it means to be American.


  • Society and Solitude Twelve Chapters
  • Poems

  • Bacchus
  • Boston
  • Concord Hymn
  • Each and All
  • Give All to Love
  • Good-Bye
  • The Problem
  • The World Servant
  • Threnody
  • Short Stories

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson: A Child’s Biography
  • Essays

  • Art
  • Character
  • Circles
  • Compensation
  • Divinity College Speech
  • Experience
  • Friendship
  • Gifts
  • Heroism
  • History
  • Intellect
  • Love
  • Manners
  • Nature
  • Nature (from Second Series)
  • New England Reformers
  • Nominalist and Realist
  • Politics
  • Prudence
  • Self-Reliance
  • Shakspeare; or The Poet
  • Spiritual Laws
  • The American Scholar
  • The Over-Soul
  • The Poet
  • Uses of Great Men