Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882)

American poet, essayist, philosopher, and lecturer. Emerson was born in Boston, the son of a Unitarian minister. He entered Harvard University at fourteen; after graduating in 1821, he taught school for several years before beginning theological studies in 1825. In 1829 he was ordained a Unitarian minister. Although he enjoyed delivering sermons, his Christian faith began to waver under the influence of the Romantic philosophers. In 1832 he resigned his pastorate and retired to Concord, Massachusetts, to a life of study and reflection. With the publication of his first book, Nature (1836), Emerson’s gradually evolving philosophy, which he called transcendentalism, began to attract adherents and became an important expression of American spirituality. Emerson’s occasional lectures at Harvard and the publication of his Essays (1841), which includes the classic “Self-Reliance,” secured his reputation as a dominant force in American literature and one of the most influential American essayists. See also emerson.tamu.edu/index.html.