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Life and Background Ralph Waldo Emerson was born on May 25, 1803, to the Reverend William and Ruth Haskins Emerson.His father, pastor of the First Unitarian Church of Boston, chaplain of the Massachusetts Senate, and an editor of Monthly Anthology, a literary review, once described two-year-old son Waldo as "a rather dull scholar." (Emerson was called Waldo throughout his lifetime and even signed his checks as Waldo.) Following William's death from stomach cancer in 1811, the family was left in a state of near-poverty, and Emerson was raised by his mother and Mary Moody Emerson, an aunt whose acute, critical intelligence would have a lifelong influence on him.Through the persistence of these two women, he completed studies at the Boston Public Latin School.
Emerson's first book, Nature, was published anonymously in 1836.
Although only a slim volume, it contains in brief the whole substance of his thought.
A year after he made this speech, he was invited back to Harvard to speak to the graduating class of Harvard Divinity School.
His address, which advocated intuitive, personal revelation, created such an uproar that he was not invited back to his alma mater for thirty years.
The two were married in September 1829, just after Emerson had been ordained pastor of the Second Unitarian Church of Boston.
They were very happy in the marriage, but, unfortunately, both were also quite ill with tuberculosis; in 1831, after less than two years of marriage, Ellen died.It sold very poorly — after twelve years, its first edition of 500 copies had not yet sold out.However, "The American Scholar," the Phi Beta Kappa address that Emerson presented at Harvard in 1837, was very popular and, when printed, sold well.Two years later, however, the journal ceased publication.In 1841, Emerson published the first volume of his Essays, a carefully constructed collection of some of his best-remembered writings, including "Self-Reliance" and "The Over-Soul." A second series of Essays in 1844 would firmly establish his reputation as an authentic American voice.Perhaps Amos Bronson Alcott best summarizes this phase of Emerson's life when he wrote: "Emerson's church consists of one member — himself." In 1836, Emerson joined the Transcendental Club, and in the ensuing years the group, which included Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, and Alcott, met often at his home.In 1840, he helped launch The Dial, a journal of literature, philosophy, and religion that focused on transcendentalist views.He returned in late December to Boston, where he preached occasionally.In Concord, New Hampshire, he met Ellen Tucker, a seventeen-year-old poet who also suffered from tuberculosis.One of his first lectures, "The Uses of Natural History," attempted to humanize science by explaining that "the whole of Nature is a metaphor or image of the human mind," an observation that he would often repeat.Other lectures followed — on diverse subjects such as Italy, biography, English literature, the philosophy of history, and human culture.