Ralph Waldo Emerson



Ralph Waldo Emerson is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, USA. (Henry David Thoreau is also buried here.)

Grave of Ralph Emerson
Photograph by Mike Reed

After studying theology at Harvard Emerson became a pastor in Boston, but after the death of his first wife he gave up his ministry.

Suffering from grief, Emerson departed for England in 1832. While in England he met Coleridge, Wordsworth and Carlyle. He corresponded with Carlyle for the rest of his life.

On his return to America Emerson lectured widely on the new philosophy of Transcendentalism.

In 1835 Emerson married Lydia Jackson and moved to Concord, Massachusetts where his ancestors first settled. In 1840 he founded the Dial magazine - which only ran for four years - but was very influential. Many of his poems and philosophical writings appeared in the Dial.

Emerson was hugely influential in encouraging American writers to turn away from European literary models and assert their own individuality. In fact, Oliver Wendell Holmes called his philosophy an "intellectual declaration of independence".

Emerson saw America as the raw material for a new type of poetry - which opened the door for the pioneering work of Walt Whitman.

Emerson's own poetry was characterised by rough-hewn, but striking poems.

In his later years Emerson was a fierce opponent of slavery.

The water understands
Civilization well:
It wets my foot, but prettily,
It chills my life, but wittily,
It is not disconcerted,
It is not broken-hearted:
Well used, it decketh joy,
Adorneth, doubleth joy:
Ill used, it will destroy,
In perfect time and measure
With a face of golden pleasure
Elegantly destroy.







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