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Ralph Waldo Emerson

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RALPH WALDO EMERSON (1803-1882)

His life

Emerson was born and raised in Boston, Mass. with some happy summer days spent with his step- grandfather in Concord, Mass, He received his education in the Boston Public Latin School, where his literary gifts were recognized and encouraged. His father died when he was nine years old, but he continued his education, through the help of his mother and his spinster aunt, Mary Moody Emerson.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

At the age of 14, he entered Harvard College, and graduated in 1821. He started school teaching while preparing for part-time study in the Harvard Divinity School. He was ordained to the Unitarian ministry on March 11, 1829. In September of the same year, he married Ellen Louisa Tucker of New Hampshire, this happy marriage was ended when Ellen died of tuberculosis in 1831.

In his grief, he questioned his beliefs and his profession, in the end, resigned from the ministry in Sept, 1832. Although he was ill, he sailed for Europe, returning to Concord in 1833, and began his lecturing career. In Sept. 1835 he married Lydia Jackson of Plymouth, Mass. They made their home in Concord, Mass., the home which is now preserved and open to the public during the summer.

Ralph and Lydia(n) (he changed her name to Lydian) had two sons and two daughters, the eldest son died when he was six years old, the youngest son was born two years later. The Emerson family enjoyed living in Concord. It was the town of historical significance, a rural setting, easily accessible from Cambridge and Boston. The Emerson home was a gathering place for writers and thinkers, with whom he encouraged a humanistic approach.

Ralph went on the lecture tour six months of the year, the other six months he was in Concord, writing his essays and poems. What sets him apart from almost all of the other Transcentalists is that he phrased his thoughts so well. For Emerson was primarily a literary artist, a meticulous craftsman. His influence is still felt among the 20th Century philosophers, poets and dramatists. He was elected to the Hall of Fame at New York University in 1900.

His religion
Ralph Waldo Emerson

All of Ralph Waldo Emerson's ancestors in a direct line, back to the Puritans were all ministers. His father was the minister in Boston's First Church (now Unitarian). When Ralph was born, education was of the greatest importance in his family, so it was that he spent his life in educational and intellectual pursuits.

Perhaps it was assumed that Ralph Waldo would also become a minister, as were his fathers; even his step-grandfather, Ezra Ripley, had taken over his grandfather's church in Concord, and his wife and lands, after the death of his grandfather.

However, he performed his duties as the minister at the Second Church in Boston (Unitarian) for three years, before resigning. He stated that he was unwilling to administer the sacrament of the Last Supper, which he considered an anachronistic rite. Although he never served a congregation again, he continued to preach in Unitarian churches.

He continued his interest in searching for new meanings, new thought, new truths and a unifying philosophy.

As a principle spokesman for Transcendentalism, he gave direction to a warm, intuitional, religious, aesthetic, philosophical and ethical movement that stressed a theoretical and practical way of life.

After his death, the first funeral service was private and in his home. Some thousand persons came to his funeral in the Unitarian Church in Concord. He was buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts.

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