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The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson

4.35 of 5 stars 4.35  ·  rating details  ·  2,534 ratings  ·  111 reviews
Introduction by Mary Oliver
Commentary by Henry James, Robert Frost, Matthew Arnold, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Henry David Thoreau

The definitive collection of Emerson’s major speeches, essays, and poetry, The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson chronicles the life’s work of a true “American Scholar.” As one of the architects of the transcendentalist movement, Emers
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Published September 30th 2009 by Modern Library (first published November 15th 1983)
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Meghan Koos

"Man is timid and apologetic; he is no longer upright; he dares not say 'I think,' 'I am,' but quotes some saint or sage. He is ashamed before the blade of grass or the blowing rose. These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they exist with God to-day. There is no time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence. Before a leaf-bud has burst, its whole life acts; in the full-blown fl
In reading Emerson it readily becomes apparent why it is that such as Nietzsche revered his essaying person, tapping as he does into that interior reserve of the individual spirit who—whether she be isolated in starlit reclusion or thronged by fellow beings in day aglow bustle—must grapple, at the last, with the fact that she is alone and in that solitariness must self-arm to face the enduring struggle of time-taut life. I don't always agree with Emerson (or Nietzsche, for that matter) but I lov ...more
Can anybody truly be done reading emerson?
Emerson is my favorite poet/philosopher, and this one volume contains all his writings you could ever need. I agree with Emerson wholeheartedly about 33% of the time, disagree with him vehemently about 33%, and can't decide whether I agree or not the rest of the time. But he's always compelling, even if I think he's dead wrong.

The greatest thing about Emerson is how quotable he is. There are dozens of great one-liners here. One of my favorites: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little m
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Apr 07, 2012 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Gluttons for Punishment?
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: Good Reading: 100 Significant Books
American philosopher and Harvard professor Stanley Cavell claims "Emerson and Thoreau... are the founding philosophers of America" and comparable to Plato. Before reading this I tackled Thoreau. Emerson was his mentor, and they were both considered part of the Transcendental circle in mid-Century America. I found Emerson less irritating than Thoreau, but less readable and challenging. By challenging I don't mean less difficult, but less thought-provoking. I think Emerson is harder to parse, to " ...more
Don't think I'll read the whole thing, but:

At first I had no clue what Emerson was talking about, and I chalked it up to him being all transcendentalist. Then I got to "Intellect" and things started to hit home. Then I read (ironically enough) "Transcendenalist" and not only did I become convinced that (1) Emerson is worth reading and (2) Emerson is worth reading as philosophy but also that (a) he lines up well with a lot of pragmatic ideas and (b) he lines up well with a lot of my own personal
anti-slavery racist, which is better than a pro-slavery racist. pantheist mysticism. philistine naturalism (i.e., 'transcendentalism'). bleh.
this is my jack off material. gorgeous language. "self-reliance" is life changing.
Tom Shadyac
It’s hard to overstate what the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson have done to awaken me to beauty and truth. Emerson packs more wisdom in one sentence than most writers articulate in a lifetime. Mary Oliver, the best selling poet in America told me simply, “Emerson is all you need.”

Though Emerson writes on a myriad of topics, his thematic core is consistent: “All things are made of one hidden stuff.” “The world globes itself in a drop of dew.” “The heart and soul of all men being one, this bitter
Ralph Waldo Emerson is probably my favorite philosopher/poet. He combines poetry and prose wonderfully, treating human affairs, emotions and morals purely as aspects of nature, and all of nature as having the same soul as people. The range of his subjects is wide and varied, from the most metaphysical aspects of reality to the most mundane actions of daily life. Despite him having written in the mid 19th century, and often writing more as a poet than most philosophers, his writing is pretty stra ...more
Amy Jenkins

Back to Basics: Reading Emerson

Reading Emerson might make readers slightly sad (more about that later), not that Emerson expresses gloom in his most influential essays: Nature, TheDivinity School Address, and Self Reliance. His words reflect the optimism he felt for the power of the individual to understand how they fit into the world and how they might serve their community and country. A child of the American Revolution, he and his audience...
Continue reading on The Essential Wri
can't honestly review this SPECIFIC version, but it seems to contain most (if not ALL) of RWE's works that I have ever read (& re-read, & pondered, & studied...) both during school for a grade, & on my own... seeking answers, seeking guidance, beating myself up for not knowing the answer to the great WHY??? questions of LIFE. Struggling to find myself, my voice, my LIFE apart from others, despite others, determined to rise above & not repeat the same mistakes, make the same p ...more
Ross Cohen
Repetition beautifully articulated.
James Becker
Emerson writes with the self-assurance of one who has lived a life in the name of beauty and truth. Ne'er is there a word which, spoken, makes him seem a superior to any, but his voice rings like that of a pastor or an older brother—encouraging, illuminating and always standing by. The poetry and humanity which instills vivacity and zest to his rational arguments breathes life not only into his work but also into the heart of the reader. Not merely because they are beautiful, not merely because ...more
The answers to all of my questions about life can be found in the pages of this book. Love, friendship, nature, politics, ethics, and the complex challenges that make up human experience are all examined in a moving, beautiful, eloquent and fiercely intelligent way.

A cherished part of my library.
This is a very deep book--very fitting for a deep person such as myself. :o) Seriously, this book is a lot to chew and I'm only reading it for English. However, I can honestly say that the parts I understood really were kind of interesting.
"To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty; and in the same field, it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before and which shall never be seen again."
I read most of this collection during an independent study during my junior year of college. I picked it up again last night and can't put it down; Emerson changed the way I think about everything.
Aug 18, 2012 Kris is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Ahhhh......if only we lived in the same era and could share a cup of coffee on a big white porch of a grand old house on main street USA.
J. Alfred
Trancendentalism, when I was a kid, just meant transparent eyeballs, proto-hippies, and heretical nonsense. That's still all there, but I think there's a depth to Emerson that is very much worth experiencing. There's something vigorous and healthy about his idea of moral heroism and his stoical self reliance. "Man is the dwarf of himself... Man is a god in ruins." Stirring!
Edison Flores
Every now and again I have to pull the pages off the shelf and get some inspiration for my own writing or revitalize my own curiosity and love of natural beauty and wonder
will enhance and expand any mind with wisdom and freedom and genuine love of life
Ginnie Grant
Learn to live deliberately. suck the marrow out of life. read this book.
India N'nepal
I might absolutely love this book
Jun 22, 2007 James rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who seek insight on the relationship between man and world
Shelves: recently-read
This is a huge book that contains not only every influential essay Emerson wrote, but also a lot of his poetry and a very good introductory biography. Emerson is the perfect author for those who are going through a philosophical awakening and are looking for insights into the world and the way we as humans relate to it, and therefore ourselves. Don't expect a fully developed, systematic philosophy here; transcendentalism is more of a way of seeing things.

Self-Reliance remains my personal favorit
May 12, 2007 Sarah rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone going through an existental crisis
To be honest, I haven't even come close to reading this entire book - I think I was assigned two or three essays in a college sophomore English class. But the presence of "Self-Reliance" alone makes it an essential part of my desert-island library. This is the essay where Emerson makes the famous statement "Trust thyself," and the rest of the essay lays out why. "Self-Reliance" is the ultimate weapon against any bout of insecurity or low self-esteem.
Emerson had me bored to tears with his philosophical and poetic ramblings, the wordy bastard. I was surprisingly captivated by his essay on Self-reliance, but everything else I began was pushed aside after a few exhausting pages in. Moving on...
One of my favorite writers of all time. Beautiful for its depth and authentic call for people to live life deeply. What a fantastic human and amazing mind to come up with all these wonderful, inspiring thoughts. I'll probably continue to read this for the rest of my days. I do need to branch out and read some more of Emerson's writings though. Between him and Thoreau, I love the Transcendentalists.
Inspiring and maddening. Gems of insight - the sculptor in The Poet, and how the shallow, materialist "shalt find no radiance of wisdom in the lonely waste of the pinewoods." But even if you know something of transcendentalism and its influences, too much of Emerson can seem impenetrable. His idealism is rewarding, but it requires an awful lot of context. I would rather read Mark Twain.
I have only read the "Nature" lecture but so far this as been an excellent book. It is a hard read at times but if I take the time I can always understand what he is getting at.

I enjoy gleaning fundamental truths from his paragraphs. It seems like our world would be a bit better if we took a step back and adopted some of the "old ways" to a certain extent.
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in 1803, Ralph Waldo Emerson was born in Boston. Educated at Harvard and the Cambridge Divinity School, he became a Unitarian minister in 1826 at the Second Church Unitarian. The congregation, with Christian overtones, issued communion, something Emerson refused to do. "Really, it is beyond my comprehension," Emerson once said, when asked by a seminary professor whether he believed in God. (Quoted ...more
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