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Essays and Lectures

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  2,614 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
This first Library of America volume of Emerson’s writing covers the most productive period of his life, 1832–1860. Our most eloquent champion of individualism, Emerson acknowledges at the same time the countervailing pressures of society in American life. Even as he extols what he called “the great and crescive self,” he dramatizes and records its vicissitudes.

Here are th
Hardcover, 1348 pages
Published November 15th 1983 by Library of America
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Oct 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The first essay contained herein is the eight part essay, “Nature.” Emerson writes aphoristically and compellingly, each paragraph contained a line I feel drawn to underline. His writing is not always easy to understand without close reading, since he often uses common terms in idiosyncratic ways, but once one decodes his terminology, the way become easier; nonetheless, sometimes it seems more profitable to read him for general impressions than in meticulous detail. And if “Nature” at times seem ...more
Nov 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: american-classic
I appreciate Emerson's passion, but his rhetoric is overblown and sophistical. He excuses his inconsistency with a pithy phrase that has become his trademark, but his careless thinking isn't so much a hobgoblin as a morass. He has a good heart, so it's hard to give the man a pitiful two-star review. Unfortunately, I think he's peddling snake oil. He provides the perfect argument against idealism while intending just the opposite. I admit that I didn't read all of these essays but like the fine p ...more
By all rights I should give this a 5. Emerson is the quintessential American and quite frankly probably the quintessential human being, by my lights. At his peak, which he hits here often (see especially: The Poet, The American Scholar, The Divinity School Address, and the final chapter of The Conduct of Life), his every sentence falls like a fiery brand imprinting itself forever on my mind. Stylistically, he is an absolutely incredible writer, and his content burns. Emerson speaks to you and on ...more
Jan 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In alluding just now to our system of education, I spoke of the deadness of its details. But it is open to graver criticism than the palsy of its members: it is a system of despair. The disease with which the human mind now labors, is want of faith. Men do not believe in a power of education. We do not think we can speak to divine sentiments in man, and we do not try. We renounce all high aims. We believe that the defects of so many perverse and so many frivolous people, who make up society, are ...more
I'm reading Emerson's Essays, Series 1 & Series 2 from the American Library Edition, so while the collection is a little different, I am left with a series of questions which I would love to discuss with someone.

Perhaps I am perverse, but I can't figure out where to stand in relation to Emerson. I suppose I want to be a believer, to follow him, to take his essays as personally instructive and applicable to my life. And yet at the same time, for the most part, I can't find how they are of us
Megan Rich
Dec 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Emerson was one of the most influential writers of my adolescence. I read his entire collected works, even the journals, and felt a deep communion with him always.
Jul 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: partial-read
Emerson is America’s great Transcendental philosopher of nature. I’m not a nature lover, however. I don’t think more truths are to be had walking through a forest than walking down a city street. I don’t think nature is an unambiguous good, extolling lessons of virtue and justice. Nature, to me, is more equivocal, more problematic. Let’s be perfectly clear: It’s trying to kill you. All the time. Everywhere. It is a remorseless battleground for survival.

It’s through these jaded eyes I’m reviewin
S. Chandler
Dec 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I'm adding this on 12-17-09:
I have been checking this in and out of the library since August, I think will just post as I go. It is just too dense to somehow, summarize with a simple “Thumbs up!” More recently I have been focusing on how Emerson represented and interpreted a certain climate that existed in New England during this time. Mormonism developed in the same climate and this is of interest to me. There are some important parallels in how Emerson views man and the doctrine of the Mormon
May 14, 2009 marked it as try-again-later
The thing I like the best about Emerson is that he provides a pattern of life that I can live with. He balances the spiritual, intellectual, emotional, and physical lives in a way that seems quite useful to me.

I probably won't give this five stars just because he can be long-winded and boring at times, but there is still plenty of excitement too.

I definitely am finding the second series of essays inferior to the first. I had high hopes for "Experience" for instance but found it unclear and bloat
Mar 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A wealth of information. I feel my relative had incredible spiritual teachings that the world didn't accept until this age. It proves to me that although his thoughts weren't as acceptable then, they give us great awareness of the spirituality of life and the struggles of the human, while living on earth. He is very deep and each time I read this book, I learn more. Again this is proof as to how we learn as humans. We each have the understanding according to our level of consciousness and so whe ...more
Amal Shoeib
Jun 14, 2015 rated it liked it
Emerson is one of the humblest and the most down to earth philosophers since the dawn of time, for he claimed " Let me remind the reader that I am only an experimenter. Do not set the least value on what I do, or the least discredit on what I do not, as if I pretended to settle any thing as true or false. I unsettle all things. No facts are to me sacred; none are profane; I simply experiment, an endless seeker".
He defended the premise that Aristotle once stated, "Theonly constant thing in this l
Jan 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
This compendious, rather unwieldy (yet still portable!) collection of R.W. Emerson's essays, poems, lectures, and other assorted literary marginalia is great--you can really see his development as the grand poobah of self-reliance and metaphysical Idealism. While the overly abstract and sometimes contradictory language can be a real bear to get through, it's worth it--it's a privilege to see such a great mind at work and I found myself coming across aphorisms that I didn't know were originally b ...more
Jeremy Egerer
Nov 08, 2015 rated it it was ok
I try not to make a habit of rating things before reading their entirity, but some authors have such a total disregard for logic and truth in general that you can't finish their essays. He's the kind of guy who says that Jesus and Socrates and Zoroaster were divine, and that Shakespeare and I both have Shakespeare's wit because we're part of the same world soul. You know who disagrees about the first? Jesus and Socrates and Zoroaster. You know who disagrees about the second? Absolutely everyone ...more
Dec 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Am I putting this up here just to make myself look smart? Ummm...let's skip that one, and just say that I'd never read him before, might have missed him if it hadn't been assigned for class and I really loved this book. Scary how perfectly someone could nail the America of today when writing over a hundred years ago. Also gotta love someone who tells students at the Harvard Divinity school that it's okay not to get into Jesus if you're not feeling him (not an exact quote). John Lennon would appr ...more
Jun 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
I'll freely admit I skipped a lot of the early stuff, which is frankly boring to me -- way too dense and too much of a challenge to follow his thinking. But the two series of Essays are pretty terrific. I had varying degrees of difficulty with each, but they're all worth the effort even if I can't always follow his train of thought. I enjoy Thoreau more; there's more air and light in his prose -- but Emerson was no doubt a very impressive thinker.
Aug 01, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: paisleys
march, 2003, ash's pick, THEME: Art, the pursuit of immortality
through the creative expression of beauty. Similarly the limitation and boundlessness of art. "The Art". Paired with Oscar Wilde's "The Artist" and "The Decay of Lying" and Two Articles by Art Critics: "Art of 9/11" by Arthur Danto & "This is not John Perreault" by John Perreault

Sep 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: powys-100
Emerson is a unique genius. The best of these is “Self-Reliance”, and also excellent were “Circles,” and “Nominalist and Realist.” The second volume is more understandable than the first. Much of his writing is completely opaque, but there are nuggets of wisdom throughout. Captures a uniquely American spirit. Extraordinarily difficult reading, but well worth it.
Lady Dixie
I'm not sure that even Emerson himself understood his convoluted writing style. Still, he's so important in terms of our thought system, you really ought to give him a try. Might want to have some Excedrin and some coffee on hand, though.
Wonderful! Inspirational! A classic! Rereading some favorite passages of my much loved worn out copy on Ralph Waldo Emerson's Birthday!! "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm!!" "A friend is one before whom I can think aloud." Ralph Waldo Emerson
Oct 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
If modern America claims to admire Emerson, then it really does not understand Emerson. This is deeply spiritual stuff, and deeply critical of materialism and consumerism. The essay "Compensation" is change-your-life material.
Alexander Anderson
Jan 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Verbal artistry at a high level, Emerson's essays are of the nature and structure of songs or poems. They are a kind of beautiful thunder & lightening that awakens the reader from his torpor & can be experienced over and over in the same way that a favourite song or piece of music is.
Sean McGuckian
Jun 24, 2007 marked it as to-read
"A man is a god in ruins. When men are innocent, life shall be longer, and shall pass into the immortal, as gently as we awake from dreams." Enough said.
Oct 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: essay, citizen
Emerson, Whitman and Thoreau are three persons I like very much, because they all described nature so much and give me an impression of what a man or citizen should be existing.
Christopher Gontar
Jun 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I have reread this book about 100 times, and have never ceased to be moved, inspired and also challenged by it. The author may be the greatest writer in the English language, after Shakespeare.
Jan 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
"Self-Reliance" must be read by everyone wishing/thinking themselves American.
Oct 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Emerson rings true for all ages!
May 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Tittilates my intellect.
Sandi Kay
May 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
One of three books for my summer class. Shuueww, summer is going to be busy!
Mystic Philosopher
Dec 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
this book i love it concise and to the point another book for the serious minded
Jan 31, 2008 added it
Recommended to Ann by: Bert Eustice
Amazingly prescient about who the great writers of his era were. Recognized superior talent from a single poem.
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  • A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers / Walden / The Maine Woods / Cape Cod
  • Tales and Sketches
  • Writings, 1902-1910
  • The Innocents Abroad/Roughing It
  • Collected Poems, Prose, and Plays
  • Collected Poetry & Prose
  • Speeches and Writings, 1859-1865
  • Writings
  • Complete Novels and Stories
  • Novels, Mont Saint Michel, The Education
  • Pierre, Israel Potter, The Piazza Tales, The Confidence-Man, Tales, Billy Budd
  • Novels, 1930-1935: As I Lay Dying / Sanctuary / Light in August / Pylon
  • Poetry and Prose (Library of America)
  • Writings: Autobiography/Notes on the State of Virginia/Public & Private Papers/Addresses/Letters
  • Autobiographies
  • Novels and Stories: The Call of the Wild / White Fang / The Sea-Wolf / Klondike and Other Stories
  • Poetry and Tales
  • James Madison: Writings
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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