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Nature and Selected Essays

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  1,648 Ratings  ·  65 Reviews
Through his writing and his own personal philosophy, Ralph Waldo Emerson unburdened his young country of Europe's traditional sense of history and showed Americans how to be creators of their own circumstances. His mandate, which called for harmony with, rather than domestication of, nature, and for a reliance on individual integrity, rather than on materialistic instituti ...more
Paperback, Penguin Classics Edition, 416 pages
Published April 24th 2003 by Penguin Classics (first published 1836)
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Sep 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everybody
The world is pliably linguistic. Have faith in the way you see it! Allow yourself to do what you do and feel what you feel. Be a healthy individualist. Respect your fellow woman and your shared source.

Hippies talk all the time about universal spirits and mother nature and blah blah blah... none of them give plausible or interesting explanations of what they mean. Emerson points out very simply that Nature--everything that exists outside of me--makes up the common store of our language. Nature is
Feb 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2012
I can't help but start this review with a truism: It's near impossible to read American books or process American popular culture or politics without somehow grappling with the legacy of Ralph Waldo Emerson. We know better than ever that no claim to understand any era can be made without reference to a diversity of voices; however, while it's true that Emerson's easy to lump into the category of overrated privileged white men, it's also true that in his writings intersect just about every major ...more
Melissa Rudder
Jan 24, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: master-s-exam
I can't resist Emerson. I enjoyed Nature much less than "Self Reliance" but I still found myself admiring his prose. For a writer who said "I hate quotations," he sure supplies a plethora of pithy lines.

My main problem with Nature was how anthropocentric it was. Nature is a powerful force through which the poet experiences the sublime and can gather fundamental truths, yet Emerson repeatedly asserts that it is a servant of "man," which bothered me. I was also slightly disturbed by Emerson's ent
Aug 01, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: classics
Passages like this are great:

"To the body and mind which have been cramped by noxious work or company, nature is medicinal and restores their tone. The tradesman, the attorney comes out of the din and craft of the street, and sees the sky and the woods, and is a man again. In their eternal calm, he finds himself."

Parts like this are more troubling:

"Nature is thoroughly mediate. It is made to serve. It receives the dominion of man as meekly as the ass on which the Savior rode."

The essay alternate
Mar 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
...and five stars for his tribute to Thoreau.
Greening USiena
Dal mio punto di vista, qualsiasi progetto, per essere realmente sentito e condiviso, deve portare con sé un corrispondente bagaglio morale e filosofico. Non può nascere nessuna attività concreta se il seme del pensiero non è ancora maturato, creando i pilastri sui quali fondare tutto il resto. L'ispirazione che mi ha spinto a proporre l'idea di Greening USiena si sostanzia nella necessità che il nostro agire sia profondamente interiorizzato, che in noi sia radicato il deciso e libero convincime ...more
Rakhi Dalal
Sep 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Emerson speaks about Nature with such an enthusiasm.He speaks of the integrity of impression given by natural objects.He believes that in woods, we return to reason and faith and that nothing can befall us in life- no disgrace and no calamity.......and we feel that we are part or particle of God.

But to whom this reason appease? Its true that that the existence of nature and Us too can not be ignored, but what joy does it give to the souls who are looking out for a reason for the existence itself
Jan 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
My version had essays on Nature, History and Self-Reliance. My impression was that Emerson was one smart guy. The essays are packed with wisdom in so many places across so many areas of thought. It's definitely not always easy to read. The writing is often frilly and complex. It's also threaded with examples from classics (I haven't read) throughout. That said he's an extremely poetic writer and the book was worth reading for any one of his lines of wisdom from any of the essays. I particularly ...more
Apr 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I'm not sure if this is the exact copy I have, but the essay on Nature is so beautifully written. He manages to describe the simple spiritual upliftment people can access through natural scenery. Emerson was very controversial in his time because his philosophies went against the Church's idea that you must go through the institution/a third party to access spirituality. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, Emerson writes brilliantly and I find his words life-affirming - they make me happy to b ...more
Feb 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: america, essays
Nature I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII +

The American Scholar +
An Address to the Senior Class in Divinity College +
Literary Ethics +
The Method of Nature +

Man the Reformer +
Introductory Lecture on the Times +
The Conservative +-
The Transcendentalist -
The Young American +
Aug 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Who doesn't love Emerson? Raise your hand so that I can stop being your friend.
Clay Kallam
Aug 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
Ralph Waldo Emerson is one of those names -- you've heard it, you have some idea why he was important, but really, when you get right down to it, you don't know much beyond the name.

So, for example, when I was reading one of the essays is this book, this sentence appeared: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." I've always loved that line, but had no idea it was Emerson who wrote it, nor that it was from an 1841 essay called "Self-Reliance."

But that sentence also reflects the
Garrett Peace
Oct 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Whew. Finally.

Yes, this is a 5-star book. You can see so much of the intellectual life of America (such as it is...) getting its start here, and I am glad I read it, just to have a greater understanding of the intellectual/“spiritual” context in which some of my favorite writers (Whitman, Dickinson, etc.) were working. “Experience” was my favorite essay, along with “Self-Reliance.” Everything else was great, but it’s difficult to read more than one at a time, due to the density of Emerson’s pro
Nov 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes a book comes along in your life that, even if not flawless, gives you moments of true intellectual clarity. For this reason Emerson's essays are an essential read and are still very much relevant to this day.
May 14, 2017 rated it liked it
I finished "Nature" and would like to tackle it again, but I will leave the remaining essays for another day. Distant antecedents made me sleepy if I tried to read anywhere near bedtime.
Jackson Cyril
Emerson is fun to read, but he can get rather repetitive in his message-- especially in this work.
May 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Ralph Waldo Emerson covered many aspects of men in many essays. Nature-oriented and thought-provoking, many points have been discussed around men’s relation with nature, how men can learn truth from nature, and what virtues men can possess while interacting with nature. In a society where we emphasize on external pursuits, these essays emphasize on internal pursuit - how to build intellect, will, and affection, what forms nature of a man. Mostly importantly, how men should see through the surfac ...more
At least Thoreau sort of made sense and vaguely defined his terms.

Emerson says "The soul must stand erect," and I have no idea of what the heck he's even talking about.

For some interesting reason that I cannot begin to fathom, my classmates like Thoreau and Emerson. I think they said that they like the poetic phrasings and metaphors. I like poetry...when it's in poetry. Not in essays.

And I'm getting tired of Emerson saying that goodness is found in mankind.


I know it's not nice, but half
Sep 04, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: American Renaissances fans
Recommended to Nikoline by: English teacher
I read this for my course in the English Renaissances, and I to be honest I am not sure if I would have chosen it for myself. That said, I am very delighted to have read this - to own a copy - because Nature and Selected Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson has been a great influence on some of the great, American writers and to see what they got inspired by feels like a privilege.

To say that I that I enjoyed all of Emerson's essay would be false, but I really enjoyed his Over-Soul, The American Schol
Jun 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Beautiful writing & thoughts throughout, though convoluted and obscure at times. I can see why his audience assembled & was moved & why he had the power to institute existentialism as a movement and religion. So much light & truth offered in a time of searching. However I must note that there is a lot of back patting going on in an effort to establish himself as the eminent American author and American literature. Also his hypocritical criticism of travelers, his atheist (Jesus w ...more
Nov 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nature
In this essay he paints the relationship humans possess with nature and how we as human's can find solace and inspiration in nature. He paints an entire philosophical thought process of how we are connected with all parts of the God's creation.

I am sure Emerson's philosophy could be debunked by serious philosophers. Yet, this essay, as one who learned to worship God in nature, instinctively jived with me.
Jan 27, 2015 rated it liked it
3 1/2 stars This is a comprehensive collection of his essays including two on Nature,plus Character, Prudence, Intellect, Spiritual Laws, Love, Beauty, Gifts, Circles, Compensation and the American Scholar. It is thought-provoking but at the same time, part of it feels dated in that so much more is known about nature in particular, and from time to time his comparisons also show a lack of recent knowledge. But if you like Emerson, you should read these essays.
Sep 10, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Nature is endlessly frustrating, but simultaneously endlessly valuable. Emerson repeats himself incessantly and the text is more sermon than prose. But, Nature (albeit initally anonymously self-published) was Emerson's first real publication and represents a time of revolution and transience in American Literature.
Feb 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book wasn't what I thought it'd be... but in a good way. It's as much about the soul as a book you'd pick up about mindfulness or enlightenment would be; it makes you think in a different way.

I really really had to focus to get the gist of it, often reading sentences three or four times. People just don't write like they did in 1836 anymore. I could reread and reread this, I think.
One of the fathers of the Romantic and Naturalist movement. You must read his works on Nature, Self-Reliance, and Experience. The majority of Romantic works are canonized by and reflect such ideas like the transparent eye. Emerson stresses the relationship between man and nature, nature's gateway to knowledge, and the humanity of the Natural world.
Apr 28, 2007 rated it liked it
I think I may have enjoyed this more if I hadn't had to schlep through it in a very very unlively class. In Nature, Emerson lays down the basic philosophy of the transcendentalists. It is important to realize how much of an influence Emerson was on his contemporaries as we see reactions to his ideas in the work of Thoreau, Hawthorne and Melville, to name just a few.
Sep 23, 2011 rated it liked it
The parts about nature and language are particularly engaging, but the central thrust of his argument is quite simple when it all boils down. I don't know, Emerson is a lot of bombast and not much results.
Jun 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Nature changed the way I looked at United States History. Not only a must read for philosophy students (obviously) but for American History students who want to study how Intellectual history changed social history.
Oct 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
I had to force myself to slow-down and concentrate on each word. Kinda like being back in undergrad or something. But it was very good. I think being forced to slow-down was a reflection of the essence of this essay.
Mar 03, 2017 added it
Shelves: own
Read An Address Delivered before the Senior Class 1/25/17 - 2/1/17
Read "Self-Reliance" 2/1/17 - 2/6/17
Read "Nature" - 1/24/18 - 1/29/18
Read "An Address Delivered Before the Senior Class in Divinity College" - 1/29/18 - 1/31/18
Read "Circles" - 1/29/18 - 1/31/18
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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
“If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.” 516 likes
“I am the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty. In the wilderness, I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature.” 161 likes
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