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The Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  2,206 ratings  ·  122 reviews
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Alfred Kazin observes in his Introduction, "was a great writer who turned the essay into a form all his own." His celebrated essays--the twelve published in Essays: First Series (1841) and eight in Essays: Second Series (1844)--are here presented for the first time in an authoritative one-volume edition, which incorporates all the changes and correctio ...more
Paperback, 410 pages
Published April 2nd 1987 by Belknap Press (first published January 1st 1876)
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Peter Matt In his essay titled Self Reliance, Emerson teaches the value of self confidence, self knowing or the power of our inner world from whence emanate all…moreIn his essay titled Self Reliance, Emerson teaches the value of self confidence, self knowing or the power of our inner world from whence emanate all wealth.(less)

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4.27  · 
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 ·  2,206 ratings  ·  122 reviews

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Jan 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would like to preface this review by saying that the body of the review has a lot "spiritual" talk and some people may find my words trite and very syrupy about my inner thoughts on life. So if you are feeling cynical right now, I think you will have a good chuckle. And, if you are like me, someone who always is searching, then maybe you will relate.

Growing up I've always been hopscotching from book to book looking for the tome that could lead my life. When I was 10 or 11 I began pulling the b
Feb 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Clearly I have changed since high school; as well as the world around me. These essays now seem much deeper and more insightful than they did the first time around. Emerson is not an easy read but he made me think differently about the world around me than I did before reading him. About myself as well. What a great gift that is!
Jakk Makk
Jan 13, 2017 rated it liked it
How to properly appreciate Emerson

Acquire audiobook and digital photo frame, then copy a series of Bob Ross painting images. Edit Emerson into sentences. Set the sentences to play one every ninety seconds, accompanied by an image. Hang in bathroom.

You now have an infinite number of pregenerated shower thoughts spaced out far enough to appreciate them.
Dave Maddock
Oct 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
Emerson, for whom my eldest son is named, had a profound effect on me as a teenager. His essays were the first piece of "serious" literature I undertook to read for personal education around age 16. Though I can't say I wholly subscribe to them these days, his ideas on individualist spirituality resonated with me, coming from a Christian family which encouraged self-discovery--with the caveat that your discoveries were orthodox. For someone as intellectually curious as I am, this environment led ...more
Aug 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Emerson teaches me something new every time I read him.
Aug 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, american
No review, just one quote about children from the essay "Nature": Read it, it's kind of funny.
The child with his sweet pranks, the fool of his senses, commanded by every sight and sound, without any power to compare and rank his sensations, abandoned to a whistle or a painted chip, to a lead dragoon or a gingerbread-dog, individualizing everything, generalizing nothing, delighted with every new thing, lies down at night overpowered by the fatigue which this day of continual pretty madness has in
Jul 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Emerson, oh so wise:

A chief event of life is the day in which we have encountered a mind that startled us.

A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature.

A great man is always willing to be little.

A man is what he thinks about all day long.

All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.

As long as a man stands in his own way, everything seems to be in his way.

Before we acquire great power we must acquire wisdom to use it well.

Character is higher than intellect. A
David K. Lemons
Jun 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I was 14 years old, my mother gave me Emerson's Essays as a gift. She always did things like this, which made me a lifelong reader of great literature. Emerson's wisdom reinforced the wisdom I had already heard or learned and added to it as well. So with that and Franklin's Autobiography, I made a list for self-improvement, another theme that I was at least conscious of for the rest of my life. Perfecto (R.I.P.) told my friend Xavier about the list when it dropped out of my pocket onto the ...more
Ira Therebel
Every once in a while we stumble upon a book which we are almost ashamed of not liking. This is the case for me.

I just did not like it. I was basically forcing myself to read every essay without skipping. It was so tedious and I just really didn't care what he has to say. There were a few quotes that I thought were beautiful, but those were maybe 2-3 in the whole book. Other than that I found it very hard to read and I really didn't care for his ideas and thoughts on those topics. Not even his f
Sep 07, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
When the first series of these essays were first published in 1841 the author’s aunt Mary remarked that it was “a strange medly [sic] of atheism and false independence.” Other reviewers were more favorable and the two series went on to become best sellers on both sides of the Atlantic. I think Aunt Mary’s charge of atheism is a bit misleading, since Emerson believed in The Over-Soul, of which all individual souls participated. I expect today’s generic term would be Higher Power. However, I must ...more
Jan 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very interesting view from a variety of everyday concepts, Emerson truly represents a transcendental opinion on life through pantheism and extreme individuality that really resonated with me, like the ideas on the Self-Reliance essay of a radical personal interpretation of exterior social and intellectual cues, a man's mind free of others, or his plea in The American Scholar of originality and independence of the ideological power of books, when he said "I had better never see a book than to be ...more
Oct 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My mother gave me her copy of this a few years ago. Finally picked it up at just the right time, and holy crap is this good. Some of it I didn't get or had a hard time with the language or just didn't feel like reading about the particular essay topic that day. Most was just clear as a bell and rich with meaning and insight. I can't do justice to it and his gift to us with these essays in this pithy little review.
Mar 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
If you haven't read one of the following, you aren't fit to be an American.

"The American Scholar"
"Divinity School Address"

I'll stick to that.
Feel like I could write a series of essays by just combining a bunch of vague aphorisms together.

The universal impulse to believe.

I am explained without explaining.

Religions are ejaculations.

The discovery that we have made that we exist.

Nature and literature are subjective phenomena.

The universe is the bride of the soul.

Sin in others is experience for ourself.

All stealing is comparative.
Ben Harrison
May 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who, in the midst of the crowd, keeps with perfect sweetn ...more
Clifton Knox
May 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An education.

There are very few writers who have ever imparted more wisdom in so few words. If Thomas Jefferson is the spirit of America then Ralph Waldo Emerson was its soul. A person who reads the words of Emerson cannot help but be haunted by the feeling of an eternal season of spring infused with the eternal sadness of life's inevitable end. Emerson is required reading for all thoughtful men and women. This particular book is excellent and no one looking to purchase Emerson's work in the kin
Jun 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
Re-read Compensation because there was a time when Emerson's words spoke so deeply to me. Wanted to see how I felt about his words again now. The concluding paragraph of Compensation still stands as an inspiring manifesto. Particularly when I've found myself in the midst of deep change, that paragraph speaks volumes to me.

I don't 100% agree with Emerson's dualistic view of things. I try and take into account his life and times, but what I love about Emerson is how deeply he thought and what he
Feb 22, 2009 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I've read Self-Reliance, The American Scholar, The Divinity School Address and part of Nature. I'm somewhat ashamed that I'm reading them for the first time here at the age of forty. Yet, I don't know how much of it I would have appreciated at a younger age. In my literature class, I find the youth sadly apathetic despite the pop trend towards involvement. Perhaps weighty discussions at 8:00 am are a bit overwhelming for their drug and alcohol saturated minds.
Ml Stephens
May 20, 2012 rated it liked it
This was one of those "I should have finished this in college" return trips. Emerson attacks ideas in an exclusively American way, one of vigor, amateur spirit, and (misplaced but endearing) certainty. Want to understand where we came from, why we're still arguing about what our fundamental rights really are, what makes the citizens of this country (all of us) so flawed and fabulous? Then read it. If you don't care, try Twilight.
Valerie Thompson
I first read this book in the late 80s as it was required reading as part of studies I was undertaking about mind power and the creativity of thought, under an American New Thought movement. And along with Man's presumptuous Brain, by H.T.W Simeons, it represents one of a handful of books that has greatly influenced me. I still have my original copy, and bought a copy recently for a friend for his birthday.
Stacy Parrish
Aug 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those who strive for peace
Shelves: oldfavorites
I love Emerson. Someday I will move to my own Walden Pond.
Oct 01, 2015 rated it it was ok
Poetic, but Emerson makes too many generalisations and talks about them like law. Very disappointed.
Keith Wilson
Nov 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I recently opened, for the first time, a volume of essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson from the collection of old books in my library that I have never read. I was surprised to find that my father, whom I must’ve gotten the book from, noted on the title page that he had read it three times in his adolescence. I started to study the book, not to discover what Emerson’s thoughts were, but to learn more about my father.

When I have a client who needs to understand something about their father, I ask them
I read somewhere once that Emerson wasn't considered such a great writer. I must admit after reading these essays, which was often hard work, I can at least understand where the sentiment may have come from. His prose is difficult. His ideas often seem meandering. Still, on several occasions while reading this book, I found myself suddenly transfixed by the power of his language.

I think what's particularly interesting about Emerson is that many of his ideas are more reminiscent of Eastern philos
Aug 28, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
perhaps I'm not the target audience

found it hard to read, both due to its dated style and its heavy New Age tones. I know this is the guy who inspired the New Age.
parts of American Scholar were interesting. beginning of Nature was beautiful and potent, but it devolved into ranting.
James Shaskan
Convers Francis said it best, in 1836:

"His style is too fragmentary and sententious. It wants the requisite words or phrases of connection and transition. I find that his beautiful things are slippery, and will not stay in the mind."
Aug 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
Emerson's style of writing is so opaque that it's difficult to get his points. It took me almost a year to struggle through this. I only made it because after a few months I made myself read five pages a day, every day, come hell or high water.
Jack Alexander
I read this on the beach this summer. I'm not going to review it, but just say his writing is at times insightful and full of wonderful language.
It is a book that I will keep around and read over and over.
Ward Hammond
May 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, audible
This is a re-read for me. Self-reliance, intellect, and many others really spoke to me.
Karen Izzo
Nov 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-and-reread
We should live by these essays. I'm not very good at it, but I try.
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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
“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not.” 1073 likes
“I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.” 426 likes
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