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The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  3,565 ratings  ·  148 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, Emer
Paperback, Modern Library Classics, 880 pages
Published September 12th 2000 by Modern Library (first published November 15th 1983)
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Emerson That seriously sounds like Benjamin Franklin to me. I'd lay money on that being who you're looking for. He created a system of 13 virtues of which Mod…moreThat seriously sounds like Benjamin Franklin to me. I'd lay money on that being who you're looking for. He created a system of 13 virtues of which Moderation was one. He had a lot to say on the subject. Link: http://www.thirteenvirtues.com(less)

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Meghan Koos
Feb 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing

"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
Dec 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-own
Can anybody truly be done reading emerson?
Colleen Browne
Mar 01, 2022 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
I have been reading (parts) of this book for a long time. The part on nature was very good, transcendentalism was informative-I hadn't actually studied the transcendentalists before and had only passing knowledge about them. His views on the Fugitive Slave Act was brilliant. He takes sharp aim at Daniel Webster for selling out and being the deciding vote in the Senate. He also had views on John Brown that were quite amazing. I had expected that he would be favorable towards him but did not expec ...more
Oct 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
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
Tom Shadyac
Apr 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-books
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
Jan 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I cannot say I have read this book in entirety. Emerson is more of a writer to take with you on life’s journey; you don’t so much as complete Emerson; rather you check in with him periodically along the way.

Mary Oliver wrote a superb introduction to him in this edition. Take a look at it before you start the journey with Emerson. If anyone ever found the essence of stopping and smelling the roses or coffee, it is Emerson.
Courtney Ferriter
Nov 09, 2021 rated it really liked it
** 4 stars **

Emerson wrote of Thomas Carlyle, "He is a very national figure, and would by no means bear transplantation" (837). The same can be said of Ralph Waldo Emerson. If you want to understand the ethos of the United States, then read Emerson. He truly is the quintessential American writer: optimistic, individualistic to a fault, charismatic and inspiring.

Henry James wrote that Emerson "had frequently an exquisite elegance," and you can see this everywhere in his writing. He is often poeti
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Mar 31, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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.
Apr 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
this is my jack off material. gorgeous language. "self-reliance" is life changing. ...more
Kyle Nelson
Jul 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle, 2020, hist-philo
How do you rate Emerson with some number of stars? I think he’d have an essay to write about the whole concept.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882)
« Essential writings »
Emerson’s essays’ are the mirror of his vast knowledge drawn from extensive readings in ancient historical philosophies and religions, as well as personal studies of theology and preaching in his younger years as a minister of the Protestant Church.
Not unlike Montaigne, he quotes throughout his writings, words, beliefs, and thoughts of Plato, Heraclitus, Aristotle, Zenon, Epicurus, and other, more recent, philosophers.
He will also quote anci
Jul 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: always-reading
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
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. ...more
Dylan Jones
Jan 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: america, philosophy
I initially planned to read this a bit a night over the year, but I incidentally found myself reading large chunks every night. Everything about the transcendentalist movement resonates (it’s called that because transcendentalism is meant to explain the aspects of nature and humanity that transcend time or space, so that an Ancient Greek and Emerson himself could converse about the same experience). Emerson is a poet-philosopher or a philosopher poet, and I recommend his writings to anyone who w ...more
Jul 26, 2021 rated it liked it
The formal language and depth of the philosophy/theology are beyond me.
Oct 06, 2021 rated it really liked it
“Nature arms each man with some faculty which enables him to do easily some feat impossible to any other, and thus makes him necessary to society. This native determination guides his labor and his spending. He wants an equipment of means and tools proper to his talent. And to save on this point were to neutralize the special strength and helpfulness of each mind. Do your work, respecting the excellence of the work, and not its acceptableness.”

As you can see,Mr. Emerson was a man of higher spiri
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wet-my-whistle
I found this astounding collection of essays rather hard to get through. Not because they were bad, or poorly written, but because they were so wonderful. While I thought some of his ideas were rather questionable - I'm not a big fan of natural theology (at least as I understand it) - his positions were still clearly made and forced me to seriously consider a number of my positions. Some parts I struggled to understand, but after thinking about them for a bit I found the ideas so great that I co ...more
Amy Lou Jenkins
Apr 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing

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 Examiner.com: The Essential Wri
Feb 12, 2009 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
S.L. Jones
Oct 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
An old fellow once told me “All you need is Emerson and Dostojevski.” Wait, I think I read that somewhere, here on Goodreads.. Anyway, that old fellow was right: All you need is Emerson and Dostojevskij. Yes, and you’re good to go. Where? Why anywhere!
Apr 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
"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."
Aug 18, 2012 is currently reading it
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.
Ross Cohen
Oct 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
Repetition beautifully articulated.
William Schram
The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson contains what it says. It is an annotated collection of the writings of noted American Scholar Ralph Waldo Emerson. It contains his essays, transcriptions of his speeches, poetry that he had written and so on. All of his major works are included and I am hard pressed to think of anything that is not in the book. This is mainly because I am not a scholar of Emerson’s works. The book also contains a biography that glosses over Emerson’s life. Since the ...more
Whiskey Tango
Emerson was a philosopher, poet, and essayist. Though he’s credited with being one of the fathers of Transcendentalism, the New England movement that privileged idealism over empiricism and found a natural divinity in all things, he valued independent thought above adherence to any creed or system. Since the best of Emerson is the phrase, the sentence, the paragraph—call it the majestic sound bite (he was, after all, a riveting public speaker)—the best way to approach his work may be to just ope ...more
Feb 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics, non-fiction
I do not agree with everything Emerson says, but he is a joy to disagree with. I particularly dislike his essay entitled "Wealth". I found his ban on legislation of the free market following decrying the power of the Rothschild's illogical. His affection for friends I found stilted. I found his poetry a touch narrative, but his prose elegant.

And I rather believe he married his first wife because he believed he was the sort of man who would marry a dying woman, rather than from any genuine love.
Dan Gorman
Sep 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read Emerson's short book "Nature," collected within this collection. Emerson's brand of non-Christian natural spirituality is fascinating, but his writing style doesn't do much for me. I wouldn't be surprised if Emerson's recommendation to go into nature influenced Thoreau at Walden. So: 3 stars for the purple prose, 5 stars for this anthology of a nineteenth-century superstar's most famous work, and an average of 4 stars overall for the volume. ...more
Ogi Ogas
Nov 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My ratings of books on Goodreads are solely a crude ranking of their utility to me, and not an evaluation of literary merit, entertainment value, social importance, humor, insightfulness, scientific accuracy, creative vigor, suspensefulness of plot, depth of characters, vitality of theme, excitement of climax, satisfaction of ending, or any other combination of dimensions of value which we are expected to boil down through some fabulous alchemy into a single digit.
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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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