EMERSON, RALPH WALDO, the most celebrated of American philosophers, was b. at Boston, United States, May 25, 1803, entered Harvard university in 1817, graduated in 1821, and became pastor of a Unitarian congregation in Boston in 1829. This office, however, he resigned in 1832, on account of the gradually increasing differences between his own modes of thought and those of his hearers. The next year he spent in England. Since then, he has led a quiet, retired, meditative life, chiefly at Concord. Among the earliest noticeable productions of his pen were two lectures, or orations,. entitled Nature and _Van. Dunking, delivered before the Phi Beta Kappa society at Cam bridge, United States, in 1837. In the following year appeared his Literary Ethics, an Oration; and in 1841, The _Method of Nature, 31an, the Reformer, the first series of his Essays, and several lectures, etc. Three years later, he issued a second series of Essays. In 1846, he published a volume of poems. In 1849, be revisited England, to deliver a series of lectures on Representative Men. When published, they were generally reckoned the most vigorous and intelligible of all the author had then written. In 1852, in con junction with W. H. Channing and J. F. Clarke, he published the Memoirs of Margaret Fuller (q.v.), Marchesa d'Ossoli. English Traits appeared in 1856, and the Conduct of Life in 1860. In 1865, E. published an Oration on the Death of President Lincoln; a second volume of poems in 1868; Society and Solitude, a third volume of essays in 1870; in 1871 an introduction to Goodwin's translation of Plutarch's Morals; Parnassus; Selected Poems; a fourth volume of essays; Letters and Social Aims (1875). He received the degree of LL.D. from Harvard university, U. S., in 1866. There is perhaps no living writer of note regarding whom opinions are so divided as Emerson. Some critics have placed him amongst the profoundest thinkers; others have pronounced him a sciolist and charlatan. No man who is himself sincere will doubt the sincerity of the American philosopher. It is true, however, that the subtlety of his intellect often deceives hint by the facility with which it discovers divine meanings in nature and the human soul. E. never pauses to harmonize his thoughts and convictions. He knows that an idea is
more forcible and attractive, and can be clothed in more brilliant and picturesque phraseology when it is not qualified, and, as it were, dragged down from its elevation by the influence of other ideas. He loves to watch the play of thought, and to dream and muse about it, borne up on the wing of a pure and delicate imagination, rather than to weigh its significance, or to build it up into an " intellectual system" or a creed. E. thus belongs to the class of minds which are intuitional rather than reflective, and subtle rather than sagacious. His thinking charms, animates,. and vividly excites the mental faculty of his reader, but it does not satisfy or settle any question conclusively. Hence his speculations on religion, philosophy, literature, and life, though stimulating to the young, are coldly regarded by men of mature and sage understanding. E. has nowhere formally defined the fundamental basis of his speculation. He appears to be what is called a pantheist, at least he rejects entirely that kind of theism which separates God from nature, and which looks upon him as simply a living spiritual personality. He will not recognize a God who is not " one with the blowing clover and the falling rain." In regard to man and his destinies, he entertains exalted hopes; but religion is not in his eyes a divinely revealed (in the ordinary sense) or infallible thing; all creeds are merely "the necessary and structural action of the human mind" in the course of its historical progress. Man made them all (Christianity included), and he believes, that from the inexhaustible depths of our nature there will come forth in due time new and ever higher faiths, which will supersede those that have gone before. E. is often said to have derived a good deal of his thinking from Thomas Carlyle. This is true, but not in any sense that can justify the vulgar criticism which makes him out to be a " Yankee pocket edition of Carlyle." He is essentially an original and independent genius. Some of his writings have been translated into French. and have excited considerable admiration among the Parisian transcendentalists. See Montegut's Essais de Philosophic Americaine (1851).