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Emerson in His Own Time

A Biographical Chronicle of His Life, Drawn from Recollections, Interviews, and Memoirs by Family, F

Ronald A. & Joel Bosco & Myerson, Ronald A Bosco

Publication Year: 2003

At his death, Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–1864) was universally acknowledged in America and England as “the Great Romancer.” Novels such as The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables and stories published in such collections as Twice-Told Tales continue to capture the minds and imaginations of readers and critics to this day. Harder to capture, however, were the character and personality of the man himself. So few of the essays that appeared in the two years after his death offered new insights into his life, art, and reputation that Hawthorne seemed fated to premature obscurity or, at least, permanent misrepresentation. This first collection of personal reminiscences by those who knew Hawthorne intimately or knew about him through reliable secondary sources rescues him from these confusions and provides the real human history behind the successful writer. 
    Remembrances from Elizabeth Peabody, Sophia Hawthorne, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Bronson Alcott, Rebecca Harding Davis, and twenty others printed in Hawthorne in His Own Time follow him from his childhood in Salem, through his years of initial literary obscurity, his days in the Boston and Salem Custom Houses, his service as U.S. Consul to Liverpool and Manchester and his life in the Anglo-American communities at Rome and Florence, to his late years as the “Great Romancer.” 
    In their enlightening introduction, editors Ronald Bosco and Jillmarie Murphy assess the postmortem building of Hawthorne’s reputation as well as his relationship to the prominent Transcendentalists, spiritualists, Swedenborgians, and other personalities of his time. By clarifying the sentimental associations between Hawthorne’s writings and his actual personality and moving away from the critical review to the personal narrative, these artful and perceptive reminiscences tell the private and public story of a remarkable life.

Published by: University of Iowa Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ix-xxxi

Ralph Waldo Emerson enjoys an enduring reputation as a principal architect of American intellectual culture and as one of the most significant figures in all of American literary history. That reputation was made during his life, and it has solidified to the point of defying almost all challenges over the one hundred and twenty years since his death. For instance, writing in 1903...


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pp. xxxiii-xl

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Amos Bronson Alcott, [A Visit to Emerson at Concord in 1837]

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pp. 1-2

Amos Bronson Alcott and Emerson became lifelong friends after their first meetings in the 1830s. Following unsuccessful stints as a teacher in Philadelphia, Alcott, who had lived in Boston between 1828 and 1830, returned there in 1834 to operate the Temple School with the assistance of Elizabeth Palmer Peabody. He was an original member of the Transcendental Club founded...

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Convers Francis, [Remarks on Emerson in 1838, 1855, and 1858]

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pp. 3-9

The Unitarian minister and historian, and Parkman Professor of Pulpit Eloquence at Harvard, Convers Francis first met Emerson in the 1830s. Francis was an original member of the Transcendental Club and a close friend of most of its members, but because he stopped short of Emerson’s intellectual radicalism and Bronson Alcott’s and Theodore Parker’s social radicalism, he...

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Ellis Gray Loring, [A Visit from Emerson in 1838]

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pp. 10-11

Boston lawyer and abolitionist Ellis Gray Loring had known Emerson from their days together at the Boston Latin School and, later, at Harvard College. A cofounder of the New England Anti-Slavery Society, Loring had argued an important case before the state supreme court establishing the legal precedent that every slave brought on Massachusetts soil by the owner was legally free, and he...

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[Annie Sawyer Downs], [Reminiscences of a Childhood in Concord in the 1840s]

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pp. 12-15

Annie Sawyer Downs (ca. 1836–1901) was born in Manchester, New Hampshire, and moved to Concord with her family in the early 1840s, where she lived for about ten years. Because she did not write it until 1891, Downs’s reminiscence interweaves childhood memories with anecdotes of the relations among the Alcotts, the Hawthornes, the Hoars, Thoreau, and Emerson at midcentury...

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Richard Frederick Fuller, “The Younger Generation in 1840 from the Diary of a New England Boy”

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pp. 16-20

Richard Frederick Fuller, Margaret Fuller’s younger brother, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1824. After the death of his father, Timothy Fuller, Richard gave up his ambition of entering Harvard and took a job in a dry goods store in Boston. But on his sister’s advice, and armed with a letter of introduction from her, he visited Emerson in 1840 to seek his counsel on preparing for...

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[Margaret Fuller], [At Concord with the Emersons in 1842]

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pp. 21-27

Margaret Fuller was one of the most important women in Emerson’s life. They had heard about each other through mutual friends, and they shared a desire to meet. This was fulfilled when she spent three weeks visiting him in Concord in the summer of 1836. Although Emerson was at first put off by Fuller’s physical mannerisms, he soon praised her intelligence, though he was...

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Jane Welsh Carlyle and Thomas Carlyle, [A Visit from Emerson in 1847]

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pp. 28-32

After reading several seminal essays on German idealism and history published in the Edinburgh Review in the late 1820s and early 1830s, Emerson instinctively knew that their author was appealing to a generation, in America and abroad, bristling under the confinement of tradition and rationalist thought. When he finally met Thomas Carlyle and his wife Jane Welsh Carlyle...

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Anonymous, “Emerson as a Lecturer” (1849)

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pp. 33-34

This anonymous account in the Boston Post is of Emerson’s lecture on “The Relation of Intellect to Natural Science,” part of his Mind and Manners of the Nineteenth Century series. While the Post’s reporter had problems with the lecture’s content, he was pleased with the lecturer’s performance. Other papers were not as impressed: the Boston Daily Evening Transcript reprinted the...

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Herman Melville, [Letter to Evert A. Duyckinck about Emerson as a Lecturer] (1849)

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pp. 35-37

Herman Melville first heard Emerson lecture in 1849 and read many of his works. While he appreciated Emerson’s Platonism and sense of the correspondences that existed among things, he eventually became disturbed by the optimistic strain that Emerson had toward the natural world, which Melville did not share, believing that nature was at best indifferent toward humankind’s...

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Fredrika Bremer, From The Homes of the New World; Impressions of America (1853)

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pp. 38-41

Born in Finland, novelist Fredrika Bremer spent most of her life in Sweden. She visited America in the late 1840s and early 1850s, and her very popular book, The Homes of the New World; Impressions of America, in which she mingled common gossip and “Old World” prejudices with extended commentary on American culture at midcentury, is among the best produced in the genre...

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[Franklin Benjamin Sanborn], “Mr. Emerson’s Lectures” (1864)

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pp. 42-45

Over his long and varied career as a teacher, journalist, social reformer, prolific reporter of Transcendentalism in New England, and biographer of Emerson, Thoreau, Alcott, and others, Franklin Benjamin Sanborn earned immense respect from his contemporaries. Today, however, Sanborn’s reputation is mixed at best. For although as a second-generation Transcendentalist he—probably...

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[George William Curtis], [Emerson as Seen from the “Editor’s Easy Chair” in 1865]

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pp. 46-48

George William Curtis, author, travel writer, critic, and journalist, knew most of the people of the Transcendentalist period. He and his brother Burrill joined the Brook Farm community in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, in 1842, staying almost a year and a half. Following a brief stint in New York, Curtis joined his brother in Concord, where they spent most of 1844–1846 with a farmer’s...

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Anonymous, “Ralph Waldo Emerson” (1865)

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pp. 49-52

Not all reviewers appreciated Emerson’s performance or his ideas as a lecturer. The New York periodical the Knickerbocker had long been an opponent of Transcendentalism in general and Emerson in particular. It reviewed his books negatively, continually grouped him with Thomas Carlyle as examples of bad writing, and kept up a decades-long battle with what it considered the foggy...

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James Russell Lowell, From My Study Windows (1871)

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pp. 53-57

As a poet, essayist, and editor of the Atlantic Monthly (1857–1861) and the North American Review (1863–1872), James Russell Lowell influenced American literary and aesthetic taste for the better part of the nineteenth century. Students of American Transcendentalism have recognized that, while Lowell rejected the mysticism associated with the movement and Emerson’s...

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Bronson Alcott, “Fuller,Thoreau, Emerson. . . . The Substance of a ‘Conversation’ ” (1871)

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pp. 58-61

In this estimate of the character of his friends Margaret Fuller, Henry David Thoreau, and Emerson, and his weighing of their relative merits as lecturers, conversationalists, and writers, Bronson Alcott praises Fuller as an “imperial” conversationalist who “carried her head as a goddess,” and he credits Thoreau as “the most original mind the country has produced.” By contrast, Alcott...

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Anna Alcott Pratt, Louisa May Alcott, and Ellen Tucker Emerson, [“House burned,Wednesday, 24 July (1872)”]

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pp. 62-69

“House burned, Wednesday, 24 July” (Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks, 16:278). With these few words entered into his journal, Emerson recorded the most traumatic experience of his later life. It was an experience from which neither his body nor his mind ever fully recovered. The fire, which may have been caused by a defective chimney flue or a kerosene lamp left burning...

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Anonymous, “Emerson: A Literary Interview” (1874)

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pp. 70-73

Styled as an interview, this essay provides a casual, almost gossipy, report of Emerson’s Concord home and surroundings, his physical appearance and character, and his assessments of Bronson Alcott, Margaret Fuller, William Wordsworth, Thomas Carlyle, John Stuart Mill, and the American historian George Bancroft, among others. The tone of the piece indicates how...

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Octavius Brooks Frothingham, From Transcendentalism in New England: A History (1876)

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pp. 74-79

A member of the second generation of Transcendentalists, Octavius Brooks Frothingham felt an intellectual and theological kinship with Emerson, whom he credited as his personal source when he delivered his own protests against religious dogmatism and formalism from the various Unitarian pulpits he occupied. Frothingham recognized that Transcendentalism, especially...

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Walt Whitman, From Prose Works 1892 (1881–1882)

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pp. 80-83

Walt Whitman had sent a copy of the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass to Emerson soon after its publication. He admired the older man, having heard him lecture in 1842, and he once commented to John Townsend Trowbridge that “I was simmering, simmering, simmering” until “Emerson brought me to a boil.” Emerson responded with a famous letter of praise, in which he writes...

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Ellen Tucker Emerson, [Emerson’s Death] (1882)

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pp. 84-88

Emerson’s final illness occurred over the brief span of about ten days. The earliest notices of his illness and death were published in newspaper reports of the “human interest” variety with which we are familiar today. Successive headlines ran, “Ralph Waldo Emerson Sick,” “Mr. Emerson Somewhat Better,” “No Hope for Emerson,” “Mr. Emerson Dead,” “Into the Unknown, of Which He...

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Louisa May Alcott, “Reminiscences of Ralph Waldo Emerson” (1882)

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pp. 89-94

The daughter of Emerson’s lifelong friend, the impractical reformer Bronson Alcott, and one of the most enduring American women writers of the late nineteenth century, Louisa May Alcott knew Emerson all of her life and, as her biographers and editors have frequently remarked, she considered herself a second Bettina von Arnim to Emerson’s Goethe. Never a practicing...

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Frederic Henry Hedge, [Reminiscences of Emerson] (1882)

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pp. 95-101

The son of Harvard professor Levi Hedge, Frederic Henry Hedge was the Transcendentalist most familiar with German literature, and the only one who had studied in Germany. He met Emerson in 1828, when both were in the Harvard Divinity School. One of the leading lights of what became the Transcendentalist movement, his March 1833 article on Samuel Taylor Coleridge...

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[Edwin Percy Whipple], “Some Recollections of Ralph Waldo Emerson” (1882)

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pp. 102-110

Prolific American essayist and literary critic Edwin Percy Whipple advocated for a national literature free from British and other influences and a national critical theory informed by ethics and an appreciation of the essential intellectual relationship between authors and their readers. Although he enjoyed a close friendship with Nathaniel Hawthorne, helping him to select the title...

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Julia Ward Howe and Ednah Dow Cheney, From Concord Lectures on Philosophy . . . at the Concord School of Philosophy in 1882

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pp. 111-115

Established in 1879, the Concord School of Philosophy has been described as “the last flowering of the Transcendentalist movement.” The major figures involved in the school were Bronson Alcott, Franklin Benjamin Sanborn, and William Torrey Harris. The school convened each summer between 1879 and 1887, and then one last time in 1888 for a memorial service for...

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A. B. Muzzey, From Reminiscences and Memorials of the Men of the Revolution and Their Families (1883)

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pp. 116-120

Artemas Bowers Muzzey, a prolific author of religious and inspirational tracts and a Unitarian minister and pastor of churches in Framingham, Cambridge, and Newburyport, Massachusetts, and Concord, New Hampshire, first met Emerson at Harvard in 1820, was married by him at the Second Church, and attended his funeral. Muzzey explains in his opening paragraph...

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Oliver Wendell Holmes, From Ralph Waldo Emerson (1884)

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pp. 121-127

The Boston Brahmin, physician, and satirist Oliver Wendell Holmes knew Emerson for over fifty years. Although Holmes and Emerson counted each other as friends, with Emerson often sending Holmes a copy of his latest publication, Holmes, whose formalism undoubtedly stemmed from his scientific training, was contemptuous of Emerson’s brand of Transcendentalism...

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Pendleton King, “Notes of Conversations with Emerson” (1884)

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pp. 128-135

Pendleton King’s visit to Concord in the summer of 1870 shows Emerson’s vitality and mental awareness two years before the fire that devastated his house and took so a great toll on his mind. Like so many who met Emerson, King found him a man who “devoted his life to noble ends, and of being perfectly willing to leave the result to time.” King’s record...

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[Annie Adams Fields], “Glimpses of Emerson” (1884)

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pp. 136-142

Annie Adams Fields and her husband James T. Fields—Emerson’s publisher— were close friends of the Emersons. Fields is probably best remembered today as a social reformer and the keeper of a literary salon in her Charles Street home on Boston’s fashionable Beacon Hill. There, from the early 1870s to her death in 1915, she entertained international guests...

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Frank Bellew, “Recollections of Ralph Waldo Emerson” (1884)

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pp. 143-149

The son of an officer in the British Army, illustrator and caricaturist Frank Henry Temple Bellew (1828–1888) was born in Calcutta, India, spent his early years in France and England, and moved to New York City in 1850, where he counted newspapermen Ed Underhill, Frank Cahill, and Walt Whitman among his friends. His illustrations were well known to American...

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E. P. Peabody, “Emerson as Preacher” (1885)

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pp. 150-156

An educational and social reformer, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody assisted Bronson Alcott in the Temple School in Boston in the 1830s, began a book store and circulating library in Boston in 1840, and published several of her brother-inlaw Nathaniel Hawthorne’s works under her own imprint. In the late 1830s and early 1840s Peabody became active in the Transcendentalist...

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Edward Waldo Emerson, Ellen Tucker Emerson, and Edith Emerson Forbes, [Emerson as Remembered by His Children] (1889 and 1897, 1902, 1921)

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pp. 157-172

Although he did not have children with his first wife Ellen Louisa Tucker, Emerson had four with his second wife Lydia (Lidian) Jackson: Waldo (1836–1842), Ellen Tucker (1839–1909), Edith (1841–1929), and Edward Waldo (1844–1930). In their respective reminiscences that follow, the Emerson children represent their youth as a happy time, and they are balanced...

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Charles J. Woodbury, From Talks with Ralph Waldo Emerson (1890)

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pp. 173-177

When I recall Mr. Emerson personally, I recognize that a man more impersonal one seldom meets. There was nothing pronounced about him. Presence (in one meaning) he had none, because he was without the consciousness, self-esteem, and self-assertion which go so far to constitute it. But there was that behind the withdrawn manner which took...

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Francis Espinasse, From Literary Recollections and Sketches (1893)

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pp. 178-183

Journalist and biographer Francis Espinasse was a friend of Jane Welsh and Thomas Carlyle and a frequent visitor to their house in London. In 1847 he was a newspaper writer in Manchester, where he met Emerson during his British lecture tour. His comments on Emerson’s Mind and Manners of the Nineteenth Century and Representative Men lecture series show not only...

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William Henry Furness, “Random Reminiscences of Emerson” (1893)

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pp. 184-188

Born in Boston, the Unitarian minister, theologian, reformer, and prolific author William Henry Furness was, along with Samuel Bradford, one of Emerson’s truest lifelong friends. After graduating from the Harvard Divinity School in 1823, Furness became the pastor of the Unitarian Church in Philadelphia, where he remained for the next seventy years. An early supporter...

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W. J. Stillman, “The Philosophers’ Camp. Emerson, Agassiz, Lowell, and Others in the Adirondacks” (1893)

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pp. 189-194

In August 1858, Emerson joined James Russell Lowell, Louis Agassiz, Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar, John Holmes, Horatio Woodman, and others on an excursion to the Adirondack wilderness in upstate New York. The American artist, art critic for the New York Evening Post, and avid outdoorsman William James Stillman made the party’s arrangements, and his account of the excursion...

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William Dean Howells, “My First Visit to New England” (1894)

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pp. 195-199

As a young staffer on the Ohio State Journal, William Dean Howells made a literary tour of New York and New England in 1860. He visited Walt Whitman in New York and became acquainted with the bohemian crowd at Pfaff’s restaurant on Bleeker Street; in New England he visited Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Thoreau, and Emerson in Concord. Following an appointment...

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Frank Preston Stearns, From Sketches from Concord and Appledore (1895)

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pp. 200-208

Frank Preston Stearns was the son of George Luther Stearns, a reformer who aided John Brown in Kansas and who advocated the enlistment of blacks in the army during the Civil War. The son took a different direction in life. Frank was educated at F. B. Sanborn’s school in Concord and Harvard University, and later became an authority on Italian art. The extended...

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Rebecca Harding Davis, “A Little Gossip” (1900)

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pp. 209-212

In this reminiscence of her first journey to New England, Rebecca Harding Davis describes her early desire to become a writer and her first meetings with the Hawthornes, Bronson and Louisa May Alcott, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Emerson, among others. The year was 1862, and since she hailed from Virginia, Davis’s experience of the Civil War...

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John Muir, [Emerson in the Yosemite Valley] (1901)

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pp. 213-216

Between 11 April and 30 May 1871, Emerson traveled overland to California and then back to Concord at the invitation of John Murray Forbes, his close friend and father-in-law of his daughter Edith. The company, which included, in addition to Emerson and Forbes, Colonel William Hathaway and Mrs. Edith Emerson Forbes, and James Bradley Thayer, gathered...

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William James and Caroline Hazard, From The Centenary of the Birth of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1903)

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pp. 217-223

One of the most important of the many events that celebrated the centenary in 1903 of Emerson’s birth was the program arranged in Concord by the Social Circle, later published as a book. This group, which admitted (male) members by invitation only, was Concord’s most distinguished discussion club, and boasted members from every range of life, from farmers...

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Julian Hawthorne, “Personal Glimpses of Emerson” (1903)

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pp. 224-228

Julian Hawthorne, Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne’s son, wrote extensively about the relationship between his father and Emerson. For several years between 1842 and 1864 the Hawthornes and the Emersons were neighbors in Concord, first when the Hawthornes rented the Old Manse, the Emerson family’s ancestral home, and then when they lived...

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Moncure D. Conway, “Emerson: The Teacher and the Man” (1903)

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pp. 229-232

The Unitarian and freethought minister, biographer, historian, and abolitionist Moncure Daniel Conway was a frequent commentator on Emerson’s life and thought. He wrote generally appreciative reviews of Emerson’s lectures, essays, and poems, interpreted his position in the evolution of Transcendentalism for both American and English readers, and published...

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Daniel Chester French, “A Sculptor’s Reminiscences of Emerson” (1916)

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pp. 233-237

One of America’s finest monumental sculptors, Daniel Chester French received his first art training in Concord from Louisa May Alcott’s sister, May. He studied in Boston and New York before his big break, the commission in 1875 for a statue of the Minute Man in Concord, now an iconographic American figure (which has Emerson’s “Concord Hymn” inscribed on its base). The success of...

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Robert Underwood Johnson, From Remembered Yesterdays (1923)

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pp. 238-241

Robert Underwood Johnson, poet and translator, edited the Century Magazine from 1873 to 1909. His affinity for the Romantic poets led him to cofound in 1903 the Keats-Shelley Memorial Association and establish the library at the house in Rome where Keats had died. Johnson heard Emerson lecture on “Art and Nature” on 27 November 1871 in Chicago and offer brief remarks in 1875 in...

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Kate Douglas Wiggin, From My Garden of Memory: An Autobiography (1923)

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pp. 242-247

Kate Douglas (Smith) Wiggin was an early pioneer of the kindergarten movement in America. The author of travel books for adults and stories for children, her most famous work was Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1903). In the summer of 1880, she was brought to Concord by Elizabeth Palmer Peabody—another founder of the kindergarten in America—to attend the meetings of the Concord...

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Elizabeth Oakes Smith, “Recollections of Emerson, His Household and Friends” (1924)

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pp. 248-254

Lecturer, reformer, novelist, poet, and for a brief time the pastor of the Independent Church in Canastota, New York, Elizabeth Oakes Smith was something of a nineteenth-century “Renaissance woman.” The wife of Seba Smith, editor of the Eastern Argus, Oakes Smith (as she was known) published widely in the...

Index [Contains Image Plates]

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pp. 255-262

E-ISBN-13: 9781587294327
E-ISBN-10: 158729432X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780877458425
Print-ISBN-10: 0877458421

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2003

Edition: first

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Subject Headings

  • Authors, American -- 19th century -- Biography.
  • Transcendentalists (New England) -- Biography.
  • Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 1803-1882.
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