Selected Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Publication Date: December 5, 2017
  • ISBN: 9781554812691 / 1554812690
  • 408 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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Selected Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • Publication Date: December 5, 2017
  • ISBN: 9781554812691 / 1554812690
  • 408 pages; 5½" x 8½"

Banner reading Teaching the survey? Learn more about The Broadview Anthology of American Literature, with covers of the available volumes

Essayist, lecturer, poet, and America’s first “public intellectual,” Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–82) is the central figure in nineteenth-century American letters and the leader (albeit reluctantly) of the Transcendental group. A literary mover and shaker, Emerson directed his unpopular early radicalism toward social institutions (the Church, education, literary conventions); by his death in 1882, however, his reputation was already solidifying as a national icon. Somewhere between the iconic sage and the speculative idealist lies an Emerson that students don’t often encounter, a flesh-and-blood figure whose writings testify to his continuing exploration of the individual’s place in an increasingly conformist and crowded world. In its selections and its apparatus, this Broadview edition bridges the gap between Emerson and students by stressing his real-world engagements.

The collection contains a range of prose and poetry addressing some of Emerson’s major concerns—nature and the self, imagination and the poet, religion and social reform—as he explores the enduring question “How shall I live?” Historical appendices include primary materials on Transcendentalism; the contemporary debate about the nature of biblical miracles; other authors’ responses to Emerson as a writer and thinker; and the development of his complex reputation as a representative American.

Copy-texts in this edition are the first published versions of each text, restored here as Emerson’s initial audience would have read them.


“Not only has Robert Habich assembled a representative collection of Emerson’s prose and poetry, but he has also contextualized them in a biographical, historical, and critical introduction and in appendices containing documents on the major controversies of the day and important comments on Emerson by contemporaries. Habich’s selections challenge readers to throw off their conception of Emerson as a mild-mannered and somewhat ethereal philosopher and to come to grips with the personal and intellectual tests that he himself faced. This is a focused work that all readers will appreciate.” — Joel Myerson, Carolina Distinguished Professor of American Literature, Emeritus, University of South Carolina, and co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Transcendentalism

“A fresh, carefully chosen collection of the writings of Emerson, young America’s still compelling—yet ever elusive—Thinking Man! Broadview delivers, in this edition, a select compilation of Emerson’s best published writings, supplemented by a rich appendix of contextual matter. In his introduction, distinguished Emerson editor Robert Habich distills into a seamless and well-balanced narrative the analyses of Emerson biographers and editors and places them in the context of the long saga of Emerson criticism. He concludes by shining a new light, for these times, on ‘how to think’ about Emerson: the man, the idealist, the poet, the activist, the eventual pragmatist, and, all along, the provocateur—the quintessential American ‘disrupter.’ All told, this work is a stunning new course-in-itself on Ralph Waldo Emerson.” — Margaret Emerson Bancroft, President, Ralph Waldo Emerson Memorial Association

Selected Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson is a fresh and welcome collection of Emerson’s works carefully contextualized not only by Habich’s biographical and critical introduction, but also by well-chosen selections from Emerson’s contemporaries. It is especially well-suited for teaching, framed as it is in within Emerson’s own vision of education as best serving us when it ‘aim[s] not to drill, but to create,’ when it ignites thinking rather than encourages bookworms (CW 1:58). … Habich is a restrained editor, deliberately keeping editorial ‘intrusions’ minimal with succinct headnotes and footnotes. I particularly like his footnoted cross-references which not only link texts for readers, but also model participatory reading.” — Susan Dunston, Emerson Society Papers

List of Illustrations
Ralph Waldo Emerson: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Texts

I. Selected Prose

  1. Nature (1836)
  2. “The American Scholar” (1837)
  3. “Divinity School Address” (1838)
  4. From “Thoughts on Modern Literature” (1840)
  5. “Circles” (1841)
  6. “Self-Reliance” (1841)
  7. “Experience” (1844)
  8. “The Poet” (1844)
  9. “Uses of Great Men” (1850)
  10. From Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli (1852)
  11. “Land” (1856)
  12. “Illusions” (1857)
  13. “Fate” (1860)
  14. “Old Age” (1862)
  15. “Thoreau” (1862)
  16. From “Immortality” (1876)

II . Selected Poetry

  1. “Concord Hymn” (1837)
  2. “Each and All” (1839)
  3. “The Rhodora” (1839)
  4. “The Snow-Storm” (1841)
  5. “The Apology” (1845)
  6. “Hamatreya” (1847)
  7. “Ode, Inscribed to W.H. Channing” (1847)
  8. “Threnody” (1847)
  9. “Days” (1857)
  10. “Brahma” (1857)
  11. “Terminus” (1867)

Appendix A: Transcendentalism

  1. From Sampson Reed, “Preface to the Third Edition, Observations on the Growth of the Mind” (1828, 1838)
  2. From William Ellery Channing, “Likeness to God” (1828)
  3. Margaret Fuller, Transcendentalism Defined (16 November 1837)
  4. From Francis Bowen, Review of Nature (1837)
  5. From William Henry Channing, Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli (1852)
  6. From Louisa May Alcott, “Transcendental Wild Oats” (1873)
  7. From Caroline Healey Dall, Transcendentalism in New England: A Lecture (1897)

Appendix B: The Miracles Controversy

  1. From Orestes Augustus Brownson, “Christian Sects” (1836)
  2. From Andrews Norton, “The New School in Literature and Religion” (27 August 1838)
  3. From James Freeman Clarke, “R.W. Emerson, and the New School” (November 1838)
  4. From Andrews Norton, A Discourse on the Latest Form of Infidelity (19 July 1839)
  5. From George Ripley, “The Latest Form of Infidelity” Examined (1839)
  6. From Andrews Norton, Remarks on a Pamphlet Entitled“‘The Latest Form of Infidelity’ Examined” (1839)

Appendix C: Contemporary Writers on Emerson

  1. From Edgar Allan Poe, “Ralph Waldo Emerson” (January 1842)
  2. From Margaret Fuller, “American Literature” (1846)
  3. From James Russell Lowell, A Fable for Critics (1848)
  4. From Walt Whitman, “Boston Common—More of Emerson” (1882)
  5. From Matthew Arnold, “Emerson” (1885)

Appendix D: Emerson in His Time

  1. From Margaret Fuller, “Emerson’s Essays” (7 December 1844)
  2. From Henry James Sr., “Emerson” (c. 1868)
  3. From “Reminiscences,” New York Times (2 May 1882)
  4. From Louisa May Alcott, “Recollections of My Childhood” (c. 1888)
  5. From Nathan Haskell Dole, “Life of Ralph Waldo Emerson” (1899)
  6. From George Santayana, “Emerson” (1900)

Select Bibliography

Robert D. Habich is Professor Emeritus of English at Ball State University and a Past President of the Ralph Waldo Emerson Society.