This Massachusetts-born leader of the American transcendentalist movement was as much a philosopher as he was a writer, and his ideas on the relationship between man, nature, the divine soul, and creativity helped shape the American literary identity of the 19th century. Leading other transcendentalists like Henry David Thoreau and Margaret Fuller, Emerson sought to recreate the American literary aesthetic, calling for a more original, more organic, more spiritually independent literature. He denounced over reliance on book learning, writing: "I had better never see a book, than to be warped by its attraction clean out of my own orbit, and made a satellite instead of a system." His essays, "Nature" (1836), "The American Scholar" (1837), and "the Divinity School Address" (1838) form the foundation of his transcendentalist theories and are undoubtedly his most well-known works. He also published three collections of poetry, and The Conduct of Life (1860), a collection of personal essays on a variety of subjects, including fate, wealth, worship, and beauty.
If there is a wish for immortality, and no evidence, why not say just that? If there are conflicting evidences, why not state them? If there is not ground for a candid thinker to make up his mind, yea or nay,--why not suspend the judgment?
We are wiser than we know. If we will not interfere with our thought, but will act entirely, or see how the thing stands in God, we know the particular thing, and every thing, and every man.
Patrick Madden's New Book
Quotidiana site founder Patrick Madden has just published a book of his own personal essays, including pieces formerly published in the Best American Spiritual Writing and Best Creative Nonfiction anthologies.
If you enjoy the classical essays on this site, you'll enjoy these contemporary ruminations as well. Soon there'll be a web page here with further information, but for now, you can find out more (and perhaps purchase a copy) at Amazon.com.
"Patrick Madden is an essayist of verve, passion, wit, and dependable moral compass. Quotidiana drew me in powerfully, from page to page and from pleasure to pleasure." —Ian Frazier
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Quotidiana is an online anthology of "classical" essays, from antiquity to the early twentieth century. All essays and images are in the public domain. Commentaries are copyrighted, but may be used with proper attribution. Special thanks to the BYU College of Humanities and English Department for funding, and to Joey Franklin and Lara Burton, for tireless research assisting.