Ralph Waldo Emerson was renowned during the mid 19th century as a philosopher, writer, public orator, naturalist and spiritual trailblazer.
The essays collected for this podcast represent some of the best examples of this great American thinker's work.
However, "The American Scholar," the Phi Beta Kappa address that Emerson presented at Harvard in 1837, was very popular and, when printed, sold well.
A year after he made this speech, he was invited back to Harvard to speak to the graduating class of Harvard Divinity School.
In 1841, Emerson published the first volume of his Essays, a carefully constructed collection of some of his best-remembered writings, including "Self-Reliance" and "The Over-Soul." A second series of Essays in 1844 would firmly establish his reputation as an authentic American voice.
Tragedy struck the Emerson family in January 1842 when Emerson's son, Waldo, died of scarlet fever.
Among his reasons for resigning were his refusal to administer the sacrament of the Last Supper, which he believed to be an unnecessary theological rite, and his belief that the ministry was an "antiquated profession." On Christmas Day, 1832, he left for Europe even though he was so ill that many of his friends thought he would not survive the rigors of the winter voyage.
While in Europe, he met many of the leading thinkers of his time, including the economist and philosopher John Stuart Mill; Samuel Taylor Coleridge, whose Aids to Reflection Emerson admired; the poet William Wordsworth; and Thomas Carlyle, the historian and social critic, with whom Emerson established a lifelong friendship.
In Concord, New Hampshire, he met Ellen Tucker, a seventeen-year-old poet who also suffered from tuberculosis.
The two were married in September 1829, just after Emerson had been ordained pastor of the Second Unitarian Church of Boston.