Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes

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Nature       The Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson (Collected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson)       Self-Reliance and Other Essays (Dover Thrift Editions)       Poems

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the son of a Unitarian minister and a chaplain during the American Revolution, was born in 1803 in Boston. He attended the Boston Latin School, and in 1817 entered Harvard, graduating in 1820.

Emerson supported himself as a schoolteacher from 1821-26. In 1826 he was “approbated to preach,” and in 1829 became pastor of the Scond Church (Unitarian) in Boston. That same year he married Ellen Louise Tucker, who was to die of tuberculosis only seventeen months later.

In 1832 Emerson resigned his pastorate and travelled to Europe, where he met Coleridge, Wordsworth, and Carlyle. He settled in Concord, Massachusetts, in 1834, where he began a new career as a public lecturer, and married Lydia Jackson a year later. A group that gathered around Emerson in Concord came to be known as “the Concord school,” and included Bronson Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Margaret Fuller.

Every year Emerson made a lecture tour; and these lectures were the source of most of his essays. Nature (1836), his first published work, contained the essence of his transcendental philosophy , which views the world of phenomena as a sort of symbol of the inner life and emphasizes individual freedom and self-reliance. Emerson’s address to the Phi Beta Kappa society of Harvard (1837) and another address to the graduating class of the Harvard Divinity School (1838) applied his doctrine to the scholar and the clergyman, provoking sharp controversy.

An ardent abolitionist, Emerson lectured and wrote widely against slavery from the 1840’s through the Civil War. His principal publications include two volumes of Essays (1841, 1844), Poems (1847), Representative Men (1850), The Conduct of Life (1860), and Society and Solitude (1870).

Emerson died of pneumonia in 1882 and was buried in Concord.

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Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Love and you shall be loved.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Love of beauty is Taste. The creation of beauty is Art.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Most of the shadows of this life are caused by our standing in our own sunshine.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Nothing can bring you peace but yourself; nothing, but the triumph of principles.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

People only see what they are prepared to see.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Shallow men believe in luck; strong men believe in cause and effect.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

The earth laughs in flowers.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

The foundation of every state is the education of its youth.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

The hero is no braver than the ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

The real and lasting victories are those of peace, and not of war.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

The reward of a thing well done is to have done it.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

The secret of education lies in respecting the pupil.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

The wise man in the storm prays to God, not for safety from danger, but deliverance from fear.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

The years teach much which the days never knew.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you someone else is the greatest accomplishment.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

To different minds, the same world is a hell, and a heaven.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, this is to have succeeded.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Truth is always present; it only needs to lift the iron lids of the mind’s eye to read its oracles.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Truth is the property of no individual, but is the treasure of all men.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson
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