"A just man, poised on himself, all-loving, all-inclosing, and sane and clear as the sun."
Born May 25, 1803 and dead on April 27, 1882, Ralph Waldo Emerson is the preeminent American transcendentalist. Raised in a family with a strong protestant background (both his father and father's father were ministers), Ralph seemed destined to follow suit. And he did in 1826 after attending Harvard College and one year of divinity studies at Harvard. He became the pastor of Boston's second largest church in the spring of 1829, but left his post in 1832 (one year after the untimely death of his 19 year-old bride, Ellen Tucker) because he could no longer serve the sacrament in good conscience.
Emerson traveled to Europe on Christmas of that year, seeking the best minds it had to offer. Working his way through Italy, Switzerland, France, and England, he met with such men as Walter Savage Landor, Lafayette, John Stuart Mill in London, and William Wordsworth. Most of these were passing acquaintances, but one lasting friendship he established with Thomas Carlyle.
Initiating himself as a lecturer, Emerson returned to America in the fall 1833. He continued to preach sporadically to make a living whilst he wrote other lectures and planned his first book, Nature. He settled in Concord in the fall of 1834 and married a Lydia Jackson (whom he renamed Lidian). The had a son, named Waldo, shortly after Nature was published.
During the next three years Emerson succeeded as a lecurer and met Margaret Fuller and Henry David Thoreau. Dubbed a herectic after his Divinity School address (an attack on the Unitarian establishment), the controversy he brought caused him to enter a period of deep introspection, out of which no doubt he developed much of his personal philosophy.
Ralph Waldo Emerson continued to publish throughout his life. Harvard honored him, the former heretic, with the Doctor of Laws degree in 1866, and he was elected overseer of the college the following year. His house burned down in 1872, and with it went his health. After a stint in Europe and Egypt with his daughter, Ellen, and a return to much fanfare, Ralph Waldo Emerson died on April 27, 1882.
All of Emerson's writings are in the public domain and may be freely distributed.