Americans know Ralph Waldo Emerson as a key philosopher of the American Transcendentalist Movement, which has a patriotic ring to it due to the ideas of self-reliance that Emerson lectured upon and wrote about and his friend Henry David Thoreau embodied by living simply on Emerson's Walden Pond. Emerson was called the "Sage of Concord", the home of the American Revolution where he and his friends started an ideal American university that preached universalism and human intellect freedom.
In 1836, Emerson met with
Frederic Henry Hedge
to plan periodic gatherings of other like-minded intellectuals in Concord. This was the beginning of the
, which invited women to be members.
, Elizabeth Hoar and Sarah Ripley were early members of the Club along with Henry David Thoreau.
The Transcendental Club began to publish its flagship journal, The Dial, in July 1840 with George Ripley as the manager and Margaret Fuller as the first editor. Later, Emerson took over the journal utilizing it to promote talented young writers including Ellery Channing and Henry David Thoreau. Horace Greeley described the journal as the "most original and thoughtful periodical ever published in this country."
In 1841, Emerson published Essays, his second book, which included the famous essay "Self-Reliance." This book, and its popular reception, laid the groundwork for his international fame. Bronson Alcott and Charles Lane purchased a farm in Harvard, Massachusetts in 1843 for what would become Fruitlands, a community based on the Utopian ideals inspired by Self-Reliance.
Emerson made a living as a popular lecturer in New England and much of the rest of the country. He would give as many as 80 lectures per year and would eventually give over 1,500 lectures in his lifetime. In 1871, Emerson gave a series of lectures entitled, Natural History of the Intellect, which came to be called the Cambridge Course. This set of seventeen lectures was the longest sustained speaking engagement of his career and the most complex thematic material he had ever attempted to deliver in a public forum. He considered these lectures to be the "chief task of his life."
Emerson's seven volumes of essays, two books of poetry, and 1500 lectures made him one of the most well-known and beloved men of letters of his time. His profound influence on writers such as Hawthorne, Melville, Whitman, and Dickinson earned him the title of "Father of American Culture."