"Common sense is genius dressed in its working clothes" Ralph Waldo Emerson
Poet, essayist and lecturer Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) graduated from Harvard University and was ordained as a Unitarian minister in 1829; but his questioning of doctrine led him to resign his ministry three years later. Gradually moving away from the religious and social beliefs of his contemporaries, he formulated and expressed his philosophy in Nature, an essay published in 1836 which helped initiate the Transcendentalist movement (for an almost comprehensible definition of transcendentalism, see transcendentalists.com).
In 1837 he gave a speech entitled The American Scholar which Supreme Court Judge Oliver Wendell Holmes described as America's "Intellectual Declaration of Independence".
In 1840, with Margaret Fuller, he helped launch The Dial - a journal that provided an outlet for Transcendentalist ideas. His Essays published in 1841 and 1844 brought him international fame; and Poems (1847) and May-Day (1867) established his reputation as a major poet.
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