The Conduct of Life

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Harvard University Press, 2003 - Literary Collections - 455 pages
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The essays in this book, first published in 1860, were developed from a series of lectures on "The Conduct of Life" delivered by Emerson during the early 1850s. Some of the original lectures were dropped and the rest were considerably revised, with new topics introduced. The published essays, on "Fate," "Power," "Wealth," "Culture," "Behavior," "Worship," "Considerations by the Way," "Beauty," and "Illusions," show Emerson's interest in many practical aspects of human life, and reflect his increasing involvement in politics--chiefly in the antislavery movement--during the decade before the Civil War.

This edition is based on Emerson's holograph manuscripts and published sources. The text incorporates Emerson's later corrections and revisions, and shows us what he actually wrote (or, perhaps in some cases, intended to write).

The historical introduction traces the book's development and its relation to Emerson's own personal growth and political awareness. Joseph Slater's explanatory notes help the modern reader to understand many of Emerson's references and allusions that may not be readily apparent.

Historical Introduction by Barbara L. Packer

Notes by Joseph Slater

Text Established and Textual Introduction and Apparatus by Douglas Emory Wilson

  

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Contents

Note on Numbering
xii
Statement of Editorial Principles Ixviii
lxviii
Fate
1
Power
28
Wealth
44
Culture
69
Worship
106
Considerations by the Way
129
Illusions
164
Notes
175
Textual Apparatus
302
The Manuscripts
355
Alterations in the Manuscripts
366
Emersons Corrections and Emendations
416
Index
445
Copyright

Beauty
149

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About the author (2003)

Known primarily as the leader of the philosophical movement transcendentalism, which stresses the ties of humans to nature, Ralph Waldo Emerson, American poet and essayist, was born in Boston in 1803. From a long line of religious leaders, Emerson became the minister of the Second Church (Unitarian) in 1829. He left the church in 1832 because of profound differences in interpretation and doubts about church doctrine. He visited England and met with British writers and philosophers. It was during this first excursion abroad that Emerson formulated his ideas for Self-Reliance. He returned to the United States in 1833 and settled in Concord, Massachusetts. He began lecturing in Boston. His first book, Nature (1836), published anonymously, detailed his belief and has come to be regarded as his most significant original work on the essence of his philosophy of transcendentalism. The first volume of Essays (1841) contained some of Emerson's most popular works, including the renowned Self-Reliance. Emerson befriended and influenced a number of American authors including Henry David Thoreau. It was Emerson's practice of keeping a journal that inspired Thoreau to do the same and set the stage for Thoreau's experiences at Walden Pond. Emerson married twice (his first wife Ellen died in 1831 of tuberculosis) and had four children (two boys and two girls) with his second wife, Lydia. His first born, Waldo, died at age six. Emerson died in Concord on April 27, 1882 at the age of 78 due to pneumonia and is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts.

Barbara Packer is Professor of English, UCLA.

The late professor Joseph Slater was general editor of The Collected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson until 1996.

Douglas Emory Wilson, the former General Editor, was Textual Editor of the Collected Works at the time of his death in 2005.

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