Representative Men (1850)

Ralph Waldo Emerson Representative Men

Uses of Great Men

Uses of Great Men By Ralph Waldo Emerson IT IS NATURAL to believe in great men. If the companions of our childhood should turn out to be heroes, and their condition regal it would not surprise us. All mythology opens with demigods, and the circumstance is high and poetic; that is, their genius is paramount. Summary: Sometimes I suspect that education is wasted on young people. How many young people really need to read an idealist like Emerson, for goodness sakes? The young, by their very nature, tend to be optimistic and idealistic. How come there isn’t a course that requires those over 50 to…

Read More

Plato; or, the Philosopher

Plato; The Philosopher By Ralph Waldo Emerson AMONG secular books, Plato only is entitled to Omar’s fanatical compliment to the Koran, when he said, “Burn the libraries; for their value is in this book.” These sentences contain the culture of nations; these are the corner-stone of schools; these are the fountain-head of literatures. Summary: Plato is philosophy, and philosophy, Plato,- at once the glory and the shame of mankind, since neither Saxon nor Roman have availed to add any idea to his categories. No wife, no children had he, and the thinkers of all civilized nations are his posterity and are tinged with his mind.…

Read More

Plato: New Readings

Plato: New Readings By Ralph Waldo Emerson The publication, in Mr. Bohn’s “Serial Library,” of the excellent translations of Plato, which we esteem one of the chief benefits the cheap press has yielded, gives us an occasion to take hastily a few more notes of the elevation and bearings of this fixed star; or to add a bulletin, like the journals, of Plato at the latest dates. Summary: Modern science, by the extent of its generalization, has learned to indemnify the student of man for the defects of individuals by tracing growth and ascent in races; and, by the simple expedient of lighting up the…

Read More

Swedenborg; or, the Mystic

Swedenborg; Or The Mystic By Ralph Waldo Emerson AMONG eminent persons, those who are most dear to men are not of the class which the economist calls producers: they have nothing in their hands; they have not cultivated corn, nor made bread; they have not led out a colony, nor invented a loom. Summary: The privilege of this caste is an access to the secrets and structure of nature by some higher method than by experience. In common parlance, what one man is said to learn by experience, a man of extraordinary sagacity is said, without experience, to divine. The Arabians say, that Abul Khain, the…

Read More

Montaigne; or, the Skeptic

Montaigne; The Skeptic By Ralph Waldo Emerson EVERY FACT is related on one side to sensation, and on the other to morals. The game of thought is, on the appearance of one of these two sides, to find the other: given the upper, to find the under side. Nothing so thin but has these two faces, and when the observer has seen the obverse, he turns it over to see the reverse. Summary: It is easy to see how this arrogance comes. The genius is a genius by the first look he casts on any object. Is his eye creative? Does he not rest in…

Read More

Shakspeare; or, the Poet

Shakspeare; The Poet By Ralph Waldo Emerson GREAT MEN are more distinguished by range and tent than by originality. If we require the originality which consists in weaving, like a spider, their web from their own bowels; in finding clay and making bricks and building the house; no great men are original. Summary: The Genius of our life is jealous of individuals, and will not have any individual great, except through the general. There is no choice to genius. A great man does not wake up on some fine morning and say, “I am full of life, I will go to sea and find an…

Read More

Napoleon; Man of the World

Napoleon; Man of the World By Ralph Waldo Emerson AMONG the eminent persons of the nineteenth century, Bonaparte is far the best known and the most powerful; and owes his predominance to the fidelity with which he expresses the tone of thought and belief, the aims of the masses of active and cultivated men. Summary: In our society there is a standing antagonism between the conservative and the democratic classes; between those who have made their fortunes, and the young and the poor who have fortunes to make; between the interests of dead labor,- that is, the labor of hands long ago still in the…

Read More

Goethe; or, the Writer

Goethe; The Writer By Ralph Waldo Emerson I FIND a provision in the constitution of the world for the writer, or secretary, who is to report the doings of the miraculous spirit of life that everywhere throbs and works. His office is a reception of the facts into the mind, and then a selection of the eminent and characteristic experiences. Which best describes emerson’s central message to his contemporaries in “ self-reliance “? Summary: Goethe was the philosopher of this multiplicity; hundred-handed, Argus-eyed, able and happy to cope with this rolling miscellany of facts and sciences, and by his own versatility to dispose of them with ease;…

Read More

Notes

Notes By Ralph Waldo Emerson Notes from the Centenary Edition of Emerson’s Complete Works, edited by his son, Edward Waldo Emerson. * Jacob Behmen, or Boehme, a Silesian of humble birth in the sixteenth century, a mystic whose writings later attracted much attention. Mr. Emerson was early interested in his works and often mentions them. *( 2) William Gilbert (1540-1603), the greatest man of science of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, especially noted for his discovery that the earth is a great magnet. *( 3) That is, the ideal, instead of the outward shows of things. *( 4) federal errors: a Latinism for mistakes sanctioned by custom.…

Read More