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What were Ralph Waldo Emerson's ideas regarding solitude?

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cenicienta | Valedictorian

Posted March 15, 2011 at 8:23 AM via web

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What were Ralph Waldo Emerson's ideas regarding solitude?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 15, 2011 at 11:09 AM (Answer #1)

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Ralph Waldo Emerson's protégé Henry David Thoreau had more experience and inspiration with regard to solitude as he spent so much time living in isolation and seclusion (by choice).

In March 1845, Thoreau began building a cabin on land belonging to Emerson beside Walden Pond near Concord. He lived there from July 1845 until September 1847 and kept a journal...

Emerson was a much more public person. His writing comes from his journals that encompassed fifty-five years of writing.

The Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson, written over a period of fifty-five years (1820-1875), were ultimately the source of everything else [Emerson] wrote. These have been edited in ten volumes...

Emerson's journals contained the source of his poetry and essays ("although many of his addresses and speeches" were not assembled until after Emerson had died). However, Emerson was also a noteworthy lecturer. In light of a career that saw a more public life rather than a secluded one, it is interesting, perhaps even amazing, that Emerson was able to so clearly capture the sense of solitude as he did. However, Emerson was also a man of deep introspection and self-awareness, and this must have served him in finding a grasp of seclusion or even isolation.

(It would be difficult to argue that isolation can be experienced in a theater or stadium when one notes that isolation can also be found within, and...

'Emerson takes "solitude" to refer, first, to a sense of being alone or the acting and thinking conducted within the self.')

Emerson was a writer who did not rely on a standard "method of composition:" he was not a formula writer, as, for example, was Edgar Allan Poe. Emerson relied more on inspiration. It flowed out of him as his feelings and ideas came to him.

Using his intuition and his inspiration, Emerson also relied on "sad self-knowledge," as he put it. His belief was that solitude can be found anywhere, regardless of where we find ourselves: theater or stadium.

...we will be able to summon solitude wherever we are and under whatever circumstances we are thrust.

Emerson insisted that a poet may exist in a metropolis but be isolated, for inspiration provides solituded.

...'the poets who have lived in cities have been hermits still. Inspiration makes solitude anywhere.'

Emerson was able to find a balance in living his life and the interaction with others while finding the inspiration that not only provided him with a solitude that enabled him to work, but also an insight into inner-solitude that inspired his writing on the topic.

...[Emerson] constantly juggles the necessities of life with self and others, favoring a solitude that is refined, mature, enlightened, and transcendent.

Of the pieces written by Emerson concerning solitude, three that stand out are Society and SolitudeSelf-Reliance, and Nature.

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