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James, William (1842-1910)

Charles Peirce’s best friend, William James, was named for William James of Albany, who emigrated from Ireland about 1789, participated in the opening of the Erie Canal, and accumulated some three million dollars—one of the great fortunes of the time. William James’s father, the older Henry James, attended Princeton Theological Seminary, but soon abandoned it and his family’s Calvinistic faith.…

Peirce, Charles Sanders (1839-1914)

In the early 1870s, a small group of young men formed a Harvard Square circle for philosophical discussion. Meeting sometimes in the study of Charles Sanders Peirce and sometimes in the study of William James, they half-ironically, half-defiantly called themselves The Metaphysical Club.…

The Transient and Permanent in Christianity

By Theodore Parker


Ralph Waldo Emerson surrendered his prized Boston pastorate and quietly moved to Concord, but his open anti-supernaturalism persisted in the pulpit work of Theodore Parker, whose South Boston ordination sermon in 1841 on “The Transient and Permanent in Christianity” was just the start of his humanizing of Jesus.…

The Living Legacy of Ralph Waldo Emerson: Recommended Reading

A Brief and Selected List

Andrews, Barry M. Emerson as Spiritual Guide. Skinner House Books, 2003.

Andrew, Barry M. A Dream Too Wild. Skinner House Books, 2003.

Myerson, Joel, ed., A Historical Guide to Ralph Waldo Emerson. Oxford University Press, 2000.…

Ralph Waldo Emerson and Women’s Rights: Legacy of Emerson Series

The Living Legacy of Ralph Waldo Emerson

“If women feel wronged then they are wronged…I should vote for every franchise for women.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

From his childhood, Ralph Waldo Emerson was surrounded by strong, independent-thinking women. His mother supported the family after his father’s untimely death, and instilled in him a lifelong appetite for learning and spiritual growth.

Emerson and Anti-Slavery

The Living Legacy of Ralph Waldo Emerson

“If you put a chain around the neck of a slave, the other end fastens itself around your own.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson had visited slave-holding territories when he traveled to the South in 1826–27 and encountered first-hand the shocking treatment of countless human beings.…

Emerson and Religion

The Living Legacy of Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Religion is to do right. It is to love, it is to serve, it is to think, it is to be humble.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson shook the foundation of established religion.…

Emerson and Literature

The Living Legacy of Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson’s influence on literary figures of his time and their work is irrefutable. He encouraged many aspiring writers by reviewing and promoting their manuscripts and supporting them financially. When he assumed the editorship of The Dial in 1842, he had a vehicle in which new and established writers could publish—“a useful clearinghouse for new ideas.”…

Emerson, Nature, and the Environment

The Living Legacy of Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson was consumingly interested in the connection between man and nature. “The greatest delight,” he wrote, “which the fields and woods minister, is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable….Yet…

Emerson’s Declining Years & Legacy

The Living Legacy of Ralph Waldo Emerson

After a lifetime of struggle with illness, Emerson’s health began to fail in 1871 at the age of sixty-eight. He took one of his rare vacations, to California, that year but it sapped his strength.…