The Selected Lectures of Ralph Waldo Emerson

Edited by Ronald A. Bosco and Joel Myerson

Great lectures from a consummate thinker


"This volume is a comprehensive portrait of Emerson's intellectual development, one that offers a view from a fresh and revealing angle. We see the Emerson that his contemporaries would have seen—the public lecturer. This is an outstanding work that will add much to the understanding of both Emerson's career and the culture to which he spoke with such tireless commitment."
—David M. Robinson, author of Natural Life: Thoreau's Worldly Transcendentalism and Emerson and the Conduct of Life

"The principles from which Ronald Bosco and Joel Myerson work are exemplary. They are the most experienced of Emerson's editors currently working, and their work in this volume is impeccable."
—Robert Hudspeth, editor of The Correspondence of Henry D. Thoreau

"One of the immensely valuable contributions made by Ronald A. Bosco and Joel Myerson in offering this selection of twenty-five of the more than fifteen hundred lectures spanning Emerson's career [is] that it permits us to see not only how versatile he was in adapting his ministerial purpose to secular ends, but also how deliberate, and therefore all the more remarkable, the style he chiseled in his essays, making the still and silent ciphers resonate with inspired utterance . . . [a] superb addition to Emerson scholarship . . . We owe [Bosco and Myerson] an enormous debt of gratitude."

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This is the first and only comprehensive selection of lectures by Ralph Waldo Emerson, his era’s most prominent American man of letters and one of the foremost architects of our intellectual culture. Based on authoritative texts selected and edited by Ronald A. Bosco and Joel Myerson—the most experienced Emerson editors working today—these twenty-five addresses collectively exemplify the lecture style for which Emerson was famed in his day.

Best known to his contemporaries as a lecturer, Emerson delivered some 1,500 addresses over the course of his career. Because his most important ideas were worked out in his lectures, they provide the best record we have of his evolving thought—and thus are a key to our understanding of his essays and other printed works. Gathered here are lectures on American culture, literary theory and aesthetics, moral and, as Emerson called it, "intellectual" philosophy, and social and political reform. They are taken from speaking engagements in the United States and the British Isles over the period 1833–1871, during which Emerson often spent four to six months a year on the lecture circuit; lectures from the earliest years of Emerson’s career (1833–1842) have been newly edited for this volume.

The volume’s introduction draws on contemporary accounts to describe Emerson’s idiosyncratic but utterly memorable manner of speaking. A headnote provides context to the composition and delivery of each lecture, and footnotes identify Emerson’s allusions to persons, places, occasions, quotations, and books. "By examining his lectures and how they were delivered," say Bosco and Myerson, "we can look into the laboratory of Emerson’s intellectual and compositional process and see his published writings gestating."

Page count: 416 pp.
Trim size: 6.125 x 9.25


List price: $22.95

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Ronald A. Bosco is Distinguished University Professor of English and American Literature at the University at Albany, State University of New York. Joel Myerson is Carolina Distinguished Professor Emeritus of American Literature at the University of South Carolina.