Carte de visite of Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
from carte de visite

Vault A35, R.W.Emerson, Unit 2

EXTENT: 43 items (1 container, plus three oversize folders shelved outside container).

ORGANIZATION AND ARRANGEMENT: Organized into three series: I. Manuscripts; II. Correspondence; III. Deed. Within series, material arranged chronologically.

BIOGRAPHY: American philosopher, essayist, poet, lecturer, Transcendentalist; resident of Concord, Mass. Born in Boston, May 25, 1803; died in Concord, Apr. 27, 1882. RWE's grandfather was William Emerson (1743-1776), minister of the First Church in Concord; his father was William Emerson (1769-1811), pastor of the First Church in Boston. Education influenced by aunt Mary Moody Emerson. Entered Harvard in 1817; teachers included George Ticknor, Edward Everett, Edward Tyrrel Channing; graduated 1821. At Harvard, began to keep journals that later served as source material for lectures, which served in turn as source material for books. Taught school before entering Harvard Divinity School. Approved as candidate for Unitarian ministry in 1826. In 1829, married Ellen Louisa Tucker, who died in 1831. Became colleague of Rev. Henry Ware at Second Church in Boston, 1829; resigned in 1832. Toured Europe 1832-1833; met Carlyle, Wordsworth, Coleridge. On return to Boston, turned to lecturing as source of income. His Transcendentalism, expressed in his first book, Nature (1836), was shaped by reading German authors, Wordsworth, Plato, Neoplatonists, Eastern writings, Montaigne, and Swedenborg. In 1834, settled in Concord, home of his ancestors Peter Bulkeley (founder and first minister of town) and William Emerson. In 1835, purchased home on Cambridge Turnpike, delivered discourse at celebration of bicentennial of Concord's incorporation, and married Lydia Jackson of Plymouth. Friend of Thoreau, Alcott, Margaret Fuller, and others among Transcendentalists. "American Scholar" speech delivered and published in 1837, "Divinity School Address" in 1838. The Dial was started in 1840 with Emerson as a major contributor, later editor. First series of Essays published in 1841, second in 1844, Poems in 1847. Journeyed again to England and France, 1847-1848. Spoke out against slavery during 1850s. One of founders of Saturday Club, 1855. Traveled to California, where he met John Muir, 1871. Concord home burned in 1872. Went abroad, returning to Concord to find home rebuilt through largesse of friends. Delivered keynote address at dedication of Concord Free Public Library, 1873. Final decade marked by progressive mental decline. Son Edward Waldo Emerson edited posthumous edition of complete works (published 1903-1904), also journals (1909-1914). James Elliot Cabot was literary executor.

Emerson became acquainted with Charles King Newcomb in 1840. Newcomb, born in 1820, was a son of Lieutenant Henry S. Newcomb and Rhoda Mardenborough Newcomb. He graduated from Brown University in 1837, boarded at Brook Farm 1841-1845, lived primarily in Providence 1845-1865. He joined the Tenth Rhode Island Volunteers in 1862 and was sent to defend Washington from possible Confederate attack. He lived in Philadelphia 1866-1871, in Europe 1871-1894, and died in Paris in 1894. He was a diarist, an admirer of Swedenborgian philosophy, a poet, and a friend and correspondent of Margaret Fuller as well as of Emerson. Newcomb's only published work was "The First Dolon" (from "The Two Dolons"), contributed to The Dial for July, 1842.

SCOPE AND CONTENT: Papers include: manuscript paragraph "Thaddeus Blood," dated 1835 July 30; holograph of essay "Culture" ([1860]), with ALS, RWE to James T. Fields, 1864 Feb. 23, tipped in; two ms. fragments; correspondence 1836-1871, including letters from RWE to Frederic Henry Hedge, to Edward Jarvis (about the return of $10 overpaid RWE as supply minister), to Charles King Newcomb (22 letters, 1842-1858), to Nathaniel Wheeler Coffin, to the editor of The Commonwealth, to Mr. Wild (Librarian of the Concord Town Library, which preceded the Concord Free Public Library) about access to the Town Library for Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, to Henry David Thoreau, to Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar (about subscription taken up for herbarium to be prepared by Horace Mann, Jr., for the Concord Town Library; ALS from Horace Mann, Jr., to RWE and subscription list in Emerson's hand included), to Ellen Tucker Emerson (RWE's daughter), to H.A. Page, to Robert Carter (about finding time to edit newspaper account of speech at reception for Kossuth at Concord), "My dear Blake," and J.H. Doyle (regarding lecturing, the letter to Blake referring also to sitting for a photograph); deed to land, RWE to Robert Carter, 1859 Aug. 11 (recorded 1860 Sept. 20), for property on the Assabet River in Concord.

The holograph of "Culture" is the publisher's (Ticknor and Fields's) manuscript of an essay that first appeared in printed form in the Atlantic Monthly for Sept., 1860 (Myerson E154), and was subsequently included in the collection The Conduct of Life (published Dec., 1860; Myerson A26.1). It includes numerous emendations and deletions by Emerson.

The twenty-two letters, 1842-1858, from Emerson to Charles King Newcomb were written while Newcomb lived at Brook Farm and in Providence. The letters refer to "The Two Dolons" and its anticipated publication in The Dial, to Margaret Fuller, Henry D. Thoreau, Elizabeth Hoar, Bronson Alcott, Caroline Sturgis Tappan, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, George P. Bradford, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edmund Hosmer, Ellery Channing, Samuel Ward, and Swedenborg. In the earlier letters (1842), Emerson repeatedly asks Newcomb to visit him in Concord. The letters are accompanied by a photographic portrait of Emerson and by a letter and a note from Edward Waldo Emerson to Miss Holland.

SOURCES OF ACQUISITION: Multiple; partially established.  Holograph of "Culture" presented by James T. Fields, September 1873 (in honor of the opening of the Concord Free Public Library).  Letters to Charles King Newcomb presented by Mrs. Arthur Holland, 1929. ALS to Thoreau deposited by the Concord Antiquarian Society, 1971; converted to gift, 1974.  ALS to "My dear Blake" purchased at online auction, July 2000.  Three letters (1864 Sept. 7 and Sept. 16, and 1865 Dec. 4) purchased of Seaport Autographs, 04/09/01.  Two ALS (specifically which ones unidentified in acquisition records) presented by Edward L. Parker, 1907/08.  Two ms. fragments removed from a collection given by Mary Fenn, 1995.  Deed presented by George T. Goodspeed, 1941. ALS, RWE to Robert Carter purchased at Skinner auction, 05/27/15, received 06/19/15.

PROVENANCE: ALS to "My dear Blake" earlier sold to Argosy Book Store (Argosy sales slip and description filed with accession material in CFPL records).

ASSOCIATED MATERIALS: The Concord Free Public Library has a number of other collections of papers and records that include Emerson manuscripts, as well as major holdings of material about Emerson. The records of the Committee of Arrangements for the 1835 celebration of the bicentennial of Concord, for example, include Emerson's holograph discourse for the occasion. Volumes from Emerson's library are included in the Concord Authors Collection.  For additional information about holdings, contact the Special Collections staff.

Major Emerson manuscript holdings have been deposited by the Ralph Waldo Emerson Memorial Association at the Houghton Library, Harvard University.

NOTES/COMMENTS:  Holograph of "Culture" available on microfilm, for use in Library.  Letter to Thoreau formerly CAS D-2030k.  Two letters (letter to N.W. Coffin and letter to editor of Commonwealth) conserved at Northeast Document Conservation Center, 1997 (removed from double glass, cleaned, deacidified, encapsulated, and photographed).  Two other items (as marked on folders) sent to NEDCC for washing, deacidification, reinforcing with Japanese paper, mending, encapsulation, etc. (1976 and 1979).  Papers as described in NUCMC (MS 66001618) are more inclusive than as here described.  Nine items transferred from Letter Files into papers: Letter File 1, M6; Letter File 3, E5-E7, E11, E16, and E17; Letter File 3A, E1; Letter File 6, E7 (Mar. 1995).  "Culture" accessioned (8579; Sept., 1873).  ALS to "My dear Blake" accessioned (AMC 041, 07/25/00).  Letters purchased of Seaport Autographs accessioned (AMC 060-062, 04/20/01).  ALS to Robert Carter accessioned (AMC 244), 06/19/15).

PROCESSED BY: LPW; finding aid prepared 03/10/96; ed. 04/30/01 and 03/13/04. Revised 6/27/15.




Folder 1:
"Thaddeus Blood," 1835 July 30.

Folder 2:
"Culture" (published in Atlantic Monthly for Sept., 1860, and in The Conduct of Life). Tipped in: ALS, R.W. Emerson to James T. Fields, 1864 Feb. 23.

Folder 3:
Two fragments "The dim lantern which the astronomer used at first ... "; "A mulatto girl the chambermaid in the boat from Louisville ... "


Folder 4:
ALS to Frederic Henry Hedge ("My dear friend"), 1836 July 20.

Folder 5:
ALS to Edward Jarvis, 1836 Oct. 13 (regarding return of $10.00 overpaid RWE as supply minister).

Folder 6:
Letters to Charles King Newcomb, 1842 Mar. 18-1858 July 25 (22 letters + 5 envelopes).

Oversize, Folder A, Outside Box:
ALS to N.W. Coffin, 1845 Aug. 26.

Folder 7:
6 Portfolio earlier used to store letters to Charles King Newcomb.

Oversize, Folder B, Outside Box:
ALS"To the Editor of the Commonwealth," 1852 Jan. 7.

Folder 8:
ALS to "My dear Sir" (H.A. Page), Montreal, 1852 Apr. 23 (regarding upcoming lecture).

Folder 8a:
ALS to Robert Carter, Concord, 1852 June 2, (about finding time to edit newspaper account of speech at reception for Kossuth at Concord).

Folder 9:
ALS to Mr. Wild, Librarian, 1860 Aug. 30 (regarding access to Concord Town Library for Miss Peabody).

Folder 10:
ALS to Henry David Thoreau, 1861 May 11.

Folder 11:
ALS to "My dear Blake," 1861 Dec. 31 (regarding invitation, sitting for a photographer, and arrangements for transportation to upcoming lecture).

Folder 12:
ALS to J.H. Doyle, 1864 Sept. 7 (regarding lecturing in Toledo).
ALS to J.H. Doyle, 1864 Sept. 16 (regarding lecturing in Toledo).
ALS to J.A.[sic] Doyle, 1865 Dec. 4 (regarding lecturing).

Folder 13:
ALS, Horace Mann, Jr., to RWE, 1866 Dec. 11 (formerly enclosed with RWE letter to E.R. Hoar, 1867 Jan. 4).

Folder 14:
Subscription list for herbarium to be made by Horace Mann, Jr., for Concord Library ([1866]). Envelope addressed to Library Committee, Concord.

Folder 15:
ALS to E.R. Hoar, 1867 Jan. 4, with envelope (regarding subscription for herbarium to be made by Horace Mann, Jr., for Concord Library).

Folder 16:
ALS to Ellen Tucker Emerson, Chicago, 1871 Nov. 28.


Oversize, Folder C, Outside Box:
Deed, RWE to Robert Carter (of New York), 1859 Aug. 11 (recorded 1860 Sept. 20), for property on the Assabet River in Concord.


Latest revison: 27 June 2015 rcwh.

Not to be reproduced in any form, including image, without permission from the Curator of the William Munroe Special Collections, Concord Free Public Library, Concord, Mass.

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