In 1845, Ralph Waldo Emerson delivered a series of lectures entitled “Uses of Great Men”; “Plato, or the Philosopher”; “Swedenborg, or the Mystic”; “Montaigne, or the Skeptic”; “Shakespeare, or the Poet”; “Napoleon, or the Man of the World”; and “Goethe, or the Writer.” Emerson’s approach to his great men stands in interesting contrast to that of his friend Carlyle in his Heroes and Hero Worship of 1841.
Although by 1845 Emerson had been lecturing for over ten years, Representative Men, published in 1850, was the first of his works to consist of his lectures as delivered, with only minimal revision and expansion. The book retains the immediacy of the spoken word, and the freedom and daring inspired by a live audience.
This critical edition is based on Emerson’s holograph manuscript, which served as printer’s copy for the first American edition, collated with subsequent editions and with Emerson’s own corrections. The historical introduction relates the book to Emerson’s life and times and discusses its literary origins, composition, and contemporary reception. A textual introduction and apparatus have been provided by the textual editor, and there are full informational notes. The volume has been awarded the seal of the Center for Scholarly Editions.
Joseph Slater, General Editor
Douglas Emory Wilson, Textual Editor