Ralph Waldo Emerson traveled broadly in England and Scotland in 1833 and again on lecture tour fifteen years later. Drawing on his experiences there as well as his wide reading in British history, he set forth in English Traits his view of the English as a nation. Published in 1856, this was one of his most popular books, perhaps because of its playfulness and wit and clarity of style.
English Traits is a searching and distinctive portrayal of English culture that today offers a revealing perspective on American viewpoints and preoccupations in the mid-nineteenth century. It is notable, too, for revealing an interesting side of Emerson’s complex character; here we find Emerson the practical Yankee, analyzing English power, resourcefulness, determination, and materialism.
The historical introduction to this full-scale critical edition places English Traits in the context of Emerson’s career and travels and discusses the book’s contemporary reception. The explanatory notes provide a treasury of helpful information. This is the definitive scholarly edition of English Traits.
Historical Introduction by Philip Nicoloff
Notes by Robert E. Burkholder
Text Established and Textual Introduction and Apparatus by Douglas Emory Wilson