Ralph Waldo Emerson, the man and thinker, will be fully revealed for the first time in this new edition of his journals and notebooks. The old image of the ideal nineteenth-century gentleman, created by editorial omissions of his spontaneous thoughts, is replaced by the picture of Emerson as he really was. His frank and often bitter criticisms of men and society, his “nihilizing,” his anguish at the death of his first wife, his bleak struggles with depression and loneliness, his sardonic views of woman, his earthy humor, his ideas of the Negro, of religion, of God—these and other expressions of his private thought and feeling, formerly deleted or subdued, are here restored. Restored also is the full evidence needed for studies of his habits of composition, the development of his style, and the sources of his ideas. Cancelled passages are reproduced, misreadings are corrected, and hitherto unpublished manuscripts are now printed. The text comes as close to a literal transcription as is feasible. A full apparatus of annotation, identification of quotations, and textual notes is supplied. Reproduced in this volume are twelve facsimile manuscript pages, many with Emerson’s marginal drawings.
The first volume includes some of the “Wide Worlds,” journals begun while Emerson was at Harvard, and four contemporary notebooks, mostly unpublished. In these storehouses of quotation, juvenile verse, themes, and stories are the first versions of Emerson’s “Valedictory Poem,” Bowdoin Prize Essays, and first published work. Together they give a faithful picture of Emerson’s apprenticeship as an artist and reveal the extent of his hidden and frustrated ambition—to become a writer.