In faithfully reproducing all of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s handwritten journals and notebooks, this edition is succeeding in revealing Emerson the man and the thinker. The old image of the ideal nineteenth-century gentleman, created by editorial omission 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 views of woman, 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. Canceled passages are reproduced, misreadings are corrected, and hitherto unpublished manuscripts are now printed.
Here is the twelfth volume, which makes available nine of Emerson’s lecture notebooks, covering a span of twenty-seven years, from 1835 to 1862, from apprenticeship to fame. These notebooks contain materials Emerson collected for the composition of his lectures, articles, and essays during those years, a complex mixture of index-like surveys of his journals, lists of possible topics and titles, salvaged journal passages and revisions, new drafts ranging from brief paragraphs to several pages in length, notes and translations from his reading, working notes, and partial outlines. In them we see Emerson at work, balancing his aspirations as orator and writer against the practicalities of deadlines, finances, and audiences.