Ralph Waldo Emerson can be ranked among America's greatest writers and philosophers. Beginning in 1821, at the end of Emerson's days at Harvard and continuing through his death in 1882, Richardson examines Emerson's life by first looking at the material that Emerson himself read. He then looks at Emerson both as a writer and a person, exploring not only what Emerson put down on paper, but also what he thought and did about issues such as slavery and the women's rights movements.
With short chapters (most less than 10 pages) and well- written text, this large book is a surprisingly fast read. Richardson occassionally gets bogged down in simply listing the books that Emerson read, but he quickly returns to continuing the story of Emerson's impact on his family and friends (including Thoreau, William Channing, and Bronson Alcott), and his influence on an entire nation. People with interests in Emerson or the intellectual development of 19th century America should enjoy this book.
Reviewed by ht, 4/98. Other reviews by ht.