Emerson and Thoreau were transcendentalists that believed that people can trust themselves to be their own authority on what is right. I always found their philosophy interesting, so of course, they were included in my New England literary walk. Emerson lived right across the street from the Alcotts and he, Thoreau and Bronson Alcott taught Louisa May. What a lucky girl! She exemplified this Emerson quote,
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
However, this post is focused on the illustrious Ralph Waldo Emerson. If we are in need of good, sound advice or a substantial quote to support some literary work, we often look to Emerson. He was well-versed on a number of topics and his insight and opinions are still highly trusted and valued today.
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, and to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
As the tour guide led us through his home, I noticed the furniture. It was heavy, solid wood and it stood very high. I imagine the movers had a time getting it into the house and certainly up to the second floor. The old, sturdy furniture was well-built and some of it may have been shipped from overseas. I thought of words like chest of drawers or chifferobe as I looked at the pieces, but certainly quality and class came to mind as well.
Henry David Thoreau lived with Emerson for a while as his handyman. Thoreau also designed some of the unique furniture there. Notably, there was a chair that had a drawer that pulled out. The tour guide demonstrated how it worked and it housed Emerson’s Sunday sermon gloves. He had a hard time keeping up with them and this was a unique way of helping him to stay organized.
From all of the pictures that we see of him, he seemed to be a dapper dresser. We also saw a corner where he kept his walking sticks. I could picture him going to the church to deliver a message dressed in all of his finery.
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
Emerson’s study was his mainstay and that it is where he spent most of his time, when he was not traveling. We saw a rotary-type writing desk which had compartments specifically designed to hold his papers. He wrote many letters and essays there. We know that he was a prolific lecturer, pastor and essayist.
He and his first wife, Ellen had one daughter also named Ellen. He later married Lidian, after the first wife died and they had four children together. The tour guide spoke of his ability to discipline them in a calm manner. For example, if a child was upset, he would tell him to go out and look at the clouds to redirect his focus.
Emerson was highly influential and met many great persons such President Lincoln, Thomas Carlyle and Ulysses S. Grant. Lincoln’s picture was one of the first things I saw on the wall upon entering the home. It is said that Emerson, Thoreau and Bronson Alcott’s acute intellect brought many great thinkers to the city of Concord.
“Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.”
When I walked back to the train station that July day, it rained lightly and then it stopped. The area was highly wooded and grassy; but the rain felt like a baptism of sorts because I had experienced a showering of blessings in Concord. At the train station, I bought a scoop of ice cream from a shop called Bedford Farms Ice Cream to celebrate my inner victory. I boarded the train feeling satisfied.
“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.”
Lynn October 3, 2014