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How Did Ralph Waldo Emerson Die – (1803 – 1882)

Date of Birth May 25, 1803 
Date Of Death April 27, 1882
Age 78 Years
Death Cause  Pneumonia

Ralph Waldo Emerson, often referred to by his middle name, “Waldo,” was born on May 25, 1803, and he departed this world on April 27, 1882, having lived for 78 remarkable years. His prominent death cause is pneumonia. Emerson was a multifaceted individual, known as an American essayist, lecturer, philosopher, abolitionist, and famous poet during the mid-1900s. 

His ideas were rooted in championing individualism, critical thinking, and the rejection of societal pressures and conformity. He was a significant character in American literary and intellectual history because of his extensive effect. But there are many more mysterious facts behind his death that I am going to uncover in this post. So continue reading to know the reasons behind the passing of Ralph Waldo Emerson!

Emerson’s Early Life and Achievements

Ralph Waldo Emerson, born on May 25, 1803, in Boston, Massachusetts, had a remarkable life that left an indelible mark on American thought. Growing up in a Unitarian family, he was immersed in the intellectual and cultural currents of his time. Emerson initially studied at Harvard Divinity School and became a Unitarian minister. However, his evolving philosophical beliefs led him to resign from the ministry, choosing to embark on a career as a writer and lecturer.

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us! (Ralph Waldo Emerson).

Emerson’s essays, such as “Nature” and “Self-Reliance,” laid the foundation for transcendentalism, a philosophy that celebrated the inherent goodness of people and nature. His writings emphasized individualism, self-reliance, and the profound connection between humanity and the natural world.

Notable works include his essay collections, “Essays: First Series” (1841) and “Essays: Second Series” (1844). These essays, including “Self-Reliance,” “The Over-Soul,” “Circles,” and “The Poet,” encapsulated his core ideas. Emerson’s writing spanned various subjects, from individuality and freedom to the profound connection between the soul and the world.

His influence extended well beyond his lifetime, making him a linchpin of the American romantic movement. Emerson’s work profoundly impacted subsequent thinkers, writers, and poets. He famously advocated for the infinitude of the individual, and his mentorship and friendship with Henry David Thoreau, another prominent transcendentalist, further cemented his legacy in American intellectual and literary history.

Emerson’s Personal Life And Relationships 

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s personal life was marked by both joy and sorrow. He had several romantic interests in his lifetime, including women like Anna Barker and Caroline Sturgis. In his early years at Harvard, he even composed erotic poetry about a classmate named Martin Gay. Moreover, Emerson’s marital life was equally eventful. He first married Ellen Louisa Tucker in 1829, but their happiness was short-lived as Ellen passed away in 1831, deeply affecting Emerson.

 He later found love again, proposing to Lydia Jackson in 1835, with whom he had a lasting marriage. They lived in Concord, Massachusetts, and had four children: Waldo, Ellen (named after his first wife), Edith, and Edward Waldo Emerson. Emerson was deeply committed to their education, hiring Sophia Foord to teach his children. As a whole his personal life and relationships added depth to the life of a great thinker, highlighting the joys and challenges that shaped his journey.

Emerson’s Radical Religious Views and Advocacy

Ralph Waldo Emerson held groundbreaking religious beliefs for his time, emphasizing the divine connection in all things and the idea that God’s truth can be intuited directly from nature. His views, a foundation of Transcendentalism, were influenced by German philosophy and Biblical criticism. Critics accused him of removing the traditional God figure from religion, with some fearing a spiritual void. Emerson described his faith as more akin to Quakerism, believing in the “still, small voice” within.

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail! (Ralph Waldo Emerson).

In addition to his theological pursuits, Emerson supported the expansion of community libraries in the 19th century, recognizing their value as repositories of wisdom from throughout history.

Final Years and Health Struggles Of Emerson

In his later years, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s health took a significant toll. Starting in 1867, his health began to decline, and he wrote less in his journals. By the early 1870s, he experienced memory problems and suffered from aphasia, a condition affecting his ability to communicate. As the decade progressed, his memory deteriorated to the point where he sometimes forgot his own name. 

A terrible tragedy happened in 1872 when Emerson’s home in Concord caught on fire. While people nearby tried to save their things, the fire ended Emerson’s job as a serious professor. After that, he would only speak on rare events and in front of people he knew.

After this incident, Emerson went to Europe and Egypt with his daughter Ellen while the house was being rebuilt. When he returned to the United States in 1873, he was greeted with open arms in Concord. In 1879, he stopped going out in public because his memory problems were making him look bad. It was hard for Emerson to remember things and talk to people in his last years. His health problems were a sad reminder of how much time had passed.

The Death Of Emerson & Legacy He Left Behind  

Ralph Waldo Emerson passed away on April 27, 1882, at the age of 78. On April 21, 1882, he was diagnosed with pneumonia, a severe respiratory illness. Just six days later, on April 27, 1882, Emerson passed away. He now rests in peace at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts. During his final moments, he was dressed in a white robe, a touching gesture from the American sculptor Daniel Chester French, commemorating the departure of a remarkable thinker and writer.

The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honourable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well! (Ralph Waldo Emerson).

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s death marked the end of an era, but his ideas and writings have lived on to inspire countless individuals. His legacy as a transcendentalist philosopher and essayist endures through his written works, and his influence can be seen in the works of later writers and thinkers, including Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman.

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