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Ralph Waldo Emerson

1803-1882

Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Philosopher and essayist.
  • John Muir met Emerson in Yosemite in 1871. Muir had read much of Emerson's work and was influenced greatly by his writings.
  • Muir spent several days with Emerson, but Muir wanted Emrson to camp with him in the Wawona Grove, but Emerson's traveling companions wouldn't allow the aged essayist to do so.
  • Of Emerson, Muir wrote, "Emerson was the most serene, majestic, sequoia-like soul I ever met. His smile was as sweet and calm as morning light on mountains. There was a wonderful charm in his presence; his smile, serene eye, his voice, his manner, were all sensed at once by everybody. I felt here was a man I had been seeking. The Sierra, I was sure, wanted to see him, and he must not go before gathering them an interview! A tremendous sincerity was his. He was as sincere as the trees, his eye sincere as the sun."

  • John Muir also wrote more extenstively about his visit in Emerson, in this excerpt from Chapter 8 of The Life and Letters of John Muir and Chapter 4 of Our National Parks.
  • For More info: Merrill, Samuel, "John Muir and Ralph Waldo Emerson in Yosemite" (1934) in Voices for the Earth: A Treasury of the Sierra Club Bulletin 1893-1977 Edited by Ann Gilliam (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1979). A description of Muir as a somewhat shy and awkward young man in 1871, when he met Emerson in Yosemite, compiled from the writings of Emerson's friend and traveling companion, James Bradley Thayer, as well as Muir himself.
  • McAleer, John, "John Muir," in Ralph Waldo Emerson: Days of Encounter , (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1984). This unique biography illustrates Emerson's life through "encounters" with numerous individuals, the full spectrum of his relationships. One chapter features Emerson's meeting with John Muir in Yosemite in 1870. While Muir biographies describe this from Muir's point of view, this version, told from Emerson's point of view, provides some fascinating details. Also describes the later Muir-Emerson correspondence and relationship.

  • Tallmadge, John, "John Muir, Emerson, and the Book of Nature: the Explorer as Prophet," in America: Exploration and Travel, edited by Steven Kagel (Bowling Green State University Press, 1979, pp. 113-125). Tells how Muir's copy of Emerson's essays, found now in the Beinecke Rare Book Library, was dented and smudged with pine resin, and it had his markings and drawings, revealing how he had read and interpreted his great mentor. See also Tallmadge's book Meeting the Tree of Life: A Teacher's Path (University of Utah Press, 1997), pp. 49-55 ("Finding the Book of Nature"), which describe Muir's relationships with the Transcendentalists and his encounter with Emerson, including Tallmadge's discovery of his copy of the latter's Essays.



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