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Emerson Among the Eccentrics: A Group Portrait Hardcover – 26 Sep 1996

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (26 Sept. 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067086675X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670866755
  • Product Dimensions: 50.8 x 50.8 x 50.8 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,545,856 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9ca802a0) out of 5 stars 6 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9ca9de94) out of 5 stars A scholarly work on one of America's greatest philosophers 20 Sept. 2003
By Roy E. Perry - Published on
Format: Paperback
In the Epilogue, Carlos Baker writes, "Biography is the study of the whole man in the context of time." Strange, then, that Baker's biography of Emerson begins when Emerson was already in his late twenties. One wonders what happened to Emerson during his first three decades. Nevertheless, Emerson Among the Eccentrics is well worth your time.
In Chapter 31, Baker describes the decision, by Emerson, James Freeman Clarke, and W. H. Channing to write a biography of the late Margaret Fuller, "America's first feminist," who drowned at sea on a return tour of Europe. Emerson, writes Baker, "was certain that whoever undertook the task must pay the closest attention to the personalities who had surrounded Margaret. 'Leave them out,' said he, 'and you leave our Margaret.'"
Emerson's perceptive insight about writing Margaret Fuller's biography is taken to heart by Carlos Baker. His thesis is that one cannot know Ralph Waldo Emerson without paying the closest attention to the personalities who had surrounded him. Therefore, Emerson Among the Eccentrics: A Group Portrait is a biography not only of Emerson, but also of numerous others with whom he associated, such as Margaret Fuller, Henry David Thoreau, Ellery Channing, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Walt Whitman, Bronson Alcott, Jones Very, Theodore Parker, and Herman Melville.
The most famous of the New England "Transcendentalists," Emerson resigned his position as a clergyman when his first wife died. He believed that ethics, not theology, metaphysics, or religious doctrine, was the heart of Christianity, and he argued throughout his long life (1803-1882) for self-reliance, nonconformity to superannuated dogmas and liturgies, and for the "priesthood" of the lone individual who needs no mediator between himself and the "World-Soul." He proclaimed that "God" was immanently accessible both in nature and in man's soul.
Emerson's writings are brilliantly provocative, but one often is puzzled by the obscurity of his metaphysics. What exactly IS the "World-Soul"? Although Emerson spoke often of "God," one gets the feeling that his concept of deity was more radically "protestant" than often believed. Was it pantheism, or perhaps even atheism in clever disguise? He certainly rejected traditional forms of faith and praxis.
Indeed, one might ask, To what extent was Emerson truly a "Transcendentalist"? Was this a brand of philosophical idealism, a la the "two-worlds" dichotomy of Platonism? Or was it more like Paul Tillich's "God above the god of theism"? ... a humanistic seeking for wisdom, truth, love, and justice that was more anthropocentric than theocentric? Different readers of Emerson will doubtless come to quite different conclusions.
Carlos Baker, who is perhaps best known for his biography and criticism of Ernest Hemingway, died in 1987. Emerson Among the Eccentrics: A Group Portrant is his swan song, and a beautiful volume it is, a fitting tribute to one of the greatest thinkers, moralists, and philosophers that America has produced.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9ca9dfe4) out of 5 stars Excellent for all who love great literature & great minds 15 Jun. 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
I read this book after final exams for some reason Emerson and the whole American Renassiance mystic was calling to me...I finished the novel packed my bags and drove straight to Concord, Mass...The tour guides at the various sites I visited where perplexed by my numerous inquires...This book drove such a desire in me to learn and love literature from that period...Well worth the time and the read...and make every effort to visit Concord when your done it adds to the experience...
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9cd42834) out of 5 stars Lots to amuse and inform 30 Dec. 1998
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
As its title suggests, this scrupulously researched tome portrays Emerson as perhaps the most stable and secure (and kindly) among a group of eccentric, sometimes borderline crazy writers and thinkers. A must for any interested in the transcendental movement, or in perhaps its most distinguished man of letters.
HASH(0x9ce47498) out of 5 stars gives the reader a good understanding of Emerson's life and the personalities that he ... 23 July 2016
By Anonymous - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a detailed, yet broad group biography of Emerson's literary circle. Illuminating it its interconnections, with personal details often left out of biographies of the singular individuals, this ambitious collective study, nonetheless, gives the reader a good understanding of Emerson's life and the personalities that he shared influential relationships with.
HASH(0x9ce472ac) out of 5 stars Emerson, Thoreau, and all their Saints 2 Dec. 2010
By Bruce - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is perhaps the best thing I have read regarding Emerson in the context of his friends.

I recommend it to everyone and anyone.

I also recommend the 30 lectures on CD about Transcendentalism by the professor from Dickinson College, whose name I don't recall.

Bruce Byrolly

Cambridge MD

Dec. 1, 2010
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