Ralph Waldo Emerson Reportedly Borrowed From Aunt

Ralph Waldo Emerson may have derived material for his popular writings directly from his aunt without acknowledging her influence, according to a new book, Mary Moody Emerson and the Origins of Transcendentalism. Author Phyllis Cole, a Penn State University professor, said “I am saying that she was not only a general influence, she told him specifically what to read, to seek solitude in nature and to be a poet.”

Phyllis offered an example. In an 1824 letter to her nephew, Mary Moody Emerson wrote, “Solitude which to people, not talented to deviate from the beaten track (which is the safeguarding of mediocrity) without offending, is to learning and talents the only labyrinth (though sometimes gloomy) to form eagle wings which will bear one farther than suns in stars.”

R.W. Emerson wrote in his 1860 essay entitled “Culture,” “Solitude, the safeguard of mediocrity, is, to genius, the stern friend, the cold obscure shelture where moult the wings which bear it farther than suns and stars.”


AP - March 27, 1998

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