Emerson among the Eccentrics: A Group Portrait

 Emerson among the Eccentrics: A Group Portrait

By Carlos Baker. New York: Viking, 1996. Paperback, xv + 608 pages.

Emerson: The Mind on Fire.

By Robert D. Rlchardson, Jr. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995. Paperback, xiii + 671 pages.

Two literary giants whose writings enrich American culture live and breathe in these biographies that place the authors within their contexts and establish them properly in American intellectual history.

Princeton University's Carlos Baker, the mentor of several successive student generations who became remarkable scholars, crowned his career with this study in which he pictures nineteenth-century Concord, Massachusetts, as a creative Mecca that fostered a congenial, colorful community composed of unconventional intellectuals. Presenting Emerson as the preeminent resident of Concord, Baker treats such other personalities as Emerson's Aunt Mary Moody, his wife Lidian, Bronson Alcott, Margaret Fuller, Henry David Thoreau, Jones Very, William Ellery Channing, Theodore Parker, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Walt Whitman, and John Brown.

Robert Richardson's Emerson: The Mind on Fire supplements his Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind. The biographer pictures Emerson as student, Harvard Divinity School theologian, mystic, nature lover, independent scholar, Transcendentalist philosopher, passionate liver championing intellectual freedom, and a preeminent contributor to the nation's literature and culture. He presents Emerson as a thinker with an unfathomed emotional depth and as a mystic pulsating with enormous intellectual intensity.



March/April 1999