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The Academy Series of English Classics

EMERSON

SELECT ESSAYS AND POEMS

EDITED BY

EVA MARCH TAPPAN, PH.D.

ENGLISH HIGH SCHOOL, WORCESTER, MASS.

ALLYN AND BACON

Boston and Chicago

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RALPH WALDO EMERSON.

1803–1882.

RALPH WALDO EMERSON's first appearance in literature was made in a letter wherein his father notes, with a somewhat injured surprise, the fact that his three-year-old son “does not read very well yet,” and urges the mother not to neglect the education of the little delinquent. Through his boyhood we catch glimpses of him, now "speaking pieces,” mounted on a sugar-barrel in the village grocery; now toiling with the pen and with many laborious contortions of the tongue to acquire a fair and well-rounded handwriting; now driving his mother's cow to pasture down the slope of Beacon Hill; now working with his brothers to aid in the care of the house, dignifying the operation of scouring knives by composing mock-heroic rhymes,

6 Melodious knife, and thou, harmonious sand,

Touched by the poet scourer's rugged hand."

Those were the days of scanty means for the brave little household, the widowed mother and her five boys. There is a story that the aspiring poet and one of his brothers took turns in wearing the overcoat that was their joint possession, and that they read Greek in so cold a room that ever afterwards they associated Plato with the smell of woolen wraps.

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