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Emerson on History

Ralph Waldo Emerson Writings

Quotations and Fragments from Emerson's Essay "History". Emerson is mostly quoted verbatim in this series.


LoMen get tyrannised over by obeying a lot

He [Man] cannot live without a world.

[A wise man] must sit solidly at home, and not suffer himself to be bullied by kings.

The student interprets the age of chivalry by his own age of chivalry.

You shall make me feel what periods you have lived . . . the discovery of new lands; the opening of new sciences, and new regions .

Facts encumber [men], tyrannize over them, and make the men of routine the men of sense, in whom a literal obedience to facts has extinguished every spark of that light by which man is truly man.

Magic, and all that is ascribed to it, is a deep presentiment of the powers of science.

LoThe bundle of relations tends to develop admiration like nothing else, and your relations bundle comes from what is enacted somehow

The men that are admired also speak of what is within their admirers. *

How is it that our admiration often is a part of the enacted shows and "circuses" of men? *

Time dissipates to shining ether the solid angularity of facts. ◊

A man is a bundle of relations.

LoThe deep apprehension may pierce to the truth of faces too, but first learn to observe neutrally

What does Rome know of rat and lizard?

Does not the eye of the human embryo predict the light? the ear of Handel predict the witchcraft of harmonic sound?

Every one must have observed faces and forms. MM

The . . . unschooled farmer's boy, stand nearer to the light by which nature is to be read, than the dissector or the antiquary.

The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn, and Egypt, Greece, Rome, Gaul, Britain, America, lie folded already in the first man.

[Greek] Adults acted with the simplicity and grace of children. They made vases.

By a deeper apprehension . . . the artist attains the power of awakening other souls.

We assume that we under like influence should be alike affected.

If we would trulier express our central and wide-related nature, instead of this old chronology of selfishness and pride.

[Man at times] pierces to the truth through . . . the caricature of institutions.

The Gothic church plainly originated in a rude adaptation of the forest trees with all their boughs to a festal or solemn arcade . . . The Gothic cathedral is a blossoming in stone subdued by the insatiable demand of harmony. (7)

The manners of [the Greek] period are plain and fierce.

The transmigration of souls is no fable.

The poet was no odd fellow who described strange and impossible situations, but that universal man wrote by his pen a confession. (8)

There is no age or state of society or mode of action in history, to which there is not somewhat corresponding in his life.


  1. Men get tyrannised over by obeying a lot.
  2. The bundle of relations tends to develop admiration like nothing else, and your relations bundle comes from what is enacted.
  3. Deep apprehension may pierce to the truth of folks and faces too, but first observe much.
IN NUCE We are at least to sit down together to get our relations deep enough to last throughout life.


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