The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XV. Colonial and Revolutionary Literature; Early National Literature, Part I.

IX. Emerson

§ 4. Nature; Essays

Emerson’s first published work was Nature (1836), which contains the gist of his transcendental attitude towards the phenomenal world, as a kind of beautiful symbol of the inner spiritual life, floating dreamlike before the eye, yet, it is to be noted, having discipline as one of its lessons for the attentive soul. The most characteristic and influential of his books are the two volumes of Essays, issued respectively in 1841 and 1844. In the former of these are those great discourses on Self-Reliance, Compensation, and The Over-Soul, into which was distilled the very quintessence of the volatile and heady liquid known as Emersonianism. Other volumes followed in due course. The latter publications, however, beginning with Letters and Social Aims (1875), are made up mainly of gleanings from the field already harvested, and were even gathered by hands not his own.