Ralph Waldo Emerson - Grieving Father

Ralph Waldo Emerson - Grieving Father Poetry Philosophy Biographies History

Ralph Waldo Emerson, long-respected as one of America's great thinkers, lost many loved ones throughout his life.

  • His father died - of stomach cancer - two weeks after Emerson's eighth birthday.
  • His first wife (Ellen Tucker Emerson) died of tuberculosis (TB) - at age twenty - less than eighteen months after their marriage.
  • At 31, Emerson lost his brother - Edward - also to TB.
  • When his oldest child - a son, called "Waldo" - became ill with scarlet fever, he died, suddenly, at the age of five.
  • Shortly before his 59th birthday, Emerson lost his close friend Henry David Thoreau (who died at 44).

The day after "my little Waldo" died of scarlet fever, Emerson wrote these words in his journal:

Sorrow makes us all children again,
destroys all differences of intellect. 
The wisest knows nothing.

Shortly before his 79th birthday, Ralph Waldo Emerson caught a severe cold.  It led to his death on April 27, 1882.  He is buried at the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts.

We can review most of his writings online, thanks to RWE.org (Ralph Waldo Emerson.org).

Media Credits

Portrait of Ralph Waldo Emerson - image number LC-DIG-pga-04133 - online courtesy U.S. Library of Congress. 


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