Friends Who Came To Visit

Emerson's Study, photo courtesy of the concord museum

Emerson's Study, photo courtesy of the concord museum

Happy is the house that shelters a friend!

While the Emersons lived in Concord, there were many visitors who came to see Ralph Waldo Emerson and/or Lidian. Emerson was a “magnet” who drew literary, philosophical and theological leaders to Concord who wanted an opportunity for conversation and the sharing of ideas with one of the most admired men of the day. Following is only a partial list, but it indicates the attractive force, at the time, of Emerson's ideas, writings, oratory, and personal magnetism.

Abigail May Alcott, wife of Bronson Alcott and mother of Louisa May Alcott, who was an ardent abolitionist and active in Concord’s Female Anti-Slavery Society. Emerson’s wife Lidian also actively  influenced his thinking on abolition.

Bronson Alcott, educator, Transcendentalist, writer and the father of Louisa May Alcott. He was a close associate of Emerson.

Louisa May Alcott, author of the American classic Little Women, who greatly admired Emerson, who let her use his library and encouraged her aspirations as a writer.

John Brown, an abolitionist who believed that insurrection and violence were the only way to end slavery. He became a hero to many abolitionists including Emerson and Thoreau. Concord resident Franklin Sanborn was one of Brown's chosen “secret six.”

James Elliot Cabot, a lawyer and an indispensable literary assistant to Emerson in his later years, helping to organize his papers, and at the request of the family, writing the first "official" memoir of Emerson.

William Ellery Channing, poet, writer, editor, Transcendentalist and a powerful influence on Henry David Thoreau. He encouraged him to “build yourself a hut, and there begin the grand process of devouring yourself alive.”

Daniel Chester French, an eminent sculptor who created, among other great works, the Lincoln Memorial. Emerson was responsible for French securing his first commission: the Minuteman statue at the Old North Bridge in Concord, commemorating the local militias who fought the British, starting the American Revolution. French sculpted several likenesses of Emerson, who sat for him in person.

Margaret Fuller, journalist, writer, Transcendentalist, and women’s rights advocate.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, writer of literary classics including The Scarlet Letter, House of Seven Gables and Blithedale Romance. While not a Transcendentalist, he was an admirer of Emerson, a neighbor and a frequent companion in walks and conversation.

Elizabeth Sherman Hoar, the fiancée of Emerson’s brother Charles (who succumbed to tuberculosis before the wedding).  “Aunt Lizzie” was part of the Transcendental Circle, and was an important figure in the Emerson family. Emerson referred to her often as “his sister.”

Judge Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar of Concord, who served as U.S. Attorney General under President Ulysses S. Grant. He was the father of Lizzy Hoar, an abolitionist and a frequent guest at the Emerson home.

James Russell Lowell, poet, abolitionist and one of the founders of The Atlantic Monthly, along with Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Horace Mann, leading public education reformer, teacher and abolitionist, who also was the brother-in-law of Nathaniel Hawthorne.

John Muir, was one of the most famous and influential naturalist’s and conservationist's, whom Emerson met in California in 1871. Muir did not get to Concord until June of 1893, 11 years after Emerson had died. When he visited he laid flowers on Emerson’s grave and dined with Edward Waldo Emerson. The Emerson/Muir meeting in California was momentous for Muir who wrote of Emerson, that he was "the most serene, majestic, sequoia-like soul I ever met. His smile was as sweet and calm as morning light on mountains. There was a wonderful charm in his presence; his smile, serene eye, his voice, his manner, were all sensed at once by everybody. I felt here was a man I had been seeking. The Sierra, I was sure, wanted to see him, and he must not go before gathering them an interview! A tremendous sincerity was his. He was as sincere as the trees, his eye sincere as the sun."

Theodore Parker, Unitarian minister and Transcendentalist, and an active reformer and abolitionist who inspired many, including Emerson and Abraham Lincoln.

Elizabeth Peabody, teacher, publisher, abolitionist, member of the Transcendental Club and a founder of the American kindergarten. She published The Dial, and her West Street bookstore in Boston was a central venue for Transcendentalist talks. She also taught in Bronson Alcott’s Temple School and wrote Record of a School about Alcott’s unorthodox educational philosophy and methods.

Caroline Sturgis, American poet, close friend of Margaret Fuller and a frequent visitor and correspondent of Emerson and Henry James.

Henry David Thoreau, writer, surveyor, Transcendentalist and close friend of Emerson. He was a member of the Transcendental Club and contributed to The Dial regularly. Thoreau lived with the Emersons at different times, and built his cabin on Emerson’s land at Walden Pond. He stayed at Walden for two years, two months and two days. His book Walden, his account of the experience, is an American classic.

Walt Whitman, American poet and essayist. Mr. Emerson first came in contact with Walt Whitman when Whitman heard him deliver a lecture in New York City, “Nature and the Powers of the Poet”. Whitman self-published Leaves of Grass and sent a copy to Emerson, anonymously. Emerson sent that now famous letter to Whitman, “The most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed”... Also in the letter the often quoted line “I greet you at the beginning of a great career.” Whitman called Emerson “Master”.