Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor


Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor


Article excerpt

MONITOR'S PICK EMERSON: THE MIND ON FIRE, by Robert D. Richardson, U. of California Press, $30

One role of the biographer is to rekindle interest in important figures no matter how familiar they may be through their writing.

Robert D. Richardson's biography "Emerson: The Mind on Fire" does just that and more for one of the seminal intellectual and spiritual thinkers of the American experience.

Although Emerson is scarcely a forgotten figure, his very familiarity tends to disguise his amazing originality. His protean, deliberately unsystematic mind resists attempts at classification. Even readers who love his poetically pithy essays, such as "Self-Reliance," "Compensation," and "Nature," may find it hard to imagine the man who wrote them.

But thanks to Professor Richardson's superbly written book, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) takes on the lineaments of a thinking, feeling, entirely believable human being: an awkward middle child initially overshadowed by his seemingly more-gifted brothers; the grief-stricken widower of an aspiring poetess who died at 19; a man who taught himself how to recover from overwhelming bouts of depression by relying on his spiritual inner resources.

Whether he is describing the strange character of Emerson's remarkable aunt, Mary Moody Emerson; Emerson's first meeting with Thomas and Jane Carlyle; or Emerson's responses to his wide-ranging readings, Richardson writes with clarity, vigor, and liveliness that transform his meticulous research into a compellingly readable, highly intelligible story.

b= Favorable review; M= Mixed review; n= Unfavorable review; -= No review noted

The Christian Science Monitor; The New York Times; Kirkus Review of Books; Los Angeles Times; Selected reviews*

1) 1


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b - - - b TT

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M - - - -

4) 3


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