Ralph Waldo Emerson, was born at Boston in 1803 into a distinguished family of New England Unitarian ministers. His was the eighth generation to enter the ministry in a dynasty that reached back to the earliest days of Puritan America. Despite the death of his father when Emerson was only eleven, he was able to be educated at Boston Latin School and then Harvard, from which he graduated in 1821.
After several years of reluctant school teaching, he returned to the Harvard Divinity School, entering the Unitarian ministry during a period of robust ecclesiastic debate. By 1829 Emerson was married and well on his way to a promising career in the church through his appointment to an important congregation in Boston. However, his career in the ministry did not last long. Following the death of his first wife, Ellen, his private religious doubts led him to announce his resignation to his congregation, claiming he was unable to preach a doctrine he no longer believed and that "to be a good minister it was necessary to leave the ministry."
With the modest legacy left him from his first wife, Emerson was able to devote himself to study and travel. In Europe he met many of the important Romantic writers whose ideas on art, philosophy, and literature were transforming the writing of the Nineteenth Century. He also continued to explore his own ideas in a series of voluminous journals which he had kept from his earliest youth and from which virtually all of his literary creation would be generated. Taking up residence in Concord, Massachusetts, Emerson devoted himself to study, writing and a series of public lectures in the growing lyceum movement. From these lyceum addresses Emerson developed and then in 1836 published his most important work, Nature. Its publication also coincided with his organizing role in the Transcendental Club, a group of leading New England educators, clergy, and intellectuals interested in idealistic religion, philosophy, and literature.