The writings featured here show Emerson as a protester against social conformity, a lover of nature, an activist for the rights of women and slaves, and a poet of great sensitivity.
As explored in this volume, Emersonian thought is a unique blend of belief in individual freedom and in humility before the power of nature.
"Nature" is boring but saved by a concluding thunderbolt. Some of Emerson's essays were enjoyable; I'd recommend the essays Nature, Self-Reliance, and Circles to anyone interested in becoming acquainted with Emerson's work.
Other than that, Emerson's writings were either unbearably dry or, to me, nearly incomprehensible.
“I become a transparent eyeball,” Emerson wrote in Nature, “I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God.” Written over a century ago, this passage is a striking example of the passion and originality of Emerson’s ideas, which continue to serve as a spiritual center and an ideological base for modern thought. The poems were easier and more enjoyable than I had expected them to be, so I was unprepared for what a struggle it was to wade through his lectures and essays.
I slogged along until I was about two thirds of the way through the collection at which time I confess I half read, half skimmed to nearly the end.
I did read the final essay carefully, though, about Thoreau.
Though they had differences, Emerson's admiration for Thoreau is evident.
He returned to the United States in 1833, to a life as poet, writer and lecturer.
Emerson inspired Transcendentalism, although never adopting the label himself.