By the end of the nineteenth century, Ralph Waldo Emerson was well on his way to becoming the aWisest Americana and the aSage of Concord, a a literary celebrity and a national icon. With that fame came what Robert Habich describes as a blandly sanctified version of Emerson held widely by the reading public. Building Their Own Waldos sets out to understand the dilemma faced by Emersonas early biographers: how to represent a figure whose subversive individualism had been eclipsed by his celebrity, making him less a representative of his age than a caricature of it. Drawing on never-before-published letters, diaries, drafts, business records, and private documents, Habich explores the making of a cultural hero through the stories of Emersonas first biographersa George Willis Cooke, a minister most recently from Indianapolis who considered himself a disciple; the English reformer and newspaper mogul Alexander Ireland, a friend for half a century; Moncure D. Conway, a Southern abolitionist then residing in London, who called Emerson his aspiritual father and intellectual teachera; the poet and medical professor Oliver Wendell Holmes, with Emerson a member of Bostonas gathering of literary elite, the Saturday Club; James Elliot Cabot, the familyas authorized biographer, an architect and amateur philosopher with unlimited access to Emersonas unpublished papers; and Emersonas son Edward, a physician and painter whose father had passed over him as literary executor in favor of Cabot. Just as their biographies reveal a complex, socially engaged Emerson, so too do the biographersa own stories illustrate the real-world perils, challenges, and motives of life-writing in the late nineteenth century, when biographers were routinely vilified as ghoulish and disreputable and biography as a genre underwent a profound redefinition. Building Their Own Waldos is at once a revealing look at Emersonas constructed reputation, a case study in the rewards and dangers of Victorian life-writing, and the story of six authors struggling amidst personal misfortunes and shifting expectations to capture the elusive character of Americaas arepresentative man, a as they knew him and as they needed him to be.There, he came upon an article entitled aEmersona and an extract from the essay aHistorya struck him alike an arrowa; ... It was, Conway wrote in his journal that evening, athe most memorable day of my life: spent with Ralph Waldo Emerson!
|Title||:||Building Their Own Waldos|
|Author||:||Robert D. Habich|
|Publisher||:||University of Iowa Press - 2011-03-15|