Nature essayist

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As a teenager in 1960, Clyde Edgerton was trying to find a name for the doubts he was feeling about his conventional, small-town life in Bethesda, North Carolina. “Here was a writer who wrote about ideas—ideas that heated my blood,” Edgerton writes of Emerson. Few people these days talk deeply about Emerson, the quintessential nineteenth-century New Englander, as an agent of passion or personal revolution.

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Then, a hh school assnment offered up a tutor for life. Emerson, a founding father of American letters, who famously declared that “every hero becomes a bore at last,” would perhaps not be too surprised to learn that even some of his modern-day admirers occasionally find him boring, too.

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Edgerton’s epiphany came while reading Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Nature”: The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Some of Emerson’s most discriminating champions over the years have tended, despite their support, to damn him with faint praise.


Why should we not also enjoy an orinal relation to the universe? Typical of this view was the late Clifton Fadiman, who included Emerson’s essays in , a popular 1960 book meant to hht works that the great literary critic thought every American should read.

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