Known primarily as the leader of the philosophical movement transcendentalism, which stresses the ties of humans to nature, Ralph Waldo Emerson, American poet and essayist, was born in Boston in 1803. From a long line of religious leaders, Emerson became the minister of the Second Church (Unitarian) in 1829. He left the church in 1832 because of profound differences in interpretation and doubts about church doctrine. He visited England and met with British writers and philosophers. It was during this first excursion abroad that Emerson formulated his ideas for Self-Reliance. He returned to the United States in 1833 and settled in Concord, Massachusetts. He began lecturing in Boston. His first book, Nature (1836), published anonymously, detailed his belief and has come to be regarded as his most significant original work on the essence of his philosophy of transcendentalism. The first volume of Essays (1841) contained some of Emerson's most popular works, including the renowned Self-Reliance. Emerson befriended and influenced a number of American authors including Henry David Thoreau. It was Emerson's practice of keeping a journal that inspired Thoreau to do the same and set the stage for Thoreau's experiences at Walden Pond. Emerson married twice (his first wife Ellen died in 1831 of tuberculosis) and had four children (two boys and two girls) with his second wife, Lydia. His first born, Waldo, died at age six. Emerson died in Concord on April 27, 1882 at the age of 78 due to pneumonia and is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts.
Literary and cultural historian, biographer and poet, Carl Bode (1911--1993) taught for many years in the English Department at the University of Maryland, College Park, and authored or edited scores of books. He was founder and first president of the American Studies Association and former chairman of the Maryland Arts Council.
Malcolm Cowley, critic, poet, editor, and translator, was an influential figure in American letters. The son of a Pittsburgh physician, Cowley studied at Harvard University and the University of Montpelier, "starved" in Greenwich Village, and lived in France, where he met the Dada crowd and worked on two expatriate magazines, Secession and Broom. From 1929 to 1944, he was associate editor of The New Republic. Perhaps the most famous work he wrote was his early book of poetry entitled, Blue Juniata (1929). As an editorial consultant to Viking Press, he pushed for the publication of Jack Kerouac's On the Road. His book The Faulkner-Cowley File: Letters and Memories, 1944-1962 documents his early recognition of William Faulkner. The Portable Faulkner was published at Cowley's instigation and under his editorship in 1946, when all 17 of Faulkner's books were out of print. Its publication had a profound effect -- virtually creating Faulkner's literary revival. Cowley died in 1989.