Representative Men

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Seven essays by Emerson, published in 1850. Probably suggested by Carlyle's Heroes and Hero-Worship, they were originally lectures delivered in Boston (1845–46), and in Manchester and London (1847).

The six representative men are Plato, the philosopher; Swedenborg, the mystic; Montaigne, the skeptic; Shakespeare, the poet; Napoleon, the man of the world; and Goethe, the writer. In the first lecture, “On the Uses of Great Men,” Emerson contends that humanity, being pervaded by the spirit of the Deity, is not made up of a number of individuals. A great man is one who represents more of this divine essence than his fellows, and thus enables mankind to appreciate its own possibilities.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803—1882) American philosopher and poet