Review: Christopher Benfey on the Radical Transcendentalists

For Ralph Waldo Emerson—Waldo to his friends—turning thirty was not a happy event. “After thirty,” he wrote in 1835, “a man wakes up sad every morning.” Approaching the same milestone in his life, Emerson’s younger disciple Henry David Thoreau wrote, “I have lived some thirty years on this planet, and I have yet to hear the first syllable of valuable or…

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