History

by

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dover Thrift Editions edition of History published in 1993.
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History Quotes

There is one mind common to all individual men. Every man is an inlet to the same and to all of the same … what at any time has befallen any man, he can understand.

Related Characters: Ralph Waldo Emerson (speaker), The Individual
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

Universal history, the poets, the romancers, do not in their stateliest pictures—in the sacerdotal, the imperial palaces, in the triumphs of will or of genius—anywhere lose our ear, anywhere make us feel that we intrude, that this is for better men; but rather it is true, that in their grandest strokes we feel most at home.

Related Characters: Ralph Waldo Emerson (speaker), The Individual
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:

We are always coming up with the emphatic facts of history in our private experience, and verifying them here. All history becomes subjective; in other words, there is properly no history; only biography.

Related Characters: Ralph Waldo Emerson (speaker), The Individual
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

Upborne and surrounded as we are by this all-creating nature, soft and fluid as a cloud or the air, why should we be such hard pedants, and magnify a few forms? Why should we make account of time, or of magnitude, or of figure? The soul knows them not, and genius, obeying its law, knows how to play with them as a young child plays with graybeard and in churches.

Related Characters: Ralph Waldo Emerson (speaker)
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

If any one will but take pains to observe the variety of actions to which he is equally inclined in certain moods of mind, and those to which he is averse, he will see how deep is the chain of affinity.

Related Characters: Ralph Waldo Emerson (speaker), The Individual
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

In like manner, all public facts are to be individualized, all private facts are to be generalized. Then at once History becomes fluid and true, and Biography deep and sublime.

Related Characters: Ralph Waldo Emerson (speaker), The Individual
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

What is the foundation of that interest all men feel in Greek history, letters, art, and poetry, in all its periods, from the Heroic or Homeric age down to the domestic life of the Athenians and Spartans, four or five centuries later? What but this, that every man passes personally through a Grecian period.

Related Characters: Ralph Waldo Emerson (speaker), The Individual
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

When the voice of a prophet out of the deeps of antiquity merely echoes to him a sentiment of his infancy, a prayer of his youth, he then pierces to the truth through all the confusion of tradition and the caricature of institutions.

Related Characters: Ralph Waldo Emerson (speaker), The Individual
Related Symbols: The Gothic Cathedral
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:

The advancing man discovers how deep a property he has in literature,—in all fable as well as in all history. He finds that the poet was no odd fellow who described strange and impossible situations, but that universal man wrote by his pen a confession true for one and true for all.

Related Characters: Ralph Waldo Emerson (speaker), The Individual
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:
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