Sarah Orne Jewett House

Ralph Waldo Emerson

A longtime friend of Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) was the center of the transcendental movement. Emerson wrote of finding one’s own relation to the universe and for Emerson, this relation was found in solitary communion with nature.

In Jewett’s work and in her personal life, this solitude in nature was both refuge and epiphany.

Like Longfellow, Emerson had been a part of the Fields’ literary circle, but died in 1882, too soon for Jewett to have known him well. Jewett did get to meet Emerson. She was so excited to meet him that she dashed off a poem:

“A Sonnet on Meeting Ralph Waldo Emerson:” (date unknown)

Right here, where noisiest, narrowest is the street;

Where gaudy flaunting shops bedeck the crowded way;

Where idle newsboys in vindictive play

Dart to and fro with venturesome bare feet;

Here, where the bulletins from fort and fleet

Tell gaping readers what’s amiss today,

Where sin bedizens, folly makes too gay,

And all are victims of their own conceit;

With these ephemeral insects of an hour

That war, fret, and flutter, as they downward float

In some pale sunbeam that the spring has brought,

Where this vain world is reveling in power;

I met great Emerson, serene, remote,

Like one adventuring on seas of thought

[Transcription Terry Heller, Coe College]