"A living dog is better than a dead lion. Shall a man go and hang himself because he belongs to the race of pygmies, and not be the biggest pygmy that he can? Let every one mind his own business, and endeavor to be what he was made. Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away." - Henry David Thoreau
A lot of ink has been spilled covering the lives of history’s most influential figures, but how much of the forest is lost for the trees? In Charles River Editors’ American Legends series, readers can get caught up to speed on the lives of America’s most important men and women in the time it takes to finish a commute, while learning interesting facts long forgotten or never known.
In the mid-19th century, Romantic literature was still in full bloom across the West, but some American authors began producing literature that, while still Romantic, was unique enough to be considered a different genre. This new genre, Transcendentalism, focused on the spirituality of the self and nature, not rejecting religion outright but concentrating on pragmatism and the importance of individuals as the spiritual center of the cosmos. In addition to drawing upon the Age of Enlightenment, Transcendentalist authors also utilized the philosophy of Plato, who taught that self-fulfillment through attaining knowledge should be an individual’s ultimate goal.