Straitto Who is. . . in “Self-Reliance”? Here is a guide to Emerson’s many allusions and references. You don’t need to study these–just use them as reference if you are confused. John Adams Emerson refers to ‘‘great days and victories behind’’ that ‘‘shed a united light,’’ which in turn ‘‘throws … America into Adams’s eye. ’’ Emerson may be referring to John Adams (1735-1826), a revolutionary with a combative style who became the second president of the United States. John Quincy Adams John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) was the son of John Adams who became the sixth president of the United States.
John Quincy Adams was a friend of Emerson’s father and later an outspoken critic of Emerson’s transcendentalism. Samuel Adams Samuel Adams (1722-1803) was a leader of the American Revolution who later served in Congress. Gustavus Adolphus Emerson asks, “Why all this deference to … Gustavus? ’’ He may be referring to Gustavus Adolphus (1594-1632), a king of Sweden who reclaimed territory held by Denmark, Russia, and Poland. Self-Reliance: Characters Alfred Emerson asks, “Why all this deference to … Alfred? ’ He is referring to Alfred the Great (849-899), a Saxon king who kept the Danes from overrunning southwest England. Known for promoting literacy, Alfred valued learning. Ali ibn-abu-Talib Emerson quotes Ali (circa 600-661), the son-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and his acknowledged successor. Ali’s sayings had been published in English in 1832. Anaxagoras A Greek philosopher of nature, Anaxagoras (circa 500–428 B. C. ) discovered that solar eclipses were caused by the moon obscuring the sun. He attributed growth and development of organisms to power of mind.
Emerson says that he was a great man. Anthony Emerson declares, “An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man’’ and lists the hermit Anthony (circa 250-350) as the founder of Monachism, or Christian monasticism. He inherited wealth but renounced it to live a life of Christian asceticism and celibacy. Anthony drew many monks to his hermitages and was later canonized. Francis Bacon Recognized by Emerson as an original genius who could have no master, Francis Bacon (1561-1626) was a philosopher and statesman whose inductive method of reasoning influenced scientific investigation.
Jeremy Bentham Listed as one of those with a ‘‘mind of uncommon activity and power,’’ Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) was an English economist, philosopher, and theoretical jurist. With John Stuart Mill, he advocated utilitarianism, the belief that right actions lead to happiness. Charles Fourier Listed as one of those with a ‘‘mind of uncommon activity and power,’’ Charles Fourier (1772-1837) was a French social theorist who believed that society could be organized into cooperatives. Vitus Behring Emerson gives Vitus Behring as an example of one who accomplished much with simple equipment.
A navigator from Denmark, Behring (also spelled Bering; 1680-1741) explored the Siberian coast. The Bering Sea and Bering Strait are named after him. Chatham See William Pitt. Thomas Clarkson Thomas Clarkson (1760-1846) was the founder of abolitionism. Clarkson formed the British Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade in 1787 with Granville Sharp and worked unstintingly for an end to slavery in Britain. Slavery was abolished in the British Empire in 1833. Nicolaus Copernicus Listed among the number of great men who have been misunderstood, Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) was a Polish astronomer.
His theory that the sun, not the Earth, was the center of the solar system was considered heretical at the time. George Fox George Fox (1624-1691) was the founder of Quakerism. Fox was a preacher and missionary who founded the Society of Friends (later called Quakers) in England in 1647. Sir John Franklin Emerson mentions British Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin (1786-1847) as having the most advanced equipment of the time, in contrast to the equipment available to earlier explorers Henry Hudson and Vitus Behring.
Perhaps giving credibility to Emerson’s argument that better equipment does not necessarily lead to greater accomplishments, Franklin died in the Victoria Strait while trying to discover the Northwest Passage. Galileo Galilei Listed among the number of great men who have been misunderstood, Italian astronomer, philosopher, and mathematician Galileo (1564—1642) supported the theories of Copernicus and advocated the application of mathematics to understanding nature. For this, he was tried in the Inquisition and forced to retire. David
David, the second king of Israel according to the Old Testament, is said to have authored a number of the psalms in the Old Testament book of the same name. Emerson writes that many intelligent people dare not believe that they can hear the voice of God unless it is mediated through the words of men such as David. Diogenes The Greek philosopher who founded the school of thought called cynicism, Diogenes (died circa 320 B. C. ) was a nonconformist. He espoused a simple life and was known for roaming the streets of Athens in search of an honest man.
Emerson says that he was a great man. Henry Hudson Emerson gives Henry Hudson as an example of one who accomplished much with simple equipment. An English navigator, Hudson (died circa 1611) explored the North American coast. The Hudson River is named after him. James Hutton Listed as one of those with a “mind of uncommon activity and power,’’ James Hutton (1726-1797) was a Scottish chemist, geologist, and naturalist who originated the principle of uniformitarianism, which explains geological processes over time. Jeremiah
Jeremiah was a fiery prophet of the Old Testament whose activities are recorded in the book of the same name. Emerson writes that many intelligent people dare not believe that they can hear the voice of God unless it is mediated through the words of men such as Jeremiah. Sir William Edward Parry Emerson mentions British Arctic explorer Sir William Parry (1790-1855) as having the most advanced equipment of the time, in contrast to the equipment available to earlier explorers Henry Hudson and Vitus Behring. Parry reached farther north than any explorer before him. Antoine Laurent Lavoisier
Listed as one of those with a “mind of uncommon activity and power,’’ Antoine Laurent Lavoisier (1743-1794) was a French scientist who developed the theory of combustion. He is often credited with founding modern chemistry. Lethe In Greek mythology, this is a river of forgetfulness. John Locke Listed as one of those with a “mind of uncommon activity and power,’’ John Locke (1632-1704) was an English philosopher of the Enlightenment, a movement that advocated reason as a path to understanding God and the universe. Locke developed a systematic theory of knowledge, and his ideas influenced the U. S.
Constitution. Martin Luther Listed among the number of great men who have been misunderstood, Martin Luther (1483-1546) was a German monk and scholar who questioned the theology, practices, and authority of the Catholic Church. Luther’s teachings resulted in the founding of Protestant Christianity, which had far-reaching effects not only on Western Christianity but also on economic, political, and social thought. John Milton Mentioned as having “set at naught books and traditions,’’ John Milton (1608-1674) is regarded as one of the greatest English poets. He is well known for his epic poem Paradise Lost.
Energetic in his defense of civil and religious rights, Milton promoted ideas that conflicted with the Puritan beliefs of his time. Sir Isaac Newton Listed among the number of great men who have been misunderstood, Isaac Newton (1642-1727) explained infinitesimal calculus and the law of gravity. He also laid the groundwork for modern optics with his discovery that white light is made of colored components. Paul Paul the Apostle was one of Jesus’ followers and a leader of the early Christian church. His New Testament writings have had a lasting impact on Christianity throughout the centuries.
Emerson writes that many intelligent people dare not believe that they can hear the voice of God unless it is mediated through the words of men such as Paul. Phocion One of Emerson’s ‘‘great men,’’ Phocion (circa 402-318 B. C. ) was an Athenian general and statesman, a follower of Plato, and known for his integrity. William Pitt William Pitt, the Earl of Chatham (1708-1778), was an English statesman who spoke in Parliament in support of American independence. Emerson refers to the “thunder” in Pitt’s voice; he was considered the greatest orator of his age. Plato
Another man who ‘‘set at naught books and traditions,’’ Plato (circa 427-348 B. C. ) is recognized as one of the greatest Western philosophers of all time. Advocating reason, he encouraged his followers to define their own lives rather than allow others to define them. For this he was labeled a bad influence by those in power. Plutarch An author and biographer, Plutarch (circa 46-120) wrote of heroic feats by Greek and Roman soldiers. Emerson notes that ‘‘greater men than Plutarch’s heroes’’ cannot be molded by modern knowledge. Pythagoras Possibly the first pure mathematician, the Greek Pythagoras (circa 569–475 B.
C. ) is among Emerson’s “misunderstood. ” The son of a merchant, Pythagoras founded a school in Samos that is still called the Semicircle of Pythagoras in modern Italy. He also founded a philosophical and religious school in Croton, now Crotone, Italy. Both men and women were accepted as his followers. Scanderberg Emerson asks, “Why all this deference to … Scanderberg? ” He is referring to George Castriota (circa 1403-1468), an Albanian patriot with the moniker Scanderbeg, who led his soldiers against the Turks. Scipio Scipio Africanus the Elder (237-183 B. C. , the greatest Roman general before Julius Caesar, was victorious in the famous Battle of Zama against Hannibal. Emerson notes that Milton called him ‘‘the height of Rome’’ in Paradise Lost. Socrates Another of Emerson’s “misunderstood” men, Socrates (469-399 B. C. ) was Plato’s mentor. Although Socrates did not write his beliefs because he felt they were constantly evolving, his “The Apology,’’ as recorded by Plato, advocates finding true knowledge even in the face of sweeping opposition. Because of his insistence on pointing out the lack in morality in his society, Socrates was put on trial.
Given the choice to stop teaching or die, Socrates drank a fatal dose of hemlock. Thor Emerson urges the readers to “wake Thor and Woden, courage and constancy. ” Thor is the Norse god of war, also known as “the Thunderer. ” Gustavus Vasa Emerson asks, “Why all this deference to … Gustavus? ’’ He may be referring to Gustavus Vasa (1496-1560), a king of Sweden who proclaimed Christianity in his country. John Wesley Emerson declares, “An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man” and lists John Wesley (1703-1791) as the founder of the Methodist denomination of Protestant Christianity.
An English clergyman and evangelist, Wesley promoted the doctrine of salvation by faith in Christ alone (apart from deeds). Woden Emerson urges readers to ‘‘wake Thor and Woden, courage and constancy. ” Woden, also known as Odin, is the Teutonic god of war and patron of those who have died in battle. Zoroaster Emerson quotes the Avesta, the holy book of Zoroastrianism, a religion founded by the Persian Zoroaster (circa 628-551 B. C. ). Source: “Self-Reliance. ” Enotes. com. Enotes. com, n. d. Web. 07 Nov. 2012.