Boston: James Munroe, 1849. First collected edition. Near Fine in original publisher's cloth, stamped in blind with gilt to spine. Yellow endpapers. Cloth a bit rubbed at extremities, with some spotting to boards; but in all a square and pleasing copy. Presented by the author in the year of publication, with an inscription to the front endpaper: "Mrs. Almira Barlow, With the regards of R.W.E. Concord, September 1849." Known as one of the great beauties of her time, Almira Barlow was the estranged wife of a Unitarian minister, and an inspiration to the period's literati. In addition to inspiring Nathaniel Hawthorne's Zenobia in Blithedale Romance, she was a friend and correspondent of both Margaret Fuller and Ralph Waldo Emerson (Boston Athenaeum). Presentation copies from Emerson remain incredibly scarce. In the past 35 years, only two examples have come to auction. In all, an exceptional collector's copy, housed in a midcentury slipcase with chemise and accompanied by an early James F. Drake description.
A renowned essayist, poet, and popular philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson remains influential today for his promotion of an American existentialist ethics of self-improvement. "In 1849, Emerson collected in one volume all of his published work he thought worthy of preservation that had not been contained in the two series of Essays (1841, 1844) and the Poems (1847). Included were the essay Nature (1836), four orations including The American Scholar and The Divinity School Address; and five lectures which had appeared in The Dial" (Spiller & Ferguson).
As Emerson's collected essays remind readers, he believed that "the best human relationships require the confident and independent nature of the self-reliant" (Stanford Encyclopedia). The present copy's recipient clearly lived up to these demands. Their initial connection came via Barlow's husband. A Unitarian minister and "an intimate of intellectual circles, David Barlow enjoyed a special friendship with the Emerson family...Then David Barlow abandoned his family after a descent into alcoholism. Initially, Almira Barlow took her children to her father's house," but she left shortly after to join "a Utopian commune named Brook Farm, where Nathaniel Hawthorne lived for a period and Ralph Waldo Emerson frequently visited...Almira immediately made her own impression on the community" with Hawthorne describing her as "a most comfortable woman to behold, as if her ample person were stuffed full of tenderness -- indeed as if she were of one great kind heart" (Channing Barlow). An exceptional association. Near Fine (Item #4126)