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Ralph Waldo Emerson Letter to Mary Moody

Ralph Waldo Emerson Letter to Mary Moody

February 28, 1816

Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Old Manse Manuscripts , 1755- 1938, The Trustees

Concord, MA

In 1948, The Trustees staff was at The Old Manse in Concord examining damage to the floorboards caused by wood-boring beetles in the fourth floor attic. As described in the 58th Annual Report of The Trustees, “It was in searching out the wood that had been weakened by the borers that the workmen came upon a packet of letters that had fallen or had been tucked down under a loose floorboard.” That packet contained a letter penned 200 years ago by then 12-year-old Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882).

On the evening of February 28, 1816, he was writing to Mary Moody Emerson (1774-1863), an “exacting inspiring aunt” and an intellectual who had a large influence on his education. Emerson’s genius is apparent even at this early age. In the letter, he mentions reading about a sermon by the French Catholic preacher Jean-Baptiste Massillon (1693-1742), who served as Bishop of Clermont from 1717 until his death. Not the average pre-teen, Emerson signs off with this delightful closing line, “But night with sable wing approaches and compels me to bid adieu. Yrs affectionately, Ralph.”

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