Ralph Waldo Emerson became a Unitarian minister when he was twenty-five years old, but soon began to question his commitment to the denomination's beliefs. Eventually, he resigned his ministry, choosing instead to write and speak about his own ideas. In the process, he became the most influential writer and philosopher in the United States. Emerson's life was marked by ill health and family tragedies that challenged his commitment to his doctrine of self-reliance. He found solace in both his love of nature and his commitment to the American Transcendental Movement, which emphasized an individual's intuitive ability to live a spiritual life free of religious doctrine and social customs. He popularized the group's ideas in his essays and public lectures. Over a long and productive life, Ralph Waldo Emerson made himself into the most important figure in the first flowering of a truly American culture. Book jacket.