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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Am 2932

Ralph Waldo Emerson correspondence with Franklin Benjamin Sanborn and other letters


Autograph manuscript letters between Ralph Waldo Emerson and Franklin Benjamin Sanborn and other letters concerning the "Sanborn-Edith Emerson affair."


  • 1862-1917

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material. Collection is open for research.


.25 linear feet (1 box)
This collection contains letters concerning the Emerson family and the Franklin Benjamin Sanborn "affair." Includes letters between Sanborn and Lidian Emerson, Sanborn and Ralph Waldo Emerson, and a letter from Sanborn to Edith Emerson, as well as other letters concerning the Sanborn-Emerson relationship, including a letter from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Benjamin B. Wiley, a copy of a later letter from Edward Waldo Emerson to James Ford Rhodes, and another letter from Rhodes.

The curatorial file includes letters concerning this collection as well as typescript transcripts of some of the letters in the collection (so noted with each cataloged item). Readers should see public services staff for access to this curatorial file.

Biographical / Historical

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet, who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th-century and lived in Concord, Massachusetts. His wife was Lidian Jackson Emerson, and one of their daughters was Edith Emerson [Forbes].

Franklin Benjamin Sanborn (1831-1917) was an American journalist, author, and reformer, who lived in Concord, Massachusetts. He was a member of the Secret Six, or "Committee of Six," that funded the militant abolitionist John Brown.

The subject of the correspondence in these papers concerns Sanborn's courting of nineteen-year-old Edith Emerson. Sanborn proposed to Miss Emerson in 1861, and was rejected. Sanborn apparently took offense, and launched into a series of letters to Miss Emerson's mother, Lidian Emerson. Those letters angered the Emerson family, with the result that Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote to Sanborn, informing Sanborn of Emerson's wife's displeasure at having been accused. The matter did not end happily, with Mrs. Emerson writing her own letter of reproach to Sanborn. Ultimately, Sanborn begrudgingly apologized.


Arranged chronologically.

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

94M-25. Purchase with the Amy Lowell fund from Goodspeed's Book Shop; received: 1994 August 8.

Processing Information

Processed by: Bonnie B. Salt

Microfilm on file (filmed prior to cataloging): No. 95-2920.
Link to catalog
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 1803-1882. Ralph Waldo Emerson correspondence with Franklin Benjamin Sanborn and other letters, 1862-1917: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Description rules

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, literary and performing arts archives, and more. The library's holdings of primary source material are managed by an expert staff and shared with scholars, students and the public in the reading room.

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