Summary and Analysis of The American Scholar
Troubadours A class of lyric poets and poet-musicians, they lived in southern France in the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries and composed poems of love and chivalry.
constellation Harp another name for Lyra, a constellation of stars in the northern hemisphere; it contains Vega, the fourth brightest star in the heavens.
monitory A warning.
Cicero, Marcus Tullius (106-43 B.C.) A Roman statesman and Stoic philosopher, he is best known for his speech making.
Locke, John (1632-1704) An English philosopher, Locke developed a theory of cognition that denied the existence of innate ideas and asserted that all thought is based on our senses. His works influenced American Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards, who modified Puritan doctrine to allow for more play of reason and intellect, building a foundation for Unitarianism and, eventually, transcendentalism.
Bacon, Francis (1561-1626) An English essayist, statesman, and philosopher, he proposed a theory called the inductive method, a scientific knowledge based on observation and experiment.
Third Estate The "common people" under the French monarchy; the clergy and nobles formed the first two estates.
emendators Those who make textual corrections.
efflux To flow outwardly.
fig tree A Mediterranean tree or shrub, widely cultivated for its edible fruit.
Chaucer, Geoffrey (d. 1400) The English poet who wrote The Canterbury Tales.
Marvell, Andrew (1621-78) An English metaphysical poet, his works include "To His Coy Mistress" and "Damon the Mower."
Dryden, John (1631-1700) English poet, dramatist, and essayist.
Plato (c. 427-347 B.C.) A Greek philosopher, he formulated the philosophy of idealism, which holds that the concepts or ideas of things are more perfect — and, therefore, more real — than the material things themselves.
elements Here, the basic principles of a subject.
pecuniary Of, or involving, money.
valetudinarian A person in poor health, or one who is constantly anxious about his or her state of health.
empyrean The highest reaches of heaven; paradise.
ferules Sticks used for punishing children.
Savoyards Inhabitants of Savoy, now a province of southeast France; during Emerson's lifetime, Savoyards were renowned for their woodcarving.
Algiers The capital of Algeria, a country in northwest Africa, on the Mediterranean Sea.
copestones Meaning capstone, the top stone of a wall.
Newton, Sir Isaac (1642-1727) An English mathematician and scientist, Newton is chiefly remembered for formulating the law of gravity.
Druids Prehistoric Celtic priests.
Berserkirs Savage warriors of Norse mythology.
Alfred (d. 899) Alfred was the king (871-99) of what was then called West Saxony, in southwest England.
Flamsteed, John (1646-1719) English astronomer.
Herschel, Sir William (1738-1822) An English astronomer, he is credited for discovering Uranus, the seventh planet from the sun.
glazed Having a roof of glass.
promulgate To make known publicly.
fetish An obsessive preoccupation.
ephemeral Short-lived; transitory.
presentiment A feeling that something is about to occur.
firmament The expanse of the heavens; the sky; poetically, a symbol of strength.
signet A small seal pressed into a hot wax wafer in order to make a document official.
Macdonald Emerson substitutes this typical name of a Scottish chief in the old proverb, "Where Macgregor sits, there is the head of the table."
Linnaeus, Carolus (1707-78) The Swedish botanist who founded the modern classification system for plants and animals known as binomial nomenclature.
Davy, Sir Humphry (1778-1829) English chemist.
Cuvier, Georges (1769-1832) A French naturalist, he is considered to be the founder of comparative anatomy.
Provencal Minstrelsy Provence, an ancient province in southeast France, was a center for troubadours.
lumber room A room cluttered with discarded household articles and furniture.
Goldsmith, Oliver (d. 1774) English poet, playwright, and novelist.
Burns, Robert (1759-96) The Scottish poet who wrote "Tam o'Shanter" and "Auld Lang Syne."
Cowper, William (1731-1800) The English poet whose major work is The Task.
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von (1749-1832) A German writer, he profoundly influenced literary romanticism; he is noted for his two-part dramatic poem Faust, published in 1808 and 1832.
Wordsworth, William (1770-1850) An English poet, his most important collection, Lyrical Ballads (1798), helped establish romanticism in England.
Carlyle, Thomas (1795-1881) English historian, philosopher, and essayist.
Pope, Alexander (1688-1744) English poet and translator.
Johnson, Samuel (1709-84) The English writer and critic who wrote Lives of the Poets, a study of English poetry.
Gibbon, Edward (1737-94) Considered to be one of the greatest English historians, Gibbon authored the six-volume History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
Swedenborg, Emanuel (1688-1772) A Swedish scientist, mystic, philosopher, and theologian, Swedenborg insisted that the scriptures are the immediate word of God. He postulated many scientific theories that were far ahead of their time, including the idea that all matter is made up of tiny swirling particles (later called atoms). He also set out to prove the existence of an immortal soul. Theologically, he asserted that the heavenly trinity is reproduced in human beings as soul, body, and mind. His teachings became the nucleus of the Church of the New Jerusalem.
Pestalozzi, Johann Heinrich (1746-1827) Swiss educator.