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After his return he began to find his true field of activity in the lecture-hall, and delivered a number of addresses in Boston and its vicinity.While thus coming before the open public on the lecture platform, he was all the time preparing the treatise which was to embody all the quintessential elements of his philosophical doctrine.Next to his reserve and the faultless propriety of his conduct, his contemporaries at college seemed most impressed by the great maturity of his mind. He was always serene and thoughtful, impressing all who knew him with that spirituality which was his most distinguishing characteristic.
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As a school-boy he was quiet and retiring, reading a great deal, but not paying much attention to his lessons.
He entered Harvard at the early age of fourteen, but never attained a high rank there, although he took a prize for an essay on Socrates, and was made class poet after several others had declined.
The next year (1837) was the year of the delivery of the Man Thinking, or the American Scholar address before the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Cambridge.
This society, composed of the first twenty-five men in each class graduating from college, has annual meetings which have called forth the best efforts of many distinguished scholars and thinkers.A few months later (1833) he went to Europe for a short year of travel.While abroad, he visited Walter Savage Landor, Coleridge and Wordsworth, and Thomas Carlyle.This visit to Carlyle was to both men a most interesting experience.They parted feeling that they had much intellectually in common.This belief fostered a sympathy which, by the time they had discovered how different they really were, had grown so strong a habit that they always kept up their intimacy.This year of travel opened Emerson's eyes to many things of which he had previously been ignorant; he had profited by detachment from the concerns of a limited community and an isolated church.Emerson's address was listened to with the most profound interest.It declared a sort of intellectual independence for America.He was accordingly "approbated to preach" by the Middlesex Association of Ministers on October 10, 1826.As a preacher, Emerson was interesting, though not particularly original.