"Self-Reliance" is an 1841 essay written by American transcendentalist philosopher and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson. It contains the most thorough statement of one of Emerson's recurrent themes: the need for each individual to avoid conformity and false consistency, and follow his own instincts and ideas. It is the source of one of Emerson's most famous quotations: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines." This essay is an analysis into the nature of the “aboriginal self on which a universal reliance may be grounded.
The first hint of the philosophy that would become "Self-Reliance" was presented by Ralph Waldo Emerson as part of a sermon in September 1830 a month after his first marriage. His wife Ellen was sick with tuberculosis and, as Emerson's biographer Robert D. Richardson wrote, "Immortality had never been stronger or more desperately needed!"
From 1836 into 1837, Emerson presented a series of lectures on the philosophy of history at Boston's Masonic Temple. These lectures were never published separately, but many of his thoughts in these were later used in "Self-Reliance" and several other essays. Later lectures – such as "The American Scholar" and the Divinity School Address – by Emerson led to public censure of his radical views, the staunch defense of individualism in "Self-Reliance" being a possible reaction to that censure.
Emerson wrote on individualism, personal responsibility, and nonconformity.
Famous Individual essays of the author Ralph Waldo Emerson:
"Nature", "Self-Reliance", "Compensation", "The Over-Soul", "Circles", "The Poet", "Experience", "Politics", "Saadi" in the Atlantic Monthly, "The American Scholar", "New England Reformers".