Listen in: Three Roads Back

Listen in: Three Roads Back

Scroll to Article Content

In Three Roads Back, Robert Richardson, the author of magisterial biographies of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and William James, tells the connected stories of how these foundational American writers and thinkers dealt with personal tragedies early in their careers. For Emerson, it was the death of his young wife and, eleven years later, his five-year-old son; for Thoreau, it was the death of his brother; and for James, it was the death of his beloved cousin Minnie Temple. Filled with rich biographical detail and unforgettable passages from the journals and letters of Emerson, Thoreau, and James, these vivid and moving stories of loss and hard-fought resilience show how the writers’ responses to these deaths helped spur them on to their greatest work, influencing the birth and course of American literature and philosophy.

Listen to Chapter 1.

About the Authors

Robert D. Richardson (1934–2020) was the author of the acclaimed biographies William James: In the Maelstrom of American ModernismHenry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind, and Emerson: The Mind on Fire. He was a recipient of the Bancroft and Francis Parkman prizes and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Megan Marshall is the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life.