Ellen Louisa Tucker Emerson (1811-1831)

Ellen Tucker Emerson, from a miniature painted in 1829, artist unknown. [Source: The Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1909)

When Emerson was preaching at Concord, N. H., in December, 1827, he met Ellen Louisa Tucker, whose father was a Boston merchant. She was then but seventeen, in feeble health, but very beautiful. They were married September, 30, 1829, and she died of consumption, February 8, 1831. She has been described as “a very beautiful and very lovely person,” and she reminded those who saw her of a delicate flower. Emerson mourned her death greatly, and it took him many months to recover from the shock of it. She wrote much graceful verse, but only the two poems that appeared in “The Dial” have been published.

A curious legend in connection with Emerson’s engagement to Ellen Tucker has been current in Concord, where it took place. How much truth there is in it, or how little it may be difficult to say; but it is of interest as showing in some degree how he was regarded at that time. It is said that on the evening of the engagement he returned to his boarding.house, opened the door of the common sitting-room, and standing at the open door a moment, exclaimed, “Friends, I am engaged.” Whereupon one of the guests said, “Let us pray.” They all knelt down, and afterwards sang a hymn. So runs the pious tale.

—George Willis Cooke, A Historical
and Biographical Introduction to the Dial
(Cleveland: Rowfant Club, 1902) v. 2, pp. 16-17



Mary Moody Emerson. Autograph Letter fragment. Dated Concord, Feb. 2, 1831, regarding the impending death of Emerson’s first wife, Ellen Tucker Emerson: “Ellen has been very low for some time—last sat. was able to ride a little. Waldo has borne so well his personal trials—has done & labored so much for his family that it is grievous to find him so tired—he is discouraged about his lovely flower who has so captivated his affections.”


Poems in The Dial:

  • No. I (Vol. I., no. 1): July 1840:
  • No. III (Vol. I., no. 3): January 1841: