Boston-born Ralph Waldo Emerson lost his father, a Concord minister, when he was eight years old, leaving the family in difficult circumstances. Greatly influenced by his aunt Mary Moody Emerson, who was deeply committed to the Emerson children’s education, Emerson's interest in writing grew. He worked his way through Harvard, graduating as class poet in 1821. After college, Emerson taught at a young ladies’ finishing school and then entered divinity school. Following the death of his first wife, he resigned from the ministry over doctrinal differences and began pursuing a literary career.
Theodore Winthrop was born in Connecticut as a descendant of John Winthrop, the first governor of Connecticut (G. Curtis 7-8). He attended Yale where he studied Greek and philosophy and received the distinction of the Clark scholarship; he and nurtured early ambitions of pursuing religious or academic life. Though he was a man of faith, he was also a man shadowed by poor health throughout his life. Undeterred by these physical constraints he traveled widely in Europe and the United States even though he was subject to bouts of illness everywhere from Panama to the Pacific Northwest (G.