Emerson's earliest reference to an essay on nature occurs in his journal for 1833.
Three years later, in 1836, he anonymously published his now-famous Nature.
In the 1836 edition, for example, Emerson introduced the essay with a quotation from the Roman philosopher Plotinus, but when he reprinted the essay in 1849, he omitted Plotinus' poetic line and inserted one of his own poems.
Some of today's literary anthologies do not include either epigraph; others include both.
For it breeds great perfection, if the practice be harder than the use.
Where nature is mighty, and therefore the victory hard, the degrees had need be, first to stay and arrest nature in time; like to him that would say over the four and twenty letters when he was angry; then to go less in quantity; as if one should, in forbearing wine, come from drinking healths, to a draught at a meal; and lastly, to discontinue altogether.
It was his first major work, and it continues to be his best known.
The essay met with good critical reception but with little support from the reading public.
Therefore, let a man either avoid the occasion altogether; or put himself often to it, that he may be little moved with it.
A man’s nature is best perceived in privateness, for there is no affectation; in passion, for that putteth a man out of his precepts; and in a new case or experiment, for there custom leaveth him.