After the Civil War (1861–65; a war between the proslavery Southern states and the antislavery Northern states), Emerson continued to lecture and write. Though he had nothing really new to say anymore, audiences continued to crowd his lectures and many readers bought his books. The best of the final books were Society and Solitude (1870) and Letters and Social Aims (1876). He was losing his memory, however, and needed more and more help from others, especially his daughter Ellen. He was nearly seventy-nine when he died on April 27, 1882.
In the next lecture, on "Permanent Traits of the English National Genius," Emerson draws heavily on Sharon Turner's History of the Anglo Saxons (1799-1805) and emphasizes the impact of Anglo-Saxon life and culture on modern England and the English. Emerson was never willing, as this lecture demonstrates, to separate literature from the general culture that produced it. In the next lecture, "The Age of Fable," Emerson contrasts Greek fable with Gothic fable, the former having produced classical myth, the latter medieval romance. Emerson also praises English literature for its instinct for what is common. "The poems of Chaucer , Shakspear [ sic ], Jonson, Herrick, Herbert, Raleigh betray a continual instinctive endeavor to recover themselves from every sally of imagination by touching the earth and earthly and common things." Emerson devotes an entire lecture to Chaucer , whom he values for being able to turn everything in his world to literary account, so that his work stands not only for him but for his era. Chaucer 's numerous borrowings prompted Emerson to articulate a concept of literary tradition that was very modern. "The truth is all works of literature are Janus faced and look to the future and to the past. Shakspear [ sic ], Pope , and Dryden borrow from Chaucer and shine by his borrowed light. Chaucer reflects Boccaccio and Colonna and the Troubadours: Boccaccio and Colonna elder Greek and Roman authors, and these in their turn others if only history would enable us to trace them. There never was an original writer. Each is a link in an endless chain."