For some reason (which I can't understand, I did not change anything) emacs has become very slow - as in 2 min - at startup. I traced it down to the require commands of ESS. This is what I have in the .init file:

(setq load-path (cons "/usr/share/emacs/site-lisp/ess" load-path))
(require 'ess-site)
(require 'ess-smart-underscore)
(setq ess-default-style 'DEFAULT)

ess-smart-underscore also loads ess-site so eliminating the first require does not change anything. From this question I tried to use eval-after-load, but this does not work:

(eval-after-load 'ess-smart-underscore)

In general, I don't care to have ESS loading at startup. I'd be happy if it only loads when I open *.R or *.r files, but I'd like a reasonable startup time. I am running emacs 24.5.1 and ESS 16.04 on Linux. Downgrading to the previous versions of either did not make a difference.

I have now commented everything in .emacs except for:

(setq load-path (cons "/usr/share/emacs/site-lisp/ess" load-path))
(require 'ess-site)

Then I have reinstalled emacs, ESS, R and updated all the R packages: no difference. I noticed, however, that the first time emacs is launched it is a little bit faster then the following times, which seems odd to me.

  • 1
    I think you want (eval-after-load 'ess-smart-underscore '(setq ess-default-style 'DEFAULT))
    – npostavs
    Jun 19, 2016 at 21:55
  • What system are you using? What version of Emacs & ESS? Which of those four lines causes the slow down - probably one of the require calls?
    – Tyler
    Jun 20, 2016 at 2:55
  • @npostavs okay, that does not throw an error. however it does not load ESS.
    – point618
    Jun 20, 2016 at 9:25
  • I can't reproduce this on Emacs, ESS 16.04 from melpa on Debian Linux. Have you tried running just the four lines above in emacs -Q? Maybe something else in your init is interfering. If that's not it, then maybe something is corrupt in your ESS installation, or even in your R installation. I would reinstall both of those if the emacs -Q test doesn't turn up anything useful.
    – Tyler
    Jun 20, 2016 at 12:41
  • Actually my suggestion appears to be incorrect, ess.r-project.org/Manual/ess.html says "Use something like (setq ess-default-style 'DEFAULT) [...] in your ~/.emacs equivalent before loading ESS"
    – npostavs
    Jun 20, 2016 at 15:19

1 Answer 1


The immediate cause of this delay is a timeout withing the TRAMP package, that is a dependency of ESS.


The hang occurs when Emacs spawns ssh processes when initialising the variable `tramp-ssh-controlmaster-options'. If your ISP's DNS server likes to hijack failed lookups to redirect the user to a branded search engine, these ssh processes hang for a long time before timing out. This bug affects all Emacs Lisp addons that load TRAMP as part of their startup...

  • Thank you! The link contains a workaround, but the issue seems to be resolved in emacs25.
    – point618
    Oct 20, 2016 at 8:47

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