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Full text of "Bronson Alcott at Alcott house, England, and Fruitlands, New England (1842-1844)"

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BEONSON ALCOTT 










BRONSON AlyCOTT 

From a medallion of Seth Cheney, made about 1854, when Alcott 
was 55 years old. 



BRONSON ALCOTT 



AT ALCOTT HOUSE, ENGLAND, AND FRUTT/ 
LANDSb NEW ENGLAND (1842.1844) 



By F. B. SANBORN 
OONOQRD. MASS. 




THE TORCH PRESS 
CEDAR RAPIDS. IOWA 
NINETEEN EIGHT 



Copyright, 1908, by P. B. Sanbosk 









The Torch Press, Cedar Rapids, Iowa 



BEONSON ALCOTT 



BRONSON ALCOTT 

At Alcott House^ England^ and Eniitlands^ 
New England (1842-1844) 

PEELIMINABY 

In fhe whole career of eminent men, it is 
often only at one or two points that the imag- 
ination of the public is specially aroused. 
Thus Socrates had a long and varied career 
as citizen, soldier, **gadfly of the Athenians" 
(as he styled himself), and conversing sage ; 
but the point upon which the gaze of the 
world is fixed is that closing scene of his 
plea at the trial, and his last conversation in 
the prison. Thoreau was a student, me- 
chanic, land-surveyor, and lecturer for more 
than thirty years ; but the public has deter- 
mined to be more interested in the two or 
three years spent by him in his Walden hut, 
than in the rest of his busy life. ] George 



/■'Or: 



BEONSON ALCOTT 



'Ripley t^as. a pastor, a polemic, a translator, 
•'AfluS for many years the scholarly critic in a 
great newspaper office (the Tribune) of New 
York ; but his Brook Farm experiment in the 
art of living in a Gommnnity is the one thing 
that wUl not be forgotten in his busy years, 
and is continually the subject of new in- 
quiries, f So, too, with Bronson Alcott. He 
lived to 1Sia 89th year; he stood before the 
public in many capacities ; but the one point 
of curiosity now, as during that half century 
which followed the giving up of his Fruit- 
lands monastery in January, 1844, is the 
brief history of that Arcadian episode in his 
patriarchal existence J To that, and to what 
immediately preceded and followed that, I 
can therefore best devote the pages of this 
monograph, designed especially for the 
dwellers in that broad midland area of our 
common country which, in 1840-44, (the Dial 
period) was hardly inhabited at all, save by 
the roving Indian and his big game, the 
buffalo. 



BBONSON ALCOTT 



THE HOSMER OOTTAQB 

In the spring of 1840 Mr. Alcott, reduced 
to penury by the failure of his Temple 
School in Boston, had removed to the Hos- 
mer Cottage in Concord, on the estate, and 
near the great farmhouse of Joseph Hosmer, 
Major and High Sheriff, which he had built 
in 1764, just before his youthful pastor. Rev. 
William Emerson, had built the Old Manse, 
at the other end of the straggling village, 
near the old North Bridge, as Major Hos- 
mer 's was equally near the old South Bridge 
of the town. The Major had been dead a 
few years, but the homestead remained in 
the family, and a few rods west of it stood 
the Cottage, then unoccupied, which had 
sheltered a relative or a tenant of the Hos- 
mers. The Alcotts hired it at a low rent ($52 
a year), and there the artist-daughter. May, 
was bom in the following July. The father 
occupied himself with whatever rural labor 
he could find to do for hire, and the household 
was carried on with strict economy, yet al- 



10 BEONSON ALCOTT 

ways with a kindly regard to those poorer 
than the Alcotts themselves then were. A pic- 
ture from the life of this household, when 
May Alcott was an infant, was drawn by 
Miss Bobie, of Boston, a cousin of Mrs. Al- 
cott, writing from this Hosmer Cottage, De- 
cember 6, 1841, as follows: 

As it was time for me to expect a headache, I 
did not dare to go to Concord without carrying tea 
and coffee and cayenne -peppevy — and a small piece 
of cooked meat, in case my wayward stomach should 
crave it; which last article was a little piece of a la 
mode beef. Thus provided, I arrived at the Cottage 
jnst after dark of a Friday evenmg. I got into the 
house before they heard me, and found them seated 
around their bread and water. I had a most cordial 
welcome from Mrs. Alcott and the children. She 
said to me, ^'O you dear creature I you are the one 
I should have picked out of all the good people in 
Boston. How thankful I am to see youl" I had 
a comfortable cup of tea in a few minutes, for I did 
not dare to go without. 

The family next opened a bundle in 
which were clothes for the children, etc.. 



BEONSON ALCOTT 11 

sent by fhe thoughtful Mrs. James Savage, 
of Boston, mother of two of the famous talk- 
ing pupils of Mr. Alcott at the Temple 
School, one of whom stiU survives as a leader 
of society in that city. Miss Robie now 
resumes: 

Mr. Alcott sat looking on like a philosopher. 
"There," said he, "I told you that you need not be 
anxious about clothing for the children; you see it 
has come as I said.'' 

Mrs. Alcott wanted comfort and counsel; for, 
though cheerful and uncomplaining, things had got 
pretty low. Mr. Alcott was evidently not well, and 
she was quite anxious about him, and expressed some 
fears that the little sympathy and ^icouragement he 
received in regard to his views would depress him be- 
yond what he could bear. However, after a good talk 
and a good crying spell, her spirits rallied, and aU 
was bright again. She told me of the miserable poor 
woman in her neighborhood, who had just lost a 
dronken husband, and was in a poor hovel with four 
children; and she had been aiding her, in their smaU 
way, to a little meal, and encouraging her to have a 
good heart and keep out of the workhouse; and had 
interested other neighbors in her behalf. She said it 



12 BRONSON ALCOTT 

seemed as if this poor f amilj had been brought to 
her notice to show her how much better her own situa- 
tion was, and to give a change to her feelings by 
looking about, and doing what she could to assist her. 

I went with her one day to see this family. In 
the course of the visit the woman mentioned Mr. 
Alcott. '^I did not know he had been to see you.'' 
"Oh, yes, he was here yesterday and the day before, 
and sawed up some wood for me that had been sent 
me. I had engaged Mr. Somebody to saw it for me, 
and did some sewing for his wife to pay for if 
Said Mrs. Alcott, "Then Mr. A's sawing it did not 
do you much good!" "Oh, yes, — they said th^ 
had as lief give me the money for it ; so I had that to 
buy some meaL" 

Whilst I was at Mrs. Alcott's of course I saw no 
meat, nor butter, nor cheese, and only coarse brown 
sugar, bread, potatoes, apples, squash and simple pud« 
dings; of these materials were the staple for food. I 
was obliged to have tea occasionally; but except that, 
I lived as they did, for I could not have the heart or 
the stomach to take out my beef. Mr. Alcott thought 
his wife did wrong to prepare the tea for me. The 
Alcotts had just begun to do with two meals a day, 
that the children might have the pleasure of carrying, 
once a wedc, a basket of something from their humble 



BBONSON ALCOTT 13 

savings to the poor family. Now the saving innst be 
made for themselves. 

Mr. Alcott said he could not live with debt bur- 
dening them in this way; that they must live simpler 
still. He started up and said he would go into the 
woods and chop for hia neighbors^ and in that way 
get his fuel. He has since entered upon this work. 
They said they should give up milk. I persuaded 
them against this, on account of the baby. Mr. A. 
thought it would not hurt any of them. 

THE ENGLISH MYSTICS 

At this time Anna, afterwards Mrs. 
Pratt, was ten, Louisa nine, and Beth seven. 
A year later, three English persons were 
added to the family, — Charles Lane, then\ 
forty-two years old, his son William, ten or \ 
twelve, and Henry Gardiner Wright, twen- 
ty-eight, — all in the autumn of 1842. How 
and why were they there, and who were I 
they? To answer this question we must go j 
back a few years, and introduce the name 
of Pestalozzi, the Swiss reformer of educa- 
tion, and his English coadjutor, James 
Pierrepont Greaves. Of the latter, a con- 



14 BBONSON ALCOTT 

siderable biography is to be found in the 
Dialj written by Emerson, from material 
furnished by Aleott in 1842. Briefly, he was 
an Englishman, bom in 1777, who at the age 
of forty went to reside in Switzerland with 
Pestalozzi, for four years, and there adopt- 
ed, a few years before young Aleott did, the 
chief ideas of Pestalozzi, as to the training 
of children. Returning to England in 1825, 
he gradually formed a circle of mystics and 
reformers, in London and its vicinity, who 
were like himself, interested in the early 
instruction and training of children. Hear- 
ing from Harriet Martineau, upon her re- 
turn from America in 1837, of Mr. Aleott 's 
Temple School at Boston, and thinking more 
favorably of it than Miss Martineau did, Mr. 
Greaves opened a correspondence with the 
American Pestalozzi, and received from him 
some of his books, — Miss Peabody 's Rec- 
ords of a School, and Mr. Alcott's Conversa- 
tions on the Gospels. From these books, 
and from his correspondence, Mr. Greaves 
and his friends, William Oldham, Mrs. Ghi- 




JAMBS PIERREPONT GREAVKS 
(From a wax bas-relief) 



BRONSON ALCOTT 15 

Chester, Charles Lane, Heraud, and others, 
(of whom Mr. W. H. Harland of Hermis- 
ton, Ham Common, England, has lately 
written very fully and clearly) formed so 
high an estimate of Bronson Alcott's talents 
and character, that they named for him the 
English school they were about establishing 
near London, and called it "Alcott House/' 
They also urged Mr. Alcott to visit them in 
England, and take part in their schemes and 
labors. He was well inclined to do this; 
and in 1842 he set sail for London, where, 
late in May, he received a hearty welcome^ 
from his correspondents and their circle, 
with the exception of Mr. Greaves, who had 
died earlier in the same year. Writing to 
his cousin. Dr. William Alcott, with whom, ^ 
in early life, he had travelled in Virginia 
and the Carolinas, Bronson Alcott thus de- 
scribed the situation which he found in Eng- 
land: 

Alcott House, Ham Common, Surrey, June 30, 1842. 
I avail myself of this earliest opportunity for 



V 



16 BEONSON ALCOTT 

sending you a small parcel of such tracts as have come 
to hand, dnring the short time that I have been on 
the Island, — some of which I think will interest yon, 
and all of them serve to gratify cnriosity, if not to 
feed the understanding. I am now at Alcott House, 
which is ten miles from London; where I find the 
principles of human culture, which have so long inter- 
ested me, carried into practical operation by wise 
and devoted friends of education. The school was 
opened five years ago* and has been thus far quite 
successful. It consists of thirty or more children, 
mostly under twelve years, and some of them not 
more than three years of age, — all fed and lodged 
at the House. The strictest temi>erance is observed 
in diet and regimen. Plain bread with vegetables 
and fruits is their food, and water their only drink. 

They bathe always before their morning lesson, 
and have exercises in the play-grounds, which are 
ample, besides cultivating the gardens of the institu- 
tion. They seem very happy, and not less in the 
school-room than elsewhere. 

Mr. Wright has more genius for teaching than 

•Beally not until July, 1838, as Mr. Harland 
shows in his accurate monc^aph. A lease was first 
taken of the property by Wright, and then the lease 
purchased by his friends above named. It opened 
with twelve pupils. 



BBONSON ALCOTT 17 

any person I have before seen ; his method and temi>er 
are admirable, and all parties, from assistants, of 
which there are several, to the youngest child, delight 
in his presence and influence. He impersonates and 
realizes my own idea of an educator, and is the first 
person whom I have met that has entered into this 
divine art of inspiring the human clay, and moulding 
it into the stature and image of divinity. I am 
already knit to him by more than human ties, and 
must take him with me to America, as a coadjutor 
in our high vocation, or else remain with him 
But I hope to effect the first. 

Britain, with all her resource and talent, is not 
the scene for the education of humanity: her spirit 
is hostile to human welfare, and her institutions averse 
to the largest liberty of the soul. Nor should an 
enterprise of such moment be endangered by the rev- 
olutions to which all things are here exposed, and 
which threaten, as I think, the speedy downfall of 
the realm.* Our freer, but yet far from freed land 
is the asylum, if asylum there be, for the hope of 
man : and there, if anywhere, is that second Eden to 
be planted, in which the divine seed is to bruise the 
head of Evil, and restore Man to his rightful com- 
munion with Gtod, in the Paradise of Gk)od, — where- 




* This was a gloomy anticipation then, and for 
some years, common. 



18 BBONSON ALCOTT 

into neither the knowledge of Death nor Sin shall 
enter; bnt Life and Inunortality shall then come to 
liC^t, and man plnek wisdom from the tree of life 
alway. 

The Hedlthian is edited here 1^ Mr. Wright and 
Mr. Lane, and th^ are contributors to almost every 
reform journal in the kingdom. They are not igno- 
rant of our labors in the United States; ahnost every 
work of any value I find ia the library at Alcott 
House, — your own works, those of Mr. Graham* — 
besides foreign authors not to be found with us. I 
shall bring with me many works, both ancient and 
modem, on my return to America. 

I have traversed the island but little as yet. We 

have a general meeting here of the friends of reform 

next week [July 6, 1842] ; and soon after I purpose 

visiting Mr. Owen at Tytherly, where he is establishing 

a community. I find that he is more felt than any other 

man in England; and although his reforms are quite 

partial and secondary, and fail utterly of feeding the 

religious instincts of man, and aim only at improving 

his outward circumstances; yet all this is good as far 

j as it goes, and most needful ia this oppressed and 

starving land; so that to many he comes as a saviour 

\ from want and dei>endence, and is the harbinger of 

V that spiritual Messias whose advent is near, and whose 

*Dr. Graham was a vegetarian. 



BEONSON ALCOTT 19 



coming shall unloose the heayy bnrdensy and let op- 
pressed hnmanily go free. The same state and con- 
ditions mnst be secured in our own country, or we 
too must fall to pieces, and add to the long catalogue 
of the world's disappointments. But our reforms | 
are deepening year by year, and presently we shall | 
reach the great heart of the social and physical body, / 
and learn whence health and healing come. / 

I have not yet seen Miss (Joeris ( t) but hoi>e to, 
if possible. My regards to your good wife, and con- 
fidence that you will not fail to visit Concord during 
my absence. My wife deserves a visit from you, — 
do not disappoint either of us. I shall hear from you 
with pleasure. Address me at Alcott House, etc. 
Parcels will reach me through James Munroe, sent 
to John Qreen or Wiley & Putnam, London. 
Truly your friend, 

A. Bbonson Aloott. 

Dr. Alcott (1798-1859) was then Uving 
at Dedham, and actively engaged, as for 
twenty years before, in writing books and 
pamphlets, of which he published more than 
one hundred. He sympathized to a certain 
extent with his cousin in his educational and 
sanitary views, and received the tribute of a 



20 BEONSON ALCOTT 

sonnet from Bronson Alcott in 1882, in that 
unique volume of poems, every word of 
which was written after the age of eighty. 
Here it is; but the doctor was long dead: 

In YouWi glad morning^ when the tiring East 

Glows golden with assurance of success, 
And life itself's a rare continual feast, 

Enjoyed the more, if meditated less, — 
'Tis then th(xt Friendship's pleasures chiefly bless, 
As if without beginning, — ne'er to end: 
80 rich the season and so dear the friend 

When thou and I went wandering, hand in hand: 
Mine wert thou in our years of earliest prime, 

Studious at home, or to the Southern land 
Adventuring bold. Again in later time. 

Thy kindly service, ever at command 
Of calm discretion and abounding sense. 
Prompted and showed the path to excellence. 

Hardly had the "Alcott House Acad- 
emy, '* as Carlyle called it, in writing to Al- 
cott there, in September, 1842, reached its 
twentieth pupil, in course of 1838, when Mr. 
Greaves and its other founders were plan- 
ning to invite its American godfather to its 




o 
w 



o 
< 
o 

w 



BRONSON ALCOTT 



vegetarian shades. In 1840 it was long de- 
bated between Mr. Greaves, Westland Mars- 
ton, Heraud, and others; and in 1841 Mr. 
Wright offered to resign his place at the 
head of the school if Mr. Alcott would come 
over and take it, — he in the meantune car- 
rying on an infant branch of the Alcott 
House School. Mr. Greaves wrote in regard 
to this (as quoted by Mr. Harland) : 

It seems to be good that you and Mr. Alcott 
should be brought into some relations; but what and 
when and how is another matter. He should be writ- 
ten to and simply asked if a sum of money fixed were 
provided for him, would he come over to this country 
and see what could be donet His own friends might 
help him something, and all that would be committed 
would be the money. You would be free, as you must 
be in all such matters, — to surrender your school to 
another who was not fully equal to it would not do; 
and to find a fit person for it would be difficult. 

The final result seems to have been that 
Alcott 's friends in New England, particu- 
larly Emerson, furnished the money for his 
voyage to England in May, 1842 ; and that 



BRONSON ALCOTT 



his expenses while there were met by his 
English inviters and their friends. No 
^aovLght of the Alcott family going over 
seems to have been entertained by Mrs. Al- 
cott; and, as we see by his letter to Dr. 
Alcott, it was not Alcott 's own intention to 
remain in England. He was too strongly 
attached to his wife and children to be long 
separated from them; and the education of 
his four daughters had ever been one of his 
sacred duties. It was otherwise with his 
English friends, or some of them. Mr. 
Greaves regarded celibacy as a duty; Mr. 
Lane had made an unhappy marriage, and 
was separated from his wife ; and young Mr. 
Wright had given these two patrons to un- 
derstand that he would never marry. When 
he did secretly marry a protegee of Mrs. Chi- 
chester in 1841, it threw Mr. Greaves into a 
fit of despondency, and he never seems to 
have taken the same interest in Alcott House 
afterward. He wrote to William Oldham^ 
an intimate friend, who survived all the Eng- 
lish circle, — dying in 1879 ; 



BEONSON ALCOTT 23 

I wish to be no party to anytliing; to retire from 
all things, and to get those eonditi0ns abont me that 
will let me die in peace. What can I say to Mrs* 
Chichester, — I who have not been permitted to know 
what is going forward! The last earthly thing that 
interested me was the Ham School, — and this is 
taken away. Elizabeth Hardwick has won the game; 
she has the odd trick, and Mr. Oldham has been fairly 
beaten by the yoong gambler. Out of two, she has 
made cnire of one. 

In fact, Mr. Greaves really died in the 
March following, while Alcott was making 
his arrangements, with the aid of Emerson, 
to join his correspondent in London. This 
marriage flurry, with the fact that Wright 
had incurred some debts in the management 
of the Ham School, no doubt made him yield 
more readily to Alcott's wish that he should 
come to America, and begin a new career 
there. Why Elizabeth, his wife, did not 
come over, is not mentioned ; nor did Wright 
himseK remain long in Concord. With all 
his attractive qualities, he seems to have 
been a restless, rather weak person, and he 



24 BEONSON ALCOTT 

did not long outlive Mr, Greaves, — dying 
in, 1846, whUe Charles Lane and his son Wil- 
liam were still in America. 

Mr. Alcott's four months in England 
were not clouded, however, by any anticipa- 
tions of the disappointments that were to 
come. He lived at Alcott House, or at Park 
Place near by, when not exploring London 
to buy books for the library of his New Eng- 
land Eden; he called on Owen, Carlyle, 
George Thompson, and other friends, to 
whom Emerson and Garrison had given him 
letters ; and he wrote encouragingly to Mrs. 
Alcott, and to Emerson in Concord, who read 
his letters to their friends, and prepared to 
receive him with a hearty welcome when he 
should return, bringing some English enthu- 
siasts with him. They reached Concord in 
October, and from that time till June 1, 1843, 
when the Fruitlands idyll began, Charles 
Lane and his son William, with Henry 
Wright, spent much of their time in the fam- 
ily of the Alcotts, at the Hosmer Cottage, 
where Miss Bobie had, a year before, sketch- 



BRONSON ALCOTT 25 

ed SO pleasingly fheir generous indigence. 
The way of life described by her was not 
wholly the result of poverty, but grew partly 
out of Alcott^s strict theories of vegetarian 
diet, and of sanitary and moral reformation. 
The course of a day at the Cottage was thus 
described by Lane : 

A DAY AT THE COTTAGE 

(Letter to Junius Alcott) 
(Winter of 1842-3). The weather here is very 
bleak, yet we are all in the enjoyment of health, 
including the English new-comers. Between six and 
seven o'clock we are up, our wood-fires are lighted; 
we have a cold-water sponging all over, and a rub 
with the coarse crash linen towel.* Dress: and per- 
haps a little exercise brings us at a little after seven, to 
breakfast, prepared by Mr. Alcott. In the double 



*In a letter written a week or two earlier, to his 
friend Oldham, Charles Lane says that the water in 
his bedroom is often frozen in the morning, and that 
his boy William usually builds his fire. He adds that 
toward evening, he, G. L., sometimes runs to the village 
for letters, looks at the newspapers (then to be read 
at a small club-room) ''sees Mr. Emerson or Henry 
Thoreau, who is deputy editor of the Dial just now;'* 
and goes to a lecture now and then. 



BRONSON ALCOTT 



purpose of wannth and saving labor, this meal is 
taken round the fireplace, withoat plates, etc., — each 
having a napkin in the lap. The bread and apples 
and potatoes are handed round by one appointed to 
that office; water only is our drink. Conversation of 
a useful and interior kind is generally mingled with 
our ph3rsical increment. There being scarcely any 
dishes to be washed, the females can all remain, and 
at about eight we have a singing lesson, by the aid 
of the violin, and some pretty, simple songs. [The 
violinist was Charles Lane]. ^ 

At 8 :30 I return to my little chamber to write, 
where I enjoy much Gk>d-like quiet until the next meaL 
Though rather cold, from the thin roof and walls, I 
have yet been able to pen much, which I hope will 
not be found inconsistent with the great work. Mrs. 
Alcott proceeds to her domestic duties. Mr. A. saws 
and chops, provides water, bakes some days, prepares 
all the food, in which he tries new materials and mix- 
tures, of a simple character. 

From 10 to 12:30, study for the children — 
consisting of -diary, reading, spelling, conversation, 
grammar, arithmetic, etc., etc., — as recorded in your 
brother's published books. The school, having been 
in existence nearly three months now [March 7, 1843] , 
goes on as quietly and serenely in the teacher's ab- 
sence as when he is present, and the improvement in 



BRONSON ALCOTT 27 

all the students, young and old, is quite manifest 
At 12:30, dinner. Except on Sunday, when it also 
is taken round the fire, this meal is spread on the 
table, — there being generally some preparation which 
requires a plate, etc. At 1, I return to my chamber, 
and there is a general dispersion to play, read or 
work. At 2 p. ic. Anna comes to me for French, 
and William for Latin. From 3 to 4, Anna, 
Louisa, and William have geography, drawing or 
geometry. Mr. Alcott thus secures an undisturbed 
hour or two. From 4 to 6:30, the children sew 
with Mrs. Alcott, or play: I write or go to the village 
for letters, or to Mr. Emerson 's. Then at 6 :30 supper 
at the fireplace, the same as breakfast, with conversa- 
tion more prolonged; or, at 7:15 another singing les- 
son, followed, frequently, by a dance. At eight, bed- 
time for the young folks, and about an hour later, 
for the adults. 

Thus have passed away many days, — happy to 
me, — and I believe none of us would now like to 
return to a more complicated diet of molasses, milk, 
butter, etc., all which are given up. The discipline"^ 
we are now under is that of abstinence in the tongue 
and hands. We are learning to hold our peace, and 
to keep our hands from each other's bodies, — the 
iU effects of which we see upon the little baby. J 



28 BRONSON ALCOTT 

This baby was May Alcott, who was then 
between two and three years old. At this 
time the English visitors had been in Amer- 
ica nearly five months, and most of the time 
in Concord, then a town of less than 2,100 
people, with a central village of perhaps 700 
inhabitants, and a small **factory village *' 
two miles westward, of a hundred or two. 
The Hosmer Cottage stood between the two 
villages, and near the newly-built or building 
Fitchburg Railroisid;' but in the midst of 
large farms, agriculture being the chief oc- 
cupation of the town's people, although 
there was a small circle of literary men and 
women in the main village, or on its out- 
skirts. 

The English mystics (as Lane and 
Wright were called) were at first well re- 
ceived in Concord by the resident mystics 
and anti-slavery people, — of whom, in the 
winter of 1842-3, were Mrs. Ward, widow of 
a Boston Revolutionary Colonel, and her 
daughter. Miss Prudence Ward, who were 
living in the family of Henry Thoreau^s 




HENRY GARDINER WRIGHT 



BEONSON ALCOTT 29 

father, at the Parkman House, where the 
Town Library now stands. Miss Ward, 
whose niece was Ellen Sewall, the fair maid 
beloved by both Henry and John Thoreau, 
in writing to her brother, George Ward, in 
New York (Dec. 8, 1842) said : 

We find the Englishmen very agreeable; they are 
at Mr. Alcott's. We took tea with them at Mrs. 
Brooks's, and they have passed one evening here, at 
Mrs. Thoreau 's. They and Mr. Aleott held a talk 
at the Marlboro Chapel in Boston, Sunday evening. 
Doubtless you, Gteorge, would consider them ''clean 
daft;" for they are as like Mr. Aleott in their views 
as strangers from a foreign land can well be. I 
should like to have them locate themselves in this 
vicinity. It makes a pleasant variety (to say no 
more) to have these different thinkers near us; and 
we are all agreed in liking to hear Mr. Lane talk. 

The similarity of opinion between Mr, 
Aleott and Mr, Lane was chiefly in regard 
to education and diet; the Englishman, in 
respect to land-ownership, was almost a rep- 
resentative of Gerard Winstanley, the head 
and spokesman of the English "Diggers" or 



30 BRONSON ALCOTT 

"Levelers" of 1648-54, with whom Fairfax 
and Cromwell had so much trouble, Win- 
stanley wrote in 1649: 

We are not against any that would have magis- 
trates and laws to gorem, as the nations of the world 
are governed; but for our own parts we shall need 
neither the one nor the other, in that nature of gov- 
ernment. For as our land is to be in common, so our 
cattle are to be common, and our com and fruits of 
the earth common; and are not to be bought and sold 
among us, but to remain a standing portion of live- 
lihood to us and our children, without that cheating 
entanglement of buying and seUing; and we shall not 
arrest one another. What need have we of any out- 
ward, selfish, confused laws, made to uphold the 
power of covetousness, when we have the righteous 
law written in our hearts, teaching us to walk purely 
in the Creation t None of those subject to this right- 
eous law dares arrest or enslave his brother, for or 
about the objects of the Earth; because the Earth is 
made to be a common treasury of livelihood, to one 
equal with another, without respect of persons. . . . 
And this being a truth, as it is, then none ought to 
be lords and landlords over another; but the Earth 
is free to every son and daughter of mankind to live 
upon. ... I am carried forth in the power of 



BEONSON ALCOTT 31 

Love to advance this btudness of Pablic Commimity 
as much as I can ; and I can do no other, — the law of 
Love in my heart does so constrain me. By reason 
of which I am called fool and madman, and have 
many slanderous reports cast upon me, and meet with 
much fury from some covetous people. I hate none, 
I love all, I delight to see every one live comfortably ; 
I would have nobody live in poverty, straits and sorrow. 

Towards this no-govemment theory bothl 
Alcott and Thoreau were for a while in- \ 
clined; but I do not find that they had this^ 
opinion about the injustice of land-owning, 
as that baronial democrat of central New 
York for a time did, although he was one of 
the largest landholders in that State, — I 
mean Gerrit Smith, of Peterboro, the friend 
and supporter of John Brown. 

Emerson, who was editing the Dial under 
diflSiculties, and at a distance from home, (be- 
ing in New York giving courses of lectures) 
and who depended on Thoreau, then living 
in his family at Concord, wrote thus to him 
from New York, February 10, 1843 : 

The Dial for April — ^what elements shall compose 



82 BBONSON ALOOTT 

itt What have you for met yfhat has Mr. Lanet 
Have you given shape to the comment on Etzler t * It 
was about some sentences on this matter that I made, 
some day, a most rude and snappish speech. I re- 
member, but you will not — and must give the sen- 
tences as first you quote them. You must go to Mr. 
Lane, with my affectionate respects, and tell Mm that 
I depend on his important aid for the new number, 
and wish him to give us the most recent and stirring 
matter that he has. If (as he is a ready man) he 
offers us anything at once, I beg you to read it ; and if 
you see and say decidedly that it is good for us, you 
need not send it to me. But if it is of such quality 
that you can less surely pronounce, you must send it 
to me by Hamden (expressman). 

To this request Thoreau replied thus 
(February 20) : 

I have read Mr. Lane's review of Mr. Alcott'a 
books, with copious extracts, and can say, (speaking 
for this world, and for fallen man) that it is ''good 
for us." As they say in geology, time never fails, so 
I may say criticism never fails; but if I go and read 

• The ultimate fate of the Etzler review, under 
the title of ''Paradise (to be) Regained, '' may be seen 
in my "Nathaniel Hawthorne and His Friends.'' 



BRONSON ALCOTT 88 

elsewhere, I say it is good — far better than any no- 
tice Mr. Alcott has received, or is likely to receive 
from another quarter. It is, at any rate, **the other 
side,'' which Boston needs to hear. I do not send it 
to you, because time is precious, and because I think 
you would accept it after all. After speaking briefly 
of the fate of Goethe and Carlyle in their own coun- 
tries, he says — ''To Emerson in his own circle is but] 
slowly accorded a worthy response, and Alcott almost^ 
utterly neglected," etc. I wiU strike out what relates! 
to yourself, and, correcting some verbal faults, seaoLdx 
the rest to the printer, with Lane's initials. It i^^ 
frequently easy to make him more universal and at- 
tractive; to write, for instance, ''universal ends" in- 
stead of "the universal end" — just as we pull open 
the petals of a flower with our fingers, where they are 
confined by its own sweets. Also, he had better not 
say "books designed for the nucleus of a Home uni- 
versity." This is that abominable dialect. 

How much drier the article would have 
been had Thoreau not amended it, who can 
say ? But as it was, it encountered the caus- 
tic humor of Channing, as will soon be seen. 

Ellery Channing, the most intimate 
friend of Thoreau and of Hawthorne, out- 
side their own families, was not then a resi- 



34 BEONSON ALCOTT 

dent of Concord, as Hawthorne was; but he 
frequently visited his friends there, while 
spending his first winter of married life in 
Cambridge. After one of these visits to 
Emerson, he wrote to him (Dec. 28, 1842) : 

I look Imgeringly towards Concord. I saw in 
Boston today Messrs. English Mystics, with fur caps 
and collars. Now then, with the blessing of God 
upon yourself and Elizabeth Hoar, and all other of 
the saints, — and my Fisherman Hawthorne, and the 
Forester (Thoreau), and all those rural figures who 
move piously among the now bare boughs of a once- 
populous summer foliage, I remain in all love your 
friend. 

THE DIAIi AND ITS CONTENTS 

But Channing, who in the spring of 1843 
went first to reside in Concord, where he 
remained, with a few absences, till his death 
in December, 1901, did not then have that re- 
gard for Alcott and his virtues which he 
afterwards learned to express. Channing *s 
humor often got the better of him, as it did 
in one of his next letters to Emerson (April 
6, 1843) when he had hired a small red cot- 



BEONSON ALCOTT 



tage of Sheriff Moore, near Emerson's gar- 
den, but had not yet occupied it. Ohanning 
wrote: 

Now, man of many lectures! bdiold that, al- 
though I have rented a shanty, yet, as it is fixt in the 
huge entrails of a marsh, how shall I, (one admiring 
dryness) fly with draggled wings into my soggy 
abodet Think of it, and strike, as with a blow of 
thunder, the Anacreontic Basque-student, Thoreau, — 
and let him, like Tennyson's white owl, warm his five 
wits in profitable conjectures about these affairs. I 
hear with regret that this, our man of the world, 
fleeing afar from his beloved woods, will no longer 
pick the first of the spring flowers. Alas! Yet I do 
believe that his voyage will be prosperous, and that 
his barque will sweep the foam off many a new coast, 
and bring home a bushel of diamonds. 

I have beheld the expiring Nestor ! I have seen 
with reverent eyes the Fourth Number of the Third 
Volume of the Dial charm with its bright surface tha 
expectant world without watches. I have not essayed ] 
to read that Serbonic flrst article, l^ the illustrious/ 
professor of Poh (Charles Lane on Alcott). Me alsoJ 
with tired breast, does all thought ejected from thq 
Alcottian e^yringe drive into dejection. Such worlj 
for nothing, — such flne-drawn-gauze safety lamps, by; 



BEONSON ALCOTT 



I ] 



/which all the carburetted hydrogen of society is to be 
I forever rendered harmless 1 such supposed interest in 
j what concerns only some retired gentleman who is 
making cucumbers of moonshine, — by all others ! Alas 
for the unleavened bread 1 alas for the unleavened 
wit! Mr. Alcott would live by his brains; but I am 
sure I brieve it to be true (what is said in the Bible) 
that man can only live by the word that proceedeth 
out of the mouth of Qod. That old saw, — about 
earning your bread by the sweat of your brow, — 
is always carried by a large majority. 

I relish that Yankee theorem, ''Eat your victuals 
and go about your business!" Confront the prob- 
lems as we will, all human testimony says that the 
central nut in this bushel of Life cannot be cracked; 
and more, — if cracked we may get a worm for our 
pains. (It is the Dial that has thus extravasated 
some of the matter of my unfortunate heart) . A mag- 
azine written by professed drunkards, — gentlemen 
who eat nothing but beefnsteaks, — and believers in 
Original Sin, — must be the thing for me. What has 
/transpired with the magazine-papering Hawthorne t 
Has he, too, been floated by this great rise of English 
witt forsworn whisky, abandoned tobacco, and re- 
jected fishing t No, — by the immortal gods I swear 
that Hawthorne sticks like coat-plaister to all the old 
sinful nonsense, the spawn of Satanic ages, the hor- 



BEONSON ALCOTT 87 

ror of all readers of the Bible, — to strong drinks and\ 
strong meats, and above all to the gentle art of ang- \ 
ling, — a true disciple of the pimple-cheeked Waltoivy 
0, never may that day come, of horrors, wheni 
the Twice-Told Tales of love and malice shall be fused | 
in the grim Behmenic melting-pot, there to simmer in ! 
horrid bathos, unresting ages ! Bather let the ingen- ) 
ious Hawthorne, demented, wander over the acetic 
Styx, tiger or wherryman to superb humbug-Charon ; 
let him ''beard the Minos in his den," — do anyihing, 
before he sells himself, body and soul, for twelve 
volumes of Greaves manuscripts, or some one volume 
of metaphysical stuff, fit only to be sold at the shops 
of second-hand booksellers, or to enjoy their existence 
as wrapping-literature. I fancy I see him now, throw- 
ing his cork, — kinglike ruler of the shades below 
water, — a vision of my grandfather's fate, — I mean 
Adam. 

This Rabelaisian humor was not nnf re- 
quent, where Alcott and Lane were the 
theme. They did not much enliven this 
fourth number of the third volume of Em- 
erson ^s Dial, of which the first eighteen 
pages are filled by Mr. Lane. At the end 
of the volume appear four pages of a cata- 



BBONSON ALCOTT 



logue of fhe Greaves-Lane- Alcott library, 
of which Emerson or Thoreau gave this ae- 
count: 

Mr. Alcott and Mr. Lane have reeentlj brongbt 
from England a small but yalnable library, amoimting 
to about 1,000 Yolumes, containing undoubtedly a 
richer collection of mystical writers than any other 
library in this country. To the select library of the 
late J. P. Greaves, ''held by Mr. Lane in trust for 
universal endsi," they have added many works of a 
like character, by purchase, or received as gifts. In 
their Catalogue, from which the following list is ex- 
tracted, th^ say, ''The titles of these books are now 
submitted, in the expectation that this Library is the 
commencement of an Listitution for the nurture of 
men in universal freedom of action, thought and 
being." We print this list, not only because our re- 
spect is engaged to views so liberal, but because the 
arrival of this cabinet of mystic and theosophic lore 
is a remarkable fact in our literary history. 

It was this collection which, in the sum- 
mer of 1843, occupied a hundred feet of 
shelving in the old red farmhouse at Fruit- 
lands, and from which Mr. Lane in Novem- 
ber offered to pledge volumes enough to 



BEONSON ALCOTT 



secure a wished-f or loan of money from 
Isaac Hecker of New York* One of the vol- 
umeSy — a Graeca Minora of Heidelberg in 
1597, containing the extant poems of Pin- 
dar, Alcaeus, Alkman, Sappho, Stesichorus, 
Simonides, Mimnermns, Ibycus and the 
pseudo-Anacreon, — seems to have been the 
book which, coming to Thoreau's notice, led 
to his short article on Anacreon in the same 
number of the Dial, which he afterwards 
included in his Week on the Concord and 
Merrimac. This library was soon scattered, 
and volumes from it remained in Alcott's, 
Emerson's, and my own library. Stanley's 
History of Philosophy, which I think is now 
in Emerson's library, was bought in London 
by Alcott for 16 shillings, or $4, and Spinoza 
in four volumes for 10 shillings. A folio 
Diodoms Siculus was bought for 16 shil- 
lings, and the Divine Emblems of Quarles 
for 4 shillings. Dr. Byrom's Poems of the 
18th century, cost 8 shillings, and Sylves- 
ter's Du Bartas in folio 18 shillings. Of 
those in the Dial list I have Heinrich Khun- 



40 BBONSON ALCOTT 

rath's very curious Amphitheatre of Eternal 
Wisdom, Verstegan's Bestitution of De- 
cayed Intelligence, and one or two volumes 
of William Law, all whose books were in 
the Greaves Library, along with Penelon, 
Madame Guyon, Jacob Behmen (as the 
name was then spelt — now Boehme) , Pord- 
age, the English disciple of Behmen, and 
other Christian mystics. Twelve volumes 
of Greaves MSS. were there too, and sug- 
gested to Ohanning his irreverent remarks.* 
How greatly his opinion of Alcott 
changed, after the sage returned to Concord 
in 1844, may be seen by these verses, written, 

*A great portion of this choice library was sold 
by the boobseUers, Wiley & Patnaniy in New York, for 
Lane's benefit, between October, 1843, when Thoreau 
was in New York, and February, 1846, when Lane 
wrote to Thoreau at Walden thus: 

**Dear Friend: The books you were so kind as 
to deposit about 2 1-2 years ago with Messrs. Wiley 
& Putnam, have all been sold. But as they were 
left in your name, it is needful, in strict business, that 
you should send an order to them to pay to me the 
amount due. I will therefore thank you to inclose 



BEONSON ALCOTT 41 

I suppose, about the time Thoreau was writ- 1 
ing his tribute, which first appeared inl 
Walden and was suggested by Alcott's visitsj 
to the cabin at Walden Pond: 

THE HILLSIDB HOUSE. 

Bere Alcoti thought, — respect a toise man's door! 

No kinder heart a mortal form e'er held; 
Its easy hinges ope forevermore 

At touch of all, — or fervid Youth or Eld. 



me such an order at joxxr earliest convenience, in a 
letter addressed to your admiring friend (Post Office, 
New York City), Charles Lanb/' 

Two years later, after Emerson, as Trustee for 
Lane, had sold the Fruitlands farm to Joseph Palmer, 
Thoreau wrote to him in London thus (Jan. 12, 1848) : 

''This stands written in your day-book: 'Sep- 
tember 3rd (1847) Beceived of Boston Savings Bank, 
on account of Charles Lane, his deposit with interest, 
$131.03. 16th. Beceived of Joseph Palmer, on ac- 
count of Charles Lane, $323.36, being the balance 
of a note on demand for $400 with interest." 

Thus did his Concord friends kindly look after 
Lane's pecuniary interests, while he was returning 
from the realm of no money, to the land of Cocaigne 
and the London Mercantile Price Current, from which 
he had absented Umself a few years. 



42 BRONSON ALCOTT 

A mauniing sage was he, and could essay 
Bold flighis of hope, thai softly fed his tongue 

With honey; then flew swift that happy day, 
As tranced in joy on his pure themes we hung. 

He knew the Scholar's art; with insight spent 

On Plato's sentence, that best poesy, 
And calm philosophy, his soul intent 

Cleared the grey film of Earth and Air and Sea. 

He might have lapsed, — but Heaven him held along, — 
Or splendrous faded Uke some sunset dream; 

But long shall live! though this bare, humble song 
Chins not his dignity, — nor rounds its theme. 

He'll dwell {doubt not) in that fond, udshed-for Land, 
Where the broad Concave's stars unquaiUng bloom; 

The guest of angels, that consolers stand, — 
Sweetly forgot in light Earth's lowly tomb. 

Then may I wait, dear Alcott, of thy court. 
Or bear a mace in thy Platonic reign! 

Though sweet Philosophy be not my forte. 
Nor Mincio's reed, nor Learning's weary gain. 

Hawthorne had taken up his abode in the 

Old Manse, nearly two miles away from the 

\ 

\ 



BEONSON ALCOTT 43 

Alcotts, and Ellery Chaiming, the poet, was \ 
soon to occupy a small red cottage near Mr. \ 
Emerson's — in fact, just below his garden \ 
on the Cambridge Turnpike ; while Thoreau 1 
was living at Emerson's or with his par- 
ents and sisters in the very midst of the J 
village. In May he went away to New 
York and Staten Island for six or seven 
months — the longest absence Thoreau ever 
indulged in after he first went as a boy 
to live in Concord. The Englishmen were 
well received in the village, where they 
took part in debates at the Lyceum, and in 
set conversations at Emerson's house or else- 
where. One of these was briefly reported by 
Mrs. Emerson, in a postcript to one of Thor- 
eau 's letters to Emerson, who, in early Jan- 
uary, 1843, had gone on a lecturing tour in 
New York, etc., for two months. The date 
is February 20: 



Last evening we had the '^ Conversation/' though, 
owing to the bad weather, but few attended. The sub- 
jects were: 
— and The: 



5: What is Prophecy t Who is a Prophet t 1] 
le Love of Nature. Mr. Lane decided, as for ' \ 



r 



\ 



44 BEONSON ALCOTT 

all time and the raee, that this same love of nature — 
of which Henry was the champion, and Elizabeth 
Hoar and Lidian (though L. disclaimed i>08sessing it 
herself) his faithful squiresses — that this love was 
the most subtle and dangerous of sins; a refined idol- 
atry, much more to be dreaded than gross wickedness- 
es. Because the gross sinner would be alarmed by the 
depth of his degradation, and come up from it in ter- 
ror ; but the unhappy idolaters of nature were deoeiyed 
by the refined quality of their sin, and would be the 
last to enter the kingdom. Henry frankly affirmed 
to both the wise men that they were wholly deficient 
in the faculty in question, and therefore could not 
judge of it. And Mr. Alcott as frankly answered that 
it was because they went beyond the mere material 
objects,' and were filled with spiritual love and percep- 
tion (as Mr. Thoreau vr'as not) that they seemed to hnn 
not to appreciate outward nature. The scene was 
ineffably comic, though it made no laugh at the time: 
I scarcely laughed at it myself. 



Mr. Lane did not always, perhaps not 
often, know how amusing he was. He wrote 
copiously for Garrison's LiheratoTy and in 
that bold sheet made much of Alcott- s arrest 
by the deputy sheriff, because he would not 
pay his town tax, but would go to jail in- 




CHARLES IvANE 



BEONSON ALCOTT 45 

stead. Thoreau, who afterward had a like 
prison experience in the old stone jail of 
Concord, was disposed rather to make light 
of this imprisonment of Alcott, (which oc- 
curred in January of that eventful winter), 
and wrote thus of it to Emerson at New 
York: 

Mr. Alcott has not altered much since you left. I 
think you will find him much the same sort of i>erson. 
With Mr. Lane I have had one regular chat; and as 
two or three as regular conversations have taken place 
since, I fear there may have been a precession of the 
equinoxes. I suppose they have told you how near 
Mr. Alcott went to jail ; but I can add a good anecdote 
to the rest. When Staples came to coUect Mrs. 
Ward's taxes, my sister Helen asked him what he 
thought Mr. Alcott meant — what his idea was — and 
Sam answered, "I vum, I believe it was nothing but 
principle, for I never heerd a man talk honester.'' 
There was a lecture on Peace by a Mr. Spear the same 
evening ; and as the gentlemen, Lane and Alcott, dined 
at our house while the matter was in suspense — that 
is, while the constable was waiting for his receipt from 
the jailer — we there settled it that we, that is. Lane 
and myself, perhaps, should agitate the State while 



46 BEONSON ALCOTT 

Winkelried lay in durance. But when over the audi- 
ence, I saw our hero's head moving in the tree air of 
the Universalist church, my fire all went out, and the 
State was safe as far as I was concerned. But Lane, 
it seems, had cogitated and even written on the mat- 
ter, in the afternoon ; and so, out of courtei^, taking 
his point of departure from the Spear-man's lecture, 
he drove gracefully in medias res, and gave the affair 
a good setting out. 

What Lane wrote, in his cool chamber at 
the Hosmer cottage, has been preserved to 
us by the Liberator j and gives clearly enough 
Alcott's theory of his act, which most of his 
friends lamented: 

A Bronson Alcott, being convinced that his pay- 
ment of the Concord town tax involved principles and 
practice most degrading and injurious to man, had 
long determined not to be a party to its continuance. 
Last year, by the leniency of the tax-collector in pre- 
paying the $1.50, the question was not brought to an 
issue. This year a collector was appointed who could 
execute the law; and although, no doubt, it went hard 
with him to snatch a man away from his home, from 
his wife, from the provision and education of his 
little children — in which he found Mr. Alcott serene- 



BRONSON ALCOTT 47 

ly engaged, he neyertheleas did it. To the eounty jail, 
therefore, Mr. A. went, or rather was forced by the 
benignant State and its delicate instrument. The con- 
stable-collector, having brought his victim to the jail, 
the next step was to find the jailer, who apx>eared to be 
not at home. The priscmer, of course, waited patient- 
ly ; and after nearly two hours had been thus passedi 
the constable announced that he no longer had the 
right to detain his captive ; he said that both the tax 
and costs had been paid. To the question, by whom 
the payment had been made, he replied by naming a 
gentleman who may be regarded, and who would will- 
ingly be regarded, as the very personification of thoQi 
State. This act of non-resistance does not rest on the I 
plea of poverty; for Mr. A. has always supplied some 
poor neighbor with food and clothing to a much high- 
er amount than the tax. But it is founded on the 
moral instinct which forbids us to be a party to the 
destructive principles of power and might over peace 
and love. 

The tax is traditionally said to have been 
paid by Squire Samuel Hoar, the first citizen 
of the town, and^the father of the late Sena- 
tor, Frisbie Hoar, and of Miss Elizabeth 
Hoar, who was engaged to marry Charles 
Emerson, the youngest brother of Waldo 



48 BEONSON ALCOTT 

Emerson. It was not paid by Alcott's friend, 
Emerson, nor did the latter pay Thoreau's 
tax a few years later. Indeed, he dissented 
from his friend ^s radicalism in the matter of 
the taxes; and in his Jonmal for 1843 Emer- 
son said: 

Alcott thought he could find as good grounds for 
quarrel in the State tax as Socrates did in the edicts of 
the judges. Then I said, ''Be consistent, and never 
more put an apple or a kernel of com into your mouth. 
Would you feed the Devilt Say boldly, 'I will not 
any long^ belong to this double-faced, equivocating, 
mixed, Jesuitical Universe.' '' 

The date of Alcott 's arrest appears to 
have been January 14. Soon after that date, 
and in less than three months after landing 
in Boston (Oct. 20, 1842) Henry Wright had 
become in some way discontented with the 
Alcott household, and had gone off to Lynn, 
where Mrs. Mary Sargent Gove, a New 
Hampshire sanitary reformer, (afterwards 
known as Mrs. Qove-Nichols), was editing 
a health Journal, published in Boston. In 



BEONSON ALCOTT 49 

the letter to Jimius Aloott, above quoted, 
Lane said, "I suppose you do not see the 
Dial, or Mrs. Gove's new periodical, called 
the Independent Magazine. I have merged 
The Healthian into the latter, and I have 
some articles in the former/' Mr. Wright 
also contributed, I think, to Mrs. Gove's 
MagazinSj which did not long flourish. He 
did not join the Fruitlands monastery, but 
returned to England before Lane did, and 
died there in March, 1846 ; his wife also dy- 
ing in October of the same year. In Con- 
cord he had early begun to complain to Al- 
cott of Lane, and to Lane of Alcott; the last 
named, being a methodical person, with 
schoolmasterly habits, found Wright irregu- 
lar, nice in his food, etc. ; while Wright de- 
clared that Alcott was "despotic. " Mr. Lane, 
who had much good sense mixed up with his 
vagaries, gave his friend Oldham the true 
cause of dissension when he wrote : 

I can see no other reason but the simplicity and 
order to which affairs were coming [in the Cottage], 



50 BEONSON ALCOTT 

No butter nor milk, nor cocoa, nor tea, nor coffee — 
nothing but fruit, grains, and water, was hard for the 
inside; then regular hours and places, clearing up 
scraps, etc., was desperate hard for the outside. 

Still, all through the spring of 1843 Lane 
stood firmly by Alcott, and resolutely put his 
English money into Massachusetts land, to 
free it from the curse of ownership. Writ- 
ing to Junius Alcott, March 7, he said: 

I hope that the little cash I have collected from 
my London toils will sufSce to redeem a small spot on 
the planet, that we may rightly use for the right own- 
er. I would very much prefer a small example of true 
life to a large society in false and selfish harmony. 
Please put your best worldly thoughts to the subject, 
and favor me with your view as to how and where we 
could best lay out $1,800 or $2,000 in land, with 
orchard, wood and house. Some of the land must be 
now fit for the spade, as we desire to give all animals 
their freedom. We feel it desirable to keep within 
the range of Mind and Letters; or rather, to keep 
refinement within our range; that we may be the 
means of improving or of reproving it, without being 
injured by it 



BEONSON ALCOTT 51 

This last flight of rhetoric signified that 
the new Eden must not be too far from Bos- 
ton, and that oxen and cows were not to be 
much employed on the redeemed land. The 
conditions thus laid down represented Lane 
rather more than Alcott ; but the Connecticut 
farmer and mechanic, i)edlar and schoolmas- 
ter, yielded gracefully to English dogmatism, 
and wrote thus to persuade his brother Jun- 
ius to join them in Massachusetts, and bring 
fheir widowed mother with him: 

Our mutual friendi Mr. Lane, has detailed so 
minutelj and fully our present vocations and intents, 
that nothing remains for me to add, but my pleasure in 
all he has written, and to repeat my earnest hope that 
Providence may include yourself, with all your fine 
gifts and graces, in the circle of our family. Your 
own sense of rectitude must plant or transplant you, 
according to its interior and superior dictates; and to 
it I submit the decision. . • Our Mother must not be 
deserted; if she feels you needful, and prefers to re- 
main in Oriskany with you — then so let it be. We 
shall dwell together some day. I would that she might 
join us also — on a visit at least, if she declines making 
her home with us. 



62 BRONSON ALCOTT 

We are all waiting to see the earth (under the 
snow), and select our spot — a convenient house, or- 
chards and fields — and begin to plant for our own 
sustenance. Great improvements have blessed my 
labors for the companion and childr^, during the 
winter. Mr. Lane is a most potent and friendly coad- 
jutor, and will meet your idea of a man. 

THE NEW EDEN 

After looking at several farms in Con- 
cord and elsewhere, Lane decided to buy the 
Wyman farm in Harvard, two miles from 
the village of that name, but less than a mile 
from Still Eiver, another village in the same 
township. Alcott would have chosen the 
; Cliffs, in Concord, a favorite resort of Thor- 
( eau and the Emerson family, and Emerson 
I would have preferred to retain his friend in 
his own town; but Lane had rather avoided 
• Emerson, as not ascetic enough for his ab- 
istemious habits, and seems to have been not 
^unwilling to withdraw Alcott from what he 
[regarded as an unfavorable influence. Isaac 
flecker, later known as Father Hecker, of a 
Boman Catholic order, who spent a few 



BRONSON ALCOTT 63, 

weeks at the Wyman farm, which Alcott 
Ghristened '^Fniitlands/' thus described it, 
soon after the ascetic commimity there had 
abandoned it, and Lane had gone with his 
son to the neighboring community of Shak- 
ers: 

Fmitlandfl, so-called becanse fruit was to be the 
principal staple of daily food, and to be cultivated on 
the farm, was a spot well chosen; it was retired, 
breathing quiet and tranquillity. No neighboring 
dwelling obstructed the view of nature, and it lay 
some distance even from a bypath road, in a delightful 
solitude. The house, somewhat dilapidated, was on 
the slope of a slowly ascending hill ; stretched before 
it was a small valley under cultivation, with fields of 
com, potatoes and meadow. In the distance loomed 
up on high, "Cheshire's haughty hill,'' Monadnoc. 
Such was the spot chosen by men inspired to live a 
holier life, to bring Eden once more upon earth. These 
men were impressed with the religiousness of their 
enterprise. \When the first load of hay was driven 
into the bam, one of the family, as the first fork was 
about to be plunged into it, took off his hat and said, 
"I take off my hat, not that I reverence the bam more 
than other places, but because this is the first fruit of 
our labor." Then a few moments were given to si- 



54 BRONSON ALCOTT 

Icnee, that holy thought might be awakened^ But 
winter, stem, cold, inhospitable winter approached; 
and Fmitlands, with its knot of spiritnally-minded 
enthusiasts, disapi)eared ; and Eden once more re-en- 
tered the domain of the Past. 

Such was the brief chronicle of Charles 
Lane's purchase of 90 acres of land, to re- 
deem it from human ownership. It was 
good land, the price ($1800) was not exces- 
sive ; the house was not bought with the land, 
but given rent-free for a year ; Lane expect- 
ing, apparently, that a better house would be 
built, at the expense of others than himself. 
There were 14 acres of woodland in the pur- 
chase, and much pasture; but Lane was all 
for spade-labor, without oxen, and also in- 
sisted on plowing in his green crops of grass 
to enrich the land for next year. By June 
16, after a fortnight's residence and labor, 
the farm had four acres planted with maize, 
three acres in rye and oats, two in potatoes, 
one in barley, and one in vegetables and 
mdras^— ^At the outset, ten persons made the 
[family — the six Alcotts, two Lanes, Abra- 



BRONSON ALCOTT 66 

ham Everett and Christopher (or Samuel) / 
Liamed, the latter a merchant's son, and Ev- 
erett, a cooper. To these were fitfully added, 
but not as steady residents, Samuel Bower 
an Englishman, Isaac Hecker, a baker's son 
of New York, and Miss Anne Page; alsc 
Joseph Palmer, who afterwards bought the 
farm. But at no time were the constant res- 
idents more than twelve, of whom five were 
children, and one an infant of three years. 
There were occasional visitors, Emerson and 
EUery Channing, Mrs. Alcott's brother, Rev 
S. J. May, etc., and of course the neighbor- 
ing farmers looked in occasionally, out of 
curiosity, or to lend advice, and laugh about 
these tender-fingered husbandmen with one 
another. At first, all was roseate to the two 
heads of the plantation. Lane and Alcott; 
and Lane (June 9) wrote thus to Thoreau 
at Staten Island: 

After all our efforts during the spring had failed 
to place ns in connection with the earth; and Mr. 
Alcott 's journeys to Oriskany and Vermont had turn- 
ed out a blank; one afternoon in the latter part of May 



( 



56 BBONSON ALCOTT 

Providence sent to xu the legal owner of a slice of the 
planet in Harvard, with whom we have been enabled 
to conclude for the concession of his rights. It is very 
romotely placed, without a road, surrounded by a 
beautiful green landscape of fields and woods, with the 
distance filled up with some of the loftiest mountains 
in the State. At present there is much hard manual 
labor — so much that, as you see, my usual handwrit- 

^g is very greatly suspended. Our house accommo* 
dations are poor and scanty; but the greatest want is 
of good female society. Far too much labor devolves 
on Mrs. Alcott. . . Besides the bu^ occupations of each 
succeeding day, we form in this ample theatre of hope, 
many forthcoming scenes. The nearer little copse is 

^ designed as the site of the cottages. Fountains can 
be made to descend from their granite sources on the 
hill-slope to every apartment, if desired. Gardens 
are to displace the warm grazing glades on the south, 
and numerous human beings, instead of cattle, shall 
ere enjoy existence. 

( Even in July, when^sbirthday of little 
jMay Alcott was celebrated with rural rites 
: n the wood by the brook, the glamor of hope 
utill hung round the groves and the scanty 
I orchard ; and the library of rare books from 



BRONSON ALCOTT 67 

London stood proudly on its himdred feet of 
new shelves in the small front entry of the 
old house, prodaiaiing the atmosphere of 
''Mind and Letters/' In August and Sep- 
tember the patriarchs went rambling away 
to Providence and New York, and returned 
by way of New Haven and Wolcott, Alcott's 
ancestral region, of which Mr. Lane formed 
a very -poor opinion, as a farming district. 
They were entertained by Isaac Hecker in 
New York, and by Charles Newcomb and 
his friends in Providence. 

Emerson, visiting Pruitlands July 8, 
when the experiment was six weeks old, was 
doubtful about speedy success, and wrote in 
his journal: 

I wiU not prejudge them successful. They loottA 
weU in July — we will see them in December. I know 
they are better for themselves than as partners. One 
can easily see that they have yet to settle several 
things. Their saying that things are clear, and they 
sane, does not make them so. . . Their manners and 
behavior in the house and in the field were those of 
superior men — of men at rest. -^ 



58 BBONSON ALCOTT 

This passage indicates that Emerson, 
with his **fatal gift of perception/' had long 
since seen the incongruity between Alcott 
and Lane. He had been aware, of course, of 
the estrangement and separation of Wright, 
both from Lane and Alcott; and the final 
collapse in December of the whole Fruit- 
lands experiment was no surprise to him. 
He then became a trustee for Lane and his 
^creditors in America, as wiU appear later. 
f At this time aU was still fair weather at 
ithe Fruitlands Eden, although the burden 
of too much labor, of which Lane had written 
fto Thoreau in June, had been falling more 
land more heavily on Mrs. Alcott and her 
daughters, Anna, then twelve, and Louisa, 
not quite eleven. As they did so much of the 
domestic drudgery, Mrs. Alcott doubtless 
thought it no more than right that her Eng- 
ish guest, both there and at Concord, during 
e seven months that Lane and his son were 
her household, should pay their share of 
e family expenses. This opinion had led, 
apparently, to the payment by Lane of some 



BRONSON ALCOTT 59 

$300 for Concord debts of the Alcott cottage, 
before the household migrated to Fruitlands 
in June. Considered merely as the board 
bill of the two Lanes, this was not excessive ; 
since $300 for 30 weeks was but $10 a week 
for both. Whether this was the basis upon 
which the May payment was made by Lane, 
there is no evidence to show ; but it is a nat- 
ural inference. Probably Lane, who had to4 
lected the Fruitlands farm, rather against 
the wish of the Alcotts, who preferred Con4 
cord, was also willing to pay what was needA 
ed in the five months from Jime to Novem- 
ber, at the newly plowed and planted Wyman 
Farm Paradise. But, since ** short reckon- 
ings make long friends,'' a delay in coming 
to a clear understanding on these points hadj 
by November 11, 1843, led to a state of thin; 
which Lane thus explained, (with man 
apologies for ** obtruding my pecuniary con 
cems into our hitherto loftier conmaun 
ings'') to Isaac Hecker, then living with hisi 
prosperous family in the baking business at 
New York: 



60 BBONSON ALCOTT 

[Harvard, Mass., Noyember 11]. . . Wk&i I 
bought ibis place, instead of paying the whole $1,800 
as I wished, $300 of my money went to pay old debts, 
with which I ought to have had nothing to do: and 
Mrs. Alcott's brother, Samuel J. May, joined his name 
to mine in a note for $300, to be paid by installments 
in two years. And now that the first installment is 
due, he sends me word that he declines paying it. As 
all my cash has been expended in buying and keeping 
up the affair, I am left in a precarious i>osition, out of 
which I do not see the way without some loveful aid ; 
and to you I venture freely to submit my feelings. 
Above all things I should like to discharge at once this 
$300 note; as, unless that is done, the place must, I 
fear, fall back into individuality, and the idea be sus- 
pended. Now, if as much cash is loose in your pocket, 
or that of some wealthy friend, there shall be parted 
off as much of the land as will secure its return, from 
the crops alone, in a few years; or I would sell a piece 
until I can redeem it ; or I would meet the loan in any 
other secure way, if I can but secure the land from 
the demon, Usury. This mode seems to me the most 
desirable. But I could get along with the instaUment 
of $75, and would offer like security in proportion. 
Or, if you can do it yourself, and would prefer the 
library as a pledge, you shall select such books as will 
suit your own reading, and would cover your advance 



BRONSON ALCOTT 61 

in cash, any day you choose to put them up at auction, 
if I should fail to redeem them. Or I would give my 
notes of hand, that I could meet by sales of produce 
or of land. If I had the benefit of your i>ersonal 
counsel, we could contrive something between us, I 
am sure; but I have no such aid about me. The diffi- 
culty in itself is really light ; but to me, under present 
circumstances, is quite formidable. If at your earliest 
convenience you acquaint me with your mind, you will 
much oblige. 

That Lane had somehow miscalculated is 
evident Late in June he had assured his 
friend Oldham in England, that he should 
not return thither, **No, I think I am now 
out of the money world. Let my privation 
be ever so great, I will never make any prop- \ Q 
erty claim on this [Fruitlands] effort. It 
is an offering to the Eternal Spirit; and I 
consider that I have no more right than any 
other person ; I have arranged the title deeds 
as well as I could to meet that end. I could 
only consent to return to England on con- 
dition of being held free, like a child, from 
all money entanglements." [But by Octo- 



62 BBONSON ALCOTT 

ber 30 sach entanglements had come a;t 
Fruitlands]. "I believe the crops will not 
liquidate all the obligations they were ex- 
pected to discharge; and against going far- 
ther into debt I am most determinately set- 
tled.'' 

PARADTSE LOST 

Writing to Oldham at the end of this 
anxious November, Lane tells how his son 
William had been iU a month, and his father 
had nursed him ^'plagued with hands so 
chapped and sore that I was little more cap- 
able than the patient." Then Mr. May (for 
some good reason, no doubt) had signified 
he should not pay the first installment of the 
note, $75 for six months; "so that money 
affairs and individual property came back 
again upon me.'' Then came endless dis- 
cussions, and, as Wordsworth says in Dioni 

Doubts that came too late, and wishes vain, 
Hollow excuses and triumphant pain; 
And oft their cogitations sink as low 
As to the abysses of a joyless heart 



BRONSON ALCOTT 63 

The heavy plummet of despair can go: 
But whence that sudden check? that fearful start? 

The entries in Louisa ^s childish diary of 
this autumn are brief , but illuminating. She 
did not like Mr, Lane, but the work done by 
her and Anna did not make so dismal an 
impression on her at the time, as it did in 
memory, thirty years later. Here is the 
record given in Mrs. Cheney's Life — omit- 
ting unessential details: 

Fbuitlands, September 1, 1843. I rose at 5 and 
had my bath. I love cold water ! Then we had our 
singing-lesson with Mr. Lane. After breakfast I 
washed dishes, and ran on the hiU till 9, and had some 
thoughts — it was so beautiful up there. Did my 
lessons, wrote and spelt and did sums; and Mr. Lane 
read a story about a rich girl and a i>oor girl. . . I 
liked it very much, and shall be kind to poor people. 
. . We had bread and fruit for dinner. I read and 
walked and played till supper-time. We sung in the 
evening. As I went to bed the moon came up very 
brightly and looked at me. I felt sad because I have 
been cross today, and did not mind Mother. I cried, 
and then I felt better, and said that piece from Mrs. 
Sigoumey — 

I must not tease my mother. 



64 BRONSON ALCOTT 

I get to sleep saying poetry; I know a great desL 

Thursday, Sept. lltk Mr. Parker PillsbTiry 
came, and we talked about the i>oor slaves. I had a 
music lesson with Miss Page. I hate her, she is so 
tuasy. I ran in the wind, and played be a horse, and 
had a lovely time in the woods with Anna and Lizzie. 
We were fairies, and made gowns and paper wings. I 
"flied" the highest of all. It rained when I went to 
bed, and made a pretty noise on the roof. 

[This shows that her bed was in the 
garret.] 

Sunday, Sept. 21. Father and Mr. Lane have 
gone to New Haven to preach. Anna and I got sup- 
per. Li the eve. I read Vicar of Wakefield. 

October 8. When I woke up the first thought I 
got was, "It's Mother's birthday; I must be very 
good." I ran and wished her a happy birthday, and 
gave her my kiss. After breakfast we gave her our 
presents. I had a moss cross and a piece of poetry 
for her. We did not have any school, and played in 
the woods and got red leaves. Li the evening we danc- 
ed and sung, and I read a story about ' ' Contentm^it. ' ' 
I wish I was rich! I was good, and we were all a 
happy family this day. 

Tuesday, 12th. After lessons I ironed. We all 
went to the bam and husked com. It was good fun. 
We worked till 8 o'clock, and had lamps. . . I read in 
Plutarch. I made a verse about sunset: 



BBONSON ALOOTT 65 

Softly doth the sun descend 

To his couch behind the hiU; 
Then, then I love to sit 

On mossy hanks heside the riU. 

Anna thought it was very fine; but I didn't like 
it very welL 

Friday, Nov. 2. Anna and I did the work. In 
the evening Mr. Lane asked ns "What is mant"^ 
After a long walk we went to bed very tired. 

Tuesday, Nov. 20. I rose at 5, and after break-l 
fast washed the dishes, and then helped Mother work.\ 
Miss Page is gone, and Anna in Boston. In the even- 
ing I made some pretty things for my dolly. Father 
and Mr. Lane had a talk, and Father asked ns if we^ 
saw any reason for ns to separate. Mother wanted to, 
she is so tired. I like it, but not the school part, nor 
Mr. Lane. 

Thursday, Nov. 29. It was Father's and my 
birthday — eleven years old. We had some nice pres- 
ents. We played in the snow before school. Mother 
read Rosamond. Father asked us what troubled , 
us most. I said, "My bad temper I" / 

December 10, (1843) . I did my lessons and walk- 
ed in the afternoon. Father read to us in dear PU- 
grimes Progress. . . ^x^J Lme was in Boston, and we 
were J^d. In the eve Father and Mother and Annie . ^ 
and Fha^ a long talk. I was very unhappy, and we 



66 BEONSON ALCOTT 

all cried. Anna and I cried in bed, and I prayed Gk>d 
to keep us all together. 

In the midst of debates Mrs. Alcott gave 
notice that she should soon withdraw to a 
house in the near village of Still River, 
which her brother and other friends had 
offered for herself and children, **As she 
will take all the furniture with her,'' said 
Lane, ^^this leaves me alone and naked in the 
world; Mr. Alcott and I could not remain 
together without her. To be Hhat devU 
come from old England to separate husband 
and wife ' I will not ; though it might gratify 
New England to be able to say it.'* He 
ascribes the failure of other persons to join 
the experiment largely to Mrs. Alcott, "who 
vows that her own family are all that she 
lives for, or wishes to live for.'' No such 
narrow purpose. Lane adds, has inspired 
him ; and he blames Mr. Alcott for listening 
|too much to his family affections, and re- 
garding too much what that guardian angel 
t)f middle-class England, Mrs. Grundy, will 



BRONSON ALCOTT 67 

say. "Constancy to his wife, and incon-j \ 
stancy to the Spirit have blurred over hig/ J 
life forever." In the spring of 1844, Lane 
laments to Oldham that Alcott cultivates his 
Still River garden, permits his girls to go 
to the common school, and allows his wife to 
obtain the needful supplies from her friends 
and relatives. About this time some money 
came to her from the estate of her father, 
Col. Joseph May, of Boston, and this, in due 
time, was put into the Hillside estate in Con- 
cord, which Hawthorne bought of her in 
1852 for $1,500. In 1844 the Alcotts re- 
turned to Concord, and in 1845 settled upon 
this estate, of thirty acres, which Hawthorne 
afterward called **The Wayside. '^ Lane 
with his son retired to live for a time with 
the Shakers of Harvard, then withdrew to 
New Jersey, and in September, 1846, he 
went back to England, leaving William with 
the Shakers until 1848. 

By invitation of Mrs. Alcott, Mr. Lane 
resided with the Alcotts a few weeks in the 
siumner and autumn of 1845, and there 



68 BRONSON ALCOTT 

formed a better opinion of husband and 
wife; said that his garden across what is 
now Massachusetts Avenue from the Way- 
side House was "the best piece of preach- 
ing he has for a long time preached/' and 
predicted it would be better in 1846, as it 
was. This position of gardener and edu- 
cator of his four children Lane pronounced 
"as happy for him as could be found, in his 
mixed and inevitable relations/' In the 
/middle of September, 1845, Alcott heard 
from his brother Ambrose that his brother 
Junius was "deranged" and went at once 
to Wolcott to attend to his own family there. 
1 Lane charitably adds that perhaps Alcott's 
\ town troubles were due to insanity. Li after 
f Jrears Alcott was inclined to the same view. 
vVhen I was editing the Boston Common- 
wealth in 1863, (in which Louisa's Hospital 
Sketches first appeared) he brought me a 
revised copy of his account of his despair 
at the failure of the Fruitiands venture, 
which I published in this form: 



BBONSON ALCOTT 69 

THE BETUBN 

Patfiae quis exul 
8e quoque fugiit 

As from himself he fled, 

Outcast, insane. 
Tormenting demons drove him from the gate: 

Away he sped, 

Casting his joys behind, — 

His better mind: 

Recovered, 

Himself again. 

Over his threshold led, 

Peace fiUs his breast^ — 

He finds his rest, — 
Expecting angels his arrival wait. 

This verse describes the period of de- 
spair, following the departure of Lane and 
his son to the Shakers, and the manifest 
failure of this dream of an earthly Eden in 
a New England winter. In her Transcen- 
dental Wild Oats, published by Miss Alcott 
thirty years later (1873), — a sketch in 
which fiction and truth mingle oddly, — she 



70 BBONSON ALCOTT 

thus pictured the same despair, late in No- 
yember, 1843: 

Then this dreamer, whose dream was the life 
of his life, resolved to carry out his idea to the bitter 
end. There seemed no place for him here, — no work, 
no friend. Better perish of want than sell his soul 
for the sustenance of the body. Silently he lay down 
on his bed, tamed his face to the wal^, and waited for 
Death to cut the knot which he could not untie. Days 
and nights went by, and neither food nor water passed 
his lips. Soul and body were dumbly struggling to- 
gether, and no word of complaint betrayed what 
either suffered His wife, when tears and prayers 
were unavailing, sat down to wait the end with a 
mysterious awe and submission ; for in this entire res- 
ignation of all things there was an eloquent signifi- 
cance to her. Gathering her children about her, she 
waited the issue in that solitary room, while the first 
snow fell outside, untrodden by the footprints of a 
single friend. . . . But when the bitterness of death 
was nearly over, when the body was past any pang 
of hunger or thirst, and the soul stood ready to de- 
part, — the love that outlives all else refused to die. 
*'My faithful wife, my little girls, — they have not 
forsaken me; they are mine by ties that none can 
break. What right have I to leave fhem alone t what 



BBONSON ALCOTT 71 

right to escape from the burden and sorrow I have 
helped to brmgt This duty remains to me, and I 
must do it manfully. For their sakes the world will 
forgive me in time; for their sakes QoA will sustain 
me now." Too feeble to rise, he groped for the food 
that always lay within his reach; and in the darkness 
and solitude of that memorable night ate and drank 
what was to him the bread and wine of a new com- 
munion. In the early dawn, when that sad wiftT^ 
crept fearfully to see what change had come to that 
patient face on the pillow, she found it smiling at 
her, — saw a wasted hand outstretched to her, and 
heard a feeble voice cry bravely, — *'Hopel'*. Soon 
after, the wan shadow of a man came forth, leaning 
on the arm that never failed him, — to be welcomed 
and cherished by the children, who never forgot the" A 
experiences of that time. ... So one bleak December 
day, with their few possessions piled on an ox-sled, 
the TOBy children perched atop, and the parents 
trudging arm in arm behind, — the exiles left their 
Eden and faced the world again. ^"^ 

PARADISE BEQAINED 

In the fifth volume of his Autobographi- 
cal Collections, covering the years 1840-44, 
Alcott inserted, near the end, a rude wood- 
cut, of a yoke of oxen drawing through light 



72 BBONSON ALCOTT 

snow a sled-load of the family, which he la- 
beled, "Eemoving from Fruitlands, Janu- 
ary, 1844/* It was January, doubtless, 
before they got fairly settled in a ** Brick- 
Ends" house of the Lovejoys at Still Eiver; 
where they were neighbors of the Gte^rdners, 
whose children became the playmates and 
correspondents of the Alcott girls, and pu- 
pils with them of Miss Chase, the school- 
teacher. But Louisa is probably right in 
fixing the date late in December, 1843. The 
Eden-episode had lasted just seven months, 
and the whole fellowship of Fruitlands was 
diaaolved. TJefaim, which had been held 
in trust by Rev. S. J. May^ Mrs. Alcott!s^ 
br other, was in March, 18 ^. transferred to 
^l^__ Emerson as faustee, and eventually 
bought by Joseph Palmer, the bearded 
brother, known in Harvard as the "Old 
Jew," while beards were unfashionable, and 
called by Miss Alcott ** Moses White." He 
was no Jew, but a descendant of Captain 
Wiswall, an Old Colony Indian fighter, who 
had received a grant of land from the Pro- 



BBONSON ALCOTT 78 

yince for his Indian campaign, and located 
in Leominster, near Harvard. It had come 
down to Palmer, and he had offered it for 
the use of Lane, after the hasty purchase of 
the Wyman Farm; too late to be accepted. 
Pahner bought the Wyman house, which, 
with the Fruitlands Farm, remained long 
in his possession and that of his daughter, 
Mrs. Hohnan. About 1848 the Worcester 
and Nashua railroad was laid out through 
the farm, and near the house, cutting off 
the orchard and hillside from the meadow 
and woodland. Whoever travels by that 
line now (a branch of the Boston & Maine 
road) may see the house, with old mulberry 
trees in front of it, on the east side of the; 
track, a short mile north of the Still River 
station. It was sold in 1847 for Mr. Lane's 
benefit by Emerson, and the price was $1,700. 
By that time Lane was back at his old home 
in Alcott House, where Emerson called on 
him early in 1848. Writing to Thoreau 
from London, February, 1848, Emerson 
said: 

I went last Simday for the first time to see Lane 



74 BRONSON ALCOTT 

at Ham, and dined with him. He was full of friend- 
liness and hospitality ; has a school of sixteen children, 
one lady as matron, then Oldham. This is all the 
household. They looked just comfortable. 

This matron was no doubt Miss Hannah 
Bond, who was about the age of Thoreau, 
had lived in Robert Owen's community at 
Harmony Hall, and soon after married 
Charles Lane, in spite of his aversion to 
family ties, and his faith, in 1843, that ** in- 
dividual family life'' would soon be given 
up. They had four sons and one daughter, 
and two of the sons still survive. Their 
mother died in 1893, and Lane himself in 
1870. He was a year younger than Alcott, 
who survived imtil 1888, — dying but a few 
days before Louisa. 

^'^^Tiiose who read Louisa's Transcendental 
Wild Oats will see by her names, — ^^Timon 
Lioh" for Lane, and ''Abel Lamb" for Al- 
cott,t — ^that she looked on her father as rath- 
er the victim of Lane in the Fruitlands fail- 
ure. Without conceding this, the impartial 



BEONSON ALOOTT 75 

observer will say that Lane had the strongef^ 
will, and the far more prosaic nature; that 
lie decided most of the questions for his as- 
sociates in both countries, and that he was 
rather a hard person to get on with. Neither 
his first wife, nor Wright, nor Mrs. Alcott, 
nor Alcott himself, nor the Harvard Shak- 
ers, nor finally Oldham, could quite suit him. 
He over-persuaded Alcott, who was a good 
farmer and mechanic, to adopt impossible 
modes of workmg the Fruitlands Farm ; and I 
much of their whimsies in dress and food 
seem to have come from Lane and his Eng- 
lish friends. Mrs. Alcott, when re-estab- 
lished in a home of her own at Concord, early 
in 1845, offered Lane a home there, and he 
tried it for a time in the next summer, but 
still complained, as he had at Fruitlands, 
that she wished to keep her family small, and 
made it uncomfortable for guests. Kjqow^ 
ing Mrs. Alcott 's character well, in the last 
twenty years of her life, I cannot believe 
this was ever true of her. She was hospital- 
ity itself, whether poor or rich; and it must 



76 BEONSON ALOOTT 

have been Lane's own individualism that 
made him dissatisfied. 

' There was some foundation for Alcott's 
lespair at Pruitlands, and with the ill suc- 
cess that had followed him after the flour- 
jshing Temple School in Boston. Emerson, 



;he gentlest and least exacting of men, look- 
ing at his friend's situation a few years after 
the Pruitlands episode, wrote in his private 
journal: 



^ The plight of Mr. Alcott I The most refined and 
the most adyanced soul we have had in New England ; 
who makes all other souls appear slow and cheap 
and mechanical; a man of such courtesfy and great- 
ness that in conversation aU others, even the intel- 
lectual, seem sharp, and fighting for victory and angry, 
— while he has the unalterable sweetness of a Muse I 
Yet because he cannot earn money by his talk or his 
pen, or by schoolkeeping, or bookkeeping, or editing, — 
or any kind of meanness, — nay, for this very cause, 
that he is ahead of his contemporaries, is higher than 
they, and keeps himself out of the shop condescen- 
sions and smug arts which they stoop to, — or, un- 
happily, need not stoop to, but find themselves, as it 
were, bom to; therefore it is the unanimous opinion 



\ 



BBONSON ALOOTT 77 

of New England judges that fhis man miut diel We 
do not adjudge him to hemlock or garroting, — we are 
much too hypocritical and cowardly for that. But we 
not less surely doom him by refusing to protest against . 
this doom, or combine to save him, and to set him in 
employments fit for him and salutary for the State. ' 

In one of his many conversations with 
me^ after he came to live and die with me, in 
September, 1891, Channing spoke (in 1899) 
of Mrs. Alcott and her brother, S. J. May, 
who, he said, "was less thoughtful than Mr. 
Alcott, and less refined than Mrs. Alcott, who 
was one of the most refined persons of 
acquaintance. She toldmejg ars af terward \ 
that in lg43=4f^5ie^^ii^ ^s j 

sanity ; he did such strange things, wit hout 
seemmg to hnow how odd they were ; wearing | 
only linen clothes and canvas shoes, and eat- { 
ing^only vegetables and milk. Her family,j 
the Mays of Boston, had much contempt for 
Mr. Alcott, and looked on him as unworthy 
to marry Miss May in 1829; but some of 
them changed their opinion as he came to be 
better known.'* Writing to Emerson at 



78 BRONSON ALCOTT 

London in fhe winter of 1847-48, Ohanning 
thus spoke of the Hillside House, of which 
he was writing the verses already quoted : 

The dephantine Alcott is patching up that old 
Cogswell shell in which he lives, hy clapping a dormer- 
window into the roof, — like Miss Potter's false cnrls. 
How wonld a decaying tnrtle look with a new comb 
glued to his scalest 

It had been a poor fabric until Alcott 
took it in hand, hardly better than the Fruit- 
lands House ; describing it after it came into 
Hawthorne's possession in 1852, George 
William Curtis, who had spent a season in 
that part of Concord (the East Quarter), 
wrote thus: 

"When Alcott came into possession in 1845 it was 
a miserable little house of two peaked gables; but 
his tasteful fingers touched it with picturesque grace. 
It lies at the foot of a wooded hilly a neat house of a 
rusty olive hue, with a porch in front, and a central 
peak; a piazza at each end. Upon the hill behind he 
built terraces and arbors, and pavilions, of boughs and 
rough stems of trees. Fine locust trees shade them, 
and ornament the hill with perennial beauty. Wal- 



BBONSON ALCOTT 79 

den Pond is just bdiind the wood in front, across the 
meadow; and not far away over the meadows be- 
hind the hilly sluggishly steals Concord Biver. Eight 
acres of good land lie in front of the house, across the 
Lexington Boad, and in the rear the estate extends 
for 25 acres oyer the brow of the hill. 

What Alcott did to beautify and culti- 
Tate this small estate, shows what he might 
have done at Fruitlands, if he could have had 
his own modest way; or still better in some 
convenient Concord valley, not too far from 
Boston. 

THE PRESENT FBXJITLANDS 

Channing himself told me in after years 
that he had twice visited the Pruitlands 
House, — once with Henry G. Wright, — 
which must have been in early spring, if at 
all, — and once with Emerson in the simamer 
of 1843. This may have been Emerson's 
July visit. They drove up through West 
Acton and Boxboro, near the great oak- 
wood of the Inches family of Boston, which 
was afterwards visited and described by 
Thoreau, in company with Channing. 



«0 BRONSON AliOOTT 

My own first visit to Fruitiands was not 
till after the death of the Alcotts, and was 
in a company made up of persons from sev- 
eral parts of the United States, all interested 
to see where the Alcotts had sowed their 
'^Transcendental wild-oats,'' as Louisa used 
to say. The date was August 21, 1895 ; the 
party consisted of Gteorge Bartlett, a Con- 
cord poet and comedian, Miss Gourgas, of 
Concord, a descendant of an old French Cal- 
vinist family, exiled to Switzerland by the 
edict of Louis XIV. revoking his grand- 
father's Edict of Nantes, and for 100 years 
resident in New England; her neighbor, 
Miss Eaton, Mr. and Mrs. Waite of New 
Jersey, — the latter a Miss Stow of New 
Haven, who had studied painting in Hol- 
land, and carried a kodak, with which she 
took views of the farmhouse, exterior and 
interior, the children, the farmer, etc. To 
these five were added Mrs. Parker, of Ctel- 
veston, Texas, her sister. Miss Bryan, and 
her niece, another Miss Bryan; making nine 
besides myself. We went by train to the 



BBONSON ALOOTT 81 

Still Biver station, and then -walked back on 
the track and through the pastures to the 
farm, which was then (1895) the property of 
Mr. Holman, a son-in-law of Joseph Palmer, 
who had bought it of Mr. Lane. Ghanning 
had assured me it was not on a hillside, as I 
had thought, but at the level of the intervale 
land on the west end of the farm, in a bend 
of the Nashua river. I found we were both 
mistaken; there is a hill, and the farmhouse 
stands on the lower slope of it, considerably 
above the intervale; while the main hill rises 
back of the house, to the eastward, from 50 
to 100 feet; and from its summit commands 
a wide view of Wachusett, 2,300 feet high, 
and the nearest New Hampshire mountains, 
(Uncanoonucs, Peterboro Hills, etc.) ter- 
minating in the peak of Monadnoc, 50 miles 
away and 3,200 feet high. The Bryans, orig- 
inally from Virginia, said the view reminded 
them of the Blue Bidge and the Shenandoah 
Valley. The Nashua, a third of a mile west- 
ward, is there a stream as large as the Gon- 
Qord, and winding like Uiat, but not so 



82 BEONSON ALCOTT 

meadowy nor so muddy, always having an 
upland meadow or intervale on one bank. 
It makes the boundary here between the 
townships of Harvard and Lancaster. 

The farm was rented then to a Vermont 
husbandman from the little town of Somer- 
set, near Gen. Stark's battlefield of Benning- 
ton. He was paying a rent of $96 a year for 
the old house and the hundred acres of fair 
farming land, and supporting from its prod- 
uct his wife and three children. They were, 
as the French say, "pretty as angels,'' with 
fair hair and blue eyes ; the eldest, aged four, 
Maribelle Roberts, was turning the grind- 
stone at the end of the shed, east of the main 
house, to grind the scythe of her father, Mar- 
sena Roberts. In the house was Mrs. Rob- 
erts, tending a baby four months old, and a 
boy of three years, named, she said, "Mar- 
seny," for his father. I did not recognize 
the name, and said to the boy, "Your father 
must have named you for Massena, a gea- 
eral of the French. ' ' "No, ' ' said the mother, 
"it is a good Bible name, in the first chapter 



BBONSON ALGOTT 83 

of the Book of Esther." Sure enough, there 
it was, one of the seven princes of Persia, — 
Oarshena, Shether, Admatha, Tarshish, Me- 
res, Marsena, and Memuean. Mrs. Roberts 
kindly showed us over the house; it is very 
old and out of repair, although perhaps as 
good as when the Alcotts lived there, 52 
years before. Instead of the faded ochre- 
red of that period, it has long been white ; and 
the big old chimney, which used to block up 
the front entry, and had the great kitchen 
fireplace in it, had been taken out at the bot- 
tom, and the front entry ran through it, as 
in the Alcotts' Orchard House at Concord, 
which is a hundred years older. At the right 
of this entry was a large room used for din- 
ing, and where Ghanning dined with the 
family in 1843; behind that the long kitchen, 
with a smaU bedroom at its west end, and 
the woodshed opening out of the kitchen at 
the east end. In front of the house are now 
three mulberry trees, planted by the Alcotts 
(possibly for silk-worm feeding) ; and back 
of the house, at some distance, the remains 



84 BEONSON ALOOTT 

of the old orchard of appletrees, which Miss 
Alcott mentions as giving the name to the 
place. I rather imagine the Fruitlands 
name was given from future expectations; 
for the philosophers expected to cultivate 
the small fruits, on the ascending slope, 
looking to the southwest. On the intervale, 
sandy and easy of culture, they raised bar- 
ley, rye, oats, and Indian com, and there was 
a good crop of hay. The Alcott bam, which 
stood directly in front of the house, had 
been taken away, and the new one stands 
a little farther off, and near the railroad, 
which now runs within 150 feet of the house. 
Roberts was carrying on the farm with no 
help but his wife and children, and an occa- 
sional hired man. When I was there a few 
years after, he had gone, but there was an- 
other tenant The place is now valued for 
taxation at $1,500. 

ALOOTT 'S CHARACTER 

f As to the insanity which Lane's charity 
Wggested, and which Alcott's humiliiy ac- 



BBONSON ALOOTT 



cepted as an occasion of his despair, — it 
was less Alcott's condition than that of the 
community which did not see his yalue. I 
was for nearly a quarter-century of&dally 
inspecting the insane of Massachusetts, and 
in that period saw every variety of that mal- 
ady among the 20,000 of that class who 
passed under my consideration. Insanity, 
so little understood by most of us, has cer- 
tain features by which it is differentiated 
from those passing moods of enthusiasm, 
grief, ambition, or desire, with which the 
shallow confound it Alcott and John 
Brown were enthusiasts ; they were never in- 
sane, but at the farthest remove from it The 
Southern disunionists and champions of 
slavery who inspired our great rebellion and 
brought on the Civil War, were ambitious 
enthusiasts, who miscalculated the future 
and their own possibilities as wildly, and far 
more calamitously to themselves and others, 
than did Alcott and Lane at Fruitlands; but 
they were never insane, even in their most 
cherished delusions. Such comparisons 



86 BBONSON ALGOTT 

might be indefinitely extended ; but these are 
suf&cient. Insanity could never be predi- 
cated of Bronson Alcott 

How then about his unpracticality, which 
was so often charged against him, and which 
made him the target for much cheap witf 
fHe-was born into a world of material com- 
/ fort and prosaic achievement, but com- 
/ pletely outside of his proper place and time, 
! of which he was ever in advance, both in 
\^ sentiment and idea. As I had occasion to 
say near the close of my Memoir of him, pub- 
lished in 1893, and too littie read, I fear: 

He should have inherited ample estates m a soei- 
ety friendly to enlture and not inhospitable to 
thought; such a iKMdtion as many English gentlemen 
have held, and from which they have stept forth 
upon occasion, to render great service to their country 
and the world. Clarendon said of the poet Waller 
that he was ''a very pleasant discourser, and there- 
fore grateful to all kind of company, where he was 
not the less esteemed for being very rich." So it 
would have been a temporary advantage to Alcott, 
had he possessed an assured income, such as exalts, 



BBONSON ALCOTT 87 

in every Anglo-Saxon mind, the worth of opinions 
that come bam men of properly. Lord CShatham, 
dwelling on the merits of the American army nnder 
Washington, assured the House of Lords in the most 
serious manner, as a high compliment, ''that the Vir- 
ginia gentleman who commands that army has an 
assured income of not less than f onr thousand pounds 
sterling/' A quarter part of that income would have 
freed this Connecticut gentleman from three-quarters 
of the ridicule which vulgar perscms in fine linen be- 
stowed upon hiuL 

Such advantage was denied him, and his / 
Fruiflands scheme, though it would have / 
failed in any case, seemed more hopelessly to / 
fail because he had not, like Bobert Owen 
much property to spend in such fruitless 
philanthropy. But it brought its own com' 1 
pensations, and left the whole Alcott family ' 
richer and not poorer for this romantic ex- 
perience, with its sad termination. It pre- 
pared Alcott to face more patiently the 
storms of later life, and to train his daugh 
ter, who was his best single gift to the world, 
better for her conspicuous service. Andj 
Fruitlands will be remembered, perhapsJ 



88 BEONSON ALOOTT 

longer than most of the adventures that 
awaited this romantic household in its voy- 
[age of life. 

THE ALOOTT PAMILT 

Seven years after my first visit to Fruit- 
lands and Still Eiver, Mrs. Anne Lovejoy 
fXjlsLTkf daughter of the Lovejoys who owned 
the "Brick Ends^' in which the Alcotts took 
refuge in 1844, published a pleasing little 
book, The Alcotts in Harvardj in which 
some kindly reparation is made for the in- 
sults heaped on the Fruitlands ascetics in 
the town history of Harvard. She does jus- 
tice to the high purpose of the family, and 
rescues the children from the epithet of 
"sad-faced** which the historian had chosen 
for them, wholly without warrant. If chil- 
I dren were ever gay and wild, as well as in- 
1 dustrious and inventive, they were the Alcott 
1 girls. Their education was never neglected, 
and perhaps the best part of it was the fam- 
ily perplexities, and the way they were en- 
dured and overcome. They had gloomy 



BBONSON ALOOTT 



hours, of course, and so do all children; but 
fhey had cheerfulness and courage for a firm 
foundation. In one of her early diaries, 
imtten at Concord in August, 1845, after the 
return from Fruitlands, Louisa, hardly thir- 
teen years old, writes: 

More people coining to live with na; I wish we 
could be together and no one else. I don't see who 
is to feed and clothe ns all, when we are so poor now. 
I was very dismal, and then went out to walk, and 
made this poem: 

DESPONDENCY 

Silent and sad when aU is glad, 
And the earth is dressed in flowers; 

When the gay birds sing till the forests ring, 
As they rest in woodland bowers. 

Oh, why these tears, and these idle fears, 

For what may come tomorrow? 
The birds find food from God so good, 

And the flowers, — they know no sorrow. 

If He clothes these, and the leafy trees, 
WiU he not cherish theet 



90 BRONSON ALCOTT 

Why doubt E%$ caret it is every wherey — 
Though the way me may not see. 

Then why he sad when aU is glad, 
And the world is full of flowerst 

With the gay birds singt make Ufe aU Spring, 
And smile through the darkest hours. 

This is a gemdne song, and I doubt not 
Louisa and Anna made the woods and the 
woodshed resound with it, at Concord, (the 
Wayside) after the family went there- Mrs. 
Clark, who copies this ditty, also gives, (and 
it is the gem of her little book, published at 
Lancaster by her son, J. C. L, Clark), a let- 
ter from Louisa to Sophia Gardner, a play- 
mate at Still River, written September 23, 
1845, a few weeks after the poem was 
written, when Mrs. Alcott had again gath- 
ered her family about her in Concord, 
and Mr. Lane was again her guest for 
a few weeks. What fixes the date is the 
final acquittal of Daniel Webster's client, 
Wyman, in the Concord courthouse in the 
summer of 1845, and the letters of Charles 



BRONSON ALCOTT 91 

Lane, quoted by Mr. Harland, and written 
from Concord in August and September of 
that year. Louisa, and perhaps Anna, had 
been visiting the Gardners in Still Biver, 
and the letter is addressed to Sophia G., now 
Mrs. Franklin Wyman of Worcester, after 
her return to ^^Hillside/' as the Hawthorne 
place was then called. I correct a few er- 
rors of spelling and omission, and here copy, 
from the letter of a child not yet thirteen 
years old: 

Concord, Tuesday, September 23rd, 1845. 
Dear Sophia: 

I had nothing to do, so I thought I would scribble 
a few lines to my dear Fire, as Abby [May] still 
calls yon. I have just written a long letter to L — 
all myself, for mother is too buiEfy and Anna too la^^. 
I suppose M. will scold if I call Anna la^^; but she 
is too lazy to do anything but drum on the Seraphine, 
till we are all stunned with her noise. I need not 
tell you we are all aliye and kicking, — most of our 
family, that is: Miss Ford and S. are going away, 
so I shan't have to be fussed any more with them, — 
for Miss Ford is particular, and S. is cross. ... I 
had a beautiful walk the other day with my goyemess 



92 BBONSON ALOOTT 

and the children to a pond called Flint's Pond; there 
we fonnd lots of grapes and some lovely flowers. And 
now if yon won't laugh I will tell yon something, — 
if yon will believe it, Miss Ford and all of ns waded 
across it, — a great big pond a mile long and half 
a mile wide. We went splashing along, making the 
fishes ran like mad before onr big claws. When we 
got to the other side, we had a fminy time getting 
on onr shoes and unmentionables; and we came tum- 
bling home all wet and muddy; but we were happy 
enough, for we came through the woods bawling and 
singing like crasy folks. Yesterday we went over a 
little way from our house in to some great big fields 
full of apple-trees, which we climbed, tearing our 
clothes off our backs, (luckily they were old) and 
breaking our bones, playing tag, and all sorts of 
strange things. 

I go to school every day to Mr. Lane, but do not 
have half so good a time as I did at Miss Chase'ai 
school; the summer I went there was the happiest 
summer I ever spent in the country. There was such 
a lot of jolly girls to play and blab with, and w6 used 
to have such good times I though we did use to get mad 
now and then, it did not last long. 

I went to court and heard William Wyman ac- 
quitted. I hopped right out of my seat when the fore- 
man said "Not guilty." Poor Mr. Wyman! He 



BBONSON ALOOTT 93 

eried rifl^t out, he was so glad: his trial Jiaa lasted 
t^iree years, and the poor man's hair has turned grey, 
fhongh it was black at first, — they have plagued him 
80. "What a silly fool I am to be talking to you about 
things you do not care about hearing, — so I will 
stop, • . . Our garden looks dreadful shabby, for 
father has been gone to New York for a long time, 
and Mr. Lane does not understand gardening very 
welL I must say good-bye now, for I must go and 
practise (music) for an hour, -— so fareweU. Mother 
sends her love to all the dear folks, and Anna lots 
to Qeorge. Bye-bye, dear childer, — the Lord bless 
you. 

From your affectionate friend, Louisa. 

Mrs. Olark rafher smiles at Louisa's 
mention of her ^^ governess/' but that Miss 
Ford was, for the four Alcott girls in 1845, 
and there was perhaps another child or two. 
In Aleott's Biographical Collections is a 
page in print-hand, apparently drawn up by 
Mr. Lane, which shows an "Order of Lidoor 
Duties for CMldren," and introduces Miss 
Ford as "in charge of Recreations and 
Chares," both forenoon and afternoon; and 
between 2 and 4 p. m* the girls had "Sewing, 



94 BBONSON ALOOTT 

C!onyersation and Beading with Mother and 
Miss Ford.'* The children were to rise at 
5 A. M.^ bathe, breakfast at 6, studies with 
Mr. Lane from 9 to 10:30, then " housewif- 
ery' ' till 11, and then an hour with Mr, 
Alcott. Bverjrthing was mechanically ar- 
ranged ; the family dined at 12 and supped at 
6; the children went to bed at 8:30, and had 
81-2 hours for sleep. This arrangement 
seems to have begun in August, 1845, — the 
house and land having been bought with 
Mrs. Alcott's inheritance from her father, 
and some money furnished by Mr. Emerson, 
in the late winter. Writing to his brother 
Junius at Wolcott in early August, Alcott 
said: 

Our repairs indoors are now nearly complete, and 
fencing, leveUing and underpinning are in daily prog- 
ress. The garden is now luxuriant and yields abun- 
dantly of melons, com, squashes, beets, tomatoes, 
beans, carrots, turnips, and your favorite oyster-plant, 
which we are waiting for you to show us how to pre- 
pare for the table. This week I am designing to sow 
some rye: the buckwheat is now fast ripening for 



BRONSON ALOOTT 95 

our winter cakes: twelve or foiurteen bushels of spring 
grain are awaiting the flaiL Everything has pros- 
pered with our garden and improvements: I cannot 
pronounce like thrift in the human glebes and tene- 
ments. There is more of peace, I may say, and of 
faith and patience. But the house and inmates con- 
secrated to the Spirit, and blest in union throughout, 
in every temper and design, — we yet hope for these. 
Who is he that has attained this hopef 

lane's ooming and going 

This letter shows two things, — that M- 
cott himself had got far beyond the despair 
and doubt to which he yielded for a time, 
at the failure of Fruitlands ; but also that all 
was not serene in the domestic sphere. In 
a long and prosy letter from Lane (Febru- 
ary 20, 1845) then living in the Shaker 
Commimity at Harvard, replying to Mrs. 
Alcott's, inviting him to make one in 
their new Concord home, — Lane makes it 
evident, without saying so directly, that 
he has not wholly forgiven Alcott for 
the Fruitlands collapse, and still blames 
him for adhering to the ^^ natural fami- 



96 BEONSON ALOOTT 

ly,'* and not showing himself ascetic 
enough. Mrs. Alcott had evidently written 
him that her own family and her husband's 
friend Emerson were miiting pecmiiarily to 
give her a new foothold in Concord, on an 
estate of her own and Mr. Alcott *s. To this 
information, and the invitation of rejoining 
his Concord friends, Lane replied: 

If you have assmned that I rnnst see your propo- 
sition as a progressive one for me, I may mention 
two (that I may call) private items, which would 
have to be cleared up in my mind, in addition to 
those over which I ought to hesitate, as weU as any 
other proposed cooperator. Friend Emerson does not 
act nor profess to act wholly on universal grounds. 
Earnest devotion and unquenchable hope do not sug- 
gest his offering. Unless I am wrong, it is an act of 
the purest individual friendship. The rest of the out- 
ward means I understand to be still more private and 
individualized. I apprehend that this basis will vit- 
iate and mar, if not entirely neutralize the good moral 
results that could not fail to arise in a building 
founded on the true rock. It is no worse than the 
old world, — but it is far behind Fruitlands, or this 
(Shaker) work. My resolution would be to live in 



BRONSON ALOOTT 97 

eaves and log huts, till we can build better dweUings, 
— and far away from all beloved aflwxnationa, «-* 
rather than be entangled in modes whieh involve the 
very evils of which we seek to rid mankind. I know, 
many errors still cling here at the Shakers', but not 
that fatal one of properly involvements with the old 
world. 

Again: 

He who 18 fittest for the sp^^l^oal sphere baa 
best accomplished his duly in the natural sphere, -*- 
even in the judgment of the natural world itself. 
We are not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it; and 
fulfilling the law is the first step in the GtospeL This 
is the feeling of the United Society (Shakers) as ex- 
pressed in its earliest conditions, — which I call, ''The 
Steps to the Temple." Namely: ^N 

1. Pay all your just debts. SL Bight all your 
wrongs. 3. Confess and forsake your sins, 4. Give^ ' 
your hands to work, and 5. Your heart to God. 

Thus you will perceive I am considerably im- 
pressed with your present hindrances. 

Notwifhstanding fhis qnibbliogy Lane 
left the Shakers for a time and went to try 
the experiment of rejoining the Alcott 
household^ — the ^ ^natural family/' He got 



BRONSON ALCOTT 



there early in August, but after five or six 
weeks he felt that he might be burdensome, 

fand that Mrs. Alcott, though kind, wished to 
keep her family small. ** Every one who 
comes/' he wrote, the day after Louisa's let- 
ter just quoted, "though pressingly invited, 
soon develops the necessity for departure. 
Two out of three of us have gone, and I in- 



I- 



tend to exit as soon as Mr. Alcott returns.'' 
He did go back to the Shakers for a time, 
then to Boonton in New Jersey. In July, 
1846, he again spent two or three days with 
the Alcotts, and reported that Alcott kept 
his garden dear of weeds, and Mrs. Alcott 
kept the house "dear of all intruders." 
After his return to England in September, 
1846, all correspondence with the Alcotts 
ceased. 

In Mrs. Cheney's Life of Miss Alcott, 
there is some confusion of dates, between 
Pruitlands and the resumed Concord exist- 
ence, in 1844-45. At first, the returned fam- 
ily resided at Edmund Hosmer 's, on the road 
to Lincoln, and not far from Flint's Pond, 



BRONSONALOOTT 99 

which Miss Ford and her pupils waded ; and 
it was while there that Louisa wrote, in Jan- 
uary, 1845, the winter verses (which Mrs. 
Cheney quotes) and read Mrs. Child's Phil- 
othea. She said: 

We have had a lovely day. AU the trees were 
covered with ice, and it shone like diamonds or fairy 
palaces. I made a piece of poetry about Winter : 

The stormy Winter's come at last, 
With snow and rain and hitter blast; 
Ponds and brooks are frozen o'er, — 
We cannot sail there any more. 

The Utile birds are flown away 

To warmer cUmes than ours; 
They'll come no more tiU gentle May 

CaUs them back ivith flowers. 

then the darling birds will sing 
From their neat nests in the trees; 

AU creatures wake to welcome Spring, 
And flowers dance in the breeze. 

With patience wait tiU Winter's o'er. 

And dU lovely things return; 
Of every season try the more 

Some knowledge or virtue to learn. 



100 BRONSONALCOTl? 

Later in the year, and after getting into 
the Hillside house, one Thursday Louisa 
writes in her diary: 

Miss Ford* gave ns a botany lesson in the woods. 
I am always good there. In the evening she told tul 
about the bones in onr bodies, and how they get out 
of <Nrder. I must be careful of mine, I climb and 
run and jump so much. 

Then in August, after Mr. Lane appear- 
ed at the Hillside house, he proclaimed him- 
self ** Socrates/* nominated Louisa for ^*A1- 
cibiades,** and then we have this modem 
Athenian colloquy: 

SOGRATBS. 

How can you get what you needt 

How do you tryt 

How gain lovet 

What is gentleness t 

Whohasitt 

Who means to have itf 



*Miss Ford was not a resident of Concord except 
for a few years. She afterwards, (1847), had a smaU 
school of six girls in Mrs. Emerson's school room, and 
three of the six are still living in Concord. She was 
an admirer of Henry Thoreau, as few women were at 
that time. 




i 



BEONSON ALOOTT i %: ^ 

/* ■* ■ ■ » **« . 

Write a sentence about anything. *• **•••••• 

Wliat are the elements of hopet 

What are the elements of wiiht 

What is the difference between Faith and Hopet 

What are the best kinds of self-denial t 

Why nse self-denialt 

How shall we learn this self-denialf 

What then do you mean to dof 

By trying. 

By resolution and perseverance. 

By gentleness. 

Ejndnen, patience and care for other people's 
feelings. 

Father and Anna. 

Louisa, if she can. 

''I hope it will rain; the garden needs if 

Ezpectatioui desire, faith. 

Desire* 

Faith can believe without seeing; Hope is not 
sure, but tries to have faith when it desires. 

Of Appetite and Temper. 

For the good of myself and others* 

By resolving, and then trying hard. 

To resolve and try* 



'•102-./:: BRONSON ALCOTT 

> • • • • • % 

•* '• 'Here, Wrote Miss Alcott about 1885, **the 
record of these lessons ends. Poor little 
Alcibiades went to work and tried till fifty; 
but without any very great success, in spite 
of all the help Socrates and Plato gave her/* 
There was a certain truth in this confes- 
sion. Like her mother, who was not includ- 
ed in the short list above, of those who had 
gentleness in 1845, Louisa had always to con- 
tend against certain infirmities of temper, 
from which her father (here called ** Pla- 
to '*) was free. But she acquired that high 
faith which her father had, before she was 
thirteen, and this was her record of it: 

^--^ Concord, Thursday, October 30, 1845. I had 
an early run in the woods behind Hillside, before the 
dew was off the grass. The moss was like velvet, and 
as I ran under the arches of red and yellow leaves, I 
sang for joy, my heart was so bright, and the world 
so beautiful. I stopped at the end of the walk, and 
saw the sunshine out over the wide ** Virginia Mead- 
ows." It seemed like going through a dark life or 
, grave, into Heaven beyond. A very strange and sol- 
' emn feeling came over me as I stood there, with no 
sone near me, no sound but the rustle of the pines, and 



BEONSON ALCOTT 



103^ 



the gun so glorious, as for me alone. It seemed as if 
I feli Ood as I never did before; and I prayed in my { 
heart that I might keep that happy sense of neamesSj 
all my life. 

Forty years later she wrote that she had 
so kept it; and that she "got religion'' that 
October day in the sunny edge of her fath- 
er's woods, looking out towards the "Vir- 
ginia Road," on which her friend Thoreau 
was bom, and the downs and meadows there 
adjacent And one great and beneficent ele- 
ment in the long discipline of her life was the 
joys and sorrows of the Fruitlands episode 
in the romantic life-story of her poetic fam- 
ily. 



OTHER WORKS BY 
F. B. SANBORN 



Henrv David Thoreau. In the Series of ^'Ameriean Men 
of Letters." pp. yiiL 317. Boston: Houghton, MiiBin ft 
Co. 1882. 

Life and Letters of John Brown, of Kansas and Virginia, 
pp. yiii, 645. Boston: Little, Broini ft Go. 1885. 

New Connecticut. An Autobiographical Poem by A. Bronson 
Aleott. Edited by F. B. Sanborn, pp. zxvi, 247. Bos- 
ton: Little, Broim ft Go. 1887. 

Life of Dr. S. G. Howe. In the Series of "American Be- 
formers.'' pp. TiiL 870. New Yoik: Funk ft WagnaUs. 
189L 

A. Bronson Aleott, his Life and Philosophy. 9^ F. R San- 
bom and W. T. Harris, pp. vii, 679 (up to p. 543 l^ F. 
B. Sanborn). Boston: Little, Brown ft Go. 1893. 

Familiar Letters of Henry David Thoreau. Edited, with an 
Introduction and Notes, by F. B. Sanborn. (A New Bio- 
graphy), pp. zii, 483. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin ft Go. 
1906. 

Memoirs of Pliny Barle. M. D. With Selections from his 
Diaries, Letters, and Professional Writings, pp. zvi, 409. 
Boston: Damrell ft Upham. 1898. 

Emerson. Gambridge: Small, Maynard ft Go. 1900. 

The Personality of Thoreau. Boston: G. E. Goodspeed. 1901. 

The Personality of Emerson. Boston: G. E. Goodspeed. 1903. 

President Langdon. A Biographical Tribute. Boston: G. E. 
Goodspeed. 1904. 

Historv of New Hampshire. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin ft Go. 

Nathaniel Hawthorne and His Friends. Gedar Bapids, la., 
The Torch Press. 1908. 

In addition to the above works Mr. Sanborn has edited: — 

Prayera by Theodore Parker. A New Edition, with a Pre- 
face by Louisa M. Aleott and a Memoir l^ F. B. Sanborn, 
pp. zzi, 200. Boston: Little, Brown ft Go. 1882. 



Sonnets and Cansonett. By A. Bronson Alcott. With an 
Introduction hj F. B. Sanborn, pp. iv, 151. Boston: 
little. Brown Sb Co. 1882. 

The Qenins and Character of Emerson. Lectures at the 
Concord School of Philosophy, pp. zzii, 447. Boston: 
Houghton, MiiDin Sb Co. 1885. 

The Life and Genius of Goethe. Lectures at the Concord 
School of Philosophy, pp. zzv, 454. Boston: Houghton, 
Mifflin ft Co. 1886. (Out of print). 

Poems of Nature. Selected and Edited by Henry S. Salt and 
F. B. Sanborn. pp. ziz, 122. London: John Lane. 
Boston: Houghton, Mifflin ft Co. 1895. 

Poems of Sixty-five Years. By Ellery Channing. Boston: 
C. E. Goodspeed. 1902. 

The Service. By H. D. Thoreau. Boston: C. E. Ooodspeed. 
1902. 

Thoreau, the Poet-Naturalist. By W. E. Channing. Bos- 
ton: C. E. Ooodspeed. 1903. 



i 



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