A leading exponent of transcendentalism, as were his friends Emerson and Thoreau, Alcott wrote for the periodical Dial (the
Orphic Sayings was his most famous contribution) and was a nonresident member of Brook Farm. He was one of the founders (1843) of a cooperative vegetarian community,
Fruitlands, near Harvard, Mass., but it proved unsuccessful and was abandoned in 1844. Poverty continually plagued the life of the Alcotts until the writings of his daughter, Louisa May Alcott, relieved the family of financial worry. He became (1859) superintendent of the Concord public schools, whose reformation he described in his Reports. From 1879 he was dean of the Concord School of Philosophy, which annually gathered disciples to hear him and many other speakers. Among his writings are Observations on the Principles and Methods of Infant Instruction (1830), Conversations with Children on the Gospel (1836, repr. 1989), Record of a School (1835, repr. 1969), and Ralph Waldo Emerson (1882, repr. 1968).
See his Journals, ed. by O. Shepard (1938, repr. 1966) and Letters, ed. by R. L. Herrinstadt (1969); K. W. Cameron, Transcendental Curriculum, or Bronson Alcott's Library (1984); biographies by F. B. Sanborn (1893, repr. 1974), O. Shepard (1937, repr. 1967), D. McCuskey (1940, repr. 1969), and F. C. Dahlstrand (1982); dual biography of Bronson and Louisa May Alcott by J. Matteson (2009); biography of his wife, Abigail May Alcott, by C. H. Barton (1996); studies by G. E. Haefner (1937, repr. 1970), and L. James (1994).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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