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much notice. It was in Cheshire, in fact, that Mr. Alcott began to develop his peculiar system of instruction, which afterward received so much praise and blame in Boston. He continued this system in a similar school in Bristol in the winter of 1827–8, and then removed to Boston to take charge of an infant school in Salem street, in June, 1828. In the following April he opened a private school near St. Paul's church on Tremont street, in which he remained until November 5, 1830, when he gave it up to open a school in Germantown, near Philadelphia, where with his associate, Mr. William Russell, he remained a little more than two years. On the 22d of April, 1833, he opened a school in Philadelphia, which continued until July, 1834, soon after which, September 22, 1834, Mr. Alcott returned to Boston and there began his famous Temple school, concerning which so much has been written and published. This was nearly eleven years after his first winter's school keeping in Bristol. Mr. Alcott had now reached the 35th year of his life, and the fifth of his married life.
Previous to 1827, the district schools of Connecticut, and of all New England, were at a low degree of discipline, instruction, and comfort, and in all these matters Mr. Alcott set the example of improvement. He first gave his pupils single desks, now so common, instead of the long benches and double or three-seated desks, still in use in some sections. He gave his youthful pupils slates and pencils, and blackboards. He established a school library, and taught them to enjoy the benefits of careful reading; he broke away from the old rule of severe and indiscriminate punishments, and substituted therefor appeals to the affections and the moral sentiment of children, so that he was able almost wholly to dispense with corporeal punishment. He introduced, also, light gymnastic exercises, evening amusements at the school-room, the keeping of diaries by young children, and, in general, an affectionate and reverent mode of drawing out the child's mind toward knowledge, rather than the pouring in of instruction by mechanical or compulsory processes. Familiar as this natural method of teaching has since become, it was an innovation five and forty years ago, -as much so as Pestalozzi's method had been in Europe when he began the instruction of poor
children in Switzerland a hundred years ago. Rev. Samuel May, in 1827, then pastor of a church in Brooklyn, Conn., informed by letter from Dr. W. A. Alcott of his cousin's labors in Cheshire, wrote direct for a detailed statement of his principles and method of training children. In due time came to me a full account of the school of Cheshire, which revealed such a depth
of insight into the nature of man, such a true sympathy with children, such profound appreciation of the work of education, and was, withal, so philosophically arranged and exquisitely written, that I at once felt assured the man must be a genius, and that I must know him more intimately. So I wrote, inviting him urgently to visit He came and passed a week with me before the end of the
I have never, but in one instance, been so immediately taken possession of by any man I have ever met in life. He seemed to me like a born
and saint. The most devoted of Pestalozzi's personal friends and followers in England, Mr. James Pierrpont Greaves, who first learned of Mr. Alcott's experiments in education from Miss Harriet Martineau, after her return from America in 1837, afterward, to a school near London, gave the name of · Alcott House.'
In his educational, at least his formal school work, Mr. Alcott was in advance of his age, and his ideas in education, now almost universally received, were slow in making their way among the plain and practical people of New England. Like Pestalozzi, he was continually at a disadvantage in dealing with affairs, and he was not so fortunate as to find a coadjutor in his schools who could supply the practical ability to match and complete his own idealism. Hence the brief period of his success in each place where he taught, and his frequent removals from town to town, and city to city. Every where he impressed the best men and women with the depth and worth of his character, the fervor of his philanthropy, the delicacy and penetration of his genius, and they spoke of him as Mr. May did, in the passage quoted above. They sought his fellowship, aided his plans, rejoiced in his successes, and knew how to pardon his failures. During the period from 1826 to 1836, he made the acquaintance and enjoyed the friendship of some of the most eminent persons in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania; among them Drs. Gallaudet and Henry Barnard, of Hartford; Dr. Channing and Mr. Garrison, of Boston ; Mr. R. W. Emerson, of Concord; Messrs. Matthew Carey, Roberts Vaux, and Dr. Furness, of Philadelphia; and many of the most esteemed Boston families,—the Mays, Phillipses, Savages, Shaws, Quincys, etc. Among the eminent women who took an interest in his school may be named, (besides Miss Martineau), Miss Margaret Fuller, Miss Elizabeth Peabody, her sister, the late Mrs. Hawthorne, Miss Elizabeth Hoar, and others. Both Miss Fuller and Miss Peabody were assistant teachers in the Temple school at Boston, and Miss Peabody compiled the accounts of it, which were published under the
title of Record of a School,' and Conversations with Children on the Gospels. Mr. Emerson, who had become intimate with Mr. Alcott in 1835, saluted him with high expectation in this part of his career, and said to him what Burke said to John Howard, “Your plan is original, and as full of genius as of humanity; so do not let it sleep or stop a day.'
The conversation with pupils on the New Testament, in the winter of 1835-6, excited some opposition, however, and the lectures of Dr. Graham, the vegetarian, in 1836, also gave offense. The publication of the Conversations,' in the winter of 1836-7, was the occasion of a fierce attack in the newspapers of 1837.
The effect of such denunciation then was crushing. The school at the Temple, which began in 1834 with thirty pupils, and had received as many as forty, fell to ten pupils in the spring of 1837, and after lingering along for a year or two, with one or two changes of place, was finally given up in 1839. The immediate occasion of closing it then was the unwillingness of Mr. Alcott's patrons to have their children educated in the same room with a colored child whom he had admitted, and when the protesting parents found Mr. Alcott determined not to dismiss the colored child, they withdrew their own children—leaving him with only five pupils,—his own three daughters, a child of Mr. William Russell, and young Robinson, the cause of offense. Up to this time (June, 1839) the receipts of Mr. Alcott for tuition since he began his school at the Temple, five years before, had been $5,730; namely, in the first year, $1,794; the second, $1,649; the third, $1,395; the fourth, (after the attack in the newspapers), $549, and in the last year only $343. The expenses of rent, furniture, assistant teachers, and the maintenance of family had been much more than this,—and in April, 1837, the costly furniture, school library, and other apparatus of the Temple school were sold at auction. The city press and the city mob had their way with Mr. Alcott's school, just as two years before they had their way with Mr. Garrison's anti-slavery meeting. The poor and unpopular schoolmaster from Connecticut was hooted down, and his generous experiments in education were frustrated in Boston, in spite of the protests and appeals of such champions as Dr. Alcott, Mr. Emerson, Mr. Russell, James Freeman Clarke, Rev. Chandler Robbins, Miss Fuller, Dr. Furness, Dr. Hedge, and other friends of culture and philosophy.
During this period, as at all times since his marriage in 1830, Mr. Alcott found great sympathy and encouragement at his own fireside. Mrs. Alcott was a daughter of Col. Joseph May, of Boston, and was born in that city, October 8, 1800. The Rev. Samuel J. May, of
. Syracuse, whose memoir has been quoted, was her elder brother, born in 1793. It was at his parsonage house in Brooklyn that she first met Mr. Alcott, in 1827, when he was teaching school in Cheshire, and it was largely on her account and through the efforts of her family and friends that he went to Boston, in 1828, and took charge of the Salem street infant school. They were married May 23, 1830, and resided in Boston until their removal to Germantown in the following winter. Their oldest daughter, Anna Bronson, now Mrs. Pratt, (the mother of Miss Alcott's · Little Men') was born at Germantown, March 16, 1831, and Miss Alcott herself (Louisa May) was born at Germantown, November 29, 1832. A third daughter, Elizabeth Sewall, was born in Boston, June 24, 1835, and died in Concord, March 14, 1858. Miss May Alcott, the youngest of the four daughters, now a well-known artist, was born in Concord, July 26, 1840. The eldest of the four, Anna Bronson Alcott, named for her grandmother, was married May 23, 1860, the anniversary of her mother's wedding day, to Mr. John B. Pratt, of Concord, a son of Minot Pratt, one of the Brook Farm community in former years, and of late an esteemed citizen of Concord. Their children are the famous · Little Men,'— Frederick Alcott Pratt, born March 28, 1863, and John Sewall Pratt, born June 24, 1866. Mrs. Pratt was left a widow by the sudden death of her husband, November 27, 1870, and has since resided much of the time, with her two sons, at her father's house in Concord.
Transcendental Agitation and Club. From birth to 1823, a period of twenty-four years, we may consider Mr. Alcott as preparing himself for the work of life. From 1823 to 1839, nearly sixteen years, he was zealously occupied in the business of education. For the last thirty years and more, he has stood forth as an ideal reformer, and the representative of a school of thought and ethics, of which he was one of the founders in New England. During the years from 1834 to 1840, the so-called Transcendental Movement was making progress among the New England people, and particularly in the neighborhood of Boston. Dr. Channing was one of its originators, and so, less directly, were Coleridge, Carlyle, and the Germans whom they make known to the Englishspeaking races. Mr. Alcott was a Transcendentalist by birth, and early imbibed a relish for speculation and sentiments such as the Transcendentalists were familiar with. He first heard Dr. Channing preach (on the Dignity of the Intellect ') in April, 1828, and in October of the same year, he listened to a sermon from R. W.
Emerson, at the Chauncey Place church, Boston, on The Universality of the Notion of a Deity. In Philadelphia, between the years 1830 and 1834, he read many metaphysical and mystical books, and speculated deeply on the nature of the soul and on human perfectability, so that he was well prepared, upon his return to New England, in the autumn of 1834, to join in the then nascent Transcendental movement, which went forward rapidly to its culmination about 1840, after which it ebbed and
gave its strength to other and more special agitations. In 1837, when the Philistines were in full cry against the Temple school and its heretical teacher, Mr. Alcott was spoken of as the leader of the Transcendentalists,-a distinction now generally given to his friend Mr. Emerson, with whom he became intimate in 1835–6. They joined in many activities of the time; were members and originators of the somewhat famous Transcendental club, which met, under various names, from 1836 to 1850. It was first called “The Symposium,' and met originally on the 19th of September, 1836, at the house of George Ripley, then a minister in Boston. In the October following, it met at Mr. Alcott's house (26 Front street), and there were present Mr. Emerson, George Ripley, Frederic H. Hedge, 0. A. Brownson, James Freeman Clarke, and C. A. Bartol. The subject of conversation that day was ‘American genius; causes which hinder its growth. Two years later, in 1838, we find it meeting at Dr. Bartol's, in Chestnut street, Boston, where of late years the “Radical Club' has often gathered; there were then present Mr. Emerson, Mr. Alcott, Dr. Follan, Dr. C. Francis, Theodore Parker, Caleb Stetson, William Russell, James Freeman Clarke, and John S. Dwight, the famous musical critic. The topic discussed was ‘Pantheism. In September, 1839, there is record of a meeting at the house of Dr. Francis, in Watertown, where, besides those already mentioned, Margaret Fuller, William Henry Channing, Robert Bartlett, and Samuel J. May, were present. In December, 1839, at George Ripley's, Dr. Channing, George Bancroft, the sculptor Clevenger, the artist-poet C. P. Cranch, and Samuel G. Ward, were among the company. These names will give some notion of the nature of the club, and the attraction it had for thinking and aspiring persons. In October, 1840, we find Mr. Alcott in consultation with George Ripley and Margaret Fuller, at Mr. Emerson's house, in Concord, concerning the proposed community, which was afterward established at Brook Farm. In 1848, the Transcendental club became the Town and County Club,' on a wider basis, and in a year or two came to an end, having done its work.