The Concord Quartet: Alcott, Emerson, Hawthorne, Thoreau and the Friendship That Freed the American Mindby Samuel A. Schreiner Jr.
Ralph Waldo Emerson was not happy to be heading back to Concord, Massachusetts, in the fall of 1834. Although the autumn leaves were brilliant, he could think only of his situation. Having left a job, lost both his wife and brother, and no longer able to rent suitable quarters in Boston, he was returning to the family homestead to figure out what to do next.… See more details below
Ralph Waldo Emerson was not happy to be heading back to Concord, Massachusetts, in the fall of 1834. Although the autumn leaves were brilliant, he could think only of his situation. Having left a job, lost both his wife and brother, and no longer able to rent suitable quarters in Boston, he was returning to the family homestead to figure out what to do next.
That day, no one would have guessed that he was starting a journey that would lead him to an American Renaissance in thought and philosophy as well as to a friendship that would span decades with three equally remarkable men and neighbors: Nathaniel Hawthorne, novelist; Henry David Thoreau, naturalist and author; and Amos Bronson Alcott, educator. As engaging as a novel, The Concord Quartet brings these nineteenth-century cultural icons to life.
Deftly interweaving the everyday dramas of the four men's lives their marriages, children, friends, accomplishments, disappointments, illnesses, and deaths as well as a full account of their books and the development of the transcendentalist philosophies that united them, The Concord Quartet will fascinate readers with its modern resonance, as the men struggled with ideas that still perplex people today:
Is the Bible divinely inspired and literally true? "The highest revelation is that God is in every man," Ralph Waldo Emerson decided early on, stating the essence of transcendentalism in a sentence and boldly disputing the largely Calvinist beliefs of the day.
What is the nature of work? Nathaniel Hawthorne, weighing coal and salt for an income to support his writing, claimed that his work on the docks had turned him into a "business machine," unfit to mingle with the intelligentsia. Yet, the ability to do manual labor and, at the same time, live "in a region of high thought" was applauded by transcendentalists.
What's the proper way to educate children? Without whipping and "in the wise way which unfolds what lies in the child's nature, as a flower blooms," wrote Louisa May Alcott, describing her father Bronson Alcott's then-heretical teaching methods.
The neighbors also had their share of spats. Noted Emerson at one point, grousing about Thoreau: "What can you have in common with a man who does not know the difference between ice cream and cabbage and who has no experience of wine or ale?"
Engrossing, brimming with detail, and intellectually engaging, The Concord Quartet gives readers a thorough look at America's "intellectual declaration of independence," and it will keep you turning pages as in the best historical novels. You'll be reluctant to leave the vibrant and wholly American world this book brings to life.
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