Fruitlands: The Alcott Family and Their Search for Utopia

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Overview

This is the first definitive account of Fruitlands, one of history’s most unsuccessful—but most significant—utopian experiments. It was established in Massachusetts in 1843 by Bronson Alcott (whose ten-year-old daughter Louisa May, future author of Little Women, was among the members) and an Englishman called Charles Lane, under the watchful gaze of Emerson, Thoreau, and other New England intellectuals.

Alcott and Lane developed their own version of the doctrine known as Transcendentalism, hoping to transform society and redeem the environment through a strict regime of veganism and celibacy. But physical suffering and emotional conflict—particularly between Lane and Alcott’s wife, Abigail—made the community unsustainable.

Drawing on the letters and diaries of those involved, Richard Francis explores the relationship between the complex philosophical beliefs held by Alcott, Lane, and their fellow idealists and their day-to-day lives. The result is a vivid and often very funny narrative of their travails, demonstrating the dilemmas and conflicts inherent to any utopian experiment and shedding light on a fascinating period of American history.

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Editorial Reviews

Wall Street Journal

"Thorough and occasionally hilarious. . . . [Mr. Francis] records Bronson and Abigail's acts of charity. . . . But he also retells less admiring stories. . . . Along the way he adumbrates the ways in which idealism can slide into megalomania."—Wall Street Journal
Boston Globe

"Excellent. . . . Francis. . . is not only an historian but also a novelist with an astute and appreciative eye for mixed character."--Katherine A. Powers, Boston Globe

— Katherine A. Powers

San Francisco Chronicle

"[Francis''s] sober, thoughtful, probing book also manages to provide great insight into the crucible that helped create the remarkable writer and no less remarkable woman who produced such an important piece of American fiction."—Martin Rubin, San Francisco Chronicle

— Martin Rubin

Boston Globe - Katherine A. Powers

"Excellent. . . . [Francis] is not only an historian but also a novelist with an astute and appreciative eye for mixed character."—Katherine A. Powers, Boston Globe
San Francisco Chronicle - Martin Rubin

"[Francis's] sober, thoughtful, probing book also manages to provide great insight into the crucible that helped create the remarkable writer and no less remarkable woman who produced such an important piece of American fiction."—Martin Rubin, San Francisco Chronicle
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300177909
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 10/25/2011
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 344
  • Sales rank: 1,150,130
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author


Richard Francis has taught at universities on both sides of the Atlantic and has previously written on Ann Lee, founder of the Shakers, and on the Salem witch trials. He is also a novelist.
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