Brook Farm: Its Members, Scholars and Visitors. By LINDSAY SWIFT. New York: The Macmillan Co., 1900. Pp. viii-j-
THIS book treats of a subject with direct sociological bearings and interests, but is in no way a sociological treatise. "Inspired by a philosophical and speculative enthusiasm, Brook Farm began as an attempt to work modifications in social life. In this direct attempt it certainly ended in disaster. The visible fruits are intellectual, and of the men and women who contributed to the renown of Brook Farm as one of the true seeding-grounds of American letters it is the purpose of this book to speak, not critically or biographically, but rather from the personal side, and, in particular, as each person considered was affected by the associative life at Brook Farm." " The plan of Brook Farm as a sociological experiment will not be dealt with here," and, quoting a contemporary statement, "it is not a community, it is not truly an association ; it is merely an aggregation of persons." Aside from the second chapter, which does contain a short sketch of the characteristics of the organized life at Brook Farm, the book is entirely written from a biographical and literary standpoint. These biographies of the members and scholars and visitors contain much of skilled and interesting character-delineation, and we find statements descriptive of particular personal gifts which are expressed with such general and philosophical truth that they furnish high lights on the social man. In describing George Ripley as a sociological hero of exactly right temperament, the words form a righteous motto for all sociological research : " He could discern the truth with clearness, even when knowledge of the truth meant the loss of everything but courage and ideals." While the following bit of character is also a bit of general sociology : " He bore out the fact that only a gentleman can be a true democrat." Among the names thus chronicled are George William Curtis, George Ripley, Charles Dana, Hawthorne, Margaret Fuller, W. H. Channing, Emerson, Alcott, Theodore Parker, Elizabeth Peabody, and Horace Greeley. A good deal is also incidentally written of con- temporary sympathetic journalism, including the Dial, Present, the Harbinger, Spirit of the Age, and the Tribune.