The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Alcott, Amos Bronson

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Edition of 1879. See also Amos Bronson Alcott and Louisa May Alcott on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

ALCOTT, Amos Bronson, an American educator, born at Wolcott, Conn., Nov. 29, 1799. Like many farmers' sons in Connecticut, while still a boy, he was intrusted by a local trader with a trunk of merchandise, with which he sailed for Norfolk, Va., and which he afterward carried about among the plantations; and his early readings were in the planters' houses, who gave him hospitality, and, observing his turn for study, lent him books. On his return to Connecticut he began to teach, and attracted attention by his success with an infant school. He removed to Boston in 1828, and showed singular skill and sympathy in his methods of teaching young children of five, six, and seven years, at the “Masonic Temple.” (See “Record of a School,” by E. P. Peabody, 12mo, Boston, 1834; also, a transcript of the colloquies of these children with their teacher, in “Conversations on the Gospels,” 2 vols. 12mo, Boston, 1836.) But the school was in advance of public opinion, and was denounced by the newspapers. Mr. Alcott gave up the enterprise and removed to Concord, Mass., where he engaged in study, interesting himself chiefly in natural theology and reform in education, diet, and civil and social institutions. On the invitation of James P. Greaves of London, the friend and fellow laborer of Pestalozzi in Switzerland, Mr. Alcott went to England in 1842. Mr. Greaves died before his arrival, but Alcott was cordially received by his friends, who had given the name of “Alcott House” to their school at Ham, near London. On his return to America, he brought with him two of his English friends, Charles Lane and H. G. Wright; and Mr. Lane having bought a farm which he called “Fruitlands,” at Harvard, Mass., they all went there to found a new community. Messrs. Lane and Wright soon returned to England, and the farm was sold. Mr. Alcott removed to Boston, and afterward returned to Concord, and has led the life of a peripatetic philosopher, conversing in cities and in villages, wherever invited, on divinity, on human nature, on ethics, on dietetics, and a wide range of practical questions. These conversations, which were at first casual, gradually assumed a more formal character, the topics being often printed on cards, and the company meeting at a fixed time and place. Mr. Alcott attaches great importance to diet and government of the body; still more to race and complexion. Mr. Alcott contributed several papers entitled “Orphic Sayings” to the “Dial” (Boston, 1839-'42), and in 1868 published a volume entitled “Tablets.” His latest work, entitled “Concord Days” (1872), contains his personal reminiscences of that town. — Louisa May, an American authoress, daughter of the preceding, born at Germantown, Penn., in 1833. She began to write fairy tales in her teens, and her first volume, “Flower Fables,” was published in 1855; it was followed by a number of stories written for the Boston journals. Her “Hospital Sketches” (1863), which won for her a general reputation, were made up from letters written home while she was a volunteer nurse in the army at the south. She became a contributor to the “Atlantic Monthly” in 1863-'4, and in 1865 published her first novel, “Moods.” She wrote “Little Women,” the most popular perhaps of all her works, in 1867. This was succeeded by “An Old-Fashioned Girl” in 1869, and by “Little Men” in 1871.