The New International Encyclopædia/Alcott, Amos Bronson

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ALCOTT, a̤l'kŭt, Amos Bronson (1799-1888). An American educational reformer, conversationalist, and transcendental philosopher. He was born at Wolcott, Conn., November 29, 1799, and died in Boston, March 4, 1888. He was the son of a farmer, and his first experience of life was gained as a peddler in the South. In 1828 he became an educational reformer and established in Boston a school, in which he attracted much attention by the novelty of his methods. Of this there is a very attractive account by Elizabeth Peabody (Record of a School, 1834; third edition, 1874). His method was largely conversational, and a transcript of his talks appeared in 1836 as Conversations with Children on the Gospels. Ways that would now seem more commendable than noteworthy then met with bitter denunciation, so that Alcott abandoned his school, moved to Concord, and sought to disseminate his views on theology, education, society, civics, and vegetarianism through lectures, winning attention by his originality and graceful speech. In 1842 he visited England and returned with two friends, one of whom bought an estate near Harvard, Mass., where they endeavored to found a community, “Fruitlands,” which speedily failed. Alcott then went to Boston, and thence to Concord, leading the life of a peripatetic philosopher, and giving “conversations,” which found increasing favor, especially in the West. In later years his manner became more formal and his always nebulous teaching apparently more orthodox. Besides frequent contributions of “Orphic Sayings” to the Transcendental organ, The Dial, he published fragments from his voluminous diary, Tablets (1868); Concord Days (1872); Table Talk (1877); Sonnets and Canzonets (1877), and also New Connecticut (1881), and an Essay on Ralph Waldo Emerson, His Character and Genius (1882). For his biography, consult Sanborn and Harris, Life (Boston, 1893); also Lowell's contemporary criticism, in A Fable for Critics (New York, 1848), and A Study from Two Heads, in the Poems.