P.J. Sullivan's Reviews > Paradise Planters, The Story Of Brook Farm

Paradise Planters, The Story Of Brook Farm by Katherine Burton
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Brook Farm was like other farms, with cows and horses and pigs, but in the evenings the farmers would gather in the main house to discuss philosophy, theology, ethics, religion, social justice, etc. Everything but farming. And why not? With Bronson Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Horace Greeley, Margaret Fuller, Theodore Parker, Orestes Brownson, William Ellery Channing, and sundry Transcendentalists hashing it out, the discussions got lively! The purpose of Brook Farm, according to cynic Thomas Carlyle, was "to reform the world by cultivating onions."

Nathaniel Hawthorne was a trustee, and a resident until he decided he could put his talents to better use than by "playing chambermaid to a group of cows." He would sit and watch people for hours, as if gathering material for a novel. It was called "The Blithedale Romance."

Emerson declined to join, but visited often and persuaded Henry David Thoreau to check it out. "They work too much," Thoreau decided. "Too much doing; not enough being." Bronson Alcott also declined to join; he believed in personal, not social, reform, and started his own community three miles away.

"It was a short and imperfect experiment," said George Bradford, but it had wide-ranging effects on American literature and thought. The noble attempts of the Brook Farmers and their eminent visitors to solve life's riddles make for a fascinating read.
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