American Transcendentalism, 1830-1860: An Intellectual Inquiry

American Transcendentalism, 1830-1860: An Intellectual Inquiry

American Transcendentalism, 1830-1860: An Intellectual Inquiry

American Transcendentalism, 1830-1860: An Intellectual Inquiry

Excerpt

In the fall of 1836, the Transcendental Club held its first meeting at George Ripley's home in Boston, met irregularly for the next three or four years at various places, and then dropped out of existence. Some people thought it was typically transcendental: without constitution, dues, chairman, officers, regular members, or settled time and place of meeting, and given to airy speculations. It didn't even have a name at first. Some members called it the "Symposium" in honor of Plato; others referred to it as "Hedge's Club" because it tended to meet whenever Frederic Henry Hedge, Bangor minister, came down from Maine to visit Boston. But outsiders, amused by hand somewhat disdainful of) the elevated discussions that took place whenever the group assembled, started calling it the Transcendental Club and the name stuck. When the story got out that someone had asked Bronson Alcott at one meeting whether "omnipotence abnegates attributes," critics were convinced that the name was entirely appropriate.

Alcott, with Ralph Waldo Emerson one of the club's most faithful members, described it as "a company of earnest persons enjoying conversations on high themes and having much in common." At the second meeting, in Alcott's house, the discussion centered on a topic pro-

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