Whilst Mr. Sparks visits England to explore the manuscripts of the Colonial Office, and Dr. Waagen on a mission of Art, Mr. Alcott, whose genius and efforts in the great art of Education have been more appreciated in England than in America, has now been spending some months in that country, with the aim to confer with the most eminent Educators and philanthropists, in the hope to exchange intelligence, and import into this country whatever hints have been struck out there, on the subject of literature and the First Philosophy. The design was worthy, and its first results have already reached us. Mr. Alcott was received with great cordiality of joy and respect by his friends in London, and presently found himself domesticated at an institution, managed on his own methods and called after his name, the School of Mr. Wright at Alcott House, Ham, Surrey. He was introduced to many men of literary and philanthropic distinction, and his arrival was made the occasion of meetings for public conversation on the great ethical questions of the day.
Mr. Alcott's mission, beside making us acquainted with the character and labors of some excellent persons, has loaded our table with a pile of English books, pamphlets, periodicals, flying prospectuses, and advertisements, proceeding from a class very little known in this country, and on many accounts important, the party, namely, who represent Social Reform. Here are Educational Circulars, and Communist Apostles; Alists; Plans for Syncretic Associations, and Pestalozzian Societies, Self-supporting Institutions, Experimental Normal Schools, Hydropathic and Philosophical Associations, Health Unions and Phalansterian Gazettes, Paradises within the reach of all men, Appeals of Man to Woman, and Necessities of Internal Marriage illustrated by Phrenological Diagrams. These papers have many sins to answer for. There is an abundance of superficialness, of pedantry, of inflation, and of want of thought. It seems as if these sanguine schemers rushed to the press with every notion that danced before their brain, and clothed it in the most clumsily compounded and terminated words, for want of time to find the right one. But although these men sometimes use a swollen and vicious diction, yet they write to ends which raise them out of the jurisdiction of ordinary criticism. They speak to the conscience, and have that superiority over the crowd of their contemporaries, which belongs to men who entertain a good hope. Moreover, these pamphlets may well engage the attention of the politician, as straws of no mean significance to show the tendencies of the time.
Mr. Alcott's visit has brought us nearer to a class of Englishmen, with whom we had already some slight but friendly correspondence, who possess points of so much attraction for us, that we shall proceed to give a short account both of what we already knew, and what we have lately learned, concerning them. The central figure in the group is a very remarkable person, who for many years, though living in great retirement, has made himself felt by many of the best and ablest men in England and in Europe, we mean James Pierrepont Greaves, who died at Alcott-House in the month of March of this year. Mr. Greaves was formerly a wealthy merchant in the city of London, but was deprived of his property by French spoliations in Napoleon's time. Quitting business, he travelled and resided for some time in Germany. His leisure was given to books of the deepest character; and in Switzerland he found a brother in Pestalozzi. With him he remained ten years, living abstemiously, almost on biscuit and water; and though they never learned each the other's language, their daily intercourse appears to have been of the deepest and happiest kind. Mr. Greaves there made himself useful in a variety of ways. Pestalozzi declared that Mr. Greaves understood his aim and methods better than any other observer. And he there became acquainted with some eminent persons. Mr. Greaves on his return to England introduced as much as he could of the method and life, whose beautiful and successful operations he had witnessed; and although almost all that he did was misunderstood, or dragged downwards, he has been a chief instrument in the regeneration in the British schools. For a single and unknown individual his influence has been extensive. He set on foot Infant Schools, and was for many years Secretary to the Infant School Society, which office brought him in contact with many parties, and he has connected himself with almost every effort for human emancipation. In this work he was engaged up to the time of his death. His long and active career developed his own faculties and powers in a wonderful manner. At his house, No. 49 Burton Street, London, he was surrounded by men of open and accomplished minds, and his doors were thrown open weekly for meetings for the discussion of universal subjects. In the last years he has resided at Cheltenham, and visited Stockport for the sake of acquainting himself with the Socialists and their methods.
His active and happy career continued nearly to the seventieth year, with heart and head unimpaired and undaunted, his eyes and other faculties sound, except his lower limbs, which suffered from his sedentary occupation of writing. For nearly thirty-six years he abstained from all fermented drinks, and all animal food. In the last years he dieted almost wholly on fruit. The private correspondent, from whose account, written two years ago, we have derived our sketch, proceeds in these words. "Through evil reports, revilings, seductions, and temptations many and severe, the Spirit has not let him go, but has strongly and securely held him, in a manner not often witnessed. New consciousness opens to him every day. His literary abilities would not be by critics entitled to praise, nor does he speak with what is called eloquence; but as he is so much the 'lived word,' I have described, there is found a potency in all he writes and all he says, which belongs not to beings less devoted to the Spirit. Supplies of money have come to him as fast, or nearly as fast as required, and at all events his serenity was never disturbed on this account, unless when it has happened that, having more than his expenses required, he has volunteered extraneous expenditures. He has been, I consider, a great apostle of the Newness to many, even when neither he nor they knew very clearly what was going forward. Thus inwardly married, he has remained outwardly a bachelor."
Mr. Greaves is described to us by another correspondent as being "the soul of his circle, a prophet of whom the world heard nothing, but who has quickened much of the thought now current in the most intellectual circles of the kingdom. He was acquainted with every man of deep character in England, and many both in Germany and Switzerland; and Strauss, the author of the 'Life of Christ,' was a pupil of Mr. Greaves, when he held conversations in one of the Colleges of Germany, after leaving Pestalozzi. A most remarkable man; nobody remained the same after leaving him. He was the prophet of the deepest affirmative truths, and no man ever sounded his depths. The best of the thought in the London Monthly Magazine was the transcript of his Idea. He read and wrote much, chiefly in the manner of Coleridge, with pen in hand, in the form of notes on the text of his author. But, like Boehmen and Swedenborg, neither his thoughts nor his writings were for the popular mind. His favorites were the chosen illuminated minds of all time, and with them he was familiar. His library is the most select and rare which I have seen, including most of the books which we have sought with so ill success on our side of the water." (*1)
His favorite dogma was the superiority of Being to all knowing and doing. Association on a high basis was his ideal for the present conjuncture. "I hear every one crying out for association," said he; "I join in the cry; but then I say, associate first with the Spirit, ― educate for this spirit-association, and far more will follow than we have as yet any idea of. Nothing good can be done without association; but then we must associate with goodness; and this goodness is the spirit-nature, without which all our societarian efforts will be turned to corruption. Education has hitherto been all outward; it must now be inward. The educator must keep in view that which elevates man, and not the visible exterior world." We have the promise of some extracts from the writings of this great man, which we hope shortly to offer to the readers of this Journal. His friend, Mr. Lane, is engaged in arranging and editing his manuscript remains.
Mr. Heraud, a poet and journalist, chiefly known in this country as the editor for two years of the (London) Monthly Magazine, a disciple, in earlier years, of Coleridge, and by nature and taste contemplative and inclined to a mystical philosophy, was a friend and associate of Mr. Greaves; and for the last years has been more conspicuous than any other writer in that connexion of opinion. The Monthly Magazine, during his editorship, really was conducted in a bolder and more creative spirit than any other British Journal; and though papers on the highest transcendental themes were found in odd vicinity with the lowest class of flash and so-called comic tales, yet a necessity, we suppose, of British taste made these strange bed-fellows acquainted, and Mr. Heraud had done what he could. His papers called "Foreign Aids to Self Intelligence," were of signal merit, especially the papers on Boehmen and Swedenborg. The last is, we think, the very first adequate attempt to do justice to this mystic, by an analysis of his total works; and, though avowedly imperfect, is, as far as it goes, a faithful piece of criticism. We hope that Mr. Heraud, who announces a work in three volumes, called "Foreign Aids to Self Intelligence, designed for an Historical Introduction to the Study of Ontological Science, preparatory to a Critique of Pure Being," as now in preparation for the press, and of which, we understand, the Essays in the Monthly Magazine were a part, will be enabled to fulfil his design. Mr. Heraud is described by his friends as the most amiable of men, and a fluent and popular lecturer on the affirmative philosophy. He has recently intimated a wish to cross the Atlantic, and read in Boston, a course of six lectures on the subject of Christism as distinct from Christianity.
One of the best contributors to Mr. Heraud's Magazine was Mr. J. Westland Marston. The papers marked with his initials are the most eloquent in the book. We have greatly regretted their discontinuance, and have hailed him again in his new appearance as a dramatic author. Mr. Marston is a writer of singular purity of taste, with a heart very open to the moral impulses, and in his settled conviction, like all persons of a high poetic nature, the friend of a universal reform, beginning in education. His thought on that subject is, that "it is only by teachers becoming men of genius, that a nobler position can be secured to them." At the same time he seems to share that disgust, which men of fine taste so quickly entertain in regard to the language and methods of that class with which their theory throws them into correspondence, and to be continually attracted through his taste to the manners and persons of the aristocracy, whose selfishness and frivolity displease and repel him again. Mr. Marston has lately written a Tragedy, called "The Patrician's Daughter," which we have read with great pleasure, barring always the fatal prescription, which in England seems to mislead every fine poet to attempt the drama. It must be the reading of tragedies that fills them with this superstition for the buskin and the pall, and not a sympathy with existing nature and the spirit of the age. The Patrician's Daughter is modern in its plot and characters, perfectly simple in its style; the dialogue is full of spirit, and the story extremely well told. We confess, as we drew out this bright pamphlet from amid the heap of crude declamation on Marriage and Education, on Dietetics and Hydropathy, on Chartism and Socialism, grim tracts on flesh-eating and dram-drinking, we felt the glad refreshment of its sense and melody, and thanked the fine office which speaks to the imagination, and paints with electric pencil a new form, ― new forms on the lurid cloud. Although the vengeance of Mordaunt strikes us as overstrained, yet his character, and the growth of his fortunes is very natural, and is familiar to English experience in the Thurlows, Burkes, Foxes, and Cannings. The Lady Mabel is finely drawn. Pity that the catastrophe should be wrought by the deliberate lie of Lady Lydia; for beside that lovers, as they of all men speak the most direct speech, easily pierce the cobwebs of fraud, it is a weak way of making a play, to hinge the crisis on a lie, instead of letting it grow, as in life, out of the faults and conditions of the parties, as, for example, in Goethe's Tasso. On all accounts but one, namely, the lapse of five years between two acts, the play seems to be eminently fit for representation. Mr. Marston is also the author of two tracts on Poetry and Poetic Culture.
Another member of this circle is Francis Barham, the dramatic poet, author of "The Death of Socrates," a tragedy, and other pieces; also a contributor to the Monthly Magazine. To this gentleman we are under special obligations, as he has sent us, with other pamphlets, a manuscript paper "On American Literature," written with such flowing good will, and with an aim so high, that we must submit some portion of it to our readers.
Mr. Barham proceeds to apply this sentiment as analogous to his own sentiment, in respect to the literatures of other nations, but specially to that of America.
Mr. Barham proceeds to exhibit the manifold reasons that enjoin union on the two countries, deprecates the divisions that have sometimes suspended the peace, and continues;
Mr. Barham then proceeds to express his conviction, that the specific character, which the literature of these countries should aim at, is the Alistic or Divine. It is only by an aim so high, that an author can reach any excellence.
But our limits forbid any more extracts from this friendly manuscript at present.
Another eminent member of this circle is Mr. Charles Lane, for many years manager of the London Mercantile Price Current; a man of a fine intellectual nature, inspired and hallowed by a profounder faith. Mr. Lane is the author of some pieces marked with his initials, in the Monthly Magazine, and of some remarkable tracts. Those which we have seen are, "The Old, the New-Old, and the New;" "Tone in Speech;" some papers in a Journal of Health; and last and best, a piece called "The Third Dispensation," prefixed by way of preface to an English translation of Mme. Gatti de Gamond's "Phalansterian," a French book of the Fourier School. In this Essay Mr. Lane considers that History has exhibited two dispensations, namely, first, the Family Union, or connexion by tribes, which soon appeared to be a disunion or a dispersive principle; second, the National Union. Both these, though better than the barbarism which they displaced, are themselves barbarism, in contrast with the third, or Universal Union.
"As man is the uniter in all arrangements which stand below him, and in which the objects could not unite themselves, so man needs a uniter above him, to whom he submits, in the certain incapability of self-union. This uniter, unity, or One, is the premonitor whence exists the premonition Unity, which so recurrently becomes conscious in man. By a neglect of interior submission, man fails of this antecedent, Unity; and as a consequence his attempts at union by exterior mastery have no success." Certain conditions are necessary to this, namely, the external arrangements indispensable for the evolution of the Uniting Spirit can alone be provided by the Uniting Spirit.
The remedy, which Mr. Lane proposes for the existing evils, is his "True Harmonic Association." But he more justly confides in "ceasing from doing" than in exhausting efforts at inadequate remedies. "From medicine to medicine is a change from disease to disease; and man must cease from self-activity, ere the spirit can fill him with truth in mind or health in body. The Civilization is become intensely false, and thrusts the human being into false predicaments. The antagonism of business to all that is high and good and generic is hourly declared by the successful, as well as by the failing. The mercantile system, based on individual aggrandizement, draws men from unity; its swelling columns of figures describe, in pounds, shillings, and pence, the degrees of man's departure from love, from wisdom, from power. The idle are as unhappy as the busy. Whether the dread factory-bell, or the fox-hunter's horn calls to a pursuit more fatal to man's best interests, is an inquiry which appears more likely to terminate in the cessation of both, than in a preference of either."
Mr. Lane does not confound society with sociableness. "On the contrary, it is when the sympathy with man is the stronger and the truer, that the sympathy with men grows weaker, and the sympathy with their actions weakest."
We must content ourselves with these few sentences from Mr. Lane's book, but we shall shortly hear from him again. This is no man of letters, but a man of ideas. Deep opens below deep in his thought, and for the solution of each new problem he recurs, with new success, to the highest truth, to that which is most generous, most simple, and most powerful; to that which cannot be comprehended, or overseen, or exhausted. His words come to us like the voices of home out of a far country.
With Mr. Lane is associated in the editorship of a monthly tract, called "The Healthian," and in other kindred enterprises, Mr. Henry G. Wright, who is the teacher of the School at Ham Common, near Richmond, and the author of several tracts on moral and social topics.
This school is founded on a faith in the presence of the Divine Spirit in man. The teachers say, "that in their first experiments they found they had to deal with a higher nature than the mere mechanical. They found themselves in contact with an essence indefinably delicate. The great difficulty with relation to the children, with which they were first called to wrestle, was an unwillingness to admit access to their spiritual natures. The teachers felt this keenly. They sought for the cause. They found it in their own hearts. Pure spirit would not, could not hold communion with their corrupted modes. These must be surrendered, and love substituted in lieu of them. The experience was soon made that the primal duty of the educator is entire self-surrender to love. Not partial, not of the individual, but pure, unlimited, universal. It is impossible to speak to natures deeper than those from which you speak. Reason cries to Reason, Love to Love. Hence the personal elevation of the teacher is of supreme importance." Mr. Alcott, who may easily be a little partial to an instructor who has adopted cordially his own methods, writes thus of his friend.
In consequence of Mr. Greaves's persuasion, which seems to be shared by his friends, that the special remedy for the evils of society at the present moment is association; perhaps from a more universal tendency, which has drawn in many of the best minds in this country also to accuse the idealism, which contents itself with the history of the private mind, and to demand of every thinker the warmest dedication to the race, this class of which we speak are obviously inclined to favor the plans of the Socialists. They appear to be in active literary and practical connexion with Mr. Doherty, the intelligent and catholic editor of the London Phalanx, who is described to us as having been a personal friend of Fourier, and himself a man of sanguine temper, but a friend of temperate measures, and willing to carry his points with wise moderation, on one side; and in friendly relations with Robert Owen, "the philanthropist, 'who writes in brick and clay, in gardens and green fields,' who is a believer in the comforts and humanities of life, and would give these in abundance to all men," although they are widely distinguished from this last in their devout spiritualism. Many of the papers on our table contain schemes and hints for a better social organization, especially the plan of what they call "a Concordium, or a Primitive Home, which is about to be commenced by united individuals, who are desirous, under industrial and progressive education, with simplicity in diet, dress, lodging, &c., to retain the means for the harmonic development of their physical, intellectual, and moral natures." The institution is to be in the country, the inmates are to be of both sexes, they are to labor on the land, their drink is to be water, and their food chiefly uncooked by fire, and the habits of the members throughout of the same simplicity. Their unity is to be based on their education in a religious love, which subordinates all persons, and perpetually invokes the presence of the spirit in every transaction. It is through this tendency that these gentlemen have been drawn into fellowship with a humbler, but far larger class of their countrymen, of whom Goodwyn Barmby may stand for the representative.
Mr. Barmby is the editor of a penny magazine, called "The Promethean, or Communitarian Apostle," published monthly, and, as the covers inform us, "the cheapest of all magazines, and the paper the most devoted of any to the cause of the people; consecrated to Pantheism in Religion, and Communism in Politics." Mr. Barmby is a sort of Camille Desmoulins of British Revolution, a radical poet, with too little fear of grammar and rhetoric before his eyes, with as little fear of the Church or the State, writing often with as much fire, though not with as much correctness, as Ebenezer Elliott. He is the author of a poem called "The European Pariah," which will compare favorably with the Corn-law Rhymes. His paper is of great interest, as it details the conventions, the counsels, the measures of Barmby and his friends, for the organization of a new order of things, totally at war with the establishment. Its importance arises from the fact, that it comes obviously from the heart of the people. It is a cry of the miner and weaver for bread, for daylight, and fresh air, for space to exist in, and time to catch their breath and rest themselves in; a demand for political suffrage, and the power to tax as a counterpart to the liability of being taxed; a demand for leisure, for learning, for arts and sciences, for the higher social enjoyments. It is one of a cloud of pamphlets in the same temper and from the same quarter, which show a wholly new state of feeling in the body of the British people. In a time of distress among the manufacturing classes, severe beyond any precedent, when, according to the statements vouched by Lord Brougham in the House of Peers, and Mr. O'Connell and others in the Commons, wages are reduced in some of the manufacturing villages to six pence a week, so that men are forced to sustain themselves and their families at less than a penny a day; when the most revolting expedients are resorted to for food; when families attempt by a recumbent posture to diminish the pangs of hunger; in the midst of this exasperation the voice of the people is temperate and wise beyond all former example. They are intent on personal as well as on national reforms. Jack Cade leaves behind him his bludgeon and torch, and is grown amiable, literary, philosophical, and mystical. He reads Fourier, he reads Shelley, he reads Milton. He goes for temperance, for non-resistance, for education, and for the love-marriage, with the two poets above named; and for association, after the doctrines either of Owen or of Fourier. One of the most remarkable of the tracts before us is "A Plan for the Education and Improvement of the People, addressed to the Working Classes of the United Kingdom; written in Warwick Gaol, by William Lovett, cabinet-maker, and John Collins, tool-maker," which is a calm, intelligent, and earnest plea for a new organization of the people, for the highest social and personal benefits, urging the claims of general education, of the Infant School, the Normal School, and so forth; announcing rights, but with equal emphasis admitting duties. And Mr. Barmby, whilst he attacks with great spirit and great contempt the conventions of society, is a worshipper of love and of beauty, and vindicates the arts. "The apostleship of veritable doctrine," he says, "in the fine arts is a really religious Apostolate, as the fine arts in their perfect manifestation tend to make mankind virtuous and happy."
It will give the reader some precise information of the views of the most devout and intelligent persons in the company we have described, if we add an account of a public conversation which occurred during the last summer. In the (London) Morning Chronicle, of 5 July, we find the following advertisement. "Public Invitation. An open meeting of the friends to human progress will be held to-morrow, July 6, at Mr. Wright's Alcott-House School, Ham Common, near Richmond, Surrey, for the purpose of considering and adopting means for the promotion of the great end, when all who are interested in human destiny are earnestly urged to attend. The chair taken at Three o'clock and again at Seven, by A. Bronson Alcott, Esq., now on a visit from America. Omnibuses travel to and fro, and the Richmond steam-boat reaches at a convenient hour."
Of this conference a private correspondent has furnished us with the following report.
(*1) The following notice of Mr. Greaves occurs in Mr. Morgan's "Hampden in the Nineteenth Century." "The gentleman whom he met at the school was Mr. J. P. Greaves, at that time Honorary Secretary to the Infant School Society, and a most active and disinterested promoter of the system. He had resided for three (?) years with Pestalozzi, who set greater value upon right feelings and rectitude of conduct, than upon the acquisition of languages. A collection of highly interesting letters, addressed to this gentleman by Pestalozzi on the subject of education, has been published. Among the numerous advocates for various improvements, there was not one who exceeded him in personal sacrifices to what he esteemed a duty. At the same time he had some peculiar opinions, resembling the German mystical and metaphysical speculations, hard to be understood, and to which few in general are willing to listen, and still fewer to subscribe; but his sincerity, and the kindness of his disposition always secured for him a patient hearing." ― Vol. II. p. 22. [return]
(*2) In explanation of this term, we quote a few sentences from a printed prospectus issued by Mr. Barham. "The Alist_; a Monthly Magazine of Divinity and Universal Literature. I have adopted the title of 'the Alist, or Divine,' for this periodical, because the extension of Divinity and divine truth is its main object. It appears to me, that by a firm adherence to the [to Theion], or divine principle of things, a Magazine may assume a specific character, far more elevated, catholic, and attractive, than the majority of periodicals attain. This Magazine is therefore specially written for those persons who may, without impropriety, be termed Alists, or Divines; those who endeavor to develop Divinity as the grand primary essence of all existence, ― the element which forms the all in all, ― the element in which we live, and move, and have our being. Such Alists, (deriving their name from Alah ― the Hebrew title of God,) are Divines in the highest sense of the word; for they cultivate Alism, or the Divinity of Divinities, as exhibited in all Scripture and nature, and they extend religious and philanthropical influences through all churches, states, and systems of education. This doctrine of Alism, or the life of God in the soul of man, affords the only prothetic point of union, sufficiently intense and authoritative to unite men in absolute catholicity. In proportion as they cultivate one and the same God in their minds, will their minds necessarily unite and harmonize; but without this is done, permanent harmony is impossible." [return]