Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday Transcendentalist Quote

Louisa May Alcott wasn't a Transcendentalist, but her father, Bronson Alcott, was. Her story "Eli's Education" is the way she imagined her father developed from farm boy to educated man. It was originally published in St Nicholas: a monthly magazine for boys and girls, which has been scanned by Google books.

The story begins with his self-education:

Many years ago, a boy of sixteen sat in a little room in an old farm-house up among the Connecticut hills, writing busily in a book made of odd bits of paper stitched together, with a cover formed of two thin boards. The lid of a blue chest was his desk, the end of a tallow candle stuck into a potato was his lamp, a mixture of soot and vinegar his ink, and a quill from the gray goose his pen. A Webster's Spelling-book, Dilivorth's New Guide to the English Tongue, Daboll's Arithmetic, and the American Preceptor, stood on the chimneypiece over his head, with the Assembly Catechism and New Testament in the place of honor. This was his library ; and now and then a borrowed Pilgrim's Progress, Fox's Book of Martyrs, or some stray volume, gladdened his heart; for he passionately loved books, and scoured the neighborhood for miles around to feed this steadily increasing hunger.

Young Eli goes through many trials and tribulations, but all ends well:

There his youth ends ; but after the years of teaching he began to preach at last, not in one pulpit, but in many all over the land, diffusing good thoughts now as he had peddled small wares when a boy ; still learning as he went, still loving books and studying mankind, still patient, pious, dutiful, and tender, a wise and beautiful old man, till at eighty, Eli's education ended.

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