Early Letters of George Wm. Curtis
283 Pages
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Early Letters of George Wm. Curtis

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The Project Gutenberg EBook of Early Letters of George Wm. Curtis by G. W. Curtis, ed. George Willis CookeCopyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloadingor redistributing this or any other Project Gutenberg eBook.This header should be the first thing seen when viewing this Project Gutenberg file. Please do not remove it. Do notchange or edit the header without written permission.Please read the "legal small print," and other information about the eBook and Project Gutenberg at the bottom of thisfile. Included is important information about your specific rights and restrictions in how the file may be used. You can alsofind out about how to make a donation to Project Gutenberg, and how to get involved.**Welcome To The World of Free Plain Vanilla Electronic Texts****eBooks Readable By Both Humans and By Computers, Since 1971*******These eBooks Were Prepared By Thousands of Volunteers!*****Title: Early Letters of George Wm. CurtisAuthor: G. W. Curtis, ed. George Willis CookeRelease Date: June, 2005 [EBook #8222] [Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule] [This file was first postedon July 3, 2003]Edition: 10Language: English*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK EARLY LETTERS OF GEORGE WM. CURTIS ***Produced by Eric Eldred, Beth Trapaga and the Online Distributed Proofreading TeamEARLY LETTERS OF GEORGE WM. CURTISTOJOHN S. DWIGHT:Brook Farm and ConcordEdited byGeorge ...

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The Project Gutenberg EBook of Early Letters of
George Wm. Curtis by G. W. Curtis, ed. George
Willis Cooke
Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be
sure to check the copyright laws for your country
before downloading or redistributing this or any
other Project Gutenberg eBook.
This header should be the first thing seen when
viewing this Project Gutenberg file. Please do not
remove it. Do not change or edit the header
without written permission.
Please read the "legal small print," and other
information about the eBook and Project
Gutenberg at the bottom of this file. Included is
important information about your specific rights and
restrictions in how the file may be used. You can
also find out about how to make a donation to
Project Gutenberg, and how to get involved.
**Welcome To The World of Free Plain Vanilla
Electronic Texts**
**eBooks Readable By Both Humans and By
Computers, Since 1971**
*****These eBooks Were Prepared By Thousands
of Volunteers!*****
Title: Early Letters of George Wm. CurtisAuthor: G. W. Curtis, ed. George Willis Cooke
Release Date: June, 2005 [EBook #8222] [Yes, we
are more than one year ahead of schedule] [This
file was first posted on July 3, 2003]
Edition: 10
Language: English
*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG
EBOOK EARLY LETTERS OF GEORGE WM.
CURTIS ***
Produced by Eric Eldred, Beth Trapaga and the
Online Distributed Proofreading TeamEARLY LETTERS OF GEORGE
WM. CURTIS
TO
JOHN S. DWIGHT:
Brook Farm and Concord
Edited by
George Willis CookeCONTENTS
EARLY LIFE AT BROOK FARM AND CONCORD
EARLY LETTERS TO JOHN S. DWIGHT
LETTERS OF LATER DATEEARLY LIFE AT BROOK FARM
AND CONCORD
George William Curtis was born in Providence,
February 24, 1824. From the age of six to eleven
he was in the school of C.W. Greene at Jamaica
Plain, and then, until he was fifteen, attended
school in Providence. His brother Burrill, two years
older, was his inseparable companion, and they
were strongly attached to each other. About 1835
Curtis came under the influence of Ralph Waldo
Emerson, who was heard by him in Providence,
and who commanded his boyish admiration. Burrill
Curtis has said of this interest of himself and his
brother that it proved to be the cardinal event of
their youth; and what this experience was he has
described.
"I still recall," he says, "the impressions produced
by Emerson's delivery of his address on 'The Over-
Soul' in Mr. Hartshorn's school-room in Providence.
He seemed to speak as an inhabitant of heaven,
and with the inspiration and authority of a prophet.
Although a large part of the matter of that
discourse, when reduced to its lowest terms, does
not greatly differ from the commonplaces of piety
and religion, yet its form and its tone were so fresh
and vivid that they made the matter also seem to
be uttered for the first time, and to be a direct
outcome from the inmost source of the highest
truth. We heard Emerson lecture frequently, andmade his personal acquaintance. My enthusiastic
admiration of him and his writings soon mounted to
a high and intense hero-worship, which, when it
subsided, seems to have left me ever since
incapable of attaching myself as a follower to any
other man. How far George shared such feelings, if
at all, I cannot precisely say; but he so far shared
my enthusiastic admiration as to be led a willing
captive to Emerson's attractions, and to the
incidental attractions of the movement of which he
was the head; and Emerson always continued to
command from us both the sincerest reverence
and homage."
Burrill went so far as to discontinue the use of
money and animal food; both the brothers
discarded the conventional costumes in matters of
dress, and their interest was enlisted in the reforms
of the day. The family removed to New York in
1839, George studied at home with tutors, and was
an attendant at the church of Dr. Orville Dewey.
I
The warm and active interest of the brothers in the
Transcendental movement, in all its phases, led
them to propose to their father that he permit them
to attend the school connected with the Brook
Farm Association. Permission having been
granted, they became boarders there in the spring
or summer of 1842. At no time were they members
of the association, and they paid for their board
and tuition as they would have done at anyseminary or college.
At this time the Brook Farm Association had two
sources of income—the farm of about two hundred
acres, and the school which was carried on in
connection therewith. In fact, the school was more
largely profitable than the farm, and was for a time
well patronized by those who were in general
sympathy with the leaders of the association.
George Ripley was the teacher in philosophy and
mathematics, George P. Bradford in literature,
John S. Dwight in Latin and music, Charles A.
Dana in Greek and German, and John S. Brown in
theoretical and practical agriculture. A six years'
course was arranged in preparation for college,
and three years were given to acquiring a
knowledge of farming. The pupils were required to
work one hour each day, the idea being that this
was conducive to sound intellectual training.
It would seem, however, that Curtis gave only a
part of his time to study, as is indicated in a letter
written to his father in June, 1843, and published in
the admirable biography by Mr. Edward Gary. "My
life is summery enough here," he writes. "We
breakfast at six, and from seven to twelve I am at
work. After dinner, these fair days permit no
homage but to their beauty, and I am fain to woo
their smiles in the shades and sunlights of the
woods. A festal life for one before whom the great
stretches which must be sailed; yet this summer air
teaches sea life-navigation, and I listen to the
flowing streams, and to the cool rush of the winds
among the trees, with an increase of that hopewhich is the only pole-star of life."
At Brook Farm, Curtis studied Greek, German,
music, and agriculture. The teaching was of the
best, as good as could have been had in any
college of the country at that time, and was
thorough and efficient. Much more of freedom was
allowed the students than was usual elsewhere,
both as to conditions of study and recitation, and
as to the relations of the pupils to the instructors.
The young people in the school were treated as
friends and companions by their teachers; but this
familiarity did not breed contempt for the
instructors or indifference to the work of the
school. On the other hand, it secured an unusual
degree of enthusiasm both for the teachers and for
the subjects pursued. The work of the school went
on with somewhat less of system than is thought
desirable in most places of instruction; but in this
instance the results justified the methods pursued.
The teachers were such as could command
success by their personal qualities and by their
enthusiastic devotion to their work.
The two years spent at Brook Farm formed an
important episode in the life of George William
Curtis. It is evident that he did not surrender
himself to the associationist idea, even when he
was a boarder at Brook Farm and a member of its
school. He loved the men and women who were at
the head of the community; he found the life
attractive and genial, the atmosphere was
conducive to his intellectual and spiritual
development; but he did not surrender himself tothe idea that the world can be reformed in that
manner. In a degree he was a curious looker-on;
and in a still larger way he was a sympathetic, but
not convinced, friend and well-wisher. If not a
member, he retained throughout life his interest in
this experiment, and remembered with delight the
years he spent there. He more than once spoke in
enthusiastic terms of Brook Farm, and gave its
theories and its practice a sympathetic
interpretation. In one of his "Easy Chair" essays of
1869 he described the best side of its life:
"There is always a certain amount of oddity latent
in society which rushes to such an enterprise as a
natural vent; and in youth itself there is a similar
latent and boundless protest against the friction
and apparent unreason of the existing order. At the
time of the Brook Farm enterprise this was
everywhere observable. The freedom of the
antislavery reform and its discussions had
developed the 'come-outers,' who bore testimony
in all times and places against church and state.
Mr. Emerson mentions an apostle of the gospel of
love and no money who preached zealously but
never gathered a large church of believers. Then
there were the protestants against the sin of flesh-
eating, refining into curious metaphysics upon milk,
eggs, and oysters. To purloin milk from the udder
was to injure the maternal affections of the cow; to
eat eggs was Feejee cannibalism and the
destruction of the tender germ of life, to swallow an
oyster was to mask murder. A still selecter circle
denounced the chains that shackled the tongue
and the false delicacy that clothed the body.