Fruitlands, Harvard, Massachusetts
This day we left our little cottage home at Concord after a residence of three eventful years. During that period my May was born, my father died, Mr. Alcott went to England, returned with his friends Lane and Wright.
Mr. Lane, with my brother, purchases this estate, which I hope will prove a happy home. If we can collect about us true men and women, I know not why we may not live the true life, putting away the evil customs of society and leading quiet exemplary lives. Our labour for the present must be arduous, but there is much to strengthen our hearts and hands in the reflection that our pursuits are innocent and true, that no selfish purpose actuates us, that we are living for the good of others, and that though we may fail it will be some consolation that we have ventured what none others have dared.
Walked over our little territory of woodland, vale, meadow, and pasture. Hill, grove, forest—all beautiful, the hills commanding one of the most expansive prospects in the country. The Escutney, Wachusett, Monadnock, all visible from the same eminence. One is transported from his littleness and the soul expands in such a region of sights and sounds. Between us and this vast expanse we may hold our hand and stand alone, an isolated being occupying but a foot of earth and living but for ourselves; or we may look again, and a feeling of diffusive illimitable benevolence possesses us as we take in this vast region of hill and plain.
I gathered an apron of chips while the children collected flowers. Like provident Mother Earth I gathered for use, they for beauty. Both gave pleasure. It was very characteristic in me, and most natural in them.
Sunday , July 2
Readings as usual from 10 to 12 o’clock.
Mr. Alcott most beautifully and forcibly illustrated on the black board the sacrifices and utter subjection of the body to the Soul, showing the on which the lusts of the flesh are to be sacrificed.
Renunciation is the law; devotion to God’s will the Gospel. The latter makes the former easy, sometimes delightful.
Sam and family pass the day at Fruitlands.
I did not think so much curiosity could have existed among our friends to see our new home. Amongst the first who came here were:
Mr. Larned from Providence
Mr. Hecker from New York
Ellery Channing— ”
Mr. Willard— ”
S. J. May, Wife, and Children—Lexington
Mr. Orris—Oberlin College
Mrs. Gaskins—North Carolina
Mr. and Mrs. Ripley—West Roxbury
Mrs. Hay and Son—Philadelphia
Mr. Palmer and Son—Fitchburg
A busy toilsome month, somewhat relieved by the aid and presence of Miss Page, an amiable active woman whose kind word and gentle care-taking deed is very grateful to me.
Mr. Alcott and Lane visit Boston. Mr. A. returns quite ill. Continues quite feeble. Children have regular instruction from Mr. Lane, Miss Page, and their father when able, with sewing exercise with me.
Visited the Shakers. I gain but little from their domestic or internal arrangements. There is servitude somewhere, I have no doubt. There is a fat sleek comfortable look about the men, and among the women there is a stiff awkward reserve that belongs to neither sublime resignation nor divine hope.
Wherever I turn I see the yoke on woman in some form or other. On some it sits easy, for they are but beasts of burden. On others, pride hushes them to silence; no complaint is made, for they scorn pity or sympathy. On some it galls and chafes; they feel assured by every instinct of their nature that they were designed for a higher, nobler calling than to “drag life’s lengthening chain along.”
A woman may perform the most disinterested duties. She may “die daily” in the cause of truth and righteousness. She lives neglected, dies forgotten. But a man who never performed in his whole life one self-denying act, but who has accidental gifts of genius, is celebrated by his contemporaries, while his name and his works live on from age to age. He is crowned with laurel, while scarce a stone may tell where she lies.
Miss Page made a good remark, and true as good, that a woman may live a whole life of sacrifice, and at her death meekly says “I die a woman.” A man passes a few years in experiments in self-denial and simple life, and he says “Behold a God.”
There certainly is more true humility in woman, more substantial greatness in woman, more essential goodness, than in man. Woman lives her thought; man speculates about it. Woman’s love is enduring, changeless. Man is fitful in his attachments. His love is convenient, not of necessity. Woman is happy in her plain lawn. Man is better content in the royal purple.
Our situation here quite uncomfortable. Mr. Lane moody and enigmatical. We shall probably leave here as soon as we can see our way clear where and how to go.
Christmas. Interchanged little gifts with children. Had a little merry-making in the evening with the neighbour’s children.
Weather severe. Constant succession of snow-storms. My eyes have become quite troublesome. I have humoured the weakness by not using them much of evenings. Play with the children. Sing, and try to cheer the scene within to render the cheerlessness without more tolerable. We are completely blocked up. Our neighbour Lovejoy has twice broken a path for us, so that we are able to get the mail.
Mr. Alcott just returned from the Convention. Concluded to go to Mr. Lovejoy’s until Spring, having dissolved all connection with Fruitlands.
Mr. Lane leaves with William 10 for the Shakers at Harvard. We send a load of goods to Mr. L’s.
Take catalogue of books and pack them to await the first favorable opportunity for completing our removal.
The arrangements here have never suited me, and I am impatient to leave all behind and work out my way in some more simple mode of life. My duties have been arduous, but my satisfaction small. The family since our residence here has been variable and uninteresting. The care of Mr. Lane and William has been at times exceedingly arduous. My children have been too much bereft of their mother, and she has murmured at a lot which should deprive her of their society.
Removed this week from Fruitlands to our neighbour Lovejoy’s, taking three rooms and use of kitchen for fifty cents per week. We find ourselves quite comfortable for winter quarters.
Received this week from brother S. J. M. ten dollars. Also Mrs. Whiting paid me twelve for cloak, and Cousin M. D. M. sent ten for silver slice, which I regret parting with as it was a gift from my dear Miss Robie, but several calls for money without any visible means to answer them impelled me to part with it. I am sure she would not think hardly of me for it.
I have been driven to many of these straits during these last few years, but I hope we shall be settled soon to some mode of life which shall either be more independent of the aid of others or less irksome to ourselves.
Mr. Alcott cannot bring himself to work for gain; but we have not yet learned to live without money or means.
— The Journals of Bronson Alcott
Selected and edited by Odell Shepard
(Boston: Little Brown, 1938)