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In A Brown Study, 10

July 3, 2016

Independence Day, and we are reminded of the quest for freedom, liberty, and the search for meaningful and stress-free lives; a never ending search beginning the day Adam and Eve left Paradise. In 1842 Nathaniel Hawthorne bought a $500 share in Brook farm, a communal living establishment eight miles from Boston.

George Ripley (1802-1880), a Unitarian Minister, purchased Brook Farm, hoping to live the ideals of Transcendentalism. Ripley believed a society in which men lived and worked together would not corrupt the purity of the individual.

Ripley sold ten shares to ten individuals, forming a small joint stock company. The project grew to 32 ‘farmers’ who could pay $500 to participate. Owners were promised a portion of the profits to live there and share the work. They envisioned a balance of shared labor and leisure, and perhaps did not anticipate the difficulties they would encounter in farming the New England soil.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, a Transcendentalist himself, considered the investment but failed to join. Later he wrote, “…one man plows all day and the other looks out the window, and both at the end of the day receive the same wages.”

Hawthorne held several offices at Brook Farm, including treasurer, but he found the manual labor about the farm unappealing. While living there he complained, “I have no quiet at all, and my hands are covered with blisters.” When his Dove visited Brook Farm, she did not think her health would permit her to live there.  Hawthorne resigned from the project in 1842, writing, “Thank heaven my soul was not utterly buried under a dung heap.” He sued to get his money back.

Hawthorne used his experiences at Brook Farm in his novel, The Blithedale Romance. In that novel a writer visits the farm, discovering that farm work is not conducive to intellectual activity.

After several misfortunes including a fire, the farm closed in 1846 with a total debt of $17,445, which was not paid off until 1882. George Ripley went to New York where he became a writer, critic, and editor accumulating a fortune of $1.5 million dollars before he died in 1880. Like Hawthorne, a remarkable scholar and educated man, Ripley was never created to be a ‘gentleman farmer’.

As we continue to search for Utopia, the perfect society always eludes us. So sorry, Bernie. For two hundred-forty years America has been the land of the free and the home of the brave.  No matter where we go, there we are!

Happy 4th!                                                                              —to be contd.





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