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Transcendentalists believe that true harmony in life only comes by communing with nature and coming to understand it.



Concord MA was the center of a philosophical and social movement that, although small in scope, had important effects on American thought and literature.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Bronson Alcott, and others were all friends living in Concord from about 1836 to 1860. They were aware of the philosophical upheaval going on in Europe at this time, and were encouraged to break away from the Unitarianism that had been their belief.

Although they never published a manifesto detailing their beliefs, their creed at this time was that each person has a part of God within himself, and by being sensitive to the dictates of that part, can do what is good and right.

Nature had a large share in this belief as well, for the Transcendentalists thought true harmony in life could only be achieved by communing closely with nature and coming to understand it. This, perhaps, was the basis for Thoreau's period of retreat at Walden Pond.

The transcendentalists got together and tried out their beliefs by buying Brook Farm and living with nature there (1841-47).

The Brook Farm experiment, although it failed, has been an example down to our own times. (The farm was in West Roxbury, now a posh suburb of Boston.)

Novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne lived on Brook Farm for a while, and he and his friend Herman Melville were both affected by transcendentalism.

The best way to learn about the transcendentalist movement is to read Emerson's works. If you visit Concord, MA, 15 miles (24 km) west of Boston by road or train, you can tour his house, the Alcotts' Orchard House, The Wayside, where the Alcotts and Hawthorne once lived (at different times), the Old Manse where Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne lived soon after their marriage, and also go out to Walden Pond and see the place where Thoreau's famous cabin stood.

You can visit the graves of the most prominent transcendentalists on Authors Ridge in Concord's Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.

Starting from Concord's Monument Square, most of the transcendentalists' homes are east along Lexington Road; Thoreau sites and memorabilia are, appropriately, off by themselves to the southeast.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Henry David Thoreau

Authors Ridge in

Sleepy Hollow Cemetery

Concord MA


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Emerson Gravestone, Concord MA

The grave monument of Ralph Waldo Emerson in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord MA. A fitting Transcendentalist symbol: a huge uncut marble boulder.

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