AMERICAN EDUCATION - BRONSON ALCOTT'S TEMPLE SCHOOL

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Lot 2
AMERICAN EDUCATION - BRONSON ALCOTT'S TEMPLE SCHOOL

Sold for £ 7,200 (US$ 9,986) inc. premium
AMERICAN EDUCATION - BRONSON ALCOTT'S TEMPLE SCHOOL
Schoolbook and journal kept by the twelve-year-old Emma Savage, when a pupil at A. Bronson Alcott's Temple School, Boston, in 1836, being her "Journal of Spring quarter/ March-April-May/ Emma Savage/ AE - 12. years" and "Journal of Summer quarter/ May-June-July", between 17 March and 23 July 1836, comprising journal entries (beginning: "This morning after breakfast my friend Caroline Fleeming came in to see me and she stayed untill school time when her sister Lucy came for me to go to school..."), together with pencil drawings such as a "View of the Interior of Mr Alcott's School Room", "the Elm Tree in the middle of the common", "St Paul's Church" ("...Afterwards I went out on the Mall with the other girls and drew the following..."), a child reading, the schoolroom busts of Shakespeare and Scott ("...This does not look like the bust but I shall try to do the next one better..."), and a scene from Pilgrim's Progress ("...This is a drawing of my imagination which is Christian knocking at the Wicket Gate/ my imagination pictured this much better than I have drawn it here..."), coloured maps of American states, letters (to her best friend Lucy Emerson, daughter of the educationalist George B. Emerson, and friends Mary Lincoln, Caroline Fleeming and Charles Morgan), verse (William Lloyd Garrison's 'The Free Mind', Wordsworth's 'Bucket', extracts from William Cullen Bryant's 'God's First Temple', from Longfellow's 'An April Day', with her paraphrase, etc); with a lithographed 'View of the Interior of Mr Alcott's School Room' and printed time-tables, rules, etc, tipped in; presentation inscription by Alcott (see note below) for whom it was no doubt bound, upwards of 120 pages, lightly damp-stained but otherwise in good and sound condition, half-calf over marbled boards, spine stamped 'Emma's/ Journal', Temple School, Boston, 1836

Footnotes

  • A SCHOOL BOOK KEPT AT BRONSON ALCOTT'S TEMPLE SCHOOL BY EMMA SAVAGE, THE FUTURE WIFE OF WILLIAM B. ROGERS, FOUNDER OF THE MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY. The Temple School, established in Boston two years earlier, is probably the most famous of Bronson Alcott's educational experiments, and is described in his classic work, Conversations with Children, published in the same year that Emma Savage kept a record of those conversations ("...[11 June] We had a conversation today instead of reading. The conversation was much more interesting than usual there was one little boy who talked almost all the time (but his talk was very interesting) after the conversation the little boy said that the conversation had been very interesting to him because he had talked so much ... [16 June] Instead of analysing with Mr Alcott we had a conversation to funny to describe but it taught us a great deal. After recess, I wrote the following Letter/ Boston, Thursday, June, 16, 1836./ Dear Charles/ Mr Alcott is talking so funny that I cannot help listening to him so I shall not write much...").

    The Temple School was to run for only six years, before Alcott's progressive methods, and insistence on admitting a mulatto girl, forced its closure in 1840. One of his assistants, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, was to go on open America's first kindergarten in 1860 ("...[23 May] After dinner I came to school and after saying my lesson I helped Miss Peabody by hearing some of the other schoolars say their lessons... [24 May] In the afternoon I came to school and we parsed with Miss Peabody..."). Alcott himself was, of course, to gain additional fame through the medium of his second daughter, Louisa May, who based the Father in Little Women upon him. Emma Savage, our twelve-year-old author, obtained her own niche in educational history in 1849 by marrying William B. Rogers, the geologist and founder of MIT, whose Life and Letters she was to edit in 1896.

    Bronson Alcott's teaching methods were radical for his time. For example he was reluctant to 'force feed' his pupils: "Saturday is reading day now instead of Tuesday and Mr Alcott began to read a very interesting peice of poetry from Wordsworth poems but finding that some of the scholars did not attend to what he read he took Fairy Tales which he read from a little to which most of them listened to very attentively he then told kind of an allegory which I have not time to write, then he told those that wanted to go out and play..." (19 March).

    It is clear from this book that Emma Savage was a star pupil (although, as she was well aware, her spelling never came up to scratch). Her teacher took this volume with him when he went to England in 1842, inscribing it to his disciple: "A Bronson Alcott/ to/ Henry B. Wright/ Alcott House, Ham,/ 1842" (who then gave it to his brother George on 22 September 1842). Alcott's visit to Wright was described by his friend and admirer Emerson in an essay published that year: "Mr. Alcott was received with great cordiality of joy and respect by his friends in London, and presently found himself domesticated at an institution, managed on his own methods and called after his name, the School of Mr. Wright at Alcott House, Ham, Surrey... Mr. Alcott, who may easily be a little partial to an instructor who has adopted cordially his own methods, writes thus of his friend. 'Mr. Wright is a younger disciple of the same eternal verity, which I have loved and served so long. You have never seen his like, so deep serene, so clear, so true, and so good. His school is a most refreshing and happy place. The children are mostly under twelve years of age, of both sexes; and his art and method of education simple and natural. It seemed like being again in my own school, save that a wiser wisdom directs, and a lovelier love presides over its order and teachings. He is not yet thirty years of age, but he has more genius for education than any man I have seen, and not of children alone, but he possesses the rare art of teaching men and women. What I have dreamed and stammered, and preached, and prayed about so long, is in him clear and definite...'" ('English Reformers', in Dial Essays, 1842).
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