Brandt & Hochman Agency
Published by
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2021-11-09)
Original language


by Gross, Robert A.

Emerson, Hawthorne, Thoreau, the Alcotts... THE TRANSCENDENTALISTS AND THEIR WORLD offers a fresh view of the thinkers whose outsize impact on philosophy and literature would spread from tiny Concord to all corners of the earth.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and the Alcotts called this New England town home, and Thoreau drew on its life extensively in his classic WALDEN. But Concord from the 1820s through the 1840s was no pastoral place fit for poets and philosophers.
THE TRANSCENDENTALISTS AND THEIR WORLD is both an intimate journey into the life of a community and a searching cultural study of major American writers as they plumbed the depths of the universe for spiritual truths and surveyed the rapidly changing contours of their own neighborhoods. It shows us familiar figures in American literature alongside their neighbors at every level of the social order, and it reveals how this common life in Concord entered powerfully into their works. No American community of the nineteenth century has been recovered so richly and with so acute an awareness of its place in the larger American story.

Robert A. Gross is the James L. and Shirley A. Draper Professor of Early American History Emeritus at the University of Connecticut. He is the author of The Minutemen and Their World (1976), winner of the Bancroft Prize, and of Books and Libraries in Thoreau's Concord (1988); with Mary Kelley, he is coeditor of An Extensive Republic: Print, Culture, and Society in the New Nation, 17901840 (2010). A former assistant editor of Newsweek, he has written for such periodicals as Esquire, Harper's, the Boston Globe, and the New York Times, and his essays have appeared in The American Scholar, New England Quarterly, Raritan, and Yale Review.

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A thoroughly researched work, Robert Gross's THE TRANSCENDENTALISTS AND THEIR WORLD plants you firmly in the rich soil of Concord as an intellectual revolution, containing a uniquely American form of individualism, is established... A remarkable feat of scholarship...

Quote: Ken Burns

Award-winning historian Gross looks at the small but not closed world of Concord, Massachusetts, and asks: why did the cultural ideal of individualism come to the front there in the 1830s?... [A] lively social and cultural history.

Review: Library Journal, starred review

In what amounts to a riveting dual biography of American icons Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, Robert A. Gross offers up a history of a small town that is also the history of our nation. Artfully crafted and a pleasure to read, THE TRANSCENDENTALISTS AND THEIR WORLD convincingly answers the perennial question, "Why Concord?": the intellectual flowering known variously as the American Renaissance, American Romanticism, and Transcendentalism, could have begun nowhere else.

Quote: Megan Marshall, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Margaret Fuller and Elisabeth Bishop

Robert Gross's long-awaited magnum opus, packed with insight and exhaustively researched, is essential reading for all readers with a serious interest in Emerson, Thoreau, and the history of New England Transcendentalism.

Quote: Lawrence Buell, Powell M. Cabot Professor of American Literature Emeritus at Harvard University

In vivid prose and with keen insights, Robert Gross reveals the legacies of revolution and subsequent commercial transformation in a small town famous for its philosophers. Rich in historical irony, THE TRANSCENDENTALISTS AND THEIR WORLD wryly explores how past and present defined intellectuals, who claimed to have freed themselves from both.

Quote: Alan Taylor, author of AMERICAN REPUBLICS: A Continental History of the United States, 1783-1850

Robert Gross has given us something radically new: a deep social biography of a place and an idea. Concord, Massachusetts becomes nothing less than a living laboratory for understanding the profound transformation of American life from the common good to individualist self-discovery. THE TRANSCENDENTALISTS AND THEIR WORLD is place-based social and intellectual history drawn from under the very feet of the men and women who wrote it. Emerson and Thoreau are here, but so are their friends and neighbors, famous, infamous, and obscure, each of them weaving the pattern of social life through their choices and decisions. The result is fascinating, revelatory - and unsettling, for this book quietly and persistently undermines whole structures of facile assumptions about who the Transcendentalists were, and how America got to be this way. An instant classic. Read it! and get ready to rethink everything you thought you knew.

Quote: Laura Dassow Walls, author of HENRY DAVID THOREAU: A Life

An array of Concord, Massachusetts databases - four decades in the making - enable Robert Gross to narrate, for the real people of his town, what Thornton Wilder had to invent for the people of Our Town: astonishing stories of evolving relationships, not just of luminaries like Emerson and Thoreau but of cotton-mill girls, Anti-Masonic demagogues, Black laborers and Irish railroad workers just hanging on in Walden Woods, and Emerson's more radical and (for my money) more interesting Aunt Mary. Gross's stories crackle like the fire you would do well to read them by, just as we would expect from this one-time Newsweek writer and author of the prizewinning THE MINUTEMEN AND THEIR WORLD. Savoring them gives us unprecedented access to the birth of individualism, village capitalism, democracy, religious diversity, women's activism - in short, the modern world.

Quote: Woody Holton, author of LIBERTY IS SWEET: The Hidden History of the American Revolution

This book is a magnificent achievement, combining decades of research with a rare literary grace. While making it look easy, Robert Gross does what is nearly impossible, fusing deep social history with a penetrating analysis of the Transcendentalists and their writing... It strikes me as an achievement worthy of Emerson and Thoreau themselves.

Quote: Ted Widmer, author of Lincoln on the Verge

Seamlessly integrating a wealth of primary and secondary sources into his narrative, Gross brings 19th-century New England to vivid life and portrays the personal dynamics between Transcendentalism's leading figures with insight. This sweeping study brilliantly illuminates a crucial period in American history.

Review: Publishers Weekly, starred review

No one knows Concord as well as Robert A. Gross. In this ground-breaking, wonderfully researched book, Gross limns the web of personal connections and cultural movements that produced some of America's greatest writings.

Quote: David S. Reynolds, author of WALT WHITMAN'S AMERICA and ABE: Abraham Lincoln in His Times

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