A Brill Calendar: August 5
Few people believe that academic traditions in the United States of America during the 19th century resemble their European equivalents.
Institutes like Harvard (1636), Yale (1701), Columbia (1754) and Georgia University (1784) catered for the nation’s emerging market for professionals in regular and secular affairs; hardly changing the frontiers of existing knowledge outside of Divinity and Law. The first native intellectual sensitivity with a solid claim there to novelty may be the philosophical ‘transcendentalism’, which conquered American minds, hearts and souls, from the early 1830s, with Concord, Mass., for epicentre. Its main originator, Ralph Waldo Emerson, (Boston, Mass. May 25 1803 - Concord, Mass., April 27 1882) became a Transatlantic celebrity, putting his spell on European audiences, just as the Englishman Charles Dickens riveted American audiences with his highly-strung public readings.
When Henry David Thoreau (July 12 1817 – May 6 1862, both at Concord) took up residence as from July 1845 – his personal Independence Day – in a self-made small cabin and lived there for a year or two near Walden Pond - within walking distance from Concord - the ‘philosophical experiment’ resulted in a manuscript and text, ‘Walden; or, Life in the Woods’ (1854). It is seldom that a pastoral setting, generating hardly interest at the time of writing, caused a metamorphosis in Atlantic culture.
It was echoed half a century later in Holland; behind the dikes things occasionally run half a century late, (following a saying often attributed to Heinrich Heine). In a quest for an ethical and social philosophy, the Dutch physician and man of letters Frederik Willem van Eeden (Haarlem, April 3 1860 – Bussum, June 16 1932) set up an agricultural colony, active from August 5, 1898 and called it ‘Walden’; the start of a new level in trans-national reciprocity; admittedly a very transient one.
2013, May 17
2013, April 11
2013, April 11