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[337] father of Louisa May Alcott, who was particularly singled out as a target for the shafts of a jesting and unsympathetic public. The stories told of him, to be sure, were often outright inventions or gross exaggerations. But we do not need to go beyond the testimony of his daughter to discover considerable basis for the popular conception of his character. Alcott, in fact, becomes an especially significant figure as embodying in excessive degree the mystical tendency of the transcendentalists together with those extravagances and eccentricities which often accompany the mystic's habit of wrapping himself up in the clouds of his own speculation and aspiration.

Alcott was born in Connecticut in 1799. After a fragmentary education he went to Virginia planning to teach but was compelled to earn his living by peddling. For four or five years this was his chief vocation, and it is interesting to note that toward the end of this period he came in contact with North Carolina Quakers, whose religious views seem to have influenced his thinking. Following this he returned to New England and for nearly fifteen years devoted himself in the main to school-teaching, putting into practice with considerable success, especially in his last and most famous school at the Masonic Temple in Boston, radical educational theories, some of which seem to have anticipated kindergarten methods now in vogue and which earned for Alcott the title of the American Pestalozzi.

Alcott's fundamental educational conceptions were Platonic, and he exhibited an astonishing but entirely characteristic consistency in carrying out his most radical ideas. He believed in the plenary inspiration of childhood, and his method may be described as an attempt to realize in practice the thought of Wordsworth's ode on the Intimations of immortality.

The publication of some of his conversations with his pupils, owing to their references to the phenomena of birth, brought adverse criticism and tended to impair the prosperity of the school. Finally, on his refusal to dismiss a coloured child whom he had received as a pupil, patronage was withdrawn and he was compelled to give up the enterprise.

After the failure of his school Alcott first tried his scheme of public “conversations,” with little financial success, however. In these years, too, he showed an interest in many of

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