Fruitlands, Bronson Alcott’s Transcendental Utopia, 1843

Above: the farmhouse at Fruitlands, as it looked in 1915

Transcendental Wild Oats, by Louisa May Alcott (1832–1888)

Transcendental Wild Oats is Louisa May Alcott’s account of her father, Bronson Alcott’s summer of  folly (1843), during which he, Charles Lane, and a few others attempted to create a utopia on a run down farm in Massachusetts.


 [Bronson Alcott] with the devoutest faith in the high ideal which was to him a living truth, desired to plant a Paradise…  And here his wife, unconverted but faithful to the end, hoped, after many wanderings over the face of the earth, to find rest for herself and a home for her children…

The prospective Eden at present consisted of an old red farm-house, a dilapidated barn, many acres of meadow-land, and … ten ancient apple trees…

A new dress was invented, since cotton, silk and wool were forbidden as the product of slave-labor, worm-slaughter, and sheep-robbery. Tunics and trousers of brown linen were the only wear…

Money was adjured as the root of all evil.  The produce of the land was to supply most of their wants, or be exchanged for the few things they could not grow…

They preached vegetarianism everywhere, and resisted all temptations of the flesh, contentedly eating apples and bread at well-spread tables…

With the first frosts, the butterflies, who had sunned themselves in the new light through the summer, took flight, leaving the few bees to see what honey they had stored for winter use. Precious little appeared beyond the satisfaction of a few months of holy living.   At first it seemed as if a chance to try holy dying was to be offered them…

[At this point, Alcott fell into a deep depression, refusing to eat or drink for several days. Finally he came to his senses, and meanwhile, his wife has taken charge, selling what she could of their possessions to raise enough money to get them away from the place.]  “Leave all to God–and me,” she says to her husband.  “He has done his part, now I will do mine.” 

So, one bleak December day, with their few possessions piled on an ox-sled, the rosy children perched atop, and the parents trudging arm in arm behind, the exiles left their Eden and faced the world again…

excerpted from Transcendental Wild Oats by Louisa May Alcott.  I read this for the 47th volume of the Nonfiction Collection.


You might also like:

The Amana Community 

Specimen Days, by Walt Whitman

Johnny Appleseed, A Pioneer Hero