Tag Archives: R. Todd Felton

Thoreau, Early American Green Writer


Henry David Thoreau

Destination: Concord, Massachusetts

Site: Henry David Thoreau’s Home

“What is the use of a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?Continue reading Thoreau, Early American Green Writer

Travel Book Author Finds France in Boston

France on Friday

Destination: Boston

Book: Walking Boston by Robert Todd Felton

A GUEST POST BY Robert Todd Felton

Bivalve Molluscs, French Royalty, and the Streets of Boston

One of the best parts of walking around Boston is that you are always bumping up against some surprising scrap of American history.  Around one corner is the house where Paul Revere lived, or Ralph Waldo Emerson grazed cattle,…or the King of France taught French. Continue reading Travel Book Author Finds France in Boston

A Bucolic Town, A Pond, and the City Upon the Hill: The Geography of Transcendentalism

Transcendentalism is fascinating not just for the compelling figures and ideas that made up the movement but also for the glimpse it affords us into the nineteenth century New England from which it sprang. While Transcendentalist thinkers got their inspiration in German philosophy, English poetry, and Far Eastern spirituality, the central ideas of Transcendentalism are very much products of New England. And while their impact has been felt around the globe, these Transcendentalist precepts were first aired from the pulpits of Unitarian churches and lecture halls across New England; around the planning tables of utopian societies; and in the various books, articles and journals printed and housed in what was the nineteenth century cultural capital of the young country, Boston.

The Old Manse

Perhaps the best way to understand Transcendentalism is to start where they did, in The Old Mansethe study of an old minister’s house by a slow moving river in a town just nineteen  miles outside of Boston. It was there, in 1836, a young man named Ralph Waldo Emerson, living in his grandfather’s house, wrote the book that became the foundation Transcendentalism, Nature.

In it, Emerson is clear about the benefits of leaving both the actual rooms in which we live and our set ways of thinking, and striding out into nature:

In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, — no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me my eyes,) which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground, — my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, — a mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God.

It was in this passage from Nature that Transcendentalism first came alive for me, and I structured A Journey into the Transcendentalists’ New England around what I view as Transcendentalism’s central quest: to forge an original relationship with the universe or, as Emerson puts it, to behold “God and nature face to face.”

So, the question is how did this group of writers, philosophers, poets, activists and dreamers conduct their quests? Where did they go for that “face to face” interaction? How does one forge one’s own unique relationship with the universe? Continue reading A Bucolic Town, A Pond, and the City Upon the Hill: The Geography of Transcendentalism