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(MASSACHUSETTS.) Albee, John. Diary of a young Transcendentalist. 241 manuscript pages of irregular diary entries. 8vo, original red sheep, moderate wear; minimal wear to contents; later owner's provenance note on front free endpaper, later pencil table of contents in rear. Vp, 16 May 1853 to 24 January 1861
John Albee (1833-1915) kept this diary through most of his twenties, while a student at the Phillips Academy in Andover, MA (Class of 1854), at the Harvard Divinity School (Class of 1858) and on to his first years as a Unitarian minister. Steeped in the heady intellectual atmosphere of the mid-century Boston area, he was a young disciple of the Transcendentalists. He corresponded with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Maria Mitchell, wrote a poem inspired by a sighting of James Russell Lowell, discussed Theodore Parker and Margaret Fuller, and was a friend of sculptor Harriet Hosmer. Albee makes several references to Emerson throughout the diary, two of them personal: "I received a letter from R.W.E. It was kind, and instructive, natural, and characteristic" (21 May 1853); and "I saw Dr. Hedge today. He wants to show the MS I gave him a little while ago to Mr. Emerson. Curious enough would it be if it should reach his hands" (15 February 1858). Emerson's style was certainly an influence for diary passages such as this: "This rage for travel among young Americans seems to me absurd. . . . We young Americans have got something else to do than loiter about the world, postponing our period of labour and of life. A name and fame to make, commensurate with the vastness and magnificence of all else in this new world" (7 June 1855). Albee later wrote a book about Emerson's influence on his generation; his friendship with Emerson is perhaps what he is best remembered for today. Albee was deeply introspective, and wrote "There is something of the feminine in my character. There is more than anyone knows in my body. I am too sensitive and confiding for a man" (3 July 1855). He sometimes stopped in to watch criminal trials, and wrote of one criminal, Charles L. Cater: "Young and beautiful, it is not possible that he is bad" (9 April 1857). Cater was a state prisoner who had just been convicted of murder for stabbing the warden. On the other hand, Albee had a long and painfully unrequited love affair with a young woman named "L.A.", later married twice, and had four children. Albee pursued a career as a Unitarian minister after graduating from divinity school, but had serious doubts about his vocation: "I take no interest in the education or teaching of people. . . . I have nothing to say on the common topics of Christianity or religion. But this morning I go to Walpole to preach!" (21 May 1859). He eventually left the ministry and published several volumes of poetry and essays. Provenance: Albee's widow Helen Albee (1864-1929); purchased from the Albee home in 1940 by the Rev. Norman D. Fletcher (1898-1985), also a Unitarian minister.
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