- Ralph Waldo Emerson
- Henry David Thoreau
- Margaret Fuller
- Nathaniel Hawthorne
- Louisa May Alcott
Of course they were not the entire population of that charming village. You can add Bronson Alcott, Louisa May’s impossible father, as well as many others.
In American Bloomsbury, Susan Cheever gives us a joint biography of the five, set within the times and the place. A bit confusingly, she weaves together their five stories. And yes, they did all know each other. For example, Louisa May Alcott walked in the woods with Thoreau and borrowed books from Emerson’s library. Margaret Fuller flirted with Nathaniel Hawthorne — and with Emerson, too. Cheever places Emerson at the center of her story. Without him she says.
There would have been no Alcotts in Orchard House of Hawthornes at the Old Manse; there would have been no Thoreau at Walden, and no Walden, no The Scarlet Letter, or Little Women. There would have been no expression of the ideas that are still the credo of the environmental movement or the ideas that sparked feminism. Emerson’s essays are small jewels that still gleam for the discerning reader, but his greatest contribution was in his life and the way he brought together, supported, and encouraged the community that became Concord, Massachusetts.