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Correspondence to John Sullivan Dwight regarding Brook Farm

 Collection — Container: MS E.4.1
Call Number: MS E.4.1

Scope and Contents

This collection contains 32 letters written primarily to John Sullivan Dwight between 1840-1848 and cover a variety of subjects, including George Ripley’s (1802-1880) resignation from the Purchase Street Church in 1840; Sophia Ripley’s (1803-1861) description of early life on the farm; Albert Brisbane’s (1809-1890) comments on the progress of associationism; the future prospects of the community after the Phalanstery fire; and William Henry Channing’s (1810-1884) thoughts about the future of the reform movement.


  • 1840-1848


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Items in this collection may be subject to copyright restrictions. In most cases, the Boston Public Library does not hold the copyright to the items in our collections. It is the sole responsibility of the user to make their own determination about what types of usage might be permissible under U.S. and international copyright law.

Brook Farm

Founded by George Ripley (1802-1880) in 1841, the Brook Farm Institute of Agriculture and Education was a Transcendentalist community located in West Roxbury, Massachusetts. Brook Farm was an experiment in communal living that sought to create a harmonious society wherein both men and women shared the labor which in turn provided them with more time to pursue their intellectual and artistic interests. Residents were also stockholders in the farm.

Another important element of Brook Farm was its school which provided a progressive education and was its main source of income. In 1844, the farm converted to the ideas of Charles Fourier, who advocated for a society that was divided into cooperative communities of small, self-sustaining groups called phalanxes. With the conversion came a new constitution and the name Brook Farm Association for Industry and Education. From 1845-1847, the Harbinger, a journal dedicated to social and political reform, was published at Brook Farm and edited by Ripley. A fire in 1846 destroyed the central building (the Phalanstery) and together with financial difficulties, contributed to the dissolution of the community in 1847.

Among the residents of Brook Farm were Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) who wrote The Blithdale Romance (1852), a novel about life on the farm; Charles A. Dana (1819-1897); and John Sullivan Dwight (1813-1893). Among the farm's frequent visitors were Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882); Margaret Fuller (1810-1850); Bronson Alcott (1799-1888); Theodore Parker (1810-1860); and Elizabeth Peabody (1804-1894), in whose bookshop the first conversations about Brook Farm took place.

John Sullivan Dwight (1813-1893)

John Sullivan Dwight was a Unitarian minister, Director of the Brook Farm community, a Transcendentalist, and American’s first classical music critic. Dwight was born in Boston on May 13, 1813 to Dr. John Dwight and Mary Dwight (Corey). He studied at Harvard University and attended the Divinity School where he graduated in 1836 and was ordained in 1840. In 1841, Dwight moved to Brook Farm where he taught Latin and music and edited the journal The Harbinger, which espoused the community’s social philosophy. He lived there until 1846 when it was destroyed by fire. After leaving Brook Farm, Dwight contributed to several publications, including the Transcendentalist journal, The Dial. In 1852, he established Dwight’s Journal of Music and was its only editor until it discontinued in 1881. John Sullivan Dwight died in Boston on September 5, 1893.


.37 Cubic Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials



Correspondence to John Sullivan Dwight regarding Brook Farm spans the years 1840-1848 and contains letters from members of the Brook Farm community located in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, primarily written to Dwight (1813-1893), Director of Brook Farm. Letters cover a variety of subjects, including George Ripley’s resignation from the Purchase Street Church in 1840, Sophia Ripley’s description of early life on the farm, and Albert Brisbane’s comments on the progress of associationism.


The material is arranged chronologically.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from the C.F. Libbie Auction on the appropriation funds, 1902.

Existence and Location of Copies

Digital reproductions of the correspondence are accessible on Digital Commonwealth.

Many of the letters in this collection were printed in Zoltàn Haraszti's The idyll of Brook Farm: as revealed by unpublished letters in the Boston Public Library, Boston: Published by the Trustees of the Public Library, 1940. See also pgs. 49-68 and 93-114 in Volume 12 of Boston Public Library's bulletin More books.

Processing Information

This electronic finding aid is transcribed from legacy data. In many cases, transcriptions were not verified against collection materials at the time of transcription. As a result, this finding aid could be incomplete and might only reflect a partial understanding of the material.

Statement on harmful description

Archival description reflects the biases of time periods and cultures in which it was created and may include direct quotations or descriptions that use inappropriate or harmful language. Creator provided descriptions may be maintained in order to preserve the context in which the collection was created and/or used. Legacy description and potentially offensive content may be made available online until a collection can be reprocessed because the access that they provide to primary source materials is uniquely valuable to the research community at large. Our efforts to repair outdated descriptions and to describe our collections more equitably are iterative and ongoing.

Former Title

John Sullivan Dwight correspondence regarding Brook Farm

Guide to the Correspondence to John Sullivan Dwight Regarding Brook Farm
Rare Books and Manuscripts Staff and Kimberly Reynolds
2014 September
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2014-09: Updated by Kimberly Reynolds, September 2014.
  • 2022-09-26: To comply with Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS) Version 2019.0.3, Crystal Rodgers, Archivist, adjusted the following field(s): title, EAD ID, finding aid filing title, finding aid date, scope and contents note, biographical/historical note, and arrangement note, and created the following field(s): finding aid author, and curatorial department.
  • 2023-03-24: To comply with Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS) Version 2019.0.3, Kimberly Reynolds, Archivist, created the following field(s): abstract, immediate source of acquisition note, and processing information note.

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