Rare Proto-Transcendentalist Work

The Visitor of the Poor; Translated from the French of the Baron Degerando, By a Lady of Boston. With an Introduction, by Joseph Tuckerman.

Boston: Hilliard, Gray, Little and Wilkins, 1832.

Price: $2,250.00

About the item

First edition. xxxii, [4], 211, [1]pp. 1 vols. 12mo. Rare Proto-Transcendentalist Work. Publisher's blue cloth, untrimmed; with remnants of paper spine label. Minor fading and wear to spine. Provenance: Library of the Newton Theological Institution (bookplate). Lawes, Carolyn J., "Women and Reform in a New England Community, 1815-1860" in Women's History (1999). Marshall, The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism (2006). Early American Paintings ["Chester Harding Elizabeth Tuckerman Salisbury (Mrs. Stephen Salisbury I ), 1829"] accessed online. Wilson, John B. "A Fallen Idol of the Transcendentalists: Baron De Gerando." Comparative Literature 19, no. 4 (1967): 334-40.

Item #352433

Baron De Gerando's important study of benevolent activity, first published in French in 1820 and here translated into English by Peabody, greatly influenced Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, and especially Ralph Waldo Emerson, who used this philosophical framework extensively in Nature (1836). Peabody (1804-189), the sister of Nathaniel Hawthorne's wife, would become an influential educator, publisher and bookseller of the period. She was a charter member of the Transcendentalist Club, served as business manager of The Dial and close friend of Hawthorne, Channing, Emerson, Alcott, Fuller and others. Among the earliest female publishers in Boston, in the second half of the century she became an early and influential adopter of Froebel's kingergarten movement.

The year 1832 was a pivotal point in the life of Peabody. Her "financial situation, always precarious, had worsened. Her school had closed in 1832, and for a time she subsisted on a scant income pieced together from private tutoring." (NAW). Hoping to improve their economic situation, the "American Brontes" -the three Peabody sisters, Elizabeth, Mary, and Sophia- underwrote the costs and self-published Baron de Gerando's text in 1832, its first American edition, giving it the full title, Visitor of the Poor. Translated from the French of The Baron Degerando by A Lady of Boston, with an introduction by Joseph Tuckerman.

The sisters' joint publication was funded by their determination and self-reliance. Elizabeth, who corresponded with de Gerando, did the bulk of the translation. To pay the printer, she sold subscriptions for the book. Mary and Sophia helped with translating and copied text for the printer. Despite their efforts, Visitor of the Poor was an unprofitable venture and sold poorly. Later, in 1835, a warehouse fire destroyed their remaining copies of the book.

Within the 2006 Pulitzer Prize Finalist The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism, biographer Megan Marshall has identified Baron de Gerando's Visitor of the Poor (1832) as one of two "key proto-Transcendentalist texts advocating individual responsibility for the reform of self and society."