Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 August 2009
The period from roughly 1830 through the 1860's saw the growth of one of the most exotic intellectual movements ever to take root in American soil. Led by Ralph Waldo Emerson, the New England transcendentalists mounted an attack on the social, intellectual, religious and political beliefs which their fathers, not to mention their contemporaries, had blandly held to represent the ultimate of humanwisdom. If the American of the mid-twentieth century sometimes exhibits a distressing fondness for a public recital of national sins and shortcomings, the inhabitants of nineteenthcentury Boston revealed an enviable capacity for regional, if not national, self-congratulation. They surely would have agreedwith Dr. Pangloss that this was the best of all possible worlds, and why not? Was there not good reason to believe, as Oliver Wendell Holmes was later to suggest, that Boston was the Hub of the Universe?
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