Books: Alcotts

LOUISA MAY ALCOTT — Katharine Anthony—Knopf ($3).

When Van Wyck Brooks called the period of Hawthorne, Emerson and Bronson Alcott the flowering of New England, he did not use the phrase for its warm, poetic savor. Not only in Brooks's book but in lesser works like Odell Shepard's Pedlar's Progress: The Life of Branson Alcott, readers can catch whiffs of a morning freshness in the cultural air, when poets and novelists no less than practical citizens took on themselves lifetime projects, came back to work unshaken after personal tragedy or public disgrace.

In some...

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