European Travel Diaries of Albert Brisbane 1830-1832: Discovering Fourierism for America
|Author: ||Mellen, Abigail and Allaire Brisbane Stallsmith|
In the past half-century, scholars of many different disciplines have produced an expansive body of literature on utopianism in America. Albert Brisbane, as the original propagandist of Fourierism in nineteenth century America, owns a significant place in this literature.
Brisbane’s 1830-1832 travel diaries offer a useful contribution at several levels. First, he diaries furnish us with a picture of the society in which Saint-Simonianism and Fourierism took shape. Second, the diaries further our understanding of the impact and dissemination of these ideas – where they were discussed and how they were discussed. Finally, and perhaps most intriguingly, the diaries offer us an opportunity to “listen in” on the thinking of an impressionable young man as he came to be attracted to utopian theories while moving in elite European intellectual society. Brisbane made strong personal friendships within this intellectual community, and continued to correspond with several significant individuals while in Europe and following his return to America.
Brisbane was an earnest and precocious young man – and very human. Beside his intellectual wonderings, the diaries give us a sense of his adolescent sensibility and openness to new experiences and ideas. In the end, we have a much better picture of who this person was who brought the complex social model of the Phalanx to America.
“On the surface, Brisbane’s story was unique and improbable: the son of a western New York merchant and landowner, the young Brisbane studied French and Philosophy in New York City, then left in 1828 for six years of study and travel in Europe. Toward the end of his sojourn Brisbane encountered Fourier and decided to devote his life to understanding and publicizing the Frenchman’s “social science.” To enroll at the University of Berlin and to travel through Greece, Malta, and southern Italy were rare occurrences for Jacksonian Americans, and Brisbane’s diary is full of interesting impressions and incidents. Yet his journey has a representative, even archetypal quality as well. Looking at its larger patterns, we find a coming-of-age story blended with the drama of social and ideological discovery. In the diary’s pages the cocky but innocent American confronts the weight of tradition and history; the callow youth experiments with sexual freedom; the curious student skims his way through several schools of philosophy; and the determined nonconformist feels the attraction of losing himself in socialist doctrine.” – (from the Foreword) Carl Guarneri, Professor of History, Saint Mary’s College of California
“…an important contribution to the available original materials and scholarly literature on Brisbane and on intellectual life in nineteenth-century America.… The introduction and their richly detailed notes, written by an ancient historian and an historian of nineteenth-century France, bring fresh, comparative perspectives to Brisbane’s experience and to his significance.…” – Martin J. Burke, Associate Professor of History, Lehman College and the Graduate Center
“… Students of European history of the nineteenth-century will find this opus informative and fascinating reading. Professor Stallsmith and her co-editor Professor Mellen are to be commended for doing this labor of love. Even the non-specialist will find the reading of Brisbane’s Diary interesting and rewarding reading.” – Armin Mruck, Professor of History (retired), Towson University
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
Diary I: October 1830-January 1831
Diary II: September 1831-January 1832
Appendix I, II, III