George Ripley


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(1802–80), Massachusetts religious thinker, writer, and reformer, graduated from Harvard (1823) and its Divinity School (1826), after which he began his 15-year ministry of a Boston Unitarian church. He exhibited his literary and philosophical interest in the German transcendental thinkers in his editorship of the Christian Register, a Unitarian paper which he made so liberal that he was attacked by Andrews Norton for a “leaning toward infidelity.” He made a more direct contribution to American knowledge of idealistic philosophy in Specimens of Foreign Standard Literature (14 vols., 1838–42), edited with F.H. Hedge, which included contributions from Margaret Fuller, W.H. Channing, J.S. Dwight, and J.F. Clarke. This work had a considerable effect on the Transcendentalists, since it contained the documents on which their philosophy was partly based. Ripley's Discourses on the Philosophy of Religion (1836) precipitated another attack by Norton, which he answered in Letters on the Latest Form of Infidelity (1840). In 1841 he retired from the ministry. He put his Transcendentalist theories into practice by helping to found The Dial and to organize Brook Farm. As president of this community, he guided it through the period of Fourierism, and he helped to found the North American Phalanx on Fourierist principles. At Brook Farm he edited The Harbinger (1845–49), and after the colony's failure he continued it in New York with Parke Godwin. Ripley created the first daily book reviews in the U.S. for the New York Tribune (1849–80). During these years he also continued his interest in reform, edited such works as A Handbook of Literature on the Fine Arts (1852) with Bayard Taylor and New American Cyclopaedia (16 vols., 1858–63) with C.A. Dana, and made trips to Europe (1866, 1869–70), where he met with many authors and philosophers whose views he had championed.

From The Oxford Companion to American Literature in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.

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