This essay deals with the Western experience, in the 1830s, of three young Unitarian ministers who were Transcendentalists when the movement was just beginning and before it had a name. After touching upon the symbolism of the West, Elizabeth McKinsey tells the story of three protagonists—James Freeman Clarke, Christopher Pearse Cranch, and William Henry Channing—describing the idealism with which they embarked on their ministries in the Ohio Valley and the progressive disillusionment that led each of them to return East within a few years. The concluding section probes the implications, for the three men and for Transcendentalism as a whole, of the failure of their errand into the wilderness.
The Western Experiment
New England Transcendentalists in the Ohio Valley
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Publication: January 1973