George Ripley - Encyclopedia

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GEORGE RIPLEY (1802-1880), American critic and man of letters, was born at Greenfield, Massachusetts, on the 3rd of October 1802. He graduated first in his class at Harvard in 1823. From 1826 to 1840 he was pastor of a Unitarian church in Boston, subsequently retiring from the active ministry altogether. It was during those years that there grew up in New England that form of thought or philosophy known as Transcendentalism. Ripley was prominent, if not the leader, in all practical manifestations of the movement; and it was largely by his earnestness and practical energy that certain of its more tangible results were brought about. The first meeting of the Transcendental Club was held at his house in September 1836. He was a founder and a chief supporter of the magazine, the Dial, which was the organ of the school from 1841 to 1844. Most important of all, however, he was the originator of "The Brook Farm Institute of Education and Agriculture." Until the abandonment of this experiment in 1847, Ripley was its leader, cheerfully taking upon himself all kinds of tasks, teaching mathematics and philosophy in the school, milking cows and attending to other bucolic duties, and after June 1845 editing the weekly Harbinger, an organ of "association," which he continued to edit in New York from 1847 until it was discontinued in 1849. The failure of Brook Farm left Ripley poor and feeling keenly the defeat of his project; but the event forced him at last to devote himself to that career of literary labour in which the real success of his life was achieved. In 1849 he joined the staff of the New York Tribune, and in a short time became its literary editor. This position, which, through his steadiness, scholarly conservatism and freedom from caprice as a critic, soon became one of great influence, he held until his death in New York City on the 4th of July 1880.

During the greater part of the time of his connexion with the Tribune, Ripley was also an adviser of a prominent publishing house, an occasional contributor to the magazines, and a cooperator in several literary undertakings. The chief of these was the American Cyclopaedia, which as the New American Cyclopaedia - so named to distinguish it from Francis Lieber's Encyclopaedia Americana - was issued, under the editorship of Ripley and Charles A. Dana, in 18J7-63, a revised edition, with the word "new" dropped from the title, being issued under the same editorship in 1873-76. He also issued, in translation, a series of Specimens of Foreign Standard Literature (14 vols., 1838-42). Ripley was twice married, first in 1827 to Miss Sophia Willard Dana (d. 1861), a daughter of Francis Dana and a conspicuous figure at Brook Farm; and second, in 1865, to a young German widow, Mrs Augusta Schlossberger, who survived him and subsequently married Alphonse Pinede.

A biography of Ripley (Boston, 1882), written by the Rev. O. B. Frothingham, forms one of the volumes of the "American Men of Letters" series. (E. L. B.)

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