The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). rn VOLUME XVII. Later National Literature, Part II.

XXIII. Education

§ 46. Lyceums

An important phase of the public education movement of the early half of the century has almost faded from our conception of education. To these generations, to whom the new, broader democratic views appealed because of the social, political, and economic benefits to the contemporary generation, the problem of adult education was of far more significance than it is today. This adult education was given through the medium of mechanics’ institutes, debating clubs, “Ciceronian associations,” and, most numerous of all, lyceums. A national convention of 1831 enumerated almost a thousand such organizations. The Massachusetts Report of 1840 lists eight mechanics’ institutes and 137 lyceums. The lyceum organization, launched in Boston in 1829, included the town lyceum, and country, state, and national organizations. In reality the scheme never arrived at such complete general organization; however, it did attain universal popularity, very general distribution, and in some sections effective state as well as local organization. As the epistolary form of literary composition was the most popular in the preceding period, the lecture or address was during this period the dominant form of expression, even in the field of education. The leaders of thought in every walk of life participated in this adult form of education, and much of the most important literary expression of the period was originally published through this channel. De Witt Clinton, Edward Everett, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Wendell Phillips, William Lloyd Garrison, Bronson Alcott, George William Curtis, William Cullen Bryant, Henry David Thoreau, James Russell Lowell, Edward Everett Hale; such political leaders as Sumner, Douglas, Greeley; women leaders, as Julia Ward Howe, Susan B. Anthony, Emma Willard; foreign visitors; and almost every man of literary prominence made contributionsto this form of literature, more or less permanent, and more or less educational in character.