Edward Bellamy

Edward Bellamy

Bellamy, Edward, 1850-98, American author, b. Chicopee Falls (now part of Chicopee), Mass. After being admitted to the bar he tried his hand at journalism and contributed short stories of genuine charm to various magazines. These were later collected as The Blind Man's World and Other Stories (1898). His novels—The Duke of Stockbridge (1879), Dr. Heindenhoff's Process (1880), and Miss Ludington's Sister (1884)—were followed by Looking Backward, 2000-1887 (1888), which overshadowed his other work and brought him fame. This utopian romance pictured the world in the year 2000 under a system of state socialism. Much of the book's appeal lies in its unpretentious style and its vivid picture of the imagined society. The work sold over a million copies in the next few years and resulted in the formation of "Nationalist" clubs throughout the nation and the founding of the Nationalist monthly (1888-91). Bellamy himself founded and edited the New Nation (1891-94), a weekly. Equality, a sequel to Looking Backward, appeared in 1897.

See biography by S. E. Bowman (1958, repr. 1979); J. L. Thomas, Alternative America (1983); D. Patai, ed., Looking Backward, 1988-1888 (1988).

Edward Bellamy (March 26, 1850 – May 22, 1898) was an American author and socialist, most famous for his utopian novel, Looking Backward, set in the year 2000.

Early life

Edward Bellamy was born in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts. His father was Rufus King Bellamy (1816-1886), a Baptist minister and a descendant of Joseph Bellamy. His mother was Maria Louisa (Putnam) Bellamy, a Calvinist. Her father, Benjamin Putnam, had also been a Baptist minister, but had to withdraw from the ministry in Salem, Massachusetts, following objections to him being made a Freemason. He had two older brothers, Frederick and Charles. He attended Union College, but did not graduate. While there, he joined the Theta Chi Chapter of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity. He studied law, but left the practice and worked briefly in the newspaper industry in New York and in Springfield, Massachusetts. He left journalism and devoted himself to literature, writing both short stories and novels. He married Emma Augusta Sanderson in 1882. The couple had two children, Paul (1884) and Marion (1886).

He was the cousin of Francis Bellamy, most famous for creating the Pledge of Allegiance.

His books include Dr. Heidenhoff's Process (1880), Miss Ludington's Sister (1884), The Duke of Stockbridge (1900), and the utopian novels Looking Backward: 2000–1887 (1888), and its sequel, Equality (1897).

Looking Backward

According to Erich Fromm, Looking Backward is "one of the most remarkable books ever published in America." It was the third largest bestseller of its time, after Uncle Tom's Cabin and Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. In the book "Looking Backward" an upper class man from 1887 awakens in 2000 from a hypnotic trance to find himself in a socialist utopia. It influenced a large number of intellectuals, and appears by title in many of the major Marxist writings of the day. "It is one of the few books ever published that created almost immediately on its appearance a political mass movement." Several "Bellamy Clubs" sprang up all over the United States for discussing and propagating the book's ideas. This political movement came to be known as Nationalism. His novel also inspired several utopian communities.

Although his novel "Looking Backward" is unique, Bellamy owes many aspects of his philosophy to a previous reformer and author, Laurence Gronlund, who published his treatise "The Cooperative Commonwealth: An Exposition of Modern Socialism" in 1884.

A short story "The Parable of the Water-Tank" from the book Equality, published in 1897, was popular with a number of early American socialists. Less successful than its prequel, Looking Backward, Equality continues the story of Julian West as he adjusts to life in the future.

Several hundred additional utopian novels were published in the US from 1889 to 1900, due in part to the book's popularity.


Bellamy died from tuberculosis at his childhood home in Chicopee Falls at the age of 48.

See also


Further reading

  • Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward: 2000–1887 with a foreword by Erich Fromm, Signet, 1960.
  • Edward Bellamy, The Religion of Solidarity, ed. Arthur E. Morgan, Antioch Bookplate Company, 1940. Published posthumously; concerns the idea of love of man and human solidarity.
  • Edward Bellamy, Apparitions of Things to Come: Edward Bellamy's Tales of Mystery & Imagination, collection of short stories, ISBN 0-88286-165-4.
  • Arthur E. Morgan, The Philosophy of Edward Bellamy, King's Crown Press, 1945.
  • John Hope Franklin, "Edward Bellamy and the Nationalist Movement," The New England Quarterly, Vol. 11, December 1938, 739–772.
  • Elizabeth Sadler, "One Book's Influence: Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward" The New England Quarterly, Vol. 17, December 1944, 530–555.
  • Matthew Kapell, "Mack Reynolds' Avoidance of his own Eighteenth Brumaire: A Note of Caution for Would-Be Utopians." Extrapolation, Vol. 44, No. 2 (Summer): 201-208. (Examines Reynolds' "utopian" thought in his rewriting of Edward Bellamy's 19th century book Looking Backward.)
  • Karl Traugott Goldbach, "Utopian Music: Music History of the Future in Novels by Bellamy, Callenbach and Huxley," Utopia Matters. Theory, Politics, Literature and the Arts, ed. Fátima Viera and Marinela Freitas, Editora da Universidade do Porto, 2005, pp. 237-243.

External links

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