Front Cover
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 List of Illustrations
 Half Title
 Where I lived, and what I lived...
 The bean-field
 The village
 The ponds
 Baker farm
 Higher laws
 Brute neighbors
 Former inhabitants; and winter...
 Winter animals
 The pond in winter

Group Title: Writings of Henry David Thoreau
Title: The writings of Henry David Thoreau
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00050303/00001
 Material Information
Title: The writings of Henry David Thoreau
Physical Description: 20 v. : ; fronts. (ports., v.1, 6, 7) illus., plates, (1 fold.) fold. map.|20 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Thoreau, Henry David, 1817-1862
Torrey, Bradford, 1843-1912 ( ed )
Sanborn, F. B ( Franklin Benjamin ), 1831-1917 ( ed )
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Place of Publication: Boston
Publication Date: [c1906]
Edition: [Walden ed.]
Genre: non-fiction   ( marcgt )
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00050303
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 000593509
oclc - 01297983
notis - ADC2380

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
        Page i
        Page ii
    Title Page
        Page iii
        Page iv
    Table of Contents
        Page v
        Page vi
    List of Illustrations
        Page vii
        Page viii
        Page ix
        Page x
    Half Title
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
        Page 88
        Page 89
    Where I lived, and what I lived for
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
        Page 96
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
        Page 109
        Page 110
        Page 111
        Page 112
        Page 113
        Page 114
        Page 115
        Page 116
        Page 117
        Page 118
        Page 119
        Page 120
        Page 121
        Page 122
        Page 123
        Page 124
        Page 125
        Page 126
        Page 127
        Page 128
        Page 129
        Page 130
        Page 131
        Page 132
        Page 133
        Page 134
        Page 135
        Page 136
        Page 137
        Page 138
        Page 139
        Page 140
        Page 141
        Page 142
        Page 143
        Page 144
        Page 145
        Page 146
        Page 147
        Page 148
        Page 149
        Page 150
        Page 151
        Page 152
        Page 153
        Page 154
        Page 155
        Page 156
        Page 157
        Page 158
        Page 159
        Page 160
        Page 161
        Page 162
        Page 163
        Page 164
        Page 165
        Page 166
        Page 167
        Page 168
        Page 169
        Page 170
    The bean-field
        Page 171
        Page 172
        Page 172a
        Page 173
        Page 174
        Page 175
        Page 176
        Page 177
        Page 178
        Page 179
        Page 180
        Page 181
        Page 182
        Page 183
        Page 184
    The village
        Page 185
        Page 186
        Page 187
        Page 188
        Page 189
        Page 190
        Page 191
    The ponds
        Page 192
        Page 193
        Page 194
        Page 195
        Page 196
        Page 197
        Page 198
        Page 199
        Page 200
        Page 200a
        Page 201
        Page 202
        Page 203
        Page 204
        Page 205
        Page 206
        Page 207
        Page 208
        Page 209
        Page 210
        Page 211
        Page 212
        Page 213
        Page 214
        Page 215
        Page 216
        Page 217
        Page 218
        Page 219
        Page 220
        Page 221
        Page 222
        Page 222a
    Baker farm
        Page 223
        Page 224
        Page 225
        Page 226
        Page 227
        Page 228
        Page 229
        Page 230
        Page 231
    Higher laws
        Page 232
        Page 233
        Page 234
        Page 235
        Page 236
        Page 237
        Page 238
        Page 239
        Page 240
        Page 241
        Page 242
        Page 243
        Page 244
        Page 245
        Page 246
    Brute neighbors
        Page 247
        Page 248
        Page 249
        Page 250
        Page 251
        Page 252
        Page 252a
        Page 253
        Page 254
        Page 255
        Page 256
        Page 257
        Page 258
        Page 259
        Page 260
        Page 261
        Page 262
        Page 263
        Page 264
        Page 265
        Page 266
        Page 267
        Page 268
        Page 269
        Page 270
        Page 271
        Page 272
        Page 273
        Page 274
        Page 275
        Page 276
        Page 277
        Page 278
        Page 279
        Page 280
        Page 281
    Former inhabitants; and winter visitors
        Page 282
        Page 283
        Page 284
        Page 285
        Page 286
        Page 287
        Page 288
        Page 289
        Page 290
        Page 291
        Page 292
        Page 293
        Page 294
        Page 295
        Page 296
        Page 297
        Page 298
    Winter animals
        Page 299
        Page 300
        Page 301
        Page 302
        Page 303
        Page 304
        Page 305
        Page 306
        Page 307
        Page 308
        Page 309
        Page 310
        Page 311
    The pond in winter
        Page 312
        Page 313
        Page 314
        Page 315
        Page 316
        Page 317
        Page 318
        Page 319
        Page 320
        Page 321
        Page 322
        Page 323
        Page 324
        Page 325
        Page 326
        Page 327
        Page 328
        Page 329
        Page 330
        Page 331
        Page 332
        Page 333
        Page 334
        Page 335
        Page 336
        Page 337
        Page 338
        Page 339
        Page 340
        Page 341
        Page 342
        Page 343
        Page 344
        Page 345
        Page 346
        Page 347
        Page 348
        Page 349
        Page 350
        Page 351
        Page 352
        Page 353
        Page 354
        Page 355
        Page 356
        Page 357
        Page 358
        Page 359
        Page 360
        Page 361
        Page 362
        Page 363
        Page 364
        Page 365
        Page 366
        Page 367
        Page 368
        Page 369
        Page 370
        Page 371
        Page 372
        Page 373
        Page 374
Full Text

aIbent tbition


Walden Pond, from site of Thoreau's Hut





9)dbe iersae ps, Cambritge


c/ ,,.


All rights reserved












































HUT Frontispiece



THOREAU lived in his Walden camp but two years,
1845-1847, and, as his narrative clearly shows, by no
means exiled himself from home and companions. His
hermitage was within easy walking distance of Concord;
and, though his seclusion meant privacy at times, he was
by no means debarred from society. The life in the
woods was a characteristic expression of his stout inde-
pendence of conditions, and served his purpose of living
frugally and securing leisure for observation, reading,
and writing. But since the act was in a way unique, it
transferred something of its unique property to the book
which recorded it, and the book is more closely identified
with Thoreau's fame, has done more to give him dis-
tinction, than any other of his writings.
The book Walden" was what William Ellery Chan-
ning calls "the log-book of his woodland cruise at Wal-
den." Thoreau himself tells us that the bulk of the book
was written in his hermitage. One bit of verse,
"Light-winged smoke, Icarian bird,"
he had printed in "The Dial;" but nothing else ap-
pears to have been garnered from previous publications,




W HEN I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk
of them, I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any
neighbor, in a house which I had built myself, on the
shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and
earned my living by the labor of my hands only. I lived
there two years and two months. At present I am a so-
journer in civilized life again.
I should not obtrude my affairs so much on the notice
of my readers if very particular inquiries had not been
made by my townsmen concerning my mode of life,
which some would call impertinent, though they do not
appear to me at all impertinent, but, considering the
circumstances, very natural and pertinent. Some have
asked what I got to eat; if I did not feel lonesome; if I
was not afraid; and the like. Others have been curious
to learn what portion of my income I devoted to char-
itable purposes; and some, who have large families, how
many poor children I maintained. I will therefore ask
those of my readers who feel no particular interest in me
to pardon me if I undertake ,to answer some of these
questions in this book. In most books, the I, or first per-
son, is omitted; in this it will be retained; that, in re-
spect to egotism, is the main difference. We commonly
do not remember that it is, after all, always the first per-

son that is speaking. I should not talk so much about
myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well.
Unfortunately, I am confined to this theme by the narrow-
ness of my experience. Moreover, I, on my side, require
of every writer, first or last, a simple and sincere account
of his own life, and not merely what he has heard of
other men's lives; some such account as he would send
to his kindred from a distant land; for if he has lived
sincerely, it must have been in a distant land to me. Per-
haps these pages are more particularly addressed to poor
students. As for the rest of my readers, they will accept
such portions as apply to them. I trust that none will
stretch the seams in putting on the coat, for it may do
good service to him whom it fits.
I would fain say something, not so much concerning
the Chinese and Sandwich Islanders as you who read
these pages, who are said to live in New England; some-
thing about your condition, especially your outward con-
dition or circumstances in this world, in this town, what
it is, whether it is necessary that it be as bad as it is,
whether it cannot be improved as well as not. I have
travelled a good deal in Concord; and everywhere, in
shops, and offices, and fields, the inhabitants have ap-
peared to me to be doing penance in a thousand remark-
able ways. What I have heard of Bramins sitting ex-
posed to four fires and looking in the face of the sun; or
hanging suspended, with their heads downward, over
flames; or looking at the heavens over their shoulders
"until it becomes impossible for them to resume their
natural position, while from the twist of the neck nothing
but liquids can pass into the stomach;" or dwelling,



chained for life, at the foot of a tree; or measuring with
their bodies, like caterpillars, the breadth of vast em-
pires; or standing on one leg on the tops of pillars, -
even these forms of conscious penance are hardly more
incredible and astonishing than the scenes which I daily
witness. The twelve labors of Hercules were trifling in'
comparison with those which my neighbors have under-
taken; for they were only twelve, and had an end; but
I could never see that these men slew or captured any
monster or finished any labor. They have no friend
Iolaus to burn with a hot iron the root of the hydra's
head, but as soon as one head is crushed, two spring
I see young men, my townsmen, whose misfortune it
is to have inherited farms, houses, barns, cattle, and
farming tools; for these are more easily acquired than
got rid of. Better if they had been born in the open pas-
ture and suckled by a wolf, that they might have seen
with clearer eyes what field they were called to labor in.
Who made them serfs of the soil? Why should they eat
their sixty acres, when man is condemned to eat only his
peck of dirt ? Why should they begin digging their graves
as soon as they are born ? They have got to live a man's
life, pushing all these things before them, and get on as
well as they can. How many a poor immortal soul have
I met well-nigh crushed and smothered under its load,
creeping down the road of life, pushing before it a barn
seventy-five feet by forty, its Augean stables never
cleansed, and one hundred acres of land, tillage, mow-
ing, pasture, and wood-lot! The portionless, who strug-
gle with no such unnecessary inherited encumbrances,



find it labor enough to subdue and cultivate a few cubic
feet of flesh.
But men labor under a mistake. The better part of the
man is soon plowed into the soil for compost. By a
seeming fate, commonly called necessity, they are em-
'ployed, as it says in an old book, laying up treasures
which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break
through and steal. It is a fool's life, as they will find
when they get to the end of it, if not before. It is said
that Deucalion and Pyrrha created men by throwing
stones over their heads behind them: -
Inde genus durum sumus, experiensque laborum,
Et document damus qua simus origine nati.
Or, as Raleigh rhymes it in his sonorous way, -
"From thence our kind hard-hearted is, enduring pain and care,
Approving that our bodies of a stony nature are."
So much for a blind obedience to a blundering oracle,
throwing the stones over their heads behind them, and
not seeing where they fell.
Most men, even in this comparatively free country,
through mere ignorance and mistake, are so occupied
with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labors
of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them.
Their fingers, from excessive toil, are too clumsy and
tremble too much for that. Actually, the laboring man
has not leisure for a true integrity day by day; he can-
not afford to sustain the manliest relations to men; his
labor would be depreciated in the market. He has no
time to be anything but a machine. How can he remem-
ber well his ignorance which his growth requires -



who has so often to use his knowledge ? We should feed
and clothe him gratuitously sometimes, and recruit him
with our cordials, before we judge of him. The finest
qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be
preserved only by the most delicate handling. Yet we do
not treat ourselves nor one another thus tenderly.
Some of you, we all know, are poor, find it hard to
live, are sometimes, as it were, gasping for breath. I
have no doubt that some of you who read this book are
unable to pay for all the dinners which you have actually
eaten, or for the coats and shoes which are fast wearing
or are already worn out, and have come to this page to
spend borrowed or stolen time, robbing your creditors
of an hour. It is very evident what mean and sneaking
lives many of you live, for my sight has been whetted by
experience; always on the limits, trying to get into busi-
ness and trying to get out of debt, a very ancient slough,
called by the Latins aes alienum, another's brass, for
some of their coins were made of brass; still living, and
dying, and buried by this other's brass; always pro-
mising to pay, promising to pay, to-morrow, and dying
to-day, insolvent; seeking to curry favor, to get custom,
by how many modes, only not state-prison offences;
lying, flattering, voting, contracting yourselves into a
nutshell of civility, or dilating into an atmosphere of
thin and vaporous generosity, that you may persuade
your neighbor to let you make his shoes, or his hat, or
his coat, or his carriage, or import his groceries for
him; making yourselves sick, that you may lay up
something against a sick day, something to be tucked
away in an old chest, or in a stocking behind the plas-



tering, or, more safely, in the brick bank; no matter
where, no matter how much or how little.
I sometimes wonder that we can be so frivolous, I
may almost say, as to attend to the gross but somewhat
foreign form of servitude called Negro Slavery, there are
so many keen and subtle masters that enslave both North
and South. It is hard to have a Southern overseer; it is
worse to have a Northern one; but worst of all when you
are the slave-driver of yourself. Talk of a divinity in
man! Look at the teamster on the highway, wending to
market by day or night; does any divinity stir within
him ? His highest duty to fodder and water his horses!
What is his destiny to him compared with the shipping
Interests? Does not he drive for Squire Make-a-stir?
How godlike, how immortal, is he ? See how he cowers
and sneaks, how vaguely all the day he fears, not being
immortal nor divine, but the slave and prisoner of his
own opinion of himself, a fame won by his own deeds.
Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own
private opinion. What a man thinks of himself, that it is
which determines, or rather indicates, his fate. Self-
emancipation even in the West Indian provinces of the
fancy and imagination, what Wilberforce is there to
bring that about ? Think, also, of the ladies of the land
weaving toilet cushions against the last day, not to be-
tray too green an interest in their fates! As if you could
kill time without injuring eternity.
The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What
is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From
the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and
have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and



muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is con-
cealed even under what are called the games'and amuse-
ments of mankind. There is no play in them, for this
comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom
not to do desperate things.
When we consider what, to use the words of the cate-
chism, is the chief end of man, and what are the true
necessaries and means of life, it appears as if men had
deliberately chosen the common mode of living because
they preferred it to any other. Yet they honestly think
there is no choice left. But alert and healthy natures
remember that the sun rose clear. It is never too late
to give up our prejudices. No way of thinking or doing,
however ancient, can be trusted without proof. What
everybody echoes or in silence passes by as true to-day
may turn out to be falsehood to-morrow, mere smoke of
opinion, which some had trusted for a cloud that would
sprinkle fertilizing rain on their fields. What old people
say you cannot do, you try and find that you can. Old
deeds for old people, and new deeds for new. Old peo- V
pie did not know enough once, perchance, to fetch fresh
fuel to keep the fire a-going; new people put a little dry
wood under a pot, and are whirled round the globe with
the speed of birds, in a way to kill old people, as the
phrase is. Age is no better, hardly so well, qualified for
an instructor as youth, for it has not profited so much as
it has lost. One may almost doubt if the wisest man has
learned anything of absolute value by living. Practically,
the old have no very important advice to give the young,
their own experience has been so partial, and their lives
have been such miserable failures, for private reasons,



as they must believe; and it may be that they have some
faith left which belies that experience, and they are only
less young than they were. I have lived some thirty years
on this planet, and I have yet to hear the first syllable of
valuable or even earnest advice from my seniors. They
have told me nothing, and probably cannot tell me any-
thing to the purpose. Here is life, an experiment to a
great extent untried by me; but it does not avail me that
they have tried it. If I have any experience which I
think valuable, I am sure to reflect that this my Mentors
said nothing about.
One farmer says to me, You cannot live on vegetable
food solely, for it furnishes nothing to make bones with;"
and so he religiously devotes a part of his day to supply-
ing his system with the raw material of bones; walking
all the while he talks behind his oxen, which, with vege-
table-made bones, jerk him and his lumbering plow
along in spite of every obstacle. Some things are really
necessaries of life in some circles, the most helpless and
diseased, which in others are luxuries merely; and in
others still are entirely unknown.
The whole ground of human life seems to some to
have been gone over by their predecessors, both the
heights and the valleys, and all things to have been cared
for. According to Evelyn, "the wise Solomon prescribed
ordinances for the very distances of trees; and the Ro-
man praetors have decided how often you may go into
your neighbor's land to gather the acorns which fall on
it without trespass, and what share belongs to that neigh-
bor." Hippocrates has even left directions how we should
cut our nails; that is, even with the ends of the fingers,



neither shorter nor longer. Undoubtedly the very tedium
and ennui which presume to have exhausted the variety
and the joys of life are as old as Adam. But man's ca-
pacities have nI.ever been maesurcd; nor are we to judge
of what he can do by any precedents, so little has been
tried. Whatever have been thy failures hitherto, "be
not afflicted, my child, for who shall assign to thee what
thou hast left undone?"
We might try our lives by a thousand simple tests; as,
for instance, that the same sun which ripens my beans
illumines at once a system of earths like ours. If I had
remembered this it would have prevented some mis-
takes. This was not the light in which I hoed them.
The stars are the apexes of what wonderful triangles!
What distant and different beings in the various man-
sions of the universe are contemplating the same one at
the same moment! Nature and human life are as various
as our several constitutions- Who shall say what pros-
pect life offers to another ? Could a greater miracle take
place than for us to look through each other's eyes for
an instant ? We should live in all the ages of the world
in an hour; ay, in all the worlds of the ages. History,
Poetry, Mythology! I know of no reading of another's
experience so startling and informing as this would be.
The greater part of what my neighbors call good I be-
lieve in my soul to be bad, and if I repent of anything,
it is very likely to be my good behavior. What demon
possessed me that I behaved so well? You may say the
wisest thing you can, old man, you who have lived
seventy years, not without honor of a kind, I hear an
irresistible voice which invites me away from all that.



V One generation abandons the enterprises of another like
stranded vessels.
I think that we may safely trust a good deal more than
we do. We may waive just so much care of ourselves as
we honestly bestow elsewhere. Nature is as well adapted
to our weakness as to our strength. The incessant anxi-
ety and strain of some is a well-nigh incurable form of
disease. We are made to exaggerate the importance of
what work we do; and yet how much is not done by us!
or, what if we had been taken sick ? How vigilant we
are! determined not to live by faith if we can avoid it;
all the day long on the alert, at night we unwillingly say
our prayers and commit ourselves to uncertainties. So
thoroughly and sincerely are we compelled to live, rev-
erencing our life, and denying .the possibility of change.
This is the only way, we say; but there are as many
ways as there can be drawn radii from one centre. All
change is a miracle to contemplate; but it is a miracle
which is taking place every instant. Confucius said,
i" To know that we know what we know, and that we do
not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge."
When one man has reduced a fact of the imagination to
be a fact to his understanding, I foresee that all men will
at length establish their lives on that basis.
Let us consider for a moment what most of the trouble
and anxiety which I have referred to is about, and how
much it is necessary that we be troubled, or at least care-
ful. It would be some advantage to live a primitive and
frontier life, though in the midst of an outward civiliza-
tion, if only to learn what are the gross necessaries of
life and what methods have been taken to obtain them;



or even to look over the old day-books of the merchants;
to see what it was that men most commonly bought at
the stores, what they stored, that is, what are the grossest
groceries. For the improvements of ages have had but
little influence on the essential laws of man's existence:
as our skeletons, probably, are not to be distinguished
from those of our ancestors.
/By the words, necessary of life, I mean whatever, of
a that man obtains by his own exertions, has been from
the first, or from long use has become, so important to
human life that few, if any, whether from savageness,
or poverty, or philosophy, ever attempt to do without it.)
To many creatures there is in this sense but one neces-
sary of life, Food. To the bison of the prairie it is a few
inches of palatable grass, with water to drink; unless
he seeks the Shelter of the forest or the mountain's
shadow. None of the brute creation requires more than
Food and Shelter. The necessaries of life for man in this
climate may, accurately enough, be distributed under
the several heads of Food, Shelter, Clothing, and Fuel;
for not till we have secured these are we prepared to
entertain the true problems of life with freedom and a
prospect of success. Man has invented, not only houses,
but clothes and cooked food; and possibly from the ac-
cidental discovery of the warmth of fire, and the conse-
quent use of it, at first a luxury, arose the present neces-
sity to sit by it. We observe cats and dogs acquiring the
same second nature. By proper Shelter and Clothing
we legitimately retain our own internal heat; but with
an excess of these, or of Fuel, that is, with an external
heat greater than our own internal, may not cookery



properly be said to begin ? Darwin, the naturalist, says
of the inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego, that while his
own party, who were well clothed and sitting close to a
fire, were far from too warm, these naked savages, who
were farther off, were observed, to his great surprise,
"to be streaming with perspiration at undergoing such
a roasting." So, we are told, the New Hollander goes
naked with impunity, while the European shivers in his
clothes. Is it impossible to combine the hardiness of
these savages with the intellectualness of the civilized
man ? According to Liebig, man's body is a stove, and
food the fuel which keeps up the internal combustion in
the lungs. In cold weather we eat more, in warm less.
The animal heat is t0- result of a slow combustion, and
disease and death ..e place when this is too rapid; or
for want of fuel, from some defect in the draught, the
fire goes out. Of course the vital heat is not to be con-
founded with fire; but so much for analogy. It appears,
therefore, from the above list, that the expression, ani-
mal life, is nearly synonymous with the expression, ani-
mal heat; for while Food may be regarded as the Fuel
which keeps up the fire within us, and Fuel serves
only to prepare that Food or to increase the warmth of
our bodies by addition from without, Shelter and
Clothing also serve only to retain the heat thus generated
and absorbed.
The grand necessity, then, for our bodies, is to keep
warm, to keep the vital heat in us. What pains we ac-
cordingly take, not only with our Food, and Clothing,
and Shelter, but with our beds, which are our night-
clothes, robbing the nests and breasts of birds to pre-



pare this shelter within a shelter, as the mole has its bed
of grass and leaves at the end of its burrow! The poor
man is wont to complain that this is a cold world; and
to cold, no less physical than social, we refer directly a
great part of our ails. The summer, in some climates,
makes possible to man a sort of Elysian life. Fuel, ex-
cept to cook his Food, is then unnecessary; the sun is
his fire, and many of the fruits are sufficiently cooked by
its rays; while Food generally is more various, and more
easily obtained, and Clothing and Shelter are wholly or
half unnecessary. At the present day, and in this country,
as I find by my own experience, a few implements, a
knife, an axe, a spade, a wheelbarrow, etc., and for the
studious, lamplight, stationery, and access to a few books,
rank next to necessaries, and can all be obtained at a
trifling cost. Yet some, not wise, go to the other side of
the globe, to barbarous and unhealthy regions, and de-
vote themselves to trade for ten or twenty years, in order
that they may live, that is, keep comfortably warm,
- and die in New England at last. The luxuriously rich
are not simply kept comfortably warm, but unnaturally
hot; as I implied before, they are cooked, of course
a la mode.
fMost of the luxuries, and many of the so-called com-
forts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive
hindrances to the elevation of mankind. With respect
to luxuries and comforts, the wisest have ever lived a
more simple and meagre life than the poor. The ancient
philosophers, Chinese, Hindoo, Persian, and Greek,
were a class than which none has been poorer in out-
ward riches, none so rich in inward. We know not much



about them. It is remarkable that we know so much of
them as we do. The same is true of the more modern
reformers and benefactors of their race. [None can be an
impartial or wise observer of human life but from the
vantage ground of what we should call voluntary pov-
erty. Of a life of luxury the fruit is luxury, whether in
agriculture, or commerce, or literature, or art.) There
are nowadays professors of philosophy, but not philoso-
phers. Yet it is admirable to profess because it was once
admirable to live.CTo be a philosopher is not merely to
have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so
to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates, a life
of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust)
It is to solve some of the problems of life, not only theo-
retically, but practically. The success of great scholars
and thinkers is commonly a courtier-like success, not
kingly, not manly. They make shift to live merely by
conformity, practically as their fathers did, and are in no
sense the progenitors of a nobler race of men.' But why
do men degenerate ever ? What makes families run out ?
What is the nature of the luxury which enervates and
destroys nations ? Are we sure that there is none of it in
our own lives ? The philosopher is in advance of his age
even in the outward form of his life. He is not fed, shel-
tered, clothed, warmed, like his contemporaries. How
can a man be a philosopher and not maintain his vital
heat by better methods than other men ?j
When a man is warmed by the several modes which
I have described, what does he want next? Surely not
more warmth of the same kind, as more and richer food,
larger and more splendid houses, finer and more abun-




dant clothing, more numerous, incessant and hotter fires,
and the like. When he has obtained those things which
are necessary to life, there is another alternative than to
obtain the superfluities; and that is, to adventure on life
now, his vacation from humbler toil having commenced.
The soil, it appears, is suited to the seed, for it has sent
its radicle downward, and it may now send its shoot up-
ward also with confidence. Why has man rooted him-
self.thus-firmly in the earth, but that he may rise in the
same proportion into the heavens above ? for the no-
bler plants are valued for the fruit they bear at last in the
air and light, far from the ground, and are not treated
like the humbler esculents, which, though they may be
biennials, are cultivated only till they have perfected
their root, and often cut down at top for this purpose,
so that most would not know them in their flowering
I do not mean to prescribe rules to strong and valiant
natures, who will mind their own affairs whether in
heaven or hell, and perchance build more magnificently
and spend more lavishly than the richest, without ever
impoverishing themselves, not knowing how they live,
- if, indeed, there are any such, as has been dreamed;
nor to those who find their encouragement and inspira-
tion in precisely the present condition of things, and
cherish it with the fondness and enthusiasm of lovers, -
and, to some extent, I reckon myself in this number; I
do not speak to those who are well employed, in what-
ever circumstances, and they know whether they are
well employed or not; but mainly to the mass of men
who are discontented, and idly complaining of the hard-


ness of their lot or of the times, when they might improve
them. There are some who complain most energetically
and inconsolably of any, because they are, as they say,
doing their duty. I also have in my mind that seemingly
wealthy, but most terribly impoverished class of all, who
have accumulated dross, but know not how to use it, or
get rid of it, and thus have forged their own golden or
silver fetters.

If I should attempt to tell how I have desired to spend
my life in years past, it would probably surprise those
of my readers who are somewhat acquainted with its
actual history; it would certainly astonish those who
know nothing about it. I will only hint at some of the
enterprises which I have cherished..
In any weather, at any hour of the day or night, I have
been anxious to improve the nick of time, and notch it
on my stick too; to stand on the meeting of two eter-
nities, the past and future, which is precisely the present
moment; to toe that line. You will pardon some ob-
scurities, for there are more secrets in my trade than in
most men's, and yet not voluntarily kept, but insep-
arable from its very nature. I would gladly tell all that
I know about it, and never paint "No Admittance" on
my gate.
I long ago lost a hound, a bay horse, and a turtle-
dove, and am still on their trail. Many are the travellers
I have spoken concerning them, describing their tracks
and what calls they answered to. I have met one or two
who had heard the hound, and the tramp of the horse,
and even seen the dove disappear behind a cloud, and



they seemed as anxious to recover them as if they had
lost them themselves.
To anticipate, not the sunrise and the dawn merely,
but, if possible, Nature herself! How many mornings,
summer and winter, before yet any neighbor was stir-
ring about his business, have I been about mine! No
doubt, many of my townsmen have met me returning
from this enterprise, farmers starting for Boston in the v
twilight, or woodchoppers going to their work. It is true,
I never assisted the sun materially in his rising, but,\
doubt not, it was of the last importance only to be pre4
sent at it.
So many autumn, ay, and winter days, spent outside
the town, trying to hear what was in the wind, to hear
and carry it express! I well-nigh sunk all my capital in
it, and lost my own breath into the bargain, running in
the face of it. If it had concerned either of the political
parties, depend upon it, it would have appeared in the
Gazette with the earliest intelligence. At other times
watching from the observatory of some cliff or tree, to
telegraph any new arrival; or waiting at evening on the
hill-tops for the sky to fall, that I might catch something,
though I never caught much, and that, manna-wise,
would dissolve again in the sun.
For a long time I was reporter to a journal, of no very
wide circulation, whose editor has never yet seen fit to
print the bulk of my contributions, and, as is too com-
mon with writers, I got only my labor for my pains.
However, in this case my pains were their own reward.
For many years I was self-appointed inspector of
snow-storms and rain-storms, and did my duty faith-



fully; surveyor, if not of highways, then of forest paths
and all across-lot routes, keeping them open, and ravines
bridged and passable at all seasons, where the public
heel had testified to their utility.
I have looked after the wild stock of the town, which
give a faithful herdsman a good deal.of trouble by leap-
ing fences; and I have had an eye to the unfrequented
nooks and corners of the farm; though I did not always
know whether Jonas or Solomon worked in a particular
field to-day; that was none of my business. I have wa-
tered the red huckleberry, the sand cherry and the nettle-
tree, the red pine and the black ash, the white grape and
the yellow violet, which might have withered else in dry
In short, I went on thus for a long time (I may say it
without boasting), faithfully minding my business, till it
became more and more evident that my townsmen would
not after all admit me into the list of town officers, nor
make my place a sinecure with a moderate allowance.
My accounts, which I can swear to have kept faithfully,
I have, indeed, never got audited, still less accepted, still
less paid and settled. However, I have not set my heart
on that.
.Not long since, a strolling Indian went to sell baskets
at the house of a well-known lawyer in my neighbor-
hood. "Do you wish to buy any baskets?" he asked.
"No, we do not want any," was the reply. "What!" ex-
claimed the Indian as he went out the gate, "do you
mean to starve us ?" Having seen his industrious white
neighbors so well off,- that the lawyer had only to
weave arguments, and, by some magic, wealth and stand-



ing followed, he had said to himself: I will go into
business; I will weave baskets; it is a thing which I can
do. Thinking that when he had made the baskets he
would have done his part, and then it would be the white
man's to buy them. He had not discovered that it was
necessary for him to make it worth the other's while to
buy them, or at least make him think that it was so, or
to make something else which it would be worth his
while to buy. I too had woven a kind of basket of a deli-
cate texture, but I had not made it worth any one's
while to buy them. Yet not the less, in my case, did I
think it worth my while to weave them, and instead of
studying how to make it worth men's while to buy my
baskets, I studied rather how to avoid the necessity of
selling them. The life which.men praise and regard as
successful is but one kinAd. Why should we exaggerate
any one kind at the expense of the others ?
Finding that my fellow-citizens were not likely to
offer me any room in the court house, or any curacy or
living anywhere else, but I must shift for myself, I turned
my face more exclusively than ever to the woods, where
I was better known. I determined to go into business at
once, and not wait to acquire the usual capital, using
such slender means as I had already got.( My purpose
in going to Walden Pond was not to live cheaply nor to
live dearly there, but to transact some private business
With the fewest obstacles; to be hindered from accom-
plishing which for want of a little common sense, a little
enterprise and business talent, appeared not so sad as
I have always endeavored to acquire strict business



habits; they are indispensable to every man. If your
trade is with the Celestial Empire, then some small
counting house on the coast, in some Salem harbor, will
be fixture enough. You will export such articles as the
country affords, purely native products, much ice and
pine timber and a little granite, always in native bot-
toms. These will be good ventures. To oversee all the
details yourself in person; to be at once pilot and cap-
tain, and owner and underwriter; to buy and sell and
keep the accounts; to read every letter received, and
write or read every letter sent; to superintend the dis-
charge of imports night and day; to be upon many
parts of the coast almost at the same time, often the
richest freight will be discharged upon a Jersey shore;
- to be your own telegraph, unweariedly sweeping the
horizon, speaking all passing vessels bound coastwise;
to keep up a steady despatch of commodities, for the
supply of such a distant and exorbitant market; to
keep yourself informed of the state of the markets, pros-
pects of war and peace everywhere, and anticipate the
tendencies of trade and civilization, taking advan-
tage of the results of all exploring expeditions, using
new passages and all improvements in navigation; -
charts to be studied, the position of reefs and new lights
and buoys to be ascertained, and ever, and ever, the
logarithmic tables to be corrected, for by the error of
some calculator the vessel often splits upon a rock that
should have reached a friendly pier, there is the un-
told fate of La Perouse; universal science to be kept
pace with, studying the lives of all great discoverers and
navigators, great adventurers and merchants, from



Hanno and the Phoenicians down to our day; in fine,
account of stock to be taken from time to time, to know
how you stand. It is a labor to task the faculties of a
man, such problems of profit and loss, of interest, of
tare and tret, and gauging of all kinds in it, as demand
a universal knowledge.
I have thought that Walden Pond would be a good
place for business, not solely on account of the railroad
and the ice trade; it offers advantages which it may not
be good policy to divulge; it is a good post and a good
foundation. No Neva marshes to be filled; though you
must everywhere build on piles of your own driving. It
is said that a flood-tide, with a westerly wind, and ice in
the Neva, would sweep St. Petersburg from the face of
the earth.
As this business was to be entered into without the
usual capital, it may not be easy to conjecture where
those means, that will still be indispensable to every
such undertaking, were to be obtained. As for Clothing,
to come at once to the practical part of the question,
perhaps we are led oftener by the love of novelty and a
regard for the opinions of men, in procuring it, than by
a true utility. Let him who has work to do recollect that
the object of clothing is, first, to retain the vital heat,
and secondly, in this state of society, to cover nakedness,
and he may judge how much of any necessary or im-
portant work may be accomplished without adding to
his wardrobe. Kings and queens who wear a suit buti
once, though made by some tailor or dressmaker to their
majesties, cannot know the comfort of wearing a suit
that fits. They are no better than wooden horses to



hang the clean clothes on. Every day our garments
become more assimilated to ourselves, receiving the im-
press of the wearer's character, until we hesitate to lay
them aside without such delay and medical appliances
and some such solemnity even as our bodies. No man
ever stood the lower in my estimation for having a patch
in his clothes; yet I am sure that there is greater anxiety,
commonly, to have fashionable, or at least clean and
unpatched clothes, than to have a sound conscience.
But even if the rent is not mended, perhaps the worst
vice betrayed is improvidence. I sometimes try my
acquaintances by such tests as this, Who could wear
a patch, or two extra seams only, over the knee ? Most
behave as if they believed that their prospects for life
would be ruined if they should do it. It would be easier
for them to hobble to town with a broken leg than with
a broken pantaloon. Often if an accident happens to a
gentleman's legs, they can be mended; but if a similar
accident happens to the legs of his pantaloons, there
is no help for it; for he considers, not what is truly
respectable, but what is respected. (We know but few
men, a great many coats and breeches. Dress a scare-
crow in your last shift, you standing shiftless by, who
would not soonest salute the scarecrow? Passing a
cornfield the other day, close by a hat and coat on a
stake, I recognized the owner of the farm. He was only
a little more weather-beaten than when I saw him last.
I have heard of a dog that barked at every stranger who
approached his master's premises with clothes on, but
was easily quieted by a naked thief. It is an interesting
question how far men would retain their relative rank




if they were divested of their clothes. Could you, in
such a case, tell surely of any company of civilized men
which belonged to the most respected class? When
Madam Pfeiffer, in her adventurous travels round the
world, from east to west, had got so near home as Asiatic
Russia, she says that she felt the necessity of wearing
other than a travelling dress, when she went to meet the
authorities, for she "was now in a civilized country,
where people are judged of by their clothes."
Even in our democratic New England towns the acci-
dental possession of wealth, and its manifestation in
dress and equipage alone, obtain for the possessor al-
most universal respect. But they who yield such respect,
numerous as they are, are so far heathen, and need to
have a missionary sent to them. Beside, clothes intro-
duced sewing, a kind of work which you may call end-
less; a woman's dress, at least, is never done.
SA man who has at length found something to do will
not need to get a new suit to do it in; for him the old
will do, that has lain dusty in the garret for an indeter-
minate period. Old shoes will serve a hero longer than
they have served his valet, if a hero ever has a valet,
- bare feet are older than shoes, and he can make them
do. Only they who go to soir6es and legislative halls
must have new coats, coats to change as often as the
man changes in them. But if my jacket and trousers,
my hat and shoes, are fit to worship God in, they will
do; will they not ? Who ever saw his old clothes, his
old coat, actually worn out, resolved into its primitive
elements, so that it was not a deed of charity to bestow
it on some poor boy, by him perchance to be bestowed


on some poorer still, or shall we say richer, who could
do with less ? I say, beware of all enterprises that require
new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes. If
there is not a new man, how can the new clothes be made
to fit ? .If you have any enterprise before you, try it in
your old clothes. All men want, not something to do
with, but something to do, or rather something to be.,
Perhaps we should never procure a new suit, however
ragged or dirty the old, until we have so conducted, so
enterprise or sailed in some way, that we feel like
new men in the old, and that to retain it would be like
keeping new wine in old bottles. Our moulting season,
like that of the fowls, must be a crisis in our lives. The
loon retires to solitary ponds to spend it. Thus also the
snake casts its slough, and the caterpillar its wormy
coat, by an internal industry and expansion; for clothes
are but our outmost cuticle and mortal coil. Otherwise
we shall be found sailing under false colors, and be in-
evitably cashiered at last by our own opinion, as well
as that of mankind.
We don garment after garment, as if we grew like
exogenous plants by addition without. Our outside and
often thin and fanciful clothes are our epidermis, or
false skin, which partakes not of our life, and may be
stripped off here and there without fatal injury; our
thicker garments, constantly worn, are our cellular integ-
ument, or cortex; but our shirts are our liber, or true
bark, which cannot be removed without girdling and so
destroying the man. I believe that all races at some
seasons wear something equivalent to the shirt. It is
desirable that a man be clad so simply that he can lay



his hands on himself in the dark, and that he live in all
respects so compactly and preparedly that, if an enemy
take the town, he can, like the old philosopher, walk out
the gate empty-handed without anxiety. While one
thick garment is, for most purposes, as good as three
thin ones, and cheap clothing can be obtained at prices
really to suit customers; while a thick coat can be
bought for five dollars, which will last as many years,
thick pantaloons for two dollars, cowhide boots for a
dollar and a half a pair, a summer hat for a quarter of
a dollar, and a winter cap for sixty-two and a half cents,
or a better be made at home at a nominal cost, where is
he so poor that, clad in such a suit, of his own earning,
there will not be found wise men to do him reverence ?
When I ask for a garment of a particular form, my
tailoress tells me gravely, "They do not make them
so now," not emphasizing the "They" at all, as if she
quoted an authority as impersonal as the Fates, and I
find it difficult to get made what I want, simply because
she cannot believe that I mean what I say, that I am so
rash. When I hear this oracular sentence, I am for a
moment absorbed in thought, emphasizing to myself
each word separately that I may come at the meaning
of it, that I may find out by what degree of consanguinity
They are related to me, and what authority they may
have in an affair which affects me so nearly; and, finally,
I am inclined to answer her with equal mystery, and
without any more emphasis of the "they,"--"It is
true, they did not make them so recently, but they do
now." Of what use this measuring of me if she does
not measure my character, but only the breadth of my



Shoulders, as it were a peg to hang the coat on ? We wor-
ship not the Graces, nor the Parcse, but Faslion. \ She
spins and weaves and cuts with full authority. The head
monkey at Paris puts on a traveller's cap, and all the
monkeys in America do the same. I sometimes despair
of getting anything quite simple and honest done in this
world by the help of men. They would have to be passed
through a powerful press first, to squeeze their old no-
tions out of them, so that theywould not soon get upon
their legs again; and then there would be some one in
the companywith a maggot in his head, hatched from
an egg deposited there nobody knows when, for not
even fire kills these things, and you would have lost
your labor. Nevertheless, we will not forget that some
Egyptian wheat was handed down to us by a mummy.
On the whole, I think that it cannot be maintained
that dressing has in this or any country risen to the
dignity of an art. At present men make shift to wear
what they can get. Like shipwrecked sailors, they put
on what they can find on the beach, and at a little dis-
tance, whether of space or time, laugh at each other's
masquerade. Every generation laughs at the old fash-
ions, but follows religiously the new. We are amused
at beholding the costume of Henry VIII., or Queen
Elizabeth, as much as if it was'that of the King and
Queen of the Cannibal Islands. All costume off a man
is pitiful or grotesque. It is only the serious eye peering
from and the sincere life passed within it which restrain
laughter and consecrate the costume of any people. Let
Harlequin be taken with a fit of the colic and his trap-
j pings will have to serve that mood too. When the

soldier is hit by a cannon-ball, rags are as becoming as
The childish and savage taste of men and women
for new patterns keeps how many shaking and squint-
ing through kaleidoscopes that they may discover the
particular figure which this generation requires to-day.
The manufacturers have learned that this taste is merely
whimsical. Of two patterns which differ only by a few
threads more or less of a particular color, the one will
be sold readily, the other lie on the shelf, though it fre-
quently happens that after the lapse of a season the lat-
ter becomes the most fashionable. Comparatively, tat-
tooing is not the hideous custom which it is called. It is
not barbarous merely because the printing is skin-deep
and unalterable.
I cannot believe that our factory system is the best
mode by which men may get clothing. The condition
of the operatives is becoming every day more like that
of the English; and it cannot be wondered at, since, as
far as I have heard or observed, the principal object is,
not that mankind may be well and honestly. clad, but,
unquestionably, that the corporations may be enriched.
In the long run men hit only what they aim at. There-
fore, though they should fail immediately, they had lbet-
ter aim at something high.
As for a Shelter, I will not deny that this is now a
necessary of life, though there are instances of men hav-
ing done without it for long periods in colder countries
than this. Samuel Laing says that "the Laplander in
his skin dress, and in a skin bag which he puts over his
head and shoulders, will sleep night after night on the



snow in a degree of cold which would extinguish
the life of one exposed to it in any woollen clothing." He
had seen them asleep thus. Yet he adds, "They are not
hardier than other people." But, probably, man did not
live long on the earth without discovering the conven-
ience which there is in a house, the domestic comforts,
which phrase may have originally signified the satisfac-
tions of the house more than of the family; though these
must be extremely partial and occasional in those
climates where the house is associated in our thoughts
with winter or the rainy season chiefly, and two.thirds
of the year, except for a parasol, is unnecessary. In our
climate, in the summer, it was formerly almost solely a
covering at night. In the Indian gazettes a wigwam was
the symbol of a day's march, and a row of them cut or
painted on the bark of a tree signified that so many
times they had camped. Man was not made so large
limbed and robust but that he must seek to narrow his
world, and wall in a space such as fitted him. He was
at first bare and out of doors; but though this was plea-
sant enough in serene and warm weather, by daylight,
the rainy season and the winter, to say nothing of the
torrid sun, would perhaps have nipped his race in the
bud if he had not made haste to clothe himself with
the shelter of a house. Adam and Eve, according to the
fable, wore the bower before other clothes. Man wanted
a home, a place of warmth, or comfort, first of physical
warmth, then the warmth of the affections.
We may imagine a time when, in the infancy of the
human race, some enterprising mortal crept into a hol-
low in a rock for shelter. Every child begins the world



again, to some extent, and loves to stay outdoors, even
in wet and cold. It plays house, as well as horse, having
an instinct for it. Who does not remember the interest
with which, when young, he looked at shelving rocks,
or any approach to a cave ? It was the natural yearning
of that portion of our most primitive ancestor which
still survived in us. From the cave we have advanced
to roofs of palm leaves, of bark and boughs, of linen
woven and stretched, of grass and straw, of boards and
shingles, of stones and tiles. At last, we know not what
it is to live in the open air, and our lives are domestic
in more senses than we think. From the hearth the
field is a great distance. It would be well, perhaps, if
we were to spend more of our days and nights without
any obstruction between us and the celestial bodies, if
the poet did not speak so much from under a roof, or
the saint dwell there so long. Birds do not sing in caves,
nor do doves cherish their innocence in dovecots.
However, if one designs to construct a dwelling-house,
it behooves him to exercise a little Yankee shrewdness,
lest after all he find himself in a workhouse, a labyrinth
without a clue, a museum, an almshouse, a prison, or a
splendid mausoleum instead. Consider first how slight
a shelter is absolutely necessary. I have seen Penobscot
Indians, in this town, living in tents of thin cotton cloth,
while the snow was nearly a foot deep around them, and
I thought that they would be glad to have it deeper to
keep out the wind. Formerly, when how to get my liv-
ing honestly, with freedom left for my proper pursuits,
was a question which vexed me even more than it does
now, for unfortunately I am become somewhat callous,



I used to see a large box by the railroad, six feet long
by three wide, in which the laborers locked up their
tools at night; and it suggested to me that every man
who was hard pushed might get such a one for a dollar,
and, having bored a few auger holes in it, to admit the
air at least, get into it when it rained and at night, and
hook down the lid, and so have freedom in his love, and
in his soul be free. This did not appear the worst, nor
by any means a despicable alternative. You could sit
up as late as you pleased, and, whenever you got up, go
abroad without any landlord or house-lord dogging you
for rent. Many a man is harassed to death to pay the
rent of a larger and more luxurious box who would not
have frozen to death in such a box as this. I am far
from jesting. Economy is a subject which admits of
being treated with levity, but it cannot so be disposed
of. A comfortable house for a rude and hardy race, that
lived mostly out of doors, was once made here almost
entirely of such materials as Nature furnished ready to
their hands. Gookin, who was superintendent of the
Indians subject to the Massachusetts Colony, writing
in 1674, says, "The best of their houses are covered
very neatly, tight and warm, with barks of trees, slipped
from their bodies at those seasons when the sap is up,
and made into great flakes, with pressure of weighty
timber, when they are green. ... .The meaner sort
are covered with mats which they make of a kind of bul-
rush, and are also indifferently tight and warm, but
not so good as the former. Some I have seen,
sixty or a hundred feet long and thirty feet broad. .
I have often lodged in their wigwams, and found them




as warm as the best English houses." He adds that they
were commonly carpeted and lined within with well-
wrought embroidered mats, and were furnished with
various utensils. The Indians had advanced so far as
to regulate the effect of the wind by a mat suspended
over the hole in the roof and moved by a string. Such
a lodge was in the first instance constructed in a day or
two at most, and taken down and put up in a few hours;
and every family owned one, or its apartment in one.
In the savage state every family owns a shelter as
good as the best, and sufficient for its coarser and simpler
wants; but I think that I speak within bounds when I
say that, though the birds of the air have their nests,
and the foxes their holes, and the savages their wig-
wams, in modern civilized society not more than one
half the families own a shelter.A In the large towns and
cities, where civilization especially prevails, the number
of those who own a shelter is a very small fraction of
the whole. The rest pay an annual tax for this outside
garment of all, become indispensable summer and win-
ter, which would buy a village of Indian wigwams, but
now helps to keep them poor as long as they live. I do
not mean to insist here on the disadvantage of hiring
compared with owning, but it is evident that the savage
owns his shelter because it costs so little, while the civil-
ized man hires his commonly because he cannot afford
to own it; nor can he, in the long run, any better afford
to hire. But, answers one, by merely paying this tax
the poor civilized man secures an abode which is a
palace compared with the savage's. An annual rent of
from twenty-five to a hundred dollars (these are the


country rates) entitles him to the benefit of the improve-
ments of centuries, spacious apartments, clean paint and
paper, Rumford fireplace, back plastering, Venetian
blinds, copper pump, spring lock, a commodious cellar,
and many other things. But how happens it that he who
is said to enjoy these things is so commonly a poor civ-
ilized man, while the savage, who has them not, is rich
as a savage ? If it is asserted that civilization is a real
advance in the condition of man, and I think that it
is, though only the wise improve their advantages, -
it must be shown that it has produced better dwellings
without making them more costly; and the cost of a
thing is the amount of what I will call life which is re-
quired to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the
long run. An average house in this neighborhood costs
perhaps eight hundred dollars, and to lay up this sum
will take from ten to fifteen years of the laborer's life,
even if he is not encumbered with a family, estimat-
ing the pecuniary value of every man's labor at one
dollar a day, for if some receive more, others receive
less; so that he must have spent more than half his
life commonly before his wigwam will be earned. If we
suppose him to pay a rent instead, this is but a doubtful
choice of evils. Would the savage have been wise to
exchange his wigwam for a palace on these terms ?
It may be guessed that I reduce almost the whole ad-
vantage of holding this superfluous property as a fund
in store against the future, so far as the individual is
concerned, mainly to the defraying of funeral expenses.
But perhaps a man is not required to bury himself.
Nevertheless this points to an important distinction be-



tween the civilized man and the savage; and, no doubt,
they have designs on us for our benefit, in making the
life of a civilized people an institution, in which the life
of the individual is to a great extent absorbed, in order
to preserve and perfect that of the race. But I wish to
show at what a sacrifice this advantage is at present
obtained, and to suggest that we may possibly so live
as to secure all the advantage without suffering any of
the disadvantage. What mean ye by saying that the V
poor ye have always with you, or that the fathers have
eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on
"As I live, saith the Lord God, ye shall not have oc-
casion any more to use this proverb in Israel."
"Behold all souls are mine; as the soul of the father,
so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth
it shall die."
When I consider my neighbors, the farmers of Con-
cord, who are at least as well off as the other classes, I
find that for the most part they have been toiling twenty,
thirty, or forty years, that they may become the real
owners of their farms, which commonly they have in-
herited with encumbrances, or else bought with hired
money, and we may regard one third of that toil as
the cost of their houses, but commonly they have
not paid for them yet. It is true, the encumbrances
sometimes outweigh the value of the farm, so that the
farm itself becomes one great encumbrance, and still a
man is found to inherit it, being well acquainted with
it, as he says. On applying to the assessors, I am sur-
prised to learn that they cannot at once name a dozen in



the town who own their farms free and clear. If you
would know the history of these homesteads, inquire at
the bank where they are mortgaged. The man who has
actually paid for his farm with labor on it is so rare that
every neighbor can point to him. I doubt if there are
three such men in Concord. What has been said of the
merchants, that a very large majority, even ninety-seven
in a hundred, are sure to fail, is equally true of the
farmers. With regard to the merchants, however, one
of them says pertinently that a great part of their fail-
ures are not genuine pecuniary failures, but merely
failures to fulfil their engagements, because it is incon-
venient; that is, it is the moral character that breaks
down. But this puts an infinitely worse face on the mat-
ter, and suggests, beside, that probably not even the
other three succeed in saving their souls, but are per-
chance bankrupt in a worse sense than they who fail
honestly. Bankruptcy and repudiation are the spring-
boards from which much of our civilization vaults and
turns its somersets, but the savage stands on the un-
elastic plank of famine. Yet the Middlesex Cattle Show
goes off here with Mclat annually, as if all the joints of
the agricultural machine were suent.
rThe farmer is endeavoring to solve the problem of a
livelihood by a formula more complicated than the
problem itself. To get his shoestrings he speculates in
herds of cattle. With consummate skill he has set his
trap with a hair spring to catch comfort and inde-
pendence, and then, as he turned away, got his own leg
into it. This is the reason he is poor; and for a similar
reason we are all poor in respect to a thousand savage




comforts, though surrounded, by luxuries. As Chapman
sings, -
The false society of men -
for earthly greatness
All heavenly comforts rarefies to air."

AInd when the farmer has got his house, he may not
be the richer but the poorer for it, and it be the house/
that has got him. As I understand it, that was a valid
objection urged by Momus against the house which
Minerva made, that she "had not made it movable, by
which means a bad neighborhood might be avoided;"
and it may still be urged, for our houses are such un-
wieldy property that we are often imprisoned rather
than housed in them; and the bad neighborhood to be
avoided is our own scurvy selves. I know one or two
families, at least, in this town, who, for nearly a gener-
ation, have been wishing to sell their houses in the
outskirts and move into the village, but have not been
able to accomplish it, and only death will set them free.)
Granted that the majority are able at last either to
own or hire the modern house with all its improvements.
While civilization has been improving our houses, it has
not equally improved the men who are to inhabit them.
It has created palaces, but it was not so easy to create
noblemen and kings. And if the civilized man's pursuits
are no worthier than the savage's, if he is employed the i
greater part of his life in obtaining gross necessaries andj
comforts merely, why should he have a better dwelling
than the former ?
But how do the poor minority fare? Perhaps it will
be found that just in proportion as some have been


placed in outward circumstances above the savage,
others have been degraded below him. The luxury of
one class is counterbalanced by the indigence of an-
other. On the one side is the palace, on the other are
the almshouse and "silent poor." The myriads who
built the pyramids to be the tombs of the Pharaohs were
fed on garlic, and it may be were not decently buried
themselves. The mason who finishes the cornice of the
palace returns at night perchance to a hut not so good
as a wigwam. It is a mistake to suppose that, in a coun-
try where the usual evidences of civilization exist, the
condition of a very large body of the inhabitants may
not be as degraded as that of savages. I refer to the
degraded poor, not now to the degraded rich. To
know this I should not need to look farther than to the
shanties which everywhere border our railroads, that last
improvement in civilization; where I see in my daily
walks human beings living in sties, and all winter with
an open door, for the sake of light, without any visible,
often imaginable, wood-pile, and the forms of both old
and young are permanently contracted by the long
habit of shrinking from cold and misery, and the devel-
opment of all their limbs and faculties is checked. It
certainly is fair to look at that class by whose labor
the works which distinguish this generation are accom-
plished. Such too, to a greater or less extent, is the con-
dition of the operatives of every denomination in Eng-
land, which is the great workhouse of the world. Or I
could refer you to Ireland, which is marked as one of
the white or enlightened spots on the map. Contrast the
physical condition of the Irish with that of the North



American Indian, or the South Sea Islander, or any
other savage race before it was degraded by contact
with the civilized man. Yet I have no doubt that that
people's rulers are as wise as the average of civilized
rulers. Their condition only proves what squalidness
may consist with civilization. I hardly need refer now
to the laborers in our Southern States who produce the
staple exports of this country, and are themselves a
staple production of the South. But to confine myself
to those who are said to be in moderate circumstances.
Most men appear never to have considered what a
house is, and are actually though needlessly poor all
their lives because they think that they must have such
a one as their neighbors have. As if one were to wear
any sort of coat which the tailor might cut out for him,
or, gradually leaving off palm-leaf hat or cap of wood-
chuck skin, complain of hard times because he could
not afford to buy him a crown! It is possible to invent
a house still more convenient and luxurious than we
have, which yet all would admit that man could not
afford to pay for. Shall we always study to obtain
more of these things, and not sometimes to be content
with less? Shall the respectable citizen thus gravely
teach, by precept and example, the necessity of the
young man's providing a certain number of superfluous
glow-shoes, and umbrellas, and empty guest chambers
for empty guests, before he dies ? Why should not our
furniture be as simple as the Arab's or the -Indian's?
When I think of the benefactors of the race, whom we
have apotheosized as messengers from heaven, bearers
of divine gifts to man, I do not see in my mind any reti-




nue at their heels, any carload of fashionable furniture.
Or what if I were to allow would it not be a singular
allowance ? that our furniture should be more com-
plex than the Arab's, in proportion as we are morally
and intellectually his superiors! At present our houses
are cluttered and defiled with it, and a good housewife
would sweep out the greater part into the dust hole,
and not leave her morning's work undone. Morning
work! By the blushes of Aurora and the music of Mem-
non, what should be man's morning work in this world ?
I'had three pieces of limestone on my desk, but I was
terrified to find that they required to be dusted daily,
when the furniture of my mind was all undusted still,
and I threw them out the window in disgust. How, then,
could I have a furnished house ? I would rather sit in
the open air, for no dust gathers on the grass, unless
where man has broken ground.
It is the luxurious and dissipated who set the fashions
which the herd so diligently follow. The traveller who
stops at the best houses, so called, soon discovers this,
for the publicans presume him to be a Sardanapalus, and
if he resigned himself to their tender mercies he would
soon be completely emasculated. I think that in the
railroad car we are inclined to spend more on luxury
than on safety and convenience, and it threatens with-
out attaining these to become no better than a modern
drawing-room, with its divans, and ottomans, and sun-
shades, and a hundred other oriental things, which we
are taking west with us, invented for the ladies of the
harem and the effeminate natives of the Celestial Em-
pire, which Jonathan should be ashamed to know the





names of. I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it
all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion. I
would rather ride on earth in an ox cart, with a free
circulation, than go to heaven in the fancy car of an
excursion train and breathe a malaria all the way.' :--'-
lThe very simplicity and nakedness of man's life in
the primitive ages imply this advantage, at least, that
they left him still but a sojourner in nature. When he
was refreshed with food and sleep, he contemplated his
journey again. He dwelt, as it were, in a tent in this
world, and was either threading the valleys, or crossing
the plains, or climbing the mountain-tops. But lo! men
have become the tools of their tools. The man who in-
dependently plucked the fruits when he was hungry is
become a farmer; and he who stood under a tree for
shelter, a housekeeper. We now no longer camp as for
a night, but have settled down on earth and forgotten
heaven. We have adopted Christianity merely as an
improved method of agri-culture. We have built for
this world a family mansion, and for the next a family
tomb. The best works of art are the expression of man's
struggle to free himself from this condition, but the
effect of our art is merely to make this low state com-
fortable and that higher state to be forgotten. There is
actually no place in this village for a work of fine art,
if any had come down to us, to stand, for our lives, our
houses and streets, furnish no proper pedestal for it.
There is not a nail to hang a picture on, nor a shelf to
receive the bust of a hero or a saint. When I consider
how our houses are built and paid for, or not paid for,
and their internal economy managed and sustained, I


wonder that the floor does not give way under the visitor
while he is admiring the gewgaws upon the mantel-
piece, and let him through into the cellar, to some solid
and honest though earthy foundation. I cannot but
perceive that this so-called rich and refined life is a
thing jumped at, and I do not get on in the enjoy-
ment of the fine arts which adorn it, my attention being
wholly occupied with the jump; for I remember that
the greatest genuine leap, due to human muscles alone,
on record, is that of certain wandering Arabs, who are
said to have cleared twenty-five feet on level ground.
Without factitious support, man is sure to come to earth
again beyond that distance. The first question which
I am tempted to put to the proprietor of such great
impropriety is, Who bolsters you ? Are you one of the
ninety-seven who fail, or the three who succeed? An-
swer me these questions, and then perhaps I may look
" at your bawbles and find them ornamental. The cart
before the horse is neither beautiful nor useful. Before
we can adorn our houses with beautiful objects the
walls must be stripped, and our lives must be stripped,
and beautiful housekeeping and beautiful living be laid
for a foundation: now, a taste for the beautiful is most
cultivated out of doors, where there is no house and no
Old Johnson, in his Wonder-Working Providence,"
speaking of the first settlers of this town, with whom
he was contemporary, tells us that "they burrow them-
selves in the earth for their first shelter under some hill-
side, and, casting the soil aloft upon timber, they make
a smoky fire against the earth, at the highest side." They



did not "provide them houses," says he, "till the earth,
by the Lord's blessing, brought forth bread to feed
them," and the first year's crop was so light that "they
were forced to cut their bread very thin for a long sea-
son." The secretary of the Province of New Nether-
land, writing in Dutch, in 1650, for the information of
those who wished to take up land there, states more
particularly that "those in New Netherland, and espe-
cially in New England, who have no means to build farm-
houses at first according to their wishes, dig a square
pit in the ground, cellar fashion, six or seven feet deep,
as long and as broad as they think proper, case the
earth inside with wood all round the wall, and line the
wood with the bark of trees or something else to pre-
vent the caving in of the earth; floor this cellar with
plank, and wainscot it overhead for a ceiling, raise a
roof of spars clear up, and cover the spars with bark or
green sods, so that they can live dry and warm in these
houses with their entire families for two, three, and four
years, it being understood that partitions are run
through those cellars which are adapted to the size of
the family. The wealthy and principal men in New
England, in the beginning of the colonies, commenced
their first dwelling-houses in this fashion for two rea-
sons: firstly, in order not to waste time in building, and
not to want food the next season; secondly, in order
not to discourage poor laboring people whom they
brought over in numbers from Fatherland. In the
course of three or four years, when the country became
adapted to agriculture, they built themselves handsome
houses, spending on them several thousands."



In this course which our ancestors took there was a
show of prudence at least, as if their principle were to
satisfy the more pressing wants first. But are the more
pressing wants satisfied now ? When I think of acquir-
ing for myself one of our luxurious dwellings, I am de-
terred, for, so to speak, the country is not yet adapted
to human culture, and we are still forced to cut our
spiritual bread far thinner than our forefathers did
their wheaten. Not that all architectural ornament is
to be neglected even in the rudest periods; but let our
houses first be lined with beauty, where they come in
contact with our lives, like the tenement of the shell-
fish, and not overlaid with it. But, alas! I have been
inside one or two of them, and know what they are lined
Though we are not so degenerate but that we might
possibly live in a cave or a wigwam or wear skins to-day,
it certainly is better to accept the advantages, though
so dearly bought, which the invention and industry of
mankind offer. In such a neighborhood as this, boards.
and shingles, lime and bricks, are cheaper and more
easily obtained than suitable caves, or whole logs, or
bark in sufficient quantities, or even well-tempered
clay or flat stones. I speak understandingly on this sub-
ject, for I have made myself acquainted with it both
theoretically and practically. With a little more wit we
might use these materials so as to become richer than
the richest now are, and make our civilization a bless-
ing. The civilized man is a more experienced and
wiser savage. But to make haste to my own experi-



(yTear the end of March, 1845, I borrowed an axe and
went down to the woods by Walden Pond, nearest to
where I intended to build my house, and began to cut
down some tall, arrowy white pines, still in their youth,
for timber. It is difficult to begin without borrowing,
but perhaps it is the most generous course thus to per-
mit your fellow-men to have an interest in your enter-
prise. The owner of the axe, as he released his hold on
it, said that it was the apple of his eye; but I returned
it sharper than I received itl It was a pleasant hillside
where I worked, covered with pine woods, through
which I looked out on the pond, and a small open field
in the woods where pines and hickories were springing
up. The ice in the pond was not yet dissolved, though
there were some open spaces, and it was all dark-colored
and saturated with water. There were, some slight
*flurries of snow during the days that I worked there;
but for the most part when I came out on to the railroad,
on my way home, its yellow sand-heap stretched away
gleaming in the hazy atmosphere, and the rails shone
in the spring sun, and I heard the lark and pewee and
other birds already come to commence another year
with us. They were pleasant spring days, in which the
winter of man's discontent was thawing as well as the
earth, and the life that had lain torpid began to stretch
itself. One day, when my axe had come off and I had
cut a green hickory for a wedge, driving it with a stone,
and had placed the whole to soak in a pond-hole in
order to swell the wood, I saw a striped snake run into
the water, and he lay on the bottom, apparently without
inconvenience, as long as I stayed there, or more than



a quarter of an hour; perhaps because he had not yet
fairly come out of the torpid state. It appeared to me
that for a like reason men remain in their present low
and primitive condition; but if they should feel the in-
fluence of the spring of springs arousing them, they
would of necessity rise to a higher and more ethereal
life. I had previously seen the snakes in frosty morn-
ings in my path with portions of their bodies still numb
and inflexible, waiting for the sun to thaw them. On
the 1st of April it rained and melted the ice, and in the
early part of the day, which was very foggy, I heard a
stray goose groping about over the pond and cackling
as if lost, or like the spirit of the fog.
So I went on for some days cutting and hewing tim-
ber, and also studs and rafters, all with my narrow axe,
(not having many communicable or scholar-like thoughts,)
singing to myself, -
Men say they know many things;
But lo! they have taken wings, -
The arts and sciences,
And a thousand appliances;
The wind that blows
Is all that anybody knows.

I hewed the main timbers six inches square, most of the
studs on two sides only, and the rafters and floor timbers
on one side, leaving the rest of the bark on, so that they-
were just as straight and much stronger than sawed
ones. Each stick was carefully mortised or tenoned by
its stump, for I had borrowed other tools by this time.
My days in the woods were not very long ones; yet I
usually carried my dinner of bread and butter, and read



the newspaper in which it was wrapped, at noon, sitting
amid the green pine boughs which I had cut off, and to
my bread was imparted some of their fragrance, for my
hands were covered with a thick coat of pitch. Before
I had done I was more the friend than the foe of the
pine tree, though I had cut down some of them, having
become better acquainted with it. Sometimes a ram-
bler in the wood was attracted by the sound of my axe,
and we chatted pleasantly over the chips which I had
By the middle of April, for I made no haste in my
work, but rather made the most of it, my house was
framed and ready for the raising. I had already bought
the shanty of James Collins, an Irishman who worked
on the Fitchburg Railroad, for boards. James Collins'
shanty was considered an uncommonly fine one. When
I called to see it he was not at home. I walked about
the outside, at first unobserved from within, the window
was so deep and high. It was of small dimensions, with
a peaked cottage roof, and not much else to be seen,
the dirt being raised five feet all around as if it were a
compost heap. The roof was the soundest part, though
a good deal warped and made brittle by the sun. Door-
sill there was none, but a perennial passage for the hens
under the door-board. Mrs. C. came to the door and
asked me to view it from the inside. The hens were
driven in by my approach. It was dark, and had a dirt
floor for the most part, dank, clammy, and aguish, only
here a board alfd there a board which would not bear
removal. She lighted a lamp to show me the inside of
the roof and the walls, and also that the board floor


extended under the bed, warning me not to step into
the cellar, a sort of dust hole two feet deep. In her own
words, they were "good boards overhead, good boards
all around, and a good window," -of two whole
squares originally, only the cat had passed out that way
lately. There was a stove, a bed, and a place to sit, an
infant in the house where it was born, a silk parasol,
gilt-framed looking-glass, and a patent new coffee-mill
nailed to an oak sapling, all told. The bargain was soon
concluded, for James had in the meanwhile returned.
I to pay four dollars and twenty-five cents to-night,
he to vacate at five to-morrow morning, selling to
nobody else meanwhile: I to take possession at six. It
were well, he said, to be there early, and anticipate cer-
tain indistinct but wholly unjust claims on the'score of
ground rent and fuel. This he assured me was the only
encumbrance. At six I passed him and his family on
the road. One large bundle held their all, bed, coffee-
mill, looking-glass, hens, all but the cat; she took to
the woods and became a wild cat, and, as I learned after-
ward, trod in a trap set for woodchucks, and so became
a dead cat at last.
I took down this dwelling the same morning, draw-
ing the nails, and removed it to the pond-side by small
cartloads, spreading the boards on the grass there to
bleach and warp back again in the sun. One early
thrush gave me a note or two as I drove along the wood-
land path. I was informed treacherously by a young
Patrick that neighbor Seeley, an Irishfhan, in the inter-
vals of the carting, transferred the still tolerable, straight,
and drivable nails, staples, and spikes to his pocket, and




then stood when I came back to pass the time of day,
and look freshly up, unconcerned, with spring thoughts,
at the devastation; there being a dearth of work, as he
said. He was there to represent spectatordom, and
help make this seemingly insignificant event one with
the removal of the gods of Troy.
(I dug my cellar in the side of a hill sloping to the
south, where. a woodchuck had formerly dug his bur-
row, down through sumach and blackberry roots, and
the lowest stain of vegetation, six feet square by seven
deep, to a fine sand where potatoes would not freeze in
any winter.) The sides were left shelving, and not stoned;
but the sun having never shone on them, the sand still
keeps its place. It was but two hours' work. I took
particular pleasure in this breaking of ground, for in
almost all latitudes men dig into the earth for an equable
temperature. Under the most splendid house in tne
city is still to be found the cellar where they store their
roots as of old, and long after the superstructure has
disappeared posterity remark its dent in the earth. The
house is still but a sort of porch at the entrance of a
At length, in the beginning of May, with the help of
some of my acquaintances, rather to improve so good
an occasion for neighborliness than from any necessity,
I set up the frame of my house. No man was ever more
honored in the character of his raisers than I. They
are destined, I trust, to assist at the raising of loftier
structures one day. I began to occupy my house on the
4th of Julyl as soon as it was boarded and roofed, for
the boards were carefully feather-edged and lapped, so


that it was perfectly impervious to rain, but before
boarding I laid the Faundation of a chimney at one end,
bringing two cartloads of stones up the hill from the
pond in my arms. I built the chimney after my hoeing
in the fall, before a fire became necessary for warmth,
doing my cooking in the meanwhile out of doors on the
ground, early in the morning: which mode I still think
is in some respects more convenient and agreeable than
the usual one. When it stormed before my bread was
baked, I fixed a few boards over the fire, and sat under
them to watch my loaf, and passed some pleasant hours
in that way. In those days, when my hands were much
employed, I read but little, but the least scraps of paper
which lay on the ground, my holder, or tablecloth,
afforded me as much entertainment, in fact answered
the same purpose as the Iliad.

It would be worth the while to build still more delib-
erately than I did, considering, for instance, what foun-
dation a door, a window, a cellar, a garret, have in the
nature of man, and perchance never raising any super-
structure until we found a better reason for it than our
temporal necessities even. There is some of the same
fitness in a man's building his own house that there is in
a bird's building its own nest. Who knows but if men
constructed their dwellings with their own hands, and
provided food for themselves and families simply and
honestly enough, the poetic faculty would be universally
developed, as birds universally sing when they are so
engaged ? But alas! we do like cowbirds and cuckoos,
which lay their eggs in nests which other birds have




built, and cheer no traveller with their chattering and
unmusical notes. Shall we forever resign the pleasure of
construction to the carpenter? What does architecture
amount to in the experience of the mass of men ? I never
in all my walks came across a man engaged in so simple
and natural an occupation as building his house. We
belong to the community. It is not the tailor alone who
is the ninth part of a man; it is as much the preacher,
and the merchant, and the farmer. Where is this divi-
sion of labor to end ? and what object does it finally
serve ? No doubt another may also think for me; but
it is not therefore desirable that he should do so to the
exclusion of my thinking for myself.
ue, there are architects so called in this country,
and I have heard of one at least possessed with the idea
of making architectural ornaments have a core of truth,
a necessity, and hence a beauty, as if it were a revelation
to him. All very well perhaps from his point of view,
but only a little better than the common dilettantism.
A sentimental reformer in architecture, he began at the
cornice, not at the foundation. It was only how to put
a core of truth within the ornaments, that every sugar-
plum, in fact, might have an almond or caraway seed in
it, though I hold that almonds are most wholesome
without the sugar, and not how the inhabitant, the
indweller, might build truly within and without, and let
the ornaments take care of themselves. What reason-
able man ever supposed that ornaments were something
outward and in the skin merely, that the tortoise got
his spotted shell, or the shell-fish its mother-o'-pearl
tints, by such a contract as the inhabitants of Broad-


way their Trinity Church ? But a man has no more to do
with the style of architecture of his house than a tortoise
with that of its shell: nor need the soldier be so idle as
to try to paint the precise color of his virtue on his stand-
ard. The enemy will find it out. He may turn pale
when the trial comes. This man seemed to me to lean
over the cornice, and timidly whisper his half truth to
the rude occupants who really knew it better than he.
What of architectural beauty I now see, I know has
gradually grown from within outward, out of the ne-
cessities and character of the indweller, who is the only
builder, out of some unconscious truthfulness, and
nobleness, without ever a thought for the appearance;
and whatever additional beauty of this kind is destined
to be produced will be preceded by a like unconscious
beauty of life. The most interesting dwellings in this
country, as the painter knows, are the most unpretend-
ing, humble log huts and cottages of the poor com-
monly; it is the life of the inhabitants whose shells they
are, and not any peculiarity in their surfaces merely,
which makes them picturesque; and equally interesting
will be the citizen's suburban box, when his life shall be
as simple and as agreeable to the imagination, and there
is as little straining after effect in the style of his dwell-
ing. A great proportion of architectural ornaments are
literally hollow, and a September gale would strip them
off, like borrowed plumes, without injury to the sub-
stantials. They can do without architecture who have
no olives nor wines in the cellar. What if an equal ado
were made about the ornaments of style in literature,
and the architects of our bibles spent as much time




about their cornices as the architects of our churches
do? So are made the belles-lettres and the beaux-arts
and their professors. Much it concerns a man, forsooth,
how a few sticks are slanted over him or under him, and
what colors are daubed upon his box. It would signify
somewhat, if, in any earnest sense, he slanted them and
daubed it; but the spirit having departed out of the
tenant, it is of a piece with constructing his own coffin,
- the architecture of the grave, and "carpenter" is
but another name for "coffin-maker." One man says,
in his despair or indifference to life, take up a handful
of the earth at your feet, and paint your house that
color. Is he thinking of his last and narrow house ? Toss
up a copper for it as well. What an abundance of leisure
he must have! Why do you take up a handful of dirt ?
Better paint your house your own complexion; let it
turn pale or blush for you. An enterprise to improve
the style of cottage architecture! When you have got
my ornaments ready, I will wear them.
Before winter I built a chimney, and shingled the
sides of my house, which were already impervious to
rain, with imperfect and sappy shingles made of the
first slice of the log, whose edges I was obliged to
straighten with a plane.
I have thus a tight shingled and plastered house, ten
feet wide by fifteen long, and eight-feet posts, with a
garret and a closet, a large window on each side, two
trap-doors, one door at the end, and a brick fireplace
opposite. The exact cost of my house, paying the usual
price for such materials as I used, but not counting the
work, all of which was done by myself, was as follows;



and I give the details because very few are able to tell
exactly what their houses cost, and fewer still, if any,
the separate cost of the various materials which com-
pose them: -

Boards . .
Refuse shingles for roof and
sides . .
Laths . .
Two second-hand windows
with glass . .
One thousand old brick
Two casks of lime .
Hair . .
Mantle-tree iron .
Nails . .
Hinges and screws .
Latch . .
Chalk .. ...

Transportation .

In all ... $

$8 038, mostly shanty boards.

4 00
1 25

2 43
4 00
2 40
0 31

That was high.
More than I needed.

0 15
3 90
0 14
0 10
0 01
1 40 I carried a good part
Son my back.
28 121

These are all the materials, excepting the timber,
stones, and sand, which I claimed by squatter's right.
I have also a small woodshed adjoining, made chiefly
of the stuff which was left after building the house.
I intend to build me a house which will surpass any
on the main street in Concord in grandeur and luxury,
as soon as it pleases me as much and will cost me no
more than my present one.
I thus found that the student who wishes for a shelter
can obtain one for a lifetime at an expense not greater




than the rent which he now pays annually. If I seem to
boast more than is becoming, my excuse is that I brag
for humanity rather than for myself; and my short-
comings and inconsistencies do not affect the truth of
my statement. Notwithstanding much cant and hypoc-
risy, chaff which I find it difficult to separate from
my what, but for which I am as sorry as any man, -
I will breathe freely and stretch myself in this respect,
it is such a relief to both the moral and physical sys-
tem; and I am resolved that I will not through humility
become the devil's attorney. I will endeavor to speak
a good word for the truth. At Cambridge College the
mere rent of a student's room, which is only a little
larger than my own, is thirty dollars each year, though
the corporation had the advantage of building thirty-
two side by side and under one roof, and the occupant
suffers the inconvenience of many and noisy neighbors,
and perhaps a residence in the fourth story. I cannot
but think that if we had more true wisdom in these
respects, not only less education would be needed, be-
cause, forsooth, more would already have been acquired,
but the pecuniary expense of getting an education would
in a great measure vanish. Those conveniences which
the student requires at Cambridge or elsewhere cost
him or somebody else ten times as great a sacrifice of
life as they would with proper management on both
sides. Those things for which the most money is de-
manded are never the things which the student most
wants. Tuition, for instance, is an important item in
the term bill, while for the far more valuable education
which he gets by associating with the most cultivated


of his contemporaries no charge is made. The mode of
founding a college is, commonly, to get up a subscrip-
tion of dollars and cents, and then, following blindly
the principles of a division of labor to its extreme, a
principle which should never be followed but with cir-
cumspection, -to call in a contractor who makes this a
subject of speculation, and he employs Irishmen br other
operatives actually to lay the foundations, while the
students that are to be are said to be fitting themselves
for it; and for these oversights successive generations
have to pay. I think that it would be better than this,
for the students, or those who desire to be benefited by
it, even to lay the foundation themselves. The student
who secures his coveted leisure and retirement by sys-
tematically shirking any labor necessary to man obtains
but an ignoble and unprofitable leisure, defrauding
himself of the experience which alone can make leisure
fruitful. "But," says one, "you do not mean that the
students should go to work with their hands instead of
their heads ?" I do not mean that exactly, but I mean
something which he might think a good deal like that;
I mean that they should not play life, or study it merely,
while the community supports them at this expensive
game, but earnestly live it from beginning to end. How
could youths better learn to live than by at once trying
the experiment of living ? Methinks this would exercise
their minds as much as mathematics. If I wished a boy
to know something about the arts and sciences, for in-
stance, I would not pursue the common course, which
is merely to send him into the neighborhood of some
professor, where anything is professed and practised



but the art of life;- to survey the world through a
telescope or a microscope, and never with his natural
eye; to study chemistry, and not learn how his bread is
made, or mechanics, and not learn how it is earned; to
discover new satellites to Neptune, and not detect the
motes in his eyes, or to what vagabond he is a satellite
himself; or to be devoured by the monsters that swarm
all around him, while contemplating the monsters in a
drop of vinegar. Which would have advanced the most
at the end of a month, the boy who had made his
own jackknife from the ore which he had dug and
smelted, reading as much as would be necessary for
this or the boy who had attended the lectures on
metallurgy at the Institute in the meanwhile, and had
received a Rogers penknife from his father? Which
would be most likely to cut his fingers ? To my
astonishment I was informed on leaving college that I
had studied navigation! why, if I had taken one turn
down the harbor I should have known more about it.
Even the poor student studies and is taught only political
economy, while that economy of living which is synony-
mous with philosophy is not even sincerely professed
in our colleges. The consequence is, that while he is
reading Adam Smith, Ricardo, and Say, he runs his
father in debt irretrievably.
As with our colleges, so with a hundred "modern
improvements;" there is an illusion about them; there
is not always a positive advance. The devil goes on
exacting compound interest to the last for his early share
and numerous succeeding investments in them. Our
inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract



our attention from serious things. They are but im-
proved means to an unimproved end, an end which
it was already but too easy to arrive at; as railroads lead
to Boston or New York. We are in great haste to con-
struct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but
Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important
to communicate. Either is in such a predicament as the
man who was earnest to be introduced to a distinguished
deaf woman, but when he was presented, and one end
of her ear trumpet was put into his hand, had nothing
to say. As if the main object were to talk fast and not
to talk sensibly. We are eager to tunnel under the At-
lantic and bring the Old World some weeks nearer to the
New; but perchance the first news that will leak through
into the broad, flapping American ear will be that the
Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough. After all, the
man whose horse trots a mile in a minute does not carry
the most important messages; he is not an evangelist,
nor does he come round eating locusts and wild honey.
I doubt if Flying Childers ever carried a peck of corn
to mill.
One says to me, "I wonder that you do not lay up
money; you love to travel; you might take the cars and
go to Fitchburg to-day and see the country." But I am
wiser than that. I have learned that the swiftest traveller
is lie that goes afoot. I say to my friend, Suppose we try
who will get there first. The distance'is thirty miles; the
fare ninety cents. That is almost a day's wages. I re-
member when wages were sixty cents a day for laborers
on this very road. Well, I start now on foot, and get
there before night; I have travelled at that rate by the




week together. You will in the meanwhile have earned
your fare, and arrive there some time to-morrow, or
possibly this evening, if you are lucky enough to get a
job in season. Instead of going to Fitchburg, you will
be working here the greater part of the day. And so,
if the railroad reached round the world, I think that I
should keep ahead of you; and as for seeing the country
and getting experience of that kind, I should have to
cut your acquaintance altogether.
Such is the universal law, which no man can ever out-
wit, and with regard to the railroad even we may say
it is as broad as it is long. To make a railroad round the
world available to all mankind is equivalent to grading
the whole surface of the planet. Men have an indistinct
notion that if they keep up this activity of joint stocks
and spades long enough all will at length ride some-
where, in next to no time, and for nothing; but though
a crowd rushes to the depot, and the conductor shouts
"All aboard!" when the smoke is blown away and the
vapor condensed, it will be perceived that a few are
riding, but the rest are run over, and it will be called,
and will be, "A melancholy accident." No doubt they
can ride at last who shall have earned their fare, that
is, if they survive so long, but they will probably have
lost their elasticity and desire to travel by that time.
This spending of the best part of one's life earning
money in order to enjoy a questionable liberty during
the least valuable part of it reminds me of the English-
man who went to India to make a fortune first, in order
that he might return to England and live the life of a
poet. He should have gone up garret at once. "What!"


exclaim a million Irishmen starting up from all the
shanties in the land,"is not this railroad which we have
built a good thing?" Yes, I answer, comparatively
good, that is, you might have done worse; but I wish,
as you are brothers of mine, that you could have spent
your time better than digging in this dirt.

Before I finished my house, wishing to earn ten or
twelve dollars by some honest and agreeable method,
in order to meet my unusual expenses, I planted about
two acres and a half of light and sandy soil near it
chiefly with beans, but also a small part with potatoes,
corn, peas, and turnips. The whole lot contains eleven
acres, mostly growing up to piles and hickories, and
was sold the preceding season for eight dollars and eight
cents an acre. One farmer said that it was "good for
nothing but to raise cheeping squirrels on." I put no
manure whatever on this land, not being the owner, but
merely a squatter, and not expecting to cultivate so
much again, and I did not quite hoe it all once. I got
out several cords of stumps in plowing, which sup-
plied me with fuel for a long time, and left small circles
of virgin mould, easily distinguishable through the sum-
mer by the greater luxuriance of the beans there. The
dead and for the most part unmerchantable wood be-
hind my house, and the driftwood from the pond, have
supplied the remainder of my fuel. I was obliged to hire
a team and a man for the plowing, though I held the
plow myself. My farm outgoes for the first season
were, for implements, seed, work, etc., $14.72. The
seed corn was given me. This never costs anything to



speak of, unless you plant more than enough. I got
twelve bushels of beans, and eighteen bushels of potatoes,
beside some peas and sweet corn. The yellow corn and
turnips were too late to come to anything. My whole
income from the farm was
$23 44
Deducting the outgoes .. 14 722

There are left ..... $8 711,
beside produce consumed and on hand at the time this
estimate was made of the value of $4.50, the amount
on hand much more than balancing a little grass which
I did not raise. All things considered, that is, considering
the importance of a man's soul and of to-day, notwith-
standing the short time occupied by my experiment,
nay, partly even because of its transient character, I
Believe that that was doing better than any farmer in
Concord did that year.
.The next year I did better still, for I spaded up all the
land which I required, about a third of an acre, and I
learned from the experience of both years, not being in
the least awed by many celebrated works on husbandry,
Arthur Young among the rest, that if one would live
simply and eat only the crop which he raised, and raise
no more than he ate, and not exchange it for an insuffi-
cient quantity of more luxurious and expensive things,
he would need to cultivate only a few rods of ground,
and that it would be cheaper to spade up that than to
use oxen to plow it, and to select a fresh spot from
time to time than to manure the old, and he could do all
his necessary farm work as it were with his left hand at



odd hours in the summer; and thus he would not be
tied to an ox, or horse, or cow, or pig, as at present. I
desire to speak impartially on this point, and as one not
interested in the success or failure of the present eco-
nomical and social arrangements. I was more inde-
pendent than any farmer in Concord, for I was not
anchored to a house or farm, but could follow the bent
of my genius, which is a very crooked one, every mo-
ment. Beside being better off than they already, if my
house had been burned or my crops had failed, I should
have been nearly as well off as before.
I am wont to think that men are not so much the
keepers of herds as herds are the keepers of men, the
former are so much the freer. Men and oxen exchange
work; but if we consider necessary work only, the oxen
will be seen to have greatly the advantage, their farm
is so much the larger. Man does some of his part of the *
exchange work in his six weeks of haying, and it is no
boy's play. Certainly no nation that lived simply in all
respects, that is, no nation of philosophers, would com-
mit so great a blunder as to use the labor of animals.
True, there never was and is not likely soon to be a na-
tion of philosophers, nor am I certain it is desirable that
there should be. However, I should never have broken
a horse or bull and taken him to board for any work
he might do for me, for fear I should beconie a horse-
man or a herds-man merely; and if society seems to be
the gainer by so doing, are we certain that what is one
man's gain is not another's loss, and that the stable-boy
has equal cause with his master to be satisfied ? Granted
that some public works would not have been .constructed



without this aid, and let man share the glory of such with
the ox and horse; does it follow that he could not have
accomplished works yet more worthy of himself in that
case ? When men begin to do, not merely unnecessary
or artistic, but luxurious and idle work, with their as-
sistance, it is inevitable that a few do all the exchange
work with the oxen, or, in other words, become the
slaves of the strongest. Man thus not only works for
the animal within him, but, for a symbol of this, he
works for the animal without him. Though we have
many substantial houses of brick or stone, the prosperity
of the farmer is still measured by the degree to which
the barn overshadows the house. This town is said to
have the largest houses for oxen, cows, and horses here-
abouts, and it is not behindhand in its public buildings;
but there are very few halls for free worship or free speech
in this county. It should not be by their architecture,
but why not even by their power of abstract thought,
that nations should seek to commemorate themselves?
How much more admirable the Bhagvat-Geeta than
all the ruins of the East! Towers and temples are the
luxury of princes. A simple and independent mind
does not toil at the bidding of any prince. Genius
is not a retainer to any emperor, nor is its material
silver, or gold, or marble, except to a trifling extent.
To what end, pray, is so much stone hammered? In
Arcadia, when I was there, I did not see any hammer-
ing stone. Nations are possessed with an insane ambi-
tion to perpetuate the memory of themselves by the
amount of hammered stone they leave. What if equal
pains were taken to smooth and polish their manners ?



One piece of good sense would be more memorable than
a monument as high as the moon. I love better to see
stones in place. The grandeur of Thebes was a vulgar
.grandeur. More sensible is a rod of stone wall that
bounds an honest man's field than a hundred-gated
Thebes that has wandered farther from the true end of
life. The religion and civilization which are barbaric
and heathenish build splendid temples; but what you
might call Christianity does not. Most of the stone a
nation hammers goes toward its tomb only. It buries
itself alive. As for the Pyramids, there is nothing to
wonder at in them so much as the fact that so many
men could be found degraded enough to spend their
lives constructing a tomb for some ambitious booby,
whom it would have been wiser and manlier to have
drowned in the Nile, and then given his body to the
dogs. I might possibly invent some excuse for them and
him, but I have no time for it. As for the religion and
love of art of the builders, it is much the same all the
world over, whether the building be an Egyptian temple
or the United States Bank. It costs more than it comes
to. The mainspring is vanity, assisted by the love of
garlic and bread and butter. Mr. Balcom, a promising
young architect, designs it on the back of his Vitruvius,
with hard pencil and ruler, and the job is let out to
Dobson & Sons, stonecutters. When the thirty centuries
begin to look down on it, mankind begin to look up at
it. As for your high towers and monuments, there was
a crazy fellow once in this town who undertook to dig
through to China, and he got so far that, as he said, he
heard the Chinese pots and kettles rattle; but I think




that I shall not go out of my way to admire the hole
which he made. Many are concerned about the monu-
ments of the West and the East, to know who built
them. For my part, I should like to know who in those
days did not build them, who were above such trifling.
But to proceed with my statistics.
By surveying, carpentry, and day-labor of various
other kinds in the village in the meanwhile, for I have
as many trades as fingers, I had earned $13.34. The
expense of food for eight months, namely, from July 4th
to March 1st, the time when these estimates were made,
though I lived there more than two years, not count-
ing potatoes, a little green corn, and some peas, which
I had raised, nor considering the value of what was on
hand at the last date, was

Rice ... .$1 738
Molasses . 1 73 Cheapest form of the saccharine.
Rye meal . 1 04
Indian meal 0 99- Cheaper than rye.
Pork ... .0 22
I Costs more than Indian
Flour . 0 88 meal, both money and
Sugar ..... 0 80
Lard .... 0 65
Apples .. 0 25
Dried apple 0 22
Sweet potatoes 0 10
One pumpkin : 0 6
One watermelon .0 2
Salt .... 0 3


Yes, I did eat $8.74, all told; but I should not thus
unblushingly publish my guilt, if I did not know that
most of my readers were equally guilty with myself, and
that their deeds would look no better in print. The next
year I sometimes caught a mess of fish for my dinner,
and once I went so far as to slaughter a woodchuck
which ravaged my bean-field, effect his transmigra-
tion, as a Tartar would say, and devour him, partly
for experiment's sake; but though it afforded me a
momentary enjoyment, notwithstanding a musky flavor,
I saw that the longest use would not make that a good
practice, however it might seem to have your wood-
chucks ready dressed by the village butcher.
Clothing and some incidental expenses within the
same dates, though little can be inferred from this item,
amounted to
$8 401
Oil and some household utensils 2 00
So that all the pecuniary outgoes, excepting for washing
and mending, which for the most part were done out
of the house, and their bills have not yet been received,
- and these are all and more than all the ways by
which money necessarily goes out in this part of the
world, were

House . . $28 12
Farm one year . ... .14 72L
Food eight months . .. 8 74
Clothing, etc., eight months 8 404
Oil, etc., eight months .... 2 00
In all . . $61 99T

I address myself now to those of my readers who have a
living to get. And to meet this I have for farm produce
$23 44
Earned by day-labor ... 13 34
In all ............ $36 78,
which subtracted from the sum of the outgoes leaves a
balance of $25.21J on the one side, -this being very
nearly the means with which I started, and the measure
of expenses to be incurred, and on the other, beside
the leisure and independence and health thus secured,
a comfortable house for me as long .as I choose to
occupy it.
These statistics, however accidental and therefore
uninstructive they may appear, as they have a certain
completeness, have a certain value also. Nothing was
given me of which I have not rendered some account.
It appears from the above estimate, that my food alone
cost me in money about twenty-seven cents a week.
It was, for nearly two years after this, rye and Indian
meal without yeast, potatoes, rice, a very little salt pork,
molasses, and salt; and my drink, water. It was fit that
I should live on rice, mainly, who loved so well the
philosophy of India. To meet the objections of some
inveterate cavillers, I may as well state, that if I dined
out occasionally, as I always had done, and I trust shall
have opportunities to do again, it was frequently to the
detriment of my domestic arrangements. But the din-
ing out, being, as I have stated, a constant element,
does not in the least affect a comparative statement like



I learned from my two years' experience that it would
cost incredibly little trouble to obtain one's necessary
food, even in this latitude; that a man may use as simple
a diet as the animals, and yet retain health and strength.
I have made a satisfactory dinner, satisfactory on sev-
eral accounts, simply off a dish of purslane (Portulaca
oleracea) which I gathered in my cornfield, boiled and
salted. I give the Latin on account of the savoriness of
the trivial name. And pray what more can a reasonable
man desire, in peaceful times, in ordinary noons, than a
sufficient number of ears of green sweet corn boiled,
with the addition of salt ? Even the little variety which
I used was a yielding to the demands of appetite, and
not of health. Yet men have come to such a pass that
they frequently starve, not for want of necessaries, but
for want of luxuries; and I know a good woman who
thinks that her son lost his life because he took to drink-
ing water only.
The reader will perceive that I am treating the sub-
ject rather from an economic than a dietetic point of
view, and he will not venture to put my abstemiousness
to the test unless he has a well-stocked larder.
Bread I at first made of pure Indian meal and salt,
genuine hoe-cakes, which I baked before my fire out of
doors on a shingle or the end of a stick of timber sawed
off in building my house; but it was wont to get smoked
and to have a piny flavor. I tried flour also; but have
at last found a mixture of rye and Indian meal most con-
venient and agreeable. In cold weather it was no little
amusement to bake several small loaves of this in suc-
cession, tending and turning them as carefully as an



Egyptian his hatching eggs. They were a real cereal
fruit which I ripened, and they had to my senses a fra-
grance like that of other noble fruits, which I kept in as
long as possible by wrapping them in cloths. I made a
study of the ancient and indispensable art of bread-
making, consulting such authorities as offered, going
back to the primitive days and first invention of the
unleavened kind, when from the wildness of nuts and
meats men first reached the mildness and refinement
of this diet, and travelling gradually down in-my studies
through that accidental souring of the dough which, it
is supposed, taught the leavening process, and through
the various fermentations thereafter, till I came to good,
sweet, wholesome bread," the staff of life. Leaven,
which some deem the soul of bread, the spirits which
fills its cellular tissue, which is religiously preserved
like the vestal fire, some precious bottleful, I suppose,
first brought over in the Mayflower, did the business
for America, and its influence is still rising, swelling,
spreading, in cerealian billows over the land, this
seed I regularly and faithfully procured from the village,
till at length one morning I forgot the rules, and scalded
my yeast; by which accident I discovered that even
this was not indispensable, for my discoveries were
not by the synthetic but analytic process, and I
have gladly omitted it since, though most housewives
earnestly assured me that safe and wholesome bread
without yeast might not be, and elderly people pro-
phesied a speedy decay of the vital forces. Yet I find it
not to be an essential ingredient, and after going with-
out it for a year am still in the land of the living; and I



am glad to escape the trivialness of carrying a bottle-
ful in my pocket, which would sometimes pop and dis-
charge its contents to my discomfiture. It is simpler and
more respectable to omit it. Man is an animal who
more than any other can adapt himself to all climates
and circumstances. Neither did I put any sal-soda, or
other acid or alkali, into my bread. It would seem that I
made it according to the recipe which Marcus Porcius
Cato gave about two centuries before Christ. "Panem
depsticium sic facito. Manus mortariumque bene lavato.
Farinam in mortarium indito, aquae paulatim addito,
subigitoque pulchre. Ubi bene subegeris, defingito, co-
quitoque sub testu." Which I take to mean, "Make
kneaded bread thus. Wash your hands and trough well.
Put the meal into the trough, add water gradually, and
knead it thoroughly. When you have kneaded it
well, mould it, and bake it under a cover," that is, in a
baking-kettle. Not a word about leaven. But I did not
always use this staff of life. At one time, owing to the
emptiness of my purse, I saw none of it for more than a
Every New Englander might easily raise all his own
breadstuffs in this land of rye and Indian corn, and not
depend on distant and fluctuating markets for them.
Yet so far are we from simplicity and independence
that, in Concord, fresh and sweet meal is rarely sold in
the shops, and hominy and corn in a still coarser form are
hardly used by any. For the most part the farmer gives
to his cattle and hogs the grain of his own producing,
and buys flour, which is at least no more wholesome, at
a greater cost, at the store. I saw that I could easily




raise my bushel or two of rye and Indian corn, for the
former will grow on the poorest land, and the latter does
not require the best, and grind them in a hand-mill, and
so do without rice and pork; and if I must have some
concentrated sweet, I found by experiment that I could
make a very good molasses either of pumpkins or beets,
and I knew that I needed only to set out a few maples
to obtain it more easily still, and while these were grow-
ing I could use various substitutes beside those which I
have named. "For," as the Forefathers sang, -
"we can make liquor to sweeten our lips
Of pumpkins and parsnips and walnut-tree chips."

Finally, as for salt, that grossest of groceries, to obtain
this might be a fit occasion for a visit to the seashore,
or, if I did without it altogether, I should probably drink
the less water. I do not learn that the Indians ever
troubled themselves to go after it.
Thus I could avoid all trade and barter, so far as my
food was concerned, and having a shelter already, it
would only remain to get clothing and fuel. The panta-
loons which I now wear were woven in a farmer's
family, thank Heaven there is so much virtue still in
man; for I think the fall from the farmer to the opera-
tive as great and memorable as that from the man to the
farmer; -and in a new country, fuel is an encum-
brance. As for a habitat, if I were not permitted still to
squat, I might purchase one acre at the same price for
which the land I cultivated was sold namely, eight
dollars and eight cents. But as it was, I considered that
I enhanced the value of the land by squatting on it.


There is a certain class of unbelievers who sometimes
ask me such questions as, if I think that I can live on
vegetable food alone; and to strike at the root of the
matter at once, for the root is faith, I am accus-
tomed to answer such, that I can live on board nails. If
they cannot understand that, they cannot understand
much that I have to say. For my part, I am glad to hear
of experiments of this kind being tried; as that a young
man tried for a fortnight to live on hard, raw corn on
the ear, using his teeth for all mortar. The squirrel tribe
tried the same and succeeded. The human race is in-
terested in these experiments, though a few old women
who are incapacitated for them, or who own their thirds
in mills, may be alarmed.

-My furniture, part of which I made myself, and the
rest cost me nothing of which I have not rendered an ac-
count,-consisted of a bed, a table, a desk, three chairs,
a looking-glass three inches in diameter, a pair of tongs
and andirons, a kettle, a skillet, and a frying-pan, a
dipper, a wash-bowl, two knives and forks, three plates,
one cup, one spoon, a jug for oil, a jug for molasses, and
a japanned lamp. None is so poor that he need sit on a
pumpkin. That is shiftlessness. There is a plenty of
such chairs as I like best in the village garrets to be had
for taking them away. Furniture! Thank God, I can
sit and I can stand without the aid of a furniture ware-
house. What man but a philosopher would not be
ashamed to see his furniture packed in a cart and go-
ing up country exposed to the light of heaven and the
eyes of men, a beggarly account of empty boxes ? That



is Spaulding's furniture. I could never tell from in-
specting such a load whether it belonged to a so-called
rich man or a poor one; the owner always seemed
poverty-stricken. Indeed, the more you have of such
things the poorer you are. Each load looks as if it con-
tained the contents of a dozen shanties; and if one
shanty is poor, this is a dozen times as poor. Pray, for
what do we move ever but to get rid of our furniture,
our exuviw; at last to go from this world to another
newly furnished, and leave this to be burned ? It is the
same as if all these traps were buckled to a man's belt,
and he could not move over the rough country where
our lines are cast without dragging them,- dragging
his trap. He was a lucky fox that left his tail in the trap.
The muskrat will gnaw his third leg off to be free. No
wonder man has lost his elasticity. How often he is at
a dead set! ''Sir, if I may be so bold, what do you mean
by a dead set ?" If you are a seer, whenever you meet
a man you will see all that he owns, ay, and much that
he pretends to disown, behind him, even to his kitchen
furniture and all the trumpery which he saves and will
not burn, and he will appear to be harnessed to it and
making what headway he can. I think that the man is
at a dead set who has got through a knot-hole or gate-
way where his sledge load of furniture cannot follow
him.. I cannot but feel compassion when I hear some
trig, compact-looking man, seemingly free, all girded
and ready, speak of his "furniture," as whether it is
insured or not. But what shall I do with my furniture ?"
My gay butterfly is entangled in a spider's web then.
Even those who seem for a long while not to have any,



if you inquire more narrowly you will find have some
stored in somebody's barn. I look upon England to-
day as an old gentleman who is travelling with. a great
deal of baggage, trumpery which has accumulated from
long housekeeping, which he has not the courage to
burn; great trunk, little trunk, bandbox and bundle.
Throw away the first three at least. It would surpass
the powers of a well man nowadays to take up his bed
and walk, and I should certainly advise a sick one to
lay down his bed and run. When I have met an immi-
grant tottering under a bundle which contained his all,
- looking like an enormous wen which had grown out
of the nape of his neck, -I have pitied him, not because
that was his all, but because he had all that to carry. If
I have got to drag my trap, I will take care that it be
a light one and do not nip me in a vital part. But
perchance it would be wisest never to put one's paw
into it.
I would observe, by the way, that it costs me nothing
for curtains, for I have no gazers to shut out but the
sun and moon, and I am willing that they should look
in. The moon will not sour milk nor taint meat of mine,
nor will the sun injure my furniture or fade my carpet;
and if he is sometimes too warm a friend, I find it still
better economy to retreat behind some curtain which
nature has provided, than to add a single item to the
details of housekeeping. A lady once offered me a mat,
but as I had no room to spare within the house, nor
time to spare within or without to shake it, I declined
it, preferring to wipe my feet on the sod before my door.
It is best to avoid the beginnings of evil.




Not long since I was present at the auction of a dea-
con's effects, for his life had not been ineffectual: -
"The evil that men do lives after them."
As usual, a great proportion was trumpery which had
begun to accumulate in his father's day. Among the
rest was a dried tapeworm. And now, after lying half a
century in his garret and other dust holes, these things
were not burned; instead of a bonfire, or purifying de-
struction of them, there was an auction, or increasing
of them. The neighbors eagerly collected to view them,
bought them all, and carefully transported them to
their garrets and dust holes, to lie there till their estates
are settled, when they will start again. When a man
dies he kicks the dust.
The customs of some savage nations might, per-
chance, be profitably imitated by us, for they at least
go through-the semblance of casting their slough an-
nually; they have the idea of the thing, whether they
have the reality or not. Would it not be well if we were
to celebrate such a buskk," or "feast of first fruits,"
as Bartram describes to have been the custom of the
Mucclasse Indians ? When a town celebrates the
busk," says he, "having previously provided them-
selves with new clothes, new pots, pans, and other
household utensils and furniture, they collect all their
worn out clothes and other despicable things, sweep
and cleanse their houses, squares, and the whole town,
of their filth, which with all the remaining grain and
other old provisions they cast together into one com-
mon heap, and consume it with fire. After having taken

medicine, and fasted for three days, all the fire in the
town is extinguished. During this fast they abstain
from the gratification of every appetite and passion
whatever. A general amnesty is proclaimed; all male-
factors may return to their town."
On the fourth morning, the high priest, by rubbing
dry wood together, produces new fire in the public
square, from whence every habitation in the town is
supplied with the new and pure flame."
They then feast on the new corn and fruits, and dance
and sing for three days, "and the four following days
they receive visits and rejoice with their friends from
neighboring towns who have in like manner purified
and prepared themselves."
The Mexicans also practised a similar purification
at the end of every fifty-two years, in the belief that it
was time for the world to come to an end.
I have scarcely heard of a truer sacrament, that is, as
the dictionary defines it, "outward and visible sign of
an inward and spiritual grace," than this, and I have
no doubt that they were originally inspired directly
from Heaven to do thus, though they have no Biblical
record of the revelation.

For more than five years I maintained myself thus
solely by the labor of my hands, and I found that, by
working about six weeks in a year, I could meet all the
expenses of living. The whole of my winters, as well as
most of my summers, I had free and clear for study. I
have thoroughly tried school-keeping, and found that
my expenses were in proportion, or rather out of pro-



portion, to my income, for I was obliged to dress and
train, not to say think and believe, accordingly, and I
lost my time into the bargain. As I did not teach for the
good of my fellow-men, but simply for a livelihood, this
was a failure. I have tried trade; but I found that it
would take ten years to get under way in that, and that
then I should probably be on my way to the devil. I was
actually afraid that I might by that time be doing what
is called a good business. When formerly I was looking
about to see what I could do for a living, some sad ex-
perience in conforming to the wishes of friends being
fresh in my mind to tax my ingenuity, I thought often
and seriously of picking huckleberries; that surely I
could do, and its small profits might suffice, for my
greatest skill has been to want but little, so little capi-
tal it required, so little distraction from my wonted
moods, I foolishly thought. While my acquaintances
went unhesitatingly into trade or the professions, I con-
templated this occupation as most like theirs; ranging
the hills all summer to pick the berries which came in
my way, and thereafter carelessly dispose of them; so,
to keep the flocks of Admetus. I also dreamed that I
might gather the wild herbs, or carry evergreens to such
villagers as loved to be reminded of the woods, even
to the city, by hay-cart loads. But I have since learned
that trade curses everything it handles; and though you
trade in messages from heaven, the whole curse of trade
attaches to the business.
As I preferred some things to others, and especially
valued my freedom, as I could fare hard and yet succeed
well, I did not wish to spend my time in earning rich



carpets or other fine furniture, or delicate cookery, or a
house in the Grecian or the Gothic style just yet. If
there are any to whom it is no interruption to acquire
these things, and who know how to use them when ac-
quired, I relinquish to them the pursuit. Some are "in-
dustrious," and appear to love labor for its own sake,
or perhaps because it keeps them out of worse mischief;
to such I have at present nothing to say. Those who
would not know what to do with more leisure than they
now enjoy, I might advise to work twice as hard as they
do, work till they pay for themselves, and get their
free papers. For myself I found that the occupation
of a day-laborer was the most independent of any, es-
pecially as it required only thirty or forty days in a
year to support one. The laborer's day ends with the
going down of the sun, and he is then free to devote
himself to his chosen pursuit, independent of his labor;
but his employer, who speculates from month to month,
has no respite from one end of the year to the other.
( --T short, I am convinced, both by faith and experi-
ence, that to maintain one's self on this earth is not a
hardship but a pastime, if we will live simply and wisely;
Sas the pursuits of the simpler nations are still the sports
of the more artificial. It is not necessary that a man
should earn his living by the sweat of his brow, unless
he sweats easier than I do.
One young man of my acquaintance, who has in-
herited some acres, told me that he thought he should
live as I did, if he had the means. I would not have any
one adopt my mode of living on any account; for, beside
that before he has fairly learned it I may have found



out another for myself, I desire that there may be as
many different persons in the world as possible; but I
would have each one be very careful to find out and
pursue his own way, and not his father's or his mother's
or his neighbor's instead. The youth may build or plant
or sail, only let him not be hindered from doing that
which he tells me he would like to do. It is by a mathe-
matical point only that we are wise, as the sailor or the
fugitive slave keeps the polestar in his eye; but that is
sufficient guidance for all our life. We may not arrive
at our port within a calculable period, but we would
preserve the true course.
Undoubtedly, in this case, wjiat is true for one is truer
still for a thousand, as a large house is not proportionally
more expensive than a small one, since one roof may
cover, one cellar underlie, and one wall separate several
apartments. But for my part, I preferred the solitary
dwelling. Moreover, it will commonly be cheaper to
build the whole yourself than to convince another of the
advantage of the common wall; and when you have
done this, the common partition, to be much cheaper,
must be a thin one, and that other may prove a bad
neighbor, and also not keep his side in repair. The only
cooperation which is commonly possible is exceedingly
partial and superficial; and what little true cooperation
there is, is as if it were not, being a harmony inaudible
to men. If a man has faith, he will cooperate with equal
faith everywhere; if he has not faith, he will continue to
live like the rest of the world, whatever company he is
joined to. To cooperate in the highest as well as the
lowest sense, means to get our living together. I heard it



proposed lately that two young men should travel to-
gether over the world, the one without money, earn-
ing his means as he went, before the mast and behind
the plow, the other carrying a bill of exchange in his
pocket. It was easy to see that they could not long be
companions or cooperate, since one would not operate
at all. They would part at the first interesting crisis in
their adventures. Above all, as I have implied, the man
who goes alone can start to-day; but he who travels
with another must wait till that other is ready, and it
may be a long time before they get off.

But all this is very selfish, I have heard some of my
townsmen say. I confess that I have hitherto indulged
very little in philanthropic enterprises. I have made
some sacrifices to a sense of duty, and among others have
sacrificed this pleasure also. There are those who have
used all their arts to persuade me to undertake the sup-
port of some poor family in the town; and if I had no-
thing to do for the devil finds employment for the idle
-4- might try my hand at some such pastime as that.
However, when I have thought to indulge myself in this
respect, and lay their Heaven under an obligation by
maintaining certain poor persons in all respects as com-
fortably as I maintain myself, and have even ventured
so far as to make them the offer, they have one and all
unhesitatingly preferred to remain poor. Vihile my
townsmen and women are devoted in so iany ways to
the good of their fellows, I trust that one at least may be.
spared to other and less humane pursuits. You must
have a genius for charity as well as for anything else. As



flor Doing-good, that is one of the professions which are
- full. Moreover, I have tried it fairly, and, strange as it
may seem, am satisfied that it does not agree with my
constitution. Probably I should not consciously and
deliberately forsake my particular calling to do the good
which society demands of me, to save the universe from
annihilation; and I believe that a like but infinitely
greater steadfastness elsewhere is all that now preserves
it. But I would not stand between any man and his
Genius; and to him who does this work, which I decline,
vith his whole heart and soul and life, I would say,
Persevere, even if the world call it doing evil, as it is
most likely they will.
I am far from supposing that my case is a peculiar
one; no doubt many of my readers would make a simi-
lar defence. At doing something, I will not engage
that my neighbors shall pronounce it good, I do not
hesitate to say that I should be a capital fellow to hire;
but what that is, it is for my employer tofind out. What
do, in the common sense of that word, must be
'rom my main path, and for the most part wholly
unintended. Men say, practically, Begin where you are
and such as you are, without aiming mainly to become
of niore worth, and with kindness aforethought go about
doing good. If I were to preach at all in this strain, I
should say'rather, Set about being good. As if the sun
should st6p when he had kindled his fires up to the splen-
dor of a moon or a star of the sixth magnitude, and go
about like a Robin Goodfellow, peeping in at every cot-
tage window, inspiring lunatics, and tainting meats, and
making darkness visible, instead of steadily increasing his



genial heat and beneficence till he is of such brig
that no mortal can look him in the face, and then, and
in the meanwhile too, going about the world in his own
orbit, doing it good, or rather, as a truer philosophy has
discovered, the world going about him getting good.
When Phaeton, wishing to prove his heavenly birth by
his beneficence, had the sun's chariot but one day, and
drove out of the beaten track, he burned several blocks
of houses in the lower streets of heaven, and scorched the
surface of the earth, and dried up every spring, and made
the great desert of Sahara, till at length Jupiter hurled
him headlong to the earth with a thunderbolt, and the
sun, through grief at his death, did not shine for a year.
(There is no odor so bad as that which arises from good-
ness tainted. It is human, it is divine, carrion. If I knew
for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with
the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for
my life, as from that dry and parching wind of the Afri-
can deserts called the simoom, which fills the mouth and i
nose and ears and eyes with dust till you are suffc _-_. /.
for fear that I should get some of his good done to met
- some of its virus mingled with my blood. No, i4i
this case I would rather suffer evil the natural way./ A
man is not a good man to me because he will feed me if
I should be starving, or warm me if I should be freezing,
or pull me out of a ditch if I should ever fall into one. I
can find you a Newfoundland dog that will do as much.
Philanthropy is not love for one's fellow-man in the
broadest sense. Howard was no doubt an exceedingly
kind and worthy man in his way, and has his reward;
but, comparatively speaking, what are a hundred How-



ards to us, if their philanthropy do not help us in our
best estate, when we are most worthy to be helped ? I
never heard of a philanthropic meeting in which it was
sincerely proposed to do any good to me, or the like
of me.
The Jesuits were quite balked by those Indians who,
being burned at the stake, suggested new modes of tor-
ture to their tormentors. Being superior to physical suf-
fering, it sometimes chanced that they were superior to
any consolation which the missionaries could offer; and
the law to do as you would be done by fell with less per-
suasiveness on the ears of those who, for their part, did
not care how they were done by, who loved their ene-
mies after a new fashion, and came very near freely
forgiving them all they did.
Be sure that you give the poor the aid they most need,
though it be your example which leaves them far behind.
If you give money, spend yourself with it, and do not
merely abandon it to them. We make curious mistakes
so-metimii-es. Often eiejoor man is not so cold and hun-
gry as he is dirty and ragged and gross. It is partly his
taste, and not merely his misfortune. If you give him
money, he will perhaps buy more rags with it. I was
wont to pity the clumsy Irish laborers who cut ice on the
pond, in such mean and ragged clothes, while I shivered
in my more tidy and somewhat more fashionable gar-
ments, till, one bitter cold day, one who had slipped into
the water came to my house to warm him, and I saw
him strip off three pairs of pants and two pairs of stock-
ings ere he got down to the skin, though they were dirty
and ragged enough, it is true, and that he could afford



to refuse the extra garments which I offered him, he had
so many intra ones. This ducking was the very thing he
needed. Then I began to pity myself, and I saw that it
would be a greater charity to bestow on me a flannel
shirt than a whole slop-shop on him. There are a thou-
sand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is strike
ing at the root, and it may be that he who bestows the
largest amount of time and money on the needy is doing
the most by his mode of life to produce that misery which
he strives in vain to relieve. It is the pious slave-breeder
devoting the proceeds of every tenth slave to buy a Sun-
day's liberty for the rest. Some show their kindness to
the poor by employing them in their kitchens. Would
they not be kinder if they employed themselves there ?
You boast of spending a tenth part of your income in
charity; maybe you should spend the nine tenths so,
and done with it. Society recovers only a tenth part of
the property then. Is this owing to the generosity of him
in whose possession it is found, or to the remissness of
the officers of justice ?
Philanthropy is almost the only virtue which is suf-
ficiently appreciated by mankind. Nay, it is greatly
overrated; and it is our selfishness which overrates it.
A robust poor man, one sunny day here in Concord,
praised a fellow-townsman to me, because, as he said,
he was kind to the poor; meaning himself. The kind
uncles and aunts of the race are more esteemed than
its true spiritual fathers and mothers. I once heard a
reverend lecturer on England, a man of learning and
intelligence, after enumerating her scientific, literary,
and political worthies, Shakespeare, Bacon, Crom-



well, Milton, Newton, and others, speak next of her
Christian heroes, whom, as if his profession required it
of him, he elevated to a place far above all the rest, as
the greatest of the great. They were Penn, Howard,
and Mrs. Fry. Every one must feel the falsehood and
cant of this. The last were not England's best men and
women; only, perhaps, her best philanthropists.
I would not subtracLanuything-from -the.epraise that
is due to philanthropy, but merely demand justice for
all who by their lives and works are a blessiig to an-
kind. I do not value chiefly a man's uprightness and
berrevolience, which are, as it were, his stem and leaves.
Those plants of whose greenness withered we make
herb tea for the sick serve but a humble use, and are
most employed by quacks. I want the flower and fruit
of a man; that some fragrance be wafted over from him
to me, and some ripeness flavor our intercourse. His
goodness must not be a partial and transitory act, but
a constant superfluity, which costs him nothing and of
which he is unconscious. This is a charity that hides a
multitude of sins. 4The philanthropist too often sur-
rounds mankind with the remembrance of his own cast-
off griefs as an atmosphere, and calls it sympathy. We
should impart our courage, and not our despair, our
health and ease, and not our disease, and take care that
this does not spread by contagion. From what southern
plains comes up the voice of wailing ? Under what lati-
tudes reside the heathen to whom we would send light ?
Who is that intemperate and brutal man whom we would
redeem ? If anything ail a man, so that he does not per-
form his functions, if he have a pain in his bowels even,



- for that is the seat of sympathy, he forthwith sets
about reforming the world. Being a microcosm him-
self, he discovers and it is a true discovery, and he
is the man to make it that the world has been eat-
ing green apples; to his eyes, in fact, the globe itself is
a great green apple, which there is danger awful to think
of that the children of men will nibble before it is ripe;
and straightway his drastic philanthropy seeks out the
Esquimau and the Patagonian, and embraces the popu-
lous Indian and Chinese villages; and thus, by a few
years of philanthropic activity, the powers in the mean-
while using him for their own ends, no doubt, he cures
himself of his dyspepsia, the globe acquires a faint blush
on one or both of its cheeks, as if it were beginning to
be ripe, and life loses its crudity and is once more sweet
and wholesome to live. I never dreamed of any enor-
mity greater than I have committed. I never knew, and
never shall know, a worse man than myself.
I believe that what so saddens the reformer is not his
sympathy with his fellows in distress, but, though he be
the holiest son of God, is his private ail. Let this be
righted, let the spring come to him, the morning rise
over his couch, and he will forsake his generous com-
panions without apology. My excuse for not lecturing
against the use of tobacco is, that I never chewed it,
that is a penalty which reformed tobacco-chewers have
to pay; though there are things enough I have chewed
which I could lecture against. If you should ever be
betrayed into any of these philanthropies, do not let your
left hand know what your right hand does, for it is not
worth knowing. Rescue the drowning and tie your shoe-



strings. Take your time, and set about some free
Our manners have been corrupted by communication
with the saints. Our hymn-books resound with a me-
lodious cursing of God and enduring Him forever. One
would say that even the prophets and redeemers had
rather consoled the fears than confirmed the hopes of
man. There is nowhere recorded a simple and irrepressi-
ble satisfaction with the gift of life, any memorable
praise of God. All health and success does me good,
however far off and withdrawn it may appear; all dis-
ease and failure helps to make me sad and does me evil,
however much sympathy it may have with me or I with
it. If, then, we would indeed restore mankind by truly
Indian, botanic, magnetic, or natural means, let us first
be as simple and well as Nature ourselves, dispel the
clouds which hang over our own brows, and take up a
little life into our pores. Do not stay to be an overseer
of the poor, but endeavor to become one of the worthies
of the world.
I read in the Gulistan, or Flower Garden, of Sheik
Sadi of Shiraz, that "they asked a wise man, saying:
Of the many celebrated trees which the Most High God
has created lofty and umbrageous, they call none azad,
or free, excepting the cypress, which bears no fruit;
what mystery is there in this ? He replied: Each has
its appropriate produce, and appointed season, during
the continuance of which it is fresh and blooming, and
during their absence dry and withered; to neither of
which states is the cypress exposed, being always flour-
ishing; and of this nature are the azads, or religious



independents. -Fix not thy heart on that which is tran-
sitory; for the Dijlah, or Tigris, will continue to flow
through Bagdad after the race of caliphs is extinct: if
thy hand has plenty, be liberal as the date tree; but if it
affords nothing to give away, be an azad, or free man,
like the cypress."



Thou dost presume too much, poor needy wretch,
To claim a station in the firmament
Because thy humble cottage, or thy tub,
Nurses some lazy or pedantic virtue
In the cheap sunshine or by shady springs,
With roots and pot-herbs; where thy right hand,
Tearing those humane passions from the mind,
Upon whose stocks fair blooming virtues flourish,
Degradeth nature, and benumbeth sense,
And, Gorgon-like, turns active men to stone.
We not require the dull society
Of your necessitated temperance,
Or that unnatural stupidity
That knows nor joy nor sorrow; nor your forced
Falsely exalted passive fortitude
Above the active. This low abject brood,
That fix their seats in mediocrity,
Become your servile minds; but we advance
Such virtues only as admit excess,
Brave, bounteous acts, regal magnificence,
All-seeing prudence, magnanimity
That knows no bound, and that heroic virtue
For which antiquity hath left no name,
But patterns only, such as Hercules,
Achilles, Theseus. Back to thy loath'd cell;
And when thou seest the new enlightened sphere,
Study to know but what those worthies were.

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