Front Cover
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 List of Illustrations
 Half Title
 Years of discipline
 Golden age of achievement
 Friends and followers
 General index to Thoreau's...

Group Title: Writings of Henry David Thoreau
Title: The writings of Henry David Thoreau
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00050303/00004
 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: VID00004
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
        Page xi
        Page xii
        Page xiii
        Page xiv
        Page xv
    Half Title
        Page 1
        Page 2
    Years of discipline
        Page 3
        Sketch of Thoreau's life from birth to twenty years
            Page 3
            Page 4
            Page 5
            Page 6
            Page 7
            Page 8
            Page 9
            Page 10
        Letters to his brother John and sister Helen
            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 24a
            Page 25
            Page 26
            Page 27
            Page 28
            Page 29
            Page 30
            Page 31
            Page 32
            Page 33
        Early friendship and correspondence with Emerson and his family
            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
        Staten Island and New York letters to the Thoreaus and Emersons
            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
            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
    Golden age of achievement
        Page 120
        Correspondence with C. Lane, J. E. Cabot, Emerson, and Blake
            Page 120
            Page 121
            Page 122
            Page 122a
            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 154a
            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
            Page 171
            Page 172
            Page 173
            Page 174
            Page 175
            Page 176
            Page 177
            Page 178
            Page 179
            Page 180
            Page 181
            Page 182
    Friends and followers
        Page 183
        The shipwreck of Margaret Fuller
            Page 183
            Page 184
            Page 185
            Page 186
            Page 187
            Page 188
            Page 189
            Page 190
            Page 191
            Page 192
            Page 193
            Page 194
            Page 195
            Page 196
            Page 197
        An essay on love and chastity
            Page 198
            Page 199
            Page 200
            Page 201
            Page 202
            Page 203
            Page 204
            Page 205
            Page 206
            Page 207
            Page 208
        Moral epistles to Harrison Blake of Worcester
            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 223
            Page 224
            Page 225
            Page 226
            Page 227
            Page 228
            Page 229
            Page 230
            Page 231
            Page 232
            Page 233
            Page 234
            Page 235
            Page 236
            Page 236a
        Aquaintance and correspondence with Daniel Ricketson of New Bedford
            Page 237
            Page 238
            Page 239
            Page 240
            Page 241
            Page 242
            Page 243
            Page 244
            Page 245
            Page 246
            Page 247
            Page 248
            Page 249
            Page 250
            Page 251
            Page 252
            Page 253
        Excursions to Cape Cod, New Bedford, New Hampshire, New York, and New Jersey
            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
            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
            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
            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
        Excursions to Monadnock and Minnesota
            Page 364
            Page 365
            Page 366
            Page 367
            Page 368
            Page 369
            Page 370
            Page 370a
            Page 371
            Page 372
            Page 373
            Page 374
            Page 375
            Page 376
            Page 377
            Page 378
            Page 379
            Page 380
            Page 381
            Page 382
            Page 383
            Page 384
            Page 385
            Page 386
            Page 387
            Page 388
            Page 389
            Page 390
            Page 391
            Page 392
            Page 393
            Page 394
        Last illness and death
            Page 395
            Page 396
            Page 397
            Page 398
            Page 399
            Page 400
        Letters to Isaac Hecker and Calvin H. Greene
            Page 401
            Page 402
            Page 403
            Page 404
            Page 405
            Page 406
            Page 407
            Page 408
            Page 409
            Page 410
            Page 411
            Page 412
            Page 413
            Page 414
    General index to Thoreau's works
        Page 415
        Page 416
        Page 417
        Page 418
        Page 419
        Page 420
        Page 421
        Page 422
        Page 423
        Page 424
        Page 425
        Page 426
        Page 427
        Page 428
        Page 429
        Page 430
        Page 431
        Page 432
        Page 433
        Page 434
        Page 435
        Page 436
        Page 437
        Page 438
        Page 439
        Page 440
        Page 441
        Page 442
        Page 443
        Page 444
        Page 445
        Page 446
        Page 447
        Page 448
        Page 449
        Page 450
        Page 451
        Page 452
        Page 453
        Page 454
        Page 455
        Page 456
        Page 457
        Page 458
        Page 459
        Page 460
        Page 461
Full Text

altien ftition


4' -1`~


WI -ilk.

Je'~./) D. Tioriaut, from thie f Rirlrtson, ]fedr(llin.
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)es Riberfit9e grse, Cambritge



All rights reserved




















SOTA 364







MEDALLION (page 263) Frontispiece



THE fortune of Henry Thoreau as an author of books
has been peculiar, and such as to indicate more per-
manenre of his name and fame than could be predicted
of many of his contemporaries. In the years of his lit-
erary activity (twenty-five in all), from 1837 to 1862,-
when he died, not quite forty-five years old,--he pub-
lished but two volumes, and those with much delay and
difficulty in finding a publisher. But in the thirty-two
years after his death, nine volumes were published from
his manuscripts and fugitive pieces, the present being
the tenth. Besides these, two biographies of Thoreau
had appeared in America, and two others in England,
with numerous reviews and sketches of the man and
his writings, enough to make several volumes more.
Since 1894 other biographies and other volumes have
appeared, and now his writings in twenty volumes are
coming from the press. The sale of his books and the
interest in his life are greater than ever; and he seems
to have grown early into an American classic, like his
Concord neighbors, Emerson and Hawthorne. Pilgrim-
ages are made to his grave and his daily haunts, as to
theirs, and those who come find it to be true, as was
said by an accomplished woman (Miss Elizabeth Hoar)
soon after his death, that Concord is Henry's monu-
ment, adorned with suitable inscriptions by his own


When Horace wrote of a noble Roman family, -
"Crescit occulto velut arbor aevo
Fama Marcelli," -
he pointed in felicitous phrase to the only fame that
posterity has much regarded, the slow-growing, deep-
rooted laurel of renown. And Shakespeare, citing the
old English rhyming saw, -
"Small herbs have grace,
Great weeds do grow apace,"--
signified the same thing in a parable, the popularity
and suddenness of transient things, contrasted with the
usefully permanent. There were plenty of authors in
Thoreau's time (of whom Willis may be taken as the
type) who would have smiled loftily to think that a
rustic from the Shawsheen and Assabet could compete
with the traveled scholar or elegant versifier who com-
manded the homage of drawing-rooms and magazines,
for the prize of lasting remembrance; yet who now are
forgotten, or live a shadowy life in the alcoves of libra-
ries, piping forth an ineffective voice, like the shades
in Virgil's Tartarus. But Thoreau was wiser when he
wrote at the end of his poem, Inspiration," -
"Fame cannot tempt the bard
Who's famous with his God;
Nor laurel him reward
Who has his Maker's nod."
He strove but little for glory, either immediate or
posthumous, well knowing that it is the inevitable and
unpursued result of what men do or say, -
"Our fatal shadow that walks by us still."
The Letters of Thoreau, though not less remarkable


in some aspects than what he wrote carefully for pub-
lication, have thus far scarcely had justice done them.
The selection made for a small volume in 1865 was
designedly done to exhibit one phase of his character, -
the most striking, if you will, but not the most native
or attractive. "In his own home," says Ellery Chan-
ning, who knew him more inwardly than any other,
"he was one of those characters who may be called
'household treasures;' always on the spot, with skillful
eye and hand, to raise the best melons in the garden,
plant the orchard with choicest trees, or act as extem-
pore mechanic; fond of the pets, his sister's flowers, or
sacred Tabby; kittens were his favorites, -he would
play with them by the half-hour. No whim or coldness,
no absorption of his time by public or private business,
deprived those to whom he belonged of his kindness
and affection. He did the duties that lay nearest, and
satisfied those in his immediate circle; and whatever
the impressions from the theoretical part of his writ-
ings, when the matter is probed to the bottom, good
sense and good feeling will be detected in it." This is
preeminently true; and the affectionate conviction of
this made his sister Sophia dissatisfied with Emerson's
rule of selection among the letters. This she confided
to me, and this determined me, should occasion offer,
to give the world some day a fuller and more familiar
view of our friend.
For this purpose I have chosen many letters and
mere notes, illustrating his domestic and gossipy moods,
- for that element was in his mixed nature, inherited
from the lively maternal side, and even the colloquial



vulgarity (using the word in its strict sense of popu-
lar speech ") that he sometimes allowed himself. In
his last years he revolted a little at this turn of his
thoughts, and, as Channing relates, rubbed out the
more humorous parts of his essays, originally a relief
to their sterner features, saying, 'I cannot bear the
levity I find;' to which Channing replied that he ought
to spare it, even to the puns, in which he abounded al-
most as much as Shakespeare. His friend was right, -
the obvious incongruity was as natural to Thoreau
as the grace and French elegance of his best sentences.
In the dozen letters newly added to this edition, these
contrasted qualities hardly appear so striking as in the
longer, earlier ones; but they all illustrate events of his
life or points in his character which are essential for
fully understanding this most original of all American
authors. The present volume is enlarged by some thirty
pages, chiefly by additional letters to Ricketson, and
all those to C. H. Greene. The modesty and self-depre-
ciation in the Michigan correspondence will attract
I have not rejected the common and trivial in
these letters; being well assured that what the increas-
ing number of Thoreau's readers desire is to see this
piquant original just as he was, not arrayed in the
paradoxical cloak of the Stoic sage, nor sitting compla-
cent in the cynic earthenware cave of Diogenes, and
bidding Alexander stand out of his sunshine. He did
those acts also; but they were not the whole man. He
was far more poet than cynic or stoic; he had the
proud humility of those sects, but still more largely that



unconscious pride which comes to the poet when he
sees that his pursuits are those of the few and not of
the multitude. This perception came early to Thoreau,
and was expressed in some unpublished verses dating
from his long, solitary rambles, by night and day, on
the seashore at Staten Island, where he first learned the
sombre magnificence of Ocean. He feigns himself the
son of what might well be one of Homer's fishermen,
or the shipwrecked seaman of Lucretius, -
"Saevis projects ab undis
Cui tantum in vita restet transire malorum," -
and then goes on thus with his parable:-
"Within a humble cot that looks to sea,
Daily I breathe this curious warm life;
Beneath a friendly haven's sheltering lee
My noiseless day with mystery still is rife.

"'T is here, they say, my simple life began, -
And easy credence to the tale I lend.
For well I know 't is here I am a man, -
But who will simply tell me of the end?

"These eyes, fresh-opened, spied the far-off Sea,
That like a silent godfather did stand,
Nor uttered ope explaining word to me,
While introducing straight godmother Land.

"And yonder still stretches that silent Main,
With many glancing ships besprinkled o'er;
And earnest still I gaze and gaze again
Upon the selfsame waves and friendly shore.

"Infinite work my hands find there to do,
Gathering the relics which the waves upcast:
Each storm doth scour the sea for something new,
And every time the strangest is the.last.


"My neighbors sometimes come with lumbering carts.
As if they wished my pleasant toil to share;
But straight they go again to distant marts,
For only weeds and ballast are their care."

"Only weeds and ballast?" that is exactly what
Thoreau's neighbors would have said he was gathering,
for the most of his days; yet now he is seen to have
collected something more durable and precious than
they with their implements and market-carts. If they
viewed him with a kind of scorn and pity, it must be
said that he returned the affront; only time seems to
have sided with the poet in the controversy that he
maintained against his busy age.
Superiority,- moral elevation, without peevishness
or condescension, this was Thoreau's distinguishing
quality. He softened it with humor, and sometimes
sharpened it with indignation; but he directed his satire
and his censure as often against himself as against man-
kind; men he truly loved, if they would not obstruct
his humble and strictly chosen path. The letters here
printed show this, if I mistake not, and the many
other epistles of his, still uncollected, would hardly vary
the picture he has sketched of hifaself, though they
would add new facts. Those most to be sought for are
his replies to the generous letters of his one English
The profile portrait reproduced in photogravure for
this volume is less known than it should be, for it
alone of the four likenesses extant shows the aquiline
1 These, written to Thomas Cholmondeley, are still (1906) lack-
ing; but a few other letters have been published since 1894.


features as his comrades of the wood and mountain saw
them, -not weakened by any effort to bring him to
the standard of other men in garb or expression. The
artist, Mr. Walton Ricketson, knew and admired him.
To him and to his sister Anna I am indebted for the
letters and other material found in their volume
"Daniel Ricketson and His Friends."
F. B. S.
CONCORD MAss., March 1, 1906.




IT was a happy thought of Thoreau's friend Ellery
Channing, himself a poet, to style our Concord hermit
the "poet-naturalist;" for there seemed to be no year
of his life and no hour of his day when Nature did
not whisper some secret in his ear, so intimate was
he with her from childhood. In another connection,
speaking of natural beauty, Channing said, "There is
Thoreau, he knows about it; give him sunshine and
a handful of nuts, and he has enough." He was also a
naturalist in the more customary sense, -one who
studied and arranged methodically in his mind the facts
of outward nature; a good botanist and ornithologist,
a wise student of insects and fishes; an observer of the
winds, the clouds, the seasons, and all that goes to make
up what we call weather and climate." Yet he was
in heart a poet, and held all the accumulated know-
ledge of more than forty years not so much for use as
for delight. As Gray's poor friend West said of him-
self, like a clear-flowing stream, he reflected the
beauteous prospect around;" and Mother Nature had
given Thoreau for his prospect the meandering Indian
river of Concord, the woodland pastures and fair lakes
by which he dwelt or rambled most of his life. Born
in the East Quarter of Concord, July 12, 1817, he died
in the village, May 6, 1862; he was there fitted for



IT was a happy thought of Thoreau's friend Ellery
Channing, himself a poet, to style our Concord hermit
the "poet-naturalist;" for there seemed to be no year
of his life and no hour of his day when Nature did
not whisper some secret in his ear, so intimate was
he with her from childhood. In another connection,
speaking of natural beauty, Channing said, "There is
Thoreau, he knows about it; give him sunshine and
a handful of nuts, and he has enough." He was also a
naturalist in the more customary sense, -one who
studied and arranged methodically in his mind the facts
of outward nature; a good botanist and ornithologist,
a wise student of insects and fishes; an observer of the
winds, the clouds, the seasons, and all that goes to make
up what we call weather and climate." Yet he was
in heart a poet, and held all the accumulated know-
ledge of more than forty years not so much for use as
for delight. As Gray's poor friend West said of him-
self, like a clear-flowing stream, he reflected the
beauteous prospect around;" and Mother Nature had
given Thoreau for his prospect the meandering Indian
river of Concord, the woodland pastures and fair lakes
by which he dwelt or rambled most of his life. Born
in the East Quarter of Concord, July 12, 1817, he died
in the village, May 6, 1862; he was there fitted for


Harvard College, which he entered in 1833, graduating
in 1837; and for the rest of his life was hardly away
from the town for more than a year in all. Conse-
quently his letters to his family are few, for he was
usually among them; but when separated from his
elder brother John, or his sisters Helen and Sophia, he
wrote to them, and these are the earliest of his letters
which have been preserved. Always thoughtful for
others, he has left a few facts to aid his biographer,
respecting his birth and early years. In his Journal of
December 27, 1855, he wrote: -
"Recalled this evening, with the aid of Mother, the
various houses (and towns) in which I have lived, and
some events of my life. Born in the Minott house
on the Virginia Road, where Father occupied Grandmo-
ther's 'thirds,' carrying on the farm. The Catherines
[had] the other half of the house, Bob Catherine and
[brother] John threw up the turkeys. Lived there about
eight months; Si Merriam the next neighbor. Uncle
David [Dunbar] died when I was six weeks old.1 I was
baptized in the old meeting-house, by Dr. Ripley, when
I was three months, and did not cry. [In] the Red
House, where Grandmother lived, we [had] the west side
till October, 1818, hiring of Josiah Davis, agent for
the Woodwards; there were Cousin Charles and Uncle
Charles [Dunbar], more or less. According to the day-

1 He was named David for this uncle; Dr. Ripley was the minister
of the whole town in 1817. The Red House stood near the Emerson
house on the Lexington road; the Woodwards were a wealthy family,
afterwards in Quincy, to which town Dr. Woodward left a large



book first used by Grandfather [Thoreau],1 dated
1797 (his part cut out and [then] used by Father in
Concord in 1808-9, and in Chelmsford in 1818-21),
Father hired of Proctor [in Chelmsford], and shop of
Spaulding. Chelmsford till March, 1821; last charge in
Chelmsford about middle of March, 1821. Aunt Sarah
taught me to walk there, when fourteen months old.
Lived next the meeting-house, where they kept the
powder in the garret. Father kept shop and painted
signs, etc.
Pope's house, at South End in Boston (a ten-footer)
five or six months, moved from Chelmsford through
Concord, and may have tarried in Concord a little while.
Day-book says,' Moved to Pinkney Street [Boston],
September 10, 1821, on Monday;' Whitwell's house,
Pinckney Street, to March, 1823; brick house, Concord,
to spring of 1826; Davis house (next to Samuel Hoar's)
to May 7, 1827; Shattuck house (now Wm. Munroe's)
to spring of 1835; Hollis Hall, Cambridge, 1833; Aunts'
house to spring of 1837. [This was what is now the
inn called 'Thoreau House.'] At Brownson's [Canton]
while teaching in winter of 1835. Went to New York
with Father peddling in 1836."
This brings the date down to the year in which Henry
Thoreau left college, and when the family letters begin.

SJohn Thoreau, grandfather of Henry, born at St. Helier's, Jersey,
April, 1754, was a sailor on board the American privateer General
Lincoln, November, 1779, and recognized La Sensible, French frigate,
which carried John Adams from Boston to France. See Journal,
vol. v, June 11, 1853. This John Thoreau, son of Philip, died in
Concord, 1800.



The notes continue, and now begin to have a literary
Parkman house to fall of 1844; was graduated in
1837; kept town school a fortnight in 1837; began
the big Red Journal, October, 1837; found my first
arrowheads, fall of 1837; wrote a lecture (my first) on
Society, March 14, 1838, and read it before the Lyceum,
in the Masons' Hall, April 11, 1838; went to Maine
for a school in May, 1838; commenced school [in the
Parkman house'] in the summer of 1838; wrote an
essay on 'Sound and Silence' December, 1838; fall of
1839 up the Merrimack to White Mountains; 'Aulus
Persius Flaccus' (first printed paper of consequence),
February 10, 1840; the Red Journal of 546 pages ended
June, 1840; Journal of 396 pages ended January 31,
"Went to R. W. Emerson's in spring of 1841 [about
April 25], and stayed there to summer of 1843; went?
to [William Emerson's], Staten Island, May, 1843, and
returned in December, or to Thanksgiving, 1843; made
pencils in 1844; Texas house to August 29, 1850; at
This had been the abode of old Deacon Parkman, a granduncle of
the late Francis Parkman, the historian, and son of the Westborough
clergyman from whom this distinguished family descends. Deacon
Parkman was a merchant in Concord, and lived in what was then a
good house. It stood in the middle of the village, where the Public
Library now is. The "Texas" house was built by Henry Thoreau
and his father John; it was named from a section of the village then
called "Texas," because a little remote from the churches and schools;
perhaps the same odd fancy that had bestowed the name of "Virginia"
on the road of Thoreau's birthplace. The "Yellow House reformed"
was a small cottage rebuilt and enlarged by the Thoreaus in 1850;
in this, on the main street, Henry and his father and mother died.



Walden, July, 1845, to fall of 1847; then at R. W.
Emerson's to fall of 1848, or while he was in Europe;
Yellow House (reformed) till the present."
As may be inferred from this simple record of the
many mansions, chiefly small ones, in which he had
spent his first thirty-eight years, there was nothing dis-
tinguished in the fortunes of Thoreau's family, who
were small merchants, artisans, or farmers mostly. On
the father's side they were from the isle of Jersey,
where a French strain mingled with his English or
Scandinavian blood; on the other side he was of
Scotch and English descent, counting Jones, Dunbar,
and Burns among his feminine ancestors. Liveliness
and humor came to him from his Scotch connection;
from father and grandfather he inherited a grave
steadiness of mind rather at variance with his mother's
vivacity. Manual dexterity was also inherited; so that
he practiced the simpler mechanic arts with ease and
skill; his mathematical training and his outdoor habits
fitted him for a land-surveyor; and by that art, as well
as by pencil-making, lecturing, and writing, he paid
his way in the world, and left a small income from his
writings to those who survived him. He taught pupils
also, as did his brother and sisters; but it was not an
occupation that he long followed after John's death in
1842. With these introductory statements we may pro-
ceed to Thoreau's first correspondence with his brother
and sisters.
As an introduction to the correspondence, and a key
to the young man's view of life, a passage may be taken
from Thoreau's "part" at his college commencement,



August 16, 1837. He was one of two to hold what was
called a Conference" on The Commercial Spirit,"
-his alternative or opponent in the dispute being
Henry Vose, also of Concord, who, in later years, was a
Massachusetts judge. Henry Thoreau,' then just twenty,
said: -
"The characteristic of our epoch is perfect freedom,
-freedom of thought and action. The indignant
Greek, the oppressed Pole, the jealous American assert
it. The skeptic no less than the believer, the heretic no
less than the faithful child of the church, have begun
to enjoy it. It has generated an unusual degree of
energy and activity; it has generated the commercial
spirit. Man thinks faster and freer than ever before.
He, moreover, moves faster and freer. He is more rest-
less, because he is more independent than ever. The
winds and the waves are not enough for him; he must
needs ransack the bowels of the earth, that he may
make for himself a highway of iron over its surface.
"Indeed, could one examine this beehive of ours
from an observatory among the stars, he would per-
ceive an unwonted degree of bustle in these later
ages. There would be hammering and chipping in
one quarter; baking and brewing, buying and selling,
money-changing and speechmaking in another. What
impression would he receive from so general and im-
partial a survey. Would it appear to him that mankind

During the greater part of his college course he signed himself
D. H. Thoreau, as he was christened (David Henry); but being con-
stantly called "Henry," he put this name first about the time he left
college, and was seldom afterwards known by the former initials.




used this world as not abusing it ? Doubtless he would
first be struck with the profuse beauty of our orb; he
would never tire of admiring its varied zones and sea-
sons, with their changes of living. He could not but
notice that restless animal for whose sake it was con-
trived; but where he found one man to admire with
him his fair dwelling-place, the ninety and nine would
be scraping together a little of the gilded dust upon its
surface. We are to look chiefly for the origin of
the commercial spirit, and the power that still cherishes
and sustains it, in a blind and unmanly love of wealth.
Wherever this exists, it is too sure to become the ruling
spirit; and, as a natural consequence, it infuses into
all our thoughts and affections a degree of its own self-
ishness; we become selfish in our patriotism, selfish in
our domestic relations, selfish in our religion.
"Let men, true to their natures, cultivate the moral
affections, lead manly and independent lives; let them
make riches the means and not the end of existence,
and we shall hear no more of the commercial spirit.
The sea will not stagnate, the earth will be as green as
ever, and the air as pure. This curious world which
we inhabit is more wonderful than it is convenient;
more beautiful than it is useful; it is more to be ad-
mired and enjoyed than used. The order of things
should be somewhat reversed; the seventh should be
man's day of toil, wherein to earn his living by the
sweat of his brow; and the other six his Sabbath of
the affections and the soul, in which to range this
widespread garden, and drink in the soft influences
and sublime revelations of Nature. The spirit we





are considering is not altogether and without exception
bad. We rejoice in it as one more indication of the
entire and universal freedom that characterizes the age
in which we live, as an indication that the human
race is making one more advance in that infinite series
of progressions which awaits it. We glory in those
very excesses which are a source of anxiety to the wise
and good; as an evidence that man will not always be
the slave of matter, -but ere long, casting off those
earth-born desires which identify him with the brute,
shall pass the days of his sojourn in this his nether
paradise, as becomes the Lord of Creation."'
1 The impression made on one classmate and former room-mate
("chum") of Thoreau, by this utterance, will be seen by this fragment
of a letter from James Richardson of Dedham (afterwards Reverend
J. Richardson), dated Dedham, September 7, 1837:-
"FRIEND THORnEU, After you had finished your part in the
Performances of Commencement (the tone and sentiment of which,
by the way, I liked much, as being of a sound philosophy), I hardly
saw you again at all. Neither at Mr. Quincy's levee, neither at any
of our classmates' evening entertainments, did I find you; though for
the purpose of taking a farewell, and leaving you some memento of an
old chum, as well as on matters of business, I much wished to see your
face once more. Of course you must be present at our October meet-
ing, notice of the time and place for which will be given in the
newspapers. I hear that you are comfortably located, in your native
town, as the guardian of its children, in the immediate vicinity, I sup-
pose, of one of our most distinguished apostles of the future, R. W.
Emerson, and situated under the ministry of our old friend Reverend
Barzillai Frost, to whom please make my remembrances. I heard
from you, also, that Concord Academy, lately under the care of Mr.
Phineas Allen of Northfield, is now vacant of a preceptor; should
Mr. Hoar find it difficult to get a scholar college-distinguished, per-
haps he would take up with one, who, though in many respects a
critical thinker, and a careful philosopher of language among other


This passage is noteworthy as showing how early the
philosophic mind was developed in Thoreau, and how
much his thought and expression were influenced by
Emerson's first book,- "Nature." But the soil in
which that germinating seed fell was naturally prepared
to receive it; and the wide diversity between the master
and the disciple soon began to appear. In 1863, re-
viewing Thoreau's work, Emerson said, "That oaken
strength which I noted whenever he walked or worked,
or surveyed wood-lots,- the same unhesitating hand
with which a field-laborer accosts a piece of work which
I should shun as a waste of strength, Henry shows in
his literary task. He has muscle, and ventures on and
performs feats which I am forced to decline. In read-
ing him I find the same thoughts, the same spirit that
is in me; but he takes a step beyond, and illustrates by
excellent images that which I should have conveyed in
a sleepy generalization." True as this is, it omits one
point of difference only too well known to Emerson, -
the controversial turn of Thoreau's mind, in which he
was so unlike Emerson and Alcott, and which must
have given to his youthful utterances in company the
air of something requiring an apology.
This, at all events, seems to have been the feeling of
Helen Thoreau,' whose pride in her brother was such
things, has never distinguished himself in his class as a regular attend-
ant on college studies and rules. If so, could you do me the kindness
to mention my name to him as of one intending to make teaching his
profession, at least for a part of his life. If recommendations are
necessary, President Quincy has offered me one, and I can easily get
1 This eldest of the children of John Thoreau and Cynthia Dunbar



that she did not wish to see him misunderstood. A
pleasing indication of both these traits is seen in the
first extant letter of Thoreau to this sister. I have this
in an autograph copy made by Mr. Emerson, when he
was preparing the letters for partial publication, soon
after Henry's death. For some reason he did not insert
it in his volume; but it quite deserves to be printed, as
indicating the period when it was clear to Thoreau that
he must think for himself, whatever those around him
might think.


CONCORD, October 27, 1837.
DEAR HELEN, Please you, let the defendant say a
few words in defense of his long silence. You know we
have hardly done our own deeds, thought our own
thoughts, or lived our own lives hitherto. For a man to
act himself, he must be perfectly free; otherwise he is
in danger of losing all sense of responsibility or of self-
respect. Now when such a state of things exists, that
the sacred opinions one advances in argument are
apologized for by his friends, before his face, lest his
hearers receive a wrong impression of the man,- when
such gross injustice is of frequent occurrence, where
shall we look, and not look in vain, for men, deeds,
thoughts? As well apologize for the grape that it is

was born October 22, 1812, and died June 14, 1849. Her grandmother,
Mary Jones of Weston, Mass., belonged to a Tory family, and several
of the Jones brothers served as officers in the British army against
General Washington.




sour, or the thunder that it is noisy, or the lightning
that it tarries not.
Further, letter-writing too often degenerates into a
communicating of facts, and not of truths; of other
men's deeds and not our thoughts. What are the con-
vulsions of a planet, compared with the emotions of the
soul ? or the rising of a thousand suns, if that is not
enlightened by a ray ?
Your affectionate brother,

It is. presumed the tender sister did not need a second
lesson; and equally that Henry did not see fit always
to write such letters as he praised above, for he was
quite ready to give his correspondents facts, no less than
thoughts, especially in his family letters.
Next to this epistle, chronologically, comes one in the
conventional dialect of the American Indian, as handed
down by travelers and romancers, by Jefferson, Cha-
teaubriand, Lewis, Clarke, and Fenimore Cooper. John
Thoreau, Henry's brother, was born in 1815 and died
January 11, 1842. He was teaching at Taunton in 1837.

(Written as from one Indian to another.)
MUSKETAQUID, 202 Summers, two Moons, eleven Suns,
since the coming of the Pale Faces.
(November 11, 1837.)
TAHATAWAN, Sachimaussan, to his brother sachem,
Hopeful of Hopewell, hoping that he is well : -
Brother: It is many suns that I have not seen the



print of thy moccasins by our council-fire; the Great
Spirit has blown more leaves from the. trees, and many
clouds from the land of snows have visited our lodge;
the earth has become hard, like a frozen buffalo-skin,
so that the trampling of many herds is like the Great
Spirit's thunder; the grass on the great fields is like the
old man of many winters, and the small song sparrow
prepares for his flight to the land whence the summer
Brother: I write these things because I know that
thou lovest the Great Spirit's creatures, and wast wont
to sit at thy lodge-door, when the maize was green, to
hear the bluebird's song. So shalt thou, in the land of
spirits, not only find good hunting-grounds and sharp
arrowheads, but much music of birds.
Brother: I have been thinking how the Pale-Faces
have taken away our lands, and was a woman. You
are fortunate to have pitched your wigwam nearer to
the great salt lake, where the Pale-Face can never
plant corn.
Brother: I need not tell thee how we hunted on the
lands of the Dundees,-a great war-chief never for-
gets the bitter taunts of his enemies. Our young men
called for strong water; they painted their faces and
dug up the hatchet. But their enemies, the Dundees,
were women; they hastened to cover their hatchets
with wampum. Our braves are not many; our enemies
took a few strings from the heap their fathers left them,
and our hatchets are buried. But not Tahatawan's;
his heart is of rock when the Dundees sing, -his
hatchet cuts deep into the Dundee braves.




Brother: There is dust on my moccasins; I have
journeyed to the White Lake, in the country of the
Ninares.' The Long-Knife has been there,-like a
woman I paddled his war-canoe. But the spirits of my
fathers were angered; the waters were ruffled, and the
Bad Spirit troubled the air.
The hearts of the Lee-vites are gladdened; the
young Peacock has returned to his lodge at Naushaw-
tuck. He is the Medicine of his tribe, but his heart is
like the dry leaves when the whirlwind breathes. He
has come to help choose new chiefs for the tribe, in the
great council-house, when two suns are past. There
is no seat for Tahatawan in the council-house. He lets
the squaws talk, -his voice is heard above the war-
whoop of his tribe, piercing the hearts of his foes; his
legs are stiff, he cannot sit.
Brother: Art thou waiting for the spring, that the
geese may fly low over thy wigwam? Thy arrows are
sharp, thy bow is strong. Has Anawan killed all the
eagles ? The crows fear not the winter. Tahatawan's
eyes are sharp, he can track a snake in the grass, he
1 White Pond, in the district called Nine-Acre Corner," is here
meant; the "Lee-vites" were a family then living on Lee's Hill.
Naushawtuck is another name for this hill, where the old Tahatawan
lived at times, before the English settled in Concord in September,
1635. The real date of this letter is November 11-14, 1837, and be-
tween its two dates the Massachusetts State election was held. The
"great council-house" was the Boston State-House, to which the
Concord people were electing deputies; the "Eagle-Beak" named
on the next page was doubtless Samuel Hoar, the first citizen of the
town, and for a time Member of Congress from Middlesex County.
He was the father of Rockwood and Frisbie Hoar, afterwards judge
and senator respectively.

XET. 20]



knows a friend from a foe; he welcomes a friend to his
lodge though the ravens croak.
Brother: Hast thou studied much in the medicine-
books of the Pale-Faces? Dost thou understand the
long talk of the Medicine whose words are like the
music of the mockingbird? But our chiefs have not
ears to hear him; they listen like squaws to the council
of old men, -they understand not his words. But,
Brother, he never danced the war-dance, nor heard the
war-whoop of his enemies. He was a squaw; he stayed
by the wigwam when the braves were out, and tended
the tame buffaloes.
Fear not; the Dundees have faint hearts and much
wampum. When the grass is green on the Great Fields,
and the small titmouse returns again, we will hunt the
buffalo together.
Our old men say they will send the young chief of
the Karlisles, who lives in the green wigwam and is a
great Medicine, that his word may be heard in the long
talk which the wise men are going to hold at Shawmut,
by the salt lake. He is a great talk, and will not forget
the enemies of his tribe.
14th Sun. The fire has gone out in the council-
house. The words of our old men have been like the
vaunts of the Dundees. The Eagle-Beak was moved to
talk like a silly Pale-Face, and not as becomes a great
war-chief in a council of braves. The young Peacock
is a woman among braves; he heard not the words of
the old men,--like a squaw he looked at his medicine-
paper.' The young chief of the green wigwam has hung
SA delicate sarcasm on young B., who could not finish his speech




up his moccasins; he will not leave his tribe till after
the buffalo have come down on to the plains.
Brother: This is a long talk, but there is much
meaning to my words; they are not like the thunder of
canes when the lightning smites them. Brother, I have
just heard thy talk and am well pleased; thou art
getting to be a great Medicine. The Great Spirit con-
found the enemies of thy tribe.
His mark [a bow and arrow].

This singular letter was addressed to John Thoreau
at Taunton, and was so carefully preserved in the
family that it must have had value in their eyes, as re-
calling traits of the two Thoreau brothers, and also
events in the village life of Concord, more interesting
to the young people of 1837 than to the present gen-
eration. Some of its parables are easy to read, others
quite obscure. The annual State election was an im-
portant event to Henry Thoreau then, more so than
it afterwards appeared; and he was certainly on the
Whig side in politics, like most of the educated youths
of Concord. His young chief of the Karlisles" was
Albert Nelson, son of a Carlisle physician, who began
to practice law in Concord in 1836, and was afterwards
in town-meeting without looking at his notes. The allusion to the
"Medicine whose words are like the music of the mockingbird" is
hard to explain; it may mean Edward Everett, then Governor of
Massachusetts, or, possibly, Emerson, whose lectures began to attract
notice in Boston and Cambridge. It can hardly mean Wendell Phillips,
though his melodious eloquence had lately been heard in attacks upon



chief justice of the Superior Court of the County of
Suffolk. He was defeated at the election of 1837, as
a Whig candidate for the legislature, by a Democrat.
Henry Vose, above named, writing from Butternuts,"
in New York, three hundred miles west of Concord,
October 22, 1837, said to Thoreau: "You envy my
happy situation, and mourn over your fate, which con-
demns you to loiter about Concord and grub among
clamshells [for Indian relics]. If this were your only
source of enjoyment while in Concord, -but I know
that it is not. I well remember that antique and fish-
like' office of Major Nelson (to whom, and to Mr.
Dennis, and Bemis, and John Thoreau, I wish to be
remembered); and still more vividly do I remember
the fairer portion of the community in C." This indi-
cates a social habit in Henry and John Thoreau, which
the Indian "talk" also implies. Tahatawan, whom
Henry here impersonated, was the mythical Sachem of
Musketaquid (the Algonquin name for Concord River
and region), whose fishing and hunting lodge was on
the hill Naushawtuck, between the two rivers so much
navigated by the Thoreaus. In 1837 the two brothers
were sportsmen, and went shooting over the Concord
meadows and moors, but of course the "buffalo" was
a figure of speech; they never shot anything larger than
a raccoon. A few years later they gave up killing the
CONCORD, February 10, 1838.
DEAR JOHN, Dost expect to elicit a spark from so
dull a steel as myself, by that flinty subject of thine ?




Truly, one of your copper percussion caps would have
fitted this nail-head better.
Unfortunately, the Americana" 1 has hardly two
words on the subject. The process is very simple. The
stone is struck with a mallet so as to produce pieces
sharp at one end, and blunt at the other. These are
laid upon a steel line (probably a chisel's edge), and
again struck with the mallet, and flints of the required
size are broken off. A skillful workman may make a
thousand in a day.
So much for the Americana." Dr. Jacob Bigelow
in his Technology," says, Gunflints are formed by a
skillful workman, who breaks them out with a hammer,
a roller, and steel chisel, with small, repeated strokes."
Your ornithological commission shall be executed.
When are you coming home ?
Your affectionate brother,

CONCORD, March 17, 1838.
DEAR JOHN, Your box of relics came safe to hand,
but was speedily deposited on the carpet, I assure you.
SAmericana, in this note, is the old Encyclopedia Americana, which
had been edited from the German Conversations-Lexicon, and other
sources, by Dr. Francis Lieber, T. G. Bradford, and other Boston
scholars, ten years earlier, and was the only convenient book of refer-
ence at Thoreau's hand. The inquiry of John Thoreau is another
evidence of the interest he took, like his brother, in the Indians and
their flint arrowheads. The relics mentioned in the next letter were
doubtless Indian weapons and utensils, very common about Taunton
in the region formerly controlled by King Philip.

XET. 20]



What could it be? Some declared it must be Taunton
herrings: Just nose it, sir!" So down we went on to
our knees, and commenced smelling in good earnest, -
now horizontally from this corner to that, now perpen-
dicularly from the carpet up, now diagonally, and
finally with a sweeping movement describing the cir-
cumference. But it availed not. Taunton herring would
not be smelled. So we e'en proceeded to open it vi et
chisel. What an array of nails! Four nails make a
quarter, four quarters a yard, i' faith, this is n't cloth
measure! Blaze away, old boy! Clap in another wedge,
then! There, softly! she begins to gape. Just give that
old stickler, with a black hat on, another hoist. Aye,
we '11 pare his nails for him! Well done, old fellow,
there 's a breathing-hole for you. Drive it in!" cries
one; "Nip it off!" cries another. Be easy, I say.
What's done may be undone. Your richest veins don't
lie nearest the surface. Suppose we sit down and en-
joy the prospect, for who knows but we may be disap-
pointed? When they opened Pandora's box, all the
contents escaped except Hope, but in this case hope is
uppermost, and will be the first to escape when the box
is opened. However, the general voice was for kicking
the coverlid off.
The relics have been arranged numerically on a
table. When shall we set up housekeeping? Miss
Ward thanks you for her share of the spoils; also ac-
cept many thanks from your humble servant "for
I have a proposal to make. Suppose by the time you
are released we should start in company for the West,




and there either establish a school jointly, or procure
ourselves separate situations. Suppose, moreover, you
should get ready to start previous to leaving Taunton,
to save time. Go I must, at all events. Dr. Jarvis
enumerates nearly a dozen schools which I could have,
- all such as would suit you equally well.1 I wish you
would write soon about this. It is high season to start.
The canals are now open, and traveling comparatively
cheap. I think I can borrow the cash in this town.
There's nothing like trying.
Brigham wrote you a few words on the 8th, which
father took the liberty to read, with the advice and
consent of the family. He wishes you to send him those
[numbers] of the "Library of Health" received since
1888, if you are in Concord; otherwise, he says you
need not trouble yourself about it at present. He is in
C., and enjoying better health than usual. But one
number, and that you have, has been received.
The bluebirds made their appearance the 14th day
of March; robins and pigeons have also been seen.
Mr. Emerson has put up the bluebird-box in due form.
All send their love.
From your aff. br.
[Postscript by Helen Thoreau.]
DEAR JOHN, Will you have the kindness to inquire
at Mr. Marston's for an old singing-book I left there, -
I Dr. Edward Jarvis, born in Concord (1803), had gone to Louis-
ville, Ky., in April, 1837, and was thriving there as a physician. He
knew the Thoreaus well, and gave them good hopes of success in Ohio
or Kentucky as teachers. The plan was soon abandoned, and Henry

XET. 20]



the "Handel and Haydn Collection," without a cover ?
Have you ever got those red handkerchiefs ? Much love
to the Marstons, Crockers, and Muenschers. Mr. Josiah
Davis has failed. Mr. and Mrs. Howe have both writ-
ten again, urging my going to Roxbury; which I sup-
pose I shall do. What day of the month shall you
return ?

One remark in this letter calls for attention, that
concerning the "bluebird-box" for Mr. Emerson. In
1853 Emerson wrote in his journal: Long ago I wrote
of Gifts, and neglected a capital example. John Tho-
reau, Jr., one day put a bluebird's box on my barn, -
fifteen years ago it must be, and there it still is, with
every summer a melodious family in it, adorning the
place and singing his praises. There's a gift for you,
- which cost the giver no money, but nothing which he
bought could have been so good. I think of another,
quite inestimable. John Thoreau knew how much I
should value a head of little Waldo, then five years old.
He came to me and offered to take him to a daguerreo-
typist who was then in town, and he (Thoreau) would
see it well done. He did it, and brought me the da- .
guerre, which I thankfully paid for. A few months
after, my boy died; and I have since to thank John
Thoreau for that wise and gentle piece of friendship."
Little Waldo Emerson died January 27, 1842, and
John Thoreau the same month; so that this taking of
went to Maine to find a school, but without success. See Sanborn's
Thoreau, p. 57.




the portrait must have been but a few months before
his own death, January 11. Henry Thoreau was then
living in the Emerson family.

CONCORD, July 8, 1838.
DEAR JOHN, -We heard from Helen to-day, and
she informs us that you are coming home by the first
of August. Now I wish you to write and let me know
exactly when your vacation takes place, that I may take
one at the same time. I am in school from 8 to 12 in
the morning, and from 2 to 4 in the afternoon. After
that I read a little Greek or English, or, for variety,
take a stroll in the fields. We have not had such a year
for berries this long time, the earth is actually blue
with them. High blueberries, three kinds of low, thim-
ble- and raspberries constitute my diet at present.
(Take notice, I only diet between meals.) Among
my deeds of charity, I may reckon the picking of a
cherry tree for two helpless single ladies, who live under
the hill; but i' faith, it was robbing Peter to pay Paul,
-for while I was exalted in charity towards them, I
had no mercy on my own stomach. Be advised, my
love for currants continues.
The only addition that I have made to my stock of
ornithological information is in the shape not of a
Fring. melod., -but surely a melodious Fringilla, -
the F. juncorum, or rush-sparrow. I had long known
him by note, but never by name.
Report says that Elijah Stearns is going to take the
town school. I have four scholars, and one more en-

XT. 20]



gaged. Mr. Fenner left town yesterday. Among oc-
currences of ill omen may be mentioned the falling out
and cracking of the inscription stone of Concord Mon-
ument.1 Mrs. Lowell and children are at Aunts'. Pea-
body [a college classmate] walked up last Wednesday,
spent the night, and took a stroll in the woods.
Sophia says I must leave off and pen a few lines for
her to Helen: so good-by. Love from all, and among
them your aff. brother,
H. D. T.

The school above mentioned as begun by Henry
Thoreau in this summer of 1838 was joined in by John,
after finishing his teaching at West Roxbury, and was
continued for several years. It was in this school that
Louisa Alcott and her sister received some instruction,
after their father removed from Boston to Concord, in
the spring of 1840. It was opened in the Parkman
house, where the family then lived, and soon after was
transferred to the building of the Concord Academy,2
not far off. John Thoreau taught the English branches
and mathematics; Henry taught Latin and Greek and
the higher mathematics, and it was the custom of
both brothers to go walking with their pupils one after-
noon each week. It is as a professional schoolmaster
that Henry thus writes to his sister Helen, then teach-
ing at Roxbury, after a like experience in Taunton.
This was the old monument of the Fight in 1775, for the dedication
of which Emerson wrote his hymn, "By the rude bridge." This was
sung by Thoreau, among others, to the tune of Old Hundred.
2 For twenty-five'years (1866-91) the house of.Ellery Channing,
and now ofCharles Emerson, nephew of Waldo Emerson.



Concord Battle-Ground


CONCORD, October 6, 1838.
DEAR HELEN, I dropped Sophia's letter into the
box immediately on taking yours out, else the tone of
the former had been changed.
I have no acquaintance with "Cleaveland's First
Lessons," though I have peeped info his abridged
grammar, which I should think very well calculated
for beginners, at least for such as would be likely to
wear out one book before they would be prepared for
the abstruser parts of grammar. Ahem!
As no one can tell what was the Roman pronuncia-
tion, each nation makes the Latin conform, for the most
part, to the rules of its own language; so that with us
of the vowels only A has a peculiar sound. In the end
of a word of more than one syllable it is sounded like
"ah," as pennah, Lydiah, Hannah, etc., without regard
to case; but da" is never sounded dah," because it
is a monosyllable. All terminations in es, and plural
cases in os, as you know, are pronounced long, as
homines (hominese), dominos (dominose), or, in Eng-
lish, Johnny Vose. For information, see Adams' Latin
Grammar," before the Rudiments.
This is all law and gospel in the eyes of the world;
but remember I am speaking, as it were, in the third
person, and should sing quite a different tune if it were
I that had made the quire. However, one must occa-
sionally hang his haip on the willows, and play on the
Jew's harp, in such a strange country as this.
One of your young ladies wishes to study mental



philosophy, hey? Well, tell her that she has the very
best text-book that I know of in her possession already.
If she do not believe it, then she should have bespoken
another better in another world, and not have expected
to find one at Little & Wilkins." But if she wishes
to know how poor an apology for a mental philosophy
men have tacked together, synthetically or analytically,
in these latter days,- how they have squeezed the in-
finite mind into a compass that would not nonplus a
surveyor of Eastern Lands making Imagination and
Memory to lie still in their respective apartments like
ink-stand and wafers in a lady's escritoire, -why let
her read Locke, or Stewart, or Brown. The fact is,
mental philosophy is very like Poverty, which, you
know, begins at home; and indeed, when it goes abroad,
it is poverty itself.
Chorus. I should think an abridgment of one of the
above authors, or of Ambercrombie, would answer her
purpose. It may set her a-thinking. Probably there
are many systems in the market of which I am ignorant.
As for themes, say first Miscellaneous Thoughts."
Set one up to a window, to note what passes in the
street, and make her comments thereon; or let her
gaze in the fire, or into a corner where there is a
spider's web, and philosophize, moralize, theorize, or
what not. What their hands find to putter about, or
their minds to think about, that let them write about.
To say nothing of advantage or disadvantage of this,
that, or the other, let them set down their ideas at any
given season, preserving the chain of thought as com-
plete as may be.




This is the style pedagogical. I am much obliged to
you' for your piece of information. Knowing your dis-
like to a sentimental letter, I remain
Your affectionate brother,
H. D. T.

The next letter to Helen carries this pedagogical
style a little farther, for it is in Latin, addressed Ad
Helenam L. Thoreau, Roxbury, Mass.," and post-
marked Concord, Jan. 25 (1840).

CARA SOROR, Est magnus acervus nivis ad limina,
et frigus intolerabile intus. Coelum ipsum ruit, credo,
et terram operit. Sero stratum linquo et mature repeto;
in fenestris multa pruina prospectum absumit; et hic
miser scribo, non current calamo, nam digiti mentes-
que torpescunt. Canerem cum Horatio, si vox non
faucibus haeserit, -
Vides ut alta siet nive candidum
Nawshawtuct, nee jam sustineant onus
Silvae laborantes, geluque
Flumina constiterint acuto
Dissolve frigus, ligna super foco
Large reponens, etc.

Sed olim, Musa mutata, et laetiore plectro,
Neque jam stabulis gaudet pecus, aut arator igne,
Nec prata canis albicant pruinis;
Jam Cytherea choros ducit Venus imminent luna.

Quam turdus ferrugineus ver reduxerit, tu, spero,



linques curas scholasticas, et, negotio religato, desipere
in loco audebis; aut mecum inter sylvas, aut super
scopulos Pulchri-Portus, aut in cymba super lacum
Waldensem, mulcens fluctus manu, aut species miratus
sub undas.
Bulwerius est mihi nomen incognitum, unus ex
ignobile vulgo, nec refutandus nec laudandus. Certe
alicui nonnullam honorem habeo qui insanabili cacoethe
scribendi teneatur.
Specie flagrantis Lexingtonis non somnia deturbat?
At non Vulcanum Neptunumque culpemus, cum super-
stitioso grege. Natura curat animalculis aeque ac
hominibus; cum serena, tum procellosa, amica est.
Si amas historiam et fortia facta heroum, non depone
Rollin, precor; ne Clio offendas nunc, nee illa det
veniam olim. Quos libros Latinos legis ? legis, inquam,
non studies. Beatus qui potest suos libellos tractare, et
saepe perlegere, sine metu domini urgentis! ab otio in-
jurioso procul est: suos amicos et vocare et dimittere
quandocunque velit, protest. Bonus liber opus nobilis-
simum hominis. Hine ratio non modo cur legeres, sed
cur tu quoque scriberes; nee lectores carent; ego sum.
Si non librum meditaris, libellum certe. Nihil posters
proderit te spirasse, et vitam nunc leniter nune aspere
egisse; sed cogitasse praecipue et scripsisse. Vereor
ne tibi pertaesum hujus epistolae sit; necnon alma lux
Majoresque cadunt altis de montibus umbrae.
Quamobrem vale, imo valete, et requiescatis placide,
Memento scribere!




CARA SOPHIA, Samuel Niger crebris aegrotationi-
bus, quae agilitatem et aequum animum abstulere,
obnoxius est; iis temporibus ad cellam descendit, et
multas horas (ibi) manet.
Flores, ah crudelis pruina! parvo leti discrimine sunt.
Cactus frigore ustus est, gerania vero adhuc vigent.
Conventus sociabiles hac hieme reinstituti fuere.
Conveniunt (?) ad meum domum mense quarto vel
quinto, ut tu hie esse possis. Matertera Sophia cum
nobis remanet; quando urbem revertet non scio. Gra-
vedine etiamnum, sed non tam aegre, laboramus.
Adolescentula E. White apud pagum paulisper mo-
ratur. Memento scribere intra duas hebdomedas.
Te valere desiderium est
Tui Matris,

P. S. Epistolam die solis proxima expectamus.
(Amanuense, H. D. T.)

Barring a few slips, this is a good and lively piece of
Latin, and noticeable for its thought as well as its
learning and humor. The poets were evidently his
favorites among Latin authors. Shall we attempt a
free translation, such as Thoreau would give ?

CONCORD, January 23, 1840.
DEAR SISTER, There is a huge snow-drift at the
door, and the cold inside is intolerable. The very sky
is coming down, I guess, and covering up the ground.



I turn out late in the morning, and go to bed early;
there is thick frost on the windows, shutting out the
view; and here I write in pain, for fingers and brains
are numb. I would chant with Horace, if my voice did
not stick in my throat, -
See how Naushawtuct, deep in snow,
Stands glittering, while the bending woods
Scarce bear their burden, and the floods
Feel arctic winter stay their flow.
Pile on the firewood, melt the cold,
Spare nothing, etc.
But soon, changing my tune, and with a cheerfuller
note, I '11 say, -
No longer the flock huddles up in the stall, the plowman bends over
the fire,
No longer frost whitens the meadow;
But the goddess of love, while the moon shines above,
Sets us dancing in light and in shadow.
When Robin Redbreast brings back the springtime,
I trust that you will lay your school duties aside, cast
off care, and venture to be gay now and then; roaming
with me in the woods, or climbing the Fair Haven cliffs,
-or else, in my boat on Walden, let the water kiss
your hand, or gaze at your image in the wave.
Bulwer is to me a name unknown, one of the un-
noticed crowd, attracting neither blame nor praise. To
be sure, I hold any one in some esteem who is helpless
in the grasp of the writing demon.
Does not the image of the Lexington afire trouble
your dreams? I But we may not, like the superstitious
1 The steamer Lexington lately burnt on Long Island Sound,
with Dr. Follen on board.




mob, blame Vulcan or Neptune, -neither fire nor
water was in fault. Nature takes as much care for
midgets as for mankind; she is our friend in storm and
in calm.
If you like history, and the exploits of the brave,
don't give up Rollin, I beg; thus would you displease
Clio, who might not forgive you hereafter. What Latin
are you reading? I mean reading, not studying.
Blessed is the man who can have his library at hand,
and oft peruse the books, without the fear of a task-
master! he is far enough from harmful idleness, who
can call in and dismiss these friends when he pleases.
An honest book's the noblest work of man. There's a
reason, now, not only for your reading, but for writing
something, too. You will not lack readers, here am
I, for one. If you cannot compose a volume, then try a
tract. It will do the world no good, hereafter, if you
merely exist, and pass life smoothly or roughly; but to
have thoughts, and write them down, that helps greatly.
I fear you will tire of this epistle; the light of day is
dwindling, too, -
And longer fall the shadows of the hills.
Therefore, good-by; fare ye well, and sleep in quiet,
both my sisters! Don't forget to write.

DEAR SOPHIA,-- Sam Black [the cat] is liable to
frequent attacks that impair his agility and good-nature;
at such times he goes down cellar, and stays many
hours. Your flowers-O, the cruel frost !-are all but



dead; the cactus is withered by cold, but the geraniums
yet flourish. The Sewing Circle has been revived this
winter; they meet at our house in April or May, so
that you may then be here. Your Aunt Sophia remains
with us, when she will return to the city I don't
know. We still suffer from heavy colds, but not so
much. Young Miss E. White is staying in the village a
little while (is making a little visit in town). Don't for-
get to write within two weeks. We expect a letter next
That you may enjoy good health is the prayer of
Your mother,
(H. D. T. was the scribe.)

Cats were always an important branch of the Tho-
reaus' domestic economy, and Henry was more tolerant
of them than men are wont to be. Flowers were the
specialty of Sophia, who, when I knew her, from 1855
to 1876, usually had a small conservatory in a recess of
the dining-room. At this time (1840) she seems to have
been aiding Helen in her school. The next letter, to
Helen, is of a graver tone:-

CONCORD, June 13, 1840.
DEAR HELEN, That letter to John, for which you
had an opportunity doubtless to substitute a more per-
fect communication, fell, as was natural, into the hands
of his transcendental brother," who is his proxy in
such cases, having been commissioned to acknowledge




and receipt all bills that may be presented. But what's
in a name ? Perhaps it does not matter whether it be
John or Henry. Nor will those same six months have
to be altered, I fear, to suit his case as well. But
methinks they have not passed entirely without inter-
course, provided we have been sincere though humble
worshipers of the same virtue in the mean time. Cer-
tainly it is better that we should make ourselves quite
sure of such a communion as this by the only course
which is completely free from suspicion, the coinci-
dence of two earnest and aspiring lives, than run the
risk of a disappointment by relying wholly or chiefly on
so meagre and uncertain a means as speech, whether
written or spoken, affords. How often, when we have
been nearest each other bodily, have we really been
farthest off Our tongues were the witty foils with
which we fenced each other off. Not that we have not
met heartily and with profit as members of one family,
but it was a small one surely, and not that other human
family. We have met frankly and without concealment
ever, as befits those who have an instinctive trust in one
another, and the scenery of whose outward lives has
been the same, but never as prompted by an earnest
and affectionate desire to probe deeper our mutual
natures. Such intercourse, at least, if it has ever been,
has not condescended to the vulgarities of oral com-
munication, for the ears are provided with no lid as the
eye is, and would not have been deaf to it in sleep. And
now glad am I, if I am not mistaken in imagining that
some such transcendental inquisitiveness has traveled
post thither, for, as I observed before, where the bolt



hits, thither was it aimed, any arbitrary direction
Thus much, at least, our kindred temperament of
mind and body-and long family-arity--have done
for us, that we already find ourselves standing on a
solid and natural footing with respect to one another,
and shall not have to waste time in the so often unavail-
ing endeavor to arrive fairly at this simple ground.
Let us leave trifles, then, to accident; and politics,
and finance, and such gossip, to the moments when
diet and exercise are cared for, and speak to each other
deliberately as out of one infinity into another, you
there in time and space, and I here. For beside this
relation, all books and doctrines are no better than
gossip or the turning of a spit.
Equally to you and Sophia, from
Your affectionate brother,

We come now ,to the period when Thoreau entered
on more intimate relations with Emerson. There was
a difference of fourteen years in their ages, which had
hitherto separated them intellectually; but now the
young scholar, thinker, and naturalist had so fast
advanced that he could meet his senior on more equal
terms, and each became essential to the other. With all
his prudence and common sense, in which he surpassed
.most men, Emerson was yet lacking in some practical
faculties; while Thoreau was the most practical and
handy person in all matters of every-day life, a good
mechanic and gardener, methodical in his habits, obser-




vant and kindly in the domestic world, and attractive
to children, who now were important members of the
Emerson household. He was therefore invited by Emer-
son to make his house a home, looking after the gar-
den, the business affairs, and performing the office of a
younger brother or a grown-up son. The invitation
was accepted in April, 1841, and Thoreau remained in
the family, with frequent absences, until he went in
May, 1843, to reside with Mr. William Emerson, near
New York, as the tutor of his sons. During these two
years much occurred of deep moment to the two friends.
Young Waldo Emerson, the beautiful boy, died, and
just before, John Thoreau, the sunny and hopeful
brother, whom Henry seems to have loved more than
any human being. These tragedies brought the be-
reaved nearer together, and gave to Mrs. Emerson in
particular an affection for Thoreau and a trust in him
which made the intimate life of the household move
harmoniously, notwithstanding the independent and
eccentric genius of Thoreau.

CoNCORD, July 21, 1841.
DEAR FRIEND, Don't think I need any prompting
to write to you; but what tough earthenware shall I
put into my packet to travel over so many hills, and

1 Mrs. Brown was the elder sister of Mrs. R. W. Emerson and of
the eminent chemist and geologist, Dr. Charles T. Jackson, of Plym-
outh and Boston. She lived for a time in Mrs. Thoreau's family,
and Thoreau's early verses, "Sic Vita," were thrown into her window
there by the young poet, wrapped round a cluster of violets.



thrid so many woods, as lie between Concord and Plym-
outh? Thank fortune it is all the way down hill, so
they will get safely carried; and yet it seems as if it
were writing against time and the sun to send a letter
east, for no natural force forwards it. You should go
dwell in the West, and then I would deluge you with
letters, as boys throw feathers into the air to see the
wind take them. I should rather fancy you at evening
dwelling far away behind the serene curtain of the
West, the home of fair weather, than over by the
chilly sources of the east wind.
What quiet thoughts have you nowadays which will
float on that east wind to west, for so we may make our'
worst servants our carriers, what progress made from
can't to can, in practice and theory? Under this cate-
gory, you remember, we used to place all our philoso-
phy. Do you have any still, startling, well moments,
in which you thinkgrandly, and speak with emphasis?
Don't take this for sarcasm, for not in a year of the
gods, I fear, will such a golden approach to plain
speaking revolve again. But away with such fears; by a
few miles of travel we have not distanced each other's
I grow savager and savager every day, as if fed on
raw meat, and my tameness is only the repose of un-
tamableness. I dream of looking abroad summer and
winter, with free gaze, from some mountain-side, while
my eyes revolve in an Egyptian slime of health, I to
be nature looking into nature with such easy sympathy
as the blue-eyed grass in the meadow looks in the face
of the sky. From some such recess I would put forth




sublime thoughts daily, as the plant puts forth leaves.
Now-a-nights I go on to the hill to see the sun set, as
one would go home at evening; the bustle of the vil-
lage has run on all day, and left me quite in the rear;
but I see the sunset, and find that it can wait for my
slow virtue.
But I forget that you think more of this human
nature than of this nature I praise. Why won't you
believe that mine is more human than any single man
or woman can be? that in it, in the sunset there, are
all the qualities that can adorn a household, and that
sometimes, in a fluttering .leaf, one may hear all your
Christianity preached.
You see how unskillful a letter-writer I am, thus to
have come to the end of my sheet when hardly arrived
at the beginning of my story. I was going to be
soberer, I assure you, but now have only room to add,
that if the fates allot you a serene hour, don't fail to
communicate some of its serenity to your friend,

No, no. Improve so rare a gift for yourself, and
send me of your leisure.

CONCORD, Wednesday evening,
September 8, [1841.]
DEAR FRIEND, -Your note came wafted to my
hand like the first leaf of the fall on the September
wind, and I put only another interpretation upon its
lines than upon the veins of those which are soon to



be strewed around me. It is nothing but Indian sum-
mer here at present. I mean that any weather seems
reserved expressly for our late purposes whenever we
happen to be fulfilling them. I do not know what
right I have to so much happiness, but rather hold it
in reserve till the time of my desert.
What with the crickets and the crowing of cocks,
and the lowing of kine, our Concord life is sonorous
enough. Sometimes I hear the cock bestir himself on
his perch under my feet, and crow shrilly before dawn;
and I think I might have been born any year for all
the phenomena I know. We count sixteen eggs daily
now, when arithmetic will only fetch the hens up to
thirteen; but the world is young, and we wait to see
this eccentricity complete its period.
My verses on Friendship are already printed in the
Dial; not expanded, but reduced to completeness by
leaving out the long lines, which always have, or should
have, a longer or at least another sense than short
Just now I am in the mid-sea of verses, and they
actually rustle around me as the leaves would round
the head of Autumnus himself should he thrust it up
through some vales which I know; but, alas many of
them are but crisped and yellow leaves like his, I fear,
and will deserve no better fate than to make. mould
for new harvests. I see the stanzas rise around me,
verse upon verse, far and near, like the mountains
from Agiocochook, not all having a terrestrial exist-
ence as yet, even as some of them may be clouds; but
I fancy I see the gleam of some Sebago Lake and Sil-




ver Cascade, at whose well I may drink one day. I am
as unfit for any practical purpose I mean for the
furtherance of the world's ends as gossamer for ship-
timber; and I, who am going to be a pencil-maker
to-morrow,1 can sympathize with God Apollo, who
served King Admetus for a while on earth. But I
believe he found it for his advantage at last, -as I am
sure I shall, though I shall hold the nobler part at
least out of the service.
Don't attach any undue seriousness to this threnody,
for I love my fate to the very core and rind, and could
swallow it without paring it, I think. You ask if I have
written any more poems? Excepting those which Vul-
can is now forging, I have only discharged a few more
bolts into the horizon, -in all, three hundred verses-
and sent them, as I may say, over the mountains to
Miss Fuller, who may have occasion to remember the
old rhyme:-
"Three scipen gode
Comen mid than flode
Three hundred cnihten."
But these are far more Vandalic than they. In this
narrow sheet there is not room even for one thought to
root itself. But you must consider this an odd leaf of a
volume, and that volume
Your friend,

SThis business of pencil-making had become the family bread-
winner, and Henry Thoreau worked at it apd kindred arts by intervals
for the next twenty years.



CONCORD, October 5, 1841.
DEAR FRIEND,--I send you Williams's letter as the
last remembrancer to one of those whose acquaint-
ance he had the pleasure to form while in Concord."
It came quite unexpectedly to me, but I was very glad
to receive it, though I hardly know whether my utmost
sincerity and interest can inspire a sufficient answer to
it. I should like to have you send it back by some
convenient opportunity.
Pray let me know what you are thinking about any
day, -what most nearly concerns you. Last winter, you
know, you did more than your share of the talking, and
I did not complain for want of an opportunity. Ima-
gine your stove-door out of order, at least, and then while
I am fixing it you will think of enough things to say.
What makes the value of your life at present ? what
dreams have you, and what realizations? You know
there is a high table-land which not even the east wind
reaches. Now can't we walk and chat upon its plane
still, as if there were no lower latitudes? Surely our
two destinies are topics interesting and grand enough
for any occasion.
I hope you have many gleams of serenity and health,
or, if your body will grant you no positive respite, that
you may, at any rate, enjoy your sickness occasionally,
as much as I used to tell of. But here is the bundle
going to be done up, so accept a "good-night" from
SI. T. Williams, who had lived in Concord, but now wrote from
Buffalo, N. Y.




CONCORD, March 2, 1842.
DEAR FRIEND,- I believe I have nothing new to
tell you, for what was news you have learned from
other sources. I am much the same person that I was,
who should be so much better; yet when I realize what
has transpired, and the greatness of the part I am un-
consciously acting, I am thrilled, and it seems as if
there were none in history to match it.
Soon after John's death I listened to a music-box,
and if, at any time, that event had seemed inconsistent
with the beauty and harmony of the universe, it was
then gently constrained into the placid course of nature
by those steady notes, in mild and unoffended tone
echoing far and wide under the heavens. But I find
these things more strange than sad to me. What right
have I to grieve, who have not ceased to wonder ? We
feel at first as if some opportunities of kindness and
sympathy were lost, but learn afterward that any pure
grief is ample recompense for all. That is, if we are
faithful; for a great grief is but sympathy with the soul
that disposes events, and is as natural as the resin on
Arabian trees. Only Nature has a right to grieve per-
petually, for she only is innocent. Soon the ice will
melt, and the blackbirds sing along the river which he
frequented, as pleasantly as ever. The same everlasting
serenity will appear in this face of God, and we will
not be sorrowful if he is not.
We are made happy when reason can discover no
occasion for it. The memory of some past moments is
more persuasive than the experience of present ones.



There have been visions of such breadth and bright-
ness that these motes were invisible in their light.
I do not wish to see John ever again, -I mean him
who is dead, but that other, whom only he would
have wished to see, or to be, of whom he was the im-
perfect representative. For we are not what we are,
nor do we treat or esteem each other for such, but for
what we are capable of being.
As for Waldo, he died as the mist rises from the
brook, which the sun will soon dart his rays through.
Do not the flowers die every autumn ? He had not even
taken root here. I was not startled to hear that he was
dead; it seemed the most natural' event that could
happen. His fine organization demanded it, and nature
gently yielded its request. It would have been strange
if he had lived.' Neither will nature manifest any sor-
row at his death, 4but0oonihe note of the lark will be
heard down in the meadow, and fresh dandelions will
spring from the old stocks where he plucked them last
I have been living ill of late, but am now doing better.
How' do you live in that Plymouth world, nowadays ?

I Mrs. Brown, to whom this letter and several others of the years
1841-48 were written, lived by turns in Plymouth, her native place,
and in Concord, where she often visited Mrs. Emerson at the time
when Thoreau was an inmate of the Emerson household. In the early
part of 1843 she was in Plymouth, and her sister was sending her
newspapers and other things, from time to time. The incident of the
music-box, mentioned above, occurred at the Old Manse, where
Hawthorne was living from the summer of 1842 until the spring of -
1845, and was often visited by Thoreau and Ellery Channing. In the
letter following, this incident is recalled, and with it the agreeable




Please remember me to Mary Russell. You must not
blame me if I do talk to the clouds, for I remain
Your friend,

CONCORD, January 24, 1843.
DEAR FRIEND, The other day I wrote you a letter
to go in Mrs. Emerson's bundle, but, as it seemed un-
worthy, I did not send it, and now, to atone for that, I
am going to send this, whether it be worthy or not. I
will not venture upon news, for, as all the household
are gone to bed, I cannot learn what has been told you.
Do you read any noble verses nowadays? or do not
verses still seem noble? For my own part, they have
been the only things I remembered, or that which oc-
casioned them, when all things else were blurred and
defaced. All things have put on mourning but they;
for the elegy itself is some victorious melody or joy
escaping from the wreck.
It is a relief to read some true book, wherein all are
equally dead,--equally alive. I think the best-parts
of Shakespeare would only be enchanced by the most

gift by Richard Fuller (a younger brother of Margaret Fuller and of
Ellen, the wife of Ellery Channing, who came to reside in Concord
about these years, and soon became Thoreau's most intimate friend),
which was a music-box for the Thoreaus. They were allfond of music,
and enjoyed it even in this mechanical form, one evidence of the
simple conditions of life in Concord then. The note of thanks to young
Fuller, who had been, perhaps, a pupil of Thoreau, follows this letter
to Mrs. Brown, though earlier in date. Mary Russell afterwards
became Mrs. Marston Watson.



thrilling and affecting events. I have found it so. And
so much the more, as they are not intended for conso-
Do youi think of coming to Concord again ? I shall
be glad to see you. I should be glad to know that I
could see you when I would.
We always seem to be living just on the brink of a
pure and lofty intercourse, which would make the ills
and trivialness of life ridiculous. After each little inter-
val, though it be but for the night, we are prepared
to meet each other as gods and goddesses.
I seem to have dodged all my days with one or two
persons, and lived upon expectation, as if the bud
would surely blossom; and so I am content to live.
What means the fact which is so common, so
universal--that some soul that has lost all hope for
itself can inspire in another listening soul an infinite
confidence in it, even while it is expressing its despair ?
I am very happy in my present environment, though
actually mean enough myself, and so, of course, all
around me; yet, I am sure, we for the most part are
transfigured to one another, and are that to the other
which we aspire to be ourselves. The longest course of
mean and trivial intercourse may not prevent my prac-
ticing this divine courtesy to my companion. Notwith-
standing all I hear about brooms, and scouring, and
taxes, and housekeeping, I am constrained to live a
strangely mixed life, as if even Valhalla might have
its kitchen. We are all of us Apollos serving some
I think I must have some Muses in my pay that I




know not of, for certain musical wishes of mine are
answered as soon as entertained. Last summer I went
to Hawthorne's suddenly for the express purpose of
borrowing his music-box, and almost immediately Mrs.
Hawthorne proposed to lend it to me. The other day I
said I must go to Mrs. Barrett's to hear hers, and lo!
straightway Richard Fuller sent me one for a present
from Cambridge. It is a very good one. I should like
to have you hear it. I shall not have to employ you to
borrow for me now. Good-night.
From your affectionate friend,
H. D. T.

CONCORD, January 16, 1843.
DEAR RICHARD, I need not thank you for your
present, for I hear its music, which seems to be playing
just for us two pilgrims marching over hill and dale of
a summer afternoon, up those long Bolton hills and by
those bright Harvard lakes, such as I see in the placid
Lucerne on the lid; and whenever I hear it, it will re-
call happy hours passed with its donor.
When did mankind make that foray into nature and
bring off this booty ? For certainly it is but history that
some rare virtue in remote times plundered these strains
from above and communicated them to men. Whatever
we may think of it, it is a part of the harmony of the
spheres you have sent me; which has condescended to
serve.us Admetuses, and I hope I may so behave that
this may always be the tenor of your thought for me.
If you have any strains, the conquest of your own



spear or quill, to accompany these, let the winds waft
them also to me.
I write this with one of the primaries" of my
osprey's wings, which I have preserved over my glass
for some state occasion, and now it offers.
Mrs. Emerson sends her love.

CONCORD, Friday evening,
January 25, 1843.
DEAR FRIEND, Mrs. Emerson asks me to write
you a letter, which she will put into her bundle to-
morrow along with the Tribunes and Standards,"
and miscellanies, and what not, to make an assortment.
But what shall I write ? You live a good way off, and
I don't know that I have anything which will bear send-
ing so far. But I am mistaken, or rather impatient
when I say this, -for we all have a gift to send, not
only when the year begins, but as long as interest and
memory last. I don't know whether you have got the
many I have sent you, or rather whether you were
quite sure where they came from. I mean the letters I
have sometimes launched off eastward in my thought;
but if you have been happier at one time than another,
think that then you received them. But this that I now
send you is of another sort. It will go slowly, drawn
by horses over muddy roads, and lose much of its little
value by the way. You may have to pay for it, and it
may not make you happy after all. But what shall be
my new-year's gift, then? Why, I will send you my
still fresh remembrance of the hours I have passed with




you here, for I find in the remembrance of them the
best gift you have left to me. We are poor and sick
creatures at best; but we can have well memories, and
sound and healthy thoughts of one another still, and
an intercourse may be remembered which was without
blur, and above us both.
Perhaps you may like to know of my estate now-
adays. As usual, I find it harder to account for the
happiness I enjoy, than for the sadness which instructs
me occasionally. If the little of this last which visits
me would only be sadder, it would be happier. One
while I am vexed by a sense of meanness; one while I
simply wonder at the mystery of life; and at another,
and at another, seem to rest on my oars, as if propelled
by propitious breezes from I know not what quarter.
But for the most part I am an idle, inefficient, linger-
ing (one term will do as well as another, where all are
true and none true enough) member of the great com-
monwealth, who have most need of my own charity,
-if I could not be charitable and indulgent to myself,
perhaps as good a subject for my own satire as any.
You see how, when I come to talk of myself, I soon
run dry, for I would fain make that a subject which
can be no subject for me, at least not till I have the
grace to rule myself.
I do not venture to say anything about your griefs,
for it would be unnatural for me to speak as if I grieved
with you, when I think I do not. If I were to see you,
it might be otherwise. But I know you will pardon the
trivialness of this letter; and I only hope as I know
that you have reason to be so that you are still hap-



pier than you are sad, and that you remember that the
smallest seed of faith is of more worth than the largest
fruit of happiness. I have no doubt that out of S-- 's
death you sometimes draw sweet consolation, not only
for that, but for long-standing griefs, and may find
some things made smooth by it, which before were
I wish you would communicate with me, and not
think me unworthy to know any of your thoughts.
Don't think me unkind because I have not written to
you. I confess it was for so poor a reason as that you
almost made a principle of not answering. I could not
speak truly with this ugly fact in the way; and perhaps
I wished to be assured, by such evidence as you could
not voluntarily give, that it was a kindness. For every
glance at the moon, does she not send me an answering
ray? Noah would hardly have done himself the plea-
sure to release his dove, if she had not been about to
come back to him with tidings of green islands amid
the waste.
But these are far-fetched reasons. I am not speaking
directly enough to yourself now; so let me say directly
From your friend,

Exactly when correspondence began between Emer-
son and Thoreau is not now to be ascertained, since all
the letters do not seem to have been preserved. Their
acquaintance opened while Thoreau was in college,
although Emerson may have seen the studious boy at
the town school in Concord, or at the Academy "




there, while fitting for college. But they only came to
know each other as sharers of the same thoughts and
aspirations in the autumn of 1887, when, on hearing a
new lecture of Emerson's, Helen Thoreau said to Mrs.
Brown, then living or visiting in the Thoreau family,
" Henry has a thought very like that in his journal"
(which he had newly begun to keep). Mrs. Brown
desired to see the passage, and soon bore it to her sister,
Mrs. Emerson, whose husband saw it, and asked Mrs.
Brown to bring her young friend to see him. By 1888
their new relation of respect was established, and Em-
erson wrote to a correspondent, I delight much in my
young friend, who seems to have as free and erect a
mind as any I have ever met." A year later (Aug. 9,
1839), he wrote to Carlyle, I have a young poet in
this village, named Thoreau, who writes the truest
verses." Indeed, it was in the years 1839-40 that he
seems to have written the poems by which he is best
remembered. Thoreau told me in his last illness that
he had written many verses and destroyed many, -
this fact he then regretted, although he had done it at
the instance of Emerson, who did not praise them.
" But," said be, they may have been better than we
thought them, twenty years ago."
The earliest note which I find from Emerson to
Thoreau bears no date, but must have been written
before 1842, for at no later time could the persons
named in it have visited Concord together. Most likely
it was in the summer of 1840, and to the same date do
I assign a note asking Henry to join the Emersons in a
party to the Cliffs (scopuli Pulchri-Portus), and to



bring his flute,-for on that pastoral reed Thoreau
played sweetly. The first series of letters from Thoreau
to Emerson begins early in 1843, about the time the
letters just given were written to Mrs. Brown. In the
first he gives thanks to Emerson for the hospitality of
his house in the two preceding years; a theme to which
he returned a few months later, for I doubt not the
lovely sad poem called "The Departure" was written
at Staten Island soon after his leaving the Emerson
house in Concord for the more stately but less con-
genial residence of William Emerson at Staten Island,
whither he betook himself in May, 1843. This first
letter, however, was sent from the Concord home to
Waldo Emerson at Staten Island, or perhaps in New
York, where he was that winter giving a course of
In explanation of the passages concerning Bronson
Alcott, in this letter, it should be said that he was then
living at the Hosmer Cottage, in Concord, with his
English friends, Charles Lane and Henry Wright, and
that he had refused to pay a tax in support of what he
considered an unjust government, and was arrested by
the constable, Sam Staples, in consequence.

CONCORD, January 24, 1843.
DEAR FRIEND,--The best way to correct a mistake
is to make it right. I had not spoken of writing to you,
but as you say you are about to write to me when you
get my letter, I make haste on my part in order to get
yours the sooner. I don't well know what to say to earn




the forthcoming epistle, unless that Edith takes rapid
strides in the arts and sciences-or music and natural
history- as well as over the carpet; that she says
" papa" less and less abstractedly every day, looking
in my face, -which may sound like a Ranz des Vaches
to yourself. And Ellen declares every morning that
" papa may come home to-night;" and by and by it will
have changed to such positive statement as that "papa
came home larks night."
Elizabeth Hoar still flits about these clearings, and I
meet her here and there, and in all houses but her own,
but as if I were not the less of her family for all that.
I have made slight acquaintance also with one Mrs.
Lidian Emerson, who almost persuades me to be a
Christian, but I fear I as often lapse into heathenism.
Mr. O'Sullivan 1 was here three days. I met him at the
Atheneum [Concord], and went to Hawthorne's [at the
Old Manse] to tea with him. He expressed a great deal
of interest in your poems, and wished me to give him
a list of them, which I did; he saying he did not know
but he should notice them. He is a rather puny-look-
ing man, and did not strike me. We had nothing to
say to one another, and therefore we said a great deal!
He, however, made a point of asking me to write for
his Review, which I shall be glad to do. He is, at any
rate, one of the not-bad, but does not by any means
take you by storm, no, nor by calm, which is the best
way. He expects to see you in New York. After tea I
carried him and Hawthorne to the Lyceum.
I Editor of the Democratic Review, for which Hawthorne, Emerson,
Thoreau, and Whittier all wrote, more or less.

sT. 25]


Mr. Alcott has not altered much since you left. I
think you will find him much the same sort of person.
With Mr. Lane I have had one regular chat h la George
Minott, which of course was greatly to our mutual
grati- and edification; and, as two or three as regular
conversations have taken place since, I fear there may
have been a precession of the equinoxes. Mr. Wright,
according to the last accounts, is in Lynn, with uncer-
tain aims and prospects, -maturing slowly, perhaps,
as indeed are all of us. I suppose they have told you
how near Mr. Alcott went to the jail, but I can add a
good anecdote to the rest. When Staples came to col-
lect Mrs. Ward's taxes, my sister Helen asked him
what he thought Mr. Alcott meant, -what his idea
was, -and he answered, "I vum, I believe it was
nothing but principle, for I never heerd a man talk
There was a lecture on Peace by a Mr. Spear (ought
he not to be beaten into a plowshare ?), the same even-
ing, and, as the gentlemen, Lane and Alcott, dined at
our house while the matter was in suspense, that is,
while the constable was waiting for his receipt from
the jailer, -we there settled it that we, that is, Lane
and myself, perhaps, should agitate the State while
Winkelried lay in durance. But when, over the audi-
ence, I saw our hero's head moving in the free air of
the Universalist church, my fire all went out, and the
State was safe as far as I was concerned. But Lane, it
seems, had cogitated and even written on the matter, in
the afternoon, and so, out of courtesy, taking his point
of departure from the Spear-man's lecture, he drove


gracefully in medias res, and gave the affair a very good
setting out; but, to spoil all, our martyr very charac-
teristically, but, as artists would say, in bad taste,
brought up the rear with a My Prisons," which made
us forget Silvio Pellico himself.
Mr. Lane wishes me to ask you to see if there is
anything for him in the New York office, and pay the
charges. Will you tell me what to do with Mr. [Theo-
dore] Parker, who was to lecture February 15th ? Mrs.
Emerson says my letter is written instead of one from
At the end of this strange letter I will not write -
what alone I had to say -to thank you and Mrs.
Emerson for your long kindness to me. It would be
more ungrateful than my constant thought. I have
been your pensioner for nearly two years, and still left
free as under the sky. It has been as free a gift as the
sun or the summer, though I have sometimes molested
you with my mean acceptance of it, -I who have
failed to render even those slight services of the hand
which would have been for a sign at least; and, by the
fault of my nature, have failed of many better and
higher services. But I will not trouble you with this,
but for once thank you as well as Heaven.
S Your friend, H. D. T.

Mrs. Lidian Emerson, the wife of R. W. Emerson,
and her two daughters, Ellen and Edith, are named in
this first letter, and will be frequently mentioned in the
correspondence. At this date, .Edith, now Mrs. W. H.
Forbes, was fourteen months old. Mr. Emerson's mo-

ET. 25]



their, Madam Ruth Emerson, was also one of the house-
hold, which had for a little more than seven years
occupied the well-known house under the trees, east of
the village.

CONCORD, February 10, 1843.
DEAR FRIEND, I have stolen one of your own
sheets to write you a letter upon, and I hope, with two
layers of ink, to turn it into a comforter. If you like
to receive a letter from me, too, I am glad, for it gives
me pleasure to write. But don't let it come amiss; it
must fall as harmlessly as leaves settle on the landscape.
I will tell you what we are doing this now. Supper is
done, and Edith -the dessert, perhaps more than the
dessert -is brought in, or even comes in per se; and
round she goes, now to this altar, and then to that,
wvith her monosyllabic invocation of "oc," "oc." It
makes me think of "Langue d'oc." She must belong
to that province. And like the gypsies she talks a lan-
guage of her own while she understands ours. While
she jabbers Sanskrit, Parsee, Pehlvi, say "Edith go
bah!" and "bah" it is. No intelligence passes be-
tween us. She knows. It is a capital joke, -that is
the reason she smiles so. How well the secret is kept !
she never descends to explanation. It is not buried
liked a common secret, bolstered up on two sides, but
by an eternal silence on the one side, at least. It has
been long kept, and comes in from the unexplored
horizon, like a blue mountain range, to end abruptly at
our door one day. (Don't stumble at this steep simile.)




And now she studies the heights and depths of nature
On shoulders whirled in some eccentric orbit
Just by old Psestum's temples and the perch
Where Time doth plume his wings.
And now she runs the race over the carpet, while all
Olympia applauds, -mamma, grandma, and uncle,
good Grecians all, -and that dark-hued barbarian,
Partheanna Parker, whose shafts go through and
through, not backward Grandmamma smiles over
all, and mamma is wondering what papa would say,
should she descend on Carlton House some day.." Larks
night" 's abed, dreaming of pleased faces far away.
But now the trumpet sounds, the games are over; some
Hebe comes, and Edith is translated. I dori't know
where; it must be to s6me cloud, for I never was
Query : what becomes of the answers Edith thinks,
but cannot express ? She really gives you glances which
are before this world was. You can't feel any differ-
ence of age, except that you have longer legs and
Mrs. Emerson said I must tell you about domestic
affairs, when I mentioned that I was going to write.
Perhaps it will inform you of the state of all if I only
say that I am well and happy in your house here in
Concord. Your friend,
Don't forget to tell us what to do with Mr. Parker
when you write next. I lectured this week. It was as
bright a night as you could wish. I hope there were
no stars thrown away on the occasion.

,ET. 25]


[A part of the same letter, though bearing a date two
days later, and written in a wholly different style, as
from one sage to another, is this postscript :]

February 12, 1843.
DEAR FRIEND, -As the packet still tarries, I will
send you some thoughts, which I have lately relearned,
as the latest public and private news.
How mean are our relations to one another! Let us
pause till they are nobler. A little silence, a little rest,
is good. It would be sufficient employment only to cul-
tivate true ones.
The richest gifts we c bestow are the least market-
able. We hate the kindnr which we understand. A
noble person confers no such gift as his whole confi-
dence: none so exalts the giver and the receiver; it
produces the truest gratitude. Perhaps it is only essen-
tial to friendship that some vital trust should have been
reposed by the one in the other. I feel addressed and
probed even to the remote parts of my being when one
nobly shows, even in trivial things, an implicit faith in
me. When such divine commodities are so near and
cheap, how strange that it should have to be each day's
discovery! A threat or a curse may be forgotten, but this
mild trust translates me. I am no more of this earth;
it acts dynamically; it changes my very substance. I
cannot do what before I did. I cannot be what before
I was. Other chains may be broken, but in the darkest
S night, in the remotest place, I trail this thread. Then
things cannot happen. What if God were to confide in
us for a moment! Should we not then be gods?




How subtle a thing is this confidence! Nothing sen-
sible passes between; never any consequences are to be
apprehended should it be misplaced. Yet something
has transpired. A new behavior springs; the ship car-
ries new ballast in her hold. A sufficiently great and
generous trust could never be abused. It should be cause
to lay down one's life, which would not be to lose it.
Can there be any mistake up there? Don't the gods
know where to invest their wealth? Such confidence,
too, would be reciprocal. When one confides greatly in
you, he will feel the roots of an equal trust fastening
themselves in him. When such trust has been received
or reposed, we dare not speak, hardly to see each other;
our voices sound harsh and untrustworthy. We are as
instruments which the Powers have dealt with. Through
what straits would we not carry this little burden of a
magnanimous trust! Yet no harm could possibly come,
but simply faithlessness. Not a feather, not a straw, is
intrusted; that packet is empty. It is only committed to
us, and, as it were, all things are committed to us.
The kindness I have longest remembered has been of
this sort, the sort unsaid; so far behind the speaker's
lips that almost it already lay in my heart. It did not
have far to go to be communicated. The gods cannot
misunderstand, man cannot explain. We communicate
like the burrows of foxes, in silence and darkness, under
ground. We are undermined by faith and love. How
much more full is Nature where we think the empty
space is than where we place the solids! -full of fluid
influences. Should we ever communicate but by these ?
The spirit abhors a vacuum more than Nature. There



is a tide which pierces the pores of the air. These aerial
rivers, let us not pollute their currents. What meadows
do they course through? How many fine mails there
are which traverse their routes! He is privileged who
gets his letter flanked by them.
I believe these things.

Emerson replied to these letters in two epistles of
dates from February 4 to 12, 1843, in the latter asking
Thoreau to aid him in editing the April number of the
Dial of which he had taken charge. Among other
things, Emerson desired a manuscript of Charles Lane,
Alcott's English friend, to be sent to him in New York,
where he was detained several weeks by his lectures.
He added: "Have we no news from Wheeler? Has
Bartlett none?" Of these persons, the first, Charles
Stearns Wheeler, a college classmate of Thoreau, and
later Greek tutor in the college, had gone to Germany,
-where he died the next summer,-and was con-
tributing to the quarterly Dial. Robert Bartlett, of
Plymouth, a townsman of Mrs. Emerson, was Wheeler's
intimate friend, with whom he corresponded.1 To this

1 An interesting fact in connection with Thoreau and Wheeler
(whose home was in Lincoln, four miles southeast of Concord) is
related by Ellery Channing in a note to me. It seems that Wheeler
had built for himself, or hired from a farmer, a rough woodland study
near Flint's Pond, half-way from Lincoln to Concord, which he
occupied for a short time in 1841-42, and where Thoreau and Chan-
ning visited him. Mr. Channing wrote me in 1883: "Stearns Wheeler
built a 'shanty' on Flint's Pond for the purpose of economy, for pur-
chasing Greek books and going abroad to study. Whether Mr. Thoreau



EET. 25] TO R. W. EMERSON 59

editorial request Thoreau, who was punctuality itself,
replied at once.

CONCORD, February 15, 1843.
MY DEAR FRIEND, I got your letters, one yesterday
and the other to-day, and they have made me quite
happy. As a packet is to go in the morning, I will
give you a hasty account of the Dial. I called on Mr.
Lane this afternoon, and brought away, together with
an abundance of good-will, first, a bulky catalogue of
books without commentary, some eight hundred, I
think he told me, with an introduction filling one sheet,

assisted him to build this shanty I cannot say, but I think he may
have; also that he spent six weeks with him there. As Mr. Thoreau was
not too original and inventive to follow the example of others, if good
to him, it is very probable this undertaking of Steams Wheeler, whom
he regarded (as I think I have heard him say) a heroic character, sug-
gested his own experiment on Walden. I believe I visited this shanty
with Mr. Thoreau. It was very plain, with bunks of straw, and built in
the Irish manner. I think Mr. Wheeler was as good a mechanic as
Mr. Thoreau, and built this shanty for his own use. The object of
these two experiments was quite unlike, except in the common purpose
of economy. It seems to me highly probable that Mr. Wheeler's experi-
ment suggested Mr. Thoreau's, as he was a man he almost worshiped.
But I could not understand what relation Mr. Lowell had to this fact,
if it be one. Students, in all parts of the earth, have pursued a similar
course from motives of economy, and to carry out some special study.
Mr. Thoreau wished to study birds, flowers, and the stone age, just as
Mr. Wheeler wished to study Greek. And Mr. Hotham came next
from just the same motive of economy (necessity) and to study the
Bible. The prudential sides of all three were the same." Mr. Hotham
was the young theological student who dwelt in a cabin by Walden
in 1869-70.


- ten or a dozen pages, say, though I have only glanced
at them; second, a review twenty-five or thirty printed
pages of Conversations on the Gospels, Record of a
School, and Spiritual Culture, with rather copious ex-
tracts. However, it is a good subject, and Lane says it
gives him satisfaction. I will give it a faithful reading
directly. [These were Alcott's publications, reviewed
by Lane.] And now I come to the little end of the
horn; for myself, I have brought along the Minor
Greek Poets, and will mine there for a scrap or two, at
least. As for Etzler, I don't remember any rude and
snappish speech that you made, and if you did it must
have been longer than anything I had written; however,
here is the book still, and I will try. Perhaps I have
some few scraps in my Journal which you may choose
to print. The translation of the XEschylus I should like
very well to continue anon, if it should be worth the
while. As for poetry, I have not remembered to write
any for some time; it has quite slipped my mind; but
sometimes I think I hear the mutterings of the thunder.
Don't you remember that last summer we heard a low,
tremulous sound in the woods and over the hills, and
thought it was partridges or rocks, and it proved to be
thunder gone down the river? But sometimes it was
over Wayland way, and at last burst over our heads.
So we '11 not despair by reason of the drought. You see
it takes a good many words to supply the place of one
deed; a hundred lines to a cobweb, and but one cable
to a man-of-war. The Dial case needs to be reformed
in many particulars. There is no news from Wheeler,
none from Bartlett.




They all look well and happy in this house, where it
gives me much pleasure to dwell.
Yours in haste, HENRY.
Wednesday evening, February 16.
DEAR FRIEND, I have time to write a few words
about the Dial. I have just received the three first
signatures, which do not yet complete Lane's piece. He
will place five hundred copies for sale at Munroe's
bookstore. Wheeler has sent you two full sheets -
more about the German universities--and proper
names, which will have to be printed in alphabetical
order for convenience; what this one has done, that
one is doing, and the other intends to do. Hammer-
Purgstall (Von Hammer) may be one, for aught I know.
However, there are, two or three things in it, as well as
names. One of the books of Herodotus is discovered to
be out of place. He says something about having sent
Lowell, by the last steamer, a budget of literary news,
which he will have communicated to you ere this. Mr.
Alcott has a letter from Heraud,1 and a book written
by him, the Life of Savonarola, which he wishes
to have republished here. Mr. Lane will write a notice
of it. (The latter says that what is in the New York
post-office may be directed to Mr. Alcott.) Miss [Eliza-
beth] Peabody has sent a Notice to the readers of the
Dial," which is not good.
Mr. Chapin lectured this evening, and so rhetorically
that I forgot my duty and heard very little. I find my-
1 An English critic and poetaster. See Memoir of Bronson Alcott,
pp. 292-318.

ET. 25]



self better than I have been, and am meditating some
other method of paying debts than by lectures and
writing,-which will only do to talk about. If any-
thing of that "other" sort should come to your ears in
New York, will you remember it for me ?
Excuse this scrawl, which I have written over the
embers in the dining-room. I hope that you live on
good terms with yourself and the gods.
Yours in haste, HENRY.

Mr. Lane and his lucubrations proved to be tough
subjects, and the next letter has more to say about
them and the Dial. Lane had undertaken to do justice
to Mr. Alcott and his books, as may still be read in the
pages of that April number of the Transcendentalist

CONCORD, February 20, 1843.
MY DEAR FRIEND, I have read Mr. Lane's review,
and can say, speaking for this world and for fallen man,
that "it is good for us." As they say in geology, time
never fails, there is always enough of it, so I may say,
criticism never fails; but if I go and read elsewhere, I
say it is good, far better than any notice Mr. Alcott
has received, or is likely to receive from another
quarter. It is at any rate "the other side" which
Boston needs to hear. I do not send it to you, because
time is precious, and because I think you would accept
it, after all. After speaking briefly of the fate of Goethe
and Carlyle in their own countries, he says, To



JET. 25] TO R. W. EMERSON 63
Emerson in his own circle is but slowly accorded a
worthy response; and Alcott, almost utterly neglected,"
etc. I will strike out what relates to yourself, and cor-
recting some verbal faults, send the rest to the printer
with Lane's initials.
The catalogue needs amendment, I think. It wants
completeness now. It should consist of such books only
as they would tell Mr. [F. H.] Hedge and [Theodore]
Parker they had got; omitting the Bible, the classics,
and much besides,-for there the incompleteness be-
gins. But you will be here in season for this.
It is frequently easy to make Mr. Lane more uni-
versal and attractive; to write, for instance, "universal
ends" instead of "the universal end," just as we pull
open the petals of a flower with our fingers where they
are confined by its own sweets. Also he had better not
say books designed for the nucleus of a Home Univer-
sity," until he makes that word "home" ring solid and
universal too. This is that abominable dialect. He had
just given me a notice of George Bradford's Fenelon
for the Record of the Months, and speaks of extras of
the Review and Catalogue, if they are printed, even
a hundred, or thereabouts. How shall this be arranged ?
Also he wishes to use some manuscripts of his which
are in your possession, if you do not. Can I get them ?
SI think of no news to tell you. It is a serene summer
day here, all above the snow. The hens steal their
nests, and I steal their eggs still, as formerly. This is
what I do with the hands. Ah, labor, it is a divine
institution, and conversation with many men and hens.
Do not think that my letters require as many special

answers. I get one as often as you write to Concord.
Concord inquires for you daily, as do all the members
of this house. You must make haste home before we
have settled all the great questions, for they are fast
being disposed of. But I must leave room for Mrs.

Mrs. Emerson's letter, after speaking of other mat-
ters, gave a lively sketch of Thoreau at one of Alcott's
Conversations in her house, which may be quoted as
illustrating the young Nature-worshiper's position at
the time, and the more humane and socialistic spirit of
Alcott and Lane, who were soon to leave Concord for
their experiment of communistic life at "Fruitlands,"
in the rural town of Harvard.
Last evening we had the Conversation,' though,
owing to the bad weather, but few attended. The sub-
jects were: What is Prophecy? Who is a Prophet ? and
The Love of Nature. Mr. Lane decided, as for all
time and the race, that this same love of nature--of
which Henry [Thoreau] was the champion, and Eliza-
beth Hoar and Lidian (though L. disclaimed possess-
ing it herself) his faithful squiresses -that this love
was the most subtle and dangerous of sins; a refined
idolatry, much more to be dreaded than gross wicked-
nesses, because the gross sinner would be alarmed by
the depth of his degradation, and come up from it in
terror, but the unhappy idolaters of Nature were de-
ceived by the refined quality of their sin, and would be
the last to enter the kingdom. Henry frankly affirmed
to both the wise men that they were wholly deficient in


the faculty in question, and therefore could not judge
of it. And Mr. Alcott as frankly answered that it was
because they went beyond the mere material objects,
and were filled with spiritual love and perception (as
Mr. T. was not), that they seemed to Mr. Thoreau not
to appreciate outward nature. I am very heavy, and
have spoiled a most excellent story. I have given you
no idea of the scene, which was ineffably comic, though
it made no laugh at the time; I scarcely laughed at it
myself, -too deeply amused to give the usual sign.
Henry was brave and noble; well as I have always
liked him, he still grows upon me."
Before going to Staten Island in May, 1843, Thoreau
answered a letter from the same Richard Fuller who
had made him the musical gift in the previous winter.
He was at Harvard College, and desired to know some-
thing of Thoreau's pursuits there, concerning which
Channing says in his Life,1 "He was a respectable
student, having done there a bold reading in English
poetry,-even to some portions or the whole of Dave-
nant's 'Gondibert.' This, Thoreau does not mention
in his letter, but it was one of the things that attracted
Emerson's notice, since he also had the same taste for
the Elizabethan and Jacobean English poets. An Eng-
lish youth, Henry Headley, pupil of Dr. Parr, and
graduate of Oxford in 1786, had preceded Thoreau in
1 Thoreau, the Poet-Naturalist. With Memorial Verses. By Wil-
liam Ellery Channing, New Edition, enlarged, edited by F. B. Sanborn
(Boston: Charles Goodspeed, 1902). This volume, in some respects
the best biography of Thoreau, is no longer rare. Among the Verses
are those written by Channing for his friend's funeral; at which, also,
Mr. Alcott read Thoreau's poem of Sympathy.

MET. 25]



this study of poets that had become obsolete; and it
was perhaps Headley's volume, "Select Beauties of
Ancient English Poetry, with Remarks by the late
Henry Headley," published long after his death,1 that
served Thoreau as a guide to Quarles and the Fletch-
ers, Daniel, Drummond, Drayton, Habington, and
Raleigh, poets that few Americans had heard of in

CONCORD, April 2, 1843.
DEAR RICHARD, I was glad to receive a letter
from you so bright and cheery. You speak of not hav-
ing made any conquests with your own spear or quill
as yet; but if you are tempering your spear-head during
these days, and fitting a straight and tough shaft thereto,
will not that suffice? We are more pleased to consider
the hero in the forest cutting cornel or ash for his spear,
than marching in triumph with his trophies. The pre-
sent hour is always wealthiest when it is poorer than
the future ones, as that is the pleasantest site which
affords the pleasantest prospects.
What you say about your studies furnishing you with
a "mimic idiom" only, reminds me that we shall all
do well if we learn so much as to talk, to speak truth.
The only fruit which even much living yields seems to
be often only some trivial success, the ability to do
some slight thing better. We make conquest only of
Headley died at the age of twenty-three, in 1788. His posthumous
book was edited in 1810 by Rev. Henry Kett, and published in London
by John Sharp.




husks and shells for the most part,- at least appar-
ently, but sometimes these are cinnamon and spices,
you know. Even the grown hunter you speak of slays
a thousand buffaloes, and brings off only their hides
and tongues. What immense sacrifices, what heca-
tombs and holocausts, the gods exact for very slight
favors! How much sincere life before we can even
utter one sincere word.
What I was learning in college was chiefly, I think,
to express myself, and I see now, that as the old orator
prescribed, 1st, action; 2d, action; 3d, action; my
teachers should have prescribed to me, 1st, sincerity;
2d, sincerity; 3d, sincerity. The old mythology is in-
complete without a god or goddess of sincerity, on whose
altars we might offer up all the products of our farms,
our workshops, and our studies. It should be our Lar
when we sit on the hearth, and our Tutelar Genius
when we walk abroad. This is the only panacea. I
mean sincerity in our dealings with ourselves mainly;
any other is comparatively easy. But I must stop before
I get to 17thly. I believe I have but one text and one
Your rural adventures beyond the West Cambridge
hills have probably lost nothing by distance of time or
space. I used to hear only the sough of the wind in
the woods of Concord, when I was striving to give my
attention to a page of calculus. But, depend upon it,
you will love your native hills the better for being sepa-
rated from them.
I expect to leave Concord, which is my Rome, and
its people, who are my Romans, in May, and go to



New York, to be a tutor in Mr. William Emerson's
family. So I will bid you good-by till I see you or hear
from you again.

Going to Staten Island, early in May, 1843, Thoreau's
first care was to write to his Romans, countrymen,
and lovers by the banks of the Musketaquid,"-be-
ginning with his mother, his sisters, and Mrs. Emerson.
To Sophia and Mrs. E. he wrote May 22, to Helen,
with a few touching verses on his brother John, the next
day; and then he resumed the correspondence with
Emerson. It seems that one of his errands near New
York was to make the acquaintance of literary men and
journalists in the city, in order to find a vehicle for
publication, sdch as his neighbor Hawthorne had finally
found in the pages of the Democratic Review. For
this purpose Thoreau made himself known to Henry
James, and other friends of Emerson, and to Horace
Greeley, then in the first freshness of his success with
the Tribune, a newspaper hardly more than two
years old then, but destined to a great career, in which
several of the early Transcendentalists took some part.

CAsTLmroN, SrATEN ISLAND, May 11, 1843.
here safely at ten o'clock on Sunday morning, having
had as good a passage as usual, though we ran aground
and were detained a couple of hours in the Thames River,
till the tide came to our relief. At length we curtseyed i.
up to a wharf just the other side of their Castle Garden,



- very incurious about them and their city. I believe
my vacant looks, absolutely inaccessible to questions,
did at length satisfy an army of starving cabmen that I
did not want a hack, cab, or anything of that sort as
yet. It was the only demand the city made on us; as
if a wheeled vehicle of some sort were the sum and
summit of a reasonable man's wants. Having tried
the water," they seemed to say, will you not return to
the pleasant securities of land carriage ? Else why your
boat's prow turned toward the shore at last?" They
are a sad-looking set of fellows, not permitted to come
on board, and I pitied them. They had been expecting
me, it would seem, and did really wish that I should
take a cab; though they did not seem rich enough to
supply me with one.
It was a confused jumble of heads and soiled coats,
dangling from flesh-colored faces, all swaying to and
fro, as by a sort of undertow, while each whipstick, true
as the needle to the pole, still preserved that level and
direction in which its proprietor had dismissed his for-
lorn interrogatory. They took sight from them, -the
lash being wound up thereon, to prevent your attention
from wandering, or to make it concentre upon its ob-
ject by the spiral line. They began at first, perhaps,
with the modest, but rather confident inquiry, "Want
a cab, sir ?" but as their despair increased, it took the
affirmative tone, as the disheartened and irresolute are
apt to do: You want a cab, sir," or even, You want
a nice cab, sir, to take you to Fourth Street." The
question which one had bravely and hopefully begun to
put, another had the tact to take up and conclude with


fresh emphasis, twirling it from his particular whip-
stick as if it had emanated from his lips, as the sen-
timent did from his heart. Each one could truly say,
"Them's my sentiments." But it was a sad sight.
I am seven and a half miles from New York, and, as
it would take half a day at least, have not been there
yet. I have already run over no small part of the island,
to the highest hill, and some way along the shore. From
the hill directly behind the house I can see New York,
Brooklyn, Long Island, the Narrows, through which
vessels bound to and from all parts of the world chiefly
pass, -Sandy Hook and the Highlands of Neversink
(part of the coast of New Jersey), and, by going still
farther up the hill, the Kill van Kull, and Newark Bay.
From the pinnacle of one Madame Grimes's house, the
other night at sunset, I could see almost round the
island. Far in the horizon there was a fleet of sloops
bound up the Hudson, which seemed to be going over
the edge of the earth; and in view of these trading ships
commerce seems quite imposing.
But it is rather derogatory that your dwelling-place
should be only a neighborhood to a great city, to live
on an inclined plane. I do not like their cities and forts,
with their morning and evening guns, and sails flapping
in one's eye. I want a whole continent to breathe in, and
a good deal of solitude and silence, such as all Wall
Street cannot buy, nor Broadway with its wooden
pavement. I must live along the beach, on the south-
ern shore, which looks directly out to sea, -and see
what that great parade of water means, that dashes and
roars, and has not yet wet me, as long as I have lived.




I must not know anything about my condition and
relations here till what is not permanent is worn off. I
have not yet subsided. Give me time enough, and I
may like it. All my inner man heretofore has been a
Concord impression; and here come these Sandy Hook
and Coney Island breakers to meet and modify the
former; but it will be long before I can make nature
look as innocently grand and inspiring as in Concord.
Your affectionate son,

CASTLeroN, STATEN ISLAND, May 22, 1843.
DEAR SOPHIA, -I have had a severe cold ever since
I came here, and have been confined to the house for
the last week with bronchitis, though I am now getting
out, so I have not seen much in the botanical way. The
cedar seems to be one of the most common trees here,
and the fields are very fragrant with it. There are also
the gum and tulip trees. The latter is not very common,
but is very large and beautiful, having flowers as large
as tulips, and as handsome. It is not time for it yet.
The woods are now full of a large honeysuckle in full
bloom, which differs from ours in being red instead of
white, so that at first I did not know its genus. The
painted-cup is very common in the meadows here.
Peaches, and especially cherries, seem to grow by all
the fences. Things are very forward here compared
with Concord. The apricots growing out-of-doors are
already as large as plums. The apple, pear, peach,
cherry, and plum trees have shed their blossoms. The


ET. 25]


whole island is like a garden, and affords very fine
In front of the house is a very extensive wood, beyond
which is the sea, whose roar I can hear all night long,
when there is a wind; if easterly winds have prevailed
on the Atlantic. There are always some vessels in sight,
- ten, twenty, or thirty miles off, and Sunday before
last there were hundreds in long procession, stretching
from New York to Sandy Hook, and far beyond, for
Sunday is a lucky day.
I went to New York Saturday before last. A walk
of half an hour, by half a dozen houses, along the Rich-
mond road that is the road that leads to Richmond,
on which we live brings me to the village of Staple-
ton, in Southfield, where is the lower dock ; but if I
prefer I can walk along the shore three quarters of a
mile farther toward New York to the quarantine vil-
lage of Castleton, to the upper dock, which the boat
leaves five or six times every day, a quarter of an hour
later than the former place. Farther on is the village
of New Brighton, and farther still Port Richmond,
which villages another steamboat visits.
In New York I saw George Ward, and also Giles
Waldo and William Tappan, whom I can describe
better when I have seen them more. They are young
friends of Mr. Emerson. Waldo came down to the
island to see me the next day. I also saw the Great
Western, the Croton water-works, and the picture-gal-
lery of the National Academy of Design. But I have
not had time to see or do much yet.
Tell Miss Ward I shall try to put my microscope to a




good use, and if I find any new and preservable flower,
will throw it into my commonplace-book. Garlic, the
original of the common onion, grows here all over the
fields, and during its season spoils the cream and but-
ter for the market, as the cows like it very much.
Tell Helen there are two schools of late established
in the neighborhood, with large prospects, or rather
designs, one for boys and another for girls. The latter
by a Miss Errington, and though it is only small as
yet, I will keep my ears open for her in such direc-
tions. The encouragement is very slight.
I hope you will not be washed away by the Irish sea.
Tell Mother I think my cold was not wholly owing
to imprudence. Perhaps I was being acclimated.
Tell Father that Mr. Tappan, whose son I know,-
and whose clerks young Tappan and Waldo are, -has
invented and established a new and very important
business, which 'Waldo thinks would allow them to
burn ninety-nine out of one hundred of the stores in
New York, which now only offset and cancel one an-
other. It is a kind of intelligence office for the whole
country, with branches in the principal cities, giving
information with regard to the credit and affairs of
every man of business of the country. Of course it is
not popular at the South and West. It is an extensive
business and will employ a great many clerks.
Love to all not forgetting Aunt and Aunts and
Miss and Mrs. Ward.

On the 23d of May he wrote from Castleton to his
sister Helen thus: -



DEAR HELEN,- In place of something fresher, I
send you the following verses from my Journal, written
some time ago:-

Brother, where dost thou dwell?
What sun shines for thee now ?
Dost thou indeed fare well
As we wished here below ?

What season didst thou find ?
'T was winter here.
Are not the Fates more kind
Than they appear ?

Is thy brow clear again,
As in thy youthful years ?
And was that ugly pain
The summit of thy fears? 1

Yet thou wast cheery still;
They could not quench thy fire;
Thou didst abide their will,
And then retire.

Where chiefly shall I look
To feel thy presence near ?
Along the neighboring brook
May I thy voice still hear ?

Dost thou still haunt the brink
Of yonder river's tide?
And may I ever think
That thou art by my side?

1 An allusion to the strange and painful death of John Thoreau, by
lockjaw. He had slightly wounded himself in shaving, and the cut
became inflamed and brought on that hideous and deforming malady,
of which, by sympathy, Henry also partook, though he recovered.




What bird wilt thou employ
To bring me word of thee?
For it would give them joy, -
'T would give them liberty,
To serve their former lord
With wing and minstrelsy.

A sadder strain mixed with their song,
They've slowlier built their nests;
Since thou art gone
Their lively labor rests.

Where is the finch, the thrush
I used to hear ?
Ah, they could well abide
The dying year.

Now they no more return,
I hear them not;
They have remained to mourn,
Or else forgot.

As the first letter of Thoreau to Emerson was to
thank him for his lofty friendship, so now the first let-
ter to Mrs. Emerson, after leaving her house, was to
say similar things, with a passing allusion to her love
of flowers and of gardening, in which she surpassed all
his acquaintance in Concord, then and afterward. A
letter to Emerson followed, touching on the Dial and
on several of his new and old acquaintance. Rock-
wood Hoar" is the person since known as judge and
cabinet officer, -the brother of Senator Hoar, and of
Thoreau's special friends Elizabeth and Edward Hoar.
Channing is the poet, who had lately printed his first
volume, without finding many readers.



MY DEAR FRIEND,--I believe a good many con-
versations with you were left in an unfinished state,
and now indeed I don't know where to take them up.
But I will resume some of the unfinished silence. I
shall not hesitate to know you. I think of you as some
elder sister of mine, whom I could not have avoided,
-a sort of lunar influence, -only of such age as the
moon, whose time is measured by her light. You must
know that you represent to me woman, for I have not
traveled very far or wide, and what if I had ? I like
to deal with you, for I believe you do not lie or steal,
and these are very rare virtues. I thank you for your
influence for two years. I was fortunate to be subjected
to it, and am now to remember it. It is the noblest
gift we can make; what signify all others that can be
bestowed ? You have helped to keep my life on loft,"
as Chaucer says of Griselda, and in a better sense. You
always seemed to look down at me as from some ele-
vation, some of your high humilities, and I was the
better for having to look up. I felt taxed not to disap-
point your expectation; for could there be any accident
so sad as to be respected for something better than we
are ? It was a pleasure even to go away from you, as it
is not to meet some, as it apprised me of my high rela-
tions; and such a departure is a sort of further intro-
duction and meeting. Nothing makes the earth seem
so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make
the latitudes and longitudes.




You must not think that fate is so dark there, for
even here I can see a faint reflected light over Con-
cord, and I think that at this distance I can better
weigh the value of a doubt there. Your moonlight, as
I have told you, though it is a reflection of the sun,
allows of bats and owls and other twilight birds to flit
therein. But I am very glad that you can elevate your
life with a doubt, for I am sure that it is nothing but
an insatiable faith after all that deepens and darkens
its current. And your doubt and my confidence are only
a difference of expression.
I have hardly begun to live on Staten Island yet; but,
like the man who, when forbidden to tread on English
ground, carried Scottish ground in his boots, I carry
Concord ground in my boots and in my hat, and am
I not made of Concord dust? I cannot realize that it
is the roar of the sea I hear now, and not the wind in
Walden woods. I find more of Concord, after all, in
the prospect of the sea, beyond Sandy Hook, than in
the fields and woods.
If you were to have this Hugh the gardener for your
man, you would think a new dispensation had com-
menced. He might put a fairer aspect on the natural
world for you, or at any rate a screen between you and
the almshouse. There is a beautiful red honeysuckle
now in blossom in the woods here, which should be
transplanted to Concord; and if what they tell me
about the tulip tree be true, you should have that also.
I have not seen Mrs. Black yet, but I intend to call on
her soon. Have you established those simpler modes of
living yet ? In the full tide of successful operation ? "

XT. 25]



Tell Mrs. Brown that I hope she is anchored in a
secure haven and derives much pleasure still from read-
ing the poets, and that her constellation is not quite set
from my sight, though it is sunk so low in that north-
ern horizon. Tell Elizabeth Hoar that her bright pre-
sent did carry ink safely to Staten Island," and was
a conspicuous object in Master Haven's inventory of
my effects. Give my respects to Madam Emerson,
whose Concord face I should be glad to see here this
summer; and remember me to the rest of the house-
hold who have had vision of me. Shake a day-day to
Edith, and say good-night to Ellen for me. Farewell.

MY DEAR FRIEND, -I was just going to write to
you when I received your letter. I was waiting till I
had got away from Concord. I should have sent you
something for the Dial before, but I have been sick
ever since I came here, rather unaccountably, what
with a cold, bronchitis, acclimation, etc., still unac-
countably. I send you some verses from my Journal
which will help make a packet. I have not time to
correct them, if this goes by Rockwood Hoar. If I can
finish an account of a winter's walk in Concord, in the
midst of a Staten Island summer, not so wise as true,
I trust, I will send it to you soon.
I have had no later experiences yet. You must not
count much upon what I can do or learn in New York.
I feel a good way off here; and it is not to be visited,
but seen and dwelt in. I have been there but once, and




have been confined to the house since. Everything
there disappoints me but the crowd; rather, I was dis-
appointed with the rest before I came. I have no eyes
for their churches, and what else they find to brag of.
Though I know but little about Boston, yet what at-
tracts me, in a quiet way, seems much meaner and
more pretending than there,- libraries, pictures, and
faces in the street. You don't know where any respec-
tability inhabits. It is in the crowd in Chatham Street.
The crowd is something new, and to be attended to.
It is worth a thousand Trinity Churches and Exchanges
while it is looking at them, and will run over them and
trample them under foot one day. There are two
things I hear and am aware I live in the neighborhood
of, the roar of the sea and the hum of the city. I
have just come from the beach (to find your letter),
and I like it much. Everything there is on a grand
and generous scale, seaweed, water, and sand ; and
even the dead fishes, horses, and hogs have a rank,
luxuriant odor; great shad-nets spread to dry; crabs
and horseshoes crawling over the sand; clumsy boats,
only for service, dancing like sea-fowl over the surf,
and ships afar off going about their business.
Waldo and Tappan carried me to their English ale-
house the first Saturday, and Waldo spent two hours
here the next day. But Tappan I have only seen. I
like his looks and the sound of his silence. They are
confined every day but Sunday, and then Tappan is
obliged to observe the demeanor of a church-goer to
prevent open war with his father.
I am glad that Channing has got settled, and that,

MT. 25]



too, before the inroad of the Irish. I have read his
poems two or three times over, and partially through
and under, with new and increased interest and appre-
ciation. Tell him I saw a man buy a copy at Little &
Brown's. He may have been a virtuoso, but we will
give him the credit. What with Alcott and Lane and
Hawthorne, too, you look strong enough to take New
York by storm. Will you tell L., if he asks, that I
have been able to do nothing about the books yet ?
Believe that I have something better to write you
than this. It would be unkind to thank you for par-
ticular deeds.

STATEN ISLAND, June 8, 1843.
DEAR FRIEND, I have been to see Henry James,
and like him very much. It was a great pleasure to
meet him. It makes humanity seem more erect and
respectable. I never was more kindly and faithfully
catechised. It made me respect myself more to be
thought worthy of such wise questions. He is a man,
and takes his own way, or stands still in his own place.
I know of no one so patient and determined to have
the good of you. It is almost friendship, such plain
and human dealing. I think that he will not write or
speak inspiringly; but he is a refreshing, forward-look-
ing and forward-moving man, and he has naturalized
and humanized New York for me. He actually re-
proaches you by his respect for your poor words. I
had three hours' solid talk with him, and he asks me
to make free use of his house. He wants an expression




of your faith, or to be sure that it is faith, and con-
fesses that his own treads fast upon the neck of his
understanding. He exclaimed, at some careless answer
of mine: "Well, you Transcendentalists are wonder-
fully consistent. I must get hold of this somehow!"
He likes Carlyle's book,1 but says that it leaves him
in an excited and unprofitable state, and that Carlyle is
so ready to obey his humor that he makes the least
vestige of truth the foundation of any superstructure,
not keeping faith with his better genius nor truest
I met Wright on the stairs of the Society Library,
and W. H. Channing and Brisbane on the steps. The
former (Channing) is a concave man, and you see by
his attitude and the lines of his face that he is retreat-
ing from himself and from yourself, with sad doubts.
It is like a fair mask swaying from the drooping boughs
of some tree whose stem is not seen. He would break
with a conchoidal fracture. You feel as if you would
like to see him when he has made up his mind to run
all the risks. To be sure, he doubts because he has a
great hope to be disappointed, but he makes the pos-
sible disappointment of too much consequence. Bris-
bane, with whom I did not converse, did not impress
me favorably. He looks like a man who has lived in a
cellar, far gone in consumption. I barely saw him, but
he did not look as if he could let Fourier go, in any
case, and throw up his hat. But I need not have come
to New York to write this.
I have seen Tappan for two or three hours, and
I Past and Present.

ET. 25]


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