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Title: Henry D. Thoreau
Author: Sanborn, F. B.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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American Men of Letters


[Illustration: Henry D. Thoreau.]

American Men of Letters.






The Riverside Press, Cambridge

Copyright, 1882,

_All rights reserved._

    Much do they wrong our Henry wise and kind,
    Morose who name thee, cynical to men,
    Forsaking manners civil and refined
    To build thyself in Walden woods a den,--
    Then flout society, flatter the rude hind.
    We better knew thee, loyal citizen!
    Thou, friendship's all-adventuring pioneer,
    Civility itself wouldst civilize:
    Whilst braggart boors, wavering 'twixt rage and fear,
    Slave hearths lay waste, and Indian huts surprise,
    And swift the Martyr's gibbet would uprear:
    Thou hail'dst him great whose valorous emprise
    Orion's blazing belt dimmed in the sky,--
    Then bowed thy unrepining head to die.

                    A. BRONSON ALCOTT

CONCORD, _January, 1882_.


When, in 1879, I was asked by my friend Charles Dudley Warner to write
the biography of Thoreau which follows, I was by no means unprepared.
I had known this man of genius for the last seven years of his too
short life; had lived in his family, and in the house of his neighbor
across the way, Ellery Channing, his most intimate friend outside
of that family; and had assisted Channing in the preparation and
publication of his "Thoreau, the Poet-Naturalist,"--the first full
biography which appeared. Not very long after Thoreau's death Channing
had written me these sentences, with that insight of the future which
he often displayed:

     "That justice can be done to our deceased brother by me, of
     course I do not think. But to you and to me is intrusted
     the care of his immediate fame. I feel that my part is not
     yet done, and cannot be without your aid. My little sketch
     must only serve as a note and advertisement that such a
     man lived,--that he did brave work, which must yet be given
     to the world. In the midst of all the cold and selfish men
     who knew this brave and devoted scholar and genius, why
     should not you be called on to make some sacrifices, even
     if it be to publish my sketch?"

This I was ready to do in 1864; and it was through my means that the
volume, then much enlarged by Channing, was published in 1873, and
again, with additions and corrections, in 1902.

I had also the great advantage of hearing from the mother and sister
of Henry the affectionate side of his domestic life,--which indeed I
had witnessed, both in his health and in his long mortal illness. From
Emerson, who had a clear view of Thoreau's intellect and his moral
nature, I derived many useful suggestions, though not wholly agreeing
with him in some of his opinions. In March, 1878, after hearing
Emerson read a few unpublished notes on Thoreau, made years before, I
called on him one evening, and thus entered the event in my journal:--

     "I was shown several of Thoreau's early papers; one a
     commentary on Emerson's 'Sphinx,' and another from his own
     translation of 'The Seven Against Thebes,' written at
     William Emerson's house on Staten Island in 1843. Of this
     episode in Thoreau's life (his tutorship for six months
     of William Emerson's three sons), Emerson told me that
     his brother and Henry were not men that could get along
     together: 'each would think whatever the other did was
     out of place.' This was said to imply that Thoreau's poem
     'The Departure' could not have been written on his leaving
     Castleton in Staten Island. I had shown Emerson these
     verses (first printed by me, at Sophia Thoreau's wish, in
     the Boston 'Commonwealth' of 1863), whereupon he said:--

     "I think Thoreau had always looked forward to authorship
     as his work in life, and finding that he could write prose
     well, he soon gave up writing verse, in which he was not
     willing to be patient enough to make the lines smooth and
     flowing. These verses are smoother than he usually wrote;
     but I have now no recollection of seeing them before, nor
     of any circumstances in which they may have been written.'
     Alluding to Judge Hoar's marked dislike of Thoreau, Emerson
     said, 'There was no _bow_ in Henry; he never sought to
     please his hearers or his friends.' Thomas Cholmondeley,
     the nephew of Scott's friend Richard Heber, meeting Henry
     at dinner at Emerson's, to whom Cholmondeley had letters in
     1854, and expressing to his host the wish to see more of
     him, Emerson said he told the Englishman, 'If you wish to
     see Thoreau, go and board at his mother's house; she will
     be glad to take you in, and there you can meet him every
     day. He did so,' added Emerson, 'and you know the result.'
     ... This led to further mention of Mrs. Thoreau, who,
     Emerson said, 'was a person of sharp and malicious wit,' of
     whose sayings he read me some instances from his Journals.
     Among these was her remark to Mrs. Emerson, 'Henry is very
     _tolerant_'; adding 'Mr. Emerson has been talking so much
     with Henry that he has learnt Henry's way of thinking and
     talking.' Emerson went on to me:--

     "'I had known Henry slightly when in college; the
     scholarship from which he drew an income while there (a
     farm at Pullen Point in Chelsea) was the one that I and
     my brothers, William and Edward, had enjoyed while we
     were at college. But my first intimate acquaintance with
     Henry began after his graduation in 1837. Mrs. Brown, my
     wife's sister, who then boarded with the Thoreau family in
     the Parkman house, where the Library now stands, used to
     bring me his verses (the "Sic Vita" and others), and tell
     me of his entries in his Journal. Here is the Index to my
     Journals, in which Thoreau's name appears perhaps fifty
     times, perhaps more.'"

Thus far my Journal of 1878.

I was myself introduced to Thoreau by Emerson, March 28, 1855, in
the Concord Town Hall, one evening, just before a lecture there by
Emerson. From that time until Henry's death, May 6, 1862, I saw
him every few days, unless he or I was away from Concord, and for
more than two years I dined with him daily at his mother's table,
in the house opposite to Ellery Channing's. I thus came to know all
the surviving members of his kindred,--his eccentric uncle, Charles
Dunbar, his two aunts on each side, Jane and Maria Thoreau, and Louisa
and Sophia Dunbar (both older than Mrs. Thoreau), and the descendants
in Maine of his aunt Mrs. Billings, long since dead. His sister Helen
and his brother John I never knew, but learned much about them from
their mother and sister; for neither Henry nor his father often spoke
of them. Sophia also placed in my hands after Henry's death several of
his poems, which I printed in the "Commonwealth," and Emerson gave me
other manuscripts of Thoreau which had lodged with him while he was
editing the "Dial." He had urged Sophia to leave all the MSS. with
me, but her pique against Channing at the time prevented this,--she
knowing him to be intimate with me.

With all this preparation, I received from Mr. Blake, to whom Sophia
had bequeathed them in 1876, the correspondence of Thoreau and his
college essays, with some other papers of Henry's and his own, but
without the replies from the family to Henry's affectionate letters.
Even his own to his mother and sisters had been withheld from
publication by Emerson in 1865, when a small collection of Thoreau's
Letters and Poems was edited by Emerson. This omission Sophia
regretted, as she told me; and finding them now in my hands, though I
made use of their contents in writing the biography, I withheld them
from full publication, foreseeing that I should probably have occasion
to edit the letters in full at some later time; and I made but sparing
use of the early essays.

On the other hand, I perceived that the character and genius of
Thoreau could not be well understood unless some knowledge was had
of the Concord farmers, scholars, and citizens, among whom he had
spent his days, and who have furnished a background for that scene
of authorship which the small town of Concord has presented for now
more than seventy years. Therefore, having access to the records and
biographies of the Concord "Social Circle," then in preparation for
the public, and to many other records of the past in New England, I
sketched therefrom the character of our interesting community, which
gave color and tone to the outlines of this thoughtful scholar's
career. But I held back for the "Familiar Letters" the more intimate
details of Thoreau's self-devoted life, and did not draw heavily on
the thirty-odd volumes of the Journals, to which, at Worcester, Mr.
Blake gave me free access. It was then his purpose to bring out these
Journals much earlier and more fully than was done, until Messrs.
Houghton, Mifflin & Co. published their admirable edition in fourteen
volumes, a few years ago, after Mr. Blake's death.

The success of my biography, written under these limitations, has
more than justified reasonable expectations. It was popular from the
first, and is still widely read, and called for by a generation of
readers quite distinct from those for whom it was originally written.
Since the spring of 1882, when it was published, many details of
Thoreau's life and that of his ancestors have become known by an
examination of his copious manuscripts, of the papers of his Loyalist
ancestors, and his father's relatives in the island of Jersey; and
by the publication of some twenty-five volumes from Thoreau's own
hand. He never employed an amanuensis, and he seems to have carefully
preserved the large mass of his manuscripts which accumulated during
his literary life of some twenty-five years. The exceptions to this
remark were the copies of his earlier verses, which he told me, in his
last illness, he had destroyed, because they did not meet Emerson's
approval, and those pages of his Journals which he had issued in
printed books or magazine articles. Fragments of his youthful verses
were kept, however, by some of his family, and still exist. From all
these sources many things have come to light concerning his ancestry
and the minor events of his life, which I hope eventually to give the
world in a final biography that will serve as a sequel to this one.
The greatly enhanced reputation which Thoreau now enjoys, as compared
with his fame in 1882, seems to warrant a detail which was not then
needful, and which even the "Familiar Letters" does not furnish.
Much misconception of his character and the facts of his life still
prevails; and singular statements have been made in text-books, as to
his origin and training. One authority described Thoreau as descended
from "farmer folk" in Connecticut, who were recent immigrants from
France. So far as I know, not a single ancestor of his ever dwelt in
Connecticut; they were all merchants; and though his Thoreau ancestors
spoke French, or a patois of it, in Jersey, there is no evidence that
any of them had lived in France for more than five centuries.

This initial authentic biography, with its few errors corrected, now
comes forth in a new edition, which will long be found useful, in the
manner indicated, and I hope, may be received as the earlier edition
has been, with all the favor which its modest aim deserves.

               F. B. S.

Concord, Mass., October 8, 1909.


CHAPTER I.                          Page

Birth and Family                       1


Childhood and Youth                   32


Concord and its Famous People         63


The Embattled Farmers                 97


The Transcendental Period            124


Early Essays in Authorship           148


Friends and Companions               174


The Walden Hermitage                 201


Horace in the Role of Mæcenas        216


In Wood and Field                    242


Personal Traits and Social Life      261


Poet, Moralist, and Philosopher      284


Life, Death, and Immortality         297




There died in a city of Maine, on the river Penobscot, late in the
year 1881, the last member of a family which had been planted in
New England a little more than a hundred years before, by a young
tradesman from the English island of Jersey, and had here produced
one of the most characteristic American and New English men of genius
whom the world has yet seen. This lady, Miss Maria Thoreau, was the
last child of John Thoreau, the son of Philip Thoreau and his wife,
Marie le Galais, who, a hundred years ago, lived in the parish of St.
Helier, in Jersey. This John Thoreau was born in that parish, and
baptized there in the Anglican church, in April, 1754; he emigrated
to New England about 1773, and in 1781 married in Boston Miss Jane
Burns, the daughter of a Scotchman of some estate in the neighborhood
of Stirling Castle, who had emigrated earlier to Massachusetts,
and had here married Sarah Orrok, the daughter of David Orrok, a
Massachusetts Quaker. Jane (Burns) Thoreau, the granddaughter of David
Orrok, and the grandmother of Henry David Thoreau, died in Boston,
in 1796, at the age of forty-two. Her husband, John Thoreau, Sr.,
removed from Boston to Concord, in 1800, lived in a house on the
village square, and died there in 1801. His mother, Marie le Galais,
outlived him a few weeks, dying at St. Helier, in 1801. Maria Thoreau,
granddaughter and namesake of Marie le Galais, died in December, 1881,
in Bangor, Maine.

From the recollections of this "aunt Maria," who outlived all her
American relatives by the name of Thoreau, Henry Thoreau derived what
information he possessed concerning his Jersey ancestors. In his
journal for April 21, 1855, he makes this entry:--

     "Aunt Maria has put into my hands to-day for safe-keeping
     three letters from Peter Thoreau (her uncle), directed to
     'Miss Elizabeth Thoreau, Concord, near Boston,' and dated
     at Jersey, respectively, July 1, 1801, April 22, 1804, and
     April 11, 1806; also a '_Vue de la ville de St. Helier_,'
     accompanying the first letter. The first is in answer to
     one from my aunt Elizabeth, announcing the death of her
     father (my grandfather). He states that his mother (Marie
     (le Galais) Thoreau) died June 26, 1801, the day before he
     received aunt Elizabeth's letter, though not till after he
     had heard from another source of the death of his brother,
     which was not communicated to his mother. 'She was in the
     seventy-ninth year of her age,' he says, 'and retained her
     memory to the last. She lived with my two sisters, who took
     the greatest care of her.' He says that he had written to
     my grandfather about his oldest brother (who died about a
     year before), but had got no answer,--had written that he
     left his children, two sons and a daughter, in a good way:
     'The eldest son and daughter are both married and have
     children; the youngest is about eighteen. I am still a
     widower. Of four children I have but two left,--Betsey and
     Peter; James and Nancy are both at rest.' He adds that he
     sends 'a view of our native town.'

     "The second of these letters is sent by the hand of
     Captain John Harvey, of Boston, then at Guernsey. On the
     4th of February, 1804, he had sent aunt Elizabeth a copy
     of the last letter he had written (which was in answer
     to her second), since he feared she had not received it.
     He says that they are still at war with the French; that
     they received the day before a letter from her 'uncle and
     aunt Le Cappelain of London;' complains of not receiving
     letters, and says, 'Your aunts, Betsey and Peter join with
     me,' etc. According to the third letter (April 11, 1806),
     he had received by Capt. Touzel an answer to that he sent
     by Capt. Harvey, and will forward this by the former, who
     is going _via_ Newfoundland to Boston. 'He expects to go
     there every year; several vessels from Jersey go there
     every year.' His nephew had told him, some time before,
     that he met a gentleman from Boston, who told him he saw
     the sign 'Thoreau and Hayse' there, and he therefore thinks
     the children must have kept up the name of the firm. 'Your
     cousin John is a lieutenant in the British service; he has
     already been in a campaign on the Continent; he is very
     fond of it.' Aunt Maria thinks the correspondence ceased at
     Peter's death, because he was the one who wrote English."

These memoranda indicate that the grandfather of Henry Thoreau was
the younger son of a family of some substance in Jersey, which had
a branch in London and a grandson in the army that fought under
Wellington against Napoleon; that the American Thoreau engaged in
trade in Boston, with a partner, and carried on business successfully
for years; and that there was the same pleasant family feeling in
the English and French Thoreaus that we shall see in their American
descendants. Miss Maria Thoreau, in answer to a letter of mine, some
years ago, sent me the following particulars of her ancestry, some of
which repeat what is above stated by her nephew:--

            "BANGOR, _March 18, 1878_.

     "MR. SANBORN.

     "_Dear Sir_,--In answer to your letter, I regret that I
     cannot find more to communicate. I have no earlier record
     of my grandparents, Philippe Thoreau and Marie Le Gallais,
     than a certificate of their baptism in St. Helier, Jersey,
     written on parchment in the year 1773. I do not know what
     their vocation was. My Father was born in St. Helier in
     April, 1754, and was married to Jane Burns in Boston,
     in 1781. She died in that city in the year 1796, aged
     forty-two years. My sister Elizabeth continued my Father's
     correspondence with his brother, Uncle Peter Thoreau, at
     St. Helier, for a number of years after Father's decease,
     and in one of his letters he speaks of the death of
     grandmother, Marie Le Gallais, as taken place so near the
     time intelligence reach'd them of Father's death, in 1801,
     it was not communicated to her. Father removed to Concord
     in 1800, and died there, of consumption. I do not know at
     what time he emigrated to this country, but have been told
     he was shipwreck'd on the passage, and suffered much. I
     think he must have left a large family circle, as Uncle
     Peter in his letters refers to aunts and cousins, two of
     which, aunts Le Cappelain and Pinkney, resided in London,
     and a cousin, John Thoreau, was an officer in the British

     "Soon after Father's arrival in Boston, probably, he open'd
     a store on Long Wharf, as documents addressed to 'John
     Thoreau, merchant,' appear to signify, and one subsequently
     purchased 'on King Street, afterward called State Street.'
     And now I will remark in passing that Henry's father was
     bred to the mercantile line, and continued in it till
     failure in business; when he resorted to pencil-making,
     and succeeded so well as to obtain the first medal at the
     Salem Mechanics' Fair. I think Henry could hardly compete
     with his father in pencil-making, any more than he, with
     his peculiar genius and habits, would have been willing
     to spend much time in such 'craft.' His father left no
     will, but a competency, at least, to his family, and what
     was done relative to the business after his death was
     accomplished by his daughter Sophia. I mention this to
     rectify Mr. Page's mistake relating to Henry.

     "And now, as I have written all I can glean of
     Father's family, I will turn to the maternal side,
     of which it appears, in religious belief, they were
     of the Quaker persuasion. But I was sorry to see, by
     good old great-great-grandfather Tillet's will, that
     slavery was tolerated in those days in the good State
     of Massachusetts, and handed down from generation to
     generation. My great-grandmother (Tillet) married David
     Orrok; her daughter, Sarah Orrok, married Mr. Burns, a
     Scotch gentleman. At what time he came to this country, or
     married, I cannot ascertain, but have often been told, to
     gain the consent to it of grandmother's Quaker parents, he
     was obliged to doff his rich apparel of gems and ruffles,
     and conform to the more simple garb of his Quaker bride.
     On a visit to his home in Scotland he died, in what year
     is not mentioned. Before my father's decease, a letter
     was received from the executor of grandfather's estate,
     dated Stirling, informing him there was property left to
     Jane Burns, his daughter in America, 'well worth coming
     after.' But Father was too much out of health to attend
     to the getting it; and the letter, subsequently put into a
     lawyer's hands by Brother, then the only heir, was lost.

     "It has been said I inherit more of the traits of my
     foreign ancestry than any of my family,--which pleases me.
     Probably the vivacity of the French and the superstition
     of the Scotch may somewhat characterize me,--which it is
     to be hop'd the experience of an octogenarian may suitably
     modify. But this is nothing, here nor there. And now that
     I have written all that is necessary, and perhaps more,
     I will close, with kind wishes for health and happiness.
     Yours respectfully,

                  "MARIA THOREAU."

It would be hard to compress more family history into a short letter,
and yet leave it so sprightly in style as this. Of the four children
of Maria Thoreau's brother John and Cynthia Dunbar,--John, Helen,
Henry, and Sophia,--the two eldest, John and Helen, were said to be
"clear Thoreau," and the others, Henry and Sophia, "clear Dunbar;"
though in fact the Thoreau traits were marked in Henry also. Let us
see, then, who and what were the family of Henry Thoreau's mother,
Cynthia Dunbar, who was born in Keene, N. H., in 1787. She was the
daughter of Rev. Asa Dunbar, who was born at Bridgewater, Mass., in
1745; graduated at Harvard College in 1767 (a classmate of Sir Thomas
Bernard and Increase Sumner); preached for a while at Bedford, near
Concord, in 1769, when he was "a young candidate, newly begun to
preach;" settled in Salem in 1772; resigned his pastorate in 1779; and
removed to Keene just at the close of the Revolution, where he became
a lawyer, and died, a little upwards of forty-two, in 1787. He married
before 1775, Miss Mary Jones, the daughter of Col. Elisha Jones, of
Weston, a man of wealth and influence in his town, who died in 1776.
Mrs. Mary (Jones) Dunbar long outlived the husband of her youth; in
middle life she married a Concord farmer, Jonas Minott, whom she also
outlived; and it was in his house that her famous grandson was born in
July, 1817. Mrs. Minott was left a widow for the second time in 1813,
when she was sixty-five years old, and in 1815 she sent a petition to
the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, which was drawn up and
indorsed by her pastor, Dr. Ripley, of Concord, and which contains a
short sketch of Henry Thoreau's maternal grandfather, from whom he
is said to have inherited many qualities. Mrs. Minott's petition sets
forth "that her first husband, Asa Dunbar, Esq., late of Keene, N.
H., was a native of Massachusetts; that he was for a number of years
settled in the gospel ministry at Salem; that afterwards he was a
counselor-at-law; that he was Master of a Lodge of Free and Accepted
Masons at Keene, where he died; that in the cause of Masonry he was
interested and active; that through some defection or misfortune of
that Lodge _she_ has suffered loss, both on account of what was due
to him and to her, at whose house they held their meetings; that in
the settlement of the estate of her late husband, Jonas Minott, Esq.,
late of Concord, she has been peculiarly unfortunate, and become very
much straitened in the means of living comfortably; that being thus
reduced, and feeling the weight of cares, of years, and of widowhood
to be very heavy, after having seen better days, she is induced, by
the advice of friends, as well as her own exigencies, to apply for aid
to the benevolence and charity of the Masonic fraternity." At the
house of this decayed gentlewoman, about two years after the date of
this petition, Henry Thoreau was born. She lived to see him running
about, a sprightly boy, and he remembered her with affection. One of
his earliest recollections of Concord was of driving in a chaise with
his grandmother along the shore of Walden Pond, perhaps on the way to
visit her relatives in Weston, and thinking, as he said afterward,
that he should like to live there.

Ellery Channing, whose life of his friend Henry is a mine of curious
information on a thousand topics, relevant and irrelevant, and who
often traversed the "old Virginia road" with Thoreau before the house
in which he was born was removed from its green knoll to a spot
further east, where it now stands, thus pictures the brown farm-house
and its surroundings: "It was a perfect piece of our old New England
style of building, with its gray, unpainted boards, its grassy,
unfenced door-yard. The house is somewhat isolate and remote from
thoroughfares; on the Virginia road, an old-fashioned, winding, at
length deserted pathway, the more smiling for its forked orchards,
tumbling walls, and mossy banks. About it are pleasant sunny meadows,
deep with their beds of peat, so cheering with its homely, hearth-like
fragrance; and in front runs a constant stream through the centre
of that great tract sometimes called 'Bedford levels,'--the brook a
source of the Shawsheen River." (This is a branch of the Merrimac,
as Concord River is, but flows into the main stream through Andover,
and not through Billerica and Lowell, as the Concord does.) The road
on which it stands, a mile and a half east of the Fitchburg railroad
station, and perhaps a mile from Thoreau's grave in the village
cemetery, is a by-path from Concord to Lexington, through the little
town of Bedford. The farm-house, with its fields and orchard, was
a part of Mrs. Minott's "widow's thirds," on which she was living
at the date of her grandson's birth (July 12, 1817), and which her
son-in-law, John Thoreau, was "carrying on" for her that year.

Mrs. Minott, a few years before Dr. Ripley's petition in her behalf,
came near having a more distinguished son-in-law, Daniel Webster,
who, like the young Dunbars, was New Hampshire born, and a year or
two older than Mrs. Minott's daughter, Louisa Dunbar. He had passed
through Dartmouth College a little in love with two or three of the
young ladies of Hanover, and had returned to his native town of
Salisbury, N. H., when he met in Boscawen, near by, Miss Louisa, who,
like Miss Grace Fletcher, whom he married a few years afterward, was
teaching school in one of the New Hampshire towns. Miss Dunbar made
an impression on Webster's heart, always susceptible, and, had the
fates been propitious, he might have called Henry Thoreau nephew in
after years; but the silken tie was broken before it was fairly knit.
I suspect that she was the person referred to by one of Webster's
biographers, who says, speaking of an incident that occurred in
January, 1805: "Mr. Webster, at that time, had no thought of marrying;
he had not even met the lady who afterward became his wife. He had
been somewhat interested in another lady, who is occasionally referred
to in his letters, written after he left college, but who was not
either of those whom he had known at Hanover. But this affair never
proceeded very far, and he had entirely dismissed it from his mind
before he went to Boston in 1804." In January, 1806, about the time
of his father's death, Webster wrote to a college friend, "I am not
married, and seriously am inclined to think I never shall be," though
he was then a humble suitor to Grace Fletcher.

Louisa Dunbar was a lively, dark-haired, large-eyed, pleasing young
lady, who had perhaps been educated in part at Boscawen, where
Webster studied for college, and afterwards was a school-teacher
there. She received from him those attentions which young men give
to young ladies without any very active thoughts of marriage; but
he at one time paid special attentions to her, which might have led
to matrimony, perhaps, if Webster had not soon after fallen under
the sway of a more fascinating school-teacher, Miss Grace Fletcher,
of Hopkinton, N. H., whom he first saw at the door of her little
school-house in Salisbury, not far from his own birthplace. A Concord
matron, a neighbor and friend of the Dunbars and Thoreaus, heard
the romantic story from Webster's own lips forty years afterward,
as she was driving with him through the valley of the Assabet: how
he was traveling along a New Hampshire road in 1805, stopped at a
school-house to ask a question or leave a message, and was met at the
door by that vision of beauty and sweetness, Grace Fletcher herself,
to whom he yielded his heart at once. From a letter of Webster's to
this Concord friend (Mrs. Louisa Cheney) I quote this description of
his native region, which has never been printed:--

            "FRANKLIN, N. H., _September 29, '45_.

     "DEAR MRS. CHENEY,--You are hardly expecting to hear from
     me in this remote region of the earth. Where I am was
     originally a part of Salisbury, the place of my birth; and,
     having continued to own my father's farm, I sometimes make
     a visit to this region. The house is on the west bank of
     Merrimac River, fifteen miles above Concord (N. H.), in a
     pleasant valley, made rather large by a turn in the stream,
     and surrounded by high and wooded hills. I came here five
     or six days ago, alone, to try the effect of the mountain
     air upon my health.

     "This is a very picturesque country. The hills are high,
     numerous, and irregular,--some with wooded summits, and
     some with rocky heads as white as snow. I went into a
     pasture of mine last week, lying high up on one of the
     hills, and had there a clear view of the White Mountains
     in the northeast, and of Ascutney, in Vermont, back of
     Windsor, in the west; while within these extreme points was
     a visible scene of mountains and dales, lakes and streams,
     farms and forests. I really think this region is the true
     Switzerland of the United States.

     "I am attracted to this particular spot by very strong
     feelings. It is the scene of my early years; and it is
     thought, and I believe truly, that these scenes come back
     upon us with renewed interest and more strength of feeling
     as we find years running over us. White stones, visible
     from the window, and close by, mark the grave of my father,
     my mother, one brother, and three sisters. Here are the
     same fields, the same hills, the same beautiful river, as
     in the days of my childhood. The human beings which knew
     them now know them no more. Few are left with whom I shared
     either toil or amusement in the days of youth. But this is
     melancholy and personal, and enough of it. One mind cannot
     enter fully into the feelings of another in regard to the
     past, whether those feelings be joyous or melancholy, or,
     which is more commonly the case, partly both. I am, dear
     Mrs. Cheney, yours truly,

                  "DANIEL WEBSTER."

No doubt the old statesman was thinking, as he wrote, not only of
his father, Captain Ebenezer Webster ("with a complexion," said
Stark, under whom he fought at Bennington, "that burnt gunpowder
could not change"), of his mother and his brethren, but also of Grace
Fletcher,--and echoing in his heart the verse of Wordsworth:--

    "Among thy mountains did I feel
      The joy of my desire;
    And she I cherished turned her wheel
      Beside a cottage fire.
    Thy mornings showed, thy nights concealed,
      The bowers where Lucy played;
    And thine, too, is the last green field
      That Lucy's eyes surveyed."

It was no such deep sentiment as this which Louisa Dunbar had
inspired in young Webster's breast; but he walked and talked with
her, took her to drive in his chaise up and down the New Hampshire
hills, and no doubt went with her to church and to prayer-meeting.
She once surprised me by confiding to me (as we were talking about
Webster in the room where Henry Thoreau afterwards died, and where
there hung then an engraving by Rowse of Webster's magnificent head)
"that she regarded Mr. Webster, under Providence, as the means of
her conversion." Upon my asking how, she said that, in one of their
drives,--perhaps in the spring of 1804,--he had spoken to her so
seriously and scripturally on the subject of religion that her
conscience was awakened, and she soon after joined the church, of
which she continued through life a devout member. Her friendship for
Mr. Webster also continued, and in his visits to Concord, which were
frequent from 1843 to 1849, he generally called on her, or she was
invited to meet him at the house of Mr. Cheney, where, among social
and political topics, Webster talked with her of the old days at
Boscawen and Salisbury.

Cynthia Dunbar, the mother of Henry Thoreau, was born in Keene, N. H.,
in 1787, the year that her father died. Her husband, John Thoreau,
who was a few months younger than herself, was born in Boston. When
Henry Thoreau first visited Keene, in 1850, he made this remark:
"Keene Street strikes the traveler favorably; it is so wide, level,
straight, and long. I have heard one of my relatives who was born and
bred there [Louisa Dunbar, no doubt] say that you could see a chicken
run across it a mile off." His mother hardly lived there long enough
to notice the chickens a mile off, but she occasionally visited her
native town after her marriage in 1812, and a kinswoman (Mrs. Laura
Dunbar Ralston, of Washington, D. C.), now living, says, "I recollect
Mrs. Thoreau as a handsome, high-spirited woman, half a head taller
than her husband, accomplished, after the manner of those days, with
a voice of remarkable power and sweetness in singing." She was fond
of dress, and had a weakness, not uncommon in her day, for ribbons,
which her austere friend, Miss Mary Emerson (aunt of R. W. Emerson),
once endeavored to rebuke in a manner of her own. In 1857, when Mrs.
Thoreau was seventy years old, and Miss Emerson eighty-four, the
younger lady called on the elder in Concord, wearing bonnet-ribbons of
a good length and of a bright color,--perhaps yellow. During the call,
in which Henry Thoreau was the subject of conversation, Miss Emerson
kept her eyes shut. As Mrs. Thoreau and her daughter Sophia rose to
go, the little old lady said, "Perhaps you noticed, Mrs. Thoreau, that
I closed my eyes during your call. I did so because I did not wish to
look on the ribbons you are wearing, so unsuitable for a child of God
and a person of your years."

In uttering this reproof, Miss Emerson may have had in mind the
clerical father of Mrs. Thoreau, Rev. Asa Dunbar, whom she was old
enough to remember. He was settled in Salem as the colleague of Rev.
Thomas Barnard, after a long contest which led to the separation of
the First Church there, and the formation of the Salem North Church
in 1772. The parishioners of Mr. Dunbar declared their new minister
"admirably qualified for a gospel preacher," and he seems to have
proved himself a learned and competent minister. But his health was
infirm, and this fact, as one authority says, "soon threw him into
the profession of the law, which he honorably pursued for a few years
at Keene." Whether he went at once to Keene on leaving Salem in 1779
does not appear, but he was practicing law there in 1783, and was also
a leading Freemason. His diary for a few years of his early life--a
faint foreshadowing of his grandson's copious journals--is still in
existence, and indicates a gay and genial disposition, such as Mrs.
Thoreau had. His only son, Charles Dunbar, who was born in February,
1780, and died in March, 1856, inherited this gaiety of heart, but
also that lack of reverence and discipline which is proverbial in
New England for "ministers' sons and deacons' daughters." His nephew
said of him, "He was born the winter of the great snow, and he died
in the winter of another great snow,--a life bounded by great snows."
At the time of Henry Thoreau's birth, Mrs. Thoreau's sisters, Louisa
and Sarah, and their brother Charles were living in Concord, or not
far off, and there Louisa Dunbar died a few years before Mrs. Thoreau.
Her brother Charles, who was two years older than Daniel Webster, was
a person widely known in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, and much
celebrated by Thoreau in his journals. At the time of his death, I
find the following curious entries, in Thoreau's journal for April 3,

     "People are talking about my uncle Charles. George Minott
     [a sort of cousin of the Thoreaus] tells how he heard Tilly
     Brown once asking him to show him a peculiar inside lock
     in wrestling. 'Now, don't hurt me,--don't throw me hard.'
     He struck his antagonist inside his knees with his feet,
     and so deprived him of his legs. Edmund Hosmer remembers
     his tricks in the bar-room, shuffling cards, etc.; he
     could do anything with cards, yet he did not gamble. He
     would toss up his hat, twirling it over and over, and
     catch it on his head invariably. He once wanted to live
     at Hosmer's, but the latter was afraid of him. 'Can't we
     study up something?' he asked. Hosmer asked him into the
     house, and brought out apples and cider, and uncle Charles
     talked. 'You!' said he, 'I burst the bully of Haverhill.'
     He wanted to wrestle,--would not be put off. 'Well, we
     won't wrestle in the house.' So they went out to the yard,
     and a crowd got round. 'Come, spread some straw here,'
     said uncle Charles,--'I don't want to hurt him.' He threw
     him at once. They tried again; he told them to spread more
     straw, and he 'burst' him. Uncle Charles used to say that
     he hadn't a single tooth in his head. The fact was they
     were all double, and I have heard that he lost about all of
     them by the time he was twenty-one. Ever since I knew him
     he could swallow his nose. He had a strong head, and never
     got drunk; would drink gin sometimes, but not to excess.
     Did not use tobacco, except snuff out of another's box,
     sometimes; was very neat in his person; was not profane,
     though vulgar."

This was the uncle who, as Thoreau said in "Walden," "goes to sleep
shaving himself, and is obliged to sprout potatoes in a cellar Sundays
in order to keep awake and keep the Sabbath." He was a humorous,
ne'er-do-weel character, who, with a little property, no family, and
no special regard for his reputation, used to move about from place
to place, a privileged jester, athlete, and unprofessional juggler.
One of his tricks was to swallow all the knives and forks and some of
the plates at the tavern table, and then offer to restore them if the
landlord would forgive him the bill. I remember this worthy in his
old age, an amusing guest at his brother-in-law's table, where his
nephew plied him with questions. We shall find him mentioned again, in
connection with Daniel Webster's friendship for the Dunbar family.

Thoreau's mother had this same incessant and rather malicious
liveliness that in Charles Dunbar took the grotesque form above hinted
at. She was a kindly, shrewd woman, with traditions of gentility and
sentiments of generosity, but with sharp and sudden flashes of gossip
and malice, which never quite amounted to ill-nature, but greatly
provoked the prim and commonplace respectability that she so often
came in contact with. Along with this humorous quality there went also
an affectionate earnestness in her relation with those who depended
on her, that could not fail to be respected by all who knew the hard
conditions that New England life, even in a favored village like
Concord, then imposed on the mother of a family, where the outward
circumstances were not in keeping with the inward aspiration.

    "Who sings the praise of woman in our clime?
    I do not boast her beauty or her grace:
    Some humble duties render her sublime,
    She, the sweet nurse of this New England race,
    The flower upon the country's sterile face;
    The mother of New England's sons, the pride
    Of every house where those good sons abide."

Her husband was a grave and silent, but inwardly cheerful and social
person, who found no difficulty in giving his wife the lead in all
affairs. The small estate he inherited from his father, the first
John Thoreau, was lost in trade, or by some youthful indiscretions,
of which he had his quiet share; and he then, about 1823, turned his
attention to pencil-making, which had by that time become a lucrative
business in Concord. He had married in 1812, and he died in 1859. He
was a small, deaf, and unobtrusive man, plainly clad, and "minding his
own business;" very much in contrast with his wife, who was one of
the most unceasing talkers ever seen in Concord. Her gift in speech
was proverbial, and wherever she was the conversation fell largely to
her share. She fully verified the Oriental legend, which accounts for
the greater loquacity of women by the fact that nine baskets of talk
were let down from heaven to Adam and Eve in their garden, and that
Eve glided forward first and secured six of them. Old Dr. Ripley, a
few years before his death, wrote a letter to his son, towards the end
of which he said, with courteous reticence, "I meant to have filled
a page with sentiments. But _a kind neighbor_, Mrs. Thoreau, has been
here more than an hour. This letter must go in the mail to-day." Her
conversation generally put a stop to other occupations; and when at
her table Henry Thoreau's grave talk with others was interrupted by
this flow of speech at the other end of the board, he would pause, and
wait with entire and courteous silence, until the interruption ceased,
and then take up the thread of his own discourse where he had dropped
it; bowing to his mother, but without a word of comment on what she
had said.

Dr. Ripley was the minister of Concord for half a century, and in
his copious manuscripts, still preserved, are records concerning his
parishioners of every conceivable kind. He carefully kept even the
smallest scrap that he ever wrote, and among his papers I once found
a fragment, on one side of which was written a pious meditation,
and on the other a certificate to this effect: "Understanding that
Mr. John Thoreau, now of Chelmsford, is going into business in that
place, and is about to apply for license to retail ardent spirits, I
hereby certify that I have been long acquainted with him, that he has
sustained a good character, and now view him as a man of integrity,
accustomed to store-keeping, and of correct morals." There is no date,
but the time was about 1818. Chelmsford is a town ten miles north of
Concord, to which John Thoreau had removed for three years, in the
infancy of Henry. From Chelmsford he went to Boston in 1821, but was
successful in neither place, and soon returned to Concord, where he
gave up trade and engaged in pencil-making, as already mentioned.

From that time, about 1823, till his death in 1859, John Thoreau led
a plodding, unambitious, and respectable life in Concord village,
educating his children, associating with his neighbors on those terms
of equality for which Concord is famous, and keeping clear, in a great
degree, of the quarrels, social and political, that agitated the
village. Mrs. Thoreau, on the other hand, with her sister Louisa and
her sisters-in-law, Sarah, Maria, and Jane Thoreau, took their share
in the village bickerings. In 1826, when Dr. Lyman Beecher, then of
Boston, Dr. John Todd, then of Groton, and other Calvinistic divines
succeeded in making a schism in Dr. Ripley's parish, and drawing
off Trinitarians enough to found a separate church, the Thoreaus
generally seceded, along with good old Deacon White, whose loss Dr.
Ripley bewailed. This contention was sharply maintained for years,
and was followed by the antimasonic and antislavery agitation. In
the latter Mrs. Thoreau and her family engaged zealously, and their
house remained for years headquarters for the early abolitionists
and a place of refuge for fugitive slaves. The atmosphere of earnest
purpose, which pervaded the great movement for the emancipation of the
slaves, gave to the Thoreau family an elevation of character which
was ever afterward perceptible, and imparted an air of dignity to the
trivial details of life. By this time, too,--I speak of the years from
1836 onward till the outbreak of the civil war,--the children of Mrs.
Thoreau had reached an age and an education which made them noteworthy
persons. Helen, the oldest child, born in 1812, was an accomplished
teacher. John, the elder son, born in 1814 was one of those lovely
and sunny natures which infuse affection in all who come within their
range; and Henry, with his peculiar strength and independence of
soul, was a marked personage among the few who would give themselves
the trouble to understand him. Sophia, the youngest child, born in
1819, had, along with her mother's lively and dramatic turn, a touch
of art; and all of them, whatever their accidental position for the
time, were superior persons. Living in a town where the ancient forms
survived in daily collision or in friendly contact with the new ideas
that began to make headway in New England about 1830, the Thoreaus had
peculiar opportunities, above their apparent fortunes, but not beyond
their easy reach of capacity, for meeting on equal terms the advancing
spirit of the period.

The children of the house, as they grew up, all became
school-teachers, and each displayed peculiar gifts in that profession.
But they were all something more than teachers, and becoming enlisted
early in the antislavery cause, or in that broader service of humanity
which "plain living and high thinking" imply, they gradually withdrew
from that occupation,--declining the opportunities by which other
young persons, situated as they then were, rise to worldly success,
and devoting themselves, within limits somewhat narrow, to the
pursuit of lofty ideals. The household of which they were loving and
thoughtful members (let one be permitted to say who was for a time
domesticated there) had, like the best families everywhere, a distinct
and individual existence, in which each person counted for something,
and was not a mere drop in the broad water-level that American society
tends more and more to become. To meet one of the Thoreaus was not the
same as to encounter any other person who might happen to cross your
path. Life to them was something more than a parade of pretensions, a
conflict of ambitions, or an incessant scramble for the common objects
of desire. They were fond of climbing to the hill-top, and could look
with a broader and kindlier vision than most of us on the commotions
of the plain and the mists of the valley. Without wealth, or power, or
social prominence, they still held a rank of their own, in scrupulous
independence, and with qualities that put condescension out of the
question. They could have applied to themselves, individually, and
without hauteur, the motto of the French chevalier:--

    "Je suis ni roi, ni prince aussi,
    Je suis le seigneur de Coucy."

    "Nor king, nor duke? Your pardon, no;
    I am the master of Thoreau."

They lived their life according to their genius, without the fear of
man or of "the world's dread laugh," saying to Fortune what Tennyson

    "Turn, Fortune, turn thy wheel with smile or frown,--
    With that wild wheel we go not up nor down;
    Our hoard is little, but our hearts are great.
    Smile, and we smile, the lords of many lands;
    Frown, and we smile, the lords of our own hands,--
    For man is man, and master of his fate."



Concord, the Massachusetts town in which Thoreau was born, is to be
distinguished from the newer but larger town of the same name which
became the capital of New Hampshire about the time the first American
Thoreau made his appearance in "old Concord." The latter, the first
inland plantation of the Massachusetts Colony, was bought of the
Indians by Major Willard, a Kentish man, and Rev. Peter Bulkeley, a
Puritan clergyman from the banks of the Ouse in Bedfordshire, and was
settled under their direction in 1635. Mr. Bulkeley, from whom Mr.
Emerson and many of the other Concord citizens of Thoreau's day were
descended, was the first minister of the town, which then included the
present towns of Concord, Acton, Bedford, Carlisle, and Lincoln; and
among his parishioners were the ancestors of the principal families
that now inhabit these towns. Concord itself, the centre of this
large tract, was thought eligible for settlement because of its great
meadows on the Musketaquid or Meadow River. It had been a seat of
the Massachusetts Indians, and a powerful Sachem, Tahattawan, lived
between its two rivers, where the Assabet falls into the slow-gliding
Musketaquid. Thoreau, the best topographer of his birthplace, says:--

     "It has been proposed that the town should adopt for its
     coat of arms a field verdant, with the Concord circling
     nine times round. I have read that a descent of an eighth
     of an inch in a mile is sufficient to produce a flow.
     Our river has probably very near the smallest allowance.
     But wherever it makes a sudden bend it is shallower and
     swifter, and asserts its title to be called a river. For
     the most part it creeps through broad meadows, adorned with
     scattered oaks, where the cranberry is found in abundance,
     covering the ground like a mossbed. A row of sunken dwarf
     willows borders the stream on one or both sides, while at a
     greater distance the meadow is skirted with maples, alders,
     and other fluviatile trees, overrun with the grape-vine,
     which bears fruit in its season, purple, red, white, and
     other grapes."

From these river-grapes, by seedling cultivation, a Concord gardener,
in Thoreau's manhood, bred and developed the Concord grape, which
is now more extensively grown throughout the United States than any
other vine, and once adorned, in vineyards large and small, the
hillsides over which Thoreau rambled. The uplands are sandy in many
places, gravelly and rocky in others, and nearly half the township
is now covered, as it has always been, with woods of oak, pine,
chestnut, and maple. It is a town of husbandmen, chiefly, with a few
mechanics, merchants, and professional men in its villages; a quiet
region, favorable to thought, to rambling, and to leisure, as well as
to that ceaseless industry by which New England lives and thrives.
Its population in 1909 approaches 5,000, but at Thoreau's birth it
did not exceed 2,000. There are few great estates in it, and little
poverty; the mode of life has generally been plain and simple, and
was so in Thoreau's time even more than now. When he was born, and
for some years afterward, there was but one church, and the limits of
the parish and the township were the same. At that time it was one of
the two shire towns of the great county of Middlesex,--Cambridge,
thirteen miles away, being the other. It was therefore a seat of
justice and a local centre of trade,--attracting lawyers and merchants
to its public square much more than of late years.

Trade in Concord then was very different from what it has been since
the railroad began to work its revolutions. In the old days, long
lines of teams from the upper country, New Hampshire and Vermont,
loaded with the farm products of the interior, stopped nightly at
the taverns, especially in the winter, bound for the Boston market,
whence they returned with a cargo for their own country. If a thaw
came on, or there was bad sleighing in Boston, the drivers, anxious
to lighten their loads, would sell and buy in the Concord public
square, to the great profit of the numerous traders, whose little
shops stood around or near it. Then, too, the hitching-posts in front
of the shops had full rows of wagons and chaises from the neighboring
towns fastened there all day long; while the owners looked over goods,
priced, chaffered, and beat down by the hour together the calicoes,
sheetings, shirtings, kerseymeres, and other articles of domestic
need,--bringing in, also, the product of their own farms and looms
to sell or exchange. Each "store" kept an assortment of "West India
goods," dry goods, hardware, medicines, furniture, boots and shoes,
paints, lumber, lime, and the miscellaneous articles of which the
village or the farms might have need; not to mention a special trade
in New England rum and old Jamaica, hogsheads of which were brought
up every week from Boston by teams, and sold or given away by the
glass, with an ungrudging hand. A little earlier than the period now
mentioned, when Colonel Whiting (father of the late eminent lawyer,
Abraham Lincoln's right-hand adviser in the law of emancipation,
William Whiting, of Boston) was a lad in Concord village, "there
were five stores and three taverns in the middle of the town, where
intoxicating liquors were sold by the glass to any and every body; and
it was the custom, when a person bought even so little as fifty cents'
worth of goods, to offer him a glass of liquor, and it was generally
accepted." Such was the town when John Thoreau, the Jerseyman, came
there to die in 1800, and such it remained during the mercantile days
of John Thoreau, his son, who was brought up in a house on the public
square, and learned the business of buying and selling in the store of
Deacon White, close by. Pencil-making, the art by which he earned his
modest livelihood during Henry Thoreau's youth, was introduced into
Concord about 1812 by William Munroe, whose son has in later years
richly endowed the small free library from which Thoreau drew books,
and to which he gave some of his own. In this handicraft, which was
at times quite profitable, the younger Thoreaus assisted their father
from time to time, and Henry acquired great skill in it; even to the
extent, says Mr. Emerson, of making as good a pencil as the best
English ones. "His friends congratulated him that he had now opened
his way to fortune. But he replied that he should never make another
pencil. 'Why should I? I would not do again what I have done once.'"
Thoreau may have said this, but he afterward changed his mind, for he
went on many years, at intervals, working at his father's business,
which in time grew to be mainly the preparation of fine-ground
plumbago for electrotyping. This he supplied to various publishers,
and among others to the Harpers, for several years. But what he did in
this way was incidental, and as an aid to his father, his mother, or
his sister Sophia, who herself carried on the business for some time
after the death of Henry in 1862. It was the family employment, and
must be pursued by somebody.

Perpetuity, indeed, and hereditary transmission of everything that by
nature and good sense can be inherited, are among the characteristics
of Concord. The Heywood family has been resident in Concord for two
hundred and fifty years or so, and in that time has held the office
of town clerk, in lineal succession from father to son, for one
hundred years at least. The grandson of the first John Heywood filled
the office (which is the most responsible in town, and generally
accompanied by other official trusts) for eighteen years, beginning in
1731; his son held the place with a slight interregnum for thirteen
years; his nephew, Dr. Abiel Heywood, was town clerk from 1796 to
1834 without a break, and Dr. Heywood's son, Mr. George Heywood, was
the town clerk for thirty-odd years after March, 1853.

Of the dozen ministers who, since 1635, have preached in the parish
church, five were either Bulkeleys or Emersons, descendants of the
first minister, or else connected by marriage with that clerical line;
and the young minister who, in the year 1882, accepted the pastorate
of Rev. Peter Bulkeley, is a descendant, and bears the same name. Mr.
Emerson himself, the great clerk of Concord, which was his lay parish
for almost half a century after he ceased to preach in its pulpit,
counted among his ancestors four of the Concord pastors, whose united
ministry covered a century; while his grandmother's second husband,
Dr. Ripley, added a half century more to the family ministry. For this
ancestral claim, quite as much as for his gift of wit and eloquence,
Mr. Emerson was chosen, in 1835, to commemorate by an oration the two
hundredth anniversary of the town settlement. In this discourse he

     "I have had much opportunity of access to anecdotes
     of families, and I believe this town to have been the
     dwelling-place, in all times since its planting, of pious
     and excellent persons, who walked meekly through the paths
     of common life, who served God and loved man, and never
     let go their hope of immortality. I find our annals marked
     with a uniform good sense. I find no ridiculous laws,
     no eavesdropping legislators, no hanging of witches, no
     ghosts, no whipping of Quakers, no unnatural crimes. The
     old town clerks did not spell very correctly, but they
     contrived to make pretty intelligible the will of a free
     and just community."

Into such a community Henry Thoreau, a free and just man, was born.
Dr. Heywood, above-named, was the first town clerk he remembered, and
the one who entered on the records the marriage of his father and
mother, and the birth of all the children. He cried the banns of John
Thoreau and Cynthia Dunbar in the parish meeting-house; and he was the
last clerk who made this Sunday outcry.

He thus proclaimed his own autumnal nuptials in 1822, when he
married for the first time at the age of sixty-three. The banns were
cried at the opening of the service, and this compelled the town
clerk to be a more regular attendant in the meeting-house than his
successors have found necessary. Dr. Heywood's pew was about half-way
down the broad aisle, and in full view of the whole congregation,
whether in the "floor pews" or "up in the galleries." Wearing his
old-fashioned coat and small-clothes, the doctor would rise in his
pew, deliberately adjust his spectacles, and look about for a moment,
in order to make sure that his audience was prepared; then he made
his proclamation with much emphasis of voice and dignity of manner.
There was a distinction, however, in the manner of "publishing the
banns" of the white and the black citizens; the former being "cried"
in the face of the whole congregation, and the latter simply "posted"
in the meeting-house porch, as was afterwards the custom for all.
Dr. Heywood, from a sense of justice, or some other proper motive,
determined on one occasion to "post" a white couple, instead of giving
them the full benefit of his sonorous voice; but, either because they
missed the _éclat_ of the usual proclamation, or else felt humiliated
at being "posted like niggers in the porch," they brought the town
clerk to justice forthwith, and he was forced for once to yield to
popular outcry, and join in the outcry himself. After publishing his
own banns, and just before the wedding, he for the first time procured
a pair of trousers,--having worn knee-breeches up to that time, as
Colonel May (the father-in-law of Mr. Alcott) and others had thought
it proper to wear them. When Dr. Heywood told his waggish junior,
'Squire Brooks, of the purchase, and inquired how young gentlemen
put their trousers on, his legal neighbor advised him that they were
generally put on over the head.

Dr. Heywood survived amid "this age loose and all unlaced," as Marvell
says, until 1839, having practiced medicine, more or less, in Concord
for upward of forty years, and held court there as a local justice for
almost as long. Dr. Isaac Hurd, who was his contemporary, practiced
in Concord for fifty-four years, and in all sixty-five years; and Dr.
Josiah Bartlett, who accompanied and succeeded Dr. Hurd, practiced in
Concord nearly fifty-eight years; while the united medical service of
himself and his father, Dr. Josiah Bartlett of Charlestown, was one
hundred and two years.

Dr. Bartlett himself was one of the most familiar figures in Concord
through Thoreau's life-time, and for fifteen years after. To him have
been applied, with more truth, I suspect, than to "Mr. Robert Levet, a
Practiser in Physic," those noble lines of Dr. Johnson on his humble

    "Well tried through many a varying year,
      See Levet to the grave descend,
    Officious, innocent, sincere,
      _Of every friendless name the friend_."

He said more than once that for fifty years no severity of weather
had kept him from visiting his distant patients,--sometimes miles
away,--except once, and then the snow was piled so high that his
sleigh upset every two rods; and when he unharnessed and mounted his
horse, the beast, floundering through a drift, slipped him off over
his crupper. He was a master of the horse, and encouraged that proud
creature to do his best in speed. One of his neighbors mentioned
in his hearing a former horse of Dr. Bartlett's, which was in the
habit of running away. "By faith!" said the doctor (his familiar
oath), "I recollect that horse; he was a fine traveler, but I have no
remembrance that he ever ran away." When upwards of seventy, he was
looking for a new horse. The jockey said, "Doctor, if you were not so
old, I have a horse that would suit you." "Hm!" growled the doctor,
"don't talk to me about _old_. Let's see your horse;" and he bought
him, and drove him for eight years. He practiced among the poor with
no hope of reward, and gave them, besides, his money, his time, and
his influence. One day a friend saw him receiving loads of firewood
from a shiftless man to whom he had rendered gratuitous service in
sickness for twenty years. "Ah, doctor! you are getting some of your
back pay." "By faith! no; the fellow is poor, so I paid him for his
wood, and let him go."

Dr. Bartlett did not reach Concord quite in season to assist at the
birth of Henry Thoreau; but from the time his parents brought him
back to his native town from Boston, in 1823, to the day of Sophia
Thoreau's death, in 1876, he might have supplied the needed medical
aid to the family, and often did so. The young Henry dwelt in his
first tabernacle on the Virginia road but eight months, removing then
to a house on the Lexington road, not far from where Mr. Emerson
afterwards established his residence, on the edge of Concord village.
In the mean time he had been baptized by Dr. Ripley in the parish
church, at the age of three months; and his mother boasted that he
did not cry. His aunt, Sarah Thoreau, taught him to walk when he was
fourteen months old, and before he was sixteen months he removed to
Chelmsford, "next to the meeting-house, where they kept the powder,
in the garret," as was the custom in many village churches of New
England then. Coming back to Concord before he was six years old,
he soon began to drive his mother's cow to pasture, barefoot, like
other village boys; just as Emerson, when a boy in Boston, a dozen
years before, had driven his mother's cow where now the fine streets
and halls are. Thoreau, like Emerson, began to go to school in
Boston, where he lived for a year or more in Pinckney Street. But he
returned to Concord in 1823, and, except for short visits or long
walking excursions, he never left the town again till he died, in
1862. He there went on with his studies in the village schools, and
fitted for Harvard College at the "Academy," which 'Squire Hoar,
Colonel Whiting, 'Squire Brooks, and other magnates of the town had
established about 1820. This private school was generally very well
taught, and here Thoreau himself taught for a while in after years.
In his boyhood it had become a good place to study Greek, and in
1830, when perhaps Henry Thoreau was one of its pupils, Mr. Charles
Emerson, visiting his friends in Concord, wrote thus of what he saw
there: "Mr. George Bradford and I attended the Exhibition yesterday at
the Academy. We were extremely gratified. To hear little girls saying
their Greek grammar and young ladies read Xenophon was a new and very
agreeable entertainment." Thoreau must have been beginning his Greek
grammar about that time, for he entered college in 1833, and was then
proficient in Greek. He must also have gone, as a boy, to the "Concord
Lyceum," where he afterwards lectured every winter. Concord, as the
home of famous lawyers and active politicians, was always a place of
resort for political leaders, and Thoreau might have seen and heard
there all the celebrated congressmen and governors of Massachusetts,
at one time and another. He could remember the visit of Lafayette to
Concord in 1824, and the semi-centennial celebration of the Concord
Fight in 1825. In 1830 he doubtless looked forward with expectation
for the promised lecture of Edward Everett before the Lyceum,
concerning which Mr. Everett wrote as follows to Dr. Ripley (November
3, 1830):--

     "I am positively forbidden by my physician to come to
     Concord to-day. To obviate, as far as possible, the
     inconvenience which this failure might cause the Lyceum, I
     send you the lecture which I should have delivered. It is
     one which I have delivered twice before; but my health has
     prevented me from preparing another. Although _in print_,
     as you see, it has _not been published_. I held it back
     from publication to enable me, with propriety, to deliver
     it at Concord. Should you think it worth while to have
     it read to the meeting, it is at your service for that
     purpose; and, should this be done, I would suggest, as it
     is one hour and three quarters long, that some parts should
     be omitted. For this reason I have inclosed some passages
     in brackets, which can be spared without affecting the

It would hardly occur to a popular lecturer now to apologize because
he had delivered his lecture twice before, or to send the copy
forward, when he could not himself be there to read it.

Mr. Emerson began to lecture in the Concord Lyceum before 1834, when
he came to reside in the town. In October of that year he wrote to
Dr. Ripley, declining to give the opening lecture, but offering to
speak in the course of the winter, as he did. During its first half
century he lectured nearly a hundred times in this Lyceum, reading
there, first and last, nearly all the essays he published in his
lifetime, and many that have since been printed. Thoreau gave his
first lecture there in April, 1838, and afterwards lectured nearly
every year for more than twenty years. On one occasion, very early in
his public career, when the expected lecturer of the Lyceum failed to
come, as Mr. Everett had failed, but had not been thoughtful enough
to send a substitute, Henry Thoreau and Mr. Alcott were pressed into
the service, and spoke before the audience in duet, and with opinions
extremely heretical,--both being ardent radicals and "come-outers."
A few years after this (in 1843), Wendell Phillips made his first
appearance before the Concord Lyceum, and spoke in a manner which
Thoreau has described in print, and which led to a sharp village
controversy, not yet quite forgotten on either side.

But to return to the childhood and youth of Thoreau. When he was three
or four years old, at Chelmsford, on being told that he must die,
as well as the men in the New England Primer, and having the joys
of heaven explained to him, he said, as he came in from "coasting,"
that he did not want to die and go to heaven, because he could not
carry his sled to so fine a place; for, he added, "the boys say it is
not shod with iron, and not worth a cent." At the age of ten, says
Channing, "he had the firmness of the Indian, and could repress his
pathos, and had such seriousness that he was called 'judge.'" As an
example of childish fortitude, it is related that he carried his pet
chickens for sale to the tavern-keeper in a basket; whereupon Mr.
Wesson told him to 'stop a minute,' and, in order to return the basket
promptly, took the darlings out, and wrung their necks, one by one,
before the boy's eyes, who wept inwardly, but did not budge. Having a
knack at whittling, and being asked by a schoolmate to make him a bow
and arrow, young Henry refused, not deigning to give the reason,--that
he had no knife. "So through life," says Channing, "he steadily
declined trying or pretending to do what he had no means to execute,
yet forbore explanations." He was a sturdy and kindly playmate, whose
mirthful tricks are yet remembered by those who frolicked with him,
and he always abounded with domestic affection. While in college he
once asked his mother what profession she would have him choose. She
said, pleasantly, "You can buckle on your knapsack, dear, and roam
abroad to seek your fortune;" but the thought of leaving home and
forsaking Concord made the tears roll down his cheeks. Then his
sister Helen, who was standing by, says Channing, "tenderly put her
arm around him and kissed him, saying, 'No, Henry, you shall not go;
you shall stay at home and live with us.'" And this, indeed, he did,
though he made one or two efforts to seek his fortune for a time

His reading had been wide and constant while at school, and after
he entered college at the age of sixteen. His room in Cambridge was
in Hollis Hall; his instructors were such as he found there, but
in rhetoric he profited much by the keen intelligence of Professor
Channing, an uncle of his future friend and biographer, Ellery
Channing. I think he also came in contact, while in college, with
that singular poet, Jones Very, of Salem. He was by no means unsocial
in college, though he did not form such abiding friendships as do
many young men. He graduated in 1837. His expenses at Cambridge,
which were very moderate, compared with what a poor scholar must now
pay to go through college, were paid in part by his father, in part
by his aunts and his elder sister, Helen, who had already begun to
teach school; and for the rest he depended on his own efforts and the
beneficiary funds of the college, in which he had some little share.
I have understood that he received the income of the same modest
endowment which had been given to William and Ralph Waldo Emerson
when in college, some years before; and in other ways the generous
thought of that most princely man, Waldo Emerson, was not idle in
his behalf, though he knew Thoreau then only as the studious son of
a townsman, who needed a friend at court. What Mr. Emerson wrote to
Josiah Quincy, who was then president of Harvard College, in behalf of
Henry Thoreau does not appear, except from the terms of old Quincy's
reply; but we may infer it. Thoreau had the resource of school-keeping
in the country towns, during the college vacation and the extra
vacation that a poor scholar could claim; and this brought him, in
1835, to an acquaintance with that elder scholar, Brownson, who
afterwards became a Catholic doctor of theology. He left college one
winter to teach school at Canton, near Boston, where he was examined
by Rev. Orestes A. Brownson, then a Protestant minister in Canton.
He studied German and boarded with Mr. Brownson while he taught the
school. In 1836, he records in his journal that he "went to New York
with father, peddling." In his senior year, 1836-37, he was ill for
a time, and lost rank with his instructors by his indifference to
the ordinary college motives for study. This fact, and also that he
was a beneficiary of the college, further appears from the letter of
President Quincy to Mr. Emerson, as follows:--

            "CAMBRIDGE, _25th June, 1837_.

     "MY DEAR SIR,--Your view concerning Thoreau is entirely in
     consent with that which I entertain. His general conduct
     has been very satisfactory, and I was willing and desirous
     that whatever falling off there had been in his scholarship
     should be attributable to his sickness. He had, however,
     imbibed some notions concerning emulation and college
     rank which had a natural tendency to diminish his zeal,
     if not his exertions. His instructors were impressed with
     the conviction that he was indifferent, even to a degree
     that was faulty, and that they could not recommend him,
     consistent with the rule by which they are usually governed
     in relation to beneficiaries. I have always entertained
     a respect for and interest in him, and was willing to
     attribute any apparent neglect or indifference to his ill
     health rather than to wilfulness. I obtained from the
     instructors the authority to state all the facts to the
     Corporation, and submit the result to their discretion.
     This I did, and that body granted _twenty-five dollars_,
     which was within _ten_, or at most _fifteen_, dollars of
     any sum he would have received, had no objection been made.
     There is no doubt that, from some cause, an unfavorable
     opinion has been entertained, since his return after his
     sickness, of his disposition to exert himself. To what it
     has been owing may be doubtful. I appreciate very fully
     the goodness of his heart and the strictness of his moral
     principle; and have done as much for him as, under the
     circumstances, was possible.

            "Very respectfully, your humble servant,

                  "JOSIAH QUINCY.

     "Rev. R. W. EMERSON."

It is possible the college faculty may have had other grounds of
distrust in Thoreau's case. On May 30, 1836, his classmate Peabody
wrote him the following letter from Cambridge,--Thoreau being then at
home, for some reason,--from which we may infer that the sober youth
was not averse to such deeds as are there related:--

     "The Davy Club got into a little trouble, the week before
     last, from the following circumstance: H. W. gave a
     lecture on Pyrotechny, and illustrated it with a parcel
     of fireworks he had prepared in the vacation. As you may
     imagine, there was some slight noise on the occasion. In
     fact, the noise was so slight that Tutor B. heard it at his
     room in Holworthy. This worthy boldly determined to march
     forth and attack the 'rioters.' Accordingly, in the midst
     of a grand display of rockets, etc., he stepped into the
     room, and, having gazed round him in silent astonishment
     for the space of two minutes, and hearing various cries of
     'Intrusion!' 'Throw him over!' 'Saw his leg off!' 'Pull
     his wool!' etc., he made two or three dignified motions
     with his hand to gain attention, and then kindly advised
     us to 'retire to our respective rooms.' Strange to say, he
     found no one inclined to follow this good advice, and _he_
     accordingly thought fit to withdraw. There is, as perhaps
     you know, a law against keeping powder in the college
     buildings. The effect of Tutor B.'s intrusion was evident
     on the next Monday night, when H. W. and B. were invited
     to call and see President Quincy; and owing to the tough
     reasoning of Tutor B., who boldly asserted that 'powder was
     powder,' they were each presented with a public admonition.

     "We had a miniature volcano at Webster's lecture, the other
     morning [this was Professor Webster, afterwards hanged
     for the murder of Dr. Parkman], and the odors therefrom
     surpassed all ever produced by Araby the Blest. Imagine to
     yourself all the windows and shutters of the lecture-room
     closed, and then conceive the delightful scent produced by
     the burning of nearly a bushel of sulphur, phosphoretted
     hydrogen, and other still more pleasant ingredients. As
     soon as the burning commenced, there was a general rush
     to the door, and a crowd collected there, running out
     every half minute to get a breath of fresh air, and then
     coming in to see the volcano. 'No noise nor nothing.'
     Bigelow and Dr. Bacon manufactured some 'laughing gas,' and
     administered it on the Delta. It was much better than that
     made by Webster. Jack Weiss took some, as usual; Wheeler,
     Jo Allen, and Hildreth each received a dose. Wheeler
     proceeded to dance for the amusement of the company, Jo
     jumped over the Delta fence, and Sam raved about Milton,
     Shakespeare, Byron, etc. He took two doses; it produced a
     great effect on him. He seemed to be as happy as a mortal
     could desire; talked with Shakespeare, Milton, etc., and
     seemed to be quite at home with them."

The persons named were classmates of Thoreau: one of them afterward
Rev. John Weiss; Wheeler was of Lincoln, and died early in Germany,
whither he went to study; Samuel Tenney Hildreth was a brother of
Richard Hildreth, the historian, and also died young. The zest with
which his classmate related these pranks to Thoreau seems to imply in
his correspondent a mind too ready towards such things to please the
learned faculty of Cambridge.

Mr. Quincy's letter was in reply to one which Mr. Emerson had written
at the request of Mrs. Thoreau, who feared her son was not receiving
justice from the college authorities. Thoreau graduated without much
distinction, but with a good name among his classmates, and a high
reputation for general scholarship. When he went to Maine, in May,
1838, to see if there was not some school for him to teach there, he
took with him this certificate from his pastor, Dr. Ripley:--

            "CONCORD, _May 1, 1838_.

     "TO THE FRIENDS OF EDUCATION,--The undersigned very
     cheerfully hereby introduces to public notice the
     bearer, Mr. David Henry Thoreau, as a teacher in the
     higher branches of useful literature. He is a native of
     this town, and a graduate of Harvard University. He is
     well disposed and well qualified to instruct the rising
     generation. His scholarship and moral character will bear
     the strictest scrutiny. He is modest and mild in his
     disposition and government, but not wanting in energy of
     character and fidelity in the duties of his profession.
     It is presumed his character and usefulness will be
     appreciated more highly as an acquaintance with him shall
     be cultivated. Cordial wishes for his success, reputation,
     and usefulness attend him, as an instructor and gentleman.

                  "EZRA RIPLEY,

            "_Senior Pastor of the First
                Church in Concord, Mass._

     "N. B.--_It is but justice to observe here that the
     eyesight of the writer is much impaired._"

Accompanying this artless document is a list of clergymen in the towns
of Maine,--Portland, Belfast, Camden, Kennebunk, Castine, Ellsworth,
etc.,--in the handwriting of the good old pastor, signifying that as
young Thoreau traveled he should report himself to these brethren,
who might forward his wishes. But even at that early date, I suspect
that Thoreau undervalued the "D. D.'s" in comparison with the
"chickadedees," as he plainly declared in his later years. Another
certificate, in a firmer hand, and showing no token of impaired
eyesight, was also carried by Thoreau in this first visit to Maine. It
was this:--

     "I cordially recommend Mr. Henry D. Thoreau, a graduate
     of Harvard University in August, 1837, to the confidence
     of such parents or guardians as may propose to employ him
     as an instructor. I have the highest confidence in Mr.
     Thoreau's moral character, and in his intellectual ability.
     He is an excellent scholar, a man of energy and kindness,
     and I shall esteem the town fortunate that secures his

                  "R. WALDO EMERSON.

     "CONCORD, _May 2, 1838_."

The acquaintance of Mr. Emerson with his young townsman had begun
perhaps a year before this date, and had advanced very fast toward
intimacy. It originated in this way: A lady connected with Mr.
Emerson's family was visiting at Mrs. Thoreau's while Henry was in
college, and the conversation turned on a lecture lately read in
Concord by Mr. Emerson. Miss Helen Thoreau surprised the visitor by
saying, "My brother Henry has a passage in his diary containing the
same things that Mr. Emerson has said." This remark being questioned,
the diary was produced, and, sure enough, the thought of the two
passages was found to be very similar. The incident being reported to
Mr. Emerson, he desired the lady to bring Henry Thoreau to see him,
which was soon done, and the intimacy began. It was to this same lady
(Mrs. Brown, of Plymouth) that Thoreau addressed one of his earliest
poems,--the verses called "Sic Vita," in the "Week on the Concord and
Merrimac," commencing:--

    "I am a parcel of vain strivings, tied
    By a chance bond together."

These verses were written on a strip of paper inclosing a bunch of
violets, gathered in May, 1837, and thrown in at Mrs. Brown's window
by the poet-naturalist. They show that he had read George Herbert
carefully, at a time when few persons did so, and in other ways they
are characteristic of the writer, who was then not quite twenty years

It may be interesting to see what old Quincy himself said, in a
certificate, about his stubbornly independent pupil. For the same
Maine journey Cambridge furnished the Concord scholar with this

                   _March 26, 1838_.

     "TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN,--I certify that Henry D. Thoreau,
     of Concord, in this State of Massachusetts, graduated at
     this seminary in August, 1837; that his rank was high as
     a scholar in all the branches, and his morals and general
     conduct unexceptionable and exemplary. He is recommended
     as well qualified as an instructor, for employment in any
     public or private school or private family.

                  "JOSIAH QUINCY,

            "_President of Harvard University_."

It seems that there was question, at this time, of a school in
Alexandria, near Washington (perhaps the Theological Seminary for
Episcopalians there), in which young Thoreau might find a place; for
on the 12th of April, 1838, President Quincy wrote to him as follows:--

     "SIR,--The school is at Alexandria; the students are said
     to be young men well advanced in ye knowledge of ye Latin
     and Greek classics; the requisitions are, qualification
     and _a person who has had experience in school keeping_.
     Salary $600 a year, besides washing and Board; duties to
     be entered on ye 5th or 6th of May. If you choose to apply,
     I will write as soon as I am informed of it. State to me
     your experience in school keeping. Yours,

                  "JOSIAH QUINCY."

We now know that Thoreau offered himself for the place; and we know
that his journey to Maine was fruitless. He did, in fact, teach the
town grammar school in Concord for a few weeks in 1837, and in July,
1838, was teaching, at the Parkman house, in Concord. He had already,
as we have seen, though not yet twenty-one, appeared as a lecturer
before the Concord Lyceum. It is therefore time to consider him as a
citizen of Concord, and to exhibit further the character of that town.

       *       *       *       *       *

     _Note._--The Tutor mentioned on page 55 was Francis
     Bowen, afterward professor at Harvard; the other "B." was
     H. J. Bigelow, afterward a noted surgeon in Boston.



The Thoreau family was but newly planted in Concord, to which it
was alien both by the father's and the mother's side. But this wise
town adopts readily the children of other communities that claim its
privileges,--and to Henry Thoreau these came by birth. Of all the men
of letters that have given Concord a name throughout the world, he is
almost the only one who was born there. Emerson was born in Boston,
Alcott in Connecticut, Hawthorne in Salem, Channing in Boston, Louisa
Alcott in Germantown, and others elsewhere; but Thoreau was native
to the soil. And since his genius has been shaped and guided by the
personal traits of those among whom he lived, as well as by the hand
of God and by the intuitive impulses of his own spirit, it is proper
to see what the men of Concord have really been. It is from them we
must judge the character of the town and its civilization, not from
those exceptional, imported persons--cultivated men and women,--who
may be regarded as at the head of society, and yet may have no
representative quality at all. It is not by the few that a New England
town is to be judged, but by the many. Yet there were a Few and a Many
in Concord, between whom certain distinctions could be drawn, in the
face of that general equality which the institutions of New England
compel. Life in our new country had not yet been reduced to the ranks
of modern civilization--so orderly outward, so full of mutiny within.

It is mentioned by Tacitus, in his life of Agricola, that this noble
Roman lived as a child in Marseilles; "a place," he adds, "of Grecian
culture and provincial frugality, mingled and well blended." I have
thought this felicitous phrase of Tacitus most apposite for Concord
as I have known it since 1854, and as Thoreau must have found it from
1830 onward. Its people lived then and since with little display,
while learning was held in high regard; and the "plain living and high
thinking," which Wordsworth declared were gone from England, have
never been absent from this New England town. It has always been a
town of much social equality, and yet of great social and spiritual
contrasts. Most of its inhabitants have lived in a plain way for the
two centuries and a half that it has been inhabited; but at all times
some of them have had important connections with the great world of
politics, affairs, and literature. Rev. Peter Bulkeley, the founder
and first minister of the town, was a near kinsman of Oliver St. John,
Cromwell's solicitor-general, of the same noble English family that,
a generation or two later, produced Henry St. John, Lord Bolingbroke,
the brilliant, unscrupulous friend of Pope and Swift. Another of the
Concord ministers, Rev. John Whiting, was descended, through his
grandmother, Elizabeth St. John, wife of Rev. Samuel Whiting, of
Lynn, from this same old English family, which, in its long pedigree,
counted for ancestors the Norman Conqueror of England and some of his
turbulent posterity. He was, says the epitaph over him in the village
burying-ground, "a gentleman of singular hospitality and generosity,
who never detracted from the character of any man, and was a universal
lover of mankind." In this character some representative gentleman of
Concord has stood in every generation since the first settlement of
the little town.

The Munroes of Lexington and Concord are descended from a Scotch
soldier of Charles II.'s army, captured by Cromwell at the battle
of Worcester in 1651, and allowed to go into exile in America.
His powerful kinsman, General George Munro, who commanded for
Charles at the battle of Worcester, was, at the Restoration, made
commander-in-chief for Scotland.

Robert Cumming, father of Dr. John Cumming, a celebrated Concord
physician, was one of the followers of the first Pretender in 1715,
and when the Scotch rebellion of that year failed, Cumming, with some
of his friends, fled to New England, and settled in Concord and the
neighboring town of Stow.

Duncan Ingraham, a retired sea-captain, who had enriched himself
in the Surinam trade, long lived in Concord, before and after the
Revolution, and one of his grandchildren was Captain Marryatt, the
English novelist; another was the American naval captain, Ingraham,
who brought away Martin Kosta, a Hungarian refugee, from the clutches
of the Austrian government. While Duncan Ingraham was living in
Concord, a hundred years ago, a lad from that town, Joseph Perry,
who had gone to sea with Paul Jones, became a high naval officer in
the service of Catharine of Russia, and wrote to Dr. Ripley from the
Crimea in 1786 to inquire what had become of his parents in Concord,
whom he had not seen or heard from for many years. The stepson
of Duncan Ingraham, Tilly Merrick, of Concord, who graduated at
Cambridge in 1773, made the acquaintance of Sir Archibald Campbell,
when captured in Boston Harbor, that Scotch officer having visited
at the house of Mrs. Ingraham, Merrick's mother, while a prisoner in
Concord Jail. A few years later Merrick was himself captured twice on
his way to and from Holland and France, whither he went as secretary
or attaché to our commissioner, John Adams. The first time he was
taken to London; the second time to Halifax, where, as it happened,
Sir Archibald was then in command as Governor of Nova Scotia. Young
Merrick went presently to the governor's quarters, but was refused
admission by the sentinel,--while parleying with whom, Sir Archibald
heard the conversation, and came forward. He at once recognized his
Concord friend, greeted him cordially with "How do you do, my little
rebel?" and after taking good care of him, in remembrance of his
own experience in Concord, procured Merrick's exchange for one of
Burgoyne's officers, captured at Saratoga. Returning to America after
the war, Tilly Merrick went into an extensive business at Charleston,
S. C., with the son of Duncan Ingraham for a partner, and there became
the owner of large plantations, worked by slaves, which he afterwards
lost through reverses in business. Coming back to Concord in 1798,
with the remnants of his South Carolina fortune, and inheriting his
mother's Concord estate, he married a lady of the Minott family, and
became a country store-keeper in his native town. His daughter, Mrs.
Brooks, was for many years the leader of the antislavery party in
Concord, and a close friend of the Thoreaus, who at one time lived
next door to her hospitable house.

Soon after Mr. Emerson fixed his home in Concord, in 1834, a new bond
of connection between the town and the great world outside this happy
valley began to appear,--the genius of that man whose like has not
been seen in America, nor in the whole world in our century:--

    "A large and generous man, who, on our moors,
    Built up his thought (though with an Indian tongue,
    And fittest to have sung at Persian feasts),
    Yet dwelt among us as the sage he was,--
    Sage of his days,--patient and proudly true;
    Whose word was worth the world, whose heart was pure.
    Oh, such a heart was his! no gate or bar;
    The poorest wretch that ever passed his door
    Welcome as highest king or fairest friend."

This genius, in one point of view so solitary, but in another so
universal and social, soon made itself felt as an attractive force,
and Concord became a place of pilgrimage, as it has remained for
so many years since. When Theodore Parker left Divinity Hall, at
Cambridge, in 1836, and began to preach in Unitarian pulpits, he fixed
his hopes on Concord as a parish, chiefly because Emerson was living
there. It is said that he might have been called as a colleague for
Dr. Ripley, if it had not been thought his sermons were too learned
for the Christians of the Nine-Acre Corner and other outlying hamlets
of the town. In 1835-36 Mr. Alcott began to visit Mr. Emerson in
Concord, and in 1840 he went there to live. Margaret Fuller and
Elizabeth Peabody, coadjutors of Mr. Alcott in his Boston school,
had already found their way to Concord, where Margaret at intervals
resided, or came and went in her sibylline way. Ellery Channing, one
of the nephews of Dr. Channing, the divine, took his bride, a sister
of Margaret Fuller, to Concord in 1843; and Hawthorne removed thither,
upon his marriage with Miss Peabody's sister Sophia, in 1842. After
noticing what went on about him for a few years, in his seclusion at
the Old Manse, Hawthorne thus described the attraction of Concord, in

     "It was necessary to go but a little way beyond my
     threshold before meeting with stranger moral shapes of men
     than might have been encountered elsewhere in a circuit
     of a thousand miles. These hobgoblins of flesh and blood
     were attracted thither by the wide-spreading influence
     of a great original thinker, who had his earthly abode
     at the opposite extremity of our village. His mind acted
     upon other minds of a certain constitution with wonderful
     magnetism, and drew many men upon long pilgrimages to
     speak with him face to face. Young visionaries, to whom
     just so much of insight had been imparted as to make life
     all a labyrinth around them, came to seek the clew that
     should guide them out of their self-involved bewilderment.
     Gray-headed theorists, whose systems, at first air, had
     finally imprisoned them in an iron framework, traveled
     painfully to his door, not to ask deliverance, but to
     invite the free spirit into their own thralldom. People
     that had lighted on a new thought, or a thought that they
     fancied new, came to Emerson, as the finder of a glittering
     gem hastens to a lapidary to ascertain its quality and

The picture here painted still continued to be true until long after
the death of Thoreau; and the attraction was increased at times by the
presence in the village of Hawthorne himself, of Alcott, and of others
who made Concord their home or their haunt. Thoreau also was resorted
to by pilgrims, who came sometimes from long distances and at long
intervals, to see and talk with him.

There was in the village, too, a consular man, for many years the
first citizen of Concord,--Samuel Hoar,--who made himself known abroad
by sheer force of character and "plain heroic magnitude of mind." It
was of him that Emerson said, at his death in November, 1856,--

     "He was a man in whom so rare a spirit of justice visibly
     dwelt that if one had met him in a cabin or in a forest
     he must still seem a public man, answering as sovereign
     state to sovereign state; and might easily suggest Milton's
     picture of John Bradshaw, that he 'was a consul from whom
     the fasces did not depart with the year, but in private
     seemed ever sitting in judgment on kings.' He returned from
     courts or congresses to sit down with unaltered humility,
     in the church or in the town-house, on the plain wooden
     bench, where Honor came and sat down beside him."

In his house and in a few others along the elm-planted street, you
might meet at any time other persons of distinction, beauty, or
wit,--such as now and then glance through the shining halls of cities,
and, in great centres of the world's civilization, like London or
Paris, muster

    "In solemn troops and sweet societies,"

which are the ideal of poets and fair women, and the envy of all who
aspire to social eminence. Thoreau knew the worth of this luxury, too,
though, as a friend said of him, "a story from a fisher or hunter was
better to him than an evening of triviality in shining parlors, where
he was misunderstood."

There were not many such parlors in Concord, but there was and had
constantly been in the town a learned and social element, such as
gathers in an old New England village of some wealth and inherited
culture. At the head of this circle--which fell off on one side
into something like fashion and mere amusement, on another into the
activity of trade or politics, and rose, among the women especially,
into art and literature and religion--stood, in Thoreau's boyhood and
youth, a grave figure, yet with something droll about him,--the parish
minister and county Nestor, Dr. Ezra Ripley, who lived and died in the
"Old Manse."

Dr. Ripley was born in 1751, in Woodstock, Conn., the same town in
which Dr. Abiel Holmes, the father of the poet Holmes, was born. He
entered Harvard College in 1772, came with the students to Concord
in 1775, when the college buildings at Cambridge were occupied by
Washington and his army, besieging Boston, and graduated in 1776.
Among his classmates were Governor Gore, Samuel Sewall, the second
chief-justice of Massachusetts of that name, and Royal Tyler, the
witty chief-justice of Vermont. Governor Gore used to say that in
college he was called "Holy Ripley," from his devout character. He
settled in Concord in 1778, and at the age of twenty-nine married the
widow of his last predecessor, Rev. William Emerson (and the daughter
of his next predecessor, Rev. Daniel Bliss), who was at their marriage
ten years older than her husband, and had a family of five children.
Dr. Ripley's own children were three in number: the Reverend Samuel
Ripley, born May 11, 1783; Daniel Bliss Ripley, born August 1, 1784;
and Miss Sarah Ripley, born August 8, 1789. When this daughter died,
not long after her mother, in 1826, breaking, says Mr. Emerson, "the
last tie of blood which bound me and my brothers to his house," Dr.
Ripley said to Mr. Emerson, "I wish you and your brothers to come to
this house as you have always done. You will not like to be excluded;
I shall not like to be neglected." He died himself in September, 1841.

Of Dr. Ripley countless anecdotes are told in his parish, and he was
the best remembered person, except Thoreau himself, who had died in
Concord, till Emerson; just as his house, described so finely by
Hawthorne in his "Mosses," is still the best known house in Concord.
It was for a time the home of Mr. Emerson, and there, it is said, he
wrote his first book, "Nature," concerning which, when it came out
anonymously, the question was asked, "Who is the author of 'Nature'?"
The reply was, of course, "God and Ralph Waldo Emerson." The Old Manse
was built about 1766 for Mr. Emerson's grandfather, then minister
of the parish, and into it he brought his bride, Miss Phebe Bliss
(daughter of Rev. Daniel Bliss, of Concord, and Phebe Walker, of
Connecticut). Miss Mary Emerson, youngest child of this marriage, used
to say "she was in arms at the battle of Concord," because her mother
held her up, then two years old, to see the soldiers from her window;
and from his study window her father saw the fight at the bridge. It
was the scene of many of the anecdotes, told of Dr. Ripley, some of
which, gathered from various sources, may here be given; it was also,
after his death, one of the resorts of Thoreau, of Margaret Fuller,
of Ellery Channing, of Dr. Hedge, and of the Transcendentalists in
general. His parishioners to this day associate Dr. Ripley's form
"with whatever was grave and droll in the old, cold, unpainted,
uncarpeted, square-pewed meeting-house, with its four iron-gray
deacons in their little box under the pulpit; with Watts's hymns;
with long prayers, rich with the diction of ages; and, not less, with
the report like musketry from the movable seats."[1] One of these
"iron-gray deacons," Francis Jarvis, used to visit the Old Manse with
his children on Sunday evenings, and his son, Dr. Edward Jarvis, thus
describes another side of Dr. Ripley's pastoral character:--

     "Among the very pleasant things connected with the Sabbaths
     in the Jarvis family were the visits to Dr. Ripley in the
     evening. The doctor had usually a small levee of such
     friends as were disposed to call. Deacon Jarvis was fond
     of going there, and generally took with him one of the
     children and his wife, when she was able. There were at
     these levees many of the most intelligent and agreeable men
     of the town,--Mr. Samuel Hoar, Mr. Nathan Brooks, Mr. John
     Keyes, Deacon Brown, Mr. Pritchard, Major Burr, etc. These
     were extremely pleasant gatherings. The little boys sat
     and listened, and remembered the cheerful and instructive
     conversation. There were discussions of religion and
     morals, of politics and philosophy, the affairs of the
     town, the news of the day, the religious and social gossip,
     pleasant anecdotes and witty tales. All were in their best
     humor. Deacon Jarvis [adds his son], did not go to these
     levees every Sunday night, though he would have been glad
     to do so, had he been less distrustful. When his children,
     who had no such scruples, asked him to go and take them
     with him, he said he feared that Dr. Ripley would not like
     to see him so frequently."

According to Mr. Emerson, Dr. Ripley was "a natural gentleman; no
dandy, but courtly, hospitable, and public spirited; his house open
to all men." An old farmer who used to travel thitherward from Maine,
where Dr. Ripley had a brother settled in the ministry, used to say
that "no horse from the Eastern country would go by the doctor's
gate." It was one of the listeners at his Sunday evening levees, no
doubt, who said (at the time when Dr. Ripley was preparing for his
first and last journey to Baltimore and Washington, in the presidency
of the younger Adams) "that a man who could tell a story so well was
company for kings and for John Quincy Adams."

When P. M., after his release from the State Prison, had the
effrontery to call on Dr. Ripley, as an old acquaintance, as they
were talking together on general matters, his young colleague, Rev.
Mr. Frost, came in. The doctor presently said, "Mr. M., my brother
and colleague, Mr. Frost, has come to take tea with me. I regret very
much the causes (very well known to you), which make it impossible
for me to ask you to stay and break bread with us." Mr. Emerson, his
grandson (by Dr. Ripley's marriage with the widow of Rev. William
Emerson) relates that he once went to a funeral with Dr. Ripley, and
heard him address the mourners. As they approached the farm-house the
old minister said that the eldest son, who was now to succeed the
deceased father of a family in his place as a Concord yeoman, was in
some danger of becoming intemperate. In his remarks to this son, he
presently said,--

     "Sir, I condole with you. I knew your great-grandfather;
     when I came to this town, in 1778, he was a substantial
     farmer in this very place, a member of the church, and an
     excellent citizen. Your grandfather followed him, and was
     a virtuous man. Now your father is to be carried to his
     grave, full of labors and virtues. There is none of that
     old family left but you, and it rests with you to bear up
     the good name and usefulness of your ancestors. If _you_
     fail--Ichabod!--the glory is departed. Let us pray."

He took Mr. Emerson about with him in his chaise when a boy, and in
passing each house he would tell the story of its family, dwelling
especially on the nine church-members who had made a division in the
church in the time of his predecessor; every one of the nine having
come to bad fortune or a bad end. "The late Dr. Gardiner," says Mr.
Emerson, "in a funeral sermon on some parishioner, whose virtues did
not readily come to mind, honestly said, 'He was good at fires.' Dr.
Ripley had many virtues, and yet, even in his old age, if the firebell
was rung, he was instantly on horseback, with his buckets and bag." He
had even some willingness, perhaps not equal to the zeal of the Hindoo
saint, to extinguish the Orthodox fires of hell, which had long blazed
in New England,--so that men might worship God with less fear. But
he had small sympathy with the Transcendentalists when they began to
appear in Concord. When Mr. Emerson took his friend Mr. Alcott to see
the old doctor, he gave him warning that his brilliant young kinsman
was not quite sound in the faith, and bore testimony in particular
against a sect of his own naming, called "Egomites" (from _ego_ and
_mitto_), who "sent themselves" on the Lord's errands without any due
call thereto. Dr. Channing viewed the "apostles of the newness" with
more favor, and could pardon something to the spirit of liberty which
was strong in them. The occasional correspondence between the Concord
shepherd of his people and the great Unitarian preacher is full of
interest. In February, 1839, when he was eighty-eight years old and
weighed down with infirmities, he could still lift up his voice in
testimony. He then wrote to Dr. Channing:--

     "Broken down with the infirmities of age, and subject to
     fits that deprive me of reason and the use of my limbs, I
     feel it a duty to be patient and submissive to the will of
     God, who is too wise to err, and too good to injure. My
     mind labors and is oppressed, viewing the present state
     of Christianity, and the various speculations, opinions,
     and practices of the passing period. Extremes appear to be
     sought and loved, and their novelty gains attention. You,
     sir, appear to retain and act upon the sentiment of the
     Latin phrase,--

         "'Est modus in rebus, sunt certi denique fines.'

     "The learned and estimable Norton appears to me to have
     weakened his hold on public opinion and confidence by his
     petulance or pride, his want of candor and charity."

Six years earlier, Dr. Channing had written to Dr. Ripley almost as if
replying to some compliment like this, and expressed himself thus, in
a letter dated January 22, 1833,--

     "I thank God for the testimony which you have borne to
     the usefulness of my writings. Such approbation from one
     whom I so much venerate, and who understands so well the
     wants and signs of the times, is very encouraging to me.
     If I have done anything towards manifesting Christianity
     in its simple majesty and mild glory I rejoice, and I am
     happy to have contributed anything towards the satisfaction
     of your last years. It would gratify many, and would do
     good, if, in the quiet of your advanced age, you would look
     back on the eventful period through which you have passed,
     and would leave behind you, or give now, a record of the
     changes you have witnessed, and especially of the progress
     of liberal inquiry and rational views in religion."[2]

Dr. Ripley's prayers were precise and undoubting in their appeal for
present providences. He prayed for rain and against the lightning,
"that it may not lick up our spirits;" he blessed the Lord for
exemption from sickness and insanity,--"that we have not been tossed
to and fro until the dawning of the day, that we have not been a
terror to ourselves and to others." One memorable occasion, in the
later years of his pastorate, when he had consented to take a young
colleague, is often remembered in his parish, now fifty years after
its date. The town was suffering from drought, and the farmers from
Barrett's Mill, Bateman's Pond, and the Nine-Acre Corner had asked
the minister to pray for rain. Mr. Goodwin (the father of Professor
Goodwin, of Harvard University) had omitted to do this in his morning
service, and at the noon intermission Dr. Ripley was reminded of the
emergency by the afflicted farmers. He told them courteously that Mr.
Goodwin's garden lay on the river, and perhaps he had not noticed how
parched the uplands were; but he entered the pulpit that afternoon
with an air of resolution and command. Mr. Goodwin, as usual, offered
to relieve the doctor of the duty of leading in prayer, but the old
shepherd, as Mr. Emerson says, "rejected his offer with some humor,
and with an air that said to all the congregation, 'This is no time
for you young Cambridge men; the affair, sir, is getting serious; I
will pray myself.'" He did so, and with unusual fervor demanded rain
for the languishing corn and the dry grass of the field. As the story
goes, the afternoon opened fair and hot, but before the dwellers in
Nine-Acre Corner and the North Quarter reached their homes a pouring
shower rewarded the gray-haired suppliant, and reminded Concord that
the righteous are not forsaken. Another of Mr. Emerson's anecdotes
bears on this point:--

     "One August afternoon, when I was in his hayfield, helping
     him, with his man, to rake up his hay, I well remember his
     pleading, almost reproachful looks at the sky, when the
     thunder-gust was coming up to spoil his hay. He raked very
     fast, then looked at the cloud, and said, 'We are in the
     Lord's hand,--mind your rake, George! we are in the Lord's
     hand;' and seemed to say, 'You know me; this field is
     mine,--Dr. Ripley's, thine own servant.'"

In his later years Dr. Ripley was much distressed by a schism in his
church, which drew off to a Trinitarian congregation several of his
oldest friends and parishioners. Among the younger members who thus
seceded, seventy years ago, were the maiden aunts of Thoreau, Jane and
Maria,--the last of whom, and the last of the name in America, has
died recently, as already mentioned. Thoreau seceded later, but not
to the "Orthodox" church,--as much against the wish of Dr. Ripley,
however, as if he had. In later years, Thoreau's church (of the
Sunday Walkers) was recognized in the village gossip; so that when I
first spent Sunday in Concord, and asked my landlord what churches
there were, he replied, "The Unitarian, the Orthodox, and the Walden
Pond Association." To the latter he professed to belong, and said
its services consisted in walking on Sunday in the Walden woods. Dr.
Ripley would have viewed such rites with horror, but they have now
become common. His Old Manse, which from 1842 to 1846 was occupied
by Hawthorne, was for twenty years (1847-1867) the home of Mrs.
Sarah Ripley, that sweet and learned lady, and has since been the
dwelling-place of her children, the grandchildren of Dr. Ripley. Near
by stands now the statue of the Concord Minute-Man of 1775, marking
the spot to which the Middlesex farmers came

    "In sloven dress and broken rank,"

and where they stood when in unconscious heroism they

    "Fired the shot heard round the world,"

and drove back the invading visitor from their doorsteps and

Dr. Ripley, however, seldom repelled a visitor or an invader, unless
he came from too recent an experience in the state prison, or offered
to "break out" his path on a Sunday, when he had fancied himself
too much snow-bound to go forth to his pulpit. The anecdote is
characteristic, if not wholly authentic. One Sunday, after a severe
snow-storm, his neighbor, the great farmer on Ponkawtassett Hill, half
a mile to the northward of the Old Manse, turned out his ox-teams and
all his men and neighbors to break a path to the meeting-house and
the tavern. Wallowing through the drifts, they had got as far as Dr.
Ripley's gate, while the good parson, snugly blocked in by a drift
completely filling his avenue of ash-trees, thought of nothing less
than of going out to preach that day. The long team of oxen, with much
shouting and stammering from the red-faced farmer, was turned out of
the road and headed up the avenue, when Dr. Ripley, coming to his
parsonage door, and commanding silence, began to berate Captain B.
for breaking the Sabbath and the roads at one stroke,--implying, if
not asserting, that he did it to save time and oxen for his Monday's
work. Angered at the ingratitude of his minister, the stammering
farmer turned the ten yoke of cattle round in the doctor's garden, and
drove on to the village, leaving the parson to shovel himself out and
get to meeting the best way he could. Meanwhile, the teamsters sat in
the warm bar-room at the tavern, and cheered themselves with punch,
flip, grog, and toddy, instead of going to hear Dr. Ripley hold forth;
and when he had returned to his parsonage they paraded their oxen
and sleds back again, past his gate, with much more shouting than at
first. This led to a long quarrel between minister and parishioner,
in course of which, one day, as the doctor halted his chaise in
front of the farmer's house on the hill, the stammering captain came
forward, a peck measure in his hand, with which he had been giving his
oxen their meal, and began to renew the unutterable grievance. Waxing
warm, as the doctor admonished him afresh, he smote with his wooden
measure on the shafts of the chaise, until his gentle wife, rushing
forth, called on the neighbors to stop the fight which she fancied was
going on between the charioteer of the Lord and the foot-soldier.

Despite these outbursts, and his habitual way of looking at all things
"from the parochial point of view," as Emerson said of him, he was
also a courteous and liberal-minded man, as the best anecdotes of
him constantly prove. He was the sovereign of his people, managing
the church, the schools, the society meetings, and, for a time,
the Lyceum, as he thought fit. The lecturers, as well as the young
candidates for school-keeping--Theodore Parker, Edward Everett, and
the rest--addressed themselves to him, and when he met Webster, then
the great man of Massachusetts, it was on equal terms.

Daniel Webster was never a lyceum lecturer in Concord, and he did not
often try cases there, but was sometimes consulted in causes of some
pecuniary magnitude. When Humphrey Barrett died (whose management of
his nephew's estate will be mentioned in the next chapter), his heir
by will (a young man without property, until he should inherit the
large estate bequeathed him), found it necessary to employ counsel
against the heirs-at-law, who sought to break the will. His attorney
went to Mr. Webster in Boston and related the facts, adding that his
client could not then pay a large fee, but might, if the cause were
gained, as Mr. Webster thought it would be. "You may give me one
hundred dollars as a retainer," said Webster, "and tell the young man,
from me, that when I win his case I shall send him a bill that will
make his hair stand on end." It so happened, however, that Webster was
sent to the Senate, and the case was won by his partner.

In the summer of 1843, while Thoreau was living at Staten Island,
Webster visited Concord to try an important case in the county court,
which then held sessions there. This was the "Wyman Trial," long
famous in local traditions, Webster and Choate being both engaged in
the case, and along with them Mr. Franklin Dexter and Mr. Rockwood
Hoar, the latter a young lawyer, who had been practicing in the
Middlesex courts for a few years, where his father, Mr. Samuel Hoar,
was the leader of the bar. Judge Allen (Charles Allen of Worcester)
held the court, and the eminent array of counsel just named was for
the defense.

The occasion was a brilliant one, and made a great and lasting
sensation in the village. Mr. Webster and his friends were entertained
at the houses of the chief men of Concord, and the villagers crowded
the court-house to hear the arguments and the colloquies between the
counsel and the court. Webster was suffering from his usual summer
annoyance, the "hay catarrh," or "rose cold," which he humorously
described afterward in a letter to a friend in Concord:--

     "You know enough of my miserable catarrh. Its history,
     since I left your hospitable roof, is not worth noting.
     There would be nothing found in it, either of the sublime
     or the beautiful; nothing fit for elegant description or a
     touch of sentiment. Not that it has not been a great thing
     in its way; for I think the _sneezing_ it has occasioned
     has been truly transcendental. A fellow-sufferer from the
     same affliction, who lived in Cohasset, was asked, the
     other day, what in the world he took for it? His reply
     was that he 'took eight handkerchiefs a day.' And this,
     I believe, is the approved mode of treatment; though the
     _doses_ here mentioned are too few for severe cases.
     Suffice it to say, my dear lady, that either from a change
     of air, or the progress of the season, or, what is more
     probable, from the natural progress of the disease itself,
     I am much better than when I left Concord, and I propose to
     return to Boston to-day, feeling, or hoping, that I may now
     be struck off the list of invalids."

Notwithstanding this affliction, Mr. Webster made himself agreeable
to the ladies of Concord, old and young, and even the little girls,
like Louisa Alcott, went to the courthouse to see and hear him. He
was present at a large tea-party given by Mrs. R. W. Emerson in
his honor, and he renewed his old acquaintance with the Dunbars and
Thoreaus. Mr. Emerson, writing to Thoreau September 8, 1843, said,
briefly, "You will have heard of our 'Wyman Trial,' and the stir it
made in the village. But the Cliff and Walden, which know something of
the railroad, knew nothing of that; not a leaf nodded; not a pebble
fell;--why should I speak of it to you?" Thoreau was indeed interested
in it, and in the striking personality of Webster. To his mother he
wrote from Staten Island (August 29, 1843):--

     "I should have liked to see Daniel Webster walking about
     Concord; I suppose the town shook, every step he took.
     But I trust there were some sturdy Concordians who were
     not tumbled down by the jar, but represented still the
     upright town. Where was George Minott? he would not have
     gone far to see him. Uncle Charles should have been
     there;--he might as well have been catching cat-naps in
     Concord as anywhere. And, then, what a whetter-up of his
     memory this event would have been! You'd have had all the
     classmates again in alphabetical order reversed,--'and
     Seth Hunt and Bob Smith--and he was a student of my
     father's--and where's Put now? and I wonder--you--if
     Henry's been to see George Jones yet? A little account
     with Stow--Balcolm--Bigelow--poor, miserable t-o-a-d
     (sound asleep). I vow--you--what noise was that? saving
     grace--and few there be. That's clear as preaching--Easter
     Brooks--morally depraved--how charming is divine
     philosophy--somewise and some otherwise--Heighho! (Sound
     asleep again.) Webster's a smart fellow--bears his age
     well. How old should you think he was? you--does he look as
     if he were two years younger than I?'"

This uncle was Charles Dunbar, of course, who was in fact two years
older than Webster, and, like him, a New Hampshire man. He and his
sisters--the mother and the aunt of Henry Thoreau--had known Webster
in his youth, when he was a poor young lawyer in New Hampshire; and
the acquaintance was kept up from time to time as the years brought
them together. Whenever Webster passed a day in Concord, as he did
nearly every year from 1843 to 1850, he would either call on Miss
Dunbar, or she would meet him at tea in the house of Mr. Cheney,
a college classmate of Mr. Emerson, whom he usually visited; and
whose garden was a lovely plot, ornamented with great elm trees,
on the bank of the Musketaquid. Mrs. Thoreau was often included in
these friendly visits; and it was of this family, as well as of the
Emersons, Hoars, and Brookses, no doubt, that Webster was thinking
when he sadly wrote to Mrs. Cheney his last letter, less than a year
before his death in 1852. In this note, dated at Washington, November
1, 1851, when he was Secretary of State under Fillmore, Mr. Webster

     "I have very much wished to see you all, and in the
     early part of October seriously contemplated going to
     Concord for a day. But I was hindered by circumstances,
     and partly deterred also by changes which have taken
     place. My valued friend, Mr. Phinney (of Lexington), is
     not living; and many of those whom I so highly esteemed,
     in your beautiful and quiet village, have become a good
     deal estranged, to my great grief, by abolitionism,
     free-soilism, transcendentalism, and other notions, which I
     cannot (but) regard as so many vagaries of the imagination.
     These former warm friends would have no pleasure, of
     course, in intercourse with one of old-fashioned opinions.
     Nevertheless, dear Mrs. Cheney, if I live to see another
     summer, I will make a visit to your house, and talk about
     former times and former things."

He never came; for in June, 1852, the Whig convention at Baltimore
rejected his name as a Presidential candidate, and he went home to
Marshfield to die. The tone of sadness in this note was due, in part,
perhaps, to the eloquent denunciation of Webster by Mr. Emerson in
a speech at Cambridge in 1851, and to the unequivocal aversion with
which Webster's contemporary, the first citizen of Concord, Samuel
Hoar, spoke of his 7th of March speech, and the whole policy with
which Webster had identified himself in those dreary last years of his
life. Mr. Hoar had been sent by his State in 1846 to protest in South
Carolina against the unconstitutional imprisonment at Charleston of
colored seamen from Massachusetts; and he had been driven by force
from the State to which he went as an envoy. But, although Webster
knew the gross indignity of the act, and introduced into his written
speech in March, 1850, a denunciation of it, he did not speak this out
in the Senate, nor did it appear in all the authorized editions of
the speech. He could hardly expect Mr. Hoar to welcome him in Concord
after he had uttered his willingness to return fugitive slaves, but
forgot to claim reparation for so shameful an affront to Massachusetts
as the Concord Cato had endured.

Mr. Webster was attached to Concord--as most persons are who have ever
spent pleasant days there--and used to compliment his friend on his
house and garden by the river side. Looking out upon his great trees
from the dining-room window, he once said: "I am in the terrestrial
paradise, and I will prove it to you by this. America is the finest
continent on the globe, the United States the finest country in
America, Massachusetts the best State in the Union, Concord the best
town in Massachusetts, and my friend Cheney's field the best acre in
Concord." This was an opinion so like that often expressed by Henry
Thoreau, that one is struck by it. Indeed, the devotion of Thoreau
to his native town was so marked as to provoke opposition. "Henry
talks about Nature," said Madam Hoar (the mother of Senator Hoar, and
daughter of Roger Sherman of Connecticut), "just as if she'd been born
and brought up in Concord."



It was not the famous lawyers, the godly ministers, the wealthy
citizens, nor even the learned ladies of Concord, who interested Henry
Thoreau specially,--but the sturdy farmers, each on his hereditary
acres, battling with the elements and enjoying that open-air life
which to Thoreau was the only existence worth having. As his best
biographer, Ellery Channing, says: "He came to see the inside of every
farmer's house and head, his pot of beans, and mug of hard cider.
Never in too much hurry for a dish of gossip, he could sit out the
oldest frequenter of the bar-room, and was alive from top to toe with

Concord, in our day, and still more in Thoreau's childhood, was dotted
with frequent old farm-houses, of the ample and picturesque kind that
bespeaks antiquity and hospitality. In one such he was born, though
not one of the oldest or the best. He was present at the downfall of
several of these ancient homesteads, in whose date and in the fortunes
of their owners for successive generations, he took a deep interest;
and still more in their abandoned orchards and door-yards, where the
wild apple tree and the vivacious lilac still flourished.

To show what sort of men these Concord farmers were in the days
when their historical shot was fired, let me give some anecdotes
and particulars concerning two of the original family stocks,--the
Hosmers, who first settled in Concord in 1635, with Bulkeley and
Willard, the founders of the town; and the Barretts, whose first
ancestor, Humphrey Barrett, came over in 1639. James Hosmer, a
clothier from Hawkhurst in Kent, with his wife Ann (related to Major
Simon Willard, that stout Kentishman, Indian trader and Indian
fighter, who bought of the Squaw Sachem the township of Concord, six
miles square), two infant daughters, and two maid-servants, came
from London to Boston in the ship "Elizabeth," and the next year
built a house on Concord Street, and a mill on the town brook. From
him descended James Hosmer, who was killed at Sudbury in 1658, in
an Indian fight, Stephen, his great-grandson, a famous surveyor,
and Joseph, his great-great-grandson, one of the promoters of the
Revolution, who had a share in its first fight at Concord Bridge.
Joseph Hosmer was the son of a Concord farmer, who, in 1743, seceded
from the parish church, because Rev. Daniel Bliss, the pastor, had
said in a sermon (as his opponents averred), "that it was as great a
sin for a man to get an estate by honest labor, if he had not a single
aim at the glory of God, as to get it by gaming at cards or dice."
What this great-grandfather of Emerson did say, a century before the
Transcendental epoch, was this, as he declared: "If husbandmen plow
and sow that they may be rich, and live in the pleasures of this
world, and appear grand before men, they are as far from true religion
in their plowing, sowing, etc., as men are that game for the same
purpose." Thomas Hosmer, being a prosperous husbandman, perhaps with
a turn for display, took offense, and became a worshipper at what was
called the "Black Horse Church,"--a seceding conventicle which met at
the tavern with the sign of the Black Horse, near where the Concord
Library now stands. Joseph Hosmer, his boy, was known at the village
school as "the little black colt,"--a lad of adventurous spirit, with
dark eyes and light hair, whose mother, Prudence Hosmer, would repeat
old English poetry until all her listeners but her son were weary.
When he was thirty-nine years old, married and settled, a farmer and
cabinet-maker, there was a convention in the parish church to consider
the Boston Port Bill, the doings of General Gage in Boston, and the
advice of Samuel Adams and John Hancock to resist oppression. Daniel
Bliss, the leading lawyer and leading Tory in Concord, eldest son of
Parson Bliss, and son-in-law of Colonel Murray, of Rutland, Vt., the
chief Tory of that region, made a speech in this convention against
the patriotic party. He was a graceful and fluent speaker, a handsome
man, witty, sarcastic, and popular, but with much scorn for the
plain people. He painted in effective colors the power of the mother
country and the feebleness of the colonies; he was elegantly dressed,
friendly in his manner, but discouraging to the popular heart, and
when he sat down, a deep gloom seemed to settle on the assembly. His
brother-in-law, Parson Emerson, an ardent patriot, if present, was
silent. From a corner of the meeting-house there rose at last a man
with sparkling eyes, plainly dressed in butternut brown, who began
to speak in reply to the handsome young Tory, at first slowly and
with hesitation, but soon taking fire at his own thoughts, he spoke
fluently, in a strain of natural eloquence, which gained him the ear
and applause of the assembly. A delegate from Worcester, who sat near
Mr. Bliss, noticed that the Tory was discomposed, biting his lip,
frowning, and pounding with the heel of his silver-buckled shoe. "Who
is the speaker?" he asked of Bliss. "Hosmer, a Concord mechanic," was
the scornful reply. "Then how does he come by his English?" "Oh, he
has an old mother at home, who sits in her chimney-corner and reads
and repeats poetry all day long;" adding in a moment, "He is the most
dangerous rebel in Concord, for he has all the young men at his back,
and where he leads the way they will surely follow."

Four months later, in April, 1775, this Concord mechanic made good the
words of his Tory townsman, for it was his speech to the minute-men
which goaded them on to the fight. After forming the regiment as
adjutant, he addressed them, closing with these words: "I have often
heard it said that the British boasted they could march through our
country, laying waste every village and neighborhood, and that we
would not dare oppose them,--_and I begin to believe it is true_."
Then turning to Major Buttrick, who commanded, and looking off from
the hill-side to the village, from which a thick smoke was rising, he
cried, "Will you let them burn the town down?" whereupon the sturdy
major, who had no such intention, ordered his men to march; and when,
a few minutes later, the British fired on his column of companies,
the Acton men at the head, he sprang from the ground shouting, "Fire,
fellow-soldiers, for God's sake fire!" and discharged his own piece
at the same instant. The story has often been told, but will bear
repetition. Thoreau heard it in 1835 from the lips of Emerson, as he
pronounced the centennial discourse in honor of the town's settlement
and history; but he had read it and heard it a hundred times before,
from his earliest childhood. Mr. Emerson added, after describing the

     "These poor farmers who came up, that day, to defend their
     native soil, acted from the simplest instincts; they did
     not know it was a deed of fame they were doing. These men
     did not babble of glory; they never dreamed their children
     would contend which had done the most. They supposed they
     had a right to their corn and their cattle, without paying
     tribute to any but their own governors. And as they had
     no fear of man, they yet did have a fear of God. Captain
     Charles Miles, who was wounded in the pursuit of the enemy,
     told my venerable friend (Dr. Ripley), who sits by me,
     'that he went to the services of that day with the same
     seriousness and acknowledgment of God, which he carried to

Humphrey Barrett, fifth in descent from the original settler, was born
in 1752, on the farm his ancestors had owned ever since 1640, and was
no doubt in arms at Concord Fight in 1775. His biographer says:--

     "Some persons slightly acquainted with him in the latter
     part of his life, judged him to be unsocial, cold, and
     indifferent, but those most acquainted with him knew him to
     be precisely the reverse. The following acts of his life
     make apparent some traits of his character. A negro, by the
     name of Cæsar Robbins, had been in the habit of getting
     all the wood for his family use for many years from Mr.
     Barrett's wood-lot near by him; this being done with the
     knowledge and with the implied if not the express consent
     of the owner. Mr. Barrett usually got the wood for his own
     use from another part of his farm; but on one occasion
     he thought he would get it from the lot by Cæsar's. He
     accordingly sent two men with two teams, with directions to
     cut only hard wood. The men had been gone but a few hours
     when Cæsar came to Mr. Barrett's house, his face covered
     with sweat, and in great agitation, and says, 'Master
     Barrett, I have come to let you know that a parcel of men
     and teams have broke into our wood-lot, and are making
     terrible destruction of the very best trees, and unless we
     do something immediately I shall be ruined.' Mr. Barrett
     had no heart to resist this appeal of Cæsar's; he told him
     not to be alarmed, for he would see that he was not hurt,
     and would put the matter right. He then wrote an order to
     his men to cut no more wood, but to come directly home
     with their teams, and sent the order by Cæsar."[3]

The biographer of Mr. Barrett, who was also his attorney and legal
adviser, goes on to say:--

     "A favorite nephew who bore his name, and whose guardian he
     was, died under age in 1818, leaving a large estate, and
     no relatives nearer than uncle and aunt and the children
     of deceased aunts. Mr. Barrett believed that the estate in
     equity ought to be distributed equally between the uncle
     and aunt and the children of deceased aunts by right of
     representation.[4] And although advised that such was
     not the law, he still insisted upon having the question
     carried before the Supreme Court for decision; and when
     the court decided against his opinion, he carried out his
     own views of equity by distributing the portion that fell
     to him according to his opinion of what the law ought to
     be. After he had been fully advised that the estate would
     be distributed in a manner he thought neither equitable
     nor just, he applied to the writer to make out his account
     as guardian; furnishing the evidence, as he believed, of
     the original amount of all his receipts as such guardian.
     I made the account, charging him with interest at six per
     cent. on all sums from the time of receipt till the time
     of making the account. Mr. Barrett took the account for
     examination, and soon returned it with directions to charge
     him with compound interest, saying that he believed he had
     realized as much as that. I accordingly made the account
     conform to his directions. He then wished me to present
     this account to the party who claimed half the estate,
     and ask him to examine it with care and see if anything
     was omitted. This was done, and no material omission
     discovered, and no objection made. Mr. Barrett then said
     that he had always kept all the property of his ward in
     a drawer appropriated for the purpose; that he made the
     amount of property in the drawer greater than the balance
     of the account; and (handing to me the contents of the
     drawer) he wished me to ascertain the precise sum to
     which it amounted. I found that it exceeded the balance of
     the account by $3,221.59. He then told me, in substance,
     that he was quite unwilling to have so large an amount of
     property go where it was in danger of being distributed
     inequitably, and particularly as he was confident he had
     disclosed every source from which he had realized any
     property of his ward, and also the actual amount received;
     _but_, as he knew not how it got into the drawer, and had
     intended all the property there to go to his nephew, he
     should not feel right to retain it, and therefore directed
     me to add it to the amount of the estate,--which was

Conceive a community in which such characters were common, and imagine
whether the claim of King George and the fine gentlemen about him,
to tax the Americans without their own consent would be likely to
succeed! I find in obscure anecdotes like this sufficient evidence
that if John Hampden had emigrated to Massachusetts when he had it in
mind, he would have found men like himself tilling their own acres in
Concord. The Barretts, from their name, may have been Normans, but,
like Hampden, the Hosmers were Saxons, and held land in England before
William the Conqueror. When Major Hosmer, who was adjutant, and formed
the line of the regiment that returned the British fire at Concord
Bridge, had an estate to settle about 1785, the heir to which was
supposed to be in England, he employed an agent, who was then visiting
London, to notify the heir, and also desired him to go to the Heralds'
Office and ascertain what coat-of-arms belonged to any branch of the
Hosmer family. When the agent (who may have been Mr. Tilly Merrick, of
Concord, John Adams's attaché in Holland), returned to America, after
reporting his more important business to Major Hosmer, he added,--

     "I called at the Heralds' Office in London, and the clerk
     said, '_There was no coat-of-arms for you, and, if you were
     an Englishman you would not want one; for_ (he said) _there
     were Hosmers in Kent long before the Conquest; and at the
     battle of Hastings, the men of Kent were the vanguard of
     King Harold_.'"

If Major Hosmer's ancestors failed to drive back the invaders then,
their descendants made good the failure in Concord seven centuries

Thoreau's favorite walk, as he tells us,--the pathway toward
Heaven,--was along the old Marlborough road, west and southwest from
Concord village, through deep woods in Concord and in Sudbury. To
reach this road he passed by the great Hosmer farm-house, built by the
old major already mentioned, in 1760 or thereabout, and concerning
which there is a pretty legend that Thoreau may have taken with him
along the Marlborough road. In 1758, young Jo. Hosmer, "the little
black colt," drove to Marlborough one autumn day with a load of
furniture he had made for Jonathan Barnes, a rich farmer, and town
clerk in thrifty Marlborough. He had received the money for his
furniture, and was standing on the doorstep, preparing to go home,
when a young girl, Lucy Barnes, the daughter of the house, ran up to
him and said, "Concord woods are dark, and a thunderstorm is coming
up; you had better stay all night." "Since you ask me, I will," was
the reply, and the visit was often repeated in the next few months.
But when he asked farmer Jonathan for his daughter, the reply was,--

     "Concord plains are barren soil. Lucy had better marry her
     cousin John, whose father will give him one of the best
     farms in Marlborough, with a good house on it, and Lucy can
     match his land acre for acre."

Joseph returned from that land of Egypt, and like a wise youth took
the hint, and built a house of his own, planting the elm trees that
now overshadow it, after a hundred and twenty years. After the due
interval he went again to Marlborough, and found Lucy Barnes in the
September sunshine, gathering St. Michael's pears in her father's
garden. Cousin John was married, by this time, to another damsel.
Miss Lucy was bent on having her own way and her own Joseph; and so
Mr. Barnes gave his consent. They were married at Christmas, 1761;
and Lucy came home behind him on his horse, through the same Concord
woods. She afterwards told her youngest son, with some pique:--

     "When my brother Jonathan was married, and went to New
     Hampshire, twenty couples on horseback followed them to
     Haverhill, on the Merrimac, but when your father and I were
     married, we came home alone through these dark Concord

The son of this lively Lucy Hosmer, Rufus Hosmer, of Stow, was a
classmate, at Cambridge, of Washington Allston, the late Chief
Justice Shaw, and Dr. Charles Lowell, father of Lowell the poet. They
graduated in 1798, and Dr. Lowell afterwards wrote:--

     "I can recall with peculiar pleasure a vacation passed in
     Concord in my senior year, which Loammi Baldwin, Lemuel
     Shaw, Washington Allston, and myself spent with Rufus
     Hosmer at his father's house. I recall the benign face
     of Major Hosmer, as he stood in the door to receive us,
     with his handsome daughter-in-law (the wife of Capt. Cyrus
     Hosmer) on his arm. There was a charming circle of young
     people then living in Concord, and we boys enjoyed this
     very much; but we liked best of all to stay at home and
     listen to the Major's stories. It was very pleasant to have
     a rainy day come for this, and hard to tell which seemed
     the happier, he or we."

Forty years afterward, in 1838, Dr. Lowell's son, James Russell
Lowell, coming under college discipline, was sent to Concord to spend
a similar summer vacation, and wrote his class poem in that town.

Major Hosmer died in 1821, at the age of eighty-five. Mr. Samuel Hoar,
long the leader of the Middlesex County bar, who knew him in his later
life, once said,--

     "In two respects he excelled any one I have ever known; he
     was more entirely free from prejudice, and also the best
     reader of men. So clear was his mind and so strong his
     reasoning power, that I would have defied the most eloquent
     pleader at the bar to have puzzled him, no matter how
     skillfully he concealed the weak points of the case. I can
     imagine him listening quietly, and saying in his slow way,
     'It's a pity so many fine words should be wasted, for, you
     see, the man's on the wrong side.'"

Another old lawyer of Concord, who first saw Major Hosmer when he was
a child of ten, and the Major was sixty years old, said,--

     "I then formed an opinion of him in two respects that I
     never altered: First, that he had the handsomest eyes I
     ever saw; second, those eyes saw the inside of my head as
     clearly as they did the outside."

He was for many years sheriff of the county, and it was the habit of
the young lawyers in term-time to get round his chair and ask his
opinion about their cases. Such was his knowledge of the common law,
and so well did he know the judges and jurymen, that when he said
to Mr. Hoar, "I fear you will lose your case," that gentleman said,
"from that moment I felt it lost, for I never knew him to make a
wrong guess." He was a Federalist of the old school, and in his eyes
Alexander Hamilton was the first man in America. His son held much the
same opinion of Daniel Webster.

Near by Major Hosmer's farm-house stood the old homestead and
extensive farm buildings of the Lee family, who at the beginning of
the Revolution owned one of the two or three great farms in Concord.
This estate has been owned and sold in one parcel of about four
hundred acres ever since it was first occupied by Henry Woodhouse
about 1650. It lies between the two rivers Assabet and Musketaquid,
and includes Nahshawtuc, or Lee's Hill, on which, in early days, was
an Indian village. The Lees inherited it from the original owner,
and held it for more than one hundred years, though it narrowly
escaped confiscation in 1775, its owner being a Tory. Early in the
present century it fell, by means of a mortgage, into the hands of
"old Billy Gray" (the founder of the fortunes that for two or three
generations have been held in the Gray family of Boston), was by him
sold to Judge Fay, of Cambridge, and by him, in 1822, conveyed to his
brother-in-law, Joseph Barrett, of Concord, a distant cousin of the
Humphrey Barrett, mentioned elsewhere. Joseph Barrett had been one
of Major Hosmer's deputies, when the old yeoman was sheriff, but now
turned his attention to farming his many acres, and deserves mention
here as one of the Concord farmers of two generations after the
battle, among whom Henry Thoreau grew up. Indeed, the Lee Farm was
one of his most accustomed haunts, since the river flowed round it
for a mile or two, and its commanding hill-top gave a prospect toward
the western and northwestern mountains, Wachusett and Monadnoc chief
among the beautiful brotherhood, whom Thoreau early saluted with a
dithyrambic verse:--

    "With frontier strength ye stand your ground,
    With grand content ye circle round,
    (Tumultuous silence for all sound),
    Ye distant nursery of rills,
    Monadnoc and the Peterboro hills;

           *       *       *       *       *

    But special I remember thee,
    Wachusett, who, like me,
    Standest alone without society;
    Thy far blue eye
    A remnant of the sky."

Lee's Hill (which must be distinguished from Lee's Cliff, three
miles further up the main river), was the centre of this farm, and
almost of the township itself, and Squire Barrett, while he tilled
its broad acres (or left them untilled), might be called the centre
of the farmers of his county. He was for some years president of the
Middlesex Agricultural Society (before which, in later years, Emerson,
and Thoreau, and Agassiz gave addresses), and took the prize in the
plowing-match at its October cattle-show, holding his own plow, and
driving his oxen himself. Descending from the committee-room in dress
coat and ruffled shirt, he found his plow-team waiting for him, but
his rivals in the match already turning their furrows. Laying off
his coat, and fortifying himself with a pinch of maccaboy, while, as
his teamster vowed, "that nigh-ox had his eye on the 'Squire from
the time he hove in sight, ready to start the minute he took the
plow-handles,"--then stepping to the task, six feet and one inch in
height, and in weight two hundred and fifty pounds, the 'Squire began,
and before the field was plowed he had won the premium. He was one of
the many New England yeomen we have all known, who gave the lie to the
common saying about the sturdier bulk and sinew of our beer-drinking
cousins across the water. 'Squire Barrett could lift a barrel of cider
into a cart, and once carried on his shoulders, up two flights of
stairs, a sack containing eight bushels of Indian corn, which must
have weighed more than four hundred pounds. He was a good horseman,
an accomplished dancer, and in the hayfield excelled in the graceful
sweep of his scythe and the flourish of his pitchfork.

In course of time (1840) Mr. Alcott, with his wife (a daughter of
Colonel May, of Boston), and those daughters who have since become
celebrated, came to live in the Hosmer cottage not far from 'Squire
Barrett's, and under the very eaves of Major Hosmer's farm-house, to
which in 1761 came the fair and willful Lucy Barnes. The portly and
courtly 'Squire, who knew Colonel May, came to call on his neighbors,
and had many a chat with Mrs. Alcott about her Boston kindred, the
Mays, Sewalls, Salisburys, etc. His civility was duly returned by Mrs.
Alcott, who, when 'Squire Barrett was a candidate for State Treasurer
in 1845, was able, by letters to her friends in Boston, to give him
useful support. He was chosen, and held the office till his death in
1849, when Thoreau had just withdrawn from his Walden hermitage, and
was publishing his first book, "A Week on the Concord and Merrimack."

Thoreau's special friend among the farmers was another character,
Edmund Hosmer, a scion of the same prolific Hosmer stock, who died in
1881. Edmund Hosmer, with Mr. Alcott, George Curtis and his brother
Burrill, and other friends, helped Thoreau raise the timbers of his
cabin in 1845, and was often his Sunday visitor in the hermitage. Of
him it is that mention is made in "Walden," as follows:--

     "On a Sunday afternoon, if I chanced to be at home, I
     heard the crunching of the snow, made by the step of a
     long-headed farmer, who from far through the woods sought
     my house, to have a social 'crack;' one of the few of his
     vocation who are 'men on their farms;' who donned a frock
     instead of a professor's gown, and is as ready to extract
     the moral out of church or state as to haul a load of
     manure from his barn-yard. We talked of rude and simple
     times, when men sat about large fires in cold, bracing
     weather, with clear heads; and when other dessert failed,
     we tried our teeth on many a nut which wise squirrels have
     long since abandoned,--for those which have the thickest
     shells are commonly empty."

Edmund Hosmer, who was a friend of Mr. Emerson also, and of whom
George Curtis and his brother hired land which they cultivated for
a time, has been celebrated in prose and verse by other Concord
authors. I suppose it was he of whom Emerson wrote thus in his
apologue of Saadi, many years ago:--

    "Said Saadi,--When I stood before
    Hassan the camel-driver's door,
    I scorned the fame of Timour brave,--
    Timour to Hassan was a slave.
    In every glance of Hassan's eye
    I read rich years of victory.
    And I, who cower mean and small
    In the frequent interval
    When wisdom not with me resides,
    Worship Toil's wisdom that abides.
    I shunned his eyes--the faithful man's,
    I shunned the toiling Hassan's glance."

Edmund Hosmer was also, in George Curtis's description of a
conversation at Mr. Emerson's house in 1845, "the sturdy farmer
neighbor, who had bravely fought his way through inherited
embarrassments to the small success of a New England husbandman, and
whose faithful wife had seven times merited well of her country." And
it may be that he was Ellery Channing's

                        "Spicy farming sage,
    Twisted with heat and cold and cramped with age,
    Who grunts at all the sunlight through the year,
    And springs from bed each morning with a cheer.
    Of all his neighbors he can something tell,
    'Tis bad, whate'er, we know, and like it well!
    The bluebird's song he hears the first in spring,--
    Shoots the last goose bound south on freezing wing."

Hosmer might have sat, also, for the more idyllic picture of the
Concord farmer, which Channing has drawn in his "New England":--

    "This man takes pleasure o'er the crackling fire,
    His glittering axe subdued the monarch oak;
    He earned the cheerful blaze by something higher
    Than pensioned blows.--he owned the tree he stroke,
    And knows the value of the distant smoke,
    When he returns at night, his labor done,
    Matched in his action with the long day's sun."

Near the small farm of Edmund Hosmer, when Mr. Curtis lived with him
and sometimes worked on his well-tilled acres, lay a larger farm,
which, about the beginning of Thoreau's active life, was brought from
neglect and barrenness into high cultivation by Captain Abel Moore,
another Concord farmer, and one of the first, in this part of the
country, to appreciate the value of our bog-meadows for cultivation
by ditching and top-dressing with the sand which Nature had so
thoughtfully ridged up in hills close by. Under the name of "Captain
Hardy," Emerson celebrated this achievement of his townsman, upon
which the hundreds who in summer strolled to the School of Philosophy
in Mr. Alcott's orchard, gazed with admiration,--bettered as it had
been by the thirty years' toil and skill bestowed upon it since by
Captain Moore's son and grandson. Emerson said:--

     "Look across the fence into Captain Hardy's land. There's a
     musician for you who knows how to make men dance for him in
     all weathers,--all sorts of men,--Paddies, felons, farmers,
     carpenters, painters,--yes, and trees, and grapes, and ice,
     and stone,--hot days, cold days. Beat that true Orpheus
     lyre if you can. He knows how to make men sow, dig, mow,
     and lay stone-wall; to make trees bear fruit God never gave
     them, and foreign grapes yield the juices of France and
     Spain, on his south side. He saves every drop of sap, as
     if it were his blood. See his cows, his horses, his swine!
     And he, the piper that plays the jig they all must dance,
     biped and quadruped, is the plainest, stupidest harlequin,
     in a coat of no colors. His are the woods, the waters,
     hills, and meadows. With one blast of his pipe he danced a
     thousand tons of gravel from yonder blowing sand-heap to
     the bog-meadow, where the English grass is waving over
     thirty acres; with another, he winded away sixty head of
     cattle in the spring, to the pastures of Peterboro' on the

Such were and are the yeomen of Concord, among whom Thoreau spent
his days, a friend to them and they to him, though each sometimes
spoke churlishly of the other. He surveyed their wood-lots, laid
out their roads, measured their fields and pastures for division
among the heirs when a husbandman died, inspected their rivers and
ponds, and exchanged information with them concerning the birds, the
beasts, insects, flowers, crops, and trees. Their yearly Cattle Show
in October was his chief festival,--one of the things he regretted,
when living on the edge of New York Bay, and sighing for Fairhaven
and White Pond. Without them the landscape of his native valley would
not have been so dear to his eyes, and to their humble and perennial
virtues he owed more inspiration than he would always confess.

He read in the crabbed Latin of those old Roman farmers, Cato, Varro,
and musically-named Columella, and fancied the farmers of Concord were
daily obeying Cato's directions, who in turn was but repeating the
maxims of a more remote antiquity.

     "I see the old, pale-faced farmer walking beside his team,
     with contented thoughts," he says, "for the five thousandth
     time. This drama every day in the streets; this is the
     theatre I go to.... Human life may be transitory and full
     of trouble, but the perennial mind, whose survey extends
     from that spring to this, from Columella to Hosmer, is
     superior to change. I will identify myself with that which
     did not die with Columella, and will not die with Hosmer."

       *       *       *       *       *

     _Note._--The account of "Captain Hardy" was copied by
     Channing from Emerson's Journal into the first biography
     of Thoreau, without the name of the author; and so was
     credited by me to Thoreau in a former edition of this book.



Although Henry Thoreau would have been, in any place or time of the
world's drama, a personage of note, it has already been observed, in
regard to his career and his unique literary gift, that they were
affected, and in some sort fashioned by the influences of the very
time and place in which he found himself at the opening of life. It
was the sunrise of New England Transcendentalism in which he first
looked upon the spiritual world; when Carlyle in England, Alcott,
Emerson, and Margaret Fuller in Massachusetts, were preparing their
contemporaries in America for that modern Renaissance which has
been so fruitful, for the last forty years, in high thought, vital
religion, pure literature, and great deeds. And the place of his
birth and breeding, the home of his affections, as it was the Troy,
the Jerusalem, and the Rome of his imagination, was determined by
Providence to be that very centre and shrine of Transcendentalism, the
little village of Concord, which would have been saved from oblivion
by his books, had it no other title to remembrance. Let it be my
next effort, then, to give some hint--not a brief chronicle--of that
extraordinary age, not yet ended (often as they tell us of its death
and epitaph), now known to all men as the Transcendental Period. We
must wait for after-times to fix its limits and determine its dawn
and setting; but of its apparent beginning and course, one cycle
coincided quite closely with the life of Thoreau. He was born in July,
1817, when Emerson was entering college at Cambridge, and Carlyle was
wrestling "with doubt, fear, unbelief, mockery, and scoffing, in agony
of spirit," at Edinburgh. He died in May, 1862, when the distinctly
spiritual and literary era of Transcendentalism had closed, its years
of preparation were over, and it had entered upon the conflict of
political regeneration, for which Thoreau was constantly sounding the
trumpet. In these forty-five years,--a longer period than the age
of Pericles, or of the Medici, or of Queen Elizabeth,--New England
Transcendentalism rose, climbed, and culminated, leaving results
that, for our America, must be compared with those famous eras of
civilization. Those ages, in fact, were well-nigh lost upon us, until
Channing, Emerson, Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, and their fellowship,
brought us into communication with the Greek, the Italian, and the
noble Elizabethan revivals of genius and art. We had been living
under the Puritan reaction, modified and politically fashioned by
the more humane philosophy of the eighteenth century, while the
freedom-breathing, but half-barbarizing influences of pioneer life in
a new continent, had also turned aside the full force of English and
Scotch Calvinism.

It is common to trace the so-called Transcendentalism of New England
to Carlyle and Coleridge and Wordsworth in the mother-country, and to
Goethe, Richter, and Kant in Germany; and there is a certain outward
affiliation of this sort, which cannot be denied. But that which
in our spiritual soil gave root to the foreign seeds thus wafted
hitherward, was a certain inward tendency of high Calvinism and its
counterpart, Quakerism, always welling forth in the American colonies.
Now it inspired Cotton, Wheelwright, Sir Harry Vane, and Mistress
Anne Hutchinson, in Massachusetts; now William Penn and his quaint
brotherhood on the Delaware; now Jonathan Edwards and Sarah Pierpont,
in Connecticut; and, again, John Woolman, the wandering Friend of God
and man, in New Jersey, Nicholas Gilman, the convert of Whitefield,
in New Hampshire, and Samuel Hopkins, the preacher of disinterested
benevolence, in Rhode Island, held forth this noble doctrine of
the Inner Light. It is a gospel peculiarly attractive to poets, so
that even the loose-girt Davenant, who would fain think himself the
left-hand son of Shakespeare, told gossiping old Aubrey that he
believed the world, after a while, would settle into one religion,
"an ingenious Quakerism,"--that is, a faith in divine communication
that would yet leave some scope for men of wit like himself. How truly
these American Calvinists and Quakers prefigured the mystical part of
Concord philosophy, may be seen by a few of their sayings.

Jonathan Edwards, in 1723, when he was twenty years old, and the fair
saint of his adoration was fifteen, thus wrote in his diary what he
had seen and heard of Sarah Pierpont:--

     "There is a young lady in New Haven who is beloved of that
     Great Being who made and rules the world; and there are
     certain seasons in which this Great Being, in some way
     or other invisible, comes to her and fills her mind with
     exceeding sweet delight, and she hardly cares for anything
     except to meditate on Him. Therefore, if you present all
     the world before her, with the richest of its treasures,
     she disregards it, and cares not for it, and is unmindful
     of any pain or affliction. She has a strange sweetness in
     her mind, and a singular purity in her affections; is most
     just and conscientious in all her conduct; and you could
     not persuade her to do anything wrong or sinful, if you
     would give her all the world, lest she should offend this
     Great Being. She will sometimes go about from place to
     place singing sweetly, and seems to be always full of joy
     and pleasure, and no one knows for what. She loves to be
     alone walking in the fields and groves, and seems to have
     some one invisible always conversing with her."

Nicholas Gilman, the parish minister of little Durham, in New
Hampshire,--being under concern of mind for his friend Whitefield, and
the great man of New England, at that time, Sir William Pepperell,
just setting forth for the capture of Louisburg--wrote to them in
March, 1745,--to Sir William thus:--

     "Do you indeed love the Lord? do you make the Lord your
     Guide and Counselor in ye affair? If you have a Soul,
     great as that Hero David of old, you will ask of the Lord,
     and not go till he bid you: David would not. If you are
     sincerely desirous to know and do your duty in that and
     every other respect, and seek of God in Faith, you shall
     know that, and everything else needful, one thing after
     another, as fast as you are prepared for it. But God will,
     doubtless, humble such as leave him out of their Schemes,
     as though his Providence was not at all concerned in the
     matter--whereas his Blessing is all in all."

To Whitefield, Gilman wrote in the same vein, on the same day:--

     "Are you sufficiently sure that his call is from above,
     that he was moved by the Holy Ghost to this Expedition?
     Would it be no advantage to his Estate to win the place?
     May he not have a prospect of doubling his Wealth and
     Honours, if crowned with Success? What Demonstration has he
     given of being so entirely devoted to the Lord? He has a
     vast many Talents,--is it an easy thing for so Wise a man
     to become a Fool for Christ? so great a man to become a
     Little Child? so rich a man to crowd in at the Strait Gate
     of Conversion, and make so little noise?... If you see good
     to encourage the Expedition, be fully satisfy'd the project
     was formed in Heaven. Was the Lord first consulted in the
     affair? Did they wait for his Counsell?"

John Woolman, the New Jersey Quaker (born in 1720, died in 1772),

     "There is a principle which is pure, placed in the
     human mind, which, in different places and ages hath
     had different names; it is, however, pure, and proceeds
     from God. It is deep and inward, confined to no forms of
     religion, nor excluded from any, when the heart stands in
     perfect sincerity. In whomsoever this takes root and grows,
     they become brethren. That state in which every motion from
     the selfish spirit yieldeth to pure love, I may acknowledge
     with gratitude to the Father of Mercies, is often opened
     before me as a pearl to seek after."[7]

That even the pious egotism and the laughable vagaries of
Transcendentalism had their prototype in the private meditations of
the New England Calvinists, is well known to such as have studied old
diaries of the Massachusetts ministers. Thus, a minister of Malden
(a successor of the awful Michael Wigglesworth, whose alleged poem,
"The Day of Doom," as Cotton Mather thought, might perhaps "find our
children till the Day itself arrives"), in his diary for 1735, thus
enters his trying experiences with a "one-horse Shay," whose short
life may claim comparison with that of the hundred-year master-piece
of Dr. Holmes's deacon:--

     "_January 31._ Bought a shay for £27 10_s._ The Lord grant
     it may be a comfort and blessing to my family.

     "_March, 1735._ Had a safe and comfortable journey to York.

     "_April 24._ Shay overturned, with my wife and I in it, yet
     neither of us much hurt. Blessed be our gracious Preserver!
     Part of the shay, as it lay upon one side, went over my
     wife, and yet she was scarcely anything hurt. How wonderful
     the preservation!

     "_May 5._ Went to the Beach with three of the children. The
     Beast being frighted, when we were all out of the shay,
     overturned and broke it. I desire (I hope I desire it) that
     the Lord would teach me suitably to repent this Providence,
     to make suitable remarks on it, and to be suitably affected
     with it. Have I done well to get me a shay? Have I not
     been proud or too fond of this convenience? Do I exercise
     the faith in the divine care and protection which I ought
     to do? Should I not be more in my study, and less fond of
     diversion? Do I not withhold more than is meet from pious
     and charitable uses?

     "_May 15._ Shay brought home; mending cost 30 shillings.
     Favored in this beyond expectation.

     "_May 16._ My wife and I rode to Rumney Marsh. The Beast
     frighted several times."

At last this divine comedy ends with the pathetic conclusive line,--

     "_June 4._ Disposed of my shay to the Rev. Mr. White."

I will not pause to dwell on the laughable episodes and queer
characteristic features of the Transcendental Period, though such it
had in abundance. They often served to correct the soberer absurdity
with which our whole country was slipping unconsciously down the easy
incline of national ruin and dishonor,--from which only a bloody
civil war could at last save us. Thoreau saw this clearly, and his
political utterances, paradoxical as they seemed in the two decades
from 1840 to 1860, now read like the words of a prophet. But there are
some points in the American Renaissance which may here be touched on,
so much light do they throw on the times. It was a period of strange
faiths and singular apocalypses--that of Charles Fourier being one. In
February, 1843, Mr. Emerson, writing to Henry Thoreau from New York,
where he was then lecturing, said:--

     "Mr. Brisbane has just given me a faithful hour and a half
     of what he calls his principles, and he shames truer men
     by his fidelity and zeal; and already begins to hear the
     reverberations of his single voice from most of the States
     of the Union. He thinks himself sure of W. H. Channing
     here, as a good Fourierist. I laugh incredulous whilst
     he recites (for it seems always as if he was repeating
     paragraphs out of his master's book) descriptions of the
     self-augmenting potency of the solar system, which is
     destined to contain one hundred and thirty-two bodies,
     I believe,--and his urgent inculcation of our _stellar
     duties_. But it has its kernel of sound truth, and its
     insanity is so wide of the New York insanities that it is
     virtue and honor."

This was written a few months before Thoreau himself went to New York,
and it was while there that he received from his friends in Concord
and in Harvard, the wondrous account of Mr. Alcott's Paradise Regained
at Fruitlands; where in due time Thoreau made his visit and inspected
that Garden of Eden on the Coldspring Brook.

If Mr. Brisbane had his "stellar duties" and inculcated them in
others, the Brook Farmers of 1842-43 had their planetary mission
also; namely, to cultivate the face of the planet they inhabited,
and to do it with their own hands, as Adam and Noah did. Of the
Brook Farm enterprise much has been written, and much more will be;
but concerning the more individual dream of Thoreau's friends at
"Fruitlands," less is known; and I may quote a few pages concerning
it from Thoreau's correspondence. While Thoreau was at Staten Island
in 1843, Mr. Emerson wrote to him often, giving the news of Concord
as a Transcendental capital. In May of that year we have this

     "Ellery Channing is well settled in his house, and works
     very steadily thus far, and our intercourse is very
     agreeable to me. Young Ball (B. W.) has been to see me, and
     is a prodigious reader and a youth of great promise,--born,
     too, in the good town. Mr. Hawthorne is well, and Mr.
     Alcott and Mr. Lane are revolving a purchase in Harvard of
     ninety acres."

This was "Fruitlands," described in the "Dial" for 1843, and which
Charles Lane himself describes in a letter soon to be cited. In
June, 1843, Mr. Emerson again sends tidings from Concord, where the
Fitchburg railroad was then building:--

     "The town is full of Irish, and the woods of engineers,
     with theodolite and red flag, singing out their feet and
     inches to each other from station to station. Near Mr.
     Alcott's (the Hosmer cottage) the road is already begun.
     From Mr. A. and Mr. Lane at Harvard we have yet heard
     nothing. They went away in good spirits, having sent 'Wood
     Abram' and Larned, and William Lane before them with horse
     and plow, a few days in advance, to begin the spring work.
     Mr. Lane paid me a long visit, in which he was more than I
     had ever known him gentle and open; and it was impossible
     not to sympathize with and honor projects that so often
     seem without feet or hands. They have near a hundred acres
     of land which they do not want, and no house, which they
     want first of all. But they account this an advantage,
     as it gives them the occasion they so much desire,--of
     building after their own idea. In the event of their
     attracting to their company a carpenter or two, which is
     not impossible, it would be a great pleasure to see their
     building,--which could hardly fail to be new and beautiful.
     They have fifteen acres of woodland, with good timber."

Then, passing in a moment from "Fruitlands" to Concord woods,
Thoreau's friend writes:--

     "Ellery Channing is excellent company, and we walk in all
     directions. He remembers you with great faith and hope,
     thinks you ought not to see Concord again these ten years;
     that you ought to grind up fifty Concords in your mill;
     and much other opinion and counsel he holds in store on
     this topic. Hawthorne walked with me yesterday afternoon,
     and not until after our return did I read his 'Celestial
     Railroad,' which has a serene strength we cannot afford
     not to praise, in this low life. I have letters from Miss
     Fuller at Niagara. She found it sadly cold and rainy at the

Not so with Mr. Alcott and Mr. Lane in the first flush of their hopes
at Fruitlands. On the 9th of June,--the date of the letter just quoted
being June 7,--Mr. Lane writes to Thoreau:--

     "DEAR FRIEND,--The receipt of two acceptable numbers of
     the 'Pathfinder' reminds me that I am not altogether
     forgotten by one who, if not in the busy world, is at
     least much nearer to it externally than I am. Busy indeed
     we all are, since our removal here; but so recluse is our
     position, that with the world at large we have scarcely
     any connection. You may possibly have heard that, after
     all our efforts during the spring had failed to place us
     in connection with the earth, and Mr. Alcott's journey
     to Oriskany and Vermont had turned out a blank,--one
     afternoon in the latter part of May, Providence sent to us
     the legal owner of a slice of the planet in this township
     (Harvard), with whom we have been enabled to conclude for
     the concession of his rights. It is very remotely placed,
     nearly three miles beyond the village, without a road,
     surrounded by a beautiful green landscape of fields and
     woods, with the distance filled up by some of the loftiest
     mountains in the State. The views are, indeed, most poetic
     and inspiring. You have no doubt seen the neighborhood;
     but from these very fields, where you may at once be at
     home and out, there is enough to love and revel in for
     sympathetic souls like yours. On the estate are about
     fourteen acres of wood, part of it extremely pleasant as
     a retreat, a very sylvan realization, which only wants a
     Thoreau's mind to elevate it to classic beauty.

     "I have some imagination that you are not so happy and so
     well housed in your present position as you would be here
     amongst us; although at present there is much hard manual
     labor,--so much that, as you perceive, my usual handwriting
     is very greatly suspended. We have only two associates in
     addition to our own families; our house accommodations are
     poor and scanty; but the greatest want is of good female
     aid. Far too much labor devolves on Mrs. Alcott. If you
     should light on any such assistance, it would be charitable
     to give it a direction this way. We may, perhaps, be rather
     particular about the quality; but the conditions will
     pretty well determine the acceptability of the parties
     without a direct adjudication on our part. For though to me
     our mode of life is luxurious in the highest degree, yet
     generally it seems to be thought that the setting aside of
     all impure diet, dirty habits, idle thoughts, and selfish
     feelings, is a course of self-denial, scarcely to be
     encountered or even thought of in such an alluring world as
     this in which we dwell.

     "Besides the busy occupations of each succeeding day, we
     form, in this ample theatre of hope, many forthcoming
     scenes. The nearer little copse is designed as the site of
     the cottages. Fountains can be made to descend from their
     granite sources on the hill-slope to every apartment if
     required. Gardens are to displace the warm grazing glades
     on the south, and numerous human beings, instead of cattle,
     shall here enjoy existence. The farther wood offers to the
     naturalist and the poet an exhaustless haunt; and a short
     cleaning of the brook would connect our boat with the
     Nashua. Such are the designs which Mr. Alcott and I have
     just sketched, as, resting from planting, we walked round
     this reserve.

     "In your intercourse with the dwellers in the great city,
     have you alighted on Mr. Edward Palmer, who studies with
     Dr. Beach, the Herbalist? He will, I think, from his
     previous nature-love, and his affirmations to Mr. Alcott,
     be animated on learning of this actual wooing and winning
     of Nature's regards. We should be most happy to see him
     with us. Having become so far actual, from the real, we
     might fairly enter into the typical, if he could help us in
     any way to types of the true metal. We have not passed away
     from home, to see or hear of the world's doings, but the
     report has reached us of Mr. W. H. Channing's fellowship
     with the Phalansterians, and of his eloquent speeches in
     their behalf. Their progress will be much aided by his
     accession. To both these worthy men be pleased to suggest
     our humanest sentiments. While they stand amongst men, it
     is well to find them acting out the truest possible at the

     "Just before we heard of this place, Mr. Alcott had
     projected a settlement at the Cliffs on the Concord River,
     cutting down wood and building a cottage; but so many more
     facilities were presented here that we quitted the old
     classic town for one which is to be not less renowned. As
     far as I could judge, our absence promised little pleasure
     to our old Concord friends; but at signs of progress I
     presume they rejoiced with, dear friend,

            "Yours faithfully,

                  "CHARLES LANE."

Another Palmer than the Edward here mentioned became an inmate of
"Fruitlands," and, in course of time its owner; the abandoned
paradise, which was held by Mr. Lane and Mr. Alcott for less than a
year, is now the property of his son. Mr. Lane, after a time, returned
to England and died there; Mr. Alcott to Concord, where, in 1845, he
aided Thoreau in building his hut by Walden. Mr. Channing (the nephew
and biographer of Dr. Channing) continued his connection with the
"Phalansterians" in New Jersey until 1849 or later, for in that year
Fredrika Bremer found him dwelling and preaching among them, at the
"North American Phalanstery," to which he had been invited from his
Unitarian parish in Cincinnati, about the time that Brook Farm was
made a community, and before Mr. Alcott's dream had taken earthly
shape at "Fruitlands." The account given by Miss Bremer of the terms
upon which Mr. Channing was thus invited to New Jersey, show what was
the spirit of Transcendentalism then, on its social side. They said to

     "Come to us,--be our friend and spiritual shepherd, but
     in perfect freedom. Follow your own inspiration,--preach,
     talk to us, how and when it appears best to you. We
     undertake to provide for your pecuniary wants; live free
     from anxiety, how, and where you will; but teach us how we
     should live and work; our homes and our hearts are open to

It was upon such terms as this, honorable alike to those who gave
and those who received, that much of the intellectual and spiritual
work of the Transcendental revival was done. There was another and an
unsocial side to the movement also, which Mr. Emerson early described
in these words, that apply to Thoreau and to Alcott at one period:--

     "It is a sign of our times, conspicuous to the coarsest
     observer, that many intelligent and religious persons
     withdraw themselves from the common labors and competitions
     of the market and the caucus, and betake themselves to a
     solitary and critical way of living, from which no solid
     fruit has yet appeared to justify their separation. They
     hold themselves aloof; they feel the disproportion between
     themselves and the work offered them, and they prefer
     to ramble in the country and perish of ennui, to the
     degradation of such charities and such ambitions as the
     city can propose to them. They are striking work and crying
     out for somewhat worthy to do. They are lonely; the spirit
     of their writing and conversation is lonely; they repel
     influences; they shun general society; they incline to shut
     themselves in their chamber in the house; to live in the
     country rather than in the town; and to find their tasks
     and amusements in solitude. They are not good citizens, not
     good members of society; unwillingly they bear their part
     of the public and private burdens; they do not willingly
     share in the public charities, in the public religious
     rites, in the enterprise of education, of missions, foreign
     or domestic, in the abolition of the slave trade, or in
     the temperance society. They do not even like to vote. The
     philanthropists inquire whether Transcendentalism does not
     mean sloth; they had as lief hear that their friend is
     dead, as that he is a Transcendentalist; for then is he
     paralyzed, and can do nothing for humanity."

It was this phase of Transcendentalism that gave most anxiety
to Thoreau's good old pastor, Dr. Ripley, who early foresaw
what immediate fruit might be expected from this fair tree of
mysticism,--this "burning bush" which had started up, all at once, in
the very garden of his parsonage. I know few epistles more pathetic
in their humility and concern for the future, than one which Dr.
Ripley addressed to Dr. Channing in February, 1839, after hearing
and meditating on the utterances of Alcott, Emerson, Thoreau, George
Ripley, and the other "apostles of the newness," who disturbed with
their oracles the quiet air of his parish. He wrote:--

     "Denied, as I am, the privilege of going from home, of
     visiting and conversing with enlightened friends, and of
     reading even; broken down with the infirmities of age, and
     subject to fits that deprive me of reason and the use of
     my limbs, I feel it a duty to be patient and submissive
     to the will of God, who is too wise to err, and too good
     to injure. Some reason is left,--my mental powers, though
     weak, are yet awake, and I long to be doing something for
     good. The contrast between paper and ink is so strong, that
     I can write better than do anything else. In this way I
     take the liberty to express to you a few thoughts, which
     you will receive as well-meant and sincere....

     "We may certainly assume that whatever is unreasonable,
     self-contradictory, and destitute of common sense, is
     erroneous. Should we not be likely to find the truth,
     in all moral subjects, were we to make more use of
     plain reason and common sense? I know that our modern
     speculators, Transcendentalists, or, as they prefer to
     be called, Realists, presume to follow Reason in her
     purest dictates, her sublime and unfrequented regions.
     They presume, by her power, not only to discover what is
     truth, but to judge of revealed truth. But is not their
     whole process marred by leaving out common sense, by
     which mankind are generally governed? That superiority
     which places a man above the power of doing good to his
     fellow-men seems to me not very desirable. I honor most
     the man who transcends others in capacity and disposition
     to do good, and whose daily practice corresponds with
     his profession. Here I speak of professed Christians. I
     would not treat with disrespect and severe censure men
     who advance sentiments which I may neither approve nor
     understand, provided their authors be men of learning,
     piety, and holy lives. The speculations and novel opinions
     of _such_ men rarely prove injurious. Nevertheless, I would
     that their mental endowments might find a better method
     of doing good,--a more simple and intelligible manner of
     informing and reforming their fellow-men....

     "The hope of the gospel is my hope, my consolation, support
     and rejoicing. Such is my state of health that death is
     constantly before me; no minute would it be unexpected. I
     am waiting in faith and hope, but humble and penitent for
     my imperfections and faults. The prayer of the publican,
     'God be merciful to me a sinner!' is never forgotten. I
     have hoped to see and converse with you, but now despair.
     If you shall think I use too much freedom with you, charge
     it to the respect and esteem which are cherished for your
     character by your affectionate friend and brother,

                  "E. RIPLEY.

     "CONCORD, _February 26, 1839_."

At this time Dr. Ripley was almost eighty-eight, and he lived two
years longer, to mourn yet more pathetically over the change of times
and manners. "It was fit," said Emerson, "that in the fall of laws,
this loyal man should die." But the young men who succeeded him were
no less loyal to the unwritten laws, and from their philosophy, which
to the old theologian seemed so misty and unreal, there flowered
forth, in due season, the most active and world-wide philanthropies.
Twenty years after this pastoral epistle, there came to Concord
another Christian of the antique type, more Puritan and Hebraic than
Dr. Ripley himself, yet a Transcendentalist, too,--and JOHN BROWN
found no lack of practical good-will in Thoreau, Alcott, Emerson, and
the other Transcendentalists. The years had "come full circle," the
Sibyl had burnt her last prophetic book, and the new æon was about to
open with the downfall of slavery.



It has been a common delusion, not yet quite faded away, that the
chief Transcendentalists were but echoes of each other,--that
Emerson imitated Carlyle, Thoreau and Alcott imitated Emerson,
and so on to the end of the chapter. No doubt that the atmosphere
of each of these men affected the others, nor that they shared a
common impulse communicated by what Matthew Arnold likes to call the
_Zeitgeist_,--the ever-felt spirit of the time. In the most admirable
of the group, who is called by preëminence "the Sage of Concord,"--the
poet Emerson,--there has been an out-breathing inspiration as profound
as that of the _Zeitgeist_ himself; so that even Hawthorne, the
least susceptible of men, found himself affected as he says, "after
living for three years within the subtle influence of an intellect
like Emerson's." But, in fact, Thoreau brought to his intellectual
tasks an originality as marked as Emerson's, if not so brilliant and
star-like--a patience far greater than his, and a proud independence
that makes him the most solitary of modern thinkers. I have been
struck by these qualities in reading his yet unknown first essays
in authorship, the juvenile papers he wrote while in college, from
the age of seventeen to that of twenty, before Emerson had published
anything except his first little volume, "Nature," and while Thoreau,
like other young men, was reading Johnson and Goldsmith, Addison and
the earlier English classics, from Milton backward to Chaucer. Let me
therefore quote from these papers, carefully preserved by him, with
their dates, and sometimes with the marks of the rhetorical professor
on their margins. Along with these may be cited some of his earlier
verses, in which a sentiment more purely human and almost amatory
appears, than in the later and colder, if higher flights of his song.

The earliest writings of Thoreau, placed in my hands by his literary
executor, Mr. Harrison Blake of Worcester, are the first of his
Cambridge essays, technically called "themes" and "forensics." These
began several years before his daily journals were kept, namely, in
1834; and it is curious that one of them, dated January 17, 1835,
but written in 1834, recommends "keeping a private journal or record
of our thoughts, feelings, studies, and daily experience." This is
precisely what Thoreau did from 1837 till his death; and it may be
interesting to see what reasons the boy of seventeen advanced for the
practice. He says:--

     "As those pieces which the painter sketches for his own
     amusement, in his leisure hours, are often superior to
     his most elaborate productions, so it is that ideas often
     suggest themselves to us spontaneously, as it were, far
     surpassing in beauty those which arise in the mind upon
     applying ourselves to any particular subject. Hence,
     could a machine be invented which would instantaneously
     arrange upon paper each idea as it occurs to us, without
     any exertion on our part, how extremely useful would it be
     considered! The relation between this and the practice of
     keeping a journal is obvious.... If each one would employ
     a certain portion of each day in looking back upon the
     time which has passed, and in writing down his thoughts
     and feelings, in reckoning up his daily gains, that he may
     be able to detect whatever false coins may have crept into
     his coffers, and, as it were, in settling accounts with
     his mind,--not only would his daily experience be greatly
     increased, since his feelings and ideas would thus be more
     clearly defined,--but he would be ready to turn over a
     new leaf (having carefully perused the preceding one) and
     would not continue to glance carelessly over the same page,
     without being able to distinguish it from a new one."

This is ingenious, quaint, and mercantile, bespeaking the hereditary
bent of his family to trade and orderly accounts; but what follows in
the same essay is more to the purpose, as striking the key-note of
Thoreau's whole after-life. He adds:--

     "Most of us are apt to neglect the study of our own
     characters, thoughts, and feelings, and, for the purpose
     of forming our own minds, look to others, _who should
     merely be considered as different editions of the same
     great work_. To be sure, it would be well for us to examine
     the various copies, that we might detect any errors; yet
     it would be foolish for one _to borrow a work which he
     possessed himself, but had not perused_."

The earliest record of the day's observations which I find is dated a
few months later than this (April 20, 1835), when Henry Thoreau was
not quite eighteen, and relates to the beauties of nature. The first
passage describes a Sunday prospect from the garret window of his
father's house, (afterwards the residence of Mr. William Munroe, the
benefactor of the Concord Library), on the main street of the village.
He writes:--

     "'Twas always my delight to monopolize the little Gothic
     window which overlooked the kitchen-garden, particularly of
     a Sabbath afternoon; when all around was quiet, and Nature
     herself was taking her afternoon nap,--when the last peal
     of the bell in the neighboring steeple,

         'Swinging slow with sullen roar,'

     had 'left the vale to _solitude_ and _me_,' and the very
     air scarcely dared breathe, lest it should disturb the
     universal calm. Then did I use, with eyes upturned, to gaze
     upon the clouds, and, allowing my imagination to wander,
     search for flaws in their rich drapery, that I might get
     a peep at that world beyond, which they seem intended to
     veil from our view. Now is my attention engaged by a truant
     hawk, as, like a messenger from those ethereal regions,
     he issues from the bosom of a cloud, and, at first a mere
     speck in the distance, comes circling onward, exploring
     every seeming creek, and rounding every jutting precipice.
     And now, his mission ended, what can be more majestic than
     his stately flight, as he wheels around some towering pine,
     enveloped in a cloud of smaller birds that have united to
     expel him from their premises."

The second passage, under the same date, seems to describe earlier and
repeated visits, made by his elder brother John and himself, to a hill
which was always a favorite resort of Thoreau's, Fairhaven Cliffs,
overlooking the river-bay, known as "Fairhaven," a mile or two up the
river from Concord village toward Sudbury:--

     "In the freshness of the dawn my brother and I were ever
     ready to enjoy a stroll to a certain cliff, distant a
     mile or more, where we were wont to climb to the highest
     peak, and seating ourselves on some rocky platform, catch
     the first ray of the morning sun, as it gleamed upon the
     smooth, still river, wandering in sullen silence far below.
     The approach to the precipice is by no means calculated
     to prepare one for the glorious _dénouement_ at hand.
     After following for some time a delightful path that winds
     through the woods, occasionally crossing a rippling brook,
     and not forgetting to visit a sylvan dell, whose solitude
     is made audible by the unwearied tinkling of a crystal
     spring,--you suddenly emerge from the trees upon a flat
     and mossy rock, which forms the summit of a beetling crag.
     The feelings which come over one on first beholding this
     freak of nature are indescribable. The giddy height, the
     iron-bound rock, the boundless horizon open around, and the
     beautiful river at your feet, with its green and sloping
     banks, fringed with trees and shrubs of every description,
     are calculated to excite in the beholder emotions of no
     common occurrence,--to inspire him with noble and sublime
     emotions. The eye wanders over the broad and seemingly
     compact surface of the slumbering forest on the opposite
     side of the stream, and catches an occasional glimpse of a
     little farm-house, 'resting in a green hollow, and lapped
     in the bosom of plenty;' while a gentle swell of the river,
     a rustic, and fortunately rather old-looking bridge on the
     right, with the cloudlike Wachusett in the distance, give
     a finish and beauty to the landscape, that is rarely to be
     met with even in our own fair land. This interesting spot,
     if we may believe tradition, was the favorite haunt of the
     red man, before the axe of his pale-faced visitor had laid
     low its loftier honors, or his 'strong water' had wasted
     the energies of the race."

Here we have a touch of fine writing, natural in a boy who had read
Irving and Goldsmith, and exaggerating a little the dimensions of
the rocks and rills of which he wrote. But how smooth the flow of
description, how well-placed the words, how sure and keen the eye
of the young observer! To this mount of vision did Thoreau and his
friends constantly resort in after years, and it was on the plateau
beneath that Mr. Alcott, in 1843, was about to cut down the woods and
build his Paradise, when a less inviting fate, as he thought, beckoned
his English friend Lane and himself to "Fruitlands," in the distant
town of Harvard. At some time after this, perhaps while Thoreau was
encamped at Walden with his books and his flute, Mr. Emerson sent him
the following note, which gives us now a glimpse into that Arcadia:--

     "Will you not come up to the Cliff this P. M., at any
     hour convenient to you, where our ladies will be greatly
     gratified to see you? and the more, they say, if you will
     bring your flute for the echo's sake, though now the wind

                  "R. W. E.

     "Monday, 1 o'clock P. M."

It does not appear that Thoreau wrote verses at this time, though he
was a great reader of the best poetry,--of Milton very early, and with
constant admiration and quotation. Thus, in a college essay of 1835,
on "Simplicity of Style," he has this passage concerning the Bible and

     "The most sublime and noblest precepts may be conveyed in
     a plain and simple strain. The Scriptures afford abundant
     proof of this. What images can be more natural, what
     sentiments of greater weight and at the same time more
     noble and exalted than those with which they abound? They
     possess no local or relative ornament which may be lost in
     a translation; clothed in whatever dress, they still retain
     their peculiar beauties. Here is simplicity itself. Every
     one allows this, every one admires it, yet how few attain
     to it! The union of wisdom and simplicity is plainly hinted
     at in the following lines of Milton:--

                      "Suspicion sleeps
        At Wisdom's gate, and to _Simplicity_
        Resigns her charge.'"

Early in 1837 Thoreau wrote an elaborate paper, though of no great
length, on Milton's "L'Allegro" and "Il Penseroso," with many
quotations, in course of which he said:--

     "These poems place Milton in an entirely new and extremely
     pleasing light to the reader, who was previously familiar
     with him as the author of 'Paradise Lost' alone. If before
     he venerated, he may now admire and love him. The immortal
     Milton seems for a space to have put on mortality,--to
     have snatched a moment from the weightier cares of Heaven
     and Hell, to wander for a while among the sons of men....
     I have dwelt upon the poet's beauties and not so much as
     glanced at his blemishes. A pleasing image, or a fine
     sentiment loses none of its charms, though Burton, or
     Beaumont and Fletcher, or Marlowe, or Sir Walter Raleigh,
     may have written something very similar,--or even in
     another connection, may have used the identical word, whose
     aptness we so much admire. That always appeared to me a
     contemptible kind of criticism which, deliberately and in
     cold blood, can dissect the sublimest passage, and take
     pleasure in the detection of slight verbal incongruities;
     when applied to Milton, it is little better than sacrilege."

The moral view taken by the young collegian in these essays is quite
as interesting as the literary opinions, or the ease of his style. In
September, 1835, discussing punishments, he says:--

     "Certainty is more effectual than severity of punishment.
     No man will deliberately cut his own fingers. Some have
     asked, 'Cannot reward be substituted for punishment?
     Is hope a less powerful incentive to action than fear?
     When a political pharmacopoeia has the command of both
     ingredients, wherefore employ the bitter instead of the
     sweet?' This reasoning is absurd. Does a man deserve to
     be rewarded for refraining from murder? Is the greatest
     virtue merely negative? or does it rather consist in the
     performance of a thousand every-day duties, hidden from the
     eye of the world?"

In an essay on the effect of story-telling, written in 1836, he says:--

     "The story of the world never ceases to interest. The child
     enchanted by the melodies of Mother Goose, the scholar
     pondering 'the tale of Troy divine,' and the historian
     breathing the atmosphere of past ages,--all manifest the
     same passion, are alike the creatures of curiosity. The
     same passion for the novel (somewhat modified, to be
     sure), that is manifested in our early days, leads us, in
     after-life, when the sprightliness and credulity of youth
     have given way to the reserve and skepticism of manhood,
     to the more serious, though scarcely less wonderful annals
     of the world. The love of stories and of story-telling
     cherishes a purity of heart, a frankness and candor of
     disposition, a respect for what is generous and elevated,
     a contempt for what is mean and dishonorable, and tends to
     multiply merry companions and never-failing friends."

In March, 1837, in an essay on the source of our feeling of the
sublime, Thoreau says:--

     "The emotion excited by the sublime is the most unearthly
     and god-like we mortals experience. It depends for the
     peculiar strength with which it takes hold on and occupies
     the mind, upon a principle which lies at the foundation
     of that worship which we pay to the Creator himself.
     And is fear the foundation of that worship? Is fear the
     ruling principle of our religion? Is it not rather the
     mother of superstition? Yes, that principle which prompts
     us to pay an involuntary homage to the infinite, the
     incomprehensible, the sublime, forms the very basis of our
     religion. It is a principle implanted in us by our Maker, a
     part of our very selves; we cannot eradicate it, we cannot
     resist it; fear may be overcome, death may be despised; but
     the infinite, the sublime seize upon the soul and disarm
     it. We may overlook them, or rather fall short of them;
     we may pass them by, but, so sure as we meet them face to
     face, we yield."

Speaking of national characteristics, he says:--

     "It is not a little curious to observe how man, the boasted
     lord of creation, is the slave of a name, a mere sound. How
     much mischief have those magical words, North, South, East,
     and West caused! Could we rest satisfied with one mighty,
     all-embracing West, leaving the other three cardinal points
     to the Old World, methinks we should not have cause for so
     much apprehension about the preservation of the Union."

(This was written in February, 1837.) Before he had reached the age of
nineteen he thus declared his independence of foreign opinion, while
asserting its general sway over American literature, in 1836:--

     "We are, as it were, but colonies. True, we have declared
     our independence, and gained our liberty, but we have
     dissolved only the political bands which connected us with
     Great Britain; though we have rejected her tea, she still
     supplies us with food for the mind. The aspirant to fame
     must breathe the atmosphere of foreign parts, and learn
     to talk about things which the homebred student never
     dreamed of, if he would have his talents appreciated or
     his opinion regarded by his countrymen. Ours are authors
     of the day, they bid fair to outlive their works; they
     are too fashionable to write for posterity. True, there
     are some amongst us, who can contemplate the babbling
     brook, without, in imagination, polluting its waters with
     a mill-wheel; but even they are prone to sing of skylarks
     and nightingales perched on hedges, to the neglect of the
     homely robin-redbreast and the straggling rail-fences of
     their own native land."

So early did he take this position, from which he never varied.

In May, 1837, we find another note of his opening life, in an essay on
Paley's "Common Reasons." He says:--

     "Man does not wantonly rend the meanest tie that binds
     him to his fellows; he would not stand aloof, even in his
     prejudices, did not the stern demands of truth require it.
     He is ready enough to float with the tide, and when he does
     stem the current of popular opinion, sincerity, at least,
     must nerve his arm. He has not only the burden of proof,
     but that of reproof to support. We may call him a fanatic,
     an enthusiast; but these are titles of honor; they signify
     the devotion and entire surrendering of himself to his
     cause. So far as my experience goes, man _never_ seriously
     maintained an objectionable principle, doctrine, or theory;
     error _never_ had a sincere defender; her disciples were
     _never_ enthusiasts. This is strong language, I confess,
     but I do not rashly make use of it. We are told that 'to
     err is human,' but I would rather call it inhuman, if I may
     use the word in this sense. I speak not of those errors
     that have to do with facts and occurrences, but rather,
     errors of judgment."

Here we have that bold generalization and that calm love of paradox
which mark his later style. The lofty imagination was always his, too,
as where this youth of nineteen says in the same essay:--

     "Mystery is yet afar off,--it is but a cloud in the
     distance, whose shadow, as it flits across the landscape,
     gives a pleasing variety to the scene. But as the perfect
     day approaches, its morning light discovers the dark and
     straggling clouds, which at first skirted the horizon,
     assembling as at a signal, and as they expand and multiply,
     rolling slowly onward to the zenith, till, at last, the
     whole heavens, if we except a faint glimmering in the East,
     are overshadowed."

What a confident and flowing movement of thought is here! like the
prose of Milton or Jeremy Taylor, but with a more restrained energy.

     "Duty," writes the young moralist in another essay
     of 1837, "is one and invariable; it requires no
     impossibilities, nor can it ever be disregarded with
     impunity; so far as it exists, it is binding; and, if all
     duties are binding, so as on no account to be neglected,
     how can one bind stronger than another?" "None but the
     highest minds can attain to moral excellence. With by far
     the greater part of mankind religion is a habit; or rather
     habit is religion. However paradoxical it may seem, it
     appears to me that to reject _religion_ is the first step
     towards moral excellence; at least no man ever attained to
     the highest degree of the latter by any other road. Could
     infidels live double the number of years allotted to other
     mortals, they would become patterns of excellence. So, too,
     of all true poets,--they would neglect the beautiful for
     the true."

I suspect that Thoreau's first poems date from the year 1836-37,
since the "big red journal," in which they were copied, was begun in
October, 1837. The verses entitled, "To the Maiden in the East," were
by no means among the first, which date from 1836 or earlier; but near
these in time was that poem called "Sympathy," which was the first
of his writings to appear in Mr. Emerson's "Dial." These last were
addressed, we are told, to Ellen Sewall, with whom, the legend says,
both Henry and John Thoreau were in love. Few of these poems show any
imitation of Mr. Emerson, whose own verses at that time were mostly
unpublished, though he sometimes read them in private to his friends.
But like most of Thoreau's verses, these indicate a close familiarity
with the Elizabethan literature, and what directly followed it, in the
time of the Stuarts. The measure of "Sympathy" was that of Davenant's
"Gondibert," which Thoreau, almost alone of his contemporaries, had
read; the thought was above Davenant, and ranged with Raleigh and
Spenser. These verses will not soon be forgotten:--

    "Lately, alas! I knew a gentle boy,
      Whose features all were cast in Virtue's mould,
    As one she had designed for Beauty's toy,
      But after manned him for her own stronghold.

    "Say not that Cæsar was victorious,
      With toil and strife who stormed the House of Fame;
    In other sense this youth was glorious,
      Himself a kingdom wheresoe'er he came.

           *       *       *       *       *

    "Eternity may not the chance repeat,
      But I must tread my single way alone,
    In sad remembrance that we once did meet,
      And know that bliss irrevocably gone.

    "The spheres henceforth my elegy shall sing,
      For elegy has other subject none;
    Each strain of music in my ears shall ring
      Knell of departure from that other one.

           *       *       *       *       *

    "Is't then too late the damage to repair?
      Distance, forsooth, from my weak grasp hath reft
    The empty husk, and clutched the useless tare,
      But in my hands the wheat and kernel left.

    "If I but love that virtue which he is,
      Though it be scented in the morning air,
    Still shall we be dearest acquaintances,
      Nor mortals know a sympathy more rare."

The other poem seems to have been written later than the separation
of which that one so loftily speaks; and it vibrates with a tenderer
chord than sympathy. It begins,--

    "Low in the eastern sky
    Is set thy glancing eye,"

and then it goes on with the picture of lover-like things,--the
thrushes and the flowers, until, he says,

    "The trees a welcome waved,
    And lakes their margin laved,
    When thy free mind
    To my retreat did wind."

Then comes the Persian dialect of high love:--

    "It was a summer eve,--
    The air did gently heave,
    While yet a low-hung cloud
    Thy eastern skies did shroud;
    The lightning's silent gleam
    Startling my drowsy dream,
    _Seemed like the flash
    Under thy dark eyelash_.

           *       *       *       *       *

    "I'll be thy Mercury,
    Thou, Cytherea to me,--
    _Distinguished by thy face
    The earth shall learn my place_.
    As near beneath thy light
    Will I outwear the night,
    With mingled ray
    Leading the westward way."

"Let us," said Hafiz, "break up the tiresome roof of heaven into new
forms,"--and with as bold a flight did this young poet pass to his
"stellar duties." Then dropping to the Concord meadow again, like the
tuneful lark, he chose a less celestial path

    "Of gentle slope and wide,
    As thou wert by my side;
    I'll walk with gentle pace,
    And choose the smoothest place,
    And careful dip the oar,
    And shun the winding shore,
    And gently steer my boat
    Where water-lilies float,
    And cardinal flowers
    Stand in their sylvan bowers."

A frivolous question has sometimes been raised whether the young
Thoreau knew what love was, like the Sicilian shepherd, who found
him a native of the rocks, a lion's whelp. With his poet-nature, he
early gathered this experience, and passed on; praising afterwards the
lion's nature in the universal god:--

    "Implacable is Love,--
    Foes may be bought or teased
      From their hostile intent,--
    But he goes unappeased
      Who is on kindness bent.

    "There's nothing in the world, I know,
      That can escape from Love,
    For every depth it goes below,
      And every height above."

The Red Journal of five hundred and ninety-six long pages, in which
the early verses occur, was the first collection of Thoreau's
systematic diarizing. It ran on from October, 1837, to June, 1840,
and was succeeded by another journal of three hundred and ninety-six
pages, which was finished early in 1841. He wrote his first lecture
(on Society) in March, 1838, and read it before the Concord Lyceum in
the Freemasons' Hall, April 11, 1838. In the December following he
wrote a memorable essay on "Sound and Silence," and in February, 1840,
wrote his "first printed paper of consequence," as he says, on "Aulus
Persius Flaccus." The best of the early verses seem to have been
written in 1836-41. His contributions to the "Dial," which he helped
edit, were taken from his journals, and ran through nearly every
number from July, 1840, to April, 1844, when that magazine ceased.

For these papers he received nothing but the thanks of Emerson and the
praise of a few readers. Miss Elizabeth Peabody, in February, 1843,
wrote to Thoreau, that "the regular income of the 'Dial' does not pay
the cost of its printing and paper; yet there are readers enough to
support it, if they would only subscribe; and they will subscribe,
if they are convinced that only by doing so can they secure its
continuance." They did not subscribe, and in the spring of 1844 it
came to an end.

In 1842 Thoreau took a walk to Wachusett, his nearest mountain, and
the journal of this excursion was printed in the "Boston Miscellany"
of 1843. In it occurred the verses, written at least as early as
1841, in which he addresses the mountains of his horizon, Monadnoc,
Wachusett, and the Peterborough Hills of New Hampshire. These verses
were for some time in the hands of Margaret Fuller, for publication in
the "Dial," if she saw fit, but she returned them with the following
characteristic letter,--the first addressed by her to Thoreau:--

            "[CONCORD] _18th October, 1841_.

     "I do not find the poem on the mountains improved by mere
     compression, though it might be by fusion and glow. Its
     merits to me are, a noble recognition of Nature, two or
     three manly thoughts, and, in one place, a plaintive music.
     The image of the ships does not please me originally. It
     illustrates the greater by the less, and affects me as when
     Byron compares the light on Jura to that of the dark eye of
     woman. I cannot define my position here, and a large class
     of readers would differ from me. As the poet goes on to--

                        "Unhewn primeval timber,
        For knees so stiff, for masts so limber."

     he seems to chase an image, already rather forced, into

     "Yet, now that I have some knowledge of the man, it seems
     there is no objection I could make to his lines (with the
     exception of such offenses against taste as the lines about
     the humors of the eye, as to which we are already agreed),
     which I would not make to himself. He is healthful, rare,
     of open eye, ready hand, and noble scope. He sets no limits
     to his life, nor to the invasions of nature; he is not
     willfully pragmatical, cautious, ascetic, or fantastical.
     But he is as yet a somewhat bare hill, which the warm gales
     of Spring have not visited. Thought lies too detached,
     truth is seen too much in detail; we can number and mark
     the substances imbedded in the rock. Thus his verses are
     startling as much as stern; the thought does not excuse its
     conscious existence by letting us see its relation with
     life; there is a want of fluent music. Yet what could a
     companion do at present, unless to tame the guardian of the
     Alps too early? Leave him at peace amid his native snows.
     He is friendly; he will find the generous office that shall
     educate him. It is not a soil for the citron and the rose,
     but for the whortleberry, the pine, or the heather.

     "The unfolding of affections, a wider and deeper human
     experience, the harmonizing influences of other natures,
     will mould the man and melt his verse. He will seek thought
     less and find knowledge the more. I can have no advice
     or criticism for a person so sincere; but, if I give my
     impression of him, I will say, 'He says too constantly of
     Nature, she is mine.' She is not yours till you have been
     more hers. Seek the lotus, and take a draught of rapture.
     Say not so confidently, all places, all occasions are
     alike. This will never come true till you have found it

     "I do not know that I have more to say now; perhaps these
     words will say nothing to you. If intercourse should
     continue, perhaps a bridge may be made between two minds
     so widely apart; for I apprehended you in spirit, and you
     did not seem to mistake me so widely as most of your kind
     do. If you should find yourself inclined to write to me, as
     you thought you might, I dare say, many thoughts would be
     suggested to me; many have already, by seeing you from day
     to day. Will you finish the poem in your own way, and send
     it for the 'Dial'? Leave out

         "And seem to milk the sky."

     The image is too low; Mr. Emerson thought so too.

     "Farewell! May truth be irradiated by Beauty! Let me know
     whether you go to the lonely hut,[8] and write to me about
     Shakespeare, if you read him there. I have many thoughts
     about him, which I have never yet been led to express.

                  "MARGARET F.

     "The penciled paper Mr. E. put into my hands. I have taken
     the liberty to copy it. You expressed one day my own
     opinion,--that the moment such a crisis is passed, we may
     speak of it. There is no need of artificial delicacy, of
     secrecy; it keeps its own secrets; it cannot be made false.
     Thus you will not be sorry that I have seen the paper. Will
     you not send me some other records of the _good week_?"

"Faithful are the wounds of a friend." This searching criticism would
not offend Thoreau; nor yet the plainness with which the same tongue
told the faults of a prose paper--perhaps "The Service,"--which
Margaret rejected in this note:--

            "[CONCORD] _1st December (1841)_.

     "I am to blame for so long detaining your manuscript. But
     my thoughts have been so engaged that I have not found a
     suitable hour to reread it as I wished, till last night.
     This second reading only confirms my impression from the
     first. The essay is rich in thoughts, and I should be
     _pained_ not to meet it again. But then, the thoughts seem
     to me so out of their natural order, that I cannot read
     it through without _pain_. I never once feel myself in a
     stream of thought, but seem to hear the grating of tools on
     the mosaic. It is true, as Mr. Emerson says, that essays
     not to be compared with this have found their way into the
     'Dial.' But then, these are more unassuming in their tone,
     and have an air of quiet good-breeding, which induces us to
     permit their presence. Yours is so rugged that it ought to
     be commanding."

These were the years of Thoreau's apprenticeship in literature, and
many were the tasks and mortifications he must endure before he became
a master of the writer's art.



"Margaret Fuller," says William Henry Channing, "was indeed The
Friend; this was her vocation." It was no less the vocation of
Thoreau, though in a more lofty, unvarying, and serene manner.

     "Literally," says the friend who best knew him, "his
     views of friendship were high and noble. Those who loved
     him never had the least reason to regret it. He made no
     useless professions, never asked one of those questions
     that destroy all relation; but he was on the spot at the
     time, and had so much of human life in his keeping to the
     last, that he could spare a breathing-place for a friend.
     He meant friendship, and meant nothing else, and stood
     by it without the slightest abatement; not veering as a
     weathercock with each shift of a friend's fortune, nor like
     those who bury their early friendships, in order to make
     room for fresh corpses."

It is, therefore, impossible to sketch him by himself. He could have
said, with Ellery Channing,--

    "O band of Friends, ye breathe within this space,
    And the rough finish of a humble man
    By your kind touches rises into art."

His earliest companion was his brother John, "a flowing generous
spirit," as one described him, for whom his younger brother never
ceased to grieve. Walking among the Cohasset rocks and looking at the
scores of shipwrecked men from the Irish brig St. John, in 1849, he
said, "A man can attend but one funeral in his life, can behold but
one corpse." With him it was the funeral of John Thoreau in February,
1842. They had made the voyage of the Concord and Merrimac together,
in 1839; they had walked and labored together, and invented Indian
names for one another from boyhood. John was "Sachem Hopeful of
Hopewell,"--a sunny soul, always serene and loving. When publishing
his first book, in 1849, Henry dedicated it to this brother, with the
simple verse--

    "Where'er thou sail'st who sailed with me,
    Though now thou climbest loftier mounts,
    And fairer rivers dost ascend,
    Be thou my Muse, my Brother John."

John Thoreau's death was singular and painful; his brother could not
speak of it without physical suffering, so that when he related it to
his friend Ricketson at New Bedford, he turned pale and was forced to
go to the door for air. This was the only time Mr. Ricketson ever saw
him show deep emotion. His sister Sophia once said:--

     "Henry rarely spoke of dear John; it pained him too much.
     He sent the following verses from Staten Island in May,
     1843, the year after John's death, in a letter to Helen.
     You will see that they apply to himself:"--

        "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?

        "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?

        "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."

Before the death of his brother, Thoreau had formed the friendship
with Ellery Channing, that was in some degree to replace the daily
intimacy he had enjoyed with John Thoreau. This man of genius, and
of the moods that sometimes make genius an unhappy boon, was a year
younger than Thoreau when he came, in 1843, to dwell in Concord with
his bride, a younger sister of Margaret Fuller. They lived first in a
cottage near Mr. Emerson's, Thoreau being at that time an inmate of
Mr. Emerson's household; afterwards, in 1843, Mr. Channing removed
to a hill-top some miles away, then to New York in 1844-45, then to
Europe for a few months, and finally to a house on the main street
of the village, opposite the last residence of the Thoreau family,
where Henry lived from 1850 till his death in 1862. In the garden
of Mr. Channing's house, which lay on the river, Thoreau kept his
boat, under a group of willows, and from that friendly harbor all his
later voyages were made. At times they talked of occupying this house

     "I have an old house and a garden patch," said Channing,
     "you have legs and arms, and we both need each other's
     companionship. These miserable cracks and crannies which
     have made the wall of life look thin and fungus-like, will
     be cemented by the sweet and solid mortar of friendship."

They did in fact associate more closely than if they had lived in the
same house.

At the age of thirty-seven, when contemplating a removal from the
neighborhood of his friend Thoreau, this humorous man of letters thus
described himself and his tastes to another friend:--

     "I am a poet, or of a poetical temper or mood, with a very
     limited income both of brains and of moneys. This world
     is rather a sour world. But as I am, equally with you,
     an admirer of Cowper, why should I not prove a sort of
     unnecessary addition to your neighborhood possibly? I may
     leave Concord, and my aim would be to get a small place,
     in the vicinity of a large town, with some land, and, if
     possible, near to some _one_ person with whom I might in
     some measure fraternize. Come, my neighbor! thou hast now
     a new occupation, the setting up of a poet and literary
     man,--one who loves old books, old garrets, old wines,
     old pipes, and (last not least) Cowper. We might pass the
     winter in comparing _variorum_ editions of our favorite
     authors, and the summer in walking and horticulture. This
     is a grand scheme of life. All it requires is the house
     of which I spake. I think one in middle life feels averse
     to change, and especially to local change. The Lares and
     Penates love to establish themselves, and desire no moving.
     But the fatal hour may come, when, bidding one long, one
     last adieu to those weather-beaten Penates, we sally forth
     with Don Quixote, once more to strike our lances into some
     new truth, or life, or man."

This hour did come, and the removal was made for a few months or
years, during which the two friends met at odd intervals, and in
queer companionship. But the "sweet and solid mortar of friendship"
was never broken, though the wall of life came to look like a ruin.
When, in Thoreau's last illness, Channing, in deep grief, said "that
a change had come over the dream of life, and that solitude began to
peer out curiously from the dells and wood-roads," Thoreau whispered,
"with his foot on the step of the other world," says Channing, "It is
better some things should end." Of their earlier friendship, and of
Channing's poetic gift, so admirable, yet so little appreciated by his
contemporaries, this mention occurs in a letter written by Thoreau in
March, 1856:--

     "I was surprised to hear the other day that Channing was in
     X. When he was here last (in December, I think), he said,
     like himself, in answer to my inquiry where he lived, 'that
     he did not know the name of the place;' so it has remained
     in a degree of obscurity to me. I am rejoiced to hear that
     you are getting on so bravely with him and his verses. He
     and I, as you know, have been old cronies,--

        "'Fed the same flock, by fountain, shade, and rill,
        Together both, ere the high lawns appeared
        Under the opening eyelids of the morn,
        We drove afield, and both together heared,' etc.

     "'But O, the heavy change,' now he is gone. The Channing
     you have seen and described is the real Simon Pure. You
     have seen him. Many a good ramble may you have together!
     You will see in him still more of the same kind to attract
     and to puzzle you. How to serve him most effectually has
     long been a problem with his friends. Perhaps it is left
     for you to solve it. I suspect that the most that you or
     any one can do for him is to appreciate his genius,--to
     buy and read, and cause others to buy and read his poems.
     That is the hand which he has put forth to the world,--take
     hold of that. Review them if you can,--perhaps take the
     risk of publishing something more which he may write.
     Your knowledge of Cowper will help you to know Channing.
     He will accept sympathy and aid, but he will not bear
     questioning, unless the aspects of the sky are particularly
     auspicious. He will ever be 'reserved and enigmatic,' and
     you must deal with him at arm's length. I have no secrets
     to tell you concerning him, and do not wish to call
     obvious excellences and defects by far-fetched names. Nor
     need I suggest how witty and poetic he is,--and what an
     inexhaustible fund of good-fellowship you will find in him."

In the record of his winter visitors at Walden, Thoreau had earlier
made mention of Channing, who then lived on Ponkawtasset Hill, two or
three miles away from the hermitage.

     "He who came from farthest to my lodge," says Thoreau,
     "through deepest snows and most dismal tempests, was a
     poet. A farmer, a hunter, a soldier, a reporter, even
     a philosopher may be daunted, but nothing can deter a
     poet, for he is actuated by pure love. Who can predict
     his comings and goings? His business calls him out at all
     hours; even when doctors sleep. We made that small house
     ring with boisterous mirth, and resound with the murmur
     of much sober talk,--making amends then to Walden vale
     for the long silences. At suitable intervals there were
     regular salutes of laughter, which might have been referred
     indifferently to the last uttered or the forthcoming jest."

In his "Week," as Thoreau floats down the Concord, past the Old Manse,
he commemorates first Hawthorne and then Channing, saying of the

    "On Ponkawtasset, since, with such delay,
    Down this still stream we took our meadowy way,
    A poet wise hath settled whose fine ray
    Doth faintly shine on Concord's twilight day.
    Like those first stars, whose silver beams on high,
    Shining more brightly as the day goes by,
    Most travelers cannot at first descry,
    But eyes that wont to range the evening sky."

These were true and deserved compliments, but they availed little (no
more than did the praises of Emerson in the "Dial," and of Hawthorne
in his "Mosses") to make Channing known to the general reader. Some
years after Thoreau's death, when writing to another friend, this
neglected poet said:--

     "Is there no way of disabusing S. of the liking he has for
     the verses I used to write? You probably know he is my only
     patron, but that is no reason he should be led astray.
     _There is no other test_ of the value of poetry, but its
     popularity. My verses have never secured a single reader
     but S. He really believes, I think, in those so-called
     verses; but they are not good,--they are wholly unknown and
     unread, and always will be. Mediocre poetry is worse than
     nothing,--and mine is not even mediocre. I have presented
     S. with the last set of those little books there is, to
     have them bound, if he will. He can keep them as a literary
     _curio_, and in his old age amuse himself with thinking,
     'How could ever I have liked these?'"

Yet this self-disparaging poet was he who wrote,--

    "If my bark sinks, 't is to another sea,"--

and who cried to his companions,--

          "Ye heavy-hearted mariners
            Who sail this shore,--
          Ye patient, ye who labor,
            Sitting at the sweeping oar,
    And see afar the flashing sea-gulls play
    On the free waters, and the glad bright day
    Twine with his hand the spray,--
          From out your dreariness,
          From your heart-weariness,
          I speak, for I am yours
              On these gray shores."

It is he, also, who has best told, in prose and verse, what Thoreau
was in his character and his literary art. In dedicating to his
friend Henry, the poem called "Near Home," published in 1858, Channing
thus addressed him:--

                "Modest and mild and kind,
    Who never spurned the needing from thy door--
    (Door of thy heart, which is a palace-gate);
    Temperate and faithful,--in whose word the world
    Might trust, sure to repay; unvexed by care,
    Unawed by Fortune's nod, slave to no lord,
    Nor coward to thy peers,--long shalt thou live!
    Not in this feeble verse, this sleeping age,--
    But in the roll of Heaven, and at the bar
    Of that high court where Virtue is in place,
    There thou shalt fitly rule, and read the laws
    Of that supremer state,--writ Jove's behest,
    And even old Saturn's chronicle;
    Works ne'er Hesiod saw,--types of all things,
    And portraitures of all--whose golden leaves,
    Roll back the ages' doors, and summon up
    Unsleeping truths, by which wheels on Heaven's prime."

In these majestic lines, suggestive of Dante, of Shakespeare, and of
Milton, yet fitting, by the force of imagination, to the simplicity
and magnanimity that Thoreau had displayed, one reads the secret of
that character which made the Concord recluse first declare to the
world the true mission of John Brown, whose friend he had been for a
few years. Of Alcott and of Hawthorne, of Margaret Fuller and Horace
Greeley, he had been longer the friend; and in the year before he
met Brown he had stood face to face with Walt Whitman in Brooklyn.
Mr. Alcott's testimony to Thoreau's worth and friendliness has been

     "If I were to proffer my earnest prayer to the gods for the
     greatest of all human privileges," he said one day, after
     returning from an evening spent at Walden with Thoreau,
     "it should be for the gift of a severely candid friend. To
     most, the presence of such is painfully irksome; they are
     lovers of present reputation, and not of that exaltation
     of soul which friends and discourse were given to awaken
     and cherish in us. Intercourse of this kind I have found
     possible with my friends Emerson and Thoreau; and the
     evenings passed in their society during these winter months
     have realized my conception of what friendship, when great
     and genuine, owes to and takes from its objects."

Not less emphatic was Thoreau's praise of Mr. Alcott, after these long
winter evenings with him in the hut:--

     "One of the last of the philosophers," he writes in
     "Walden,"--"Connecticut gave him to the world,--he peddled
     first her wares, afterwards, as he declares, his brains.
     These he peddles still, prompting God and disgracing man,
     bearing for fruit his brain only, like the nut its kernel.
     I think he must be the man of the most faith of any alive.
     His words and attitude always suppose a better state of
     things than other men are acquainted with, and he will be
     the last man to be disappointed as the ages revolve. He
     has no venture in the present. But though comparatively
     disregarded now, laws unsuspected by most will take effect,
     and masters of families and rulers will come to him for
     advice. A true friend of man; almost the only friend of
     human progress. He is perhaps the sanest man and has
     the fewest crotchets of any I chance to know,--the same
     yesterday, to-day, and to-morrow. Of yore we had sauntered
     and talked, and effectually put the world behind us; for he
     was pledged to no institution in it, freeborn, _ingenuus_.
     Great Looker! great Expecter! to converse with whom was a
     New England Night's Entertainment. Ah! such discourse we
     had, hermit and philosopher, and the old settler I have
     spoken of,--we three,--it expanded and racked my little

Nor did Thoreau participate in such discourse at Walden alone, but
frequented Mr. Alcott's conversations at Mr. Emerson's house in
Concord, at Hawthorne's in Salem, at Marston Watson's in Plymouth, at
Daniel Ricketson's in New Bedford, and once or twice in Boston and New
York. With Mr. Alcott and Alice Carey, Thoreau visited Horace Greeley
at Chappaqua, in 1856, and with Mr. Alcott alone he called on Walt
Whitman in Brooklyn the same year.

Between Hawthorne and Thoreau, Ellery Channing was perhaps the
interpreter, for they had not very much in common, though friendly
and mutually respectful. The boat in which Thoreau made his voyage of
1839, on the Concord and Merrimac, came afterwards into Hawthorne's
possession, and was the frequent vehicle for Channing and Hawthorne as
they made those excursions which Hawthorne has commemorated. Channing
also has commemorated those years when Hawthorne spent the happiest
hours of his life in the Old Manse, to which he had removed soon after
his marriage in 1842:--

    "There in the old gray house, whose end we see
    Half peeping through the golden willow's veil,
    Whose graceful twigs make foliage through the year,
    My Hawthorne dwelt, a scholar of rare worth,
    The gentlest man that kindly nature drew;
    New England's Chaucer, Hawthorne fitly lives.
    His tall, compacted figure, ably strung
    To urge the Indian chase or guide the way,
    Softly reclining 'neath the aged elm,
    Like some still rock looked out upon the scene,
    As much a part of nature as itself."

In July, 1860, writing to his sister Sophia, among the New Hampshire
mountains, Thoreau said:--

     "Mr. Hawthorne has come home. I went to meet him the other
     evening (at Mr. Emerson's), and found that he had not
     altered, except that he was looking pretty brown after his
     voyage. He is as simple and childlike as ever."

This was upon the return of Hawthorne from his long residence abroad,
in England, Portugal, and Italy. Thoreau died two years before
Hawthorne, and they are buried within a few feet of each other in the
Concord cemetery, their funerals having proceeded from the same parish
church near by.

Of Thoreau's relations with Emerson, this is not the place to speak in
full; it was, however, the most important, if not the most intimate,
of all his friendships, and that out of which the others mainly
grew. Their close acquaintance began in 1837. In the latter part of
April, 1841, Thoreau became an inmate of Mr. Emerson's house, and
remained there till, in the spring of 1843, he went for a few months
to be the tutor of Mr. William Emerson's sons at Staten Island.
In 1840, while teaching school in Concord, Thoreau seems to have
been fully admitted into that circle of which Emerson, Alcott, and
Margaret Fuller were the leaders. In May, 1840, this circle met, as
it then did frequently, at the house of Mr. Emerson, to converse on
"the inspiration of the Prophet and Bard, the nature of Poetry, and
the causes of the sterility of Poetic Inspiration in our age and
country." Mr. Alcott, in his diary, has preserved a record of this
meeting, and some others of the same kind. It seems that on this
occasion--Thoreau being not quite twenty-three years old, Mr. Alcott
forty-one, Mr. Emerson thirty-seven, and Miss Fuller thirty--all
these were present, and also Jones Very, the Salem poet, Dr. F. H.
Hedge, Dr. C. A. Bartol, Dr. Caleb Stetson, and Robert Bartlett of
Plymouth. Bartlett and Very were graduates of Harvard a year before
Thoreau, and afterwards tutors there; indeed, all the company except
Alcott were Cambridge scholars,--for Margaret Fuller, without entering
college, had breathed in the learned air of Cambridge, and gone beyond
the students who were her companions. I find no earlier record of
Thoreau's participation in these meetings; but afterward he was often
present. In May, 1839, Mr. Alcott had held one of his conversations
at the house of Thoreau's mother, but no mention is made of Henry
taking part in it. At a conversation in Concord in 1846, one April
evening, Thoreau came in from his Walden hermitage, and protested with
some vehemence against Mr. Alcott's declaration that Jesus "stood in
a more tender and intimate nearness to the heart of mankind than any
character in life or literature." Thoreau thought he "asserted this
claim for the fair Hebrew in exaggeration"; yet he could say in the
"Week," "It is necessary not to be Christian to appreciate the beauty
and significance of the life of Christ."

This earliest of his volumes, like most of his writings, is a record
of his friendships, and in it we find that high-toned, paradoxical
essay on Love and Friendship, which has already been quoted. To
read this literally, as Channing says, "would be to accuse him of
stupidity; he gossips there of a high, imaginary world." But its tone
is no higher than was the habitual feeling of Thoreau towards his
friends, or that sentiment which he inspired in them. In Mr. Alcott's
diary for March 16, 1847, he writes, two years before the "Week" was
made public:--

     "This evening I pass with Thoreau at his hermitage on
     Walden, and he reads me some passages from his manuscript
     volume, entitled 'A Week on the Concord and Merrimac
     Rivers.' The book is purely American, fragrant with the
     life of New England woods and streams, and could have
     been written nowhere else. Especially am I touched by his
     sufficiency and soundness, his aboriginal vigor,--as if a
     man had once more come into Nature who knew what Nature
     meant him to do with her,--Virgil, and White of Selborne,
     and Izaak Walton, and Yankee settler all in one. I came
     home at midnight, through the woody snow-paths, and slept
     with the pleasing dream that presently the press would
     give me two books to be proud of--Emerson's 'Poems,' and
     Thoreau's 'Week.'"

This high anticipation of the young author's career was fully shared
by Emerson himself, who everywhere praised the genius of Thoreau; and
when in England in 1848, listened readily to a proposition from Dr.
Chapman the publisher, for a new magazine to be called "The Atlantic,"
and printed at the same time in London and in Boston, whose chief
contributors in England should be Froude, Garth Wilkinson, Arthur Hugh
Clough, and perhaps Carlyle; and in New England, Emerson, Thoreau,
Alcott, the Channings, Theodore Parker, and Elliott Cabot. The plan
came to nothing, but it may have been some reminiscence of it which,
nine years afterward, gave its name to that Boston magazine, the
"Atlantic Monthly." Mr. Emerson's letter was dated in London, April
20, 1848, and said:--

     "I find Chapman very anxious to publish a journal common
     to Old and New England, as was long ago proposed. Froude
     and Clough and other Oxonians would gladly conspire. Let
     the 'Massachusetts Quarterly' give place to this, and we
     should have two legs, and bestride the sea. Here I know so
     many good-minded people that I am sure will gladly combine.
     But what do I, or does any friend of mine in America care
     for a journal? Not enough, I fear, to secure an energetic
     work on that side. I have a letter from Cabot lately and do
     write him to-day. 'Tis certain the Massachusetts 'Quarterly
     Review' will fail, unless Henry Thoreau, and Alcott, and
     Channing and Newcome, the fourfold visages, fly to the
     rescue. I am sorry that Alcott's editor, the Dumont of our
     Bentham, the Baruch of our Jeremiah, is so slow to be born."

In 1846, before Mr. Emerson went abroad, we find Thoreau (whose own
hut beside Walden had been built and inhabited for a year) sketching
a design for a lodge which Mr. Emerson then proposed to build on
the opposite shore. It was to be a retreat for study and writing,
at the summit of a ledge, with a commanding prospect over the level
country, towards Monadnoc and Wachusett in the west and northwest. For
this lookout Mr. Alcott added a story to Thoreau's sketch; but the
hermitage was never built, and the plan finally resulted in a rustic
summer-house, erected by Alcott with some aid from Thoreau, in Mr.
Emerson's garden, in 1847-48.[9]

Humbler friends than poets and philosophers sometimes shared the
companionship of these brethren in Concord. In February, 1847, Mr.
Alcott, who was then a woodman, laboring on his hillside with his own
axe, where afterwards Hawthorne wandered and mused, thus notes in his
diary an incident not unusual in the town:--

     "Our friend the fugitive, who has shared now a week's
     hospitalities with us (sawing and piling my wood), feels
     this new trust of Freedom yet unsafe here in New England,
     and so has left us this morning for Canada. We supplied him
     with the means of journeying, and bade him Godspeed to a
     freer land. His stay with us has given image and a name to
     the dire entity of slavery."

It was this slave, no doubt, who had lodged for a while in Thoreau's
Walden hut.

My own acquaintance with Thoreau did not begin with our common
hostility to slavery, which afterwards brought us most closely
together, but sprang from the accident of my editing for a few weeks
the "Harvard Magazine," a college monthly, in 1854-55, in which
appeared a long review of "Walden" and the "Week." In acknowledgment
of this review, which was laudatory and made many quotations from
his two volumes, Thoreau, whom I had never seen, called at my room
in Holworthy Hall, Cambridge, in January, 1855, and left there in
my absence, a copy of the "Week" with a message implying it was for
the writer of the magazine article. It so happened that I was in the
College Library when Thoreau was calling on me, and when he came,
directly after, to the Library, some one present pointed him out to me
as the author of "Walden." I was then a senior in college, and soon to
go on my winter vacation; in course of which I wrote to Thoreau from
my native town, as follows:--

            "HAMPTON FALLS, N. H., _Jan'y_ 30th, '55.

     "MY DEAR SIR,--I have had it in mind to write you a letter
     ever since the day when you visited me, without my knowing
     it, at Cambridge. I saw you afterward at the Library, but
     refrained from introducing myself to you, in the hope that
     I should see you later in the day. But as I did not, will
     you allow me to seek you out, when next I come to Concord?

     "The author of the criticism in the 'Harvard Magazine' is
     Mr. Morton of Plymouth, a friend and pupil of your friend,
     Marston Watson, of that old town. Accordingly I gave him
     the book which you left with me, judging that it belonged
     to him. He received it with delight, as a gift of value in
     itself, and the more valuable for the sake of the giver.

     "We who at Cambridge look toward Concord as a sort of Mecca
     for our pilgrimages, are glad to see that your last book
     finds such favor with the public. It has made its way where
     your name has rarely been heard before, and the inquiry,
     'Who is Mr. Thoreau?' proves that the book has in part done
     its work. For my own part, I thank you for the new light it
     shows me the aspects of Nature in, and for the marvelous
     beauty of your descriptions. At the same time, if any one
     should ask me what I think of your philosophy, I should be
     apt to answer that it is not worth a straw. Whenever again
     you visit Cambridge, be assured, sir, that it would give me
     much pleasure to see you at my room. There, or in Concord,
     I hope soon to see you; if I may intrude so much on your

     "Believe me always, yours very truly,

                  "F. B. SANBORN."

This note, which I had entirely forgotten, and of which I trust my
friend soon forgave the pertness, came to me recently among his
papers; with one exception, it is the only letter that passed between
us, I think, in an acquaintance of more than seven years. Some six
weeks after its date, I went to live in Concord, and happened to take
rooms in Mr. Channing's house, just across the way from Thoreau's.
I met him more than once in March, 1855, but he did not call on my
sister and me until the 11th of April, when I made the following brief
note of his appearance:--

     "To-night we had a call from Mr. Thoreau, who came at eight
     and stayed till ten. He talked about Latin and Greek--which
     he thought ought to be studied--and about other things. In
     his tones and gestures he seemed to me to imitate Emerson,
     so that it was annoying to listen to him, though he said
     many good things. He looks like Emerson, too,--coarser,
     but with something of that serenity and sagacity which E.
     has. Thoreau looks eminently _sagacious_--like a sort of
     wise, wild beast. He dresses plainly, wears a beard in his
     throat, and has a brown complexion."

A month or two later my diary expanded this sketch a little, with
other particulars:--

     "He is a little under size, with a huge Emersonian nose,
     bluish gray eyes, brown hair, and a ruddy weather-beaten
     face, which reminds me of some shrewd and honest
     animal's--some retired philosophical woodchuck or
     magnanimous fox. He dresses very plainly, wears his collar
     turned over like Mr. Emerson" [we young collegians then
     wearing ours upright], "and often an old dress-coat, broad
     in the skirts, and by no means a fit. He walks about with a
     brisk, rustic air, and never seems tired."

Notwithstanding the slow admiration that these trivial comments
indicated, our friendship grew apace, and for two years or more I
dined with him almost daily, and often joined in his walks and river
voyages, or swam with him in some of our numerous Concord waters. In
1857 I introduced John Brown to him, then a guest at my house; and in
1859, the evening before Brown's last birthday, we listened together
to the old captain's last speech in the Concord Town Hall. The events
of that year and the next brought us closely together, and I found him
the stanchest of friends.

This chapter might easily be extended into a volume, so long was the
list of his companions, and so intimate and perfect his relation with
them, at least on his own side.

     "A truth-speaker he," said Emerson at his funeral, "capable
     of the most deep and strict conversation; a physician to
     the wounds of any soul; a friend, knowing not only the
     secret of friendship, but almost worshipped by those few
     persons who resorted to him as their confessor and prophet,
     and knew the deep value of his mind and great heart. His
     soul was made for the noblest society; he had in a short
     life exhausted the capabilities of this world; wherever
     there is knowledge, wherever there is virtue, wherever
     there is beauty, he will find a home."



It is by his two years' encampment on the shore of a small lake in
the Walden woods, a mile south of Concord village, that Thoreau is
best known to the world; and the book which relates how he lived and
what he saw there is still, as it always was, the most popular of his
writings. Like all his books, it contains much that might as well have
been written on any other subject; but it also describes charmingly
the scenes and events of his sylvan life,--his days and nights with
Nature. He spent two years and a half in this retreat, though often
coming forth from it.

The localities of Concord which Thoreau immortalized were chiefly
those in the neighborhood of some lake or stream,--though it would be
hard to find in that well-watered town, especially in springtime, any
place which is not neighbor either to the nine-times circling river
Musketaquid, to the swifter Assabet,

    "That like an arrowe clear
    Through Troy rennest aie downward to the sea,"--

to Walden or White Pond, to Bateman's Pond, to the Mill Brook, the
Sanguinetto, the Nut-Meadow, or the Second Division Brook. All these
waters and more are renowned again and again in Thoreau's books. Like
Icarus, the ancient high-flyer, he tried his fortune upon many a
river, fiord, streamlet, and broad sea,--

    "Where still the shore his brave attempt resounds."

He gave beauty and dignity to obscure places by his mention of them;
and it is curious that the neighborhood of Walden,--now the most
romantic and poetical region of Concord, associated in every mind with
this tender lover of Nature, and his worship of her,--was anciently
a place of dark repute, the home of pariahs and lawless characters,
such as fringed the sober garment of many a New England village in
Puritanic times.

Close by Walden is Brister's Hill, where, in the early days of
emancipation in Massachusetts, the newly freed slaves of Concord
magnates took up their abode,--

    "The wrathful kings on cairns apart,"

as Ossian says. Here dwelt Cato Ingraham, freedman of 'Squire Duncan
Ingraham, who, when yet a slave in his master's backyard, on the day
of Concord fight, was brought to a halt by the fierce Major Pitcairn,
then something the worse for 'Squire Ingraham's wine, and ordered to
"lay down his arms and disperse," as the rebels at Lexington had been
six hours earlier. Here also abode Zilpha, a black Circe, who spun
linen, and made the Walden Woods resound with her shrill singing:--

    "Dives inaccessos ubi Solis filia lucos
    Assiduo resonat cantu, tectisque superbis
    Urit odoratam nocturna in lumina cedrum,
    Arguto tenues percurrens pectine telas."

But some paroled English prisoners in the War of 1812, burnt down her
proud abode, with its imprisoned cat and dog and hens, while Zilpha
was absent. Down the road towards the village from Cato's farm and
Zilpha's musical loom and wheel, lived Brister Freeman, who gave his
name to the hill,--Scipio Brister, "a handy negro," once the slave of
'Squire Cummings, but long since emancipated, and in Thoreau's boyhood
set free again by death, and buried in an old Lincoln graveyard, near
the ancestor of President Garfield, but still nearer the unmarked
graves of British grenadiers, who fell in the retreat from Concord.
With this Scipio Africanus Brister Libertinus, in the edge of the
Walden Woods, "dwelt Fenda, his hospitable wife, who told fortunes,
yet pleasantly--large, round, and black,--such a dusky orb as never
rose on Concord, before or since," says Thoreau. Such was the African
colony on the south side of Concord village among the woods, while
on the northern edge of the village, along the Great Meadows, there
dwelt another colony, headed by Cæsar Robbins, whose descendants still
flit about the town. Older than all was the illustrious Guinea negro,
John Jack, once a slave on the farm which is now the glebe of the Old
Manse, but who purchased his freedom about the time the Old Manse was
built in 1765-66. He survives in his quaint epitaph, written by Daniel
Bliss, the young Tory brother of the first mistress of the manse
(Mrs. William Emerson, grandmother of Emerson, the poet):--

    "_God wills us free, Man wills us slaves,
    I will as God wills: God's will be done._

            Here lies the body of
                 JOHN JACK,
        A native of Africa, who died
    March, 1773, aged about sixty years.
      Though born in a land of slavery,
              He was born free;
    Though he lived in a land of liberty,
              He lived a slave;
    Till by his honest though stolen labors
      He acquired the source of slavery
        Which gave him his freedom;
          Though not long before
          Death the grand tyrant
      Gave him his final emancipation,
    And put him on a footing with kings.
          Though a slave to vice,
        He practised those virtues
    Without which kings are but slaves."

This epitaph, and the anecdote already given concerning Cæsar Robbins,
may illustrate the humanity and humor with which the freedmen of
Concord were regarded, while an adventure of Scipio Brister's, in his
early days of freedom, may show the mixture of savage fun and contempt
that also followed them, and which some of their conduct may have

The village drover and butcher once had a ferocious bull to kill, and
when he had succeeded with some difficulty in driving him into his
slaughter-house, on the Walden road, nobody was willing to go in and
kill him. Just then Brister Freeman, from his hill near Walden, came
along the road, and was slyly invited by the butcher to go into the
slaughter-house for an axe,--being told that when he brought it he
should have a job to do. The unsuspecting freedman opened the door
and walked in; it was shut behind him, and he found the bull drawn up
in line of battle before him. After some pursuit and retreat in the
narrow arena, Brister spied the axe he wanted, and began attacking
his pursuer, giving him a blow here or there as he had opportunity.
His employers outside watched the bull-fight through a hole in the
building, and cheered on the matador with shouts and laughter. At
length, by a fortunate stroke, the African conquered, the bull fell,
and his slayer threw down the axe and rushed forth unhurt. But his
tormentors declared "he was no longer the dim, sombre negro he went
in, but literally white with terror, and what was once his wool
straightened out and standing erect on his head." Without waiting to
be identified, or to receive pay for his work, Brister, affrighted and
wrathful, withdrew to the wooded hill and to the companionship of his
fortune-telling Fenda, who had not foreseen the hazard of her spouse.

It was along the same road and down this hill, passing by the town
"poor-farm" and poor-house,--the last retreat of these straggling
soldiers of fortune,--that Thoreau went toward the village jail from
his hermitage, that day in 1846, when the town constable carried him
off from the shoemaker's to whose shop he had gone to get a cobbled
shoe. His room-mate in jail for the single night he slept there, was
introduced to him by the jailer, Mr. Staples (a real name), as "a
first-rate fellow and a clever man," and on being asked by Thoreau why
he was in prison, replied, "Why, they accuse me of burning a barn,
but I never did it." As near as Thoreau could make out, he had gone
to bed in a barn when drunk, and smoked his pipe there. Such were the
former denizens of the Walden woods--votaries of Bacchus and Apollo,
and extremely liable to take fire upon small occasion,--like Giordano
Bruno's sonneteer, who, addressing the Arabian Phenix, says,--

    "_Tu bruci 'n un, ed io in ogni loco,
    Io da Cupido, hai tu da Febo il foco_."

It seems by the letter of Margaret Fuller in 1841 (cited in chapter
VI.), that Thoreau had for years meditated a withdrawal to a
solitary life. The retreat he then had in view was, doubtless, the
Hollowell Farm, a place, as he says, "of complete retirement, being
about two miles from the village, half a mile from the nearest
neighbor, and separated from the highway by a broad field." The
house stood apart from the road to Nine-Acre Corner, fronting the
Musketaquid on a green hill-side, and was first seen by Thoreau as a
boy, in his earliest voyages up the river to Fairhaven Bay, "concealed
behind a dense grove of red maples, through which I heard the
house-dog bark." This place Thoreau once bought, but released it to
the owner, whose wife refused to sign the deed of sale. In his Walden
venture he was a squatter, using for his house-lot a woodland of Mr.
Emerson's, who, for the sake of his walks and his wood-fire, had
bought land on both sides of Walden Pond.

How early Thoreau formed his plan of retiring to a hut among these
woods, I have not learned; but in a letter written to him March 5,
1845, by his friend Channing, a passage occurs concerning it; and it
was in the latter part of the same month that Thoreau borrowed Mr.
Alcott's axe and went across the fields to cut the timber for his
cabin. Channing writes:--

     "I see nothing for you in this earth but that field which
     I once christened 'Briars;' go out upon that, build
     yourself a hut, and there begin the grand process of
     devouring yourself alive. I see no alternative, no other
     hope for you. Eat yourself up; you will eat nobody else,
     nor anything else. Concord is just as good a place as
     any other; there are, indeed, more people in the streets
     of that village than in the streets of this." [He was
     writing from the Tribune Office, in New York.] "This is
     a singularly muddy town; muddy, solitary, and silent. I
     saw Teufelsdröckh a few days since; he said a few words
     to me about you. Says he, 'That fellow Thoreau might be
     something, if he would only take a journey through the
     Everlasting No, thence for the North Pole. By G--,' said
     the old clothes-bag, warming up, 'I should like to take
     that fellow out into the Everlasting No, and explode him
     like a bombshell; he would make a loud report; it would be
     fun to see him pick himself up. He needs the Blumine flower
     business; that would be his salvation. He is too dry, too
     composed, too chalky, too concrete. Does that execrable
     compound of sawdust and stagnation L. still prose about
     nothing? and that nutmeg-grater of a Z. yet shriek about
     nothing? Does anybody still think of coming to Concord to
     live? I mean new people? If they do, let them beware of you

Of course, this imaginary Teufelsdröckh, like Carlyle's, was the
satirical man in the writer himself, suggesting the humorous and
contradictory side of things, and glancing at the coolness of Thoreau,
which his friends sometimes found provoking. In his own person
Channing adds:--

     "I should be pleased to hear from Kamchatka occasionally;
     my last advices from the Polar Bear are getting stale.
     In addition to this I find that my corresponding members
     at Van Diemen's Land have wandered into limbo. I hear
     occasionally from the World; everything seems to be
     promising in that quarter; business is flourishing, and
     the people are in good spirits. I feel convinced that the
     Earth has less claims to our regard than formerly; these
     mild winters deserve severe censure. But I am well aware
     that the Earth will talk about the necessity of routine,
     taxes, etc. On the whole it is best not to complain without

It is well to read this shrewd humor, uttered in the opposite sense
from Thoreau's paradoxical wit in his "Walden," as an introduction
or motto to that book. For Thoreau has been falsely judged from the
wit and the paradox of "Walden," as if he were a hater of men, or
foolishly desired all mankind to retire to the woods. As Channing
said, soon after his friend's death,--

     "The fact that our author lived for a while alone in a
     shanty, near a pond, and named one of his books after
     the place where it stood, has led some to say he was a
     barbarian or a misanthrope. It was a writing-case; here in
     this wooden inkstand he wrote a good part of his famous
     'Walden,' and this solitary woodland pool was more to
     his Muse than all oceans of the planet, by the force of
     imagination. Some have fancied, because he moved to Walden,
     he left his family. He bivouacked there and really lived at
     home, where he went every day."

This last is not literally true, for he was sometimes secluded in his
hut for days together; but he remained as social at Walden as he had
been while an inmate of Mr. Emerson's family in 1841-43, or again
in 1847-48, after giving up his hermitage. He, in fact, as he says

     "Went to the woods because he wished to live deliberately,
     to front only the essential facts of life, and see if he
     could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when he came
     to die, discover that he had not lived."

In another place he says he went to Walden to "transact some private
business," and this he did to good purpose. He edited there his
"Week," some portions of which had appeared in the "Dial" from 1840
to 1844, but which was not published as a volume until 1849, although
he had made many attempts to issue it earlier. It was at Walden,
also, that he wrote his essay on Carlyle, which was first published
in "Graham's Magazine," at Philadelphia, in 1847, through the good
offices of Horace Greeley, of which we shall hear more in the next

Thoreau's hermit life was not, then, merely a protest against the
luxury and the restraints of society, nor yet an austere discipline
such as monks and saints have imposed upon themselves for their souls'
good. "My purpose in going to Walden was not to live cheaply, nor to
live dearly there, but to transact some private business with the
fewest obstacles." He lived a life of labor and study in his hut.
Emerson says, "as soon as he had exhausted the advantages of that
solitude, he abandoned it." He had edited his first book there; had
satisfied himself that he was fit to be an author, and had passed his
first examinations; then he graduated from that gymnasium as another
young student might from the medical college or the polytechnic
school. "I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there."
His abandoned hut was then taken by a Scotch gardener, Hugh Whelan
by name, who removed it some rods away, to the midst of Thoreau's
bean-field, and made it his cottage for a few years. Then it was
bought by a farmer, who put it on wheels and carried it three miles
northward, toward the entry of the Estabrook Farm on the old Carlisle
road, where it stood till after Thoreau's death,--a shelter for corn
and beans, and a favorite haunt of squirrels and blue jays. The
wood-cut representing the hermitage in the first edition of "Walden,"
is from a sketch made by Sophia Thoreau, and is more exact than that
given in Page's "Life of Thoreau," but in neither picture are the
trees accurately drawn.

On the spot where Thoreau lived at Walden there is now a cairn of
stones, yearly visited by hundreds, and growing in height as each
friend of his muse adds a stone from the shore of the fair water he
loved so well.

    "Beat with thy paddle on the boat
    Midway the lake,--the wood repeats
    The ordered blow; the echoing note
    Is ended in thy ear; yet its retreats
    Conceal Time's possibilities;
    And in this Man the nature lies
        Of woods so green,
        And lakes so sheen,
    And hermitages edged between.
    And I may tell you that the Man was good,
    Never did his neighbor harm,--
    Sweet was it where he stood,
    Sunny and warm;
    Like the seat beneath a pine
    That winter suns have cleared away
    With their yellow tine,--
    Red-cushioned and tasseled with the day."

The events and thoughts of Thoreau's life at Walden may be read in
his book of that name. As a protest against society, that life was
ineffectual,--as the communities at Brook Farm and Fruitlands had
proved to be; and as the Fourierite phalansteries, in which Horace
Greeley interested himself, were destined to be. In one sense, all
these were failures; but in Thoreau's case the failure was slight, the
discipline and experience gained were invaluable. He never regretted
it, and the Walden episode in his career has made him better known
than anything else.



In a letter to his sister Sophia, July 21, 1843, written from Mr.
William Emerson's house at Staten Island, Thoreau says:--

     "In New York I have seen, since I wrote last, Horace
     Greeley, editor of the 'Tribune,' who is cheerfully
     in earnest at his office of all work,--a hearty New
     Hampshire boy as one would wish to meet,--and says, 'Now
     be neighborly.' He believes only or mainly, first in the
     Sylvania Association, somewhere in Pennsylvania; and
     secondly, and most of all, in a new association, to go into
     operation soon in New Jersey, with which he is connected."

This was the "Phalanstery" at which W. H. Channing afterward preached.
A fortnight later, Thoreau writes to Mr. Emerson:--

     "I have had a pleasant talk with W. H. Channing; and
     Greeley, too, it was refreshing to meet. They were both
     much pleased with your criticism on Carlyle, but thought
     that you had overlooked what chiefly concerned them in the
     book,--its practical aims and merits."

This refers to the notice of Carlyle's "Past and Present," in the
"Dial" for July, 1843, and shows that Mr. Greeley was a quick reader
of that magazine, as Thoreau always was of the "New York Tribune."
From this time onward a warm friendship continued between Thoreau
and Greeley, and many letters went to and fro, which reveal the
able editor in the light of a modern Mæcenas to the author of the
Musketaquid Georgics.

No letters seem to have passed between them earlier than 1846; and in
1844-45 Thoreau must have known the "Tribune" editor best through his
newspaper, and from the letters of Margaret Fuller, Ellery Channing,
and other common friends, who saw much of him then, admired and
laughed at him, or did both by turns. Miss Fuller, who had gone to New
York to write for the "Tribune," and to live in its Editor's family,

     "Mr. Greeley is a man of genuine excellence, honorable,
     benevolent, and of an uncorrupted disposition. He is
     sagacious, and, in his way, of even great abilities. In
     modes of life and manners, he is a man of the people,--and
     of the American people. With the exception of my own
     mother, I think him the most disinterestedly generous
     person I have ever known."

There was a laughable side even to these fine traits, and there were
eccentricities of dress and manner, which others saw more keenly than
this generous woman. Ellery Channing,--whose eye no whimsical or
beautiful object ever escaped,--in the letter of March, 1845, already
cited, thus signaled to Thoreau the latest news of his friend:--

     "Mumbo Jumbo is recovering from an attack of sore eyes, and
     will soon be out, in a pair of canvas trousers, scarlet
     jacket, and cocked hat. I understand he intends to demolish
     all the remaining species of Fetichism at a meal. I think
     it is probable it will vomit him."

Thoreau wrote an essay on Carlyle in 1846, and in the summer of that
year sent it to Mr. Greeley, with a request that he would find a place
for it in some magazine. To this request, which Mr. Greeley himself
had invited, no doubt, he thus replied:--

            "_August 16, 1846._

     "MY DEAR THOREAU,--Believe me when I say that I _mean_ to
     do the errand you have asked of me, and that soon. But I
     am not sanguine of success, and have hardly a hope that it
     will be immediate, if ever. I hardly know a work that would
     publish your article all at once, and 'to be continued'
     are words shunned like a pestilence. But I know you have
     written a good thing about Carlyle,--too solidly good,
     I fear, to be profitable to yourself, or attractive to
     publishers. Did'st thou ever, O my friend! ponder on the
     significance and cogency of the assurance, 'Ye cannot serve
     God and Mammon,' as applicable to literature,--applicable,
     indeed, to all things whatsoever? God grant us grace to
     endeavor to serve Him rather than Mammon,--that ought to
     suffice us. In my poor judgment, if anything is calculated
     to make a scoundrel of an honest man, writing to sell is
     that very particular thing.

            "Yours heartily,

                  "HORACE GREELEY.

     "Remind Ralph Waldo Emerson and wife of my existence and
     grateful remembrance."

On the 30th of September Mr. Greeley again wrote, saying,--

     "I learned to-day, through Mr. Griswold, former editor of
     'Graham's Magazine,' that your lecture is accepted, to
     appear in that magazine. Of course it is to be paid for at
     the usual rate, as I expressly so stated when I inclosed
     it to Graham. He has not written me a word on the subject,
     which induces me to think he may have written you.[10]
     Please write me if you would have me speak further on the
     subject. The pay, however, is sure, though the amount may
     not be large, and I think you may wait until the article
     appears, before making further stipulations on the subject."

From the tenor of this I infer that Thoreau had written to say that he
might wish to read his "Thomas Carlyle" as a lecture, and desired to
stipulate for that before it was printed. He might be excused for some
solicitude concerning payment, from his recent experience with the
publishers of the "Boston Miscellany," which had printed, in 1843, his
"Walk to Wachusett." At the very time when Thoreau, in New York, was
making Greeley's acquaintance, Mr. Emerson, in Boston, was dunning the
Miscellaneous publishers, and wrote to Thoreau (July 20, 1843):--

     "When I called on ----, their partner, in their absence,
     informed me that they could not pay you, at present, any
     part of their debt on account of the Boston 'Miscellany.'
     After much talking all the promise he could offer was,
     'that within a year it would probably be paid,'--a
     probability which certainly looks very slender. The very
     worst thing he said was the proposition that you should
     take your payment in the form of Boston Miscellanies! I
     shall not fail to refresh their memory at intervals."

But I cannot learn that anything came of it. Mr. Greeley, as we shall
see, was a more successful collector. On the 26th of October, 1846, he
continued the adventures of the wandering essay as follows:--

     "MY FRIEND THOREAU,--I know you think it odd that you have
     not heard further, and, perhaps blame my negligence or
     engrossing cares, but, if so, without good reason. I have
     to-day received a letter from Griswold, in Philadelphia,
     who says: 'The article by Thoreau on Carlyle is in type,
     and will be paid for liberally.' 'Liberally' is quoted
     as an expression of Graham's. I know well the difference
     between a publisher's and an author's idea of what _is_
     'liberally'; but I give you the best I can get as the
     result of three letters to Philadelphia on this subject.

     "Success to you, my friend! Remind Mr. and Mrs. Emerson of
     my existence, and my lively remembrance of their various

     "Yours, very busy in our political contest,

                  "HORACE GREELEY."

It would seem that "Griswold" (who was Rufus W. Griswold, the
biographer of Poe) and "Graham" (who was George R. Graham, the
magazine publisher of Philadelphia), did not move so fast either in
publication or in payment as they had led Mr. Greeley to expect;
and also that Thoreau became impatient and wrote to his friend that
he would withdraw the essay. Whereupon Mr. Greeley, under date of
February 5, 1847, wrote thus:--

     "MY DEAR THOREAU,--Although your letter only came to hand
     to-day, I attended to its subject yesterday, when I was in
     Philadelphia, on my way home from Washington. Your article
     is this moment in type, and will appear about the 20th
     inst., _as the leading article_ in 'Graham's Magazine' for
     next month. Now don't object to this, nor be unreasonably
     sensitive at the delay. It is immensely more important to
     you that the article should appear thus (that is, if you
     have any literary aspirations) than it is that you should
     make a few dollars by issuing it in some other way. As to
     lecturing, you have been at perfect liberty to deliver it
     as a lecture a hundred times, if you had chosen,--the more
     the better. It is really a good thing, and I will see that
     Graham pays you fairly for it. But its appearance there is
     worth far more to you than money. I know there has been
     too much delay, and have done my best to obviate it. But I
     could not. A magazine that pays, and which it is desirable
     to be known as a contributor to, is always crowded with
     articles, and has to postpone some for others of even less
     merit. I do this myself with good things that I am not
     required to pay for.

     "Thoreau, do not think hard of Graham. Do not try to stop
     the publication of your article. It is best as it is. But
     just sit down and write a like article about Emerson,
     which I will give you $25 for, if you cannot do better
     with it; then one about Hawthorne at your leisure, etc.,
     etc. I will pay you the money for each of these articles
     on delivery, publish them when and how I please, leaving
     to you the copyright expressly. In a year or two, if you
     take care not to write faster than you think, you will have
     the material of a volume worth publishing,--and then we
     will see what can be done. There is a text somewhere in St.
     Paul--my Scriptural reading is getting rusty,--which says,
     'Look not back to the things which are behind, but rather
     to those which are before,' etc. Commending this to your
     thoughtful appreciation, I am, yours, etc.

                  "HORACE GREELEY."

The Carlyle essay did appear in two numbers of "Graham's Magazine"
(March and April, 1847), but alas, no payment came to hand. After
waiting a year longer, Thoreau wrote to Greeley again (March 31,
1848), informing him of the delinquency of Griswold and Graham. At
once, his friend replied (April 3), "It saddens and surprises me to
know that your article was not paid for by Graham; and, since my honor
is involved in the matter, I will see that you _are_ paid, and that at
no distant day." Accordingly on the 17th of May, 1848, he writes again
as follows:--

     "DEAR FRIEND THOREAU,--I trust you have not thought me
     neglectful or dilatory with regard to your business. I have
     done my very best, throughout, and it is only to-day that
     I have been able to lay my hand on the money due you from
     Graham. I have been to see him in Philadelphia, but did not
     catch him in his business office; then I have been here to
     meet him, and been referred to his brother, etc. I finally
     found the two numbers of the work in which your article
     was published (not easy, I assure you, for he has them not,
     nor his brother, and I hunted them up, and bought one of
     them at a very out-of-the-way place), and with these I made
     out a regular bill for the contribution; drew a draft on
     G. R. Graham for the amount, gave it to his brother here
     for collection, and to-day received the money. Now you see
     how to get pay yourself, another time; I have pioneered
     the way, and you can follow it easily yourself. There has
     been no intentional injustice on Graham's part; but he is
     overwhelmed with business, has too many irons in the fire,
     and we did not go at him the right way. Had you drawn a
     draft on him, at first, and given it to the Concord Bank to
     send in for collection, you would have received your money
     long since. Enough of this. I have made Graham pay you
     $75, but I only send you $50, for, having got so much for
     Carlyle, I am ashamed to take your 'Maine Woods' for $25."

This last allusion is to a new phase of the queer patronage which the
good Mæcenas extended to our Concord poet. In his letter of March 31,
1848, Thoreau had offered Greeley, in compliance with his suggestion
of the previous year, a paper on "Ktaadn and the Maine Woods," which
afterwards appeared in the "Union Magazine." On the 17th of April
Greeley writes:--

     "I inclose you $25 for your article on Maine Scenery, as
     promised. I know it is worth more, though I have not yet
     found time to read it; but I have tried once to sell it
     without success. It is rather long for my columns, and too
     fine for the million; but I consider it a cheap bargain,
     and shall print it myself, if I do not dispose of it
     to better advantage. You will not, of course, consider
     yourself under any sort of obligation to me, for my offer
     was in the way of business, and I have got more than the
     worth of my money."

On the 17th of May he adds:--

     "I have expectations of procuring it a place in a new
     magazine of high character that will pay. I don't expect
     to get as much for it as for Carlyle, but I hope to get
     $50. If you are satisfied to take the $25 for your 'Maine
     Woods,' say so, and I will send on the money; but I don't
     want to seem a Jew, buying your articles at half price to
     speculate upon. If you choose to let it go that way, it
     shall be so; but I would sooner do my best for you, and
     send you the money."

On the 28th of October, 1848, he writes:

     "I break a silence of some duration to inform you that I
     hope on Monday to receive payment for your glorious account
     of 'Ktaadn and the Maine Woods,' which I bought of you at
     a Jew's bargain, and sold to the 'Union Magazine.' I am to
     get $75 for it, and, as I don't choose to _exploiter_ you
     at such a rate, I shall insist on inclosing you $25 more in
     this letter, which will still leave me $25 to pay various
     charges and labors I have incurred in selling your articles
     and getting paid for them,--the latter by far the more
     difficult portion of the business."

In the letter of April 17, 1848, Mr. Greeley had further said:--

     "If you will write me two or three articles in the
     course of the summer, I think I can dispose of them for
     your benefit. But write not more than half as long as
     your article just sent me, for that is too long for the
     magazines. If that were in two, it would be far more
     valuable. What about your book (the 'Week')? Is anything
     going on about it now? Why did not Emerson try it in
     England? I think the Howitts could get it favorably before
     the British public. If you can suggest any way wherein I
     can put it forward, do not hesitate, but command me."

In the letter of May 17th, he reiterates the advice to be brief:--

     "Thoreau, if you will only write one or two articles, when
     in the spirit, about half the length of this, I can sell it
     readily and advantageously. The length of your papers is
     the only impediment to their appreciation by the magazines.
     Give me one or two shorter, and I will try to coin them

May 25th he returns to the charge, when sending the last twenty-five
dollars for the "Maine Woods":--

     "Write me something shorter when the spirit moves (never
     write a line otherwise, for the hack writer is a slavish
     beast, _I_ know), and I will sell it for you soon. I want
     one shorter article from your pen that will be quoted, as
     these long articles cannot be, and let the public know
     something of your way of thinking and seeing. It will do
     good. What do you think of following out your thought in an
     essay on 'The Literary Life?' You need not make a personal
     allusion, but I know you can write an article worth reading
     on that theme, when you are in the vein."

After a six months' interval (November 19, 1848), Greeley resumes in a
similar strain:--

     "FRIEND THOREAU,--Yours of the 17th received. Say we are
     even on money counts, and let the matter drop. I have
     tried to serve you, and have been fully paid for my own
     disbursements and trouble in the premises. So we will move

     "I think you will do well to send me some passages from one
     or both of your new works to dispose of to the magazines.
     This will be the best kind of advertisement, whether for
     a publisher or for readers. You may write with an angel's
     pen, yet your writings have no mercantile money value till
     you are known and talked of as an author. Mr. Emerson
     would have been twice as much known and read, if he had
     written for the magazines a little, just to let common
     people know of his existence. I believe a chapter from one
     of your books printed in 'Graham,' or 'The Union,' will
     add many to the readers of the volume when issued. Here
     is the reason why British books sell so much better among
     us than American,--because they are thoroughly advertised
     through the British reviews, magazines, and journals which
     circulate or are copied among us. However, do as you
     please. If you choose to send me one of your manuscripts
     I will get it published, but I cannot promise you any
     considerable recompense; and, indeed, if Munroe will do it,
     that will be better. Your writings are in advance of the
     general mind here; Boston is nearer their standard. I never
     saw the verses you speak of. Won't you send them again? I
     have been buried up in politics for the last six weeks.
     Kind regards to Emerson. It is doubtful about my seeing you
     this season."

Here the letters ceased for a time. "Munroe did it,"--that is, a
Boston bookseller published Thoreau's "Week," which was favorably
reviewed by George Ripley in the "Tribune," by Lowell in the
"Massachusetts Quarterly," and by others elsewhere; but the book did
not sell, and involved its author in debt for its printing. To meet
this he took up surveying as a business, and after a time, when some
payment must be made, he asked his friend Greeley for a loan. In the
interval, Margaret Fuller had written from Europe those remarkable
letters for the "Tribune," had married in Italy, sailed for home in
1850, and died on the shore of Fire Island, near New York, whither
Thoreau went with her friends to learn her fate, and recover the loved
remains. This was in July, 1850, and he no doubt saw Mr. Greeley
there. A year and a half later, when he was seeking opportunities to
lecture, he wrote to Mr. Greeley again, in February, 1852, offering
himself to lecture in a course at New York, which the "Tribune" editor
had some interest in. The reply was this:--

            "NEW YORK, _February 24, 1852_.

     "MY FRIEND THOREAU,--Thank you for your remembrance, though
     the motto you suggest is impracticable. The People's Course
     is full for the season; and even if it were not, your name
     would probably not pass; because it is not merely necessary
     that each lecturer should continue _well_ the course,
     but that he shall be _known_ as the very man beforehand.
     Whatever draws less than fifteen hundred hearers damages
     the finances of the movement, so low is the admission,
     and so large the expense. But, Thoreau, you are a better
     speaker than many, but a far better writer still. Do you
     wish to swap any of your 'wood-notes wild' for dollars? If
     yea, and you will sell me some articles, shorter, if you
     please, than the former, I will try to coin them for you.
     Is it a bargain? Yours,

                  "HORACE GREELEY."

Thoreau responded at once with some manuscripts (March 5), and was
thus addressed, March 18, by his friend:--

     "I shall get you some money for the articles you sent
     me, though not immediately. As to your long account of a
     Canadian tour, I don't know. It looks unmanageable. Can't
     you cut it into three or four, and omit all that relates
     to time? The cities are described to death; but I know you
     are at home with Nature, and that _she_ rarely and slowly
     changes. Break this up, if you can, and I will try to have
     it swallowed and digested."

A week later he sent a letter from the publisher, Sartain, accepting
the articles for a low price,[11] and adds: "If you break up your
'Excursion to Canada' into three or four articles, I have no doubt I
could get it published on similar terms." April 3, 1852, he returns to
a former proposition, that Thoreau shall write about Emerson as he did
six years before on Carlyle.

     "FRIEND THOREAU,--I wish you to write me an article on
     Ralph Waldo Emerson, his Works and Ways, extending to one
     hundred pages, or so, of letter sheet like this, to take
     the form of a review of his writings, but to give some
     idea of the Poet, the Genius, the Man,--with some idea of
     the New England scenery and home influence, which have
     combined to make him what he is. Let it be calm, searching,
     and impartial; nothing like adulation, but a just summing
     up of what he is and what he has done. I mean to get this
     into the 'Westminster Review,' but if not acceptable there,
     I will publish it elsewhere. I will pay you fifty dollars
     for the article when delivered; in advance, if you desire
     it. Say the word, and I will send the money at once. It is
     perfectly convenient to do so. Your 'Carlyle' article is
     my model, but you can give us Emerson better than you did
     Carlyle. I presume he would allow you to write extracts for
     this purpose from his lectures not yet published. I would
     delay the publication of the article to suit his publishing
     arrangements, should that be requested.


                  "HORACE GREELEY."

To this request, as before, there came a prompt negative, although
Thoreau was then sadly in need of money. Mr. Greeley wrote, April 20:--

     "I am rather sorry you will not do the 'Works and Ways,'
     but glad that you are able to employ your time to better
     purpose. But your Quebec notes haven't reached me yet,
     and I fear the 'good time' is passing. They ought to have
     appeared in the June number of the monthlies, but now
     cannot before July. If you choose to send them to me all in
     a lump, I will try to get them printed in that way. I don't
     care about them if you choose to reserve, or to print them
     elsewhere; but I can better make a use for them at this
     season than at any other."

They were sent, and offered to the "Whig Review," and to other
magazines; but on the 25th of June, Mr. Greeley writes:--

     "I have had only bad luck with your manuscript. Two
     magazines have refused it on the ground of its length,
     saying that articles 'To be continued' are always
     unpopular, however good. I will try again."

It seems that the author had relied upon money from this source,
and a week or two later he asks his friend to lend him the expected
seventy-five dollars, offering security, with mercantile scrupulosity.
Promptly came this answer:--

            "NEW YORK, _July 8, 1852_.

     "DEAR THOREAU,--Yours received. I was absent yesterday.
     I _can_ lend you the seventy-five dollars, and am very
     glad to do it. Don't talk about security. I am sorry about
     your MSS., which I do not quite despair of using to your


                  "HORACE GREELEY."

The "Yankee in Canada," as it is now called (the record of Thoreau's
journey through French Canada in September, 1850, with Ellery
Channing), was offered to "Putnam's Magazine" by Mr. Greeley, and
begun there, but ill-luck attended it. Before it went the paper on
"Cape Cod," which became the subject of controversy, first as to
price, and then as to its tone towards the people of that region. This
will explain the letters of Mr. Greeley that follow:--

            "NEW YORK, _November 23, 1852_.

     "MY DEAR THOREAU,--I have made no bargain--none
     whatever--with Putnam concerning your MSS. I have indicated
     no price to them. I handed over the MS. because I wished
     it published, and presumed that was in accordance both
     with your interest and your wishes. And I now say to you,
     that if he will pay you three dollars per printed page,
     I think that will be very well. I have promised to write
     something for him myself, and shall be well satisfied with
     that price. Your 'Canada' is not so fresh and acceptable
     as if it had just been written on the strength of a last
     summer's trip, and I hope you will have it printed in
     'Putnam's Monthly.' But I have said nothing to his folks
     as to price, and will not till I hear from you again. Very
     probably there was some misapprehension on the part of C. I
     presume the price now offered you is that paid to writers
     generally for the 'Monthly.' As to Sartain, I know his
     '(Union) Magazine' has broken down, but I guess he will pay
     you. I have seen but one of your articles printed by him,
     and I think the other may be reclaimed. Please address him
     at once."

            "NEW YORK, _January 2, 1853_.

     "FRIEND THOREAU,--I have yours of the 29th, and credit you
     $20. Pay me when and in such sums as may be convenient.
     I am sorry you and C. cannot agree so as to have your
     whole MS. printed. It will be worth nothing elsewhere
     after having partly appeared in Putnam's. I think it is a
     mistake to conceal the authorship of the several articles,
     making them all (so to speak) _editorial_; but _if_ that
     is done, don't you see that the elimination of very
     flagrant heresies (like your defiant Pantheism) becomes a
     necessity? If you had withdrawn your MSS., on account of
     the abominable misprints in the first number, your ground
     would have been far more tenable.

     "However, do what you will. Yours,

                  "HORACE GREELEY."

Thoreau did what he would, of course, and the article in Putnam came
to an abrupt end. The loan made in July, 1852, was paid with interest
on the 9th of March, 1853, as the following note shows:--

            "NEW YORK, _March 16, 1853_.

     "DEAR SIR,--I have yours of the 9th, inclosing Putnam's
     check for $59, making $79 in all you have paid me. I am
     paid in full, and this letter is your receipt in full. I
     don't want any pay for my 'services,' whatever they may
     have been. Consider me your friend who _wished_ to serve
     you, however unsuccessfully. Don't break with C. or Putnam."

A year later, Thoreau renewed his subscription to the "Weekly
Tribune," but the letter miscarried. In due time came this reply to a
third letter:--

            "_March 6, 1854._

     "DEAR SIR,--I presume your first letter containing the $2
     was robbed by our general mail robber of New Haven, who has
     just been sent to the State's Prison. Your second letter
     has probably failed to receive attention owing to a press
     of business. But I will make all right. You ought to have
     the Semi-weekly, and I shall order it sent to you one year
     on trial; if you choose to write me a letter or so some
     time, very well; if not, we will be even without that.

     "Thoreau, I want you to do something on _my_ urgency. I
     want you to collect and arrange your 'Miscellanies' and
     send them to me. Put in 'Ktaadn,' 'Carlyle,' 'A Winter
     Walk,' 'Canada,' etc., and I will try to find a publisher
     who will bring them out at his own risk, and (I hope) to
     your ultimate profit. If you have anything new to put
     with them, very well; but let me have about a 12mo volume
     whenever you can get it ready, and see if there is not
     something to your credit in the bank of Fortune. Yours,

                  "HORACE GREELEY."

In reply, Thoreau notified his friend of the early publication of
"Walden," and was thus met:--

            "_March 23, 1854._

     "DEAR THOREAU,--I am glad your 'Walden' is coming out.
     _I_ shall announce it at once, whether Ticknor does or
     not. I am in no hurry now about your 'Miscellanies;' take
     your time, select your title, and prepare your articles
     deliberately and finally. Then, if Ticknor will give
     you something worth having, let him have this too; if
     proffering it to him is to glut your market, let it come to
     me. But take your time. I was only thinking you were merely
     waiting when you might be doing something. I referred
     (without naming you) to your 'Walden' experience in my
     lecture on 'Self-Culture,' with which I have had ever so
     many audiences. This episode excited much interest, and I
     have been repeatedly asked who it is that I refer to.


                  "HORACE GREELEY.

     "P. S.--You must know Miss Elizabeth Hoar, whereas I
     hardly do. Now, I have offered to edit Margaret's works,
     and I want of Elizabeth a letter or memorandum of personal
     recollections of Margaret and her ideas. Can't you ask her
     to write it for me?

                  "H. G."

To the request of this postscript Thoreau attended at once, but the
"Miscellanies" dwelt not in his mind, it would seem. He had now
become deeply concerned about slavery, was also pursuing his studies
concerning the Indians, and had little time for the collection of his
published papers. A short note of April 2, 1854, closes this part of
the Greeley correspondence, thus:--

     "DEAR THOREAU,--Thank you for your kindness in the matter
     of Margaret. Pray take no further trouble; but if anything
     should come in your way, calculated to help me, do not


                  "HORACE GREELEY."

In August, 1855, Mr. Greeley wrote to suggest that copies of "Walden"
should be sent to the "Westminster Review," to "The Reasoner,"
147 Fleet Street, London, to Gerald Massey, office of the "News,"
Edinburgh, and to "---- Wills, Esq., Dickens's Household Words,"

     "There is a small class in England who ought to know what
     you have written, and I feel sure your publishers would not
     throw away copies sent to these periodicals; especially
     if your 'Week on the Concord and Merrimac' could accompany
     them. Chapman, editor of the 'Westminster,' expressed
     surprise that your book had not been sent him, and I could
     find very few who had read or seen it. If a new edition
     should be called for, try to have it better known in
     Europe, but have a few copies sent to those worthy of it,
     at all events."

In March, 1856, Mr. Greeley opened a new correspondence with Thoreau,
asking him to become the tutor of his children, and to live with
him, or near him, at Chappaqua. The proposition was made in the most
generous manner, and was for a time considered by Thoreau, who felt a
sense of obligation as well as a sincere friendship towards the man
who had believed in him and served him so seasonably in the years of
his obscurity. But it resulted in nothing further than a brief visit
to Mr. Greeley in the following autumn, during which, as Thoreau used
to say, Mr. Alcott and Mr. Greeley went to the opera together.



Except the Indians themselves, whose wood-craft he never tires of
celebrating, few Americans were ever more at home in the open air than
Thoreau; not even his friend John Brown, who, like himself, suggested
the Indian by the delicacy of his perceptions and his familiarity with
all that goes forward, or stands still, in wood and field. Thoreau
could find his path in the woods at night, he said, better by his feet
than his eyes.

     "He was a good swimmer," says Emerson, "a good runner,
     skater, boatman, and would outwalk most countrymen in a
     day's journey. And the relation of body to mind was still
     finer. The length of his walk uniformly made the length of
     his writing. If shut up in the house, he did not write at

In his last illness says Channing,--

     "His habit of engrossing his thoughts in a journal, which
     had lasted for a quarter of a century,--his out-door life,
     of which he used to say, if he omitted that, all his living
     ceased,--this now became so incontrovertibly a thing of the
     past that he said once, standing at the window, 'I cannot
     see on the outside at all. We thought ourselves great
     philosophers in those wet days when we used to go out and
     sit down by the wall-sides.' This was absolutely all he was
     ever heard to say of that outward world during his illness,
     neither could a stranger in the least infer that he had
     ever a friend in field or wood."

This out-door life began as early as he could recollect, and his
special attraction to rivers, woods, and lakes was a thing of his
boyhood. He had begun to collect Indian relics before leaving college,
and was a diligent student of natural history there. Whether he was
naturally an observer or not (which has been denied in a kind of
malicious paradox), let his life-work attest. Early in 1847 he made
some collections of fishes, turtles, etc., in Concord for Agassiz,
then newly arrived in America, and I have (in a letter of May 3, 1847)
this account of their reception:--

     "I carried them immediately to Mr. Agassiz, who was
     highly delighted with them. Some of the species he had
     seen before, but never in so fresh condition. Others, as
     the breams and the pout, he had seen only in spirits, and
     the little turtle he knew only from the books. I am sure
     you would have felt fully repaid for your trouble, if
     you could have seen the eager satisfaction with which he
     surveyed each fin and scale. He said the small mud-turtle
     was really a very rare species, quite distinct from the
     snapping-turtle. The breams and pout seemed to please the
     Professor very much. He would gladly come up to Concord to
     make a spearing excursion, as you suggested, but is drawn
     off by numerous and pressing engagements."

On the 27th of May, Thoreau's correspondent says:--

     "Mr. Agassiz was very much surprised and pleased at the
     extent of the collections you sent during his absence; the
     little fox he has established in comfortable quarters in
     his backyard, where he is doing well. Among the fishes you
     sent there is one, probably two, new species."

June 1st, in other collections, other new species were discovered,
much to Agassiz's delight, who never failed afterward to cultivate
Thoreau's society when he could. But the poet avoided the man of
science, having no love for dissection; though he recognized in
Agassiz the qualities that gave him so much distinction.

The paper on "Ktaadn and the Maine Woods," which Horace Greeley
bought "at a Jew's bargain," and sold to a publisher for seventy-five
dollars, was the journal of a visit made to the highest mountain of
Maine during Thoreau's second summer at Walden. An aunt of his had
married in Bangor, Maine, and her daughters had again married there,
so that the young forester of Concord had kinsmen on the Penobscot,
engaged in converting the Maine forests into pine lumber. At the end
of August, in 1846, while his Carlyle manuscript was passing from
Greeley to Griswold, from Griswold to Graham, and from Graham to
the Philadelphia type-setters, Thoreau himself was on his way from
Boston to Bangor; and on the first day of September he started with
his cousin from Bangor, to explore the upper waters of the Penobscot
and climb the summit of Ktaadn. The forest region about this mountain
had been explored in 1837 by Dr. Jackson, the State Geologist, a
brother-in-law of Mr. Emerson; but no poet before Thoreau had visited
these solitudes and described his experiences there. James Russell
Lowell did so a few years later, and, early in the century, Hawthorne,
Longfellow, and Emerson had tested the solitude of the Maine woods,
and written about them. The verses of Emerson, describing his own
experiences there (not so well known as they should be), are often
thought to imply Thoreau, though they were written before Emerson had
known his younger friend, whose after adventures they portray with

    "In unploughed Maine he sought the lumberers' gang,
    Where from a hundred lakes young rivers sprang;
    He trod the unplanted forest-floor, whereon
    The all-seeing sun for ages hath not shone;
    Where feeds the moose and walks the surly bear,
    And up the tall mast runs the woodpecker.
    He saw beneath dim aisles, in odorous beds,
    The slight Linnæa hang its twin-born heads,
    And blessed the monument of the man of flowers,
    Which breathes his sweet fame through the northern bowers.
    He heard, when in the grove, at intervals
    With sudden roar the aged pine-tree falls,--
    One crash, the death-hymn of the perfect tree,
    Declares the close of its green century.

       *       *       *       *       *

    Through these green tents, by eldest Nature dressed,
    He roamed, content alike with man and beast,
    Where darkness found him he lay glad at night;
    There the red morning touched him with its light.
    Three moons his great heart him a hermit made,
    So long he roved at will the boundless shade."

Thus much is a picture of the Maine forests, and may have been
suggested in part by the woodland life of Dr. Jackson there while
surveying the State. But what follows is the brave proclamation of the
poet, for himself and his heroes, among whom Thoreau and John Brown
must be counted, since it declares their creed and practice,--while in
the last couplet the whole inner doctrine of Transcendentalism is set

    "The timid it concerns to ask their way,
    And fear what foes in caves and swamps can stray,
    To make no step until the event is known,
    And ills to come as evils past bemoan.
    Not so the wise: no timid watch he keeps
    To spy what danger on his pathway creeps;
    Go where he will the wise man is at home,
    His hearth the earth, his hall the azure dome;
    Where his clear spirit leads him, there's his road,
    By God's own light illumined and foreshowed."

Thoreau may have heard these verses read by their author in his study,
before he set forth on his first journey to Maine in 1838; they were
first published in the "Dial" in October, 1840, but are omitted, for
some reason, in a partial edition of Emerson's Poems (in 1876). He
never complied with this description so far as to spend three months
in the Maine woods, even in the three campaigns which he made there
(in 1846, in 1853, and in 1857), for in none of these did he occupy
three weeks, and in all but little more than a month. His account of
them, as now published, makes a volume by itself, which his friend
Channing edited two years after Thoreau's death, and which contains
the fullest record of his studies of the American Indian. It was
his purpose to develop these studies into a book concerning the
Indian, and for this purpose he made endless readings in the Jesuit
Fathers, in books of travel, and in all the available literature of
the subject. But the papers he had thus collected were not left in
such form that they could be published; and so much of his untiring
diligence seems now lost, almost thrown away. Doubtless his friends
and editors, upon call, will one day print detached portions of these
studies, from entries in his journals, and from his commonplace books.

In his explorations of Concord and its vicinity, as well as in those
longer foot-journeys which he took among the mountains and along the
sea-shore of New England, from 1838 to 1860, Thoreau's habits were
those of an experienced hunter, though he seldom used a gun in his
years of manhood. Upon this point he says in "Walden":--

     "Almost every New England boy among my contemporaries
     shouldered a fowling-piece between the ages of ten and
     fourteen; and his hunting and fishing grounds were not
     limited, like the preserves of an English nobleman, but
     were more boundless than even those of the savage. Perhaps
     I have owed to fishing and hunting, when quite young, my
     closest acquaintance with Nature. They early introduce
     us to and detain us in scenery with which, otherwise, at
     that age, we should have little acquaintance. Fishermen,
     hunters, wood-choppers, and others, spending their lives
     in the fields and woods, in a peculiar sense a part of
     Nature themselves, are often in a more favorable mood
     for observing her, in the intervals of their pursuits,
     than philosophers or poets, even, who approach her with
     expectation. She is not afraid to exhibit herself to
     them.... I have actually fished from the same kind of
     necessity that the first fishers did. I have long felt
     differently about fowling, and sold my gun before I went
     to the woods. I did not pity the fishes nor the worms. As
     for fowling, during the last years that I carried a gun my
     excuse was that I was studying ornithology, and sought only
     new or rare birds. But I am now inclined to think there is
     a finer way of studying ornithology than this. It requires
     so much closer attention to the habits of the birds that,
     if for that reason only, I have been willing to omit the
     gun.... We cannot but pity the boy who has never fired a
     gun; he is no more humane, while his education has been
     sadly neglected."

Emerson mentions that Thoreau preferred his spy-glass to his gun to
bring the bird nearer to his eye, and says also of his patience in
out-door observation:--

     "He knew how to sit immovable, a part of the rock he
     rested on, until the bird, the reptile, the fish, which
     had retired from him, should come back and resume its
     habits,--nay, moved by curiosity, should come to him and
     watch him."

And I have thought that Emerson had Thoreau in mind when he described
his "Forester":--

    "He took the color of his vest
    From rabbit's coat or grouse's breast;
    For as the wood-kinds lurk and hide,
    So walks the woodman unespied."

The same friend said of him:--

     "It was a pleasure and a privilege to walk with him. He
     knew the country like a fox or bird, and passed through it
     as freely by paths of his own. Under his arm he carried
     an old music-book to press plants;[12] in his pocket his
     diary and pencil, a spy-glass for birds, microscope,
     jack-knife, and twine. He wore straw hat, stout shoes,
     strong gray trousers, to brave shrub-oaks and smilax, and
     to climb a tree for a hawk's or squirrel's nest. He waded
     into the pool for the water-plants, and his strong legs
     were no insignificant part of his armor. His intimacy with
     animals suggested what Thomas Fuller records of Butler the
     apiologist, 'that either he had told the bees things, or
     the bees had told him.' Snakes coiled round his leg, the
     fishes swam into his hand, and he took them out of the
     water; he pulled the woodchuck out of its hole by the
     tail, and took the foxes under his protection from the
     hunters. He confessed that he sometimes felt like a hound
     or a panther, and, if born among Indians, would have been a
     fell hunter. But, restrained by his Massachusetts culture,
     he played out the game in the mild form of botany and
     ichthyology. His power of observation seemed to indicate
     additional senses; he saw as with microscope, heard as with
     ear-trumpet, and his memory was a photographic register of
     all he saw and heard. Every fact lay in order and glory in
     his mind, a type of the order and beauty of the whole."

It was this poetic and coördinating vision of the natural world which
distinguished Thoreau from the swarm of naturalists, and raised him
to the rank of a philosopher even in his tedious daily observations.
Channing, no less than Emerson, has observed and noted this trait,
giving to his friend the exact title of "poet-naturalist," and also,
in his poem, "The Wanderer," bestowing on him the queer name of
_Idolon_, which he thus explains:--

    "So strangely was the general current mixed
    With his vexed native blood in its crank wit,
    That as a mirror shone the common world
    To this observing youth,--whom noting, thence
    I called _Idolon_,--ever firm to mark
    Swiftly reflected in himself the Whole."

In an earlier poem Channing had called him "Rudolpho," and had thus
portrayed his daily and nightly habits of observation:--

    "I see Rudolpho cross our honest fields
    Collapsed with thought, and as the Stagyrite
    At intellectual problems, mastering
    Day after day part of the world's concern.
    Nor welcome dawns nor shrinking nights him menace,
    Still adding to his list beetle and bee,--
    Of what the vireo builds a pensile nest,
    And why the peetweet drops her giant egg
    In wheezing meadows, odorous with sweet brake.
    Who wonders that the flesh declines to grow
    Along his sallow pits? or that his life,
    To social pleasure careless, pines away
    In dry seclusion and unfruitful shade?
    I must admire thy brave apprenticeship
    To those dry forages, although the worldling
    Laugh in his sleeve at thy compelled devotion.
    So shalt thou learn, Rudolpho, as thou walk'st,
    More from the winding lanes where Nature leaves
    Her unaspiring creatures, and surpass
    In some fine saunter her acclivity."

The hint here given that Thoreau injured his once robust health by
his habits of out-door study and the hardships he imposed on himself,
had too much truth in it. Growing up with great strength of body and
limb, and having cultivated his physical advantages by a temperate
youth much exercised with manual labor, in which he took pleasure,
Thoreau could not learn the lesson of moderation in those pursuits
to which his nature inclined. He exposed himself in his journeys
and night encampments to cold and hunger, and changes of weather,
which the strongest cannot brave with impunity. Mr. Edward Hoar, who
traveled with him in the Maine woods in 1857,--a journey of three
hundred and twenty-five miles with a canoe and an Indian, among the
head-waters of the Kennebec, Penobscot, and St. John's rivers,--and
who in 1858 visited the White Mountains with him, remembers, with a
shiver to this day, the rigor of a night spent on the bare rocks of
Mount Washington, with insufficient blankets,--Thoreau sleeping from
habit, but himself lying wakeful all night, and gazing at the coldest
of full moons. It was after such an experience as this on Monadnoc,
whither Thoreau and Channing went to camp out for a week in August,
1860, that the latter wrote:--

                          "With the night,
    Reserved companion, cool and sparsely clad,
    Dream, till the threefold hour with lowly voice
    Steals whispering in thy frame, 'Rise, valiant youth!
    The dawn draws on apace, envious of thee,
    And polar in his gait; advance thy limbs,
    Nor strive to heat the stones.'"

Thoreau had much scorn for weakness like this, and said of his
comrade, "I fear that he did not improve all the night as he might
have done, to sleep." This was his last excursion, and he died within
less than two years afterward. The account of it which Channing has
given may therefore be read with interest:--

     "He ascended such hills as Monadnoc by his own path; would
     lay down his map on the summit and draw a line to the point
     he proposed to visit below,--perhaps forty miles away on
     the landscape, and set off bravely to make the 'shortcut.'
     The lowland people wondered to see him scaling the heights
     as if he had lost his way, or at his jumping over their
     cow-yard fences,--asking if he had fallen from the clouds.
     In a walk like this he always carried his umbrella; and
     on this Monadnoc trip, when about a mile from the station
     (in Troy, N. H.), a torrent of rain came down; without the
     umbrella his books, blankets, maps, and provisions would
     all have been spoiled, or the morning lost by delay. On
     the mountain there being a thick soaking fog, the first
     object was to camp and make tea.[13] He spent five nights
     in camp, having built another hut, to get varied views.
     Flowers, birds, lichens, and the rocks were carefully
     examined, all parts of the mountain were visited, and as
     accurate a map as could be made by pocket compass was
     carefully sketched and drawn out, in the five days spent
     there,--with notes of the striking aerial phenomena,
     incidents of travel and natural history. The fatigue, the
     blazing sun, the face getting broiled, the pint-cup never
     scoured, shaving unutterable, your stockings dreary, having
     taken to peat,--not all the books in the world, as Sancho
     says, could contain the adventures of a week in camping.
     The wild, free life, the open air, the new and strange
     sounds by night and day, the odd and bewildering rocks,
     amid which a person can be lost within a rod of camp; the
     strange cries of visitors to the summit; the great valley
     over to Wachusett, with its thunder-storms and battles in
     the cloud; the farmers' backyards in Jaffrey, where the
     family cotton can be seen bleaching on the grass, but no
     trace of the pigmy family; the dry, soft air all night,
     the lack of dew in the morning; the want of water,--a pint
     being a good deal,--these, and similar things make up some
     part of such an excursion."

These excursions were common with Thoreau, but less so with Channing,
who therefore, notes down many things that his friend would not think
worth recording, except as a part of that calendar of Nature which he
set himself to keep, and of which his journals, for more than twenty
years, are the record. From these he made up his printed volumes, and
there may be read the details that he registered. He had gauges for
the height of the river, noted the temperature of springs and ponds,
the tints of the morning and evening sky, the flowering and fruit
of plants, all the habits of birds and animals, and every aspect of
nature from the smallest to the greatest. Much of this is the dryest
detail, but everywhere you come upon strokes of beauty, in a single
word-picture, or in a page of idyllic description, like this of the
Concord heifer, which might be a poem of Theocritus, or one of the
lost bucolics of Moschus:--

     "One more confiding heifer, the fairest of the herd, did by
     degrees approach, as if to take some morsel from our hands,
     while our hearts leaped to our mouths with expectation
     and delight. She by degrees drew near with her fair limbs
     progressive, making pretense of browsing; nearer and nearer
     till there was wafted to us the bovine fragrance,--cream of
     all the dairies that ever were or will be,--and then she
     raised her gentle muzzle toward us, and snuffed an honest
     recognition within hand's reach. I saw it was possible for
     his herd to inspire with love the herdsman. She was as
     delicately featured as a hind; her hide was mingled white
     and fawn color; on her muzzle's tip there was a white spot
     not bigger than a daisy; and on her side turned toward me
     the map of Asia plain to see. Farewell, dear heifer! though
     thou forgettest me, my prayer to heaven shall be that thou
     may'st not forget thyself.

     "I saw her name was Sumach. And by the kindred spots I knew
     her mother, more sedate and matronly, with full-grown bag,
     and on her sides was Asia, great and small, the plains of
     Tartary, even to the pole, while on her daughter's was Asia
     Minor. She was not disposed to wanton with the herdsman. As
     I walked the heifer followed me, and took an apple from my
     hand, and seemed to care more for the hand than the apple.
     So innocent a face I have rarely seen on any creature, and
     I have looked in the face of many heifers; and as she took
     the apple from my hand, I caught the apple of her eye.
     There was no sinister expression. She smelled as sweet as
     the clethra blossom. For horns, though she had them, they
     were so well disposed in the right place, but neither up
     nor down, that I do not now remember she had any."

Or take this apostrophe to the "Queen of Night, the Huntress Diana,"
which is not a translation from some Greek worshipper, but the sincere
ascription of a New England hunter of the noblest deer:--

     "My dear, my dewy sister, let thy rain descend on me! I not
     only love thee, but I love the best of thee,--that is to
     love thee rarely. I do not love thee every day--commonly
     I love those who are less than thee; I love thee only on
     great days. Thy dewy words feed me like the manna of the
     morning. I am as much thy sister as thy brother; thou art
     as much my brother as my sister. It is a portion of thee
     and a portion of me which are of kin. O my sister! O Diana!
     thy tracks are on the eastern hill; thou newly didst pass
     that way. I, the hunter, saw them in the morning dew. My
     eyes are the hounds that pursued thee. I hear thee; thou
     canst speak, I cannot; I fear and forget to answer; I am
     occupied with hearing. I awoke and thought of thee; thou
     wast present to my mind. How camest thou there? Was I not
     present to thee, likewise?"

In such a lofty mystical strain did this Concord Endymion declare
his passion for Nature, in whose green lap he slumbers now on the
hill-side which the goddess nightly revisits.

    "O sister of the sun, draw near,
    With softly-moving step and slow,
    For dreaming not of earthly woe
    Thou seest Endymion sleeping here!"



The face of Thoreau, once seen, could not easily be forgotten, so
strong was the mark that genius had set upon it. The portrait of him,
which has been commonly engraved, though it bore some resemblance at
the time it was taken (by S. W. Rowse, in 1854), was never a very
exact likeness. A few years later he began to wear his beard long, and
this fine silken muffler for his delicate throat and lungs, was also
an ornament to his grave and thoughtful face, concealing its weakest
feature, a receding chin. The head engraved for this volume is from a
photograph taken, in 1861, at New Bedford, and shows him as he was in
his last years. His personal traits were not startling and commanding
like those of Webster, who drew the eyes of all men wherever he
appeared, but they were peculiar, and dwelt long in the memory. His
features were prominent, his eyes large, round, and deep-set, under
bold brows, and full of fearless meditation; the color varying from
blue to gray, as if with the moods of his mind. A youth who saw him
for the first time, said with a start, "How deep and clear is the mark
that _thought_ sets upon a man's face!" And, indeed, no man could fail
to recognize in him that rare intangible essence we call _thought_;
his slight figure was active with it, while in his face it became
contemplative, as if, like his own peasant, he were "meditating some
vast and sunny problem." Channing says of his appearance:--

     "In height he was about the average; in his build spare,
     with limbs that were rather longer than usual, or of which
     he made a longer use. His features were marked; the nose
     aquiline or very Roman, like one of the portraits of Cæsar
     (more like a beak, as was said); large overhanging brows
     above the deepest-set blue eyes that could be seen,--blue
     in certain lights and in others gray; the forehead not
     unusually broad or high, full of concentrated energy and
     purpose; the mouth with prominent lips, pursed up with
     meaning and thought when silent, and giving out when open
     a stream of the most varied and unusual and instructive
     sayings. His whole figure had an active earnestness, as
     if he had no moment to waste; the clenched hand betokened
     purpose. In walking he made a short cut, if he could, and
     when sitting in the shade or by the wall-side, seemed
     merely the clearer to look forward into the next piece of
     activity. The intensity of his mind, like Dante's, conveyed
     the breathing of aloofness,--his eyes bent on the ground,
     his long swinging gait, his hands perhaps clasped behind
     him, or held closely at his side,--the fingers made into a

It is not possible to describe him more exactly.

In December, 1854, Thoreau went to lecture at Nantucket, and on
his way spent a day or two with one of his correspondents, Daniel
Ricketson of New Bedford,--reaching his house on Christmas day.
His host, who then saw him for the first time, thus recorded his

     "I had expected him at noon, but as he did not arrive,
     I had given him up for the day. In the latter part of
     the afternoon, I was clearing off the snow, which had
     fallen during the day, from my front steps, when, looking
     up, I saw a man walking up the carriage-road, bearing a
     portmanteau in one hand and an umbrella in the other. He
     was dressed in a long overcoat of dark color, and wore
     a dark soft hat. I had no suspicion it was Thoreau, and
     rather supposed it was a pedler of small wares."

This was a common mistake to make about Thoreau. When he ran the
gauntlet of the Cape Cod villages,--"feeling as strange," he says,
"as if he were in a town in China,"--one of the old fishermen could
not believe that he had not something to sell, as Bronson Alcott had
when he perambulated Eastern Virginia and North Carolina in 1819-22,
peddling silks and jewelry. Being assured that Thoreau was not
peddling spectacles or books, the fisherman said at last: "Well, it
makes no odds what it is you carry, so long as you carry Truth along
with you."

     "As Thoreau came near me," continues Mr. Ricketson, "he
     stopped and said, 'You do not know me.' It flashed at once
     on my mind that the person before me was my correspondent,
     whom in my imagination I had figured as stout and robust,
     instead of the small and rather inferior-looking man before
     me. I concealed my disappointment, and at once replied,
     'I presume this is Mr. Thoreau.' Taking his portmanteau,
     I conducted him to his room, already awaiting him. My
     disappointment at his personal appearance passed off on
     hearing his conversation at the table and during the
     evening; and rarely through the years of my acquaintance
     with him did his presence conflict with his noble powers
     of mind, his rich conversation, and broad erudition. His
     face was afterwards greatly improved in manly expression
     by the growth of his beard, which he wore in full during
     the later years of his life; but when I first saw him he
     had just been sitting for the crayon portrait of 1854,
     which represents him without the beard. The 'ambrotype' of
     him, which is engraved for your volume, was taken for me
     by Dunshee, at New Bedford, August 21, 1861, on his last
     visit to me at Brooklawn. His health was then failing,--he
     had a racking cough,--but his face, except a shade of
     sadness in the eyes, did not show it. Of this portrait,
     Miss Sophia Thoreau, to whom I sent it soon after her
     brother's death, wrote me, May 26, 1862: 'I cannot tell you
     how agreeably surprised I was, on opening the little box,
     to find my own lost brother again. I could not restrain
     my tears. The picture is invaluable to us. I discover a
     slight shade about the eyes, expressive of weariness; but a
     stranger might not observe it. I am very glad to possess a
     picture of so late a date. The crayon, drawn eight years
     ago next summer, we considered good; it betrays the poet.
     Mr. Channing, Mr. Emerson, Mr. Alcott, and many other
     friends who have looked at the ambrotype, express much

Of Thoreau's appearance then (at the age of thirty-seven), Mr.
Ricketson goes on to say:--

     "The most expressive feature of his face was his eye,
     blue in color, and full of the greatest humanity and
     intelligence. His head was of medium size, the same as that
     of Emerson, and he wore a number seven hat. His arms were
     rather long, his legs short, and his hands and feet rather
     large. His sloping shoulders were a mark of observation.
     But when in usual health he was strong and vigorous, a
     remarkable pedestrian, tiring out nearly all his companions
     in his prolonged tramps through woods and marshes, when in
     pursuit of some rare plant. In Thoreau, as in Dr. Kane,
     Lord Nelson, and other heroic men, it was the spirit more
     than the temple in which it dwelt, that made the man."

A strange mistake has prevailed as to the supposed churlishness
and cynical severity of Thoreau, which Mr. Alcott, in one of his
octogenarian sonnets, has corrected, and which all who knew the man
would protest against.

Of his domestic character Mr. Ricketson writes:--

     "Some have accused him of being an imitator of Emerson,
     others as unsocial, impracticable, and ascetic. Now, he was
     none of these. A more original man never lived, nor one
     more thoroughly a personification of civility. Having been
     an occasional guest at his house, I can assert that no man
     could hold a finer relationship with his family than he."

Channing says the same thing more quaintly:--

     "In his own home 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, plant
     the orchard with the choicest trees, and act as extempore
     mechanic; fond of the pets,--his sister's flowers or sacred
     tabby--kittens being his favorites,--he would play with
     them by the half hour."

He was sometimes given to music and song, and now and then, in moments
of great hilarity, would dance gayly,--as he did once at Brooklawn, in
the presence of his host, Mr. Ricketson, and Mr. Alcott, who was also
visiting there. On the same occasion he sung his unique song of "Tom
Bowline," which none who heard would ever forget, and finished the
evening with his dance.

Hearing Mr. Ricketson speak of this dance, Miss Thoreau said:--

     "I have so often witnessed the like, that I can easily
     imagine how it was; and I remember that Henry gave me some
     account of it. I recollect he said he did not scruple to
     tread on Mr. Alcott's toes."

Mr. Ricketson's own account is this:--

     "One afternoon, when my wife was playing an air upon the
     piano,--'Highland Laddie,' perhaps,--Thoreau became very
     hilarious, sang 'Tom Bowline,' and finally entered upon an
     improvised dance. Not being able to stand what appeared to
     me at the time the somewhat ludicrous appearance of our
     Walden hermit, I retreated to my 'shanty,' a short distance
     from my house; while my older and more humor-loving friend
     Alcott remained and saw it through, much to his amusement.
     It left a pleasant memory, which I recorded in some humble
     lines that afterwards appeared in my 'Autumn Sheaf.'"

After Thoreau's return home from this visit, his New Bedford friend
seems to have sent him a copy of the words and music of "Tom Bowline,"
which was duly acknowledged and handed over to the musical people
of Concord for them to play and sing. It is a fine old pathetic
sailor-song of Dibdin's, which pleased Thoreau (whose imagination
delighted in the sea), and perhaps reminded him of his brother John.
As Thoreau sang it, the verses ran thus:--

    "Here a sheer hulk lies poor Tom Bowline,
      The darling of our crew;
    No more he'll hear the tempest howling,
      For death has broached him to.
    His form was of the manliest beauty;
      His heart was kind and soft;
    Faithful, below, he did his duty,
      But now he's gone aloft.

    "Tom never from his word departed,
      His virtues were so rare;
    His friends were many and true-hearted,
      His Poll was kind and fair.
    And then he'd sing so blithe and jolly;
      Ah, many's the time and oft!
    But mirth is changed to melancholy,
      For Tom is gone aloft.

    "Yet shall poor Tom find pleasant weather
      When He who all commands
    Shall give, to call life's crew together,
      The word to pipe all hands.
    Thus death, who kings and tars dispatches,
      In vain Tom's life has doffed;
    For though his body's under hatches,
      His soul is gone aloft!"

Another of his songs was Moore's "Canadian Boat Song," with its

    "Row brothers, row."

Mrs. W. H. Forbes, who knew him in her childhood, from the age of six
to that of fifteen more particularly, and who first remembers him in
his hut at Walden, writes me:--

     "The time when Mr. Thoreau was our more intimate playfellow
     must have been in the years from 1850 to 1855. He used
     to come in, at dusk, as my brother and I sat on the rug
     before the dining-room fire, and, taking the great green
     rocking-chair, he would tell us stories. Those I remember
     were his own adventures, as a child. He began with telling
     us of the different houses he had lived in, and what he
     could remember about each. The house where he was born was
     on the Virginia road, near the old Bedford road. The only
     thing he remembered about that house was that from its
     windows he saw a flock of geese walking along in a row on
     the other side of the road; but to show what a long memory
     he had, when he told his mother of this, she said the only
     time he could have seen that sight was, when he was about
     eight months old, for they left that house then. Soon
     after, he lived in the old house on the Lexington road,
     nearly opposite Mr. Emerson's. There he was tossed by a cow
     as he played near the door, in his red flannel dress,--and
     so on, with a story for every house. He used to delight
     us with the adventures of a brood of fall chickens, which
     slept at night in a tall old fashioned fig-drum in the
     kitchen, and as their bed was not changed when they grew
     larger, they packed themselves every night each in its own
     place, and grew up, not shapely, but shaped to each other
     and the drum, like figs!

     "Sometimes he would play juggler tricks for us, and swallow
     his knife and produce it again from our ears or noses.
     We usually ran to bring some apples for him as soon as
     he came in, and often he would cut one in halves in fine
     points that scarcely showed on close examination, and then
     the joke was to ask Father to break it for us and see it
     fall to pieces in his hands. But perhaps the evenings most
     charming were those when he brought some ears of pop-corn
     in his pocket and headed an expedition to the garret to
     hunt out the old brass warming-pan; in which he would put
     the corn, and hold it out and shake it over the fire till
     it was heated through, and at last, as we listened, the
     rattling changed to popping. When this became very brisk,
     he would hold the pan over the rug and lift the lid, and a
     beautiful fountain of the white corn flew all over us. It
     required both strength and patience to hold out the heavy
     warming-pan at arm's length so long, and no one else ever
     gave us that pleasure.

     "I remember his singing 'Tom Bowline' to us, and also
     playing on his flute, but that was earlier. In the summer
     he used to make willow whistles, and trumpets out of the
     stems of squash leaves, and onion leaves. When he found
     fine berries during his walks, he always remembered us,
     and came to arrange a huckleberrying for us. He took
     charge of the 'hay rigging' with the load of children,
     who sat on the floor which was spread with hay, covered
     with a buffalo-robe; he sat on a board placed across the
     front and drove, and led the frolic with his jokes and
     laughter as we jolted along, while the elders of the family
     accompanied us in a 'carryall.' Either he had great tact
     and skill in managing us and keeping our spirits and play
     within bounds, or else he became a child in sympathy with
     us, for I do not remember a check or reproof from him,
     no matter how noisy we were. He always was most kind to
     me and made it his especial care to establish me in the
     'thickest places,' as we used to call them. Those sunny
     afternoons are bright memories, and the lamb-kill flowers
     and sweet 'everlasting,' always recall them and his kind
     care. Once in awhile he took us on the river in his boat,
     a rare pleasure then; and I remember one brilliant autumn
     afternoon, when he took us to gather the wild grapes
     overhanging the river, and we brought home a load of
     crimson and golden boughs as well. He never took us to walk
     with him, but sometimes joined us for a little way, if he
     met us in the woods on Sunday afternoons. He made those few
     steps memorable by showing us many wonders in so short a
     space: perhaps the only chincapin oak in Concord, so hidden
     that no one but himself could have discovered it--or some
     remarkable bird, or nest, or flower. He took great interest
     in my garden of wild flowers, and used to bring me seeds,
     or roots, of rare plants. In his last illness it did not
     occur to us that he would care to see us, but his sister
     told my mother that he watched us from the window as we
     passed, and said: 'Why don't they come to see me? I love
     them as if they were my own.' After that we went often,
     and he always made us so welcome that we liked to go. I
     remember our last meetings with as much pleasure as the old

Although so great a traveler in a small circle--being every day
a-field when not too ill,--he was also a great stay-at-home. He never
crossed the ocean, nor saw Niagara or the Mississippi until the year
before his death. He lived within twenty miles of Boston, but seldom
went there, except to pass through it on his way to the Maine woods,
to Cape Cod, to the house of his friend, Marston Watson at Plymouth,
or to Daniel Ricketson's at New Bedford. To the latter he wrote in
February, 1855:--

     "I did not go to Boston, for, with regard to that place I
     sympathize with one of my neighbors (George Minott), an old
     man, who has not been there since the last war, when he was
     compelled to go. No, I have a real genius for staying at

What took him from home in the winter season was generally some
engagement to lecture, of which he had many after his Walden life
became a little known abroad.

From the year 1847 Thoreau may be said to have fairly entered on his
career as author and lecturer; having taken all the needful degrees
and endured most of the mortifications necessary for the public
profession of authorship. Up to that time he had supported himself,
except while in college, chiefly by the labor of his hands; after
1847, though still devoted to manual labor occasionally, he yet
worked chiefly with his head as thinker, observer, surveyor, magazine
contributor, and lecturer.

His friends were the first promoters of his lectures, and among his
correspondence are some letters from Hawthorne, inviting him to the
Salem Lyceum. The first of these letters is dated, Salem, October 21,
1848, and runs thus:--

     "MY DEAR SIR,--The managers of the Salem Lyceum, sometime
     ago, voted that you should be requested to deliver a
     lecture before that Institution during the approaching
     season. I know not whether Mr. Chever, the late
     corresponding secretary, communicated the vote to you;
     at all events, no answer has been received, and as Mr.
     Chever's successor in office, I am requested to repeat the
     invitation. Permit me to add my own earnest wishes that you
     will accept it; and also, laying aside my official dignity,
     to express my wife's desire and my own that you will be
     our guest, if you do come. In case of your compliance, the
     Managers desire to know at what time it will best suit you
     to deliver the lecture.

            "Very truly yours,

                  "NATH^L HAWTHORNE,

                    "_Cor. Sec'y, Salem Lyceum_.

     "P.S. I live at No. 14 Mall Street, where I shall be very
     happy to see you. The stated fee for lectures is $20."

A month later, Hawthorne, who had received an affirmative answer from
Thoreau, wrote to him from Boston (November 20, 1848), as follows:--

     "MY DEAR THOREAU,--I did not sooner write you, because
     there were preëngagements for the two or three first
     lectures, so that I could not arrange matters to have you
     come during the present month. But, as it happens, the
     expected lectures have failed us, and we now depend on you
     to come the very next Wednesday. I shall announce you in
     the paper of to-morrow, so you _must_ come. I regret that
     I could not give you longer notice. We shall expect you on
     Wednesday at No. 14 Mall Street.

            "Yours truly,

                  "NATH^L HAWTHORNE.

     "If it be utterly impossible for you to come, pray write me
     a line so that I may get it Wednesday evening. But by all
     means come.

     "This secretaryship is an intolerable bore. I have traveled
     thirty miles, this wet day, on no other business."

Apparently another lecture was wanted by the Salem people the same
winter, for on the 19th of February, 1849, when the "Week on the
Concord and Merrimac" was in press, Hawthorne wrote again, thus:--

     "The managers request that you will lecture before the
     Salem Lyceum on Wednesday evening _after_ next, that is
     to say, on the 28th inst. May we depend on you? Please to
     answer immediately, if convenient. Mr. Alcott delighted my
     wife and me, the other evening, by announcing that you had
     a book in press. I rejoice at it, and nothing doubt of such
     success as will be worth having. Should your manuscripts
     all be in the printer's hands, I suppose you can reclaim
     one of them for a single evening's use, to be returned the
     next morning,--or perhaps that Indian lecture, which you
     mentioned to me, is in a state of forwardness. Either that,
     or a continuation of the Walden experiment (or indeed,
     anything else), will be acceptable. We shall expect you at
     14 Mall Street.

            "Very truly yours,

                  "NATH^L HAWTHORNE."

These letters were written just before Hawthorne was turned out of his
office in the Salem custom-house, and while his own literary success
was still in abeyance,--the "Scarlet Letter" not being published till
a year later. They show the friendly terms on which Hawthorne stood
with the Concord Transcendentalists, after leaving that town in 1846.
He returned to it in 1852, when he bought Mr. Alcott's estate, then
called "Hillside," which he afterward christened "Wayside," and by
this name it is still known. Mr. Alcott bought this place in 1845, and
from then till 1848, when he left it to reside in Boston, he expended,
as Hawthorne said, "a good deal of taste and some money in forming
the hill-side behind the house into terraces, and building arbors and
summer-houses of rough stems, and branches, and trees, on a system of
his own." In this work he was aided by Thoreau, who was then in the
habit of performing much manual labor. In 1847 he joined Mr. Alcott
in the task of cutting trees for Mr. Emerson's summer-house, which
the three friends were to build in the garden. Mr. Emerson, however,
went with them to the woods but one day, when finding his strength and
skill unequal to that of his companions, he withdrew, and left the
work to them. Mr. Alcott relates that Thoreau was not only a master
workman with the axe, but also had such strength of arm, that when a
tree they were felling lodged in some unlucky position, he rushed at
it, and by main strength carried out the trunk until it fell where he
wanted it.

It was one of the serious doctrines of the Transcendentalists that
each person should perform his quota of hand-work, and accordingly
Alcott, Channing, Hawthorne, and the rest, took their turn at
wood-chopping, hay-making, plowing, tree-pruning, grafting, etc. Even
Emerson trimmed his own orchard, and sometimes lent a hand in hoeing
corn and raking hay. To Thoreau such tasks were easy, and, unlike some
amateur farmers, he was quite willing to be seen at his work, whatever
it might be (except the pencil-making, in which there were certain
secrets), and by choice he wore plain working clothes, and generally
old ones. The fashion of his garments gave him no concern, and was
often old, or even grotesque. At one time he had a fancy for corduroy,
such as Irish laborers then wore, but which occasionally appeared in
the wardrobe of a gentleman. As he climbed trees, waded swamps, and
was out in all weathers during his daily excursions, he naturally
dressed himself for what he had to do.

As may be inferred from his correspondence with Horace Greeley,
Thoreau's whole income from authorship during the twenty years that he
practiced that profession, cannot have exceeded a few hundred dollars
yearly,--not half enough in most years to supply even his few wants.
He would never be indebted to any person pecuniarily, and therefore
he found out other ways of earning his subsistence and paying his
obligations,--gardening, fence-building, white-washing, pencil-making,
land-surveying, etc.,--for he had great mechanical skill, and a
patient, conscientious industry in whatever he undertook. When his
father, who had been long living in other men's houses, undertook, at
last, to build one of his own, Henry worked upon it, and performed
no small part of the manual labor. He had no false pride in such
matters,--was, indeed, rather proud of his workmanship, and averse to
the gentility even of his industrious village.

During his first residence at Mr. Emerson's in 1841-43, Thoreau
managed the garden and did other hand-work for his friend; and when
Mr. Emerson went to England in 1847, he returned to the house (soon
after leaving his Walden hut), and took charge of his friend's
household affairs in his absence. In a letter to his sister Sophia
(October 24, 1847), Thoreau says:--

     "... I went to Boston the 5th of this month to see Mr.
     Emerson off to Europe. He sailed in the 'Washington Irving'
     packet ship, the same in which Mr. Hedge went before him.
     Up to this trip, the first mate aboard this ship was, as
     I hear, one Stephens, a Concord boy, son of Stephens, the
     carpenter, who used to live above Mr. Dennis. Mr. Emerson's
     state-room was like a carpeted dark closet, about six feet
     square, with a large keyhole for a window (the window
     was about as big as a saucer, and the glass two inches
     thick), not to mention another skylight overhead in the
     deck, of the size of an oblong doughnut, and about as
     opaque. Of course, it would be in vain to look up, if any
     contemplative promenader put his foot upon it. Such will be
     his lodgings for two or three weeks; and instead of a walk
     in Walden woods, he will take a promenade on deck, where
     the few trees, you know, are stripped of their bark."

There is a poem of Thoreau's, of uncertain date, called "The
Departure," which, as I suppose, expresses his emotions at leaving
finally, in 1848, the friendly house of Emerson, where he had dwelt
so long, upon terms of such ideal intimacy. It was never seen by his
friends, so far as I can learn, until after his death, when Sophia
Thoreau gave it to me, along with other poems, for publication in
the "Boston Commonwealth," in 1863. Since then it has been mentioned
as a poem written in anticipation of death. This is not so; it was
certainly written long before his illness.

    "In this roadstead I have ridden,
    In this covert I have hidden:
    Friendly thoughts were cliffs to me,
    And I hid beneath their lee.

    "This true people took the stranger,
    And warm-hearted housed the ranger;
    They received their roving guest,
    And have fed him with the best;

    "Whatsoe'er the land afforded
    To the stranger's wish accorded,--
    Shook the olive, stripped the vine,
    And expressed the strengthening wine.

    "And by night they did spread o'er him
    What by day they spread before him;
    That good will which was repast
    Was his covering at last.

    "The stranger moored him to their pier
    Without anxiety or fear;
    By day he walked the sloping land,--
    By night the gentle heavens he scanned.

    "When first his bark stood inland
    To the coast of that far Finland,
    Sweet-watered brooks came tumbling to the shore,
    The weary mariner to restore.

    "And still he stayed from day to day,
    If he their kindness might repay;
    But more and more
    The sullen waves came rolling toward the shore.

    "And still, the more the stranger waited,
    The less his argosy was freighted;
    And still the more he stayed,
    The less his debt was paid.

    "So he unfurled his shrouded mast
    To receive the fragrant blast,--
    And that same refreshing gale
    Which had woo'd him to remain
              Again and again;--
    It was that filled his sail
    And drove him to the main.

    "All day the low hung clouds
    Dropped tears into the sea,
    And the wind amid the shrouds
      Sighed plaintively."



The character of poet is so high and so rare, in any modern
civilization, and specially in our American career of nationality,
that it behooves us to mark and claim all our true poets, before
they are classified under some other name,--as philosophers,
naturalists, romancers, or historians. Thus Emerson is primarily
and chiefly a poet, and only a philosopher in his second intention;
and thus also Thoreau, though a naturalist by habit, and a moralist
by constitution, was inwardly a poet by force of that shaping and
controlling imagination, which was his strongest faculty. His mind
tended naturally to the ideal side. He would have been an idealist in
any circumstances; a fluent and glowing poet, had he been born among
a people to whom poesy is native, like the Greeks, the Italians, the
Irish. As it was, his poetic light illumined every wide prospect and
every narrow cranny in which his active, patient spirit pursued its
task. It was this inward illumination as well as the star-like beam
of Emerson's genius in "Nature," which caused Thoreau to write in his
senior year at college, "This curious world which we inhabit is more
wonderful than it is convenient; more beautiful than it is useful,"
and he cherished this belief through life. In youth, too, he said,
"The other world is all my art, my pencils will draw no other, my
jack-knife will cut nothing else; I do not use it as a means." It was
in this spirit that he afterwards uttered the quaint parable, which
was his version of the primitive legend of the Golden Age:--

     "I long ago lost a hound, a bay horse, and a turtle-dove,
     and am still on their trail. Many are the travelers I have
     spoken concerning them, describing their tracks and what
     calls they answered to. I have met one or two who had heard
     the hound, and the tramp of the horse, and even seen the
     dove disappear behind the cloud; and they seemed as anxious
     to recover them as if they had lost them themselves."

In the same significance read his little-known verses, "The Pilgrims."

    "When I have slumbered
      I have heard sounds
    As of travelers passing
      These my grounds.

    "'T was a sweet music
      Wafted them by,
    I could not tell
      If afar off or nigh.

    "Unless I dreamed it
      This was of yore;
    I never told it
      To mortal before.

    "Never remembered
      But in my dreams,
    What to me waking
      A miracle seems."

It seems to have been the habit of Thoreau, in writing verse, to
compose a couplet, a quatrain, or other short metrical expression,
copy it in his journal, and afterward, when these verses had grown to
a considerable number, to arrange them in the form of a single piece.
This gives to his poems the epigrammatic air which most of them have.
After he was thirty years old, he wrote scarcely any verse, and he
even destroyed much that he had previously written, following in this
the judgment of Mr. Emerson, rather than his own, as he told me one
day during his last illness. He had read all that was best in English
and in Greek poetry, but was more familiar with the English poets of
Milton's time and earlier, than with those more recent, except his own
townsmen and companions. He valued Milton above Shakespeare, and had
a special love for Æschylus, two of whose tragedies he translated. He
had read Pindar, Simonides, and the Greek Anthology, and wrote, at his
best, as well as the finest of the Greek lyric poets. Even Emerson,
who was a severe critic of his verses, says, "His classic poem on
'Smoke' suggests Simonides, but is better than any poem of Simonides."
Indeed, what Greek would not be proud to claim this fragment as his

    "Light winged smoke, Icarian bird!
    Melting thy pinions in thy upward flight,
    Lark without song, and messenger of dawn,--

           *       *       *       *       *

    Go thou, my incense, upward from this hearth,
    And ask the gods to pardon this clear flame."

No complete collection of Thoreau's poems has ever been made. Amid
much that is harsh and crude, such a book would contain many verses
sure to survive for centuries.

As a moralist, the bent of Thoreau is more clearly seen by most
readers; and on this side, too, he was early and strongly charged. In
a college essay of 1837 are these sentences:--

     "Truth neither exalteth nor humbleth herself. She is not
     too high for the low, nor yet too low for the high. She is
     persuasive, not litigious, leaving conscience to decide.
     She never sacrificeth her dignity that she may secure for
     herself a favorable reception. It is not a characteristic
     of Truth to use men tenderly; nor is she overanxious about

In another essay of the same year he wrote:--

     "The order of things should be reversed: the seventh should
     be man's day of toil, in which 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 wide-spread
     garden, and drink in the soft influences and sublime
     revelations of Nature."

This was an anticipation of his theory of labor and leisure set forth
in "Walden," where he says:--

     "For more than five years I maintained myself solely by the
     labor of my hands, and I found that, by working about six
     weeks in a year, I could meet all the expenses of living;
     the whole of my winters, as well as most of my summers, I
     had free and clear for study. I found that the occupation
     of day-laborer was the most independent of any, especially
     as it required only thirty or forty days in the year to
     support one."

This was true of Thoreau, because, as he said, his "greatest skill had
been to want but little." In him this economy was a part of morality,
or even of religion.

"The high moral impulse," says Channing, "never deserted him, and he
resolved early to read no book, take no walk, undertake no enterprise,
but such as he could endure to give an account of to himself." How
early this austerity appeared in what he wrote, has been little
noticed; but I discover it in his earliest college essays, before he
was eighteen years old. Thus, in such a paper of the year 1834, this
passage occurs:--

     "There appears to be something noble, something exalted, in
     giving up one's own interest for that of his fellow-beings.
     He is a true patriot, who, casting aside all selfish
     thoughts, and not suffering his benevolent intentions to
     be polluted by thinking of the fame he is acquiring,
     presses forward in the great work he has undertaken, with
     unremitted zeal; who is as one pursuing his way through a
     garden abounding with fruits of every description, without
     turning aside, or regarding the brambles which impede his
     progress, but pressing onward with his eyes fixed upon the
     golden fruit before him. He is worthy of all praise; his
     is, indeed, true greatness."

In contrast with this man the young philosopher sets before us the man
who wishes, as the Greeks said, _pleonektein_,--to get more than his
square meal at the banquet of life.

     "Aristocrats may say what they please,--liberty and equal
     rights are and ever will be grateful, till nature herself
     shall change; and he who is ambitious to exercise authority
     over his fellow-beings, with no view to their benefit or
     injury, is to be regarded as actuated by peculiarly selfish
     motives. Self-gratification must be his sole object.
     Perhaps he is desirous that his name may be handed down to
     posterity; that in after ages something more may be said
     of him than that he lived and died. His deeds may never be
     forgotten; but is this greatness? If so, may I pass through
     life unheeded and unknown!"

What was his own ambition--a purpose in life which only the
unthinking could ever confound with selfishness--was expressed by him
early in a prayer which he threw into this verse:--

    "Great God! I ask Thee for no meaner pelf,
    Than that I may not disappoint myself;
    That in my conduct I may soar as high
    As I can now discern with this clear eye.
    That my weak hand may equal my firm faith,
    And my life practice more than my tongue saith;
        That my low conduct may not show,
          Nor my relenting lines,
        That I thy purpose did not know,
          Or overrated thy designs."

And it may be said of him that he acted this prayer as well as uttered
it. Says Channing again:--

     "In our estimate of his character, the moral qualities form
     the basis; for himself rigidly enjoined; if in another,
     he could overlook delinquency. Truth before all things;
     in all your thoughts, your faintest breath, the austerest
     purity, the utmost fulfilling of the interior law; faith
     in friends, and an iron and flinty pursuit of right, which
     nothing can tease or purchase out of us."

Thus it is said that when he went to prison rather than pay his tax,
which went to support slavery in South Carolina, and his friend
Emerson came to the cell and said, "Henry, why are you here?" the
reply was, "Why are you _not_ here?"

In this act, which even his best friends at first denounced as "mean
and sneaking and in bad taste,"--this refusal to pay the trifling sum
demanded of him by the Concord tax-gatherer,--the outlines of his
political philosophy appear. They were illuminated afterwards by his
trenchant utterances in denunciation of slavery and in encomium of
John Brown, who attacked that monster in its most vulnerable part.
It was not mere whim, but a settled theory of human nature and the
institution of government, which led him, in 1838, to renounce the
parish church and refuse to pay its tax, in 1846 to renounce the State
and refuse tribute to it, and in 1859 to come forward, first of all
men, in public support of Brown and his Virginia campaign. This theory
found frequent expression in his lectures. In 1846 he said:--

     "Any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a
     majority of one already."

And again:--

     "I know this well, that if one thousand, if one hundred, if
     ten men whom I could name,--if ten _honest_ men only,--ay,
     if one honest man, _ceasing to hold slaves_, were actually
     to withdraw from this copartnership, and be locked up in
     the county jail therefor, it would be the abolition of
     slavery in America. Under a government which imprisons any
     unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison."

This sounded hollow then, but when that embodiment of American justice
and mercy, John Brown, lay bleeding in a Virginia prison, a dozen
years later, the significance of Thoreau's words began to be seen;
and when a few years after our countrymen were dying by hundreds of
thousands to complete what Brown, with his single life, had begun, the
whole truth, as Thoreau had seen it, flashed in the eyes of the nation.

In this same essay of 1846, on "Civil Disobedience," the ultimate
truth concerning government is stated in a passage which also does
justice to Daniel Webster, our "logic-fencer and parliamentary
Hercules," as Carlyle called him in a letter to Emerson in 1839.
Thoreau said:--

     "Statesmen and legislators, standing so completely
     within the institution (of government) never distinctly
     and nakedly behold it. They speak of moving society,
     but have no resting-place without it. They are wont to
     forget that the world is not governed by policy and
     expediency. Webster never goes behind government, and
     so cannot speak with authority about it. His words are
     wisdom to those legislators who contemplate no essential
     reform in the existing government; but for thinkers, and
     those who legislate for all time, he never once glances
     at the subject. Yet compared with the cheap professions
     of most reformers, and the still cheaper wisdom and
     eloquence of politicians in general, his are almost the
     only sensible and valuable words, and we thank heaven for
     him. Comparatively, he is always strong, original, and,
     above all, practical; still his quality is not wisdom, but
     prudence. Truth is always in harmony with herself, and
     is not concerned chiefly to reveal the justice that may
     consist with wrong-doing. For eighteen hundred years the
     New Testament has been written; yet where is the legislator
     who has wisdom and practical talent enough to avail himself
     of the light which it sheds on the science of government?"

Such a legislator, proclaiming his law from the scaffold, at last
appeared in John Brown:--

     "I see a book kissed here which I suppose to be the Bible,
     or at least the New Testament. That teaches me that
     'whatsoever I would that men should do unto me, I should do
     even so to them.' It teaches me further to 'remember them
     that are in bonds as bound with them.' I endeavored to act
     up to that instruction. I say that I am yet too young to
     understand that God is any respecter of persons. I believe
     that, to have interfered as I have done in behalf of His
     despised poor, was not wrong, but right."

Before these simple words of Brown, down went Webster and all his
industry in behalf of the "compromises of the Constitution." When
Thoreau heard them, and saw the matchless behavior of his noble old
friend, he recognized the hour and the man.

     "For once," he cried in the church-vestry at Concord, "we
     are lifted into the region of truth and manhood. No man, in
     America, has ever stood up so persistently and effectively
     for the dignity of human nature; knowing himself for a
     man, and the equal of any and all governments. The only
     government that I recognize,--and it matters not how few
     are at the head of it, or how small its army,--is that
     power which establishes justice in the land."

Words like these have proved immortal when spoken in the cell of
Socrates, and they lose none of their vitality, coming from the
Concord philosopher.

The weakness of Webster was in his moral principles; he could not
resist temptation; could not keep out of debt; could not avoid
those obligations which the admiration or the selfishness of his
friends forced upon him, and which left him, in his old age, neither
independence nor gratitude. Thoreau's strength was in his moral
nature, and in his obstinate refusal to mortgage himself, his time, or
his opinions, even to the State or the Church. The haughtiness of his
independence kept him from a thousand temptations that beset men of
less courage and self-denial.



The life of Thoreau naturally divides itself into three parts: his
Apprenticeship, from birth to the summer of 1837, when he left Harvard
College; his Journey-work (Wanderjahre) from 1837 to 1849, when he
appeared as an author, with his first book; and his Mastership,--not
of a college, a merchantman, or a mechanic art, but of the trade and
mystery of writing. He had aspired to live and study and practice, so
that he could write--to use his own words--"sentences which suggest
far more than they say, which have an atmosphere about them, which do
not report an old, but make a new impression." To frame such sentences
as these, he said, "as durable as a Roman aqueduct," was the art of
writing coveted by him; "sentences which are expressive, towards which
so many volumes, so much life went; which lie like boulders on the
page, up and down or across,--not mere repetition, but creation, and
which a man might sell his ground or cattle to build." It was this
thirst for final and concentrated expression, and not love of fame,
or "literary aspirations," as poor Greeley put it, which urged him
on to write. For printing he cared little,--and few authors since
Shakespeare have been less anxious to publish what they wrote. Of the
seven volumes of his works first printed, and twenty more which may
be published some day, only two, "The Week" and "Walden," appeared in
his lifetime,--though the material for two more had been scattered
about in forgotten magazines and newspapers, for his friends to
collect after his death. Of his first works (and some of his best) it
could be said, as Thomas Wharton said, in 1781, of his friend Gray's
verses, "I yet reflect with pain upon the cool reception which those
noble odes, 'The Progress of Poetry' and 'The Bard' met with at their
first publication; it appeared there were not twenty people in England
who liked them." This disturbed Thoreau's friends, but not himself;
he rather rejoiced in the slow sale of his first book; and when the
balance of the edition,--more than seven hundred copies out of one
thousand,--came back upon his hands unsold in 1855, and earlier,
he told me with glee that he had made an addition of seven hundred
volumes to his library, and all of his own composition. "O solitude,
obscurity, meanness!" he exclaims in 1856 to his friend Blake, "I
never triumph so as when I have the least success in my neighbors'
eyes." Of course, pride had something to do with this; "it was a wild
stock of pride," as Burke said of Lord Keppel, "on which the tenderest
of all hearts had grafted the milder virtues." Both pride and piety
led him to write,--

    "Fame cannot tempt the bard
      Who's famous with his God,
    Nor laurel him reward
      Who has his Maker's nod."

Though often ranked as an unbeliever, and too scornful in some of his
expressions concerning the religion of other men, Thoreau was in truth
deeply religious. Sincerity and devotion were his most marked traits;
and both are seen in his verses from the same poem ("Inspiration") so
often quoted:--

    "I will then trust the love untold
      Which not my worth or want hath bought,--
    Which wooed me young and wooes me old,
      And to this evening hath me brought."

Thoreau's business in life was observation, thought, and writing,
to which last, reading was essential. He read much, but studied
more; nor was his reading that indiscriminate, miscellaneous perusal
of everything printed, which has become the vice of this age. He
read books of travel, scientific books, authors of original merit,
but few newspapers, of which he had a very poor opinion. "Read not
the 'Times,' read the Eternities," he said. Nor did he admire the
magazines, or their editors, greatly. He quarreled with "Putnam's
Magazine," in 1853-54, and in 1858, after yielding to the suggestion
of Mr. Emerson, that he should contribute to the "Atlantic," in
consequence of a dispute with Mr. Lowell, its editor, about the
omission of a sentence in one of his articles, he published no more
in that magazine until the year of his death (1862), when Mr. Fields
obtained from him some of his choicest manuscripts. He spent the
last months of his life in revising these, and they continued to
appear for some years after his death. Those which were published in
the "Atlantic" in 1878 are passages from his journals, selected by
his friend Blake, who long had the custody of his manuscripts. These
consist chiefly of his journals in thirty-nine volumes, many parts
of which had already been printed, either by Thoreau himself, by his
sister Sophia, or his friend Channing, who, in 1873, published a
life of Thoreau, containing many extracts from the journals, which
had never before been printed. When we speak of his works, we should
include Mr. Channing's book also, half of which, at least, is from
Thoreau's pen.

His method in writing was peculiarly his own, though it bore some
external resemblance to that of his friends, Emerson and Alcott.
Like them he early began to keep a journal, which became both diary
and commonplace book. But while they noted down the thoughts which
occurred to them, without premeditation or consecutive arrangement,
Thoreau made studies and observations for his journal as carefully
and habitually as he noted the angles and distances in surveying a
Concord farm. In all his daily walks and distant journeys, he took
notes on the spot of what occurred to him, and these, often very brief
and symbolic, he carefully wrote out, as soon as he could get time,
in his diary, not classified by topics, but just as they had come to
him. To these he added his daily meditations, sometimes expressed in
verse, especially in the years between 1837 and 1850, but generally
in close and pertinent prose. Many details are found in his diaries,
but not such as are common in the diaries of other men,--not trivial
but significant details. From these daily entries he made up his
essays, his lectures, and his volumes; all being slowly, and with much
deliberation and revision, brought into the form in which he gave
them to the public. After that he scarcely changed them at all; they
had received the last imprint of his mind, and he allowed them to
stand and speak for themselves. But before printing, they underwent
constant change, by addition, erasure, transposition, correction, and
combination. A given lecture might be two years, or twenty years in
preparation; or it might be, like his defense of John Brown, copied
with little change from the pages of his diary for the fortnight
previous. But that was an exceptional case; and Thoreau was stirred
and quickened by the campaign and capture of Brown, as perhaps he had
never been before.

     "The thought of that man's position and fate," he said,
     "is spoiling many a man's day here at the North for other
     thinking. If any one who has seen John Brown in Concord,
     can pursue successfully any other train of thought, I do
     not know what he is made of. If there is any such who gets
     his usual allowance of sleep, I will warrant him to fatten
     easily under any circumstances which do not touch his body
     or purse. I put a piece of paper and a pencil under my
     pillow, and when I could not sleep, I wrote in the dark.
     I was so absorbed in him as to be surprised whenever I
     detected the routine of the natural world surviving still,
     or met persons going about their affairs indifferent."

The fact that Thoreau noted down his thoughts by night as well as by
day, appears also from an entry in one of his journals, where he is
describing the coming on of day, as witnessed by him at the close of a
September night in Concord. "Some bird flies over," he writes, "making
a noise like the barking of a puppy (it was a cuckoo). It is yet so
dark that I have dropped my pencil and cannot find it." No writer of
modern times, in fact, was so much awake and abroad at night, or has
described better the phenomena of darkness and of moonlight.

It is interesting to note some dates and incidents concerning a few
of Thoreau's essays. The celebrated chapter on "Friendship," in the
"Week," was written in the winter of 1847-48, soon after he left
Walden, and while he was a member of Mr. Emerson's household during
the absence of his friend in Europe. On the 13th of January, 1848, Mr.
Alcott notes in his diary:--

     "Henry Thoreau came in after my hours with the children,
     and we had a good deal of talk on the modes of popular
     influence. He read me a manuscript essay of his on
     'Friendship,' which he has just written, and which I
     thought superior to anything I had heard."

To the same period or a little later belong those verses called "The
Departure," which declare, under a similitude, Thoreau's relations
with one family of his friends.

In 1843, when he first met Henry James, Lucretia Mott, and others who
have since been famous, in the pleasant seclusion of Staten Island,
he wrote a translation of the "Seven Against Thebes," which has never
been printed, some translations from Pindar, printed in the "Dial," in
1844, and two articles for the New York "Democratic Review," called
"Paradise to be Regained," and "The Landlord."

Thoreau left "a vast amount of manuscript," in the words of his
sister, who was his literary executor until her death in 1876, when
she committed her trust to his Worcester friend, Mr. Harrison Blake.
She was aided in the revision and publication of the "Excursions,"
"Maine Woods," "Letters," and other volumes which she issued from 1862
to 1866, by Mr. Emerson, Mr. Channing, and other friends,--Mr. Emerson
having undertaken that selection of letters and poems from his mass of
correspondence and his preserved verses, which appeared in 1865. His
purpose, as he said to Miss Thoreau, was to exhibit in that volume "a
most perfect piece of stoicism," and he fancied that she had "marred
his classic statue" by inserting some tokens of natural affection
which the domestic letters showed. Miss Thoreau said that "it did not
seem quite honest to Henry" to leave out such passages; Mr. Fields,
the publisher, agreed with her, and a few of them were retained.
His correspondence, as a whole, is much more affectionate, and less
pugnacious than would appear from the published volume. He was fond of
dispute, but those who knew him best loved him most.

Of his last illness his sister said:--

     "It was not possible to be sad in his presence. No shadow
     of gloom attaches to anything in my mind connected with my
     precious brother. He has done much to strengthen the faith
     of his friends. Henry's whole life impresses me as a grand

Walking once with Mr. Alcott, soon after he passed his eightieth
birth day, as we faced the lovely western sky in December, the old
Pythagorean said, "I always think of Thoreau when I look at a sunset;"
and I then remembered it was at that hour Thoreau usually walked
along the village street, under the arch of trees, with the sunset
sky seen through their branches. "He said to me in his last illness,"
added Alcott, "'I shall leave the world without a regret,'--that was
the saying either of a grand egotist or of a deeply religious soul."
Thoreau was both, and both his egotism and his devotion offended many
of those who met him. His aversion to the companionship of men was
partly religious--a fondness for the inward life--and partly egotism
and scorn for frivolity.

     "Emerson says his life is so unprofitable and shabby for
     the most part," writes Thoreau in 1854, "that he is driven
     to all sorts of resources,--and among the rest to men. I
     tell him we differ only in our resources: mine is to get
     away from men. They very rarely affect me as grand or
     beautiful; but I know that there is a sunrise and a sunset
     every day. I have seen more men than usual lately; and well
     as I was acquainted with one, I am surprised to find what
     vulgar fellows they are."

In 1859 he wrote to Mr. Blake:--

     "I have lately got back to that glorious society called
     Solitude, where we meet our friends continually, and can
     imagine the outside world also to be peopled. Yet some of
     my acquaintance would fain hustle me into the almshouse
     for _the sake of society_; as if I were pining for that
     diet, when I seem to myself a most befriended man, and find
     constant employment. However, they do not believe a word I
     say. They have got a club, the handle of which is in the
     Parker House, at Boston, and with this they beat me from
     time to time, expecting to make me tender, or minced meat,
     and so fit for a club to dine off. The doctors are all
     agreed that I am suffering for want of society. Was never a
     case like it! First, I did not know that I was suffering at
     all. Secondly, as an Irishman might say, I had thought it
     was indigestion of the society I got."

Yet Thoreau knew the value of society, and avoided it oftentimes only
because he was too busy. To his friend Ricketson, who reproached him
for ceasing to answer letters, he wrote in November, 1860, just before
he took the fatal cold that terminated in consumption and ended his
life prematurely:--

     "FRIEND RICKETSON,--You know that I never promised to
     correspond with you, and so, when I do, I do more than
     I promised. Such are my pursuits and habits, that I
     rarely go abroad; and it is quite a habit with me to
     decline invitations to do so. Not that I could not enjoy
     such visits, if I were not otherwise occupied. I have
     enjoyed very much my visits to you, and my rides in your
     neighborhood, and am sorry that I cannot enjoy such things
     oftener; but life is short, and there are other things also
     to be done. I admit that you are more social than I am,
     and more attentive to 'the common courtesies of life;' but
     this is partly for the reason that you have fewer or less
     exacting private pursuits. Not to have written a note for
     a year is with me a very venial offense. I think I do not
     correspond with any one so often as once in six months.
     I have a faint recollection of your invitation referred
     to; but I suppose I had no new or particular reason for
     declining, and so made no new statement. I have felt that
     you would be glad to see me almost whenever I got ready
     to come; but I only offer myself as a rare visitor, and
     a still rarer correspondent. I am very busy, after my
     fashion, little as there is to show for it, and feel as if
     I could not spend many days nor dollars in traveling; for
     the shortest visit must have a fair margin to it, and the
     days thus affect the weeks, you know.

     "Nevertheless, we cannot forego these luxuries altogether.
     Please remember me to your family. I have a very pleasant
     recollection of your fireside, and I trust that I shall
     revisit it; also of your shanty and the surrounding

He did make a last visit to this friend in August, 1861, after his
return from Minnesota, whither he went with young Horace Mann, in
June. And it was to Mr. Ricketson that Sophia Thoreau, two weeks after
her brother's death, wrote the following account of his last illness:--

            "CONCORD, _May 20, 1862_.

     "DEAR FRIEND,--Profound joy mingles with my grief. I feel
     as if something very beautiful had happened,--not death.
     Although Henry is with us no longer, yet the memory of his
     sweet and virtuous soul must ever cheer and comfort me. My
     heart is filled with praise to God for the gift of such a
     brother, and may I never distrust the love and wisdom of
     Him who made him, and who has now called him to labor in
     more glorious fields than earth affords!

     "You ask for some particulars relating to Henry's illness.
     I feel like saying that Henry was never affected, never
     reached by it. I never before saw such a manifestation of
     the power of spirit over matter. Very often I have heard
     him tell his visitors that he enjoyed existence as well as
     ever. He remarked to me that there was as much comfort
     in perfect disease as in perfect health, the mind always
     conforming to the condition of the body. The thought
     of death, he said, could not begin to trouble him. His
     thoughts had entertained him all his life, and did still.
     When he had wakeful nights, he would ask me to arrange the
     furniture, so as to make fantastic shadows on the wall,
     and he wished his bed was in the form of a shell that he
     might curl up in it. He considered occupation as necessary
     for the sick as for those in health, and has accomplished
     a vast amount of labor during the past few months, in
     preparing some papers for the press. He did not cease to
     call for his manuscript till the last day of his life.
     During his long illness I never heard a murmur escape
     him, or the slightest wish expressed to remain with us.
     His perfect contentment was truly wonderful. None of his
     friends seemed to realize how very ill he was, so full of
     life and good cheer did he seem. One friend, as if by way
     of consolation, said to him, 'Well, Mr. Thoreau, we must
     all go.' Henry replied, 'When I was a very little boy,
     I learned that I must die, and I set that down, so, of
     course, I am not disappointed now. Death is as near to you
     as it is to me.'

     "There is very much that I should like to write you about
     my precious brother had I time and strength. I wish you
     to know how very gentle, lovely, and submissive he was in
     all his ways. His little study bed was brought down into
     our front parlor, when he could no longer walk with our
     assistance, and every arrangement pleased him. The devotion
     of his friends was most rare and touching. His room was
     made fragrant by the gifts of flowers from young and old.
     Fruit of every kind which the season afforded, and game of
     all sorts, were sent him. It was really pathetic, the way
     in which the town was moved to minister to his comfort.
     Total strangers sent grateful messages, remembering the
     good he had done them. All this attention was fully
     appreciated and very gratifying to Henry. He would
     sometimes say, 'I should be ashamed to stay in this world
     after so much has been done for me. I could never repay
     my friends.' And they remembered him to the last. Only
     about two hours before he left us, Judge Hoar called with
     a bouquet of hyacinths fresh from his garden, which Henry
     smelt and said he liked, and a few minutes after he was
     gone another friend came with a dish of his favorite jelly.
     I can never be grateful enough for the gentle, easy exit
     which was granted him. At seven o'clock, Tuesday morning,
     he became restless, and desired to be moved. Dear Mother,
     aunt Louisa, and myself were with him. His self-possession
     did not forsake him. A little after eight he asked to be
     raised quite up. His breathing grew fainter and fainter,
     and without the slightest struggle, he left us at nine
     o'clock,--but not alone; our Heavenly Father was with us.

     "Your last letter reached us by the evening mail on Monday.
     Henry asked me to read it to him, which I did. He enjoyed
     your letters, and felt disappointed not to see you again.
     Mr. Blake and Mr. Brown came twice to visit him, since
     January. They were present at his funeral, which took
     place in the church. Mr. Emerson read such an address as
     no other man could have done. It is a source of great
     satisfaction that one so gifted knew and loved my brother,
     and is prepared to speak such brave words about him at this
     time. The 'Atlantic Monthly' for July will contain Mr.
     Emerson's memories of Henry. I hope that you saw a notice
     of the services on Friday, written by Mr. Fields, in the

     "Let me thank you for your very friendly letters. I trust
     we shall see you in Concord, Anniversary Week. It would
     give me pleasure to make the acquaintance of your family,
     of whom my brother has so often told me. If convenient,
     will you please bring the ambrotype of Henry which was
     taken last autumn in New Bedford. I am interested to see
     it. Mr. Channing will take the crayon likeness to Boston
     this week to secure some photographs. My intention was to
     apologize for not writing you at this time; but I must
     now trust to your generosity to pardon this hasty letter,
     written under a great pressure of cares and amidst frequent
     interruptions. My mother unites with me in very kind
     regards to your family.

            "Yours truly,

                  "S. E. THOREAU."

To Parker Pillsbury, who would fain talk with Thoreau in this last
winter concerning the next world, the reply was, "One world at a
time." To a young friend (Myron Benton) he wrote a few weeks before

            "CONCORD, _March 21, 1862_.

     "DEAR SIR,--I thank you for your very kind letter, which,
     ever since I received it, I have intended to answer before
     I died, however briefly. I am encouraged to know, that, so
     far as you are concerned, I have not written my books in
     vain. I was particularly gratified, some years ago, when
     one of my friends and neighbors said, 'I wish you would
     write another book--write it for me.' He is actually more
     familiar with what I have written than I am myself. I am
     pleased when you say that in 'The Week' you like especially
     'those little snatches of poetry interspersed through the
     book;' for these, I suppose, are the least attractive to
     most readers. I have not been engaged in any particular
     work on Botany, or the like, though, if I were to live, I
     should have much to report on Natural History generally.

     "You ask particularly after my health. I _suppose_ that
     I have not many months to live; but, of course, I know
     nothing about it. I may add, that I am enjoying existence
     as much as ever, and regret nothing.

            "Yours truly, HENRY D. THOREAU,

            "By          SOPHIA E. THOREAU."

"With an unfaltering trust in God's mercies," wrote Ellery
Channing, "and never deserted by his good genius, he most bravely
and unsparingly passed down the inclined plane of a terrible
malady--pulmonary consumption; working steadily at the completing
of his papers to his last hours, or so long as he could hold the
pencil in his trembling fingers. Yet if he did get a little sleep to
comfort him in this year's campaign of sleepless affliction, he was
sure to interest those about him in his singular dreams, more than
usually fantastic. He said once, that having got a few moments of
repose, 'sleep seemed to hang round his bed in festoons.' He declared
uniformly that he preferred to endure with a clear mind the worst
penalties of suffering rather than be plunged in a turbid dream by
narcotics. His patience was unfailing; assuredly he knew not aught
save resignation; he did mightily cheer and console those whose
strength was less. His every instant now, his least thought and work,
sacredly belonged to them, dearer than his rapidly perishing life,
whom he should so quickly leave behind."

Once or twice he shed tears. Upon hearing a wandering musician in the
street playing some tune of his childhood he might never hear again,
he wept, and said to his mother, "Give him some money for me!"

    "Northward he turneth through a little door,
    And scarce three steps, ere Music's golden tongue,
    Flattered to tears this aged man and poor;
    But no--already had his death-bell rung,
    The joys of all his life were said and sung."

He died on the 6th of May, 1862, and had a public funeral from the
parish church a few days later. On his coffin his friend Channing
placed several inscriptions, among them this, "Hail to thee, O
man! who hast come from the transitory place to the imperishable."
This sentiment may stand as faintly marking Thoreau's deep, vital
conviction of immortality, of which he never had entertained a doubt
in his life. There was in his view of the world and its Maker no room
for doubt; so that when he was once asked, superfluously, what he
thought of a future world and its compensations, he replied, "Those
were voluntaries I did not take,"--having confined himself to the
foreordained course of things. He is buried in the village cemetery,
quaintly named "Sleepy Hollow," with his family and friends about him;
one of whom, surviving him for a few years, said, as she looked upon
his low head-stone on the hillside, "Concord is Henry's monument,
covered with suitable inscriptions by his own hand."


Academy, Concord, 46.

Acton, originally a part of Concord, 32.

Adams, John Quincy, 78.

Adams, Samuel, 100.

African Slaves in Concord, 203-205.

Agassiz, Louis, 115, 243, 245.

Agricola at Marseilles, 64.

Alcott, A. Bronson, sonnet on Thoreau, v.;
  born in Connecticut, 63;
  at Concord Lyceum, 49;
  visits Dr. Ripley, 80;
  in old age, 81;
  goes to live in Concord, 117;
  helps "raise" Thoreau's hut, 118;
  his School of Philosophy, 121;
  an early Transcendentalist, 124;
  his Paradise at Fruitlands, 134-140;
  a friend of John Brown, 148;
  plan of living in Concord woods, 155;
  builds a summer-house for Emerson, 194;
  his friendship with Thoreau, 186;
  his conversations, 187, 188, 190, 199;
  from his diary, 192, 195, 304;
  peddler in Virginia, 187, 260;
  visits Horace Greeley, 188;
  harbors a fugitive slave, 195;
  lends Thoreau his axe, 209;
  goes to the opera with Greeley, 241;
  with Thoreau in New Bedford, 267;
  his opinion of Thoreau, 306.

Alcott, Louisa, 63, 91.

Allston, Washington, visits Concord, 111.

American literature, Thoreau's view of, 160.

American Slavery, Thoreau's opposition to, 195, 199, 292;
  John Brown's attack upon, 292, 303.

Assabet River, 15, 33, 114, 202.

Ball, B. W., 135.

Bangor, 1, 5, 245.

Barnes, Lucy, 109, 110.

Barrett, Humphrey, a Concord farmer, 89, 98, 103, 107.

Barrett, Joseph, 114-117.

Bartlett, Dr. Josiah, 43, 44.

Bartlett, Robert, 190.

Bedford (the town), 9, 12.

Bedford road, 12, 270.

Betsey (Thoreau), 3, 4.

Bigelow, Dr. H. J., 62.

Blake, Harrison, 141, 301, 305, 307.

Bliss, Rev. Daniel, 74, 75, 99, 100.

Bliss, Daniel, the Tory, 100, 204.

Bliss, Phebe, 75, 205.

Boston, the home of John Thoreau, the Jerseyman, 2, 6;
  of Henry Thoreau, 27;
  birth-place of Emerson, 63.

Boston Miscellany, 220.

Bowen, Prof. Francis, 62.

Bradford, George P., 46.

Bradford, Gershom, 105.

Bremer, Frederika, 141.

Brisbane, Albert, 133, 134.

Brister's Hill, 202.

Brister, a freedman, 203, 205, 208.

Brook Farm, 134, 141.

Brooks, Nathan, 42, 46, 77, 105, 112.

Brooks, Mrs. Nathan, 68.

Brown, John, of Osawatomie, 146, 185, 199, 242, 292, 293, 295, 303.

Brown, Mrs., of Plymouth, 60.

Brownson, Orestes A., 53.

Bruno, Giordano, quoted, 208.

Bulkley family in Concord, 33, 39, 98.

Burke, Edmund, quoted, 299.

Buttrick, Major, 102.

Cambridge, Thoreau's residence in, 51;
  letters from, 56, 61;
  Thoreau's visit to, 196.

Campbell, Sir Archibald, 68.

Canada, Thoreau's excursion to, 233, 235.

Cape Cod, 236, 264.

Carlyle, Thomas, 124, 125, 193, 233;
  Thoreau's essay on, 218-224.

Channing, Rev. Dr., 80, 82, 144.

Channing, Ellery (the poet), 11, 41, 49-51, 63, 70, 135, 136, 177-189;
  his lines on Emerson, 69;
  on Thoreau, 185, 214;
  quoted, 49-51;
  his friendship for Thoreau, 178-185;
  his verses on Hawthorne, 188;
  his house, 198;
  his letters to Thoreau, 209, 218;
  calls Thoreau Idolon, 252;
  and Rudolpho, 253;
  visits Monadnoc, 255;
  describes Thoreau, 262, 267, 291, 315;
  his biography of Thoreau, 11, 49, 301.

Channing, Rev. W. H., 140, 141, 174, 216.

Chapman, Dr., 193.

Chappaqua, 241.

Cheney, Mrs., of Concord, 18, 93.

Cohasset, 91, 175.

Columella, 132.

Concord (town of) described, 32-40;
  celebrities, 41-48, 63-96;
  farmers, 97-123;
  Lyceum, 47, 48, 168;
  as a transcendental capital, 135, 143, 146;
  the home of Channing and Thoreau, 178;
  localities, 201-204;
  freedmen, 204;
  jail, 207;
  the monument to Thoreau, 317.

Concord Fight, 76, 86, 99, 102, 109.

Concord grape, 34.

Concord River, 33, 140, 154, 167, 176, 178, 183, 188, 199, 202, 208.

Concord Village, 189, 201;
  trade in, 35;
  customs of, 40, 46, 48, 64, 72, 76, 87, 116, 122.

Connecticut, 73, 82, 127, 186.

Corner, Nine-Acre, 70, 84, 208.

Davenant, Sir William, 127, 164.

"Departure, The," 282, 305.

Dial, The, 127, 135, 163, 168, 171, 173, 212, 217, 248.

Diana, Ascription to, 260.

Dunbar, Rev. Asa, 8, 9, 20.

Dunbar, Charles, uncle of Thoreau, 21-24, 92, 93.

Dunbar, Cynthia (mother of Thoreau), 8, 18, 19, 21, 24-28, 50, 57, 92,
 96, 312.

Dunbar, Louisa, 13-17, 21.

Edwards, Jonathan, quoted, 128.

"Egomites," 80.

Emerson, Charles, 46.

Emerson, Miss Mary, 19, 20, 75.

Emerson, Ralph Waldo, born in Boston, 63;
  a descendant of Concord ministers, 39;
  quoted, 37;
  began to lecture in Concord, 48;
  begins acquaintance with Thoreau, 59;
  goes to live in Concord, 69;
  draws people there, 71;
  describes Dr. Ripley, 77-84;
  describes the "Concord Fight," 103;
  on Captain Hardy, 121, 123;
  goes to Europe, 281;
  his "Forester," 251;
  his proposition for an international magazine, 193;
  on Thoreau's acquaintance with Nature, 251, 252;
  on Thoreau's patience in observation, 250;
  his relations with Thoreau, 189;
  his summer-house, 194, 278;
  tries to work in the woods, 278;
  praises Thoreau's "Smoke," 287;
  gives his funeral eulogy, 313.

Emerson, William, 190.

Endymion of Concord, 260.

Essays of Thoreau, in college, 150-163;
  "Effect of Story Telling," 158;
  "L'Allegro and Il Penseroso," 156;
  "National Characteristics," 160;
  "Paley's Common Reasons," 161;
  "Punishment," 158;
  "Source of our feeling for the Sublime," 159;
  "Simplicity of Style," 156.

Everett, Edward, 88.

Fairhaven Cliffs, 153.

Fenda, the fortune teller, 204.

Fields, James T., 300, 306.

Forbes, Mrs. W. H., recollections of Thoreau, 270-273.

"Forester, The," verse by Emerson, 257.

"Fruitlands," in Harvard, 135-137.

Fugitive Slave, in Concord, 195.

Fuller, Margaret, in Concord, 70;
  criticises Thoreau's poems, 169-172;
  rejects a prose article by him, 173;
  her character, 174;
  in Cambridge, 191;
  at a conversation, 190;
  visit to Europe, marriage, and death, 230;
  writes for the "Tribune," and lives with H. Greeley, 217.

Gardiner, Dr., 79, 80.

Garfield, his ancestors, 204.

Gilman, Rev. Nicholas, 128-130.

Goodwin, Rev. H. B., 83.

Graham, George R., 222, 224.

Graham's Magazine, 213, 224.

Graveyard in Lincoln, 204.

Greeley, Horace, as Mæcenas, 217;
  editor of the "Tribune," 216;
  described by Margaret Fuller, 217;
  his correspondence with Thoreau, 219-229, 231-240;
  invites Thoreau to Chappaqua, satirized by W. E. Channing, 218.

Griswold, R. W., 220, 222.

Hafiz, quoted, 166.

Hamilton, Alexander, 113.

Hampden, John, 107.

Hardy, Captain, 120-122.

Harvard Magazine, 196.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel, moves and removes to Concord, 70;
  quoted, 71;
  Channing's verses on, 188;
  Emerson's influence on, 148;
  his "Scarlet Letter," 277;
  invites Thoreau to lecture in Salem, 276;
  returns to Concord, 278;
  returns thither from Europe, 189.

Herald's Office, London, 108.

Heywood, Dr. Abiel, 38, 40-42.

Heywood, George, 39.

Hildreth, S. T., 57.

Hoar, E. R., 90, 312.

Hoar, Edward, 254.

Hoar, Miss Elizabeth, 239.

Hoar, Mrs. Samuel, 96.

Hoar, Samuel, 46, 72, 90, 95, 112.

Hollowell Farm, 172, _note_, 208.

Hosmer Cottage, 117.

Hosmer, Cyrus, 111.

Hosmer, Edmund, 118-120.

Hosmer, James, 98.

Hosmer, Joseph (the Major), 98, 99, 100, 109, 111, 112, 113.

Hosmer, Lucy, 110.

Hurd, Dr. Isaac, 42.

Icarus, 202.

Indians, (American), 240, 242, 248.

Ingraham, Cato, a slave, 203.

Ingraham, Duncan, 66-68.

Jack, John, a negro, 204;
  epitaph on, 205.

Jackson, Dr. C. T., 246, 247.

James, Henry, 305.

Jarvis, Deacon Francis, 76, 77.

Jarvis, Dr. Edward, 76.

Jersey, Isle of, 1-4.

Journal of Thoreau, 2, 150, 154, 167.

Ktaadn, and Thoreau's visit there, 226, 227, 228, 245.

Keene, N. H., 18.

Kosta, Martin, 67.

Lane, Charles, 135-141.

Lee family, 114;
  their farm and hill, 115.

Letters from Maria Thoreau, 5;
  from D. Webster, 15;
  from Josiah Quincy, 53, 61;
  from Dr. Ripley, 57, 81;
  from Dr. Channing to Dr. Ripley, 82;
  from Charles Lane, to Thoreau, 137-140;
  from A. G. Peabody, 55, 56;
  from R. W. Emerson, 155, 193;
  from F. B. Sanborn, 197;
  from Henry Thoreau, 92, 181, 209, 210, 216, 307, 308, 314;
  from Horace Greeley, 219, 222-231, 233-240;
  from Margaret Fuller, 169-173;
  from Dr. Ripley, 144-146;
  from Sophia Thoreau, 176, 268, 306, 310, 314;
  letter to Sophia Thoreau, 189, 216, 281.

Levet, Robert, 43.

Lowell, James Russell, 112, 246.

Mæcenas, Greeley as, 216-241.

Manse, Old, built in 1766, 75;
  occupied by Hawthorne 85;
  Channing's verses on, 188;
  farmers at, 86-88;
  "Mosses from," 183;
  first mistress of, 205.

Marlboro road, 109.

Marryatt, Captain, 67.

Marvell, Andrew, 42.

Massey, Gerald, 240.

Merrick, Tilly, 67, 108.

Milton, John, 156, 157.

Minott, George, 22, 24, 92, 274.

Minott, Mrs., the grandmother of Thoreau, 9-11.

Minute-Man, statue of, 86.

Monadnoc, 115, 254-257.

Moore, Abel ("Captain Hardy"), 120, 121.

Morton, Edwin, 197.

Munroe of Lexington and Concord, 66;
  William, 37, 152.

Musketaquid, 33.

Nature, "born and brought up in Concord," 96;
  Thoreau's observation of, 252, 285.

Orrok, David, 2.

Orrok, Sarah, 2.

Out-door life of Thoreau, at Walden, 209, 211;
  in general, 242, 243, 249-252, 264-267;
  by night, 304.

Parker, Theodore, 69;
  school candidate, 88.

"Past and Present," by Carlyle, notice of, 217.

Peabody, A. G., letter from, 54.

Peabody, Elizabeth P., 70, 168.

Penobscot River, 245.

Pepperell, Sir William, 129.

Perry, Joseph, 67.

Phalanstery, 140, 141, 216.

Phillips, Wendell, at Concord, 49.

Pierpont, Sarah, 128.

Pillsbury, Parker, 314.

Poems, quoted from Tennyson, 31;
  from Ellery Channing, 24, 69, 119, 176, 184, 185, 215, 252, 255;
  Emerson's "Saadi", 119;
  "Maine Woods," 246, 247;
  Milton, 181;
  Thoreau's "Love," 167;
  "Sympathy," 164;
  "The Maiden in the East," 165;
  to his brother John, 176;
  The Departure, 282;
  "The Pilgrims," 285;
  "Smoke" (a fragment), 287;
  from T. P. Sanborn, 260;
  from Keats, 316.

Poet, the character of, 284.

Ponkawtassett Hill, 86, 182.

Putnam's Magazine, 236, 237.

Quarterly, Massachusetts, 230.

Quincy, Josiah, 52;
  letter from, 53, 61;
  certificate in favor of Thoreau, 61.

Ralston, Mrs. Laura Dunbar, 19.

Ricketson, Daniel, 176, 188, 263;
  description of Thoreau's actual appearance, 266;
  disappointment in imagined personal appearance of Thoreau, 264;
  on Thoreau's domestic character, 267;
  describes Thoreau's dance, 268;
  Letters from Thoreau to, 308, 309;
  Letter from Sophia Thoreau to, 310.

Ripley, Dr. (pastor at Concord), petition to Grand Lodge of Masons, 1-9;
  letter from, 25;
  certificate in favor of Thoreau's father, 26;
  schism in parish of, 28, 85;
  Thoreau baptized by, 45;
  letter from Edward Everett to, 47;
  letter introducing Thoreau as a teacher, 57;
  anecdotes of, 73-80, 86, 87;
  letter to Dr. Channing, 81;
  reply, 82;
  his prayers, 83, 84;
  letter on the Transcendental movement, 144, 146.

Ripley, Rev. Samuel, 74.

Ripley, Mrs. Sarah, 85.

Robbins, Cæsar, a negro, 104, 203.

Sanborn, F. B., acquaintance with Thoreau, 196;
  extract from diary, 198, 199;
  introduces John Brown to Thoreau, 199;
  letter to Thoreau, 197.

Sanborn, T. P., his "Endymion" quoted, 260.

Sartain, John, 232.

"Service, The," 172.

Sewall, Ellen, 163.

"Shay," a one-horse, 131-133.

Slave, fugitive, 195.

Staten Island, 89, 92, 305.

Sunday prospect, 152.

Sunday walkers, 85.

Tacitus, quoted, 64.

Teufelsdröckh, 210.

Thoreau family, 4, 5, 27-31.

Thoreau, Helen, 59-61.

Thoreau, Henry, his ancestry, 1-10;
  born in Concord, 12;
  his mother, 8, 24;
  his father, 25;
  as a pencil-maker, 37;
  first dwelling-place, 45;
  at the Concord Academy, 46;
  enters Harvard College, 46;
  at Chelmsford, 49;
  his childish stoicism, 50;
  his graduation, 51;
  as school teacher, 52;
  a beneficiary of Harvard College, 53, 54;
  his certificate from Dr. Ripley, 57, 58;
  from Emerson, 59;
  beginning of acquaintance with Emerson, 59;
  his "Sic Vita," 60;
  Quincy's certificate, 61;
  a Transcendentalist, 124;
  first essays in authorship, 149, 153;
  description of a visit to Fairhaven Cliffs, 153, 154;
  his early poems, 164-167;
  his first lecture, 168;
  his "Walk to Wachusett," 169;
  his earliest companion, 175;
  his friendship with Ellery Channing, 178-183;
  his praise of Alcott, 186;
  goes to Alcott's conversations, 187;
  visits Chappaqua and Walt Whitman, 188;
  his burial place, 189;
  his relation with Emerson, 189, 190;
  reads his "Week" to Alcott, 192;
  designs a lodge for Emerson, 194;
  his acquaintance with Sanborn, 195;
  at Walden, 201;
  his reasons for going to Walden, 212;
  edits "The Week," 212;
  talks with W. H. Channing and Greeley, 216;
  his essay on Carlyle, 218-225;
  his paper on "Ktaadn" and the "Maine Woods," 225;
  his "Week," 230;
  asks Greeley for a loan, 235;
  his "Canada," and "Cape Cod," 235, 236;
  Greeley asks him to become a tutor, 241;
  his out-door life, 242;
  collects specimens for Agassiz, 243, 245;
  his visits to Maine, 245, 248;
  as a naturalist, 249-252;
  a night on Mount Washington, 254;
  his Monadnoc trip, 256-257;
  his description of a Concord heifer, 258, 259;
  his apostrophe to the "Queen of Night," 259;
  his face, 199, 261, 266;
  described by Channing, 262;
  by Ricketson, 263-266;
  travels on Cape Cod, 264;
  domestic character, 267;
  dances, 268;
  sings "Tom Bowline," 269;
  his social traits, 270-273;
  as author and lecturer, 274-277;
  his manual labor, 278;
  fashion of his garments, 279;
  income from authorship, 280;
  lives in Emerson's household, 281;
  his parable, 285;
  his habit of versification, 286;
  his reading, 286;
  as naturalist, 288-291;
  his theory of labor and leisure, 288;
  his political philosophy, 292;
  eras in his life, 297;
  his aim in writing, 298;
  his religion, 299;
  his business in life, 300;
  his method in writing, 304;
  his sunset walks, 307;
  his aversion to society, 307;
  his decline and death, 313-316;
  his funeral, 317.

Thoreau, John, the father, 25, 27.

Thoreau, John, the brother, 175, 178.

Thoreau, John, the Jerseyman; 1, 5-7, 37.

Thoreau, Maria, 1-8.

Thoreau, Sophia, 29, 38, 44, 265, 282, 301, 305, 310, 315;
  letter from, 176, 268, 306, 310-314;
  letters to, 189, 216, 281.

"Tom Bowline," sung by Thoreau, 268, 269, 272.

Transcendentalism, 124, 126, 133, 142, 247, 279;
  in New England, 124-126;
  in politics, 292-296;
  social and unsocial, 141-145;
  at Brook Farm, 134;
  at Fruitlands, 137.

Transcendentalists of Concord, 63, 70, 76, 80, 119, 134-137, 143, 146,
 148, 288, 307.

Transcendental Period, 124-147.

"Tribune," New York, 217, 230, 238.

Very, Jones, 51, 190.

Wachusett, 115, 138, 169, 220.

Walden (the book), 196, 211, 214, 239,240.

Walden Hermitage, 201-215.

Walden woods, 11, 155, 202, 209, 212, 214.

Watson, Marston, 188, 197.

Webster, Daniel, a lover of Louisa Dunbar, 13, 14;
  describes his native place, 15-17;
  his friendship for Louisa Dunbar, 17, 93;
  at the "Wyman Trial," 90;
  his "rose-cold," 91;
  visits in Concord, 93;
  letter to Mrs. Cheney, 94;
  described by Carlyle, 293;
  by Thoreau, 294;
  contrasted with Thoreau, 296.

Webster, Prof. J. W., 56.

"Week," The, (Thoreau's first book), 183, 196, 213, 230, 240, 299, 304.

Weiss, Rev. John, 57.

"Westminster Review," 240.

Wharton, Thomas, 298.

Whig Review, 238.

Whitefield, G., letter to, 129.

Whiting, Colonel, 36, 46.

Whiting, Rev. John, 65.

Whitman, Walt, 186, 188.

Whittier, J. G., quoted, 131.

Wigglesworth, Michael, 131.

Willard, Major, 32, 98.

Woolman, John, 127, 130.

Zilpha, the Walden Circe, 203.


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[Footnote 1: _Emerson's Sketch of Dr. Ripley._ Hood, in his _Music
for the Million_, describes an angry man as slamming a door "with a
_wooden damn_."]

[Footnote 2: At the date of this letter Dr. Ripley was not quite
eighty-two, and he lived to be more than ninety. Mr. Alcott, who has
now passed the age of eighty-two, has been for years doing in some
degree what Dr. Channing urged the patriarch of his denomination to
do, but which the old minister never found time and strength for. It
is curious that these two venerable men, whose united life in Concord
covers a period of more than a century, both came from Connecticut.]

[Footnote 3: This princely anecdote is paralleled, in its way, by one
told of Gershom Bradford, of Duxbury, son of Colonel Gam. Bradford,
the friend of Washington and Kosciusko, but himself a plain Old
Colony farmer. Once walking in his woods, he saw a man cutting down
a fine tree; he concealed himself that the man might not see him,
and went home. When asked why he did not stop the trespasser, he
replied, "Could not the poor man have a tree?" Gershom Bradford was a
descendant of Governor Bradford, the Pilgrim, and uncle of Mrs. Sarah
Ripley, of Concord.]

[Footnote 4: This would, of course, diminish his own share, as the law
then stood, from one half the estate to one fourth, or less.]

[Footnote 5: "These facts," says his biographer, whom I knew well,
"show clearly, I think, not only that his love of right was stronger
than his love of money, but that he would rather make any sacrifice of
property than leave a doubt in his own mind whether justice had been
done to others."]

[Footnote 6: Lucy Barnes, daughter of Jonathan and Rachel Barnes of
Marlborough, was born July 7, 1742, married Joseph Hosmer, of Concord,
December 24, 1761, and died in Concord, ----, ----. Her brother was
Rev. Jonathan Barnes, born in 1749, graduated at Harvard College, in
1770, and settled as a minister in Hillsborough, N. H., where he died
in 1805.]

[Footnote 7: The resemblance between some of John Woolman's utterances
and those of Henry Thoreau has been noticed by Whittier, who says of
the New Jersey Quaker, "From his little farm on the Rancocas he looked
out with a mingled feeling of wonder and sorrow upon the hurry and
unrest of the world; he regarded the merely rich man with unfeigned
pity. With nothing of his scorn, he had all of Thoreau's commiseration
for people who went about, bowed down with the weight of broad acres
and great houses on their backs." The "scorn" of Thoreau and the
"pity," of Woolman, sprang from a common root, however.]

[Footnote 8: The Hollowell Place, no doubt.]

[Footnote 9: In building this quaint structure, Thoreau was so averse
to Mr. Alcott's plan of putting up and tearing down with no settled
design of form on paper, that he withdrew his mechanic hand, so
skillful in all carpenter work.]

[Footnote 10: No such letter appears.]

[Footnote 11: That is to say, a low price compared with what is now
paid. As the letter courteously states some matters that have now
become curious, it may be given:--

            "PHILADELPHIA, _March 24, 1852_.

     "DEAR SIR,--I have read the articles of Mr. Thoreau
     forwarded by you, and will be glad to publish them if
     our terms are satisfactory. We generally pay for prose
     composition per printed page, and would allow him three
     dollars per page. We do not pay more than four dollars
     for any that we now engage. I did not suppose our maximum
     rate would have paid you (Mr. Greeley) for your lecture,
     and therefore requested to know your own terms. Of course,
     when an article is unusually desirable, we may deviate
     from rule; I now only mention ordinary arrangement. I was
     very sorry not to have your article, but shall enjoy the
     reading of it in Graham. Mr. T. might send us some further
     contributions, and shall at least receive prompt and
     courteous decision respecting them. Yours truly,

                  "JOHN SARTAIN."

It seems sad so candid and amiable a publisher should not have

[Footnote 12: It was a "Primo Flauto" of his father's, who, like
himself, was a sweet player on the flute, and had performed with that
instrument in the parish choir, before the day of church-organs in

[Footnote 13: Thoreau says of this adventure: "After putting our
packs under a rock, having a good hatchet, I proceeded to build a
substantial house. This was done about dark, and by that time we were
as wet as if we had stood in a hogshead of water. We then built a fire
before the door, directly on the site of our camp of two years ago.
Standing before this, and turning round slowly, like meat that is
roasting, we were as dry, if not drier than ever, after a few hours,
and so, at last, we turned in."]

Transcriber's Notes

Minor punctuation errors have been silently corrected.

Page 39: Changed "aniversary" to "anniversary."
  (Orig: two hundredth aniversary of the town settlement.)

Footnote from Page 111: Dashes represent blank spaces of unrecorded
  death date. (Orig: and died in Concord, ----, ----.)

Page 130: Changed "acknowlege" to "acknowledge."
  (Orig: to pure love, I may acknowlege with gratitude)

Page 229: Changed "existnce" to "existence."
  (Orig: let common people know of his existnce.)

Page 234: Changed "that" to "than."
  (Orig: make a use for them at this season that at any other.")

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