The Emerson-Thoreau Correspondence
EMERSON IN EUROPE.
A FEW undated notes from Emerson to Thoreau may be of the years between 1843 and 1847, but I am inclined to place them as late as the latter year. Here is the only one which will be cited, and that to show how friendly was the service these two comrades required of each other. The “ Mr. Brownson ” mentioned was Dr. Orestes A. Brownson, who had examined Thoreau for his first district school, when he went, during a college vacation, to teach in the town of Canton, near Boston, where Brownson was then a Universalist minister.
Thursday, P. M.
DEAR HENRY, — I am not to-day quite so robust as I expected to be, and so have to beg that you will come down and drink tea with Mr. Brownson, and charge yourself with carrying him to the Lyceum and introducing him to the curators. I hope you can oblige me so far.
Yours, R. W. E.
I. THOREAU TO HIS SISTER SOPHIA AT BANGOR.
CONCORD, October 24, 1847.
DEAR SOPHIA, — I thank you for those letters about Ktadn, and hope you will save and send me the rest, and anything else you may meet with relating to the Maine woods. That Dr. Young is both young and green too at traveling in the woods. However, I hope he got “yarbs” enough to satisfy him. 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. [F. H.] 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’s. Mr. Emerson’s stateroom 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, 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. The steam-tug carried the ship to sea against a head wind without a rag of sail being raised.
I don’t remember whether you have heard of the new telescope at Cambridge or not. They think it is the best one in the world, and have already seen more than Lord Rosse or Herschel. I went to see Perez Blood’s, some time ago, with Mr. Emerson. He had not gone to bed, but was sitting in the woodshed, in the dark, alone, in his astronomical chair, which is all legs and rounds, with a seat which can be inserted at any height. We saw Saturn’s rings, and the mountains in the moon, and the shadows in their craters, and the sunlight on the spurs of the mountains in the dark portion, etc., etc. When I asked him the power of his glass he said it was 85. But what is the power of the Cambridge glass ? 2000 ! ! ! The last is about twenty-three feet long.
I think you may have a grand time this winter pursuing some study, — keeping a journal, or the like, — while the snow lies deep without. Winter is the time for study, you know, and the colder it is the more studious we are. Give my respects to the whole Penobscot tribe, and tell them that I trust we are good brothers still, and endeavor to keep the chain of friendship bright, though I do dig up a hatchet now and then. I trust yon will not stir from your comfortable winter quarters, Miss Bruin, or even put your head out of your hollow tree, till the sun has melted the snow in the spring, and “the green buds, they are a-swellin’.”
From your BROTHER HENRY.
This letter has been given to explain some of the allusions in the first letter to Emerson in England. Perez Blood was a rural astronomer living in the extreme north quarter of Concord, next to Carlisle, with his two maiden sisters, in the midst of a fine oak wood ; their cottage being one of the points in view when Thoreau and his friends took their afternoon rambles. Sophia Thoreau was the youngest of the family, and was visiting her cousins in Maine, the “ Penobscot tribe ” of whom the letter makes mention, with an allusion to the Indians of that name near Bangor. His letter to her and those which follow were written from Emerson’s house, where Thoreau lived as a younger brother during the master’s absence across the ocean. It was in the orchard of this house that Alcott was building that summer-house at which Thoreau, with his geometrical eye, makes merry in the next letter.
II. THOREAU TO EMERSON IN ENGLAND.
CONCORD, November 14, 1847.
DEAR FRIEND, — I am but a poor neighbor to you here, — a very poor companion am I. I understand that very well, but that need not prevent my writing to you now. I have almost never written letters in my life, yet I think I can write as good ones as I frequently see, so I shall not hesitate to write this, such as it may be, knowing that you will welcome anything that reminds you of Concord.
I have banked up the young trees against the winter and the mice, and I will look out, in my careless way, to see when a pale is loose or a nail drops out of its place. The broad gaps, at least, I will occupy. I heartily wish I could be of good service to this household. But I, who have only used these ten digits so long to solve the problem of a living, how can I ? The world is a cow that is hard to milk, — life does not come so easy, — and oh, how thinly it is watered ere we get it! But the young bunting calf, he will get at it. There is no way so direct. This is to earn one’s living by the sweat of his brow. It is a little like joining a community, this life, to such a hermit as I am; and as I don’t keep the accounts, I don’t know whether the experiment will succeed or fail finally. At any rate, it is good for society, so I do not regret my transient nor my permanent share in it.
Lidian [Mrs. Emerson] and I make very good housekeepers. She is a very dear sister to me. Ellen and Edith and Eddy and Aunty Brown keep up the tragedy and comedy and tragic-comedy of life as usual. The two former have not forgotten their old acquaintance; even Edith carries a young memory in her head, I find. Eddy can teach us all how to pronounce. If you should discover any rare hoard of wooden or pewter horses, I have no doubt he will know how to appreciate it. He occasionally surveys mankind from my shoulders as wisely as ever Johnson did. I respect him not a little, though it is I that lift him up so unceremoniously. And sometimes I have to set him down again in a hurry, according to his “ mere will and good pleasure.” He very seriously asked me, the other day. " Mr. Thoreau, will you be ray father ? ” I am occasionally Mr. “Rough-and-tumble with him that I may not miss him, and lest he should miss you too much. So you must come back soon, or you will be superseded.
Alcott has heard that I laughed, and so set the people laughing, at his arbor, though I never laughed louder than when I was on the ridgepole. But now I have not laughed for a long time, it is so serious. He is very grave to look at. But, not knowing all this, I strove innocently enough, the other day, to engage his attention to my mathematics. “ Did you ever study geometry, the relation of straight lines to curves, the transition from the finite to the infinite ? Fine things about it in Newton and Leibnitz.” But he would hear none of it, — men of taste preferred the natural curve. Ah. he is a crooked stick himself. He is getting on now so many knots an hour. There is one knot at present occupying the point of highest elevation, — the present highest point; and as many knots as are not handsome, I presume, are thrown down and cast, into the pines. Pray show him this if you meet him anywhere in London, for I cannot make him hear much plainer words here. He forgets that I am neither old nor young, nor anything in particular, and behaves as if I had still some of the animal heat in me. As for the building, I feel a little oppressed when I come near it. It has no great disposition to be beautiful; it is certainly a wonderful structure, on the whole, and the fame of the architect will endure as long as it shall stand. I should not show you this side alone, if I did not suspect that Lidian had done complete justice to the other.
Mr. [Edmund] Hosmer has been working at a tannery in Stow for a fortnight, though he has just now come home sick. It seems that he was a tanner in his youth, and so he has made up his mind a little at last. This comes of reading the New Testament . Was n’t one of the Apostles a tanner ? Mrs. Hosmer remains here, and John looks stout enough to fill his own shoes and his father’s too. Mr. Blood and his company have at length seen the stars through the great telescope, and he told me that he thought it was worth the while. Mr. Peirce made him wait till the crowd had dispersed (it was a Saturday evening), and then was quite polite, — conversed with him, and showed him the micrometer, etc.; and he said Mr. Blood’s glass was large enough for all ordinary astronomical work. [Rev.] Mr. Frost and Dr. [Josiah] Bartlett seemed disappointed that there was no greater difference between the Cambridge glass and the Concord one. They used only a power of 400. Mr. Blood tells me that he is too old to study the calculus or higher mathematics. At Cambridge they think that they have discovered traces of another satellite to Neptune. They have been obliged to exclude the public altogether, at last. The very dust which they raised, “ which is filled with minute crystals,” etc., as professors declare, having to be wiped off the glasses, would erelong wear them away. It is true enough, Cambridge college is really beginning to wake up and redeem its character and overtake the age. I see by the catalogue that they are about establishing a scientific school in connection with the university, at which any one above eighteen, on paying one hundred dollars annually (Mr. Lawrence’s fifty thousand dollars will probably diminish this sum), may be instructed in the highest branches of science, — in astronomy, “ theoretical and practical, with the use of the instruments ” (so the great Yankee astronomer may be born without delay), in mechanics and engineering to the last degree. Agassiz will erelong commence his lectures in the zoölogical department. A chemistry class has already been formed under the direction of Professor Horsford. A new and adequate building for the purpose is already being erected. They have been foolish enough to put at the end of all this earnest the old joke of a diploma. Let every sheep keep but his own skin, I say.
I have had a tragic correspondence, for the most part all on one side, with Miss —. She did really wish to — I hesitate to write — marry me. That is the way they spell it. Of course I did not write a deliberate answer. How could I deliberate upon it ? I sent back as distinct a no as I have learned to pronounce after considerable practice, and I trust that this no has succeeded. Indeed, I wished that it might burst, like hollow shot, after it had struck and buried itself and made itself felt there. There was no other way. I really had anticipated no such foe as this in my career.
I suppose you will like to hear of my book, though I have nothing worth writing about it. Indeed, for the last month or two I have forgotten it, but shall certainly remember it again. Wiley & Putnam, Munroe, the Harpers, and Crosby & Nichols have all declined printing it with the least risk to themselves; but Wiley & Putnam will print it in their series, and any of them, anywhere, at my risk. If I liked the book well enough, I should not delay ; but for the present I am indifferent. I believe this is, after all, the course you advised, — to let it lie.
I do not know what to say of myself. I sit before my green desk, in the chamber at the head of the stairs, and attend to my thinking, sometimes more, sometimes less distinctly. I am not unwilling to think great thoughts if there are any in the wind, but what they are I am not sure. They suffice to keep me awake while the day lasts, at any rate. Perhaps they will redeem some portion of the night erelong.
I can imagine you astonishing, bewildering, confounding, and sometimes delighting John Bull with your Yankee notions, and that he begins to take a pride in the relationship at last; introduced to all the stars of England in succession, after the lecture, until you pine to thrust your head once more into a genuine and unquestionable nebula, if there be any left. I trust a common man will be the most uncommon to you before you return to these parts. I have thought there was some advantage even in death, by which we “ mingle with the herd of common men.”
Hugh [the gardener] still has his eye on the Walden agellum, and orchards are waving there in the windy future for him. That’s the where-I ‘11-go-next, thinks he ; but no important steps are yet taken. He reminds me occasionally of this open secret of his, with which the very season seems to labor, and affirms seriously that as to his wants — wood, stone, or timber — I know better than he. That is a clincher which I shall have to avoid to some extent ; but I fear that it is a wrought nail and will not break. Unfortunately, the day after cattle show — the day after small beer — he was among the missing, but not long this time. The Ethiopian cannot change his skin nor the leopard his spots, nor indeed Hugh — his Hugh.
As I walked over Conantum, the other afternoon, I saw a fair column of smoke rising from the woods directly over my house that was (as I judged), and already began to conjecture if my deed of sale would not be made invalid by this. But it turned out to be John Richardson’s young wood, on the southeast of your field. It was burnt nearly all over, and up to the rails and the road. It was set on fire, no doubt, by the same Lucifer that lighted Brooks’s lot before. So you see that your small lot is comparatively safe for this season, the back fire having been already set for you.
They have been choosing between John Keyes and Sam Staples, if the world wants to know it, as representative of this town, and Staples is chosen. The candidates for governor — think of my writing this to you ! — were Governor Briggs and General Cushing, and Briggs is elected, though the Democrats have gained. Ain’t I a brave boy to know so much of politics for the nonce ? But I should n’t have known it if Coombs had n’t told me. They have had a peace meeting here, — I should n’t think of telling you if I did n’t know anything would do for the English market, — and some men, Deacon Brown at the head, have signed a long pledge, swearing that they will “ treat all mankind as brothers henceforth.” I think I shall wait and see how they treat me first. I think that nature meant kindly when she made our brothers few. However, my voice is still for peace. So good-by, and a truce to all joking, my dear friend, from
H. D. T.
Upon this letter some annotations are to be made. “ Eddy ” was Emerson’s youngest child, Edward Waldo, then three years old and upward, — of late years his father’s biographer. Hugh, the gardener, of whom more anon, bargained for the house of Thoreau on Emerson’s land at Walden, and for a field to go with it; but the bargain came to naught, and the cabin was removed three or four miles to the northwest, where it became a granary for Farmer Clark and Ids squirrels, near the entrance to the park known as Estabrook’s. Edmund Hosiner was the farming friend and neighbor with whom, at one time, G. W. Curtis and his brother took lodgings, and at another time the Alcott family. The book in question was A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, finally published by James Munroe, of Boston, who was then Emerson’s publisher.
The next letter must set out before an answer could come to the first one.
III. THOREAU TO EMERSON IN ENGLAND.
CONCORD, December 15, 1847.
DEAK FRIEND, — Yon are not so far off but the affairs of this world still attract you. Perhaps it will be so when we are dead. Then look out. Joshua R. Holman, of Harvard, who says he lived a month with [Charles] Lane at Fruitlands, wishes to hire said Lane’s farm for one or more years, and will pay $125 rent, taking out of the same a half, if necessary, for repairs. — as for a new bank-wall to the barn cellar, which he says is indispensable. Palmer is gone, Mrs. Palmer is going. This is all that is known or that is worth knowing. Yes or no ? What to do?
Hugh’s plot begins to thicken. He starts thus: eighty dollars on one side; Walden, field and house, on the other. How to bring these together so as to make a garden and a palace ?
$80 Field House
1st, let $10 go over to unite the two lots $70
$6 for Wetherbee’s rocks to found your palace on.
$64 — so far, indeed, we have already got.
$4 to bring the rocks to the field. $60
Save $20 by all means, to measure the field, and you have left
$40 to complete the palace, build cellar, and dig well. Build the cellar yourself, and let well alone, — and now how does it stand ?
$40 to complete the palace somewhat like this.
For when one asks, “ Why do you want twice as much room more ? ” the reply is, “Parlor, kitchen, and bedroom, — these make the palace.”
“ Well, Hugh, what will you do ? Here are forty dollars to buy a new house, twelve feet by twenty-five, and add it to the old.”
“ Well. Mr. Thoreau, as I tell you, I know no more than a child about it. It shall he just as you say.”
“ Then build it yourself, get it roofed, and get in.
“ Commence at one end and leave it half done, And let time finish what money’s begun.”
So you see we have forty dollars for a nest egg ; sitting on which, Hugh and I alternately and simultaneously, there may in course of time be hatched a house that will long stand, and perchance even lay fresh eggs one day for its owner ; that is, if, when he returns, he gives the young chick twenty dollars or more in addition, by way of “swichin,” to give it a start in the world.
The Massachusetts Quarterly Review came out the 1st of December, but it does not seem to be making a sensation, at least not hereabouts. I know of none in Concord who take or have seen it yet.
We wish to get by all possible means some notion of your success or failure in England, — more than your two letters have furnished. Can’t you send a fair sample both of young and of old England’s criticism, if there is any printed ? Alcott and [Ellery] Charming are equally greedy with myself.
C. T. Jackson takes the Quarterly (new one), and will lend it to us. Are you not going to send your wife some news of your good or ill success by the newspapers ?
IV. EMERSON TO THOREAU FROM ENGLAND.
MANCHESTER, December 2, 1847.
DEAR HENRY. — Very welcome in the parcel was your letter, very precious your thoughts and tidings. It is one of the best things connected with my coming hither that you could and would keep the homestead; that fireplace shines all the brighter, and has a certain permanent glimmer therefor. Thanks, ever more thanks for the kindness which I well discern to the youth of the house : to my darling little horseman of pewter, wooden, rocking, and what other breeds, — destined, I hope, to ride Pegasus yet, and, I hope, not destined to be thrown; to Edith, who long ago drew from you verses which I carefully preserve; and to Ellen, whom by speech, and now by letter, I find old enough to be companionable, and to choose and reward her own friends in her own fashions. She sends me a poem to-day, which I have read three times !
I believe I must keep back all my communications on English topics until I get to London, which is England. Everything centralizes in this magnificent machine which England is. Manufacturer for the world, she is become, or becoming, one complete tool or engine in herself. Yesterday the time all over the kingdom was reduced to Greenwich time. At Liverpool, where I was, the clocks were put forward twelve minutes. This had become quite necessary on account of the railroads, which bind the whole country into swiftest connection, and require so much accurate interlocking, intersection, and simultaneous arrival that the difference of time produced confusion. Every man in England carries a little book in his pocket, called Bradshaw’s Guide, which contains timetables of every arrival and departure at every station, on all the railroads of the kingdom. It is published anew on the first day of every month, and costs sixpence. The proceeding effects of electric telegraph will give a new importance to such arrangements.
But lest I should not say what is needful, I will postpone England once for all, and say that I am not of opinion that your book should be delayed a month. I should print it at once, nor do I think that you would incur any risk in doing so that you cannot well afford. It is very certain to have readers and debtors, here as well as there. The Dial is absurdly well known here. We at home, I think, are always a little ashamed of it, — I am, — and yet here it is spoken of with the utmost gravity, and I do not laugh. Carlyle writes me that he is reading Doomsday Book.
You tell me in your letter one odious circumstance, which we will dismiss from remembrance henceforward. Charles Lane instructed me, in London, to ask you to forward his Dials to him, which must be done, if you can find them. Three bound volumes are among his books in my library. The fourth volume is in unbound numbers at J. Munroe & Co.’s shop, received there in a parcel to my address, a day or two before I sailed, and which I forgot to carry to Concord. It must be claimed without delay. It is certainly there, — was opened by me and left; and they can inclose all four volumes to Chapman for me.
Well, I am glad the Pleasaunce at Walden suffered no more; but it is a great loss as it is, which years will not repair. I feel that I have balked you by the promise of a letter which ends in as good as none, but I write with counted minutes and a miscellany of things before me.
Yours affectionately, R. W. E.
[ On a separate sheet this message :]
Will Mr. Thoreau please to bear in mind that when there is good mortar in readiness Mr. Dean must be summoned to fit the air-tight stove to the chimney in the schoolroom ? — unless Mr. T. can do it with convenience himself.
Mr. Lane was the English owner of the farm in Harvard, where he had lived with the Alcotts; and Emerson had the care of his property in America, now that he had gone back to England. In the letter which follows “ Whipple ” is E. P. Whipple, the essayist, then a popular lecturer, and the “traveling professor” is Agassiz.
V. THOREAU TO EMERSON IN ENGLAND.
CONCORD, December 29, 1847.
MY DEAR FRIEND, — I thank you for your letter. I was very glad to get it; and I am glad again to write to you. However slow the steamer, no time intervenes between the writing and the reading of thoughts, but they come freshly to the most distant port. I am here still, and very glad to be here, and shall not trouble you with any complaints because I do not fill my place better. I have had many good hours in the chamber at the head of the stairs, — a solid time, it seems to me. Next week I am going to give an account to the Lyceum of my expedition to Maine. Theodore Parker lectures to-night. We have had Whipple on Genius, — too weighty a subject for him, with his antithetical definitions new-vamped, — what it is, what it is not, but altogether what it is not; cuffing it this way and cuffing it that, as if it were an India-rubber ball. Really, it is a subject which should expand, expand, accumulate itself before the speaker’s eyes as he goes on, like the snowballs which the boys roll in the street; and when it stops, it should be so large that he cannot start it, but must leave it there. [H. N.] Hudson, too, has been here, with a dark shadow in the core of him, and his desperate wit, so much indebted to the surface of him, — wringing out his words and snapping them off like a dish-cloth; very remarkable, but not memorable. Singular that these two best lecturers should have so much “ wave ” in their timber,—their solid parts to be made and kept solid by shrinkage and contraction of the whole, with consequent checks and fissures.
Ellen and I have a good understanding. I appreciate her genuineness. Edith tells me after her fashion : “ By and by I shall grow up and be a woman, and then I shall remember how you exercised me.” Eddy has been to Boston to Christmas, but can remember nothing but the coaches, all Kendall’s coaches. There is no variety of that vehicle that he is not familiar with. He did try twice to tell us something else, but, after thinking and stuttering a long time, said, “ I don’t know what the word is,” — the one word, forsooth, that would have disposed of all that Boston phenomenon. If you did not know him better than I, I could tell you more. He is a good companion for me, and I am glad that we are all natives of Concord. It is young Concord. Look out, World !
Mr. Alcott seems to have sat down for the winter. He has got Plato and other books to read. He is as largefeatured and hospitable to traveling thoughts and thinkers as ever; but with the same Connecticut philosophy as ever, mingled with what is better. If he would only stand upright and toe the line ! — though he were to put off several degrees of largeness, and put on a considerable degree of littleness. After all, I think we must call him particularly your man.
I have pleasant walks and talks with Channing, James Clark — the Swedenborgian that was — is at the poorhouse, insane with too large views, so that he cannot support himself. I see him working with Fred and the rest. Better than be there and not insane. It is strange that they will make ado when a man’s body is buried, but not when he thus really and tragically dies, or seems to die. Away with your funeral processions, — into the ballroom with them ! I hear the bell toll hourly over there.1
Lidian and I have a standing quarrel as to what is a suitable state of preparedness for a traveling professor’s visit, or for whomsoever else ; but further than this we are not at war. We have made up a dinner, we have made up a bed, we have made up a party, and our own minds and mouths, three several times for your professor, and he came not. Three several turkeys have died the death, which I myself carved, just as if he had been there ; and the company, too, convened and demeaned themselves accordingly. Everything was done up in good style, I assure you, with only the part of the professor omitted. To have seen the preparation (though Lidian says it was nothing extraordinary) I should certainly have said he was a-coming, but he did not. He must have found out some shorter way to Turkey, — some overland route, I think. By the way, he was complimented, at the conclusion of his course in Boston, by the mayor moving the appointment of a committee to draw up resolutions expressive, etc., which was done.
I have made a few verses lately. Here are some, though perhaps not the best, — at any rate they are the shortest, — on that universal theme, yours as well as mine, and several other people’s : —
Only the wise are just.
The good, we use,
The wise we cannot choose;
These there are none above.
The good, they know and love,
But are not known again
By those of lesser ken.
They do not choose us with their eyes,
But they transfix with their advice ;
No partial sympathy they feel
With private woe or private weal,
But with the universe joy and sigh,
Whose knowledge is their sympathy.
Good-night. HENRY THOREAU.
P. S. I am sorry to send such a medley as this to you. I have forwarded Lane’s Dial to Munroe, and he tells the expressman that all is right.
VI. THOREAU TO EMERSON IN ENGLAND.
CONCORD. January 12, 1848.
It is hard to believe that England is so near as from your letters it appears; and that this identical piece of paper has lately come all the way from there hither, begrimed with the English dust which made you hesitate to use it; from England, which is only historical fairyland to me, to America, which I have put my spade into, and about which there is no doubt.
I thought that you needed to be informed of Hugh’s progress. He has moved his house, as I told you, and dug his cellar, and purchased stone of Sol Wetherbee for the last, though he has not hauled it; all which has cost, sixteen dollars, which I have paid. He has also, as next in order, run away from Concord without a penny in his pocket, “ crying ” by the way, — having had another long difference with strong beer, and a first one, I suppose, with his wife, who seems to have complained that he sought other society ; the one difference leading to the other, perhaps, but I don’t know which was the leader. He writes back to his wife from Sterling, near Worcester, where he is chopping wood, his distantly kind reproaches to her, which I read straight through to her (not to his bottle, which he has with him, and no doubt addresses orally). He says that he will go on to the South in the spring, and will never return to Concord. Perhaps he will not. Life is not tragic enough for him, and he must try to cook up a more highly seasoned dish for himself. Towns which keep a bar-room and a gun-house and a reading-room should also keep a steep precipice whereoff impatient soldiers may jump. His sun went down, to me, bright and steady enough in the west, but it never came up in the east. Night intervened. He departed, as when a man dies suddenly ; and perhaps wisely, if he was to go, without settling his affairs. They knew that that was a thin soil and not well calculated for pears. Nature is rare and sensitive on the score of nurseries. You may cut down orchards and grow forests at your pleasure. Sand watered with strong beer, though stirred with industry, will not produce grapes. He dug his cellar for the new part too near the old house, Irish like, though I warned him, and it has caved and let one end of the house down. Such is the state of his domestic affairs. I laugh with the Parcæ only. He had got the upland and the orchard and a part of the meadow ploughed by Warren, at an expense of eight dollars, still unpaid, which of course is no affair of yours.
I think that if an honest and smallfamilied man, who has no affinity for moisture in him, but who has an affinity for sand, can be found, it would be safe to rent him the shanty as it is, and the land; or you can very easily and simply let nature keep them still, without great loss. It may be so managed, perhaps, as to be a home for somebody, who shall in return serve you as fencing stuff, and to fix and locate your lot, as we plant a tree in the sand or on the edge of a stream ; without expense to you in the mean while, and without disturbing its possible future value.
I read a part of the story of my excursion to Ktadn to quite a large audience of men and boys, the other night, whom it interested. It contains many facts and some poetry. I have also written what will do for a lecture on Friendship.
I think that the article on you in Blackwood’s is a good deal to get from the reviewers, — the first purely literary notice, as I remember. The writer is far enough off, in every sense, to speak with a certain authority. It is a better judgment of posterity than the public had. It is singular how sure he is to be mystified by any uncommon sense. But it was generous to put Plato into the list of mystics. His confessions on this subject suggest several thoughts, which I have not room to express here. The old word seer, — I wonder what the reviewer thinks that means; whether that he was a man who could see more than himself.
I was struck by Ellen’s asking me, yesterday, while I was talking with Mrs. Brown, if I did not use " colored words.” She said that she could tell the color of a great many words, and amused the children at school by so doing. Eddy climbed up the sofa, the other day, of his own, accord, and kissed the picture of his father, — “ right on his shirt, I did.”
I had a good talk with Alcott this afternoon. He is certainly the youngest man of his age we have seen, — just on the threshold of life. When I looked at his gray hairs, his conversation sounded pathetic ; but I looked again, and they reminded me of the gray dawn. He is getting better acquainted with Channing, though he says that, if they were to live in the same house, they would soon sit with their backs to each other.
You must excuse me if I do not write with sufficient directness to yourself, who are a far-off traveler. It is a little like shooting on the wing, I confess.
Farewell. HENRY THOREAU.
At this date Alcott had passed his forty-eighth year, while Channing and Thoreau were still in the latitude of thirty. Hawthorne had by this time left Concord, and was in the Salem custom house; the Old Manse having gone back into the occupancy of Emerson’s cousins, the Ripleys, who owned it.
VII. EMERSON TO THOREAU FROM ENGLAND.
2 Fenny Street, Higher Broughton, MANCHESTER, 28 January, 1848.
DEAR HENRY, — One roll of letters has gone to-day to Concord and to New York, and perhaps I shall still have time to get this into the leathern bag before it is carted to the wharf. I have to thank you for your letter, which was a true refreshment. Let who or what pass, there stands the dear Henry, — if indeed anybody had a right to call him so, — erect, serene, and undeceivable. So let it ever be ! I should quite subside into idolatry of one of my friends, if I were not every now and then apprised that the world is wiser than any one of its boys, and penetrates us with its sense, to the disparagement of the subtleties of private gentlemen.
Last night, as I believe I have already told Lidian, I heard the best man in England make perhaps his best speech, — Cobden, who is the cor cordis, the object of honor and belief, to risen and rising England : a man of great discretion, who never overstates nor states prematurely, nor has a particle of unnecessary genius or hope to mislead him, nor of wasted strength ; but calm, sure of his fact, simple and nervous in stating it as a boy in laying down the rules of the game of football which have been violated,—above all, educated by his dogma of Free Trade, led on by it to new lights and correlative liberalities, as our abolitionists have been, by their principle, to so many reforms. Then this man has made no mistake. He has dedicated himself to his work of convincing this kingdom of the impolicy of corn-laws, lectured in every town where they would hear him, and at last carried his point against immense odds, and yet has never accepted any compromise or stipulation from the government. He might have been in the ministry. He will never go there except with absolute empire for his principle, which cannot yet be awarded. He had neglected and abandoned his prosperous calico printing to his partners. And the triumphant League have subscribed between sixty and eighty thousand pounds as the Cobden Fund, whereby he is made independent.
It was quite beautiful, even sublime, last night, to notice the moral radiations which this Free Trade dogma seemed to throw out, all unlooked for, to the great audience, who instantly and delightedly adopted them. Such contrasts of sentiment to the vulgar hatred and fear of France and jealousy of America that pervade the newspapers ! Cobden himself looked thoughtful and surprised, as if he saw a new future. Old Colonel Perronet Thompson — the Father of Free Trade, whose catechism on the corn-laws set all these Brights and Cobdens first on cracking this nut — was present, and spoke in a very vigorous, rasp-like tone. [Milner] Gibson, a member of the British government, a great Suffolk squire, and a convert to these opinions, made a very satisfactory speech ; and our old abolition friend, George Thompson, brought up the rear, though he, whom I now heard for the first time, is merely a piece of rhetoric, and not a man of facts and figures and English solidity, like the rest. The audience play no inactive part, but the most acute and sympathizing, and the agreeable result was the demonstration of the arithmetical as well as the moral optimism of peace and generosity.
Forgive, forgive this most impertinent scribble.
Your friend, R. W. E.
Never did a letter require less apology than this. Its picture of Cobden and his environment is masterly. Perronet Thompson lived to see our civil war result in the emancipation of our slaves (he had been governor of Sierra Leone, a station in Africa to check the slave trade), and he wrote me in 1863, promising, if I would send him the music of the John Brown song, to set half a million English voices singing it, which I fancy he did.
In the next letter, “Frank” is the son of Mrs. Brown, and the older cousin of Edward Emerson.
VIII. THOREAU TO EMERSON IN ENGLAND.
CONCORD, February 23, 1848.
DEAR WALDO, — For I think I have heard that that is your name, — my letter which was put last into the leathern bag arrived first. Whatever I may call you, I know you better than I know your name, and what becomes of the fittest name if in any sense you are here with him who calls, and not there simply to be called ?
I believe I never thanked you for your lectures, one and all, which I heard formerly read here in Concord. I know I never have. There was some excellent reason each time why I did not; but it will never be too late. I have had that advantage, at least, over you in my education.
Lidian is too unwell to write to you, and so I must tell you what I can about the children and herself. I am afraid she has not told you how unwell she is, — or to-day perhaps we may say, has been. She has been confined to her chamber four or five weeks, and three or four weeks, at least, to her bed, with the jaundice. The doctor, who comes once a day, does not let her read (nor can she now) nor hear much reading. She has written her letters to you, till recently, sitting up in bed, but he said he would not come again if she did so. She has Abby and Almira to take care of her, and Mrs. Brown to read to her; and I also, occasionally, have something to read or to say. The doctor says she must not expect to ‘‘ take any comfort of her life ” for a week or two yet. She wishes me to say that she has written two long and full letters to you about the household economies, etc., which she hopes have not been delayed. The children are quite well and full of spirits, and are going through a regular course of picture-seeing, with commentary by me, every evening, for Eddy’s behoof. All the Annuals and “ Diadems” are in requisition, and Eddy is forward to exclaim, when the hour arrives, “ Now for the demdems! ” I overheard this dialogue when Frank [Brown] came down to breakfast, the other morning.
Eddy. “ Why, Frank, I am astonished that you should leave your boots in the dining-room.”
Frank. “ I guess you mean surprised, don’t you ? ”
Eddy. “ No, Boots ! ”
“ If Waldo were here,” said he, the other night, at bedtime, “ we’d be four going upstairs.” Would he like to tell papa anything ? No, not anything ; but finally, yes, he would, — that one of the white horses in his new barouche is broken ! Ellen and Edith will perhaps speak for themselves, as I hear something about letters to be written by them.
Mr. Alcott seems to be reading well this winter : Plato, Montaigne, Ben Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher, Sir Thomas Browne, etc., etc. “ I believe I have read them all now, or nearly all,” — those English authors. He is rallying for another foray with his pen, in his latter years, not discouraged by the past, into that crowd of unexpressed ideas of his, that undisciplined Parthian army, which, as soon as a Roman soldier would face, retreats on all hands, occasionally firing backwards ; easily routed, not easily subdued, hovering on the skirts of society. Another summer shall not be devoted to the raising of vegetables (Arbors?) which rot in the cellar for want of consumers ; but perchance to the arrangement of the material, the brain-crop which the winter has furnished. I have good talks with him. His respect for Carlyle has been steadily increasing for some time. He has read him with new sympathy and appreciation.
I see Charming often. He also goes often to Alcott’s, and confesses that he has made a discovery in him, and gives vent to his admiration or his confusion in characteristic exaggeration; but between this extreme and that you may get a fair report, and draw an inference if you can. Sometimes he will ride a broomstick still, though there is nothing to keep him, or it, up but a certain centrifugal force of whim, which is soon spent, and there lies your stick, not worth picking up to sweep an oven with now. His accustomed path is strewn with them. But then again, and perhaps for the most part, he sits on the Cliffs amid the lichens, or flits past on noiseless pinion, like the barred owl in the daytime, as wise and unobserved. He brought me a poem the other day, for me, on Walden Hermitage: not remarkable.
Lectures begin to multiply on my desk. I have one on Friendship which is new, and the materials of some others. I read one last week to the Lyceum, on The Rights and Duties of the Individual in Relation to Government, much to Mr. Alcott’s satisfaction.
Joel Britton has failed and gone into chancery, but the woods continue to fall before the axes of other men. Neighbor Coombs2 was lately found dead in the woods near Goose Pond, with his half-empty jug, after he had been rioting a week. Hugh, by the last accounts, was still in Worcester County. Mr. Hosmer, who is himself again, and living in Concord, has just hauled the rest of your wood, amounting to about ten and a half cords.
The newspapers say that they have printed a pirated edition of your Essays in England. Is it as bad as they say, and undisguised and unmitigated piracy ? I thought that the printed scrap would entertain Carlyle, notwithstanding its history. If this generation will see out of its hind-head, why then you may turn your back on its forehead. Will you forward it to him for me ?
This stands written in your day-book : “ September 3d. Received of Boston Savings Bank, on account of Charles Lane, his deposit with interest, $131.33. 16th. Received of Joseph Palmer, on account of Charles Lane, three hundred twenty-three 36/100 dollars, being the balance of a note on demand for four hundred dollars, with interest, $323.36.”
If you have any directions to give about the trees, you must not forget that spring will soon be upon us.
Farewell. From your friend,
Before a reply came to this letter Thoreau had occasion to write to Mr. Elliot Cabot, who has since been Emerson’s biographer, and a part of the letter may be cited. The allusions to the Week and to the Walden house are interesting.
IX. THOREAU CONCERNING EMERSON IN ENGLAND.
CONCORD, March S, 1848.
DEAR SIR. — Mr. Emerson’s address is as yet, “ R. W. Emerson, care of Alexander Ireland, Esq., Examiner Office, Manchester, England.” We had a letter from him on Monday, dated at Manchester, February 10, and he was then preparing to go to Edinburgh the next day, where he was to lecture. He thought that he should get through his northern journeying by the 25th of February, and go to London to spend March and April, and if he did not go to Paris in May, then come home. He has been eminently successful, though the papers this side of the water have been so silent about his adventures.
My book, fortunately, did not find a publisher ready to undertake it, and you can imagine the effect of delay on an author’s estimate of his own work. However, I like it well enough to mend it, and shall look at it again directly when I have dispatched some other things.
I have been writing lectures for our own Lyceum this winter, mainly for my own pleasure and advantage. I esteem it a rare happiness to be able to write anything, but there (if I ever get there) my concern for it is apt to end. Time & Co. are, after all, the only quite honest and trustworthy publishers that we know. I can sympathize, perhaps, with the barberry bush, whose business it is solely to ripen its fruit (though that may not be to sweeten it) and to protect it with thorns, so that it holds on all winter, even, unless some hungry crows come to pluck it. But I see that I must get a few dollars together presently to manure my roots. Is your journal able to pay anything, provided it likes an article well enough ? I do not promise one. At any rate, I mean always to spend only words enough to purchase silence with ; and I have found that this, which is so valuable, though many writers do not prize it, does not cost much, after all.
I have not obtained any more of the mice which I told you were so numerous in my cellar, as my house was removed immediately after I saw you, and I have been living in the village since.
X. THOREAU TO EMERSON.
CONCORD, March 23, 1848.
DEAR FRIEND, — Lidian says I must write a sentence about the children. Eddy says he cannot sing, — " not till mother is a-going to be well.” We shall hear his voice very soon, in that case, I trust. Ellen is already thinking what will be done when you come home ; but then she thinks it will be some loss that I shall go away. Edith says that I shall come and see them, and always at teatime, so that I can play with her. Ellen thinks she likes father best because he jumps her sometimes. This is the latest news from
Yours, etc., HENRY.
P. S. I have received three newspapers from you duly which I have not acknowledged. There is an anti-Sabbath convention held in Boston to-day, to which Alcott has gone.
This letter was addressed, “ R. Waldo Emerson, care of Alexander Ireland, Esq., Manchester, England, via New York and Steamer Cambria March 25.” It was mailed in Boston March 24, and received in Manchester April 19.
XI. EMERSON TO THOREAU FROM ENGLAND.
LONDON, March 25, 1848.
DEAR HENRY, — Your letter was very welcome, and its introduction heartily accepted. In this city and nation of pomps, where pomps, too, are solid, I fall back on my friends with wonderful refreshment. It is pity, however, that you should not see this England, with its indescribable material superiorities of every kind; the just confidence which immense successes of all pasts have generated in the Englishman that he can do everything, and which his manners, though he is bashful and reserved, betray ; the abridgment of all expression which dense population and the roar of nations enforce; the solidity of science and merit which in any high place you are sure to find (the Church and some effects of primogeniture excepted). But I cannot tell my story now. I admire the English, I think, never more than when I meet Americans; as, for example, at Mr. Bancroft’s American soirée, which he holds every Sunday night. Great is the aplomb of Mr. Bull. He is very short-sighted, and, without his eyeglass, cannot see as far as your eyes to know how you like him, so that he quite neglects that point. The Americans see very well, — too well, — and the traveling portion are very light troops. But I must not vent my ill humor on my poor compatriots. They are welcome to their revenge, and I am sure I have no weapon to save me if they, too, are at this hour writing letters to their gossips.
I have not gone to Oxford yet, though I still correspond with my friend there, Mr. [A. H.] Clough. I meet many young men here, who come to me simply as one of their school of thought; but not often in this class any giants. A Mr. Morell, who has written a History of Philosophy, and [J. G.] Wilkinson, who is a socialist now and gone to France, I have seen with respect. I went last Sunday, for the first time, to see Lane at Hampstead, and dined with him. He was full of friendliness and hospitality ; has a school of sixteen children, one lady as matron, then Oldham. That is all the household. They looked just comfortable. Mr. Galpin, tell the Shakers, has married. I spent the most of that day in visiting Hampton Court and Richmond, and went also into Pope’s Grotto at Twickenham, and saw Horace Walpole’s villa of Strawberry Hill.
Ever your friend, WALDO E.
If other letters passed between the two friends in 1848. they have not come into my hands. But here are letters of 1850, 1855, and 1856 which have an interest. The first relates to Emerson’s lawsuit with a neighbor; the second to the shipwreck in which Margaret Fuller was lost, near New York.
XII. EMERSON TO THOREAU.
CONCORD, March 11, 1850.
MR. HENRY D. THOREAU :
MY DEAR SIR, — I leave town tomorrow, and must beg yon, if any question arises between Mr. Bartlett and me in regard to boundary lines, to act as my attorney, and I will be bound by any agreement you shall make. Will you also, if you have opportunity, warn Mr. Bartlett, on my part, against burning his wood-lot without having there present a sufficient number of hands to prevent the fire from spreading into my wood, which I think will be greatly endangered unless much care is used ? Show him, too, if you can, where his cutting and his post-holes trench on our line, by plan, and, so doing, oblige, as ever. Yours faithfully,
R. W. EMERSON.
XIII. THOREAU TO EMERSON.
FIRE ISLAND BEACH,
Thursday Morning, July 25, 1850.
DEAR FRIEND. — I am writing this at the house of Smith Oakes, within one mile of the wreck. He is the one who rendered most assistance. William H. Channing came down with me, but I have not seen Arthur Fuller, nor Greeley, nor Marcus Spring. Spring and Charles Sumner were here yesterday, but left soon. Mr. Oakes and wife tell me (all the survivors came, or were brought, directly to their house) that the ship struck at ten minutes after four A. M., and all hands, being mostly in their nightclothes, made haste to the forecastle, the water coming in at once. There they remained; the passengers in the forecastle, the crew above it, doing what they could. Every wave lifted the forecastle roof and washed over those within. The first man got ashore at nine; many from nine to noon. At flood tide, about half past three o’clock, when the ship broke up entirely, they came out of the forecastle, and Margaret sat with her back to the foremast, with her hands on her knees, her husband and child already drowned. A great wave came and washed her aft. The steward (?) had just before taken her child and started for shore. Both were drowned.
The broken desk, in a bag. containing no very valuable papers ; a large black leather trunk, with an upper and under compartment, the upper holding books and papers; a carpet-bag, probably Ossoli’s, and one of his shoes (?) are all the Ossoli effects known to have been found. Four bodies remain to be found: the two Ossolis, Horace Sumner, and a sailor. I have visited the child’s grave. Its body will probably be taken away to-day. The wreck is to be sold at auction, excepting the hull, to-day.
The mortar would not go off. Mrs. Hasty, the captain’s wife, told Mrs. Oakes that she and Margaret divided their money, and tied up the halves in handkerchiefs around their persons ; that Margaret took sixty or seventy dollars. Mrs. Hasty, who can tell all about Margaret up to eleven o’clock on Friday, is said to be going to Portland, New England, to-day. She and Mrs. Fuller must, and probably will, come together. The cook, the last to leave, and the steward (?) will know the rest. I shall try to see them. In the mean while I shall do what I can to recover property and obtain particulars hereabouts. William H. Channing — did I write it ? — has come with me. Arthur Fuller has this moment reached the house. He reached the beach last night. We got here yesterday noon. A good part of the wreck still holds together where she struck, and something may come ashore with her fragments. The last body was found on Tuesday, three miles west. Mrs. Oakes dried the papers which were in the trunk, and she says they appeared to be of various kinds. “ Would they cover that table ? ” (a small round one). " They would if spread out. Some were tied up. There were twenty or thirty books in the same half of the trunk. Another smaller trunk, empty, came ashore, but there was no mark on it.” She speaks of Paulina as if she might have been a sort of nurse to the child. I expect to go to Patchogue, whence the pilferers must have chiefly come, and advertise, etc.
Yours, H. D. THOREAU.3
Late in 1855, when Emerson’s English Traits, long delayed, was soon to appear, and when the author was setting forth for his annual lecture tour in the Northwest, he wrote to Thoreau requesting him to take charge of the last proof sheets of the volume.
XIV. EMERSON TO THOREAU.
AMERICAN HOUSE, BOSTON, December 26, 1855.
DEAR HENRY, — It is so easy, at distance, or when going to a distance, to ask a great favor which one would haggle at near by. I have been ridiculously hindered, and my book is not out, and I must go westward. There is one chapter yet to go to the printer; perhaps two, if I decide to send the second. I must ask you to correct the proofs of this or these chapters. I hope you can and will, if you are not going away. The printer will send you the copy with the proof; and yet, ’t is likely you will see good cause to correct copy as well as proof. The chapter is Stonehenge, and I may not send it to the printer for a week yet, for I am very tender about the personalities in it, and of course you need not think of it till it comes. As we have been so unlucky as to overstay the market-day, — that is, New Year’s, — it is not important, a week or a fortnight, now.
If anything puts it out of your power to help me at this pinch, you must dig up Channing out of his earths, and hold him steady to this beneficence. Send the proofs, if they come, to Phillips, Sampson & Co., Winter Street.
We may well go away, if. one of these days, we shall really come home.
Yours, R. W. EMERSON.
This letter may fitly close an intimate correspondence. I have omitted a few notes of different dates, usually asking Thoreau to perform some friendly or hospitable service for Mrs. Emerson or her sister, Mrs. Brown. It seems to have been habitual for Thoreau to take tea at the Emerson house whenever a lecturer from Boston or Cambridge was to speak in Concord and be entertained by the Emersons. In February, 1854, there were two notes from Emerson, who expected to be absent, inviting Thoreau to take charge of Professor Horsford and Theodore Parker in successive weeks.
“ They are both to come to my house for the night. Now I wish to entreat your courtesy and counsel to receive these lonely pilgrims, to guide them to our house, and help the alarmed wife to entertain them; and see that they do not lose the way to the Lyceum, nor the hour. If you shall be in town, and can help these gentlemen so far, you will serve the whole municipality as well as
R. W. EMERSON.”
Such notes, which were always complied with, show how far Thoreau was from that unsocial mood in which it has pleased some writers to depict him. The same inference can be drawn from the latest letter I shall here give, addressed to Sophia Thoreau from a kind of educational community in New Jersey. Miss Thoreau submitted it to Mr. Emerson for publication, with other letters, in the volume of 1865 ; but he returned it, inscribed “ Not printable at present.” The lapse of time has removed this objection.
XV. THOREAU, IN NEW JERSEY, TO HIS SISTER.
[Direct] EAGLESWOOD, PERTH AMBOY, N. J., Saturday Eve, November 1, 1850.
DEAR SOPHIA, — I have hardly had time and repose enough to write to you before. I spent the afternoon of Friday (it seems some months ago) in Worcester, but failed to see [Harrison] Blake, he having “ gone to the horse race ” in Boston ; to atone for which I have just received a letter from him, asking me to stop at Worcester and lecture on my return. I called on [Theo.] Brown and [T. W.] Higginson; in the evening came by way of Norwich to New York in the steamer Commonwealth, and, though it was so windy inland, had a perfectly smooth passage, and about as good a sleep as usually at home. Reached New York about seven A. M., too late for the John Potter (there was n’t any Jonas), so I spent the forenoon there, called on Greeley (who was not in), met [F. A. T.] Bellew in Broadway and walked into his workshop, read at the Astor Library, etc. I arrived here, about thirty miles from New York, about five P. M. Saturday, in company with Miss E. Peabody, who was returning in the same covered wagon from the Landing to Eagleswood, which last place she has just left for the winter.
This is a queer place. There is one large long stone building, which cost some forty thousand dollars, in which I do not know exactly who or how many work (one or two familiar faces and more familiar names have turned up), a few shops and offices, an old farmhouse, and Mr. Spring’s perfectly private residence, within twenty rods of the main building. The city of Perth Amboy is about as big as Concord, and Eagleswood is one and a quarter miles southwest of it, on the Bay side. The central fact here is evidently Mr. [Theodore] Weld’s school, recently established, around which various other things revolve. Saturday evening I went to the schoolroom, hall, or what not, to see the children and their teachers and patrons dance. Mr. Weld, a kind-looking man with a long white beard, danced with them, and Mr. [E. J.] Cutler, his assistant (lately from Cambridge, who is acquainted with Sanborn), Mr. Spring, and others. This Saturday evening dance is a regular thing, and it is thought something strange if you don’t attend. They take it for granted that you want society !
Sunday forenoon I attended a sort of Quaker meeting at the same place (the Quaker aspect and spirit prevail here, — Mrs. Spring says, “ Does thee not?”), where it was expected that the spirit would move me (I having been previously spoken to about it) ; and it, or something else, did, — an inch or so. I said just enough to set them a little by the ears and make it lively. I had excused myself by saying that I could not adapt myself to a particular audience ; for all the speaking and lecturing here have reference to the children, who are far the greater part of the audience, and they are not so bright as New England children. Imagine them sitting close to the wall, all around a hall, with old Quaker-looking men and women here and there. There sat Mrs. Weld [Grimké] and her sister, two elderly gray-headed ladies, the former in extreme Bloomer costume, which was what you may call remarkable ; Mr. Buffum, with broad face and a great white beard, looking like a pier head made of the cork-tree with the bark on, as if he could buffet a considerable wave ; James G. Birney, formerly candidate for the presidency, with another particularly white head and beard ; Edward Palmer, the antimoney man (for whom communities were made), with his ample beard somewhat grayish. Some of them, I suspect, are very worthy people. Of course you are wondering to what extent all these make one family, and to what extent twenty. Mrs. Kirkland (and this a name only to me) I saw. She has just bought a lot here. They all know more about your neighbors and acquaintances than you suspected.
On Monday evening I read the Moose story to the children, to their satisfaction. Ever since I have been constantly engaged in surveying Eagleswood, — through woods, salt marshes, and along the shore, dodging the tide, through bushes, mud and beggar ticks, having no time to look up or think where I am, (It takes ten or fifteen minutes before each meal to pick the beggar ticks out of my clothes ; burs and the rest are left, and rents mended at the first convenient opportunity.) I shall be engaged perhaps as much longer. Mr. Spring wants me to help him about setting out an orchard and vineyard, Mr. Birney asks me to survey a small piece for him, and Mr. Alcott, who has just come down here for the third Sunday, says that Greeley (I left my name for him) invites him and me to go to his home with him next Saturday morning and spend the Sunday.
It seems a twelvemonth since I was not here, but I hope to get settled deep into my den again erelong. The hardest thing to find here is solitude — and Concord. I am at Mr. Spring’s house. Both he and she and their family are quite agreeable.
I want you to write to me immediately (just left off to talk French with the servant man), and let father and mother put in a word. To them and to aunts.
Love from HENRY.
The date of this visit to Eagleswood is worthy of note, because in that November Thoreau made the acquaintance of the late Walt Whitman, in whom he ever after took a deep interest. Accompanied by Mr. Alcott. he called on Whitman, then living at Brooklyn ; and I remember the calm enthusiasm with which they both spoke of Whitman upon their return to Concord. “ Three men,” said Emerson, in his funeral eulogy of Thoreau (May, 1862), “ have of late years strongly impressed Mr. Thoreau, — John Brown, his Indian guide in Maine, Joe Polis, and a third person, not known to this audience.” This last was Whitman, who has since become well known to a larger audience.
F. B. Sanborn.
- The town almshouse was across the field from the Emerson house.↩
- This is the political neighbor mentioned in a former letter.↩
- It will readily be seen that this letter relates to the shipwreck on Fire Island, near New York. in which Margaret Fuller, Countess Ossoli, with her husband and child, was lost. A letter with no date of the year, but probably written February 15, 1840, from Emerson to Thoreau, represents them both as taking much trouble about a house in Concord for Mrs. Fuller, the mother of Margaret, who had just sold her Groton house, and wished to live with her daughter near Emerson. Emerson writes r The dull weather and some inflammation still hold me in the house, and so may cost you some trouble. I wrote to Miss Fuller at Groton, a week ago. that as soon as Saturday (to-morrow) I would endeavor to send her more accurate answers to her request for information in respect to houses likely to be let in Concord. I beg you to help me in procuring the information to-day, if your engagements will leave you space for this charity.” He then asks four questions about houses in the village, and adds: “ If. some time this evening, you can, without much inconvenience, give me an answer to these questions, you will greatly oblige your imprisoned friend,↩
- R. W. EMERSON.”↩