Emerson's Esteem for Thoreau


IN view of the observance of the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Emerson, it has occurred to me that the Contributors’ Club might be disposed to publish an interesting letter from the poet philosopher, which he sent to me from his Concord home on January 22, 1877. When I was a much younger man than I am now, I wrote, and had printed in one of the magazines, an essay on Emerson and his writings and platform addresses, in which I was injudicious enough to underrate Thoreau and his work. Since then, of course, my opinion of that remarkable genius has undergone much change, and I have read and re-read him with growing pleasure and profit. Even his eccentricities have for me a charm of their own, which is quite distinct. With this brief introduction, the letter may follow: —

DEAR SIR, — I have to thank you for the very friendly notice of myself which I find in your monthly magazine, which I ought to have acknowledged some days ago. The tone of it is courtly and kind, and suggests that the writer is no stranger to Boston and its scholars. In one or two hints, he seems to me to have been misinformed. The only pain he gives me is in his estimate of Thoreau, whom he underrates. Thoreau was a superior genius. I read his books and manuscripts always with new surprise at the range of his topics and the novelty and depth of his thought. A man of large reading, of quick perception, of great practical courage and ability, — who grew greater every day, and, had his short life been prolonged, would have found few equals to the power and wealth of his mind. By the death recently, in Bangor, Maine, of his sister, Miss Sophia Thoreau, his manuscripts (which fill a large trunk) have been bequeathed to H. G. O. Blake, Esq., of Worcester, Mass., one of his best friends, and who, I doubt not, will devote himself to the care and the publication of some of these treasures.
When your journeys lead you to Boston, it would give me pleasure to have a card from you of your address.

With kind regards,