Thoreau returns to his studies at Harvard for his third term as a junior, taking the following classes:
- Greek composition taught by Cornelius C. Felton; reading Homer’s Iliad
- Latin composition and extemporaneous translation into Latin taught by Charles Beck; reading Juvenal
- Mathematics taught by Joseph Lovering; reading An experimental treatise on optics and Elements of electricity, magnetism and electro-magnetism, both by John Farrar
- English themes and declamation with Edward T. Channing
- English elocution with William H. Simmons
- English forensics with Joel Giles
- Italian taught by Pietro Bachi
“Henry Thoreau had things to complain about at Harvard in this, his junior year, besides the food. As a member of the unusually unruly class of 1837, he found several matters, academic and other, not to his taste. Nevertheless he did well in languages (Harvard had some broad offerings here, including even Portuguese), literature (he was to become one of the best-read men of his time), and mathematics.”
Thoreau writes a review of The book of the seasons; or, The calendar of nature by William Howitt (Early Essays and Miscellanies, 26-36).
Thoreau writes a college essay, “Advantages and disadvantages of foreign influence on American literature” (Early Essays and Miscellanies, 38-41).
Thoreau writes an essay on Sir Henry Vane (Early Essays and Miscellanies, 36-7).
Thoreau writes an essay on “Literary Digressions” (Early Essays and Miscellanies, 37-8).
Thoreau checks out Dramas and other poems, of the Abbé Pietro Metastasio, volume 1, Oeuvres complètes, volume 6 by François Auguste René Chateaubriand, and The Iliads and Odysses of Homer from Harvard College Library (Companion to Thoreau’s Correspondence, 287).
Thoreau writes an essay on the lives of Sir Walter Scott and James Hogg (Early Essays and Miscellanies, 42-4).
Thoreau checks out Oeuvres complètes, volume 7 by François Auguste René Chateaubriand from Harvard College Library (Companion to Thoreau’s Correspondence, 287).
Thoreau withdraws from school because of illness (The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau, 3).
A. G. Peabody writes to Thoreau:
I have somewhere seen an essay, to prove that a man’s temper depends greatly on the weather; I will not however give the argument brought forward to prove this important fact for two reasons.
Firstly because it appears to me self evident; and secondly because I don’t intend to write a them, but a letter.
Strange that any person in his sober senses, should put two such sentences as the above in a letter, but howsomedever, “what’s done cant be helped.”
Every thing goes on here as regular as clock work, and it is as dull as one of Dr Ware’s sermons. (A very forcible comparison that, you must allow).
The Davy Club got into a little trouble the week before last, from the following momentous circumstance.
Hen. Williams gave a lecture on Pyrotechny, and illustrated it with a parcel of fire works he had prepared in the vacation. The report spread through college, that here was to be a “display of fire works,” and on the night of their meeting the Davy room was crowded, and those unfortunate youths who could not get in, stood in the yard round the windows. As you may imagine, there was some slight noise on the occasion. In fact the noise was so slight, that Bowne heard it at his room in Holworthy.
This worthy, boldly determined to march forth and disperse the “rioters.” Accordingly in the midst of a grand display of rockets, et cetera, he stept 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 &c &c 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 Bowens” intrusion was evident on the next Monday night, when Williams and Bigelow were invited to call and see President Quincy, and owing to the tough reasoning of Bowen, who boldly asserted that “powder was powder,” they were each presented with public admonition.
We had a miniature volcanoe at Websters lecture the other morning, and the odours therefrom, surpassed all ever produced by Araby the blest.
Imagine to yourself all the windows and shutters of the above named lecture room closed, and then if possible stretch your fancy a little farther and conceive the delightful scent produced by the burning of nearly a bushel of Sulphur, Phospuretted 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 volcanoe.
“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. King, Freshman, took a bag, a and produced surprising effects, merely by running into all the unhappy individuals he met, who seemed by no means desirous of his company. Wheeler, Joe Allen, and Hildreth, each received a dose. Wheeler proceeded to dance for the amusement of the company, Joe signalized himself by jumping over the Delta fence, and Sam raved about Milton Shakespeare Byron &c. Sam took two doses. It produced great effect on him. He seemed to be as happy as a mortal could desire, talked with Shakespeare, Milton &c, and seemed to be quite at home with them. It was amusing to trace the connexion of his ideas, and on the whole he afforded greater entertainment than any other person there, it affected him however very strongly, and he did not get over it till he was led off the Delta and carried into Wheelers room; he was well enough however next day.
This letter containeth a strange mixture.
All possible allowance must be made for want of time, not being accustomed to letter writing &c &c.
Hope you are all well, at home.
A. G. Peabody
Harvard University’s third term of the year ends. Thoreau is awarded 222 points for work done before his withdrawal, but an error leaves his grand total at 10,290 (Thoreau’s Harvard Years, part 1:17).
Thoreau writes to Henry Vose:
You will probably recognize in the following dialogue a part which you yourself acted.
T. Come, Vose, let’s hear from a fellow now and then.
V. We—ll, I certainly will, but you must write first.
T. No, confound you, I shall have my hands full, and moreover shall have nothing to say, while you will h[av]e bon-fires, gunpowder plots, and deviltry enough to back you.
V. Well, I’ll write first, and in the course of our correspondence we can settle a certain other matter.
Now ’tis to this “certain other matter” alone that you are indebted for this epistle. The length and breadth, the height and depth, the sum & substance of what I have to say, is this. Your humble servant will endeavor to enter the Senior Class of Harvard University next term, and if you intend taking a room in College, and should it be consistent with your pleasure, will joyfully sign himself your lawful and proper “Chum.” Should the case be otherwise, you will oblige him much if you will request that sage doughface of a Wheeler to secure me one of the following rooms. Agreeably to his polite offer.
Look well to the order.
I shall expect to hear from you forthwith. I leave it to you to obtain a room, should it be necessary.
D H Thoreau
Charles Wyatt Rice writes to Thoreau (The Correspondence (2013, Princeton), 1:9-10). Thoreau replies 5 August.
Thoreau writes to Charles Wyatt Rice in reply to his letter of 31 July:
You say you are in the hay field: how I envy you! Methinks I see thee stretched at thy ease by the side of a fragrant rick with a mighty flagon in one hand, a cold slice in the other, and a most ravenous appetite to boot. So much for haying. Now I cannot hay nor scratch dirt, I manage to keep should and body together another way. I have been manufacturing a sort of vessel in miniature, not a ευσσελμον νεα [well-benched ship] as Homer has it, but a kind of oblong bread-trough.
In days of yore, ’tis said, the swimming alder
Fashioned rude, with branches lopped and stript of its smooth coat, Where fallen tree was not and rippling stream’s vast breadth Forbade adventurous leap, the brawny swain did bear
Secure to farthest shore.
The book has passed away, and with the book the lay, Which in my youthful days I loved to ponder. Of curious things it told, how wise men 3 of Gotham In bowl did venture out to sea,
And darkly hints their awful fate.
If men have dared the main to tempt in such frail barks, Why may not wash-tub round or bread-trough square oblong Suffice to cross the purling wave and gain the destin’d port?
What do you think these capitals mean? When I begin to feel bluey, I just step into my hog-trough, leave care behind, and drift along our sluggish stream at the mercy of the winds and waves.
The following is an extract from the log-book of the Red Jacket, Captain Thoreau:
Set sail from the island—the Island! how expressive—reached Thayer’s after a tedious voyage, having encountered a head wind during the whole passage—waves running mountain high, with breakers to the leeward—however, arrived safe, and after a thorough refit, being provided with extra cables, and a first-rate birch mainmast, weighed anchor at 3 p.m. August 1, 1836, N.S., wind blowing N.N.E.
The breeze having increased to a gale, tack’d ship stationed myself at the helm and prepared for emergencies. Just as the ship was rounding point Dennis a squall stuck [sic] her, under a cloud of canvas, which swept the deck. The aforesaid mast went by the board, carrying with it the only mainsail. The vessel being at the mercy of the waves was cast ashore on Nashawtuck beach. Natives—harmless, unoffensive, principally devoted to agricultural pursuits—appeared some what astonished that a stranger should land so unceremoniously on their coast.
Got her off at twenty minutes of four, and after a short and pleasant passage of ten minutes arrived safely in port with a valuable cargo.
“Epistolary matter,” says Lamb, “usually comprises three topics, news, sentiment and puns.” Now as to news I don’t know the coin—the newspapers take care of that. Puns I abhor and more especially deliberate ones. Sentiment alone is immortal, the rest are short-lived—evanescent.
Now this is neither matter-of-fact, nor pungent, nor yet sentimental—it is neither one thing nor the other, but a kind of hodge-podge, put together in much the same style that mince pies are fabled to have been made, i.e. by opening the oven door, and from the further end of the room, casting in the various ingredients—a little lard here, a little flour there—now a round of beef, and then a cargo of spices—helter skelter.
I should like to crawl into those holes you describe—what a crowd of associations ’twould give rise to! “One to once, gentlemen.”
As to Indian remains, the season is past with me, the Doctor having expressly forbidden both digging and chopping.
My health is so much improved that I shall return to C. next term if they will receive me. French I have certainly neglected, Dan Homer is all the rage at present.
This from your friend and classmate,
D. H. Thoreau
P.S. It would afford me much pleasure if you would visit our good old town this vacation; in other words, myself.
Don’t fail to answer this forthwith; ’tis a good thing to persevere in well doing.
How true it is that the postscript contains the most important matter, invariably.
Thoreau checks out Complete body of ancient geography by Jean Baptiste Bourguinon Anville, Lectures on the history of literature, ancient and modern, volume 1 by Friedrich von Schlegel and A history of Harvard University, from its foundation, in the year 1636, to the period of the American Revolution by Benjamin Peirce from Harvard College Library (Companion to Thoreau’s Correspondence, 287).
Thoreau returns to Harvard College, rooming alone in Hollis Hall no. 23. He enrolls in the following classes:
- Natural Philosophy with weekly lectures on Astronomy taught by Joseph Lovering; reading An elementary treatise on astronomy by John Farrar
- Intellectual Philosophy taught by Francis Bowen; reading An essay concerning human understanding by John Locke
- German taught by Hermann Bokum
- Italian taught by Pietro Bachi
- English; bi-weekly themes with Edward T. Channing, forensics with Channing and Giles, and elocution with William H. Simmons and George F. Simmons
- Lectures on Rhetoric and Criticism with Edward T. Channing
Thoreau also checks out The history of the progress and termination of the Roman republic, volume 1 by Adam Ferguson, The Iliad and Odyssey of Homer, translated into English blank verse by the late William Cowper, esq., volume 1, Library of American biography, volume 5 edited by Jared Sparks, and Lives of the Italian poets, volumes 1 and 3 by Henry Stebbing from the library of the Institute of 1770 (The Transcendentalists and Minerva, 1:84-6).
Thoreau checks out Introduction to the Greek classic poets. Designed principally for the use of young persons at school and college, part 1 by Henry Nelson Coleridge from Harvard College Library (Companion to Thoreau’s Correspondence, 287).
Thoreau writes an essay on the prompt “Whether the Cultivation of the Imagination Conduce to the Happiness of the Individual” (Early Essays and Miscellanies, 47-9).
Thoreau submits an essay on the prompt “The Love of stories, real or fabulous, in young and old. Account for it, and show what good use it may serve,” for a class assignment given him on 16 September (Thoreau’s Harvard Years, part 2:12; Early Essays and Miscellanies, 45-7).
Thoreau writes a book review on Introduction to the Study of the Greek Poets by Henry Nelson Coleridge (Early Essays and Miscellanies, 50-8).
Thoreau checks out Lectures on the history of literature, ancient and modern, volume 2 by Friedrich von Schlegel from Harvard College Library (Companion to Thoreau’s Correspondence, 287).
Thoreau checks out Jerusalem delivered by Torquato Tasso from the library of the Institute of 1770 (The Transcendentalists and Minerva, 1:84). He also checks out the North American review, volume 9, from Harvard College Library (Companion to Thoreau’s Correspondence, 287).
Thoreau writes an essay on the prompt “Whether the Government ought to educate the children of those parents, who refuse to do it themselves” (Early Essays and Miscellanies, 60-1).
Thoreau checks out The history of the progress and termination of the Roman republic, volume 2 by Adam Ferguson and Lives of the Italian poets, volume 2 by Henry Stebbing from the library of the Institute of 1770 (The Transcendentalists and Minerva, 1:84).
Thoreau checks out The poetical works of John Milton, volumes 1, 5, and 6 and an unidentified item recorded as “Notes on Milton” from Harvard College Library (Companion to Thoreau’s Correspondence, 288).
Thoreau submits an essay on the prompt “What is the meaning of ‘Fate,’ in the ancient use of the word? What is its popular signification now?,” for a class assignment given to him on 14 October (Thoreau’s Harvard Years, part 2:12; Early Essays and Miscellanies, 58-60).
Thoreau writes a book review of The history of the progress and termination of the Roman republic by Adam Ferguson (Early Essays and Miscellanies, 63-6).
Thoreau checks out The works of the late William Cowper, volume 3 from Harvard College Library (Companion to Thoreau’s Correspondence, 288).
Thoreau submits an essay on the prompt “Travellers & Inhabitants; State some of the causes of differing and imperfect accounts of countries given by Travellers and by native authors” for a class assignment given to him on 28 October (Thoreau’s Harvard Years, part 2:12; Early Essays and Miscellanies, 62-3).
Thoreau checks out The history of the progress and termination of the Roman republic, volume 2 by Adam Ferguson and The Shoshone valley; a romance by Timothy Flint from the library of the Institute of 1770 (The Transcendentalists and Minerva, 1:84).
Ellen Sewall writes to her father:
Thoreau checks out the North American Review, no. 93 and Shakespeare’s Romances, volumes 1 and 2 from the library of the Institute of 1770 (The Transcendentalists and Minerva, 1:84).
Thoreau checks out Inklings of adventure, volume 1 by Nathaniel Parker Willis and Letters auxiliary to the history of modern polite literature in Germany by Heinrich Heine from the library of the Institute of 1770 (The Transcendentalists and Minerva, 1:84).
Thoreau writes in his journal on 22 December 1837:
Thoreau finishes his first term as a senior and earns 952 point. His new total of 11,462 ranks him twenty-third in his class of 44 students. He starts his second term, taking the following classes:
- Intellectual Philosophy taught by Francis Bowen; reading A treatise on political economy by Jean Baptiste Say
- German taught by Hermann Bokum
- Italian taught by Pietro Bachi
- Spanish taught by Francis Sales
- Theology lectures with Henry Ware, focusing on the New Testament
- English taught by Edward T. Channing with forensics and bi-weekly themes
Thoreau checks out the November issue of American Monthly Magazine from the library of the Institute of 1770 (The Transcendentalists and Minerva, 1:84). He also checks out The Prose Works of John Milton, volume 7 from Harvard College Library (Companion to Thoreau’s Correspondence, 288).
Thoreau checks out Terrible tractoration, and other poems by Thomas Green Fessenden and The history of the progress of the Roman republic by Adam Ferguson from the library of the Institute of 1770 (The Transcendentalists and Minerva, 1:86).
Thoreau submits an essay on the prompt “Show how it is that a writer’s nationality and individual genius may be fully manifested in a Play or other Literary work upon a Foreign or Ancient subject—and yet full justice be done to the Subject,” for an assignment given him on 25 November (Thoreau’s Harvard Years, part 2:12; Early Essays and Miscellanies, 66-72).
Thoreau writes a memorial to Tahattawan:
Venatus, hoc rivo piscatus est.
Per agros, prata, collesque, regnavit;
At si famae credendum est,
Manus non longas habuit.
Homo, Princeps, Christianus,
Quamvis incultus non indeploratus.
In moribus scilicet austerus et sine levitate;
Sermone grandis, venustus, imo etiam modicus!!!
Integritate fortitudineque explorata praeclarus.
Hoc Scopulum ejus cenotapium este.
Indi, eheu! Ubique gentium sunt?
A son of Nature
The last of the Indians,
Hunted, in this stream he fished.
Over fields, meadows and hills he held sway,
But if report must be credited
He possessed no distant bands.
A Man, Chief, Christian,
Although unschooled not unlamented.
In character austere and without levity;
In language lofty, charming, and withal sparing!!
In integrity and resolution tried and found pre-eminent.
This cliff shall be his cenotaph.
O Indians, alas! [and] where in the world are they?
“Desire of me, and I shall give thee the nations for thine inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for thy possession.”
Engraved 1836 A.D.