Thoreau’s brother John cuts off a small piece of his finger while stropping a razor. After replacing the piece and wrapping it, the wound becomes infected with tetanus (“Warrington” Pen-portraits, 12-13). See entry 11 January.
2 January. Concord, Mass.Thoreau writes in his journal: “The ringing of the church bell is a much more melodious sound than any that is heard within the church” (Journal, 1:309-11).
3 January. Concord, Mass.Thoreau writes in his journal:I have been popping corn tonight, which is only a more rapid blossoming of the seed under a greater than July heat. The popped corn is a perfect winter flower, hinting of anemones and houstonias. For this little grace man has, mixed in with the vulgarness of his repast, he may well thank his stars. (Journal, 1:311-2)
7 January. Concord, Mass.Thoreau writes in his journal: “I am singularly refreshed in winter when I hear tell of service-berries, pokeweed, juniper. Is not heaven made up of these cheap summer glories?” (Journal, 1:315).
9 January. Concord, Mass.Thoreau writes in his journal:One cannot too soon forget his errors and misdemeanors; for [to] dwell long upon them is to add to the offense, and repentance and sorrow can only be displaced by somewhat better, and which is as free and original as if they had not been. Not to grieve long for any action, but to go immediately and do freshly and otherwise, subtracts so much from the wrong. Else we may make the delay of repentance the punishment of the sin. But a great nature will not consider its sins as its own, but be more absorbed in the prospect of that valor and virtue for the future which is more properly it, than in those improper actions which, by being sins, discover themselves to be not it.(Journal, 1:318-9)
10 January. Cambridge, Mass.Charles Stearns Wheeler checks out The Bruce; or, the history of Robert I. King of Scotland, volumes 1–3 by John Barbour and (bound in one volume) Glaucus and Silla. With other lyrical and pastoral poems by Thomas Lodge and Thealma and Clearchus. A pastoral romance by John Chalkhill from Harvard College Library for Thoreau (“Library charging lists, 1841–1842, p. 5,” Records of the Harvard College Library. Harvard University Archives, Cambridge, Mass.). See entry 15 June.
11 January. Concord, Mass.Thoreau’s brother John dies from a tetanus infection.
An unidentified person writes to William Stevens Robinson on 2 February:
I cannot close this hasty note without referring to the sudden death of our friend Thoreau, whom you knew and loved so well. The cause seems very simple. He was stropping his razor on Saturday afternoon, and cut off a little piece of the end of his finger next to the little one, on his left hand. It was very slight, - just the skin deep enough to draw blood. He replaced the skin, and immediately put on a rag, without letting it bleed. He paid no more attention to it for two or three days, when he found it began to grow painful; and on the next Saturday he found that the skin had adhered to the finger slightly on one end, but the other part had mortified. In the evening he went to Dr. Bartlett, [Josiah Bartlett] who dressed the finger; and, with no apprehension of further difficulty, he went home. On his way he had strange sensations, acute pain in various parts of his body; and he was hardly able to get home. The next morning (Sunday) he complained of stiffness of the jaws; and at night he was seized with violent spasms, and lockjaw set in. On being told that he must die a speedy and painful death, he was unmoved. “Is there no hope?” he said. “None,” replied the doctor. Then, although his friends were almost distracted around him, he was calm, saying, “The cup that my Father gives me, shall I not drink it?” He bade his friends all good-by; and twice he mentioned your name. Not long before he died, in the intervals of his suffering, he thought he had written something, and said, “I will carry it down to Robinson: he will like to read it.” He died Tuesday, at two o’clock, P.M., with as much cheerfulness and composure of mind as if only going a short journey.(“Warrington” Pen-portraits, 12-13)Lidian Jackson Emerson writes to her sister Lucy Jackson Brown:I begin my letter with the strange sad news that John Thoreau has this afternoon left this world. He died of lockjaw occasioned by a slight cut on his thumb. Henry mentioned on Sunday morning that he had been at home helping the family who were all ailing; and that John was disabled from his usual work by having cut his finger. In the evening Mr Brooks [Nathan Brooks?] came for him to go home again, and said they were alarmed by symptoms of the lockjaw in John. Monday John was given over by the physicians - and to-day he died - retaining his senses and some power of speech to the last. He said from the first he knew he should die - but was perfectly quiet and trustful - saying that God had always been good to him and he could trust Him now. His words and behaviour throughout were what Mr. Emerson [Ralph Waldo Emerson] calls manly - even great. Henry has been here this evening and seen Mr Emerson but no one else. He says John took leave of all the family on Monday with perfect calmness and more than resignation. It is a beautiful fate that has been granted him and I think he was worthy of it. At first it seemed not beautiful but terrible. Since I have heard particulars and recollected all the good I have heard of him I feel as if a pure spirit had been translated. Henry has just been here - (it is now Wednesday noon) I love him for the feeling he showed and the effort he made to be cheerful. He did not give way in the least but his whole demeanour was that of one struggling with sickness of heart. He came to take his clothes - and says he does not know when he shall return to us. We are wholly indebted to John for Waldo’s picture. Henry and myself each carried him to a sitting but did not succeed in keeping him in the right attitude - and still enough. but John by his faculty of interesting children succeeded in keeping him looking as he should while the impression was making…(The Selected Letters of Lidian Jackson Emerson, 99)
14 January.Boston, Mass. Ralph Waldo Emerson writes to his brother William: “We are all well at home all saddened by a tragedy that befel our neighboring Thoreau family this week in the death of John Thoreau Jr by lockjaw. He was Henry’s elder brother” (The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 3:3).
Concord, Mass. The Concord Freeman reports the death of John Thoreau Jr.: “In this town, on Tuesday last, suddenly of the lock jaw, Mr JOHN THOREAU, Jr., aged 27” (Concord Freeman, 14 January 1842:3).
16 January. Concord, Mass.Funeral services are performed for John Thoreau Jr. (The Selected Letters of Lidian Jackson Emerson, 100).
after 16 January. Concord, Mass.Lidian Jackson Emerson writes to her sister Lucy Jackson Brown:You have received my letter with the news of J Thoreau’s [John Thoreau Jr.] death, I suppose before this time. Mr E [Ralph Waldo Emerson] gave it to G. P. B. [George Patridge Bradford] to take to you. Seldom has a death caused a more general feeling of regret - every one speaks in praise of the departed - heartily too not in commonplace expressions. Mr Frost [Brazillai Frost] preached last Sunday a funeral sermon in which he portrayed an uncommonly beautiful character and yet did no more than justice as it seemed to me. Henry behaves worthily of himself. He says John is not lost but nearer to him than ever for he knows him better than he ever did before and to know a friend better brings him nearer. I asked him if this sudden fate gave any shock to John when he first was aware of his danger. He said “none at all.” After J. had taken leave of all the family he said to Henry now sit down and talk to me of Nature and Poetry. I shall be a good listener for it is difficult for me to interrupt you. During the hour in which he died, he looked at Henry with “a transcendent smile full of Heaven” (I think this was H’s expression) and Henry “found himself returning it and this was the last communication that passed between them.” A few weeks I believe before John’s death he gave Sophia [Sophia Thoreau] some verses he had written religious verses. Mr Frost introduced them in his sermon - Mr E. thinks them very good which is great praise if his fastidious taste is correct -(The Selected Letters of Lidian Jackson Emerson, 100)
24 January. Concord, Mass.Ralph Waldo Emerson writes to his brother William:My pleasure at getting home on Saturday night at the end of my task was somewhat checked by finding that Henry Thoreau who had been at his fathers [John Thoreau Sr.] since the death of his brother [John Thoreau Jr.] was ill & threatened with lockjaw! his brothers disease. It is strange - unaccountable - yet the symptoms seemed precise & on the increase. You may judge we were all alarmed & I not the least who have the highest hopes of this youth. This morning his affection be it what it may, is relieved essentially, & what is best, his own feeling of better health established.(The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 3:4)
27 January. Concord, Mass.Ralph Waldo Emerson’s son Waldo dies at the age of five of scarlet fever (The Days of Henry Thoreau, 136; The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 3:6-9). Emerson writes in his journal around this time: “Then Henry Thoreau had been one of the family for the last year, & charmed Waldo by the variety of toys whistles boats popguns & all kinds of instrument which he could make & mend; & possessed his love & respecct by the gentle firmness with which he always treated him” (The Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 8:165).
after 30 January. Concord, Mass.Ralph Waldo Emerson writes in his journal:“Are there any other countries?” Yes “I wish you to name the other countries” so I went on to name London, Paris, Amsterdam, Cairo, &c But HDT well said in allusion to his large way of speech that “his questions did not admit of an answer; they were the same which you would ask yourself”(The Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 8:165)
19 February. Concord, Mass.Thoreau writes in his journal (Journal, 1:319).
20 February. Concord, Mass.Thoreau writes in his journal: “I am amused to see from my window here how busily man has divided and staked off his domain” (Journal, 1:320-1).
21 February. Concord, Mass.Thoreau writes in his journal:I feel as if years had been crowded into the last month, and yet the regularity of what we call time has been so far preserved as that I… will be welcome in the present. I have lived ill for the most part because too near myself. I have tripped myself up, so that there was no progress for my own narrowness. I cannot walk conveniently and pleasantly but when I hold myself far off in the horizon. And the soul dilutes the body and makes it passable. My soul and body have tottered along together of late, tripping and hindering one another like unpracticed Siamese twins. They two should walk as one, that no obstacle may be nearer than the firmament. (Journal, 1:321-2)
after 26 February. Concord, Mass.Lidian Jackson Emerson writes to her husband Ralph Waldo: “Henry is better - nearly well. But his headache or the cause of it, made his eyes so weak that he did not read or write much for two days or more” (The Selected Letters of Lidian Jackson Emerson, 105).
2 March. Concord, Mass.Thoreau writes in his journal (Journal, 1:324).Thoreau also writes to Lucy Jackson Brown:Dear Friend,
I believe I have nothing new to tell you, for what was news you have learned from other sources. I am much the same person that I was, who should be so much better; yet when I realize what has transpired, and the greatness of the part I am unconsciously acting, I am thrilled, and it seems as if there were now a history to match it.
Soon after John’s death I listened to a music-box, and if, at any time, that even had seemed inconsistent with the beauty and harmony of the universe, it was then gently constrained into the placid course of nature by those steady notes, in mild and unoffended tone echoing far and wide under the heavens. But I find these things more strange than sad to me. What right have I to grieve, who have not ceased to wonder?
We feel at first as if some opportunities of kindness and sympathy were lost, but learn afterward that any pure grief is ample recompense for all. That is, if we are faithful; - for a spent grief is but sympathy with the soul that disposes events, and is as natural as the resin of Arabian trees. - Only nature has a right to grieve perpetually, for she only is innocent. Soon the ice will melt, and the blackbirds sing along the river which he frequented, as pleasantly as ever. The same everlasting serenity will appear in this face of God, and we will not be sorrowful, if he is not.
We are made happy when reason can discover no occasion for it. The memory of some past moments is more persuasive than the experience of present ones. There have been visions of such breadth and brightness that these motes were invisible in their light.
I do not wish to see John [John Thoreau Jr.] ever again - I mean him who is dead - but that other whom only he would have wished to see, or to be, of whom he was the imperfect representative. For we are not what we are, nor do we treat or esteem each other for such, but for what we are capable of being.
As for Waldo, [Waldo Emerson] he died as the mist rises from the brook, which the sun will soon dart his rays through. Do not the flowers die every autumn? He had not even taken root here. I was not startled to hear that he was dead; - it seemed the most natural event that could happen. His fine organization demanded it, and nature gently yielded its request. It would have been strange if he had lived. Neither will nature manifest any sorrow at his death, but soon the note of the lark will be heard down in the meadow, and fresh dandelions will spring from the old stocks where he plucked them last summer. I have been living ill of late, but am now doing better. How do you live in that Plymouth world, now-a-days? - Please remember me to Mary Russell. [Mary Howland Russell] - You must not blame me if I do talk to the clouds, for I remain
10 March. Concord, Mass.Lidian Jackson Emerson writes to her husband Ralph Waldo:On the fourth page of the other sheet is an extract from a letter Henry sent this week to Lucy. [Lucy Jackson Brown] I did not know it was there till I had written some lines - but will not tear it from the sheet since you may like it as well as I do - & if so it will cheer your loneliness.
“As for Waldo, he died as the mist rises from the brook which the sun will soon dart his rays through. Do not the flowers die every autumn? He had not even taken root here. I was not startled to hear that he was dead, it seemed the most natural event that could happen. His fine organization demanded it, and Nature gently yielded its request. It would have been strange if he had lived
Neither will Nature manifest any sorrow at his death, but soon the note of the lark will be heard down in the meadow, and fresh dandelions will spring from the old stock where he plucked them last summer.”
I have invited Henry to send you a letter by this opportunity - and he seems quite ready so to do. He had a sick headache about the time you went away, and has not been quite well since, - has had a cold & weak eyes - and some return of spasmodic affection. But is very bright & interesting and beguiles what time he can do nought else in with playing on the flute. He finds that exercise, which he hoped would be a relief - only increases his ails - so that I have begged him not to feel the care of the wood - and have had Colombe [Antoine Colombe] to work one day upon it - as we were in need both of green & dry hard wood…
Henry was yesterday told by G. Minott [George Minot] - that Mr E. had gone to N.Y. to lecture, with the object of raising money to send Mr A. [Amos Bronson Alcott] to England.(The Selected Letters of Lidian Jackson Emerson, 108-9)
11 March. Concord, Mass.Thoreau writes in his journal (Journal, 1:326-7).Thoreau also writes to Ralph Waldo Emerson in New York:Dear Friend,
I see so many “carvels licht, fast tending throw the sea” to your El Dorado, that I am in haste to plant my flag in season on that distant beach, in the name of God and King Henry. There seems to be no occasion why I who have so little to say to you here at home should take pains to send you any of my silence in a letter - Yet since no correspondence can hope to rise above the level of those homely speechless hours, as no spring ever bursts above the level of the still mountain tarn whence it issued - I will not delay to send a venture. As if I were to send you a piece of the house-sill - or a loose casement rather. Do not neighbors sometimes halloo with good will across a field, who yet never chat over a fence?
The sun has just burst through the fog, and I hear blue-birds, song-sparrows, larks, and robins down in the meadow. The other day I walked in the woods, but found myself rather denaturalized by late habits. Yet it is the same nature that Burns [Robert Burns] and Wordsworth [William Wordsworth] loved the same life that Shakspeare [William Shakespeare] and Milton [John Milton] lived. The wind still roars in the wood, as if nothing had happened out of the course of nature. The sound of the waterfall is not interrupted more than if a feather had fallen.
Nature is not ruffled by the rudest blast - The hurricane only snaps a few twigs in some nook of the forest. The snow attains its average depth each winter, and the chic-adee lisps the same notes. The old laws prevail in spite of pestilence and famine. No genius or virtue so rare & revolutionary appears in town or village, that the pine ceases to exude resin in the wood, or beast or bird lays aside its habits.
How plain that death is only the phenomenon of the individual or class. Nature does not recognize it, she finds her own again under new forms without loss. Yet death is beautiful when seen to be a law, and not an accident - It is as common as life. Men die in Tartary, in Ethiopia - in England - in Wisconsin. And after all what portion of this is so serene and living nature can be said to be alive? Do this year’s grasses and foliage outnumber all the past.
Every blade in the field - every leaf in the forest - lays down its life in its season as beautifully as it was taken up. It is the pastime of a full quarter of the year. Dead trees - sere leaves - dried grass and herbs - are not these a good part of our life? And what is that pride of our autumnal scenery but the hectic flush - the sallow and cadaverous countenance of vegetation - its painted throes - with the November air for canvas -
When we look over the fields are we not saddened because the particular flowers or grasses will wither - for the law of their death is the law of new life Will not the land be in good heart because the crops die down from year to year? The herbage cheerfully consents to bloom, and wither, and give place to a new.
So it is with the human plant. We are partial and selfish when we lament the death of the individual, unless our plaint be a paean to the departed soul, and a sigh as the wind sighs over the fields, which no shrub interprets into its private grief.
One might as well go into mourning for every sere leaf - but the more innocent and wiser soul will snuff a fragrance in the gales of autumn, and congratulate Nature upon her health.
After I have imagined thus much will not the Gods feel under obligation to make me realize something as good.
I have just read some good verse by the old Scotch poet John Bellenden -“The fynest gold or silver that we se,
May nocht be wrocht to our utilitie,
Bot flammis keen & bitter violence;
The more distress, the more intelligence.
Quhay sailis lang in hie prosperitie,
Ar sone oureset be stormis without defence.”From your friend
Henry D. Thoreau(The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau, 63-5; MS, Henry David Thoreau papers (Series III). Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, New York Public Library)
13 March. Concord, Mass.Thoreau writes in his journal: “The sad memory of departed friends is soon incrusted over with sublime and pleasing thoughts, as their monuments are overgrown with moss. Nature doth thus kindly heal every wound” (Journal, 1:328).
14 March. Concord, Mass.Thoreau writes in his journal (Journal, 1:328-30).Thoreau also writes to Isaiah Thornton Williams:Dear Williams,
I meant to write to you before but John’s [John Thoreau Jr.] death and my own sickness, with other circumstances, prevented. John died of the lock-jaw, as you know, Jan. 11th I have been confined to my chamber for a month with a prolonged shock of the same disorder - from close attention to, and sympathy with him, which I learn is not without precedent. Mr. Emerson [Ralph Waldo Emerson] too has lost his oldest child, Waldo, by scarlet fever, a boy of rare promise, who in the expectation of many was to be one of the lights of his generation.
John was sick but three days from the slightest apparent cause - an insignificant cut on his finger, which gave him no pain, and was more than a week old - but nature does not ask for such causes as man expects - when she is ready there will be cause enough. I mean simply that perhaps we never assign the sufficient cause for anything - though it undoubtedly exists. He was perfectly calm, ever pleasant while reason lasted, and gleams of the same serenity and playfulness shone through his delirium to the last. But I will not disturb his memory. If you knew him, I could not add to your knowledge, and if you did not know him, as I think you could not, it is now too late, and no eulogy of mine would suffice - For my own part I feel that I could not have done without this experience.
What you express with regard to the effect of time on our youthful feelings - which indeed is the theme of universal elegy - reminds me of some verses of Byron - quite rare to find in him, and of his best I think. Probably you remember them.“No more, not more! Oh never more on me
The freshness of the heart can fall like dew
Which out of all the lovely things we see,
Extracts emotions beautiful and new,
Hived in our bosoms like the bag o’the bee,
Think’st thou the honey with these objects grew
Alas! ‘Twas not in them, but in thy power,
To double even the sweetness of a flower.
Cans’t thou be my sole world, my universe
Once all in all, but now a thing apart,
Thou canst not be my blessing, or my curse;
The illusion’s gone forever - ”I would be well if we could add new years to our lives as innocently as the fish adds new layers to its shell - no less beautiful than the old. And I believe we may if we will replace the vigor and elasticity of youth with faithfulness in later years.
When I consider the universe I am still the youngest born. We do not grow old we rust old. Let us not consent to be old, but to die (live?) rather. Is Truth old? or Virtue - or Faith? If we possess them they will be our elixir vitæ and fount of Youth. It is at least good to remember our innocence; what we regret is not quite lost - Earth sends no sweeter strain to Heaven than this plaint. Could we not grieve perpetually, and by our grief discourage time’s encroachments? All our sin too shall be welcome for such is the material of Wisdom, and through her is our redemption to come.
’Tis true, as you say, “Man’s ends are shaped for him,” but who ever dared confess the extent of his free agency? Though I am weak, I am strong too. If God shapes my ends - he shapes me also - and his means are always equal to his ends. His work does not lack this completeness, that the creature consents. I am my destiny. Was I ever in that straight that it was not sweet to do right? And then for this free agency I would not be free of God certainly - I would only have freedom to defer to him He has not made us solitary agents. He has not made us to do without him Though we must “abide our destiny,” will not he abide it with us? So do the stars and the flowers. My destiny is now arrived - is now arriving. I believe that what I call my circumstances will be a very true history of myself - for God’s works are complete both within and without - and shall I not be content with his success? I welcome my fate for it is not trivial nor whimsical. Is there not a soul in circumstances? - and the disposition of the soul to circumstances - is not that the crowning circumstance of all? But after all it is intra-stances, or how it stands within me that I am concerned about. Moreover circumstances are past, but I am to come, that is to say, they are results of me - but I have not yet arrived at my result.
All impulse, too, is primarily from within The soul which does shape the world is within and central.
I must confess I am apt to consider the trades and professions so many traps which the Devil sets to catch men in - and good luck he has too, if one may judge. But did it ever occur that a man came to want, or the almshouse from consulting his higher instincts? All great good is very present and urgent, and need not be postponed. What did Homer - and Socrates - and Christ and Shakspeare [William Shakespeare] & Fox? [George Fox] Did they have to compound for their leisure, or steal their hours? What a curse would civilization be if it thus ate into the substance of the soul - Who would choose rather the simple grandeur of savage life for the solid leisure it affords? But need we sell our birthright for a mess of pottage? Let us trust that we shall be fed as the sparrows are.
“Grass and earth to sit on, water to wash the feet, and fourthly, affectionate speech are at no time deficient in the mansions of the good”
You may be interested to learn that Mr. Alcott [Amos Bronson Alcott] is going to England in April.
That you may find in Law the profession you love, and the means of spiritual culture, is the wish of your friend
15 March. Concord, Mass.Thoreau writes in his journal:It is a new day; the sun shines… As I am going to the woods I think to take some small book in my pocket whose author has been there already, whose pages will be as good as my thoughts, and will eke them out or show me human life still gleaming in the horizon when the woods have shut out the town. But I can find none… Cold Spring. - I hear nothing but a phœbe, and the wind, and the rattling of a chaise in the wood… Pond. (Journal, 1:330-2)
17 March. Concord, Mass.Thoreau writes in his journal:I have been making pencils all day, and then at evening walked to see an old schoolmate who is going to help make Welland Canal navigable for ships round Niagara. He cannot see any such motives and modes of living as I; professes not to look beyond the securing of certain “creature comforts.” And so we go silently different ways, with all serenity, I in the still moonlight through the village this fair evening to write these thoughts in my journal, and he, forsooth, to mature his schemes to ends as good, maybe, but different.(Journal, 1:335-6)
18 March. Concord, Mass.Thoreau writes in his journal (Journal, 1:336).
19 March. Concord, Mass.Thoreau writes in his journal: “When I walk in the fields of Concord and meditate on the destiny of this prosperous slip of the Saxon family, the unexhausted energies of this new country, I forget that this which is now Concord was once Musketaquid, and that the American race has had its destiny also… I have been walking this afternoon over a pleasant field planted with winter rye, near the house, where this strange people once had their dwelling-place” (Journal, 1:337-9).
20 March. Concord, Mass.Thoreau writes in his journal: “My friend is cold and reserved because his love for me is waxing and not waning” (Journal, 1:339-42).
21 March. Concord, Mass.Thoreau writes in his journal: “Set the red hen” (Journal, 1:342).
22 March. Concord, Mass.Thoreau writes in his journal (Journal, 1:342).
27 March. Concord, Mass.Thoreau writes in his journal:Cliffs. - Two little hawks have just come out to play, like butterflies rising one above the other in endless alternation far below me. They swoop from side to side in the broad basin of the tree-tops, with wider and wider surges, as if swung by an invisible pendulum. They stoop down on this side and scale up on that. Suddenly I look up and see a new bird, probably an eagle, quite above me, laboring with the wind not more than forty rods off. It was the largest bird of the falcon kind I ever saw. I was never so impressed by any flight(Journal, 1:351-2)
31 March. Concord, Mass.Thoreau writes in his journal: “I cannot forget the majesty of that bird at the Cliff” (Journal, 1:356-7). See entry 27 March.
1 April. Concord, Mass.Thoreau writes in his journal: “Set the gray hen” (Journal, 1:358 note).
2 April. Concord, Mass.Thoreau writes in his journal (Journal, 1:358).
3 April. Concord, Mass.Thoreau writes in his journal: “I can remember when I was more enriched by a few cheap rays of light falling on the pond-side than by this broad sunny day… I have just heard the flicker among the oaks on the hillside ushering in a new dynasty” (Journal, 1:358-60).
8 April. Concord, Mass.Thoreau’s sister Helen places an advertisement for a girls' school in the Concord Freeman (Concord Freeman, 8 April 1842:3). The advertisement runs in the 15 and 22 April issues as well.
10 April. Concord, Mass.Ralph Waldo Emerson writes to Margaret Fuller:I read a little lately in the “Scientific Surveys” of Massachusetts by Messrs Harris Dewey Storer Gould Emmons… I went, when I was in Boston last time, to the Secretary’s office at the state house & begged of him this series of Reports. All of them by Hitchcock’s, [Edward Hitchcock] which was a swollen quarto, I got; and this day I have, as I hope, set Henry Thoreau on the good track of giving an account of them in the Dial, explaining to him the felicity of the subject for him as it admits of the narrative of all his woodcraft boatcraft & fishcraft. Henry is quite unable to labor lately since his sickness, & so must resign the garden into other hands, but as the private secretary to the President of the Dial, his works & fame may go out into all lands, and, as happens to great Premiers, quite extinguish the titular Master. (The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 3:47)
9 May. Concord, Mass.Ralph Waldo Emerson writes to Margaret Fuller: “Henry T. announces fifty or sixty pages of MS [“Natural History of Massachusetts”] in a state approaching completion & I shall be summoned soon to a reading - This for the Dial” (The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 3:54).
15 June. Concord, Mass.Thoreau writes to Charles Stearns Wheeler (The Correspondence (2013, Princeton), 1:110; MS, private owner).
23 June. Buffalo, N.Y.Isaiah Thornton Williams writes in reply to Thoreau’s letter of 14 March:Dear Thoreau
I have not written you for a long time - but I am not going to apologize for of course you only wish to hear when & what I wish to write The poor thoughts that have occupied my busy little mind since I last wrote you have been many & often had I seen you should I have inflicted upon your ear the sad narration of them, or at least some of them- & I donot know why I should withhold any of them they were sent by a power above me, at the beck & bidding of another did they come & go - I know that men have but little to do with the affairs of this world - still I feel a responsibility to myself for all things that befall me in life - though to no other. To live this life well I feel a strong desire. I also feel a presentiment that I shall fail in part - if not totally fail to do so. I donot know what it is to live well - or how to do it if I did - between idid and idea I swing like a pendulum - I know ’tis weakness, yet such I am - But I must not disgust you by talking too much of myself. & I know it is not well to afflict myself with my own image. Still it is prety much all I know - I have often repented & as often sinned again - What a succession of falls is life! I wonder if that is the object of it - & this that we may know how to stand when it is past - I donot suppose it is of any use to speculate about life - we know but little of it & if it were well for us to know it would be taught us. & I am coming more & more every day to the settled practicable belief that the true mode of life is to live & do from moment to moment the duty or labor before us with no questions about its fitness or end and no thought for the morrow. I sometimes think further - that it is also best to be of men & like them while with them - to love what they love be interested in what they are interested - share their hopes & joys their dejection & sorrows - seek the ends & have the objects of pursuit that they have take their fortunes in life as I must in death & when the curtain shall have fallen - have to think my fortune & fate is & has ever been that of my race - I fear it will be a hard one if it is, but “such is the sovereign doom & such the will of Jove” Of one thing I am certain - My race have an indisputable claim upon my best - all the services I am able to render while I live - I will not withhold from them the pittance due from me - With this thought before me I have endeavoured to join in the reforms of the day - I make Temperance speeches, such as they are - at any rate the best I can - I go to Sabbath School & talk to & endeavour to instruct the children what I can - & where-ever I see an opportunity to do any thing for others I have a kind of general design to lend my aid - though not to interfere with my duties to myself. Whether I am taking the best course to benefit myself & others - that is the question - Yet if I do as well I know - & know as well as I can I shall never accuse myself. After all I am not wholy satisfied with myself or with this view of things I fear there is something beyond & higher I ought to know & seek - Is it given to man in this state of existence to be satisfied? Is not this very dissatisfaction but the breathing of an immortal nature that shipers of eternal progress? Shall not hope change this very dissatisfaction into highest fruition? Say to me in reply what these desultory thoughts suggest to your mind - & as my sheet is nearly full I will say a few words more & fold & forward it for your perusal.
Your letter of March 14 gave me much pleasure though I need not say that I sympathize with you most deeply in the loss you sustain by the death of your brother - I knew him but little - yet I thought I had never met with a more flowing generous spirit - It was not fitted for a col & hard hearted world like this - in such a nature do I see a strong assurance of a better existence when this is over. Ever will his name float down my memory untainted by those folies & crimes. I am forced to associate with those of so many of my race. And Mr Emerson - how did he endure the loss of his child? It was a cruel stroke - did his philosophy come to his aid as does the Christian Faith to administer consolation to the bereaved? I wish to know what were his feelings. for the consolations that a christian faith offers the bereaved & afflicted is one of its strongest holds upon my credulity. If there is consolation from his philosophy in trials like those - it will do much toward settling my belief - I wish to know minutely on this point. I think much on Death & sometimes doubt if my early impressions upon that subject are ever effaced - The fear of it occasions a thousand folies - I feel it is unmanly - but yet “that undiscovered country” Who shall tell us whether to fear - or desire it?
As to myself - I am less homesick than at first though I am not satisfied with the west. nor quite with my profession. Perhaps I ought to be I often think my feelings foolish. Do you think engaged in the practice of law the best way of spending ones life? Let me hear from you soon. I will not be so remiss in my future correspondence -
8 July. Concord, Mass.Nathaniel and Sophia Peabody Hawthorne, recently married, move into the Old Manse. “The Emersons sent over Thoreau, who was working in the garden that year - an experiment in the simple life - to make a garden for the bride and groom” (The Peabody Sisters of Salem, 151).
18 July. Concord, Mass.Thoreau writes his poem “The Funeral Bell” in his journal (Journal (1981, Princeton), 1:433-4).
19 July.Concord, Mass. Ralph Waldo Emerson writes to Margaret Fuller:This morning your brother Richard whose face is a refreshment, set out with H. T. on the road to Wachusett. I am sorry that you, & the world after you, do not like my brave Henry any better. I do not like his piece very well, but I admire this perennial threatening attitude, just as we like to go under an overhanging precipice It is wholly his natural relation & no assumption at all. (The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 3:75)On their way to Mount Wachusett, Thoreau and Richard Fuller hike from Concord, Mass. through Acton and Stow, stop on a hilltop in Lancaster for lunch and to read Virgil aloud to each other, and stop for the night at an inn in Sterling (“A Walk to Wachusett”).Richard Fuller recalls in his notebook:The morning of the next day arrived, Mr. Thoreau and myself swallowing a good breakfast, and not heeding a threatened storm, with knapsacks filled with day’s provisions and a tent to be alternately carried by each, at about quarter of five, started. We felt all the bracing influences of morning air, and could have descanted long on the wisdom of early-rising, and refuted the arguments of those, who, too fond of the forbidden morning slumber, assert the pre-eminence of a sunset over all other of Nature’s beauties.
It may be well to premise that no incidents worthy of note occurred during this pilgrimage to the Wachusett. Other adventures than Nature offered we avoided; and we listen[ed], as we went along, to her harmony, thinking that perchance some note of novel sweetness might be struck, which should charm our heart, and awaken within us some new sentiment…
But while meditation’s flow was not impeded, we had got onward, and soon came to a wood that lies between Concord and Stow. Here we cut us each a cane; and I thought on farmers, as I passed out of the wood, and their green fields smiled upon us…
Soon we arrived at Stow. This town was once my habitation…(Thoreau Society Bulletin 121 (Fall 1972):1-4)
20 July.Thoreau and Richard Fuller hike from Sterling, Mass. to the summit of Mount Wachusett, where they camp for the night (“A Walk to Wachusett”).
21 July.Thoreau and Richard Fuller descend Mount Wachusett at noon, hike through Swiftwater, Sterling, Lancaster, and Still River, and stop for the night in Harvard (“A Walk to Wachusett”).
22 July.Thoreau and Richard Fuller conclude their Mount Wachusett excursion. Fuller returns to Groton, Mass. and Thoreau to Concord, Mass (“A Walk to Wachusett”).
late July. Concord, Mass.Thoreau meets William Ellery Channing (Studies in the American Renaissance 1989, 132).
1 or 2 August. London, England.A. Bronson Alcott writes to his wife Abigail: “Yesterda[y] saw ‘the Dial’ at Greens’ and read it with truest delight. That [torn] of Thoreau’s is worthy of Isaac Walton himself, and the woods [torn] of Concord are classic now” (The Letters of A. Bronson Alcott, 88).
5 August. Concord, Mass.Thoreau and other prominent members of the community establish the Concord Athenaeum. Thoreau contributes the following journals jointly with Ralph Waldo Emerson: London Phalanx, Cambridge Miscellany, Dial, New-York Weekly Tribune, Anti-Slavery Standard, Albany Cultivator, Lynn Washingtonian, Boston Miscellany (The Transcendentalists and Minerva, 3:890-5).
Nathaniel Hawthorne writes in his journal: “Mr. Thorow has twice listened to the music of the spheres, which, for our private convenience, we have packed into a music box” (The American Notebooks, 145).
8 August. Concord, Mass.Thoreau writes in his journal (Journal (1981, Princeton), 1:435).
9 August. Concord, Mass.Thoreau writes in his journal (Journal (1981, Princeton), 1:435-6).
23 August. Concord, Mass.Thoreau writes in his journal (Journal (1981, Princeton), 1:436-7).
31 August. Concord, Mass.Nathaniel Hawthorne writes in his notebook on 1 September:Mr, Thorow dined with us yesterday. He is a singular character - a young man with much of wild original nature still remaining in him; and so far as he is sophisticated, it is in a way and method of his own. He is as ugly as sin, long-nosed, queer-mouthed, and with uncouth and somewhat rustic, although courteous manners, corresponding very well with such an exterior. But his ugliness is of an honest and agreeable fashion, and becomes him much better than beauty. He was educated, I believe, at Cambridge, and formerly kept school in this town; but for two or three years back, he has repudiated all regular modes of getting a living, and seems inclined to lead a sort of Indian life among civilized men - an Indian life, I mean as respects the absence of any systematic effort for a livelihood. He has been for sometime an inmate of Mr Emerson’s [Ralph Waldo Emerson] family; and, in requital, he labors in the garden, and performs such other offices as may suit him - being entertained by Mr. Emerson for the sake of what true manhood there is in him. Mr. Thorow is a keen and delicate observer of nature - a genuine observer, which, I suspect, is almost as rare a character as even an original poet; and Nature, in return for his love, seems to adopt him as her especial child, and shows him secrets which few others are allowed to witness. He is familiar with beast, fish, fowl, and reptile, and has strange stories to tell of adventures and friendly passages with these lower brethren of mortality. Herb and flower, likewise, wherever they grow, whether in garden or wildwood, are his familiar friends. He is also on intimate terms with the clouds, and can tell the portents of storms. It is a characteristic trait, that he has great regard for the memory of the Indian tribes, whose wild life would have suited him so well; and strange to say, he seldom walks over a ploughed field without picking up an arrow-point, spear-head, or other relic of the red man, as if their spirits willed him to be the inheritor of their simple wealth.
With all this he has more than a tincture of literature - a deep and true taste for poetry, especially for the elder poets, although more exclusive than is desirable, like all other Transcendentalists, so far as I am acquainted with them. He is a good writer, - at least he has written a good article, a rambling disquisition on Natural History, in the last Dial, - which, he says, was chiefly made up from journals of his own observations. Methinks this article gives a very fair image of his mind and character - so true, minute, and literal in observation, yet giving the spirit as well as letter of what he sees, even as a lake reflects its wooded banks, showing every leaf, yet giving the wild beauty of the whole scene; - then there are passages in the article of cloudy and dreamy metaphysics, partly affected, and partly the natural and attune themselves into spontaneous verse, as they rightfully may, since there is real poetry in him. There is a basis of good sense and moral truth, too, throughout the article, which also is a reflection of his character; for he is not unwise to think and feel, however imperfect in his own mode of action. On the whole, I find him a healthy and wholesome man to know.
After dinner (at which we cut the first water-melon and musk melon that our garden has grown) Mr. Thorow and I walked to the bank of the river; and at a certain point, he shouted for his boat. Forthwith, a young man paddled it across the river and Mr. Thorow and I voyaged further up the stream, which soon became more beautiful than any picture, with its dark and quiet sheet of water, half shaded, half sunny, between high and wooded banks. The late rains have swollen the stream so much, that many trees are standing up to their knees, as it were, in the water; and boughs, which lately swung high in air, now dip and drink deep of the passing wave. As to the poor cardinals, which glowed upon the bank, a few days since, I could see only a few of their scarlet caps, peeping above the water. Mr. Thorow managed the boat so perfectly, either with two paddles or with one, that it seemed instinct with his own will, and to require no physical effort to guide it. He said that, when some Indians visited Concord a few years since, he found that he had acquired, without a teacher, their precise method of propelling and steering a canoe. Nevertheless, being in want of money, the poor fellow was desirous of selling the boat, of which he is so fit a pilot, and which was built by his own hands; so I agreed to give him his price (only seven dollars) and accordingly became possessor of the Musketaquid. I wish I could acquire the aquatic skill of its original owner at as a reasonable a rate.(The American Notebooks, 166-7)
1 September. Concord, Mass.Nathaniel Hawthorne writes in his notebook on 2 September:Yesterday afternoon, while my wife, [Sophia Peabody Hawthorne] and Louisa, and I, were gathering the windfallen apple in our orchard, Mr. Thorow arrived with the boat. The adjacent meadow being overflowed by the rise of the stream, he had rowed directly to the foot of the orchard, and landed at the bars, after floating over forty or fifty yards of water, where people were making hay, a week or two since. I entered the boat with him in order to have the benefit of a lesson in rowing and paddling. My little wife, who was looking on, cannot feel very proud of her husband’s proficiency. I managed, indeed, to propel the boat by rowing with two oars; but the use of the single paddle is quite beyond my present skill. Mr. Thorow had assured me that it was only necessary to will the boat to go in any particular direction, and she would immediately take that course, as if imbued with the spirit of the steersman. It may be so with him, but certainly not with me; the boat seemed to be bewitched, and turned its head to very point of the compass except the right one. He then took the paddle himself, and though I could observe nothing peculiar in his management of it, the Musketaquid immediately became as docile as a trained steed. I suspect that she has not yet transferred her affections from her old master to her new one. By and bye, when we are better acquainted, she will grow more tractable, especially after she shall have the honor of bearing my little wife, who is loved by all things, living and inanimate. We propose to change her name from Musketaquid (the Indian name of Concord River, meaning the river of meadows) to Pond Lily - which will be very beautiful and appropriate, as, during the summer season, she will bring home many a cargo of pond lilies from along the river’s weedy shore. It is not very likely that I shall make such long voyages in her as Mr. Thorow has. He once followed our river down to the Merrimack, and thence, I believe to Newburyport - a voyage of about eighty miles, in this little vessel.(The American Notebooks, 167-8)
29 September. Concord, Mass.Thoreau writes in his journal: “To-day the lark sings again down in the meadow, and the robin peeps, and the bluebirds, old and young, have revisited their box, as if they would fain repeat the summer without the intervention of winter, if Nature would let them” (Journal, 1:449).
7 October. Concord, Mass.Thoreau writes in his journal: “A little girl has just brought me a purple finch or American linnet” (Journal, 1:449).
10 October. Concord, Mass.Thoreau writes in reply to Isaiah Thornton Williams’ letter of 23 June (The Correspondence (2013, Princeton), 1:114-5; MS, Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery, San Marino, CA).
14 October. Concord, Mass.Thoreau writes part of his poem “A Winter Scene” in his journal (Journal (1981, Princeton, 1:441-2).
16 October.Margaret Fuller writes to Ralph Waldo Emerson:Apropos to the Italians, I am inclined to suspect H. T. of a grave joke upon my views with his “dauntless infamy.” - There is also abstraction for obstruction, which one would have thought such hacknied Shakespeare might have avoided. - I am a little vexed, having hoped my notice might met the eye of the poet. Henry’s verses read well, but meseems he has spoiled his “Rumors” &c by substituting
And simple truth on every tongue
for all the poems are unsung, or some such line which has the one that gave most character to the original and yet I admire the
tread of high souled men.
(The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 2:90 note)
21 October. Concord, Mass.Thoreau writes in his journal: “The atmosphere is so dry and transparent and, as it were, inflammable at this season that a candle in the grass shines white and dazzling, and purer and brighter the farther off it is” (Journal, 451).
late October. Concord, Mass.Ralph Waldo Emerson writes in his journal: “H. T. made, last night, the fine remark that, as long as a man stands in his own way, every thing seems to be in his way, governments, society, and even the sun & moon & stars, as astrology may testify” (The Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 8:307).
11 November. Concord, Mass.Thoreau writes in his journal (Journal (1981, Princeton), 1:444-5).
mid November. Concord, Mass.Ralph Waldo Emerson writes in his journal:Last night H. T. read me verses which pleased if not by beauty of particular lines, yet by the honest truth, and by the length of flight & strength of wing; for, most of our poets are only writers of lines or of epigrams. These of H.T. at least have rude strength, & we do not come to the bottom of the mine. Their fault is, that the gold does not yet flow pure, but is drossy & crude. The thyme & marjoram are not yet made into honey; the assimilation is imperfect. (The Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 8:257)
16 November. Concord, Mass.Thoreau writes in his journal (Journal (1981, Princeton), 1:445).
18 November. Concord, Mass.Thoreau is elected curator of the Concord Lyceum, despite his protests (Concord Lyceum records. Special Collections, Concord (Mass.) Free Public Library; Thoreau Society Bulletin 30 (January 1950), 2).
29 November. Boston, Mass.Orestes Augustus Brownson writes to Thoreau (The Correspondence (2013, Princeton), 1:116; MS, Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, NY).
6 December. Boston, Mass.William Ellery Channing writes to Ralph Waldo Emerson: “I regret not having seen our forester-Thoreau, yesterday; his face would have been welcome to me… Now then, with the blessing of God, upon yourself, & Elizabeth, [Elizabeth Sherman Hoar] & all other of the saints, & my fisherman Hawthorne, [Nathaniel Hawthorne] & the forester, & all those tutal figures, who move piously among the now bare bought, of a once populous summer-foliage” (Studies in the American Renaissance 1989, 179).
8 December. Concord, Mass.Prudence Ward writes to her brother, George Ward: “We find the Englishmen [Charles Lane and Henry Wright] very agreeable; they are at Mr. Alcott’s. [A. Bronson Alcott] We took tea with them at Mrs. Brook’s, and they passed one evening here, and at Mrs. Thoreau’s [Cynthia Dunbar Thoreau]” (Bronson Alcott at the Alcott House, England, and Fruitlands, New England (1842-1844), 29).
9 December. Cambridge, Mass.James Richardson Jr. writes to Thoreau:Friend Thoreau
I have been desirous of sending to some of my mystic brethren - some selections from certain writings of mine, that wrote themselves, when “I was in the spirit on the Lord’s Day.” Some of these are so utterly and entirely out of all my rational faculties, that I can’t put any meaning in them; others I read over, and learn a great deal from. This, I send you, seems to be a sort of Allegory - When you return it, will you be so kind as to tell me all that it means, as there are some parts of it I do not fully understand myself - I have a grateful remembrance of the moment I saw you in. Mr emerson too I have less awe of, and more love for, than formerly His presence has always to me something infinite as well as divine about it. Mrs Emerson I am very desirous of knowing. Your family give my love to -
27 December. Concord, Mass.Ralph Waldo Emerson reimburses Thoreau $2.52 for expenses on the Dial (Ralph Waldo Emerson’s account books. Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.).
Winter. Groton, Mass.?Richard Fuller sends Thoreau a music box as a memento of their excursion to Mount Wachusett and in appreciation of Thoreau’s tutoring (The Days of Henry Thoreau, 133). See entry 16 January 1843.