the Thoreau Log.
1849
Æt. 32.
3 January. Concord, Mass. 1849.

Thoreau lectures on “White Beans and Walden Pond” at the Unitarian Church for the Concord Lyceum (Concord Lyceum records. Special Collections, Concord (Mass.) Free Public Library; Concord Saunterer 17, no. 3 (December 1984):23; Studies in the American Renaissance 1995, 164-5).

2 February. Lincoln, Mass. 1849.

James Lorin Chapin writes in his journal: “I came down to Mr. Thoreau’s to see if H. D. Thoreau would come and lecture before the Lincoln Lyceum next Tuesday evening. He said if nothing occurred more than he expected he would come” (Concord Saunterer vol. 17, no. 3 (December 1984), 23; MS, Miscellaneous Journals, Archives/Special Collections, Lincoln (Mass.) Public Library).

8 February. Boston, Mass. 1849.

Ticknor & Co. writes to Thoreau: Ticknor & Co. writes to Thoreau:

Dear Sir:
  We find on looking over publishing matters that we cannot well undertake anything more at present. If however you feel inclined we will publish “Walden or Life in the Woods” on our own ace, say one Thousand copies, allowing, for 10 pr.ct. copyright on the Retail Price on all that are sold. The style of printing & binding to be like [Ralph Waldo] Emerson’s Essays.
  RespyTicknor & Co. (The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau, 236)
9 February. Concord, Mass. 1849.

Thoreau writes to George Augustus Thatcher:

Dear Cousin,
  California, mad dogs, and rail-roads are still the great topics here as everywhere. About half a dozen are gone and going to California from Concord. Mr Hoar’s second son Edward, who was a lawyer in New York, has just taken leave of his friends here to go to the new Ophir. Many are going from the neighborhood of Boston of whom one would not have expected it. For my part, I should rather have gone before the gold was found. I think that those who have delayed thus long will be prudent if they wait a little longer and hear from their acquaintances who went out early. It is impossible yet to tell what is truth. After all we have had no quite trustworthy and available report yet. We shall have some rich stories to read a year or two hence.
  I am interested in George’s progress in Engineering. I should say let him begin with Algebra at once, and soon, or at the same time, if convenient, take up Geometry -- it is all important that he be well grounded in this. In due time will come Trigonometry & Nat. Philosophy -- A year hence he might profitably commence Surveying. I talked lately with Samuel Felton, Chief Engineer and Superintendent of the Fitchburg RR, and brother of Prof. Felton of Cambridge, with reference to George. He considers “Davies’ Surveying” -- a West Point book -- the best. This is the one I used in teaching Surveying eight or nine years ago. It is quite simple & thorough -- and to some extent national or American.
  I would have George study without particular reference to the Scientific School and so he will be best prepared to suck its whole me at in the shortest time --
  There is “Bigelows Technology” a popular and not expensive book in 2 vols. used, recently at least, at Cambridge. I am sure that i t will interest him if he has a taste for mechanics. He never need study it, but only read it from time to time, as study and practice make it more intelligible. This is one of the best books for him to own that I know of. There is a great deal of interesting & valuable matter for his or any body’s reading in the Penny Magazine -- the best periodical of the kind that was ever printed.
  In the mean time he should improve his opportunities to visit machine shops of all kinds. It should be a part of every man’s education today to understand the Steam Engine. What right has a man to ride in the cars who does not know by what means he is moved? Every man in this age of the world may and should understand pretty thoroughly -- the Saw and Grist mill -- -- Smelting -- casting -- and working in iron -- -- cotton and woolen machinery -- the locomotive & rail-road -- the Steamboat -- the telegraph &c &cA man can learn from a few hours of actual inspection what he can never learn from books -- and yet if he has not the book-knowledge to generalize & illuminate his particulars he will never be more than a journeyman & cannot reach the head of his profession.
  I lately spent a day at the repair shop of the Eastern RR. company, East Boston, and at Hinckley & Drury’s in Boston -- the largest Locomotive manufactory in this country. They turn out 7 a month worth from 8 to 9000 dollars apiece. I went into it, and knowing the principle before, saw and understood the use of every wheel & screw, so that I can build an engine myself when I am ready. I now read every paragraph in which the word locomotive occurs with greater interest and profit than before.
  I have no news to send respecting Helen -- She is about the same that she has been for some months, though it may be a little weaker, as she thinks; Her spirits are very good and she is very comfortable for a sick person. Sophia & Mother would perchance be sick if Helen were not.
  I look wishfully towards the woods of Maine, but as yet I feel confined here.
  Please remember me to Rebecca Jane?? Cousins Charles & Mary &c -- yrs truly
  Henry D. Thoreau

-- I have just received your letter for which I thank you. I should be glad to come to Bangor. -- I hope that I shall so conduct as to deserve your good wishes -- Excuse my business like scroll.
(MS, The Raymond Adams Collection in the Thoreau Society Collections at Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods, Lincoln, Mass.)

10 February. Concord, Mass. 1849.

Thoreau writes in reply to Ticknor & Co.’s letter of 8 February. Ticknor & Co. replies 16 February (The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau, 237-8).

19 February. Salem, Mass. 1849.

Nathaniel Hawthorne writes to Thoreau:

My dear Thoreau,
  The managers request that you will lecture before the Salem Lyceum on Wednesday evening after next -- that is to say, on the 28th inst. May we depend on you? Please to answer immediately, if convenient.
  [A. Bronson] Alcott delighted my wife and me, the other evening, by announcing that you had a book in prep. I rejoice at it, and nothing doubt of such success as will be worth having. Should your manuscripts all be in the printer's hands, I suppose you can reclaim one of them, for a single evening’s use, to be returned the next morning; or perhaps that Indian lecture, which you mentioned to me, is in a state of forwardness. Either that, or a continuation of the Walden experiment (or, indeed, anything else,) will be acceptable.
  We shall expect you at 14 Mall Street.
  Very truly yours,
  Nathl Hawthorne. (The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau, 238-9)
20 February. 1849.

Concord, Mass. Thoreau writes to Nathaniel Hawthorne:

Dear Hawthorne,
  I will come to your house in Mall Street on the 28th inst. and go from thence to the Lyceum.
  I am glad to know of your interest in my book, for I have thought of you as a reader while writing it. My MSS. are not even yet in the hands of the printer, but I am doing my best to make him take them into his hands. In any case the MSS which he will begin with is not that from which I shall read.
  I wish to be remembered and read also by Mrs Hawthorne.
  Yrs. sincerely
  Henry D. Thoreau (Companion to Thoreau’s Correspondence, 184; Essex Institute Historical Collections, 94:191-3; MS, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.)

Boston, Mass. A. Bronson Alcott writes to Thoreau:

Dear Sir, --
  I send you herewith the names of a select company of gentlemen, esteemed as deserving of better acquaintance, and disposed for closer fellowship of Thought and Endeavor, who are hereby invited to assemble at No. 12 West Street, on Tuesday, the 20th of March next, to discuss the advantages of organizing a Club or College for the study and diffusion of the Ideas and Tendencies proper to the nineteenth century; and to concert measures, if deemed desirable, for promoting the ends of good fellowship. The company will meet at 10 a.m. Your presence is respectfully claimed by
  Yours truly,
  A. Bronson Alcott. (The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau, 239)
24 February. Salem, Mass. 1849.

The Salem Observer notes: “Next week, we hear, the members are to be favored with a concluding lecture on Economy, from H. T. Thoreau, the pencil-maker and philosopher” (Studies in the American Renaissance 1995, 166).

28 February. Salem, Mass. 1849.

Thoreau lectures on “Student Life, its Aims and Employments” at Lyceum Hall for the Salem Lyceum (Historical sketch of the Salem Lyceum, 50; Studies in the American Renaissance 1995, 165-7).

Salem, Mass. Sophia Peabody Hawthorne writes to Mary Tyler Mann in Washington, D.C.:

This evening Mr. Thoreau is going to lecture and will stay with us. His lecture before was so enchanting; such a revelation of nature in all its exquisite details of wood-thrushes, squirrels, sunshine, mists and shadows, fresh, vernal odors, pine-tree ocean melodies, that my ear rang with music, and i seemed to have been wandering through copse and dingle! Mr. Thoreau has risen above all his arrogance of manner, and is as gentle, simple, ruddy, and meek as all geniuses should be; and now his great blue eyes fairly outshine and put into shade a nose which I once thought must make him uncomely forever. (Memories of Hawthorne, 92-3)

Concord, Mass. Thoreau’s aunt Marie writes to Prudence Ward:

Today Henry has gone to Salem to read another lecture, they seem to be wo[n]derfully taken with him there, and next month he is to go to Portland, to deliver the same, and George [Thatcher] wants him to keep on to Bangor they want to have him there, and if their funds will hold out they intend to send for him, they give 25 dollars, and at Salem and Portland 20 - he is preparing his Book for the press and the title is to be Waldien (I don’t know how to spell it) or life in the Woods. I think the title will take if the Book dont.
  I was quite amused with what Sophia told me her mother said about it the other day, she poor girl was lying in bed with a sick head ache when she heard Cynthia (who has grown rather nervous of late) telling over her troubles to Mrs. Dunbar, after speaking of her own and Helen’s sickness, she says, and there’s Sophia she’s the greatest trial I’ve got, for she has complaints she never will get rid of, and Henry is putting things into his Book that never ought to be there, and Mr. Thoreau has faint turns and I don’t know what ails him, and so she went on from one thing to another hardly knew where to stop, and tho it is pretty much so, I could not help smiling at Sophia’s description of it.
  As for Henry’s book, you know I have said, there were parts of it that sounded to me very much like blasphemy, and I do not believe they would publish it, on reading it to Helen the other day Sophia told me, she made the same remark, and coming from her, Henry was much surprised, and said she did not understand it, but still I fear they will not persuade him to leave it out…
  By the way have you heard what a strange story there was about Miss Ford, and Henry, Mrs Brooks said at the convention, a lady came to her and inquired, if it was true, that Miss F - had committed, or was going to commit suicide on account of H - Thoreau, what a ridiculous story this is. When it was told to H - he made no remark at all, and we cannot find out from him anything about it, for a while, they corresponded, and Sophia said she recollected one day on the reception of a letter she heard H - say, he shouldn’t answer it, or he must put a stop to this, some such thing she couldn’t exactly tell what. (Transcription in the Thoreau Society Archives at the Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods; MS, private owner)
March. Concord, Mass. 1849.

Thoreau receives the proof sheets of A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (Revising Mythologies, 255).

3 March. Salem, Mass. 1849.

The Salem Observer reviews Thoreau’s lecture of 28 February:

Mr. Thoreau, of Concord, delivered a second lecture on Wednesday evening upon his life in the woods. The first was upon the economy of that life; this was upon its object and some of its enjoyments. Judging from some of the remarks which we have heard concerning it, Mr. Thoreau was less even successful this time in suiting all, than on the former occasion. The diversity of opinion was quite amusing. Some persons are unwilling to speak of his lectures as nay better than “tom-foolery and nonsense,” while others think they perceived, beneath the outward sense of his remarks, something wise and valuable. It is undoubtedly true that Mr. Thoreau’s style is rather too allegorical for a popular audience. He “peoples the solitudes” of the woods too profusely, and gives voices to their “dim aisles” not recognized by the larger part of common ears.

Some parts of this lecture - which on the whole we thought less successful than the former one - were generally admitted to be excellent. He gave a well-considered defence of classical literature, in connection with some common sense remarks upon books; and also some ingenious speculations suggested by the inroads of railroad enterprise upon the quiet and seclusion of Walden Pond; and told how he found nature a counsellor and companion, furnishing

“Tongues in the trees, books in the running brooks,

Sermons in stones, and good in everything.”

We take the purpose of Mr. T.’s lecture to have been, the elucidation of the poetical view of life - showing how life may be made poetical, the apprehensive imagination clothing all things with divine forms, and gathering from them a divine language.

“He went to the gods of the wood

To bring their word to men.”

And here we may remark that the public are becoming more critical. The standard of Lyceum lectures has been raised very considerably within a few years, and lecturers who would have given full satisfaction not long since, are “voted bores” at present. This is certainly a good indication, and shows that Lyceums have accomplished an important work. We doubt if twenty years ago such lecturers as Professors [Louis Rodolphe] Agassiz, Guyon, and Rogers, would have been appreciated by popular audiences. - But now they instruct and delight great multitudes.

In regard to Mr. Thoreau, we are glad to hear that he is about issuing a book, which will contain these lectures, and will enable us to judge better their merit.

(Transcendental Log, 37; Studies in the American Renaissance 1995, 166-7)

6 March. Lincoln, Mass. 1849.

Thoreau lectures on “White Beans and Walden Pond” at the Centre School House for the Lincoln Lyceum (Studies in the American Renaissance 1995, 168).

Lincoln, Mass. James Lorin Chapin (1824-1902) writes in his journal:

This evening I have been to the Lyceum here in Lincoln and have listened to a curious lecture from Henry D. Thoreau of Concord. Subject, His reflections when hoing beans when he lived alone in the woods near Walden Pond in Concord.

 He had a strange mixture of sense and folly of poetry and ethics. He touched on the pond the woods, the rail road, the cars, the church bells, the distant roar of cannon, the sound of martial music, and the conversation of travellers on the highway, and more fully on the morals of hoing beans. I was very much interested with the lecture, perhaps not so much with the logic and beauty of the subject as the novelty of style.

(MS, Miscellaneous Journals, Archives/Special Collections, Lincoln (Mass.) Public Library)

14 March. Boston, Mass. 1849.

The Daily Evening Traveller notes Thoreau’s Salem, Mass. lectures: “a delectable compound of oddity, wit and transcendentalism, from Mr. Thoreau, of Concord” (Studies in the American Renaissance 1995, 167).

15 March. Concord, Mass. 1849.

Thoreau’s aunt Maria writes to Prudence Ward: “Henry expects to go to Portland next week, he has not yet concluded whether to go on to Bangor or not. His Book is in the press, how he will pay for it I don’t know, for I fear it will not sell well” (transcript in the Thoreau Society Archives at the Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods; MS, private owner).

16 March. Concord, Mass. 1849.

Thoreau writes to George Augustus Thatcher:

Dear Cousin:

I shall lecture in Portland next Wednesday. It happens, as I feared it would, that I am now receiving the proof sheets of my book from the printers, so that without great inconvenience I can not make you a visit at present. I trust that I shall be able to ere long. I thank you heartily for your exertions in my behalf with the Bangor Lyceum - but unless I should hear that they want two lectures to be read in one week or nearer together, I shall have to decline coming, this time.

Helen [Thoreau] remains about the same.

Yours in haste,

Henry D. Thoreau

(The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau, 240-1)

20 March. Boston, Mass. 1849.

Thoreau attends a meeting of the Town and Country Club at 12 West Street with 27 other men. This is the only meeting of the club Thoreau attends and he never becomes a member (Emerson Society Quarterly, no. 8 (1957), 2).1

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes in his journal on 24 March:

At Alcott’s [A. Bronson Alcott] last Tuesday (20 March) we had a meeting of thirty men, and discussed the expediency of a Club & Clubroom. A.cott was festal & Olympian, as always, when friends come; his heart is then too great; his voice falters & chokes in his throat. Every newcomer seems large, sacred, & crowned to him. It was proposed that the Club should rent the room in which we sat, (Alcott’s,) & that he should be declared perpetual secretary.

It is much wanted by the country scholars a café or Reading Room in the city, where, for a moderate subscription, they can find a place to sit in, & find their friends, when in town, & to write a letter in, or read a paper. Better still, if you can add certain days of meeting when important questions can be debated, communications read, &c. &c. It was proposed by Hale [Edward E. Hale] & others, sometime since, to form in Boston a “Graduates’ Club.” This would be that. Then the ministers have a “Hook & Ladder,” or a “RailRoad Club.” [Thoreau is then included in a list of 54 other men]

(The Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 11:77-9)

1 See Kenneth Walter Cameron’s “Emerson, Thoreau, and the Town and Country Club” (Emerson Society Quarterly, no. 8 (1957), 2–17).

21 March. Portland, Maine. 1849.

Thoreau lectures on “Economy” at Exchange Hall for the Portland Lyceum (Studies in the American Renaissance 1995, 169).

Portland, Maine. William Willis writes in his journal: “Equinoctial storm, fresh, southerly wind & rain[.] lecture at Lyceum by Mr. Thoreau of Concord Mass. queer, transcendental & witty - quite a good audience notwithstanding the storm” (Studies in the American Renaissance 1995, 170).

22 March. Portland, Maine. 1849.

Thoreau writes to George Augustus Thatcher:

Dear George,

The first thing I saw on being introduced to the Portland Lyceum last evening was your letter… Mr. [Ralph Waldo] Emerson follows me here. I am just in the midst of printing my book, which is likely to turn out much larger than I expected. I shall advertise another, “Walden, or Life in the Woods,” in the first which by the way I call “A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers.” When I get through with this business, if nothing else occurs to prevent I shall enjoy a visit to you and to Maine very much, but I do not promise mysel as yet, nor do I wish you or Maine to promise yourselves ot me. I leave for Boston in a few moments. Remember me to all friends - Yours in haste

Henry D. Thoreau.

PS. I thank you again and again for your exertions in my behalf

(The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau, 241; MS, Richards Rare Book and Manuscript Collection, Boston University)

23 March. Portland, Maine. 1849.

The Eastern Argus Semi-Weekly reviews Thoreau lecture of 21 March:

the subject was announced as “Home, or Domestic Economy” but the real topic was “MYSELF-I.” The lecture was unique, original, comical, and high-falutin. It kept the audience wide awake, and pleasantly excited for nearly two hours.

24 March. Concord, Mass. 1849.

Thoreau surveys a proposed road in front of the family’s home:

On petition of John Thoreau & others, living on what is generally known as the Texas road, the Selectmen gave proper notice to all parties interested & in compliance with the wishes of the petitioners have laid out as a town way the road above named & have also continued it to & uniting with the town way leading past the house now occupied by Ebenz Wilde & C. C. Hazewell. These two pieces of road thus laid out are indicated upon a plan accompanying this report - & upon said plan described as follows -

A.B. is a road laid out & given by D. Loring, 50 feet wide, & running on its northern boundary from the center of the post at the south western angle of J. Thoreau’s land N 88½º E146¾ feet to the western rail of the railroad.

B.C. is a continuation of the same, 38 feet wide, & coinciding with the former by its northern boundary - running on said boundary N 65¾º E 183½ feet to the point of intersection of the western boundary of the road from Main Street toward the depot with the northern boundary of the road by Mr Wilde’s house continued.

These pieces of road were surveyed by Henry Thoreau on the 24th. Ult. the day they were laid out by the subscribers, & the descriptions above given & the plan referred to, are his & are believed to be correct.

The only party which has claim to damages is the Fitchburg Railroad Company. It is presumed as the Corporation was not present by agent to oppose the laying out of this road, & as they have greatly encroached without authority upon the public highways in the town, that they will lay no claim to damage for the land taken from them in laying out this road should it be accepted by the town. But it will be percieved [sic] upon reference to the accompanying plan, that it this way is accepted it will require a small part of the milk track, as it is called, to be discontinued, & the switch near the same to be removed a few feet, & some little additional planking to be laid between the rails. this we suppose it will be required of the town to do at their own expense, & if the road is accepted this question of expense, whether it should be borne by the town or by the individuals for whose particular benefit is is incurred, is to be determined. It would also seem to be the duty of the town, if they accept of our doings, to choose a committee to carry them into effect.

All of which is Respectfully Submitted -

F. R. Gourgas Selectmen

Daniel Clark { of

Richd Barrett. Concord.

April 2nd 1849.

(Concord Town records. Special Collections, Concord (Mass.) Free Public Library)

See entry 2 April.

31 March. Portland, Maine. 1849.

The Transcript reviews Thoreau’s lecture of 21 March:

A man engaged in the fore-front of a battle can afterwards give but a poor description of the contest. He who gazes from a safe eminence may hope to do better, but if his vision be rendered indistinct by distance, rising exhalations or vapory mists, he may imagine triumphs where none have occurred, or distastes where victory has been secured. In his lecture Mr. Thoreau took us with him to his lonely retreat, and pointed out some of the principal features of the great battle of life, of which the earth is the scene. - But he saw them in the colorings given by his own mental vision - sometimes clear and lifelike, sometimes picturesque, and anon grotesque, sometimes humorous and playful, but always genial, and without misanthropy or malice. It was refreshing to go out of the beaten track, and follow an original mind in its wanderings among life’s labyrinths, and it was amusing to witness the play of fancy and strokes of wit which were scattered along its course. The lecture was the pepper, salt, and mustard of the course, and certainly gave an excellent relish to the whole… The report of Mr. Thoreau’s lecture, although very imperfect, conveys a tolerably good idea of the highly unique and amusing character of that production. Despite the no very slight touches of transcendentalism, there is much in it to furnish food for thought, as well as mirth.

(Studies in the American Renaissance 1995, 171)

See entry 18 April.

Early Spring. Concord, Mass. 1849.

Thoreau is first among 400 Concord inhabitants who sign a petition to outlaw capital punishment after the hanging of Washington Goode in Boston, Mass. (Thoreau Society Collection at the Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods, Lincoln, Mass.).

2 April. New York, N.Y. 1849.

The New-York Daily Tribune notes Thoreau’s recent lectures:
☞ HENRY D. THOREAU of Concord, Mass. has recently been lecturing on ‘Life in the Woods,’ in Portland and elsewhere. There is not a young man in the land - and very few old ones - who would not profit by an attentive hearing of that lecture. Mr. Thoreau is a young student, who has imbibed (or rather refused to stifle) the idea that a man’s soul is better worth living for than his body. Accordingly, he has built him a house ten by fifteen feet in a piece of unfrequented woods by the side of a pleasant little lakelet, where he devotes his days to study and reflection, cultivating a small plot of ground, living frugally on vegetables, and working for the neighboring farmers whenever he is in need of money or additional exercise. it thus costs him some six to eight week’s rugged labor per year to earn his food and clothes, and perhaps an hour or two per day extra to prepare his food and fuel, keep his house in order, &c. - He has lived in this way four years, and his total expenses for last year were $41.25, and his surplus earnings at the close were $13.21, which he considers a better result than almost any of the farmers of Concord could show, though they have worked all the time. By this course Mr. Thoreau lives free from pecuniary obligation or dependence on others, except that he borrows some books, which is an equal pleasure to lender and borrower. The man on whose land he is a squatter si no wise injured nor inconvenienced thereby. If all our young men would but hear this lecture, we think some among them would feel less strongly impelled either to come to New-York or got to California.

http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030213/1849-04-02/ed-1/seq-2/
See entries 7 and 10 April.

Concord, Mass. Thoreau’s father’s petition to have a road built out to his and other properties is approved:

The undersigned respectfully petition the Selectmen of Concord to accept of a road given by David Loring leading from the west side of the Railroad track, by land of David Loring, Ebenezer Hubbard, Francis Buttrick, Nathan W. Brooks, & John Thoreau, to land of said Loring.

They also request them to continue the same easterly across the said Railroad track, to the road leading by the House occupied by Mr Wilde which is 453 4/10 feet from the switch to said road to be 50 feet in width.

John Thoreau
Nathan W. Brooks
Eben Hubbard
Francis Buttrick
Phillip J. Johnson
(Concord Town records. Special Collections, Concord (Mass.) Public Library)

4 April. Concord, Mass. 1849.

Thoreau’s aunt Maria writes to Prudence Ward: “Tonight Mr. [Ralph Waldo] Emerson is to lecture; by the way, one of the Portland papers gives a pleasant account of Henry’s lecture” (transcript in the Thoreau Society Archives at the Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods; MS, private owner).

5 April. Concord, Mass. 1849.

Thoreau writes to Elizabeth Palmer Peabody:

Miss Peabody,

I have so much writing to do at present, with the printers in the rear of me, that I have almost no time left, but for bodily exercise; however, I will send you the article in question [“Resistance to Civil Government”] before the end of next week. If this will not be soon enough will you please inform me by the next mail.

Yrs respectly

Henry D. Thoreau

P. S. I offer the paper to your first volume only.

(The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau, 242)

6 April. New Bedford, Mass. 1849.

New Bedford Daily Mercury reprints the New-York Daily Tribune article of 2 April (Studies in the American Renaissance 1995, 172).

7 April. New York, N.Y. 1849.

The New-York Daily Tribune publishes a letter to the editor from a “Timothy Thorough”:

How to Live - Mr. Thoreau’s Example.

To the Editor of the Tribune :

I notice in your paper of this morning a strong commendation of one Mr. Thoreau for going out into the woods and living in a hut all by himself at the rate of about $45 per annum, in order to illustrate the value of the soul. Having always found in The Tribune a friend of sociability and neighborly helping-each-other-along, I felt a little surprise at seeing such a performance held up as an example for the young men of this country, and supposed I must have mistaken the sense of your article. Accordingly I called in my wife, Mrs. Thorough, and we studied it over together, and came to the conclusion that you really believed the Concord hermit had done a fine thing. Now I am puzzled, and write in a friendly way to ask for a little light on this peculiar philosophy. Mrs. T. is more clear in her mind than I am. She will have it that the young man is either a whimsy or else a good-for-nothing, selfish, crab-like sort of chap, who tries to shirk the duties whose hearty and honest discharge is the only thing that in her view entitles a man to be regarded as a good example. She declares that nobody has a right to live for himself alone, away from the interests, the affections, and the sufferings of his kind. Such a way of going on, she says, is not living, but a cold and snailish kind of existence, which, as she maintains, is both infernal and internally stupid.

Yours, truly, TIMOTHY THOROUGH.

Le Roy Place, April 2, 1849.

Reply.

Mr. Thorough is indeed in a fog - in fact, we suspect there is a mistake in his name, and that he must have been changed at nurse for another boy whose true name was Shallow. Nobody has proposed or suggested that it becomes everybody to go off into the woods, each build himself a hut and live hermit-like, on the vegetable products of his very moderate labor. But there is a large class of young men who aspire to Mental Culture through Study, Reading, Reflection, &c. These are too apt to sacrifice their proper independence in the pursuit of their object - to run in debt, throw themselves on the tender mercies of some patron, relative, Education Society, or something of the sort, or to descend into the lower deep of roping out a thin volume of very thin poems, to be inflicted on a much-enduring public, or to importune some one for a sub-Editorship or the like. Now it does seem to us that Mr. Thoreau has set all his brother aspirants to self-culture, a very wholesome example, and shown them how, by chastening their physical appetites, they may preserve thier proper independence without starving their souls. When they shall have conned that lesson, we trust, with Mr. Thorough otherwise Shallow’s permission, he will give them another. [Ed. Trib.

(New-York Daily Tribune, 7 April 1849:5)

After 7 April. Concord, Mass. 1849.

The Yeoman’s Gazette publishes an article entitled “Our Townsman - Mr. Thoreau” lauding the New-York Daily Tribune article of 7 April (Studies in the American Renaissance 1995, 173).

11 April. Philadelphia, PA. 1849.

The North American and United States Gazette publishes a notice of the New-York Daily Tribune letter to the editor of 2 April:

SOLITUDE SEEKING.

We see notices mad in different newspapers concerning a young man who is lecturing on “Life in the Woods,” and the material of his discourse may be judged of by the following account which we take from the Tribune:-

“ [see entry 2 April] ”

At first blush this strange life seems beautiful in itself and worthy of imitation; but like the scenery of the stage it is better when regarded at a distance than when closely approached. It is evident that self dependence, in its most radical sense, is intended to be preached by this student-philosopher and dweller of a cabin in the woods, - and, beside that, (in his opinion necessary parts of the system) the absence of communion with our fellow creatures, except such as absolute necessity may exact, and the most anchoritish frugality in life; which are to be recorded as the noblest of virtues. Is it really so? Can it be that this solitary asceticism is really the grace and beauty of being? The subject is worth enquiry.

It has been written by one who had the poet’s understanding of human nature, that

“Man the hermit pined, till woman smiled” - and that sentiment may well be taken as a guide for all such peculiar subjects as this of which we now speak. It is a law of nature to be social, to seek communion, to gather friends; and the history of man is fraught with examples which prove that they who are the readiest to seek solitude and separate themselves from the world, have had bitter experience as the moving impulse, and checked and dried-up sympathies to make them weak enough to forego companionship. The would-be hermit of Concord may or may not be a worldly-disappointed man: better for him that he were, then he should deliberately sit down in the woods, A Timon without cause, to reject and despise the common charities and duties, the pleasures and pains of life, among his fellow men. We would not be thought worldly beyond bounds; but in our estimation, every man should make his life useful to the extent of his ability. - there is upon us all the obligation of labor; it is the command of the Creator: but let it be supposed that each individual following the example of this idle young student, were simply to comply with the duty as he has done, - hide away in the bush, laboring no more than barely to maintain his own single, selfish existence, - where, then, would be obedience to the divine command and all the immense and beneficent consequences of obedience - the increase and happiness of the human race - union, communion, civilization to the masses; with - to the individual - all those sweet amenities, the silent but powerful influences which exalt as well as restrain; which give to morality her sway and to religion her true observance? Where would be the gentle ties of kindred, the love which glows around the family hearth, and the confidence which derives support from the faith and truth of other? Where would be the learning which has attested the power, at the same time that it has elevated the ming? - the healing arts, - the knowledge which has resolved the uses and the order of elements, the planets and the stars? What would follow, but mental and moral degradation? What is such solitary life, after all, but a voluntary abandonment of civilization and return to barbarism?

Reason this subject as they may, those who encourage such economic and philosophic perversion of life, encourage idleness and the most egotistic meanness, and the exemplification is given by the young student himself. Does he live for others or for himself? For himself solely; and if his own statement be true, while starving his body and depriving himself of the opportunities of doing any good service to his fellow man, he has been continually dependent, himself, upon the kindness of others for his subsistence. He “squats” upon another man’s land, where he is permitted to live rent-free; but something more is necessary to supply even his narrow wants than his garden and his own solitary effort can supply. He flies his philosophic cell, at intervals, to seek the aid of those who live by aiding one another - to ask the place of the prodigal or the beggar among the swine and their husks, or at the foot of the rich man’s - or the poor man’s - table, - to purchase with his labor, or obtain from their liberality, the necessaries of life which the desert refuses, - then, suddenly, to turn his back upon the world which had befriended him in his hour of need, and resume the life of fancied independence and philosophy, which is only of uselessness, folly and mendicancy. What can there be in a mind, so trained, in the slightest degree tinctured with one generous sentiment? Such a life affords no example that can be imitated or ought to be imitated, - that can be or ought to be tolerated, or spoken of in any terms short of censure, Such a life is, indeed, above all other lives,

A tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing:

It is a tale told by an idiot - it is a life lived by an idiot.

It is a weakness of mind to be afraid of annoyances; and they who look upon evils and afflictions and meet them with the boldest aspect and the stoutest heart, will have a far greater and more keenly appreciated allotment of pleasure than those who flee from pain and trouble by self-isolation.

The remark at the close of the paragraph quoted, conveys a just and proper warning. But while it is a perilous adventure often too rashly resolved on by young men who rush from the country into crowded cities, or spread their sails for California, in the quest of sudden wealth, it would be an infinitely worse and more dangerous speculation to abscond from society and attempt the existence of a wild Indian in the forest, in the dream of happiness and conceit of merit. He who lives thus for himself alone, should expect to forego the needed aid of friends to meliorate the bed of sickness by patient care and assiduous kindness, and, on that of death should hope for no hand of affection to close the filming eye, and no voice of love to sob the last farewell to the fleeting spirit. There can be no fate more terrible than that of him who finds that, having, miser-like, hoarded up, during life, his sympathies and refused all exchange of regard with others, he is himself at length deserted at that moment when he would give worlds for the support of one friendly, or the devotion of one living spirit. There must come a day in the existence of every solitary man when the scales will fall from his eyes, and in bitterness of regret, he will be forced to say, as was said, in the beginning of the world, by Him who rules it, - “it is not good that man should be alone.”

(North American and United States Gazette, 11 April 1849; Transcendental Log, 43)

14 April. Philadelphia, Penn. 1849.

The Saturday Evening Post reprints the New-York Daily Tribune article of 2 April (Studies in the American Renaissance 1995, 172).

17 April. Concord, Mass. 1849.

Thoreau writes to H. G. O. Blake:

Dear Sir,

It is my intention to leave Concord for Worcester, via Groton, at 12 o’clock on Friday of this week. Mr Emerson tells me that it will take about two hours to go by this way. At any rate I shall try to [secure] 3 or 4 hours in which to see you & Worcester before the lecture.

Yrs in haste

Henry D. Thoreau

(The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau, 242)

19 April. Washington, D.C. 1849.

The Washington Daily National Intelligence reprints the North American and United States Gazette article of 11 April (Transcendental Log, 44; Studies in the American Renaissance 1995, 173).

20 April. Worcester, Mass. 1849.

Thoreau lectures at Worcester City Hall on “Economy” (Studies in the American Renaissance 1995, 175).

25 April. Worcester, Mass. 1849.

The Palladium reports on Thoreau’s lecture of 20 April:

Life In The Wood. A sylvan philosopher (Mr Thoreau of Concord,) delivered a lecture at the City Hall Friday evening. his discourse was intended as an autobiography of two years of life in the woods; - an experiment by the lecturer to illustrate, not perhaps so much the absurdity of the present organization and customs of society, as the ease with which a man of resolution and stern expedients may have ample leisure for the cultivation of his intellectual powers and the acquisition of knowledge. This sylvan philosopher, after leaving college, (perhaps a little charmed by some “representative” man) betook himself to the woods, where they slope down to the margin of a lakelet… His lecture was a history of his experience; and is said to have been witty, sarcastic, and amusing.

Such philosophers illustrate the absurdities the human mind is capable of. What would a forest of them be good for? Nothing but curiosities for people to look after, as they pay their shilling to see a menagerie. They are watches without any pointer; their springs and wheels are well adjusted, and perform good service; but nobody is the wiser for it, as they do not tell the time of day. They are a train of carwheels; they run well, and in good time, but can carry no passengers or luggage. A wheel-barrow, with an Irishman for its vitals, renders the world a far better service.

(Studies in the American Renaissance 1995, 177)

26 April. Worcester, Mass. 1849.

The Worcester Daily Spy publishes a notice:

Henry D. Thoreau. This sylvan philosopher will deliver the second of his very agreeable lectures, in Brinley Hall, to morrow evening. It will be an intellectual entertainment that should not be neglected. - We would suggest that the attendance of a numerous audience will give no offence to the lecturer.

(Studies in the American Renaissance 1995, 178)

27 April. Worcester, Mass. 1849.

Thoreau lectures on “Life in the Woods” at Brinley Hall (Studies in the American Renaissance 1995, 178).

Worcester, Mass. The Worcester Daily Spy publishes a notice:

Remember that the lecture of H. D. Thoreau will be given at Brinley Hall this evening. It will undoubtedly be an intellectual treat of no ordinary character, - one of those, which, while they interest and please us [in] the delivery, leave us with the consciousness that we are the wiser and better for them. We should be pleased to see a full house on the occasion.

(Studies in the American Renaissance 1995, 178)

28 April. Portland, Maine. 1849.

The Transcript publishes a letter to the editor:

“Life In The Woods.”

Messrs. Editors: - I was well pleased with your excellent paper of the 31st of March, and especially with the account you gave of Mr. Thoreau’s lecture, entitled “Life in the Woods.” Perhaps to some it would appear almost incredible that a gentleman should live “Mr. Thoreau’s fashion,” and at the same time enjoy life and be happy.

But in reply, we might say, “there are many man of many minds,” and “use is second nature,” and as the lecturer enjoyed his house, 10 by 15, probably he is of that happy make that he can be happy and enjoy himself in any situation, provided he has liberty and health.

His account of himself brought afresh to my mind a circumstance that I witnessed last summer, which I think quite equaled if not exceeded his tact in living independently. As his story awa graced with a “hero,” this will be with a “heroine,” and of course so much the better, as we do not usually expect such great exploits from the “weaker canoe.”

But to my story. One day last summer I heard voices in the street, and looking out of the window I saw a very small woman with a pleasant countenance, and three small children and a little dog. The children’s ages were between three and ten years. The woman had a large bundle which she laid down by the fence and went into the house opposite ours. A little while afterwards I stepped over to the house and found the strange lady (I call her lady, because I found she was quite independent and clever, and quite able and willing to maintain herself and family and what lady could do more? and besides she could speak two languages fluently which every lady can do,) was seated, and very industriously at work, ,and her children with the little puppy playing about the door. - Well, thought I, this look “about right.” She don’t eat the bread of idleness. In a few hours she finished the work and received two shillings for it. Several of the neighbors stepping in and admiring her work, wished her to work for them; she replied, “if they would allow her to occupy a piece of land near the brook in the pasture, not far from the house, she would do the work they desired.” Consent was obtained, and she took her bundle and children and went to the spot selected, near a pleasant wood and brook and in less than a day she had her house or camp completed, and like Mr. T. she cooked out-doors. The oldest boy (about 10 years old) when out of school, for he and his sister attended our school, would catch fish at the river, and she would cook them in her kettle, that she like the lecture’s “Mr. James Collins,” had carried in her “immense bundle.” As for vegetables, the neighbors gladly paid her for her work in meal, potatoes, green corn, beans, &c., and occasionally a good piece of pork and beef - and as for money, I will venture to say, she took more for her work the few months she live in the neighborhood than every other lady within some miles of her humble dwelling.

In this way she lived and maintained herself, her three children and a dog. She always appeared cheerful and constantly at work, and when she removed she had, besides her huge bundle, a purse full of money. The last I heard from her she had removed about forty miles from here, and was still living in her economical, independent manner.

Now, Sirs, it is my opinion if this poor widow’s story and character had such a narrator as Mr. T., it would far exceed many of the stories with which “All Europe rings from side to side.”

As Mr. T. did not name his trade, perhaps I need not name hers; suffice it to say, her work was light, fine, very pretty and very useful.

Mary.

Western Part of Maine.

(Thoreau Society Bulletin no. 209 (Autumn 1994):2-3)

30 April. Concord, Mass. 1849.

Thoreau’s aunt Maria writes to Prudence Ward on 1 May: “[Henry’s] last proof sheet went to Boston yesterday so I suppose his Book will soon be forthcoming” (transcript in the Thoreau Society Archives at the Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods; MS, private owner).

May. 1849.

Thoreau’s essay “Resistance to Civil Government” is published in Aesthetic Papers (Henry David Thoreau: A Descriptive Bibliography, 191).

"Resistance to Civil Government" in Aesthetics Papers
1 May. Concord, Mass. 1849.

Thoreau’s aunt Maria writes to Prudence Ward:

Sophia told me that Sabbath evening she [Helen Thoreau] talked all about her funeral saying that to her there was not the least gloom attached to it, fortunately there happened to be here at this time a man that takes daguerreotypes remarkably well, and last Saturday he went to Brother’s [John Thoreau, Sr.] to take hers, and I think was very successful in getting a good likeness. She bore the fatigue better than was expected, and papers much gratified with it, it does not look thin and sickly as we feared it might, but out of 4 they hardly knew which to choose they were all so good, - they will keep two. Sophia’s is called good, but I do not think so, her hair is black which I think alters her a good deal, and her dress is wretched, but as Henry had it taken, and he wished her to appear in her everyday dress, she thought she would gratify him by wearing it, but I think she will be retaken this afternoon for as she says, every body looks at the dress and not at the face…

Henry has been to Worcester twice and is going again next Friday tho I understand one of the papers there criticised the first lecture very severely, Henry says he does not know what they will say to the last, for that they will not like (it is the one I was so disgusted with), but the next one they may like better, however it was their own proposition to have him come, and I think they will have enough of him

(transcript in the Thoreau Society Archives at the Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods; MS, private owner)

2 May. Worcester, Mass. 1849.

The Palladium reviews Thoreau’s lecture of 28 April:

The “Walden Pond” philosopher, (Mr. Thoreau of Concord), delivered his second lecture at Brindley Hall Friday evening. It was a continuation of his history of two years of “Life in the Woods;” a mingled web of sage conclusions and puerility - wit and egotistical effusions - bright scintillations and narrow criticisms and low comparisons. He has a natural poetic temperament, with a more than ordinary sensibility to the myriad of nature’s manifestations. But there is apparent a constant struggle for eccentricity. It is only when the lecturer seems to forget himself, that he listener forgets that there is in the neighborhood of “Walden Pond” another philosopher [Emerson] whose light Thoreau reflects; the same service which the moon performs for the sun. Yet the lecturer says many things that not only amuse the hour, but will not be easily forgotten. He is truly one of nature’s oddities; and would make a very respectable Diogenes, if the world were going to live its life over again, and that distinguished citizen of antiquity should not care to appear again on the stage.

(Studies in the American Renaissance 1995, 178-9)

3 May. Worcester, Mass. 1849.

Thoreau lectures on “White Beans and Walden Pond” at Worcester City Hall (Studies in the American Renaissance 1995, 182).

Worcester, Mass. The Worcester Daily Spy publishes a notice of Thoreau’s lecture of the same day and a review of his lecture of 27 April:

[We] are free to say, that in hearing the second lecture, we were disappointed. We had looked for a bold, original thinker, who would give us the results of his observations and reflections, with a vigor, freshness, and independence, which would win our respect and admiration, even though it might not convince us. We said that we were disappointed. This lecturer evidently is not deficient in ability, and might very probably attain to a more respectable rank, if he were satisfied to be himself, Henry D. Thoreau, and not aim to be Ralph Waldo Emerson or any body else. But, so far as manner, at least was concerned, the lecture was a better imitation of emerson than we should have thought possible, even with two year’s seclusion to practice in. In the ideas, too, there was less of originality than we had looked for, and recollections of Carlyle as well as of Emerson, with occasional interludes, in which the lecturer gave us glimpses of himself beneath the panoply in which he was enshrouded, and we are perverse enough to confess ourself better pleased with him as Thoreau than as Emerson, so far as these opportunities afforded us the means of judging.

We are no admirers of the cynicism, whether real or affected, of the school to which we suppose the lecturer belongs. It strikes us that one who is capable of such high enjoyments, as they sometimes profess, from the contemplation of the works of creation in their lower manifestations, might, if his mind were rightly constituted, find increased pleasure in communion with the last, best, and highest subject of creative power, even though in most individual cases, it may fail to come up to the standard for which it was designed.

The lecturer stated that he never had more than three letters that were worth the postage. That might possibly be accounted for by his limited correspondence, or by the character of his correspondents, or even by the relative estimate which he may put upon the amount of the root of evil which is required to pay the postage of a letter. At any rate, there is one consolation for him in the case - that probably another year will not pass away without a reduction in the rates of letter postage…

The third lecture of this course will be given at Brinley Hall, this evening… We hope our readers will go to the lecture, this evening, and hear for themselves. We would not miss going on any consideration of an ordinary character. We are to have, among other things, the lecturer’s experience, during his two years’ seclusion from the world, in raising beans! Farmers and horticulturalists will probably be elevated upon the philosophical influence of that avocation.

(Studies in the American Renaissance 1995, 179, 183)

9 May. Worcester, Mass. 1849.

The Worcester Daily Spy reviews Thoreau’s lecture of 3 May:

Henry D. Thoreau of Concord had better go home and ask his mother if she “knows he’s out.” Doubtless she, (Nature) will say she missed him who is the soul of Walden. Be satisfied, Thoreau, to be the soul of Walden-wood. To be frank with you, you are better as a woodman, or say, a woodpecker, than as a cockney philosopher, or a city parrot, mimicking the voices of canaries or cat owls, of Emersons, or Carlyles - or I beseech you if you must sing in cities, to warble only your “native wood notes wild.” And here a hint about the genteel lecture going world - come down from your place of instruction; they gather not before you to be instructed by to be amuse; they come not to hear corroborating voice, urging them to penetrate to the reality of things; they want no new or better philosophy; but they are willing to have their sluggish intellects stirred up as with a long pole by some novelty. But look to it that there is novelty. Bring forth your new fangled Nondescript into the arena, plunge spears into his side rowel deep, and with the speed of wind circle the ten yards space, say twice, and vanish, behind the curtain while applause takes people’s eyes from you to each other, exultingly. Some then shall swear, you soared through the roof dragon-like, others shall magnify you into the very Job’s Unicorn! But stay, till your Nondescript has shown all his few graces, and in spite of spurs waddles heavy round the arena, weary people grow disgusted, and begin to look for the seams of his sheepskin covering; till the most moderate begin to mutter, good as a horse but poor as a Nondescript, while the immoderate, (which most are) cry - poor, and because poor, useless, turned to a Nondescript, if so be it might pay its way to Humbug.

Therefore, Mr. Thoreau, henceforward I warn you to quit the arena while the novelty is still on, for if your audience becomes fatigued, rely upon it they will find some sheep skin seams, though you were a genuine original woolen horse from the Rocky Mountains. But to specialize, my dear Thoreau, how dared you seem to think like Emerson, how could you draw similar inferences, inspirations from your intercourse with Nature, to those of Emerson. Does Nature mean the same thing to any two persons. Impossible! We, the Worcester sofa lolling literati think that she would be more original.

Thoreau, the youth who writes this has implicit faith in your power of drawing inspirations from nature, in your thorough enjoyment of “Forest Life,” in your er for the eternal melodies that nature sounds forever, for the inner soul’s tympanum, if we will but remove the cotton wading which deadens and excludes them. But he has not faith in you ability to become an effective prophet and priest of this true worship, of the Divine in Nature, of the simply true you found us, (some dozens) clogged with custom, with the aggregated results of human contact, which may have been forced down to us, and upon us, through the centuries: for a moment as you came before use there seemed a glimpse to open (out of those clogging “clothes,” Carlyle, you know) into a lovely forest-land, where dwelt primitive simplicity, with the purest culture, intellectual and practical.

Ah, Thoreau, if you had left us with that hint, that one, it had been a suggestion to the advantage of our should [souls?]. But after, the crowd says (that is the same dozen say) that you winged but a stupid flight, on wings of Carlyle, or Emerson, through formless mist-clouds or smoke of burning brush-heaps, where snapped and crackled, wit or nonsense, as the case maay be, and I am certain that you dropped us amid diagrams on Walden pond, upon that patch of cleared ground, barren to my apprehension of witty product, your Bean field - A as [sic] Thoreau, I’ve got the blues this morning. How is transcendentalism shop fallen. Simplicity, rurality is a drug on the market. Mechanism exults in the clank of machinery, on every back street mocks the mortified poet-philosopher. Routine triumphs; fine houses and furniture put on an elegantly impudent aspect; a philosopher having flatted out, philosophy may step in to the back-ground. We return with new zest to the “surface of things” and idly float on it [in] our light pleasant gondola not diving again for pearl-oysters in the next six months, I warrant me. [signed] Z.

(Studies in the American Renaissance 1995, 183-4)

15 May. Boston, Mass. 1849.

The Boston Transcript reviews the first and only issue of Aesthetic Papers, listing Thoreau as one of the contributors (Thoreau Society Bulletin, no. 182 (Winter 1988):4).

17 May. Boston, Mass. 1849.

The Boston Post reviews the first and only issue of Aesthetic Papers, saying the essay “by Thoreau is crazy” (Thoreau Society Bulletin, no. 182 (Winter 1988):4).

19 May. New York, N.Y. 1849.

Literary World announces: “Messrs James Munroe & Company have in press a book by Mr. Henry D. Thoreau, of Concord, entitled ‘A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers,’ in one 16mo. volume.”

Boston, Mass. The Boston Post reprints the Literary World announcement from the same day (Thoreau Society Bulletin, no. 182 (Winter 1988):4?).

22 May. Concord, Mass. 1849.

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes to Ellen Rendal in London, England: “I ought to say, however, that my friend Thoreau is shortly to print a book called ‘A Week on the Concord & Merrimack Rivers,’ which, I think, will win the best readers abroad & at home” (The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 4:145).

23 May. Lincoln, Mass. 1849.

Thoreau surveys the “Sawmill Woodlot” near Sandy Pond Road, leading to Flint’s Pond for Ralph Waldo Emerson (A Catalog of Thoreau’s Surveys in the Concord Free Public Library, 7). Emerson writes in his journal around this time: “Thoreau can pace 16 rods accurately” (The Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 11:90).

26 May. Boston. Mass. 1849

Boston, Mass. A. Bronson Alcott writes in his journal:

Today comes Henry Thoreau to town and gives me a copy of his book, just published by James Munroe & Co. entitled

“A Week on Concord and Merrimack Rivers”

- 12 mo. pp. 413

An American book, worthy to stand besides [Ralph Waldo] Emerson’s Essays on my shelves.

(The Journals of Bronson Alcott, 209)

27 May. Boston, Mass. 1849.

A. Bronson Alcott writes in his journal: “Read Thoreau’s book all day” (The Journals of Bronson Alcott, 209).

28 May. Boston, Mass. 1849.

A. Bronson Alcott writes in his journal: “Again read Thoreau, and admiringly” (The Journals of Bronson Alcott, 209).

30 May. Boston, Mass. 1849.

Boston Daily Advertiser announces that A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers is published on this day (The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 4:145).

8 June. New York, N.Y. 1849.

The Evening Post reviews A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers: “[Thoreau is] a man of contemplative turn of mind, deeply imbued with German reading, so much so as to have given his reflections a German caste, but not unversed in other literature. He conducts his readers through a maze of reflections of almost desultory nature, often as agreeable as they are quaint, and sometimes running into a certain mysticism through which we do not always find it easy to follow him” (Thoreau Society Bulletin, no. 182 (Winter 1988):4).

June 9. New York, N.Y. 1849.

Literary World announces that James Munroe & Co. publishes A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers.

Boston, Mass. The Boston Transcript announces the publication of A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers.

11 June. Concord, Mass. 1849.

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes to Theodore Parker:

answered your note on the spot, & now it is four days. I am not the man to write the Notice of Thoreau’s book. I am of the same clan & parish. You must give it to a good foreigner. E[dwin]. P[ercy]. Whipple has good literary insulation and is a superior critic. Will he not try his hand on this? If not, will not Starr King? If not the one or the other, why not send it to the New Yorkers, to Henry James, Parke Godwin, or C. Dana? The book has rare claims, & we must have an American claim & ensign marked on it before it goes abroad for English opinions.

(The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 4:151)

Parker replies 15 June.

13 June. New York, N.Y. 1849.

The New-York Daily Tribune reviews A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers.

14 June. Concord, Mass. 1849.

Thoreau’s sister Helen dies of consumption (Concord Saunterer 14, no. 4 (Winter 1979):18).

15 June. 1849.

Theodore Parker writes in reply to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s letter of 11 June:

I had read the greater part of Thoreau’s Book when I wrote to you. It is full of beautiful things, some of them are evidently remembered from you, some of them I only suspect of being yours because of their family likeness; but some are undoubtedly original. I think the book is to be judged by its original part, & not by its imitations, the descriptions of natural objects are certainly uncommonly fine, there is a good deal of sauciness, & a good deal of affectation in the book , the latter seems to me to come from his trying to be R. W. Emerson, & not being contented with his own mother’s son. Still I think the book has great merits. It surpasses my expectations in some particulars, & makes me like the man better than I did before, & I have long liked him very well. I have asked Lowell to write a notice of it - If he will not - I like Dana the best of those you name.

(The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 4:151 note)

Boston, Mass. The Liberator reviews A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers:

A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, By Henry D. Thoreau. Boston and Cambridge: James Munroe & Co. New York: George P. Putnam. Philadelphia: Lindsay & Blackiston. London: John Chapman. 1849. 1849. pp. 413.

We have not yet been able to give this volume such an examination as would justify us in pronouncing absolute judgment upon it. For its amiable author, we have much respect. His mode of life is sui generis - all alone by himself in the woods of Concord, an enthusiastic child and lover of Nature, in spirit an occupant of an ideal world, and with the eye of genius ‘in a fine phrenzy rolling’ - and this production of his is equally peculiar. We have spent many years ‘on the Merrimack river,’ our dear, native stream; but this was ‘long, long age.’ We shall accept this invitation of Mr. Thoreau to pass ‘a week’ with him on the same river, and, making that the starting-point from which to ascent to ‘cloud-land,’ we shall accompany him on the wings of imagination as far as we can sustain such a flight. Of our entertainment and success, we may report hereafter.

The numerous admirers of [Thomas] Carlyle and [Ralph Waldo] Emerson will read this book with a relish; for Mr. T. writes in their vein, and to some extent in their dialect, and is a match for them in felicitous conceits and amusing quaintnesses; yet he is not a servile imitator - only an admirer, by affinity and kindred one of a trinity, having his own sphere in which to move, and his own mission to consummate. As a specimen of his thinking and speaking, take the following, suggested by a grave-yard:

It is remarkable that the dead lie every where under stones, - … ‘Having reached the term of his natural life;’ - would it not be truer to say, Having reached the term of his unnatural life?

18 June. 1849.

Helen Thoreau’s funeral is held (Concord Saunterer 14, no. 4 (Winter 1979):18).

Concord, Mass. Ralph Waldo Emerson writes to his brother William: “Mother and Mrs. Brown had just returned from Helen Thoreau’s funeral. For the rest, Concord was green & peaceful for the living as for the dead” (The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 4:153).

19 June. Boston, Mass. 1849.

The Boston Courier reviews the first and only issue of Aesthetic Papers, including Thoreau’s essay “Resistance to Civil Government”: “We must dismiss Mr. Thoreau, with an earnest prayer that he may become a better subject in time, or else take a trip to France, and preach his doctrine of ‘Resistance to Civil Government’ to the rest of the Red Republicans” (Thoreau Society Bulletin, no. 182 (Winter 1988):4).

20 June. New Bedford, Mass. 1849.

William Ellery Channing reviews A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers in the New Bedford Mercury.

22 June. Boston, Mass. 1849.

The Liberator publishes an obituary of Thoreau’s sister Helen:

ANOTHER FRIEND OF THE SLAVE GONE.

Died. In Concord, on Thursday, June 14th, Miss Helen Thoreau, aged 36 years.

Our friend, Miss Thoreau, was an abolitionist. Endowed by nature with tender sensibilities, quick to feel for the woes of others, the cause of the slave met with ready response in her heart. She had a mind of fine native powers, enlarged and matured by cultivation. She had the patience to investigate truth, the candor to acknowledge it when sufficient evidence was presented to her mind, and the moral courage to act in conformity with her convictions, however unpopular these convictions might be to the community around her. The cause of the slave did not come before her in its earliest beginnings; but as soon as it was presented, she set herself to inquire how it was, that a system which imbrutes man so cruelly, which tears asunder all the tenderest ties so ruthlessly, which puts out the life of the soul, by denying it the means of growth and progress so effectually, was supported. She saw the religious denominations with which she had been connected vehemently crying out against the Catholics for denying the Bible to the people, and yet one-sixth part of the people of the Protestant United States were legally deprived of the right to read God’s word, nay, worse than the Catholics, the right of learning to read. She ascertained that the actual number of slaveholders in the land was not more than two hundred and fifty or three hundred thousand. How, she said, can these keep three millions of people in bondage? why do not eh slaves rice, as did our fathers in the revolution, and demand their rights at the point of the bayonet? She ascertained that the bayonets of the North were pledged to unite with those of the Southern tyrants, in case of any attempt at insurrection, and put down the poor crushed bondman, if, in his agony, he would strike down the oppressor. She saw that the nation had written in the Constitution the grievousness it had prescribed to turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right form the poor of the people, that widows might be its prey, and that it might rob the fatherless. This Constitution, every man, either by himself or his deputy, held up his hand to heaven, and swore, So help me God, I will sustain. She saw that in the same Constitution, they agreed, by the same solemn oath, if the poor victim of oppression should flee to any of the so-called free States, braving incredible danger, facing death in its most terrible forms, to obtain deliverance from his oppressors, and appeal to Northern men for protection, being pursued by his enslaver, they must perjure themselves, or allow his being delivered up to his pursuer, and sent back again to the most cruel bondage, without lifting a finger in his defence - thus stifling the noblest feelings of their natures.

In despair, she turned to the church. Surely, she said, the church of Christ is free from these abominations. But she found the church made up of men from all the political parties, alike pledged to the support of the accursed institution. In keeping with this, she saw the church, almost universally, giving to the slaveholder or his abettor, the right hand of Christian fellowship - calling him dear brother in Christ. She saw the pulpits of the North open to Southern divines, while the advocates of the slave knocked in vain for admission at the door of almost every church in the land. She said to herself, Is this the church of Christ, and has it come down so low? She repudiated such a church. Immediately did she turn her back upon its communion, and if she went to the house of prayer, as she occasionally did, she went to see if the spirit of Christ and humanity might not be rising among them. Again and again has she called upon the writer of this notice, when returning from church, and said, with strong emotion, it is all darkness and gloom. It was not eloquent declamation which led her from the church; but it was the array of strong, incontrovertible facts, which impelled her to the course she felt called upon to pursue and she knew that the eloquence of anti-slavery owed its source to these same facts, and endowed with eloquence the most ungifted tongues. To her, as to many others, it was pleasant to go to the church on the Sabbath, and worship with her friends; and nothing but an entire conviction of its wrongfulness, in her case, would have prevented her constant attendance upon the institutions of religion. But he call to her was imperative - ‘Come out of her, that ye be not partaker of her plagues,’ and she obeyed. This obedience brought peace in health, and peace in sickness. Not an hour of gloom did she experience during her protracted illness. Though constitutionally timid, the gloom of death was all taken away, and the king of terrors became to her an angel of hope and joy, opening before her bright visions of beauty, to use her own expression. One day, in conversation, she expressed her gratitude for what anti-slavery had done for her, in opening new and juster views of God, and truth, and duty, and exclaimed - ‘O how much has anti-slavery done for me, and how little have I done for it! I wanted health, that I might keep school, and in this way do something for the cause I so much love. But it is ordered otherwise.’

She experienced in its fullest extent the fulfillment of the promise - ‘Blessed is he that considereth the poor; the Lord shall be with him upon his bed of languishing, and make all his bed in his sickness.’ Her long continued illness made the suffering virtues, patience and resignation, to shine brightly, and smoothed away the sharp edges of her character, fitting her, we doubt not, for a polished stone in the great temple above.

The abolitionists of Concord will mourn deeply her loss; for, few and feeble as they are, they can ill afford to lose one so intelligent and so true. But they feel, that thought no longer present with them in the flesh, she will still be a co-laborer with them in the great and good cause in which they have so long been associated.

(Thoreau Society Bulletin no. 211 (Spring-Summer 1995);5-6)

27 June. Concord, Mass. 1849.

William Ellery Channing moves to a house on Main Street, opposite the Thoreau house (Studies in the American Renaissance 1990, 166n).

29 June. Cambridge, Mass. 1849.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow writes in his journal:

In the evening, F. [Frances Appleton Longfellow] read [Ralph Waldo] Emerson’s lecture on “War” in Miss Peabody’s Æsthetic Papers, a very clever periodical. Also Thoreau’s account of his one night in Concord jail. Both extremely good.

(The Life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 2:142-3)

30 June. Concord, Mass. 1849.

Thoreau writes to Louis Agassiz:

Dear Sir,

Being disappointed in not finding you in Boston a week or two since, I requested Dr. [Augustus A.] Gould to make some inquiries of you for me; but now, as I shall not be able to see that gentleman for some time, I have decided to apply to you directly.

Suffice it to say, that one of the directors of the Bangor (Me.) Lyceum has asked me to ascertain simply - and I think this a good Yankee way of doing the business - whether you will read two or three lectures before that institution early in the next lecture season, and if so, what remuneration you will expect. Of course they would be glad to hear more lectures, but they are afraid that they may not have money enough to pay for them.

You may recognize in your correspondent the individual who forwarded to you through Mr [James Elliot] Cabot many firkins of fishes and turtles a few years since and who also had the pleasure of an introduction to you at Marlboro’ Chapel.

Will you please to answer this note as soon as convenient?

Yrs. respectfully,

Henry D. Thoreau

(The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau, 243; MS, Louis Agassiz correspondence and other papers (MS Am 1419). Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.)

Agassiz replies 5 July.

July. New York, N.Y. 1849.

Holden’s Dollar Magazine has a review of A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers that makes comparisons to Emerson’s writings.

5 July. Cambridge, Mass. 1849.

Louis Agassiz writes in reply to Thoreau’s letter of 30 June:

Dear Sir,

I remember with much pleasure the time you used to send me specimens from your vicinity and also our short interview in the Marlborough Chapel. I am under too many obligations of your kindness to forget it, and I am very sorry that I missed your visit in Boston, but for 18 months I have now been settled in Cambridge.

It would give me great pleasure to engage for the lectures you ask from me, on behalf of the Bangor Lyceum; but I find it has been last winter such an heavy tax upon my health, that I wish for the present to make no engagements, as I have some hopes of making my living this year by other efforts and beyond the necessity of my wants, both domestic and scientific. I am determined not to exert myself, as all the time I can thus secure to myself must be exclusively devoted to science . You see this does not look much like business making; but my only business is my intercourse with nature and could I do without draughtsmen, lithographers &c &c I would live still more retired. This will satisfy you, that whenever you come this way, I shall be delighted to see you, since I have also heard something of your mode of living.

With great regard

Sincerely yours

L R Agassiz

(The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau, 244)

8 July. Boston, Mass. 1849.

A. Bronson Alcott writes in his journal: “With [Ralph Waldo] Emerson. Also see Thoreau a little while. To Walden afterwards, discussing Genesis and the rest” (The Journals of Bronson Alcott, 210).

13 July. Concord, Mass. 1849.

Ralph Waldo Emerson pays Thoreau $13 for work (Ralph Waldo Emerson’s account books. Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.).

15 July. Concord, Mass. 1849.

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes includes Thoreau in a list of people to whom he sends copies of John Aitken Carlyle’s translation of Dante’s Inferno (The Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 11:134-5).

19 July. Boston, Mass. 1849.

The Youth’s Companion reprints the New-York Daily Tribune article of 2 April (Studies in the American Renaissance 1995, 173).

26 July. Concord, N.H. 1849.

The New Hampshire Patriot carries a review of A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers:

This is a remarkable volume and it[s] author is a remarkable man. The title is very unpretending and gives but a faint idea of the contents of the work. Few men think as much as they should. All is action; and if one is only busy about something, it is enough; no one can say contemptuously that he is idle - Now to us it seems that this fedeting, itching, hustling turn of mind might frequently with profit be exchanged for a more meditative and thoughtful habit, which should enlarge the understanding and open the heart, develop the rason and chasten the passions. The author of the work before us, is a man of thought - retired from the busy scenes of life, he turns the mental eye inward and endeavors to read the mysterious page of his own soul. Again looking at objects around which meet his senses. he reads lessons of wisdom. To him the very stones preach sermons and the reeds become eloquent. The thread of his narrative is very simple, but upon it he has strung pearls. With a single companion in his little boat, he courses leisurely down the Concord and up the Merrimack Rivers, some sixty miles or more and gives us the reflections and observations of each day. He discourses to us about old inhabitants - describes the genius of fishes - hears the “church-going bell” and talks about modern religion and its inconsistencies - seems strangely inclined to sympathize with the Ancient Greeks and Romans, with their Myths and many Gods - utters deep-felt thoughts about conscience, its office and uses - touches his lyre and gives us a sweet poem - discourses of the old Poets and with them glories over our relics and antiquities, and cares more for them than those of Egypt - moralizes on Friendship, and in fine, gives utterance to a thousand beautiful thoughts upon material and immaterial earth, air and heaven, until on closing the book we find ourselves in love with the author, satisfied with ourselves and at peace with the world. We do not by any means endorse the author’s Pantheism, but will let it stand or fall for itself.

Summer. London, England. 1849.

Isaac Thomas Hecker writes a long letter to Thoreau in which he attempts to convert Thoreau to Catholicism (The Paulist Archives, Washington, D.C.).

August. New York, N.Y. 1849.

Knickerbocker Magazine publishes a notice of A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers:

WE propose, by-and-by, to follow Mr. HENRY D. THOREAU down the Merrimack, even from Squam, Newfound Lake, Winnepisiogee, White Mountains, SMITH’s-and-BAKER’s, Mad Rivers, Nashua, Souhegan, Pitcataquoag, Suncook, Soncook, and Contoocook; but we haven’t leisure for the jaunt just now. Meantime, let us commend A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, for which we are indebted to the publishers, Messrs. JAMES MUNROE AND COMPANY to the attention of our readers.

5 August. Concord, Mass. 1849.

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes in his journal:

Yesterday a ride and a walk with Thoreau to Acton. We climbed to the top of Nagog Hill, and afterward of Nashobah, the old domain of Tahatawan and his praying Indians. The wide landscape is one vast forest skirted by villages in the horizon. We saw Littleton, Acton, Concord, Chelmsford, Tyngsboro, Dracut. On the western side, the old mountains ending with Uncanoonuc on the north. The geology is unlike ours, and the granite ledges are perpendicular. Fort Pond is a picturesque sheet with a fine peninsula scattered, park-like, with noble pines on the western side; Grass Pond a pretty lake; Nagog seen from Nagog Hill is best, and Long Pond we came to the shore of. These four ponds dictated, of course, Tahatawan’s location of his six hundred acres. Also we visited the top of Strawberry Hill, and a big chestnut tree.

(EJ, 8:40-1)

6 August. Boston, Mass. 1849.

Bronson Alcott writes in his journal: “At Hillside to-day. Dine with Thoreau, and return at 3 P.M. to Temple Place and my Tablets again” (A. Bronson Alcott: His Life and Philosophy, 2:456).

17 August. Concord, Mass. 1849.

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes in his journal on 18 August:

Yesterday a ride & walk with Thoreau to Acton. We climbed to the top of Nagog hill, & afterwards of Nashobah, the old domain of Tahatawan & his praying Indians. The wide landscape is one vast forest skirted by villages in the horizon. We saw Littleton, Acton, Concord, Westford, Carlisle, Bedford, Billerica, Chelmsford, Tyngsboro, Dracut. On the western side, the old mountains ending with Uncanoonuc in the North. The geology is unlike ours & the granite ledges are perpendicular. Fort Pond is a picturesque sheet with a fine peninsula scattered park-like with noble pines on the western side - Grass Pond a pretty lake: Nagog seen from Nagog-hill is best, & LOng Pond we came to the shore of. These four ponds dictated, of course, Tahatawan’s location of his 600 acres. Also we visited the top of Strawberry hill; & a big chestnut tree.

(The Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 11:145-6)

18 August. Concord, Mass. 1849.

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes in his journal:

I thought the Concord Society should meet & assign its business to Committees; thus --
Mr Channing [William Ellery Channing] presented a report on Baker Farm.
Mr Thoreau a Report on Fort Pond, the Cromlech, & the remains of a swamp fort near the Pond.
Mr E. called attention to the Ebbahubbard park.
Miss E. Hoar presented a bunch of Linnaea Borealis found in Concord.
Mr C read a paper on the foliaceous & spongelike formations by spring-thaw in the argillite of the Deep Cut in the Rail Road -- & so forth. (The Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 11:146)
September. 1849.

Though the authorship is mistaken, Godey’s Magazine and Lady’s Book reviews A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers:

Those who have read “Margaret Smith’s Journal” will be at no loss in settling the authorship of this clever and interesting work. Mr. Whittier touches all his themes with the true poet’s wand; all show forms of beauty and gleams of light that, like the sunbeams on the far-off mountain, make the cold and rugged landscape appear soft and charming. It is just the book to read in the idleness of summer, when wishing to enjoy the pleasures of journeying, without the inconvenience which the actual packing up and going off in hot steamboats and dusty cars occasion. Read it and see.

1 September. Concord, Mass. 1849.

A. Bronson Alcott writes in his journal: “Go to Concord, send Elizabeth home, see Thoreau a while, and sleep at Emerson’s” (The Journals of Bronson Alcott, 211).

2 September. Concord, Mass. 1849.

A. Bronson Alcott writes in his journal: “Pass the afternoon with Thoreau. We walk by ‘The Cottage’ and discourse reclining on the hillside near the Indian meadows by the riverside” (The Journals of Bronson Alcott, 211).

3 September. Manchester, England. 1849.

James Anthony Froude writes to Thoreau:

Dear Mr Thoreau  
 
I have long intended to write you, to thank you for that noble expression of yourself you were good enough to send to me. I know not why I have not done so; except from a foolish sense that I should not write till I had thought of something to say which it would be worth your while to read.  
 
What can I say to you except express the honour & the love I feel for you. An honour and a love which Emerson taught me long ago to feel, but which I feel now "not on account of his word, but because I myself have read & know you."  
 
When I think of what you are -- of what you have done as well as of what you have written, I have a right to tell you that there is no man living upon this earth at present, whose friendship or whose notice I value more than yours; What are these words? Yet I wished to say something -- and I must use words though they serve but seldom in these days for much but lies. 
 
In your book and in one other also from your side of the Atlantic "Margaret" I see hope for the coming world. all else which I have found true in any of our thinkers, (or even of yours) is their flat denial of what is false in the modern popular jargon -- but for their positive affirming side they do but fling us back upon our human nature, stoically to bold on by that with our own strength -- A few men here & there may do this as the later Romans did -- but mankind cannot and I have gone near to despair -- I am growing not to despair, and I thank you for a helping hand.  
 
Well I must see you sometime or other. It is not such a great matter with these steam bridges. I wish to shake hands with you, and look a brave honest man in the face. In the mean time I will but congratulate you on the age in which your work is cast, the world has never seen one more pregnant.  
 
God bless you
Your friend (if you will let'him call you so)
J A Froude (The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau, 248-9)

Concord, Mass. Daniel Brooks Clark records in his journal that he helps James Clark move Thoreau’s Walden home from Walden Pond (Transcription in the Walter Harding Collection in the Thoreau Society Collections at the Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods of a MS owned by Clark family).

7 September. Concord, Mass. 1849.

Ralph Waldo Emerson includes Thoreau in a list of people to whom he sends his Nature, Addresses, and Lectures (The Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 11:156). Emerson inscribes Thoreau’s copy “Henry D. Thoreau from R. W. E. 7 September 1849” (Studies in the American Renaissance 1983, 162).

11 September. Cambridge, Mass. 1849.

Cambridge, Mass. Thoreau checks out Mahabharata. Harivansa, ou Histoire de la famille de Hari, ouvrage formant un appendice du Mahabharata, et traduit sur l’original sanscrit par M. A. Langlois, vols. 1 and 2, and Histoire de la littérature hindoui et hindoustani by Joseph Héliodore Garcin de Tassy, vols. 1 and 2?, from Harvard College Library (Companion to Thoreau’s Correspondence, 289).

Concord, Mass. A. Bronson Alcott writes in his journal: “I take the 11 o’clock train for Concord, take possession of my chamber at Mrs. Hosmer’s, and arrange my things there. Afternoon, see Thoreau, and come in early to bed” (The Journals of Bronson Alcott, 212).

13 September. Concord, Mass. 1849.

A. Bronson Alcott writes in his journal: “Afternoon, came Thoreau, and I read from my Journal of ’47 a criticism on his book on the Concord and Merrimac Rivers - also notes on himself, Emerson, and Channing; and we walked afterwards to the Hallowell Place and along the riverside” (The Journals of Bronson Alcott, 211-3).

13 September. Cambridge, Mass. 1849.

Jared Sparks, president of Harvard, writes: “Please let Mr. Thoreau take books from the library according to the rules in similar cases” (The Transcendentalists and Minerva, 2:476).

17 September. Concord, Mass. 1849.

Thoreau writes to Jared Sparks:

Sir,

Will you allow me to trouble you with my affairs?

I wish to get permission to take books from the College library to Concord where I reside. I am encouraged to ask this, not merely because I am an alumnus of Harvard, residing within a moderate distance of her halls, but because I have chosen letters for my profession, and so am one of the clergy embraced by the spirit at least of her rule. Moreover, though books are to some extent my stock and tools, I have not the usual means with which to purchase them. I therefore regard myself as one whom especially the library was created to serve. If I should change my pursuit or move further off, I should no longer be entitled to this privilege. - I would fain consider myself an alumnus in more than a merely historical sense, and I ask only that the University may help to finish the education, whose foundation she has helped to lay. I was not then ripe for her higher courses, and now that I am riper I trust that I am not too far away to be instructed by her. Indeed I see not how her children can more properly or effectually keep up a living connexion with their Alma Mater than by continuing to draw from her intellectual nutriment in some such way as this.

If you will interest yourself to obtain the above privilege for me, I shall be truly obliged to you.

Yrs respectly

Henry D. Thoreau

(The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau, 248-50)

Concord, Mass. A. Bronson Alcott writes to his wife Abigail: “Henry and I have bathed since 5 P.M. near the Indian Fishing Place, where lay the Boat Undine[?]... I have seen scarce nobody only Thoreau and [Ralph Waldo] Emerson, nor shall, I suppose, while here” (The Letters of A. Bronson Alcott, 153).

22 September. New York, N.Y. 1849.

Literary World reviews A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers.

29 September. Concord, Mass. 1849.

Thoreau’s father purchases a house on Main Street for $1,450 from Henry L. Shattuck. Due to repairs and renovations, the Thoreaus don’t move in until 29 August 1850 (Thoreau Society Bulletin, no. 24 (July 1948):1).

Boston, Mass. The Boston Semi-Weekly Advertiser notes a recently published translation of Prometheus’s first soliloquy, comparing it to Thoreau’s translation in the Dial: “[Mr. Herbert’s] is a fair specimen of his work; and [we] subjoin Mr. Thoreau’s bold translation of the same passage published some years since - as the nearest approach we have at hand to that which it is not, a literally faithful rendering of the original.”

See entry October.

New York, N.Y. The first and only issue of Aesthetic Papers is reviewed in Literary World:

an article on “Resistance to Civil Government” whose author would make it every man’s duty to refuse allegiance to the state, whenever any of its laws violate his conscience. He has carried out his theory in his own case, asn been shut up in prison for refusing to pay his “poll tax.” He appeals to the New Testament, even; by which he means, of course, that part of it which may be made to coincide with his own opinions, and not whose ugly precepts about the paying of tribute, and submission to the powers that be. This article is about as fit in a volume of “Aesthetic Papers” as would be “the voyage of Gulliver.”

October. Boston, Mass. 1849.

The Universalist Quarterly reviews of A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers: “[it is] interspersed with inexcusable crudities, with proofs of carelessness and lack of healthy moral discrimination, with contempt for the things commonly esteemed holy, with reflections which may shock every pious Christian.”

Boston, Mass. Pictorial National Library has a review of A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers:

Henry D. Thoreau, a young philosopher, whose primitive habits of living have attracted some attention in the vicinity of Concord, has a volume of 413 pages, entitled A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. The incidents narrated are those of a cruise down the Concord River, to its junction with the Merrimack, up that river to Hookset, and thence on foot to Concord N.H. The voyage was accomplished in a boat of home manufacture, equipped with oars, sails, &c., and loaded with provisions, cooking utensils, and a tent in which to encamp at night.

Cornelius Conway Felton writes a review of Henry William Herbert’s translation of Prometheus of Aeschylus in the North American Review, comparing it with that of his former pupil, Thoreau.

9 October. 1849.

“Wishing to get a better view than I had yet had of the ocean, which, we are told, covers more than two thirds of the globe, but of which a man who lives few miles inland may never see any trace, more than of another world, I made a visit to Cape Cod in October 1849, another the succeeding June and another to Truro in July 1855; the first and last time with a single companion [William Ellery Channing], the second alone” (Cape Cod, 3).

We left Concord, Massachusetts, on Tuesday, October 9th, 1849. On reaching Boston, we found that the Provincetown steamer, which should have got in the day before, had not yet arrived, on account of a violent storm; and, as we noticed in the streets a handbill headed, “Death! one hundred and forty-five lives lost at Cohasset,” we decided to go by way of Cohasset… The brig St. John, from Galway, Ireland, laden with emigrants, was wrecked on Sunday morning; It was now Tuesday morning, and the sea was still breaking violent on the rocks.

(Cape Cod, 5-18)

10 October. 1849.

Our route was along the Bay side, through Barnstable, Yarmouth, Dennis, and Brewster, to Orleans, with a range of low hills on our right, running down the Cape” (Cape Cod, 22).

11 October. 1849.

“The next morning, Thursday, October 11th, it rained as hard as ever; but we were determined to proceed on foot, nevertheless. We first made some inquiries with regard to the practicability of the walking up the shore on the Atlantic side to Provincetown, whether we should meet with any creeks or marshes to trouble us” (Cape Cod, 31).

“When we reached Boston that October, I had a gill of Provincetown sand in my shoes, and at Concord there was still enough left to sand my pages for many a day; and I seem to hear the sea roar, as if I lived in a shell, for a week afterward” (Cape Cod, 269).

13 October. London, England. 1849.

The Spectator reviews A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers: “the bulk of the book consists of Mr. Thoreau’s reveries that might have been written anywhere: they are rather flat and not of a kind of interest.”

27 October. London, England. 1849.

The London Athenaeum reviews A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers: “the matter is for the most part poor enough; but there are a few things in the volume, scattered here and there, which suggest that the writer is a man of habit original thinking, which with more careful culture may produce a richer harvest in some future season. The manner is that of the worst offshoots of Carlyle and Emerson.”

November. Concord, Mass. 1849.

Thoreau surveys land on Lexington Road for Isaac Watts (A Catalog of Thoreau’s Surveys in the Concord Free Public Library, 12; Henry David Thoreau papers. Special Collections, Concord (Mass.) Free Public Library).

New Haven, Conn. The New Englander reviews the first and only issue of Aesthetic Papers and comments on Thoreau’s contribution:

Of the odd things in the collection, the queerest is the Essay on Resistance to Civil Government by Mr. Thoreau, a man who refuses to pay all taxes and has been imprisoned in consequence, we know not how many times; but he writes straight on what he thinks, and it is no slight matter, to be able to know by actual inspection, that such a man as this breathes and lives in New England.

5 November. Cambridge, Mass. 1849.

Thoreau checks out A comprehensive history, ecclesiastical and civil, of Eastham, Wellfleet and Orleans, county of Barnstable, Mass., from 1644 to 1844 by Enoch Pratt, Antiquités américaines d’aprèss les monuments historiques des Islandais et des anciens Scandinaves by Carl Christian Rafn, and an item recorded as Massachusetts Historical Society: Collections from Harvard College Library (Companion to Thoreau’s Correspondence, 289; Thoreau’s Reading, 102-3, 254, 256).

15 November. Concord, Mass. 1849.

Thoreau’s aunt Maria writes to Prudence Ward:

Do you recollect what I told you of Miss Ford and H - well I do believe she must be crazy, a month ago, H - had a letter, commencing, British steamer fourteen days later - and Sophia says it was a most incoherent letter, she seems to have as much the spirit of reform as ever, telling H - she hoped he would join that society which is about forming to ascertain the cause of so many dreadful shipwrecks on the ocean where so many lives are sacrificed, and last week while I was at Brother’s [John Thoreau, Sr.], Henry had another letter from her which he read to himself and then put into the fire. When I asked to see it, he answered it was secret. I wonder if her friends know anything about these letters they come by mail, tho I believe H - does not answer them…

Last week some Indians from the Rocky Mountains exhibited here. Henry was much gratified, you know he has quite a passion for Indians…

I am sorry you were not at home when H - was in Cohasset. You will be pleased to hear Henry give a description of that tour, sleeping in a lighthouse etc., - but I believe it was projected before the shipwreck which you appear to think was the occasion of it.

As for Brother’s new house, we shall not get into it this winter, but hope to early in the spring. the tenants were not obliged to move till it was too late to do anything to it, for as you suppose, it will need considerable alteration, as for Henry he never liked the idea of moving at all tho it is probably he will have the pleasantes[t] and most convenient room in the house that he has ever had yet.

(transcript in the Thoreau Society Archives at the Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods; MS, private owner)

Late November. Concord, Mass. 1849.

Ralph Waldo Emerson includes Thoreau in a list of people to whom he sends his Representative Men (The Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 11:188-9).

3 December. Andover, Mass. 1849.

M. M. Colburn writes to Thoreau:

D’r Sir

Some years since, you repeated to me a quotation from an old book (Saxon I think) - part of the speech of a British noble on the question of admitting Christian teachers into England. The substance of the quotation was a comparison of ife with the flight of a bird through a warm & lighted room - coming from darkness, and going into darkness again. Can you favor me with the quotation in full, and also inform me of the source from which it was taken? By so doing you will lay me under great obligation to you.

Respectfully Yours

M. M. Colburn

(Studies in the American Renaissance 1982, 347; MS, private owner)

6 December. Worcester, Mass. 1849.

The Worcester Daily Spy publishes a notice of James Russell Lowell’s review of A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, stating that it was “what might be expected from J. Russell Lowell, when reviewing Thoreau.”

Mid-December. Concord, Mass. 1849.

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes in his journal: “Ellery [William Ellery Channing] says of Thoreau, ‘His effects can all be produced by cork & sand: but the substance that produces them is godlike & divine’” (The Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 11:196).

17 December. Concord, Mass. 1849.

Thoreau’s aunt Maria writes to Prudence Ward: “Henry is writing lectures on his tour to Cape Cod. I think they will be very entertaining, and much liked. Mr. Lowell has written a beautiful review of his book in the Massachusetts Monthly, it is so just, and pleasant, and some parts of it so laubhable that I enjoyed reading it very much, perhaps you have seen it” (transcript in the Thoreau Society Archives at the Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods; MS, private owner).

18 December. Boston, Mass. 1849.

Samuel Cabot writes to Thoreau:

It [the American goshawk] was first described by [Alexander] Wilson; lately [John James] Audubon has identified it with the European goshawk, thereby committing a very flagrant blunder. It is usually a very rare species with us. The European bird is used in hawking; and doubtless ours would be equally game. If Mr. [Jacob] Farmer skins him now, he will have to take second cut; for his skin is already off and stuffed, -- his remains dissected, measured, and deposited in alcohol. (The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau, 252)
22 December. Boston, Mass. 1849.

The Christian Inquirer publishes a notice of James Russell Lowell’s review of A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers that appeared in the December issue of the Massachusetts Society Quarterly.




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