The Massachusetts Teacher publishes the “Reading” chapter from Thoreau’s Walden.
1 January. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes to H. G. O. Blake:
Mr. Blake, -
It may interest you to hear that Cholmondeley has been this way again, via Montreal and Lake Huron, going to the West Indies, or rather to Weiss-nicht-wo, whither he urges me to accompany him. He is rather more demonstrative than before, and, on the whole, what would be called “a good fellow,” - is a man of principle, and quite reliable, but very peculiar. I have been to New Bedford with him, to show him a whaling town and Ricketson. I was glad to hear that you had called on R. How did you like him? I suspect that you did not see one another fairly.
I have lately got back to that glorious society called Solitude, where we meet our friends continually, and can imagine the outside world also to be peopled. Yet some of my acquaintance would fain hustle me into the almshouse for the sake of society, as if I were pining for that diet, when I seem to myself a most befriended man, and find constant employment. However, they do not believe a word I say. They have got a club, the handle of which is in the Parker House at Boston, and with this they beat me from time to time, expecting to make me tender or minced meat, so fit for a club to dine off.
“Hercules with his club
The Dragon did drub;
But More of More Hall,
With nothing at all,
He slew the Dragon of Wantley.”
Ah! that More of More Hall knew what fair play was. Channing, who wrote to me about it once, brandishing the club vigorously (being set on by another, probably), says now, seriously, that he is sorry to find by my letters that I am “absorbed in politics,” and adds, begging my pardon for his plainness, “Beware of an extraneous life!” and so he does his duty, and washes his hands of me. I tell him that it is as if he should say to the sloth, that fellow that creeps so slowly along a tree, and cries ai from time to time, “Beware of dancing!”
The doctors are all agreed that I am suffering from want of society. Was never a case like it. First, I did not know that I was suffering at all. Secondly, as an Irishman might say, I had thought it was indigestion of the society I got. It is indispensable that I should take a dose of Lowell & Agassiz & Woodman.
As for the Parker House, I went there once, when the Club was away, but I found it hard to see through the cigar smoke, and men were deposited about in chairs over the marble floor, as thick as legs of bacon in a smoke-house. It was all smoke, and no salt, Attic or other. The only room in Boston which I visit with alacrity is the Gentlemen’s Room at the Fitchburg Depot, where I wait for the cars, sometimes for two hours, in order to get out of town. It is a paradise to the Parker House, for no smoking is allowed, and there is far more retirement. A large and respectable club of us hire it (Town and Country Club), and I am pretty sure to find some one there whose face is set the same way as my own.
My last essay, on which I am still engaged, is called Autumnal Tints, I do not know how readable (i . e., by me to others) it will be.
I met Mr. [Henry] James the other night at Emerson’s, at an Alcottian conversation, at which, however, Alcott did not talk much, being disturbed by James’s opposition. The latter is a hearty man enough, with whom you can differ very satisfactorily, on account of both his doctrines and his good temper. He utters quasi philanthropic dogmas in a metaphysic dress; but they are for all practical purposes very crude. He charges society with all the crime committed, and praises the criminal for committing it. But I think that all the remedies he suggests out of his head - for he goes no farther, hearty as he is - would leave us about where we are now. For, of course, it is not by a gift of turkeys on Thanksgiving Day that he proposes to convert the criminal, but by a true sympathy with each one, - with him, among the rest, who lyingly tells the world from the gallows that he has never been treated kindly by a single mortal since he was born. But it is not so easy a thing to sympathize with another, though you may have the best disposition to do it. There is Dobson over the hill. Have not you and I and all the world been trying, ever since he was born, to sympathize with him? (as doubtless he with us), and yet we have got no farther than to send him to the House of Correction once at least; and he, on the other hand, as I hear, has sent us to another place several times. This is the real state of things, as I understand it, at least so far as James’s remedies go. We are now, alas! exercising what charity we actually have, and new laws would not give us any more. But, perchance, we might make some improvements in the House of Correction. You and I are Dobson; what will James do for us?
Have you found at last in your wanderings a place where the solitude is sweet?
What mountain are you camping on nowadays? Though I had a good time at the mountains, I confess that the journey did not bear any fruit that I know of. I did not expect it would. The mode of it was not simple and adventurous enough. You must first have made an infinite demand, and not unreasonably, but after a corresponding outlay, have an all absorbing purpose, and at the same time that your feet bear you hither and thither, travel much more in imagination.
To let the mountains slide, - live at home like a traveler. It should not be in vain that these things are shown us from day to day. Is not each withered leaf that I see in my walks something which I have traveled to find? - traveled, who can tell how far? What a fool he must be who thinks that his El Dorado is anywhere but where he lives!
We are always, methinks, in some kind of ravine, though our bodies may walk the smooth streets of Worcester. Our souls (I use this word for want of a better) are ever perched on its rocky sides, overlooking that lowland. (What a more than Tuckerman’s Ravine is the body itself, in which the "soul" is encamped, when you come to look into it! However, eagles always have chosen such places for their eyries.)
Thus is it ever with your fair cities of the plain. Their streets may be paved with silver and gold, and six carriages roll abreast in them, but the real homes of the citizens are in the Tuckerman’s Ravines which ray out from that centre into the mountains round about, one for each man, woman, and child. The masters of life have so ordered it. That is their beau-ideal of a country seat. There is no danger of being tuckered out before you get to it.
So we live in Worcester and in Concord, each man taking his exercise regularly in his ravine, like a lion in his cage, and sometimes spraining his ankle there. We have very few clear days, and a great many small plagues which keep us busy. Sometimes, I suppose, you hear a neighbor halloo (Brown, may be) and think it is a bear. Nevertheless, on the whole, we think it very grand and exhilarating, this ravine life. It is a capital advantage withal, living so high, the excellent drainage of that city of Cod. Routine is but a shallow and insignificant sort of ravine, such as the ruts are, the conduits of puddles. But these ravines are the source of mighty streams, precipitous, icy, savage, as they are, haunted by bears and loup-cerviers; there are born not only Sacos and Amazons, but prophets who will redeem the world. The at last smooth and fertilizing water at which nations drink and navies supply themselves begins with melted glaciers, and burst thunder-spouts. Let us pray that, if we are not flowing through some Mississippi valley which we fertilize, - and it is not likely we are, - we may know ourselves shut in between grim and mighty mountain walls amid the clouds, falling a thousand feet in a mile, through dwarfed fir and spruce, over the rocky insteps of slides, being exercised in our minds, and so developed.
2 January. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Cliff and Walden… Minott says that a fox will lead a dog on to thin ice in order that he may get in… Looking from the southwest side of Walden toward heywood’s Peak before sunset, the brown light on the oak leaves is almost dazzling” (Journal, 11:384-7).
3 January. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “I walked to Acton, but might have skated well half or two thirds the way…” (Journal, 11:387).
4 January. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “A northeast snow-storm, or rather a north snow-storm, very hard to face. P. M. to Walden in it…” (Journal, 11:387-91).
5 January. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “As I go over the causeway, near the railroad bridge, I hear a fine busy twitter, and, looking up, see a nuthatch hopping along and about a swamp white oak branch, inspecting every side of it, as readily hanging head-downwards as standing upright, and then it utters a distinct gnah, as if to attract a companion…” (Journal, 11:391).
6 January. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To M. Miles’s… Miles had hanging in his barn a little owl (Strix Acadica) which he caught alive with his hands about a week ago. He had forced it to eat, but it died…” (Journal, 11:391-2).
Henry Walker Frost writes to Thoreau:
Mr. H. D. Thoreau.
Will you do me the favor of meeting me at the Probate Court in East Cambridge on Tuesday next (11th inst) at ten o’clock A.M. in order to prove my father’s will to which [page torn] sness. My mother [page torn]
9 January. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “At sundown to Walden. Standing on the middle of Walden I see with perfect distinctness the form and outlines of the low hills which surround it, though they are wooded, because they are quite white, being covered with snow, while the woods are for the most part bare or very thin-leaved… C. [William Ellery Channing] says the winter is the sabbath of the year…” (Journal, 11:393).
10 January. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - Up Assabet to Sam Barrett’s Pond… This is much the coldest afternoon to bear as yet, but, bold as it is, - four or five below at 3 P. M., - I see, as I go round the Island, much vapor blowing from a bare space in the river just below, twenty rods off… At Sam Barrett’s Pond, where Joe Brown is now getting his ice, I think I see about ten different freezings in ice some fifteen or more inches thick… About half an hour before sunset this intensely clear cold evening (thermometer at five -6º), I observe all the sheets of ice (and they abound everywhere now in the fields), when I look from one side about at right angles with the sun’s rays, reflect a green light…” (Journal, 11:394-5).
The second Monday in January, 1859, there was a notable skating-party at Concord on Walden Pond, which on that day was smooth as a mirror. Mr. Stearns [George Luther Stearns] was present, enjoying the exercise as he might have done thirty years before on the Middlesex Canal. He spent most of the afternoon skating and talking with Emerson and Thoreau.
Concord, Mass.Thoreau writes in his journal: “At 6 A. M. -22º and how much more I know not, ours having gone into the bulb; but that is said to be the lowest… Going to Boston to-day, I find that the cracking of the ground last night is the subject of conversation in the cars, and that it was quite general…” (Journal, 11:396).
12 January. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Mr. Farmer brings me a hawk which he thinks has caught thirty or forty of his chickens since summer, for he has lost so many…” (Journal, 11:396-8).
13 January. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “The mist lasts all this day, though it is far from warm (+11º at 8 A. M.)… I go to the river this morning and walk up it to see the trees and bushes along it…” (Journal, 11:398-400).
14 January. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “The fog-frosts and the fog continue, though considerable of the frostwork has fallen. This forenoon I walk up the Assabet to see it…” (Journal, 11:400).
15 January. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “…The thermometer at 7.30 or 8 A. M. is at 33º” (Journal, 11:400-1).
16 January. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Walden and thence via Cassandra Ponds to Fair Haven and down river… When, this evening, I took a split hickory stick which was very slightly charred or scorched, but quite hot, out of my stove, I perceived a strong scent precisely like that of a burnt or roasted walnut…” (Journal, 11:401-2).
18 January. Concord, Mass.
19 January. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Great meadows via Sleepy Hollow… now, at 3.30 P. M., looking up, I perceive that almost the entire heavens are covered with a very beautiful mackerel sky… Coming up the street in the twilight, it occurs to me that I know of no more agreeable object o bound our view, looking outward through the vista of our elm-lined streets, than the pyramidal tops of a white pine forest in the horizon…” (Journal, 11:410-3).
Thoreau also writes to H. G. O. Blake:
Mr. Blake, -
If I could have given a favorable report as to the skating, I should have answered you earlier. About a week before you wrote there was good skating; there is now none. As for the lecture, I shall be glad to come. I cannot now say when, but I will let you know, I think within a week or ten days at most, and will then leave you a week clear to make the arrangements in. I will bring something else than “What shall it profit a Man?” My father is very sick, and has been for a long time, so that there is the more need of me at home. This occurs to me, even when contemplating so short an excursion as to Worcester.
I want very much to see or hear your account of your adventures in the Ravine [Tuckerman's], and I trust I shall do so when I come to Worcester. Cholmondeley has been here again, returning from Virginia (for he went no farther south) to Canada; and will go thence to Europe, he thinks, in the spring, and never ramble any more, (January 29). I am expecting daily that my father will die, therefore I cannot leave home at present. I will write you again within ten days.
20 January. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - Up river… I learn from J. Farmer that he saw to-day in his wood-lot, on removing the bark of a dead white pine, an immense quantity of mosquitoes, moving but little, in a cavity between the bark and the wood made probably by some other insect…” (Journal, 11:413-4).
Concord, Mass. Thoreau writes in his journal: “… Before night I heard of the river being over the road in one place, though it was rather low before. Saw Melvin buying an extra quantity of shot in anticipation of the freshet and musquash-shooting to-morrow” (Journal, 11:414-6).
Boston, Mass. Thomas C. Cary and Henry G. Denny send a form letter to Thoreau:
In behalf of the library committee of the Association of the Alumni of Harvard College, we send you herewith copies of the circular which you have kindly undertaken to distribute among your class; together with copies of the report on the state of the library, which was presented to the association at their last annual meeting, to be forwarded to those who have not yet received it.
The committee would suggest that a personal interview with each one who is applied to for a subscription is highly important, and should be had when practicable; it being likely to command more attention than a written communication, and to afford a better opportunity for a full explanation of the subject. They hope also, that, in every case where a personal application cannot be made, a letter will be forwarded with the circular, advancing such special arguments as may occur to the writer as likely to be effective, from his knowledge of the disposition, habits, or taste of the person addressed.
It seems to the committee desirable that no graduate should be passed over in the distribution of the circulars, on account of any supposed inability or indisposition to contribute, as instances have come to their knowledge where interest in this movement has been expressed, and aid has been readily given, when there had seemed good reason to doubt the utility of any application for it.
Information concerning the library and of the progress of the subscription can be had at the office of the secretary of the committee, 42, Court Street, where additional copies of the circular and of the pamphlet containing the report, together with the addresses of the graduates so far as known, can be obtained if needed.
You are requested to make a return of the subscriptions procured by you, to the chairman of the committee or to the secretary, as often as once in three or four weeks, and to give immediate notice of any unusually large sum which may be subscribed, in order that accounts may from time to time be published for the information and encouragement of those engaged in this work.
We are, Sir, respectfully yours,
Thomas G. Cary, Chairman.
See entry before 11 February.
Henry G. Denny, Secretary.
22 January. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “8.30 A. M. - Go to the riverside… J. Farmer tells me that he once saw a musquash rest three or four minutes under the ice with his nose against the ice in a bubble of air about an inch in diameter, and he thinks that they can draw air through the ice, and that one could swim across Nagog Pond under the ice… P. M. - I see many caterpillars on the ice still, and those glow-worm-like ones…” (Journal, 11:416-25).
23 January. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Going over the Hosmer pasture this side of Clamshell southwestward, I thought I saw much gossamer on the grass, but was surprised to find that it was the light reflected from the withered grass stems which had been bent or broken by the snow (now melted)…” (Journal, 11:425-6).
24 January. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Many boys and girls are skating on Mantatuket Meadow and on Merrick’s…” (Journal, 11:427-8).
26 January. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - Over Cyanean Meadow on ice…” (Journal, 11:429-30).
27 January. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “I see some of those little cells, perhaps, of a wasp or bee, made of clay or clayey mud…” (Journal, 11:430).
28 January. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Melvin tells me that one with whom he deals below says that the best musquash skins come from Concord River, and it is because our musquash are so fat…” (Journal, 11:431).
30 January. Concord, Mass.
31 January. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - Up river across Cyanean Meadow… As I look south just before sunset, over this fresh and shining ice, I notice that its surface is divided, as it were, into a great many contiguous tables in different planes, somewhat like so many different facets of a polyhedron as large as the earth itself… Young Heywood told me that the trout which he caught in Walden was twenty-seven inches long and weighed five pounds, but was thin, not in good condition…” (Journal, 11:431-3).
1 February. Concord, Mass.
2 February. Concord, Mass.
2 February. Concord, Mass. Thoreau writes in his journal: “I see Peter Huthinson cutting down a large red oak on A. Heywood’s hillside, west of the former’s house. He points out to me what he calls the ‘gray oak’ there, with ‘a thicker bark’ than the red. It is the scarlet oak” (Journal, 11:434).
3 February. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Five minutes before 3 P. M., Father died…” (Journal, 11:435-9).
5 February. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “When we have experience many disappointments, such as the loss of friends, the notes of birds cease to affect us as they did. I see another butcher-bird on the top of a young tree by the pond” (Journal, 11:439).
7 February. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Going along the Nut Meadow or Jimmy Miles road, when I see the sulphur lichens on the rails brightening with the moisture I feel like studying them again as a relisher or tonic, to make life go down and digest well, as we use pepper and vinegar and salads…(Journal, 11:439-41).
Thoreau writes to H. G. O. Blake:
I will come and read you an extract from “Autumnal Tints,” on Tuesday the 15th, of this month, if that is agreeable to you, - leaving here probably at noon. Perhaps you had better acknowledge the receipt of this.
H. D. T.
9 February. New Bedford, Mass.
Daniel Ricketson writes to Thoreau:
My dear Friend, -
I received last evening a Boston newspaper with your superscription, containing the record of the decease of your father. It had previously been published in the New Bedford Mercury, perhaps by Channing. [William Ellery Channing]
You must all feel his loss very much, particularly your mother. I have rarely, if ever, met a man who inspired me with more respect. He appeared to me to be a real embodiment of honest virtue, as well as a true gentleman of the old school. I also recognized in him a fund of good fellowship, or what would perhaps better and more respectfully express it, kindly friendship. I remember with pleasure, a ramble I took with him about Concord some two or three years ago, at a time when you were away from home, on which occasion I was much impressed with his good sense, his fine social nature, and genuine hospitality. He reminded me much of my own father, in fact, I never saw a man more like him even in his personal appearance and manners - both bore upon their countenances the impress of care and sorrow, a revelation of the experience of life, written in the most legible characters, and one which always awakens my deepest sympathy and reverence.
I doubt not but that he was a good man, and however we may be unable to peer beyond this sphere of experience, may we not trust that some good angel, perhaps that of his mother (was her name Jeanie Burns?), has already welcomed him to the spirit land? At any rate, if there be any award for virtue and well doing I think it is for such as he. Veiled as the future is in mystery profound, I think we may fully rely upon Divine Wisdom who has seen it proper not only to conceal from us knowledge beyond this life, but has also wrapped us in so much obscurity even here. But let us go on trustfully in Him - the sun yet shines, the birds sing, the flowers bloom, and Nature is still as exhaustless as ever in her charms and riches for those who love her.
I trust that your mother and sister will find that consolation which they so much need. They as well as you have my warmest sympathy, and it is a pleasurable sorrow for me to bear my poor tribute to the memory and worth of him from whom you have so lately parted.
It seems to me that Nature - and by this I always mean the out-o’-door life in woods and fields, by streams and lakes, etc. - affords the best balm for our wounded spirits. One of the best things written by Francis Jeffrey, and which I have tacked upon my Shanty wall, is, “If it were not for my love of beautiful nature and poetry, my heart would have died within me long ago.”
Would not a little run from home soon, if you can be spared, be well for you? Can you not catch the early spring a little in advance? We are probably a week or two before you in her maiden steps. Soon shall we see the catkins upon the willows, and hear the bluebird and songsparrow again - how full of hope and cheer! Even this morning (a soft, drizzling one) I have heard the sweet, mellow, long-drawn pipe of the meadow lark. I have also seen robins occasionally during the winter, and a flock of quails several times, besides numerous partridges and rabbits.
I see nothing of Channing of late.
With my best regards to your mother and sister, believe me
Very truly your friend,
P.S . Your letter indicates health of mind and good pluck. In fact, Dr. Pluck is a capital physician. Glory in whortle and blackberries; eat them like an Indian, abundantly and from the bushes and vines . When you can, smell of sweet fern, bayberry, sassafras, yellow birch, and rejoice in the songs of crickets and harvest flies.
Thoreau replies 12 February.
Concord, Mass. Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Ball’s Hill over ice…” (Journal, 11:441-2).
Boston, Mass. Henry G. Denny writes to Thoreau:
Henry D. Thoreau, Esq.,
I am happy to acknowledge the receipt of five dollars from you, as a contribution to the fund for the public library of Harvard College.
Henry G. Denny, Sec’y Library Committee
12 February. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau also writes to Daniel Ricketson in reply to his letter of 9 February:
I thank you for your kind letter. I sent you the notice of my Father’s death as much because you knew him, as because you know me. I can hardly realize that he is dead. He had been sick about two years, and at last declined rather rapidly though steadily. Till within a week or ten days before he died, he was hoping to see another spring; but he then discovered that this was a vain expectation, and thinking that he was dying he took his leave of us several times within a week before his departure. Once or twice he expressed a slight impatience at the delay. He was quite conscious to the last, and his death was so easy, that though we had all been sitting around the bed for an hour or more, expecting that event, as we had sat before, he was gone at last almost before we were aware of it.
I am glad to read what you say about his social nature. I think I may say that he was wholly unpretending; and there was this peculiarity in his aim, that, though the had pecuniary difficulties to contend with the greater part of his life, he always studied merely how to make a good article, pencil or other, (for he practised various arts) and was never satisfied with what he had produced, - nor was he ever in the least disposed to put off a poor one for the sake of pecuniary gain; - as if he labored for a higher end.
Though he was not very old, and was not a native of Concord, I think that he was, on the whole, more identified with Concord street than any man now alive, having come here when he was about twelve years old, and set up for himself as a merchant here at the age of 21, fifty years ago.
As I sat in a circle the other evening with my mother and sister, my mother’s two sisters & my Father’s two sisters, it occurred to me that my Father, though 71 belonged to the youngest four of the eight who recently composed our family.
How swiftly, at last, but unnoticed, a generation passes away! Three years ago I was called with my Father to be a witness to the signing of our neighbor Mr Frost’s will. Mr Samuel Hoar, who was there writing it, also signed it. I was lately required to go to Cambridge to testify to the genuineness of the will, being the only one of the four who could be there; and now I am the only one alive.
My Mother & Sister thank you heartily for your sympathy. The latter in particular agrees with you in thinking, that it is communion with still living & healthy nature alone which can restore to sane and cheerful views.
I thank you for your invitation to New Bedford - but I feel somewhat confined here for the present. I did not know but we should see you the day after [William R.?] Alger was here. It is not too late for a winter walk in Concord.
It does me good to hear of spring birds, and singing ones too, for spring seems far away from Concord yet. I am going to Worcester to read a parlor lecture on the 22nd, and shall see Blake [H. G. O. Blake] & Brown. [Theophilus Brown] What if you were to meet me there! or go with me from here! You would see them to good advantage.
Cholmondeley [Thomas Cholmondeley] has been here again, after going as far south as Virginia, and left for Canada about three weeks ago. He is a good soul, and I am afraid that I did not sufficiently recognize him.
Please remember me to Mrs Ricketson, and to the rest of your family
Henry D. Thoreau
13 February. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - On ice to Fair Haven Pond…” (Journal, 11:443-6).
14 February. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - On ice up Assabet to railroad…” (Journal, 11:446-8).
15 February. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - Up river to Fair Haven Pond. I thought, by the peculiar moaning sound of the wind about the dining-room at noon, that we should have a rain-storm…” (Journal, 11:448-9).
16 February. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - From the entrance of the Mill road I look back through the sun, this soft afternoon, to some white pine tops near Jenny Dugan’s…” (Journal, 11:450-1).
Sophia Ripley writes to Thoreau:
My dear Mr Thoreau
Mr Johnson [Samuel Johnson] will spend the night at our house tomorrow, and Mr Emerson [Ralph Waldo Emerson] and a few others are coming at six to take tea with him, and Mother [Sarah Alden Ripley] wants you to come very much. We hope you will be able to.
20 February. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Have just read ‘Counterparts, or the Cross of Love,’ by the author of ‘Charles Auchester’… P. M. - The rain ceases, and it clears up at 5 P. M…” (Journal, 11:451-3).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Go to Worcester to lecture in a parlor” (Journal, 11:453).
Worcester, Mass. Thoreau lectures on “Autumnal Tints” in H. G. O. Blake’s parlors (Studies in the American Renaissance 1996, 293-6).
23 February. Worcester, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - Walk to Quinsigamond Pond, where was good skating yesterday, but this very pleasant and warm day it is suddenly quite too soft. I was just saying to Blake [H. G. O. Blake] that I should look for hard ice in the shade, or [on the] north side, of some wooded hill close to the shore, though skating was out of the question elsewhere, when, looking up, I saw a gentleman and lady very gracefully gyrating and, as it were, courtesying to each other in a small bay under such a hill on the opposite shore of the pond…” (Journal, 11:453-4).
Thoreau lectures in H. G. O. Blake’s parlors, probably on “An Excursion to Maine Woods” (Studies in the American Renaissance 1996, 297).
Sallie Holley writes to a Mrs. Porter on 28 February: “The last two evenings we had in Worcester, we were at two parlour lectures given by Mr. Henry D. Thoreau, the author of that odd book, Walden, or Life in the Woods. The first lecture was upon ‘Autumnal Tints,’ and was a beautiful and, I doubt not, a faithful report of the colours of leaves in October. Some of you may have read his ‘Chesuncook,’ in the Atlantic Monthly; if so you can fancy how quaint and observing, and humorous withal, he is as traveller - or excursionist-companion in wild solitudes. Several gentlemen, friends of his, tell us much of their tour with him to the White Mountains last summer, of his grand talk with their guide in ‘Tuckerman’s Ravine,’ where they had their camp. He paid us the compliment of a nice long mornign call after we heard him read his ‘Autumnal Tints,’ and remembered our being once at his mother’s to tea, and Miss Putnam’s looking over his herbarium with his sister” (A Life for Liberty: Anti-slavery and Other Letters of Sallie Holley, 167).
A. Bronson Alcott writes to his wife Abigail: “Thoreau left Blake’s [H. G. O. Blake] last Thursday morning. He read two lectures in B.’s [H. G. O. Blake] parlours, and won many praises from his auditors. Mr. B. as true and devoted as ever” (The Letters of A. Bronson Alcott, 300).
25 February. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Heard Staples, Tuttle, E. Wood, N. Barrett, and others this morning at the post-office talking about the profit of milk-farming… Joe Smith says that he saw blackbirds this morning… P. M. - Up river on ice… But, few as the trappers are here, it seems by Goodwin’s accounts that they steal one another’s traps…” (Journal, 11:454-7).
27 February. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “To Cambridge and Boston…” (Journal, 11:457).
Thoreau is chosen as executor of his father’s estate (The Transcendentalists and Minerva, 2:80).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Cassandra Ponds and down river…” (Journal, 12:3-6).
Thoreau also lectures on “Autumnal Tints” for the Concord Lyceum (Studies in the American Renaissance 1996, 297-8).
Ellen Emerson writes to her sister Edith on 3 March: “Last night Mr Thoreau lectured a grand lecture on Autumnal Tints. Father [Ralph Waldo Emerson] and Mother, [Lidian Jackson Emerson] Mr Sanborn [Franklin B Sanborn] and Eddy [Edward Emerson] were equally delighted. It was funny and Father said there were constant spontaneous bursts of laughter and Mr Thoreau was applauded” (The Letters of Ellen Tucker Emerson, 1:174).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Going to Acton this morning, I saw some sparrows on the wall, which I think must have been F. hyemalis (?). P. M. - Up river to Nut Meadow Brook… Channing [William Ellery Channing] tells me he has met with a sassafras tree in New Bedford woods, which, according to a string which he put round it, is eleven and three quarters feet in circumference at about three feet from the ground…” (Journal, 12:6-11).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To E. Hosmer Spring. Down Turnpike and back by E. Hubbard’s Close… C. [William Ellery Channing] thinks this is called a sap snow, because it comes after the sap begins to flow…” (Journal, 12:11-13).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Going down-town this forenoon, I heard a white-bellied nuthatch on an elm within twenty feet, uttering peculiar notes and more like a song than I remember to have heard from it… P. M. - Up river to Well Meadow…” (Journal, 12:13-17).
Concord, Mass. Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Yellow Birch Swamp. We go through the swamp near Bee-Tree, or Oak Ridge, listening for blackbirds or robins and, in the old orchards, for bluebirds…” (Journal, 12:17-19).
New Bedford, Mass. Daniel Ricketson writes to Thoreau:
Respected Friend, -
This fine spring morning with its cheering influences brings you to my mind; for I always associate you with the most genial aspects of our beloved Nature, with the woods, the fields, lakes and rivers, with the birds and flowers. As I write, the meadow lark is piping sweetly in the meadows near by, and lo! at this instant, the very first I have heard this season, a bluebird has warbled on a tree near the Shanty. What salutation could be more welcome or more in unison with my subject? Yesterday, my son Walton saw and heard the red-winged Blackbird, and this morning robins are flying about. The song-sparrow (F. melodia) now singing, has also been in time since the 23d of February. Truly may we say, “Spring is come!”
At my present writing, the thermometer at my north window indicates 44 degrees and is rising; yesterday p.m. 50 degrees, wind W. S. W. It seems to me quite time to stop the abuse of our climate. In my boyhood and even until after my marriage (1834), I do not remember it ever occurred to me but that our climate was a very good one. And had I never heard it complained of by others, should hardly have ever suspected it otherwise. A climate that has sustained such men as R. W. E., [Ralph Waldo Emerson] A. B. A., [A. Bronson Alcott] H. D. T., and other kindred natures, can’t be a very bad one, and may be the very best.
March is to me the month of hope. I always look forward to its coming with pleasure, and welcome its arrival. Others may speak of it in terms of reproach, but to me it has much to recommend itself. The backbone of winter, according to the homely adage, is now broken. Every day brings us nearer to the vernal influences, to the return of the birds and the appearance of wild flowers. Mingled with storms are many warm sunny days. I am no longer in haste for finer weather, so near at hand. Each day has something to interest me, and even in a severe snow or rainstorm, accompanied with cold weather, I know that the glorious sun, when once he shines again, will dispel all gloom and soften the temperature. Although it is my custom to walk in the woods, fields, and by-places at all seasons of the year and in all weathers, the spring (and in this I include March as fairly belonging) is my most favorite time. Nature, ever attractive to me, is at this season particularly inviting, the kind solace and hope of my days. Although I am but an indifferent versifier, yet I fancy but few poets have experienced richer or happier emotions than myself from her benign spirit.
I am most happy to record, at this time, that I have, I trust, recovered my good spirits, such as blessed me in my earlier years of manhood. I shall endeavor by a life of purity and retirement to keep them as the choicest of blessings. My desires, I believe, are moderate, and not beyond my reach. So far as the false luxuries of life are concerned, I have but little taste for them, and I would willingly dispense with almost every unnecessary article in the economy of living, for the sake of being the master of my own time, and the leisure to pursue the simple occupations and enjoyments of rural life. I do not covet wealth, I certainly do not wish it. With the intelligent and worthy poor, I feel far greater sympathy and affinity, than with a large portion of the rich and falsely great. I would give more for one day with the poet-peasant, Robert Burns, or Shakespeare, than for unnumbered years of entertainment at the tables of proud and rich men.
“Behind the plough Burns sang his wood-notes wild,
And richest Shakespeare was a poor man’s child.”
So sung Ebenezer Elliot, the Corn-law rhymer, himself a true poet and friend of the “virtuous and struggling poor.”
I copy the foregoing, suggested by the season, from my Daily journal, on the entrance of March. You may, therefore, read it as a soliloquy, by which it may savor less of egotism and bombast, to which objections it might otherwise be open.
During my walk, yesterday p.m., in a sunny spot, I found the “pussy willows” (S. eriocephala) and enclose one of the “catkins” or “woolly aments” in testimony thereof. I also enclose a pansy from the south side of the Shanty. How should I rejoice to have you as the companion of my walks!
I suppose you have some time since returned from your literary exploit into Worcester, and trust that you had a good time with your disciples, Blake, [H. G. O. Blake] and Brown. [Theophilus Brown] They must be thoreauly brown by this time. “Arcades ambo” under your pupilage-though, I think, the classic term applies better to you and R. W. E. or W. E. C. [William Ellery Channing] May I not also claim as a birthright to rank in your fraternity, as a disciple, at least? Please not reject me. Failing in you I shall be bankrupt, indeed. Shall echo respond, to my complaint, “Is there none for me in the wide world, - no kindred spirit?” “None”?
Don't be alarmed, “Amicus Mihi,” you shall be as free as air for aught me.
During the past winter I have been reviewing somewhat my law studies, and what will not a little surprise you, have received and accepted a commission as justice of the peace. I have collected the relic of my law library, and ranged them in formidable array upon a shelf in the Shanty. I find myself much better able to grasp and cope with these legal worthies than when a young man.
I don’t suppose I shall do much in the way of my profession, but may assist occasionally the injured in the recovery of their rights. I have not done this hastily, as you may suppose. I intend to be free from all trammels, and believing, as I do, that law, or rather government, was made for the weal of all concerned, and particularly for the protection of the weak against the strong, and that, according to Blackstone, “What is not reason is not law,” I shall act accordingly, if I act at all.
I may make use of the elective franchise, but of this am as yet undetermined. It seems to me as though a crisis was approaching in the affairs of our government, when the use of every means that “God and nature affords” will be required to oppose tyranny. I trust that I shall have your sympathy in this matter.
I shall seek no opportunity for the exercise of my opposition, but “bide my time.”
A visit from you would be very welcome. With kind regards to your household and my Concord friends, one and all, I remain,
Yours of 12th Feb. came duly to hand.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “6.30 A. M. - To Hill… A lady tells me that she saw, last Cattle-Show Day, — — putting up a specimen of hairwork in a frame (by his niece) in the exhibition hall… P. M. - To Ministerial Swamp…” (Journal, 12:19-24).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Lee’s Cliff with C. [William Ellery Channing] C. says that he heard and saw a bluebird on the 7th, and R. W. E. [Ralph Waldo Emerson] the same…” (Journal, 12:28-30).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “6 A. M. - To Hill… P. M. - To Witherell Vale… We sit in the sun on the side of Money-Diggers’ Hill…” (Journal, 12:30-5).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “6 A. M. - By riverside I hear the song of many song sparrows, the most of a song of any yet… P. M. To Hunt house… E. Hosmer and Nathan Hosmer are employed in taking it down…” (Journal, 12:35-9).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - Walk in rain to Ministerial Swamp…” (Journal, 12:39-42).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “7 A. M. - F. hyemalis in yard… Going down railroad, listening intentionally, I hear, far through the notes of song sparrows (which are very numerous), the song of one or two larks… P. M. - To Great Fields… Talking with Garfield to-day about his trapping, he said that mink brought three dollars and a quarter, a remarkably high price, and asked if I had seen any…” (Journal, 12:42-6).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Hunt house… Saw E. Hosmer take up the cellar stairs…” (Journal, 12:47-8).
Ellen Emerson writes to her sister Edith on 15 March: “I met Mr Thoreau who stopped and told me that he had come from mr Hosmer’s. Mr Hosmer is pulling down his old house that stands in front o f the house he lives in. I was very sorry to hear it. Mr Thoreau said that on the chimney was the date 1703, but the oldest part of the house, where the immense fire-place was, had dates on it, chalk tallies on the beams, date, the oldest of which was Feb 2 1666. And notes that the oxen had been working so many days, that something cost so many £-s-d. I thought I would go and see” (The Letters of Ellen Tucker Emerson, 1:178)
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Rainy day and southerly wind. I come home in the evening through a very heavy rain after two brilliant rainbows at sunset, the first of the year” (Journal, 12:49).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “6 A. M. - The water is just over the slanting iron truss, four feet from its east end, and still rising. P. M. - Launch my boat and sail to Ball’s Hill… We meet one great gull beating up the course of the river against the wind, at Flint’s Bridge…” (Journal, 12:49-52).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “6.30 A. M. - River risen still higher… P. M. - To Flint’s Bridge by water…” (Journal, 12:53-7).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “8 A. M. - To stone bridge… Flood, who is saving rails, etc., at the stone bridge, remarks that old settlers say this stream is highest the third day after a rain… Rice thinks that he has seen two gulls on the Sudbury meadows, - the white and the gray gulls…” (Journal, 12:57-60).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “7 A. M. - Fair weather and a very strong southwest wind, the water not quite so high as day before yesterday… P. M. - To Tarbell’s via J. P. Brown’s… Melvin says that in skinning a mink you must cut round the parts containing the musk, else the operation will be an offensive one…” (Journal, 12:60-7).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “7 A. M. - Rain no higher than three days ago, notwithstanding the rain of two days ago, the wind being southwest and very strong. P. M. - I see under the east side of the house amid the evergreens, where they were sheltered from the cold northwest wind, quite a parcel of sparrows… P. M. - Up Assabet…” (Journal, 12:67-9).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “6 A. M. - The water has fairly begun to fall… P. M. - Sail to Fair Haven Pond…” (Journal, 12:69-70).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - The wind changes to easterly and is more raw, i. e. cool and moist, and the air thickens as if it would rain. Returning from Poplar Hill through the west end of Sleepy Hollow, it is very still, the air thick, just ready to rain, and I hear there, on the apple trees and small oaks, the tree sparrows and hyemalis singing very pleasantly… C. [William Ellery Channing] says he saw fox-colored sparrows this afternoon” (Journal, 12:70-1).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - Walk to Cardinal Shore and sail to Well Meadow and Lee’s Cliff… As we sail upward toward the pond, we scare up two or three golden-eyes, or whistlers, showing their large black heads and black backs, and afterward I watch one swimming not far before us and see the white, spot, amid the black, on the side of his head…” (Journal, 12:71-8).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - Down railroad… C. [William Ellery Channing] sees geese go over again this afternoon…” (Journal, 12:79-80).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Conantum via Cardinal Shore and boat…” (Journal, 12:83-4).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “7 A. M. - Was that the Alauda, shore lark (?), which flew up from the corn-field beyond Texas house, and dashed off so swiftly with a peculiar note, - a small flock of them? P. M. - Sail from Cardinal Shore up Otter Bay, close to Deacon Farrar’s… C. [William Ellery Channing] says that he saw a turtle dove on the 25th… Cousin Charles says that he took out of the old Haverhill house a very broad panel from over the fireplace, which had a picture of Haverhill at some old period on it…” (Journal, 12:84-8).
Concord, Mass. Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - Paddle to the Bedford line… As we were paddling over the Great Meadows, I saw at a distance, high in the air above the middle of the meadow, a very compact flock of blackbirds advancing against the sun… When walking about on the low east shore at the Bedford bound, I heard a faint honk, and looked around over the water with my glass, thinking it came from that side or perhaps form a farmyard in that direction…” (Journal, 12:88-99).
Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University circulates a form letter advising Thoreau of his appointment to the Committee on Natural Science:
I transmit to you herewith the subjoined copy of a Report made to the Board of Overseers, and accepted by that body.
You will perceive your name in the list of the Committee, and you will be pleased to consider this communication as a notice of your appointment as a member of the Committee in which you name occurs.
I am, Sir, with great respect,
Your obedient servant,
JAMES WALKER, President
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Driving rain and southeast wind, etc. Walden is first clear after to-day. Garfield says he saw a woodcock about a fortnight ago. Minott thinks the middle of March is as early as they come and that they do not then begin to lay” (Journal, 12:99).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “6 A. M. - To Hill (across water)… P. M. To Walden via Hubbard’s Close…” (Journal, 12:99-101).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Holbrook’s improvements… Humphrey Buttrick says that he has shot two kinds of little dippers, - the one black, the other with some white…” (Journal, 12:101-3).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Melvin, the sexton, says that when Loring’s Pond was drained once - perhaps the dam broke - he saw there about all the birds he has seen on a salt marsh… P. M. - To Assabet over meadows in boat…” (Journal, 12:104-5).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Lee’s Cliff (walking)… As I go down the street just after sunset, I hear many snipe to-night…” (Journal, 12:106-9).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To White Pond. C. [William Ellery Channing] says he saw a striped snake on the 30th. We go by Clamshell…” (Journal, 12:109-13).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “In running a line through a wood-lot in the southwest part of Lincoln to-day, I started from an old pine stump, now mostly crumbled away, though a part of the wood was still hard above ground, which was described in his [sic] deed of 1813 (forty-six years ago) as a pine stump… Mr. Haines, who travelled over the lots with us this very cold and blustering day, was over eighty…” (Journal, 12:115).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “A fish hawk sails down the river, from time to time almost stationary one hundred feet above the water, notwithstanding the very strong wind…” (Journal, 12:116).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To epigæa and Well Meadow… C. [William Ellery Channing] says that he found a musquash’s skull (which he showed me) at the fox-burrow in Laurel Glen, from which it would appear that they kill the musquash… I saw Heavy Haynes fishing for trout down the Mill Brook this morning, cold and blustering as it was…” (Journal, 12:119-27).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Goose Pond… We sit by the side of Little Goose Pond, which C. [William Ellery Channing] calls Ripple Lake or Pool, to watch the ripples on it…” (Journal, 12:127-31).
A. Bronson Alcott writes to his wife Abigail: “Life is full of compensations, so say the philosophers, and to make good the saying, comes the last of them, and I think, if not the wisest, very wise, certainly, and entertaining, Thoreau, to pass the afternoon and drink tea with Anna and myself, without you. And spend an hour after, talking delightfully” (The Letters of A. Bronson Alcott, 301).
Alcott also writes in his journal: “Comes Thoreau and sups with us. We discuss thought and style. I think his more primitive than that of any of our American writers - in solidity, in organic robust quality unsurpassed, as if Nature had built them out for herself and breathed into them free and full, seasoning every member, articulating every sense with her salubrities and soul of soundness. He is rightly named Thorough, Through, the pervading Thor, the sturdy sensibility and force in things” (The Journals of Bronson Alcott, 315).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “The streets are strewn with the bud-scales of the elm, which they, opening, have lost off, and their tops present a rich brown already… P. M. - Paddle to Ball’s Hill and sail back…” (Journal, 12:140-1).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Transplanting currant bushes to-day, I find that, though the leaf-buds have not begun to open, white shoots have shot up from the bottom of the stocks two to four inches, far below the surface as yet, and I think that they have felt the influence of the season, not merely through the thawed ground, but through that portion of the plant above ground…” (Journal, 12:141-2).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Cliffs and Well Meadow… It is surprising how quickly the earth, which was covered half an inch deep this morning, and since so wet, has become comparatively dry, so that we sit on the ground or on the dry leaves in woods at 3 P. M. and smell the pines and see and hear the flies, etc., buzz about, though the sun did not come out till 12 M…” (Journal, 12:142-7).
Concord, Mass. Thoreau writes in his journal: “Sheldrakes yet on Walden, but I have not identified a whistler for several weeks, - three or more” (Journal, 12:147).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Channing [William Ellery Channing] sees the same small flock of sheldrakes, three bird, in Walden still… P. M. - Began to set white pines in R. W. E.’s [Ralph Waldo Emerson] Wyman lot” (Journal, 12:152).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Hear and see my ruby-crowned or crested wren singing at 6 A. M. on Wheildon’s pines. Setting pines all day” (Journal, 12:152).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Setting pines all day… R. W. E. [Ralph Waldo Emerson] has bought a quarter of a pound of white pine seed at $4.00 per pound… C. [William Ellery Channing] sees a cicindela to-day…” (Journal, 12:152-4).
Concord, Mass. Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - In a fine rain, around Walden… At Heywood’s meadow, by the railroad, this sedge, rising green and dense with yellow tips above the withered clumps, is very striking, suggesting heat, even a blaze, there…” (Journal, 12:154-6).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Rain, rain… Clears up at 3 P. M., and a very strong south wind blows…” (Journal, 12:156-8).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Pine Hill and Heywood’s meadow… Mr. B. asked me what I found that was new these days, if I was still looking after the beautiful…” (Journal, 12:158-61).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Kalmia Swamp… E. Bartlett has found a crow’s nest with four eggs a little developed in a tall white pine in the grove east of Beck Stow’s… Young Stewart tells me that he saw last year a pout’s nest at Walden in the pond-hole by the big pond…” (Journal, 12:161-4).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Start for Lynn. Rice says that he saw a large mud turtle in the river about three weeks ago, and has seen two or three more since… P. M. - Walked with C. M. Tracy in the rain in the western part of Lynn, near Dungeon Rock…” (Journal, 12:164).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Walk along Swampscott Beach from Red Rock northeast… Struck inland and passed over the west end of High Rock, through the cemetery, and over Pine Hill, where I heard a strange warbler, methought, a dark-colored, perhaps reddish-headed bird. Thence through East Saugus and Saugus to Cliftondale, I think in the southern part of Saugus… Saw at the Aquarium in Bromfield Street apparently brook minnows with the longitudinal dark lines bordered with light…” (Journal, 12:165).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “8.30 A. M. - Row to Carlisle Bridge with Blake [H. G. O. Blake] and Brown [Theophilus Brown]… Sit on Ball’s Hill… E. Emerson’s Salamandra dorsalis has just lost its skin” (Journal, 12:165-6).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “7 A. M. - To Walden, and set one hundred larch trees from England, all two years from seed, about nine inches high, just begun to leaf… First observe the dandelion well out in R. W. E.’s [Ralph Waldo Emerson] yard; also anemone at Sassafras Shore…” (Journal, 12:166).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - Sail to Holden Swamp… Land at Holden Wood. That interesting small blue butterfly (size of small red) is apparently just out, fluttering over the warm dry oak leaves within the wood in the sun. Channing [William Ellery Channing also first sees them to-day… Julius Smith says he saw a little hawk kill a robin yesterday” (Journal, 12:166-9).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Lee’s Cliff on foot… After crossing the Arrowhead Fields, we see a woodchuck run along and climb to the top of a wall and sit erect there, - our first… Looking up through this soft and warm southwest wind, I notice the conspicuous shadow of Middle Conantum Cliff, now at 3 P. M., and elsewhere the shade of a few apple trees, - their trunks and boughs…” (Journal, 12:175-80).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Surveying for Willis & Damon at the factory… My assistants, being accustomed to work indoors in the factory, are quite overcome by this sudden heat… At evening I hear the first sultry buzz of a fly in my chamber, telling of sultry nights to come” (Journal, 12:182-4).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Surveying Damon’s Acton lot…” (Journal, 12:184).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “C. [William Ellery Channing] sees a chimney swallow… Go on river… Hear a dor-bug in the house at evening” (Journal, 12:184-5).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Surveying for Stow near Flint’s Pond…” (Journal, 12:185).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Dug up to-day the red-brown dor-bugs…” (Journal, 12:187).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Surveying Damon’s Acton lot…” (Journal, 12:187).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Surveying for Damon. Rhodora out, says C. [William Ellery Channing…” (Journal, 12:187).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Surveying Damon’s farm and factory lot…” (Journal, 12:189).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Surveying for Stow in Lincoln… That handsome spawn of Ed. Emerson’s aquarium - minute transparent ova in a double row on the glass or the stones - turns out to be snail-spawn, it having just hatched, and there was no salamander-spawn, as I thought on 18th of April…” (Journal, 12:189).
before 19 May. Brattleboro, Vt.?
Mary H. Brown writes to Thoreau:
tleboro sometime before long - Father and Mother send kind regards.
Hoping the May flowers will be fresh when they reach you:
Mary H. Brown
Thoreau also writes to Mary H. Brown:
Miss Mary H. Brown,
Excuse me for not acknowledging before the receipt of your beautiful gift of may-flowers. The delay may prove that I did not fear I should forget it, though very busily engaged in surveying. The flowers were somewhat detained on the road, but they were not the less fragrant, and were very superior to any that we can show.
It chanced that on the very day they arrived, while surveying in the next town, I found more of these flowers than I have ever seen hereabouts, and I have accordingly named a certain path “May-flower Path” on my plan. But a botanist’s experience is full of coincidences. If you think much about some flower which you never saw, you will be pretty sure to find it some day actually growing near by you. In the long run, we find what we expect. We shall be fortunate then if we expect great things.
Please remember me to your Father & Mother
Henry D. Thoreau
Thoreau surveys land for Joseph Harrington (A Catalog of Thoreau’s Surveys in the Concord Free Public Library, 8).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Meadow fox-tail grass abundantly out (how long?), front of E. Hosmer’s by bars and in E. Hubbard’s meadow, front of meeting-house…” (Journal, 12:190-1).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Ledum Swamp and Lee’s Cliff…” (Journal, 12:191).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - Up Assabet… Melvin and Skinner tell me of three wild geese, to their surprise seen within a week down the river, - a gander and two geese, - which must be breeding here… Went by Temple’s…” (Journal, 12:191-3).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Coming out of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery to-day, where I had just been to deposit the corpse of a man, I picked up an oak three inches high with the acorn attached…” (Journal, 12:194).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Small black flies or millers over river, with long feelers, flying low in swarms now” (Journal, 12:196).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Some boys found yesterday, in tussock of sedge amid some flags in a wet place in Cyrus Hosmer’s meadow, west of the willow-row, six inches above the water, the nest evidently of a rail, with seven eggs. I got one to-day…” (Journal, 12:197).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Ball’s Hill…” (Journal, 12:199).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Well Meadow… Hear of a kingfisher’s nest just found in a sandbank behind Abner Buttrick’s, with six fresh eggs, of which I have one. The boy said it was six or seven feet deep in the bank” (Journal, 12:199-200).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “See lightning-bugs to-night…” (Journal, 12:200).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “A boy shows me one of three (apparent) hen-hawk’s eggs, fresh, obtained on the 6th from a pine near Breed’s house site” (Journal, 12:200).
A. Bronson Alcott writes in his journal: “Sanborn, [Franklin B. Sanborn] Henry Thoreau, and Allen [William Allen] take tea and pass the evening with us. We discuss questions of philosophy and the Ideal Theory as applied to education. Thoreau is large always and masterly in his own wild ways. With a firmer grasp of the shows of Nature, he has a subtler sense of the essence and personality of the lowing life of things than most men, and he defended the Ideal Theory and Personal Identity to my great delight” (The Journals of Bronson Alcott, 317).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Owl Swamp… When I return, about 5 P. M., the shad-flies swarm over the river in considerable numbers, but there are very few at sundown…” (Journal, 12:201).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Gowing’s Swamp…” (Journal, 12:201).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “A. M. - To lead-mill, Acton… Sitting by Hubbard Bath [?] swamp wood and looking north, at 3 P. M., I notice the now peculiar glaucous color of the very water, as well as the meadow-grass (i. e. sedge), at a dozen or twenty rods’ distance, seen through the slight haze which accompanies this first June heat…” (Journal, 12:203-4).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - Paddle to Great Meadows…” (Journal, 12:204-5).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Rain, especially heavy rain, raising the river in the night of the 17th” (Journal, 12:205).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - Sail up river. Rain again, and we take shelter under a bridge, and again under our boat, and again under a pine tree…” (Journal, 12:206).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Heywood Meadow and Well Meadow…” (Journal, 12:207-8).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “River, on account of rain, some two feet above summer level…” (Journal, 12:208).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Derby’s pasture behind and beyond schoolhouse…” (Journal, 12:208-9).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Paddle up the river to Lee’s, measuring the bridges…” (Journal, 12:209-10).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Ride to Wayland, surveying the bridges…” (Journal, 12:210).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “To Billerica dam, surveying the bridges… The testimony of the farmers, etc., is that the river thirty to fifty years ago was much lower in the summer than now. Deacon Richard Heard spoke of playing when a boy on the river side of the bushes where the pads are, and of wading with great ease at Heard’s Bridge, and I hear that one Rice (of Wayland or Sudbury), an old man, remembers galloping his horse through the meadows to the edge of the river… Colonel David Heard, who accompanied me and is best acquainted of any with the details of the controversy, - has worked at clearing out the river (I think about 1820), - said that he did not know of a rock in the river from the falls near the Framingham line to perhaps the rear of Hubbard’s in Concord… Daniel Garfield, whom I met fishing on the river, and who has worked on Nine-Acre Corner and Lee’ s Bridges for fifty years or more, could remember one year when Captain Wheeler dug much mud from the river, when the water was so low that he could throw out pickerel on each side outside the bushes (where the pads now are)… Ebenezer Conant remembers when the Canal dam was built, and that before that it used to be dry at midsummer outside the bushes on each side. Lee says that about 1819 the bridge near him was rebuilt and the mud-sills taken up… Deacon Farrar thought eh hay bridge called Farrar’s Bridge was for foot-passengers only… John Hosmer tells me that he remembers Major Hosmer’s testifying that the South Bridge was carried up-stream, before the court, at the beginning of the controversy. Simonds of Bedford, who is measuring the rapidity of the current at Carlisle Bridge, says that a board with a string attached ran off there one hundred yards in fifteen minutes at the height of water (in May, and pretty high), when the Commissioners were here…” (Journal, 12:210-4).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Cooler, with a northerly wind. The pads blown up by it already show crimson, it is so strong, but this not a fall phenomenon yet” (Journal, 12:215).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Stow’s chestnut and Thaspium aurcum… Waded out thirteen rods from rock in Flint’s Pond, and was only up to my middle…” (Journal, 12:216).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Fair Haven Pond, measuring depth of river…” (Journal, 12:217-8).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Ball’s Hill, sounding river…” (Journal, 12:218-23).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Lee’s Cliff… The heart-leaf flower is now very conspicuous and pretty (3 P. M.) in that pool westerly of the old Conantum house…” (Journal, 12:223-4).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Great Meadows. P. Hutchinson says he once found a wood duck’s nest in a hollow maple by Heywood’s meadow (now by railroad), and tried to get the young as soon as hatched, but they were gone too soon for him… Bathing at Barrett’s Bay, I find it to be composed in good part of sawdust, mixed with sand…” (Journal, 12:224-6).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Clamshell by river…” (Journal, 12:226).
Thoreau also writes to David Heard:
You did not give me any data concerning the Town or Causeway Bridge - that is the old wooden one - whether it was longer than the present one - &c By the vote of the Committee I am requested “To learn, if possible, the time of erection of each bridge, and if any abutments have been extended since the building of any bridge, & when.” I think you told me that the stone one was built about 10 years ago.
I have done with your map, and, if you so direct, will leave it with Dr. Reynolds.
Henry D. Thoreau
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Paddle up river and sound a little above Fair Haven Pond…” (Journal, 12:227-30).
Thoreau writes in his journal: 8 A. M. - Take boat at Fair Haven Pond and paddle up to Sudbury Causeway, sounding the river… H. Buttrick says he has shot a meadow-hen much larger than the small one here…” (Journal, 12:230-2).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Assabet Bath… In the evening, the moon being about full, I paddle up the river to see the moonlight and hear the bullfrogs… I see at 9.30 P. M. a little brood of four or five barn swallows, which have quite recently left the nest, perched close together for the night on a dead willow twig in the shade of the tree, about four feet above the water…” (Journal, 12:235-6).
Thoreau writes in his journal on 14 July: “Yesterday (the 13th) Frank Adams brought me a bird’s nest and egg from an apple tree near the road by Addison Fay’s house” (Journal, 12:237).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - Sounded river from Ball’s Hill (i. e. off Squaw [?] Harbor) to Atkins’s boat-house corner…” (Journal, 12:236-7).
16 and 18 July. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Afternoons, I sounded the Assabet as far up as the stone bridge” (Journal, 12:238).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “One tells me that he stopped at Stedman Buttrick’s on the 10th, and found him sitting under a cherry tree ringing a bell, in order to keep the birds off!… Nathan Hosmer remembers that when the two new stone piers at Hunt’s Bridge were built, about 1820, one Nutting went under water to place the stones, and he was surprised to see how long he would remain under about this business… N. Barrett says that he has formerly cut six cocks of hay on his bar” (Journal, 12:241-2).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “The little Holbrook boy showed me an egg which I unhesitatingly pronounced a peetweet’s, given him by Joe Smith… Humphrey Buttrick says he finds snipes’ nests in our meadows oftener than woodcocks’. P. M. - To Eddy Bridge. Abel Hosmer says that the Turnpike Company did not fulfill their engagement to build a new bridge over the Assabet in 1807; that the present stone bridge was not built till about the time the Orthodox meeting-house was built. (That was in 1826.) Benjamin says it was built soon after the meeting-house, or perhaps 1827, and was placed some fifty feet higher up-stream than the old wooden one… Jacob Farmer tells me that he remembers that when about twenty-one years old he and Hildreth were bathing in the Assabet at the mouth of the brook above Winn’s, and Hildreth swam or waded across to a sandbar (now the island there), but the water was so deep on that bar that he became frightened, and would have been drowned if he had not been dragged out and resuscitated by others…” (Journal, 12:244-7).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Assabet, above factory… Harrington has what he calls his Elm Hole, where he thinks he finds the old bed of the river some ten rods from the present…” (Journal, 12:247-8).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Start just before 8 A. M. and sail to the Falls of Concord River… At Hills’ Bridge we begin to find ourselves shut in by hills, and the character of the shores is fairly changed… We launched about 12 o’clock (having got to the Falls about eleven), sitting on the largest rocky islet there, which, as I remember, may have been four to six rods long, but though it was not six feet above the water, if so much, there was no trace of the water ever having washed over it… A carpenter who lives (?) at Billerica Corner says the water stood all around the nearest inhabited two-story house to the bridge last spring, so that you could go round it in a boat…: (Journal, 12:248-56).
Concord, Mass. Thoreau writes in his journal: “The Rice boy brings me what he thought a snipe’s egg, recently taken from a nest in the Sudbury meadows… P. M. - Water three and a half inches above summer level. I measure the rapidity of the river’s current…” (Journal, 12:258).
Concord, Mass. Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Great Meadows…” (Journal, 12:258-9).
Baltimore, Md. Lucas Brothers writes to Thoreau:
Mr Henry D. Thoreau
We enclose Ten dollars, Rockland Bank, in settlement of your bill of 21st inst
Please acknowledge & oblige
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Fair Haven Hill shore…” (Journal, 12:260-2).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “A. M. - On river to ascertain the rate of the current… P. M. - Left boat at Rice’s Bend. I spoke to him of the clapper rail…” (Journal, 12:262-5).
Thoreau also writes to William A. Wilson:
Mr. Wm. A. Wilson
I send you by the same mail with this a copy of A Week on the Concord & Merrimack Rivers. The price in $1.25. The change can be sent in postage stamps. I have no copies of “Walden” to spare; and I learn that it is out of print.
Henry D. Thoreau
P. S. These are the only books I have published.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “7.30 A. M. - Up river. C. [William Ellery Channing] and I, having left our boat at rice’s Bend last night, walk to it this forenoon on our way to Saxonville… A man fishing at the Ox-Bow said without hesitation that the stone-heaps were made by the sucker, at any rate that he had seen them made by the sucker in Charles River, - the large black sucker (not the horned one). Another said that the water rose five feet above its present level at the bridge on the edge of Framingham, and showed me about the height on the stone…” (Journal, 12:265-71).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “6 A. M. - River is at summer level… Now, at 5 P. M., the river has risen an inch and a half since 6 A. M., though we have not had a drop of rain for three days…” (Journal, 12:272-3).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “I try the current above Dodd’s…” (Journal, 12:273-5).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “6 A. M. - River fallen one inch since 2.30 P. M. yesterday… P. M. - I see two or three birds which I take to be rose-breasted grosbeaks of this year… Warren Miles tells me that in mowing lately he cut in two a checkered “adder,” - by his account it was the chicken snake, - and there was in its stomach a green snake, dead and partly digested, and he was surprised to find that they ate them…” (Journal, 12:175-8).
Ralph Waldo Emerson writes to Elizabeth Hoar: “Henry T. occupies himself with the history of the river, measure it, weights it, & strains it through a colander to all eternity, I may say of such an immortal. Ellery C., to pass the time, goes with H to the river; and is fond of making elegant presents” (The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 8:622; MS, Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, N.Y.).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - Up Assabet… Rice has had a little experience once in pushing a canal-boat up Concord river…” (Journal, 12:279-81).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Minott says that some used to wonder much at the windings of the Mill Brook and could not succeed in accounting for them, but his Uncle Ben Prescott settled the difficulty by saying that a great eel came out of Flint’s Pond and rooted its way through to the river and so made the channel of the Mill Brook…” (Journal, 12:281-2).
11 August. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “A. M. - Up Assabet to stone bridge…” (Journal, 12:283-4).
14 August. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Barrett’s Bar… David Heard says that the cattle liked the pipes so well that they distinguished their rustle from that of other grass as he was bringing them to them, and were eager to get them…” (Journal, 12:284-7).
21 August. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - Walk over the Great Meadows and observe how dry they are…” (Journal, 12:288-9).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Riding to the factory, I see the leaves of corn, planted thick for fodder, so rolled by the drought that I mistook one row in grass for some kind of rush or else reed, small and terete…” (Journal, 12:289-90).
Boston, Mass. Hobart & Robbins writes to Thoreau:
Mr Henry D. Thoreaux Concord, Mass.
Please send by return Express 6 lbs best Black Lead & Enclosed please find Nine Dollars to pay for the same -
Send a receipt.
Yrs Resp’y &c
Hobart & Robbins
23 August. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Laurel Glen to see the effect of the frost of the 17th (and perhaps 18th)…” (Journal, 12:290-1).
24 August. Concord, Mass.
25 August. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Copious rain at last, in the night and during the day. A. M. - Mountain-ash berries partly turned…” (Journal, 12:292).
Thoreau also writes probably to George Thatcher:
Mother unites with me in assuring Charles Benjamin & Caleb, that we shall be happy to see them, & trust that they will not be in a hurry to go hence to Peterboro, but will first exhaust at their leisure whatever entertainment the dull town may afford. Accommodations will be provided for them at any rate, and such visitors as come later must take their chance. The prospect is that Concord will not be herself that week. I fear it will be more like Discord. Thank fortune, the camp will be nearly 2 miles west of us; yet the scamps will be “all over the lot.” The very anticipation of this muster has greatly increased the amount of travel past our house, for a month; & now, at last, whole houses have begun to roll that way. I fear that we shall have no melons to speak of for either friends or foes, unless perchance the present rain may revive them, for we are in the midst of a severe drought. Sophia is on a short visit to Miss Swift in Roxbury. Please let aunts know that their letter to her reached us yesterday, & that we shall expect them muster [indecipherable word]. We hope that Aunt Jane will be able to travel without inconvenience. I believe that the soldiers will come over the road on Tuesday; & I hear that cars will be run between Boston & Concord at very short intervals on the days of the muster.
I should think that you might have a very pleasant journey to New Brunswick, & for my own part, I would rather go to where men will be mustered less thickly than they will be hereabouts next month.
Edward Hoar, with wife & sister, leave Liverpool for home the 27 inst.
I know the fatigue of much concentrating, especially of drawing accurate plans. It is the hardest work I can do. While following it, I need to go to Moosehead every afternoon, & camp out every night.
Henry D. Thoreau
26 August. Concord, Mass.
28 August. Concord, Mass.
29 August. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “I hear in the street this morning a goldfinch sing part of a sweet strain. It is so cool a morning that for the first time I move into the entry to sit in the sun… P. M. - To Easterbrooks Country…” (Journal, 12:301-3).
30 August. Concord, Mass.
31 August. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Fair Haven Hill. Was caught in five successive showers, and took refuge in Hayden’s barn, under the cliffs, and under a tree… There was another shower in the night (at 9 P. M.), making the sixth after 1.30 P. M…” (Journal, 12:306-7).
1 September. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Saw Mill Brook and Flint’s Pond… The autumnal dandelion is a prevailing flower now, but since it shuts up in the afternoon it might not be known as common unless you were out in the morning or in a dark afternoon. Now, at 11 A. M., it makes quite a show, yet at 2 P. M. I do not notice it…” (Journal, 12:308-12).
2 September. Concord, Mass.
3 September. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “A strong wind, which blows down much fruit. R. W. E. [Ralph Waldo Emerson] sits surrounded by choice windfall pears” (Journal, 12:313).
4 September. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Well Meadow and Walden…” (Journal, 12:313-6).
5 September. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Spent a part of the forenoon in the woods in the northwest part of Acton, searching for a stone suitable for a millstone for my lead-mill” (Journal, 12:316).
Thoreau also writes to E. G. Dudley:
E. G. Dudley Esq.
I will read a lecture to your company on the 9th of October, for the compensation named. I should prefer, however, to bring one which I call “Life Misspent,” instead of “Autumnal Tints.”
Henry D. Thoreau
8 September. Concord, Mass.
10 September. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal “See wasps, collected in the sun on a wall, at 9 A. M.” (Journal, 12:318).
11 September. Concord, Mass.
12 September. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Moore’s Swamp and Great Fields…” (Journal, 12:320-3).
13 September. Concord, Mass.
14 September. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Cliffs via Hubbard’s Bath… They are catching pigeons nowadays. Coombs has a stand west of Nut Meadow, and he says that he has just shot fourteen hawks there, which were after the pigeons…” (Journal, 12:325-7).
15 September. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “W. Richardson says that, when looking for insects this morning under the loose bark of an apple tree on Nawshawtuct, he found a bat hanging there which measured eleven feet [sic], alar extent. P. M. - To Annursnack… The Emersons tell me that their Irishman, James, held his thumb for the calf to suck, after dipping it in a pitcher of milk, but, the milk not coming fast enough, [the calf] butted (or bunted) the pitcher to make the milk come down, and broke it… I find that Temple raises his own tobacco…” (Journal, 12:327-9).
18 September. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Grape Cliff… Rice, who walks with me, thinks that that fine early sedge grass would be a capital thing to stuff cushions and beds with, it is so tough… Dr. Bartlett handed me a paper to-day, desiring me to subscribe for a statue to Horace Mann…” (Journal, 12:333-5).
19 September. Concord, Mass.
20 September. Concord, Mass.
21 September. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “The farmers on all sides are digging their potatoes, so prone to their work that they do not see me going across lots. I sat near Coomb’s pigeon-place by White Pond…” (Journal, 12:336-9).
22 September. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “As I went past the Hunt cellar, where Hosmer pulled down the old house in the spring, I thought I would see if any new or rare plants had sprung up in that place which had so long been covered from the light…” (Journal, 12:339-42).
23 September. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “11 A. M. - River risen about fourteen inches above lowest this year…” (Journal, 12:342-3).
23 November. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes to Moncure Conway in reply to his letter of 19 November:
Let me thank you for your earthy and [word] of Capt. Brown. As for your new Dial I do not think of any Thing which I have available for your purpose & other engagements prevent my preparing it. While I wish you success I know at [word] your assistance knowing myself so well.
I can only say that if I [word] [word] on any & the [word] I will remember your magazine
To follow out your simile I find in my sea some mother o’ pearl - it may be but very few pearls as yet - may I now good wishes & more [word] and [word] [word?] ment -
But this will not be worth an advertisement
Daniel Ricketson writes in his journal: “Walked this P. M. with Thoreau to the Hallowell farm; returned to Thoreau’s room; plain talk, perhaps too much so” (Daniel Ricketson and His Friends, 313).
24 September. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Melvin’s Preserve… As I stood looking over a wall this afternoon at some splendid red sumach bushes, now in their prime, I saw Melvin the other side of the wall and hailed him…” (Journal, 12:344-52).
25 September. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Emerson’s Cliff… At 2 P. M. the river is sixteen and three quarters inches above my hub[?] by boat…” (Journal, 12:352-4).
26 September. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Clamshell by boat… Heavy Haynes says he has seen one or two fish hawks within a day or two…” (Journal, 12:354-6).
Thoreau also writes to H. G. O. Blake:
Mr. Blake, -
I am not sure that I am in a fit mood to write to you, for I feel and think rather too much like a business man, having some very irksome affairs to attend to these months and years on account of my family. This is the way I am serving King Admetus, confound him! If it were not for my relations, I would let the wolves prey on his flocks to their bellies’ content. Such fellows you have to deal with! herdsmen of some other king, or of the same, who tell no tale, but in the sense of counting their flocks, and then lie drunk under a hedge. How is your grist ground? Not by some murmuring stream, while you lie dreaming on the bank; but, it seems, you must take hold with your hands, and shove the wheel round. You can’t depend on streams, poor feeble things! You can’t depend on worlds, left to themselves; but you’ve got to oil them and goad them along. In short, you’ve got to carry on two farms at once, - the farm on the earth and the farm in your mind. Those Crimean and Italian battles were mere boys play, they are the scrapes into which truants get. But what a battle a man must fight everywhere to maintain his standing army of thoughts, and march with them in orderly array through the always hostile country! How many enemies there are to sane thinking! Every soldier has succumbed to them before he enlists for those other battles. Men may sit in chambers, seemingly safe and sound, and yet despair, and turn out at last only hollowness and dust within, like a Dead Sea apple. A standing army of numerous, brave, and well-disciplined thoughts, and you at the head of them, marching straight to your goal, - how to bring this about is the problem, and Scott’s Tactics will not help you to it. Think of a poor fellow begirt only with a sword-belt, and no such staff of athletic thoughts! his brains rattling as he walks and talks! These are your prætorian guard. It is easy enough to maintain a family, or a state, but it is hard to maintain these children of your brain (or say, rather, these guests that trust to enjoy your hospitality), they make such great demands; and yet, he who does only the former, and loses the power to think originally, or as only he ever can, fails miserably. Keep up the fires of thought, and all will go well.
Zouaves?-piste! How you can overrun a country, climb any rampart, and carry any fortress, with an army of alert thoughts! - thoughts that send their bullets home to heaven’s door, - with which you can take the whole world, without paying for it, or robbing anybody. See, the conquering hero comes! You fail in your thoughts, or you prevail in your thoughts only. Provided you think well, the heavens falling, or the earth gaping, will be music for yon to march by. No foe can ever see you, or you him; you cannot so much as think of him. Swords have no edges, bullets no penetration, for such a contest. In your mind must be a liquor which will dissolve the world whenever it is dropt in it. There is no universal solvent but this, and all things together cannot saturate it. It will hold the universe in solution, and yet be as translucent as ever. The vast machine may indeed roll over our toes, and we not know it, but it would rebound and be staved to pieces like an empty barrel, if it should strike fair and square on the smallest and least angular of a man’s thoughts.
You seem not to have taken Cape Cod the right way. I think that you should have persevered in walking on the beach and on the bank, even to the land’s end, however soft, and so, by long knocking at Ocean’s gate, have gained admittance at last, - better, if separately, and in a storm, not knowing where you would sleep by night, or eat by day. Then you should have given a day to the sand behind Provincetown, and ascended the hills there, and been blown on considerably. I hope that you like to remember the journey better than you did to make it. I have been confined at home all this year, but I am not aware that I have grown any rustier than was to be expected. One while I explored the bottom of the river pretty extensively. I have engaged to read a lecture to [Theodore] Parker’s society on the 9th of October next. I am off-a barberrying.
28 September. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “At Cattle-Show to-day I noticed that the ladies’ apple (small, one side green, the other red, glossy) and maiden’s-blush (good size, yellowish-white with a pink blush) were among the handsomest…” (Journal, 12:356-7).
29 September. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Down railroad and to Fair Haven Hill… Having just dug my potatoes in the garden, - which did not turn out very well, - I took a basket and trowel and went forth to dig my wild potatoes, or ground-nuts, by the railroad fence…” (Journal, 12:357-9).
30 September. Concord, Mass.
1 October. Concord, Mass.
2 October. Concord, Mass.
3 October. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Bateman’s Pond; back by hog-pasture and old Carlisle road… Looking from the hog-pasture over the valley of Spencer Brook westward, we see the smoke rising from a huge chimney above a gray roof amid the woods, at a distance, where some family is preparing its evening meal:” (Journal, 12:364-9).
4 October. Concord, Mass.
Edward Bangs writes to Thoreau:
Mr. Henry Thoreau Concord
Your aunts wish you to come by the next train to the Superior Court 1st Session to testify that the family tradition is that they & you are descended from the Orrocks which is necessary to be proved in this case vs. Miss Palleis [Pallies.]
Very truly yours
7 October. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “The pontederia seeds which I dropped into a pitcher of water have now mostly sunk. As the outside decays they become heavier than water” (Journal, 12:374).
Thoreau lectures on “Life Misspent” at the Music Hall for the Twenty-Eighth Congregational Society (Studies in the American Renaissance 1996, 304-8).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - Boston. Read a lecture to Theodore Parker’s society…” (Journal, 12:374).
Concord, Mass. Thoreau writes in his journal: “… Colder weather, and the cat’s fur grows” (Journal, 12:374).
Boston, Mass. The Boston Atlas and Daily Bee, the Boston Daily Courier, and the Banner of Light review Thoreau’s lecture of 9 October (Studies in the American Renaissance 1996, 304-6).
11 October. Concord, Mass.
13 October. Concord, Mass.
Concord, Mass. Thoreau writes in his journal: “9 A. M. - To and around Flint’s Pond with Blake [H. G. O. Blake]…” (Journal, 12:378-84).
New Bedford, Mass. Daniel Ricketson writes to Thoreau:
Friend Thoreau, -
Shall I break our long silence, silence so much more instructive than any words I may utter? Yet should my rashness procure a response from you, I, at least, may be the wiser. Solemn though the undertaking be, I would fain venture.
Well, imprimis, you have been talking, as I learn from various sources, in Boston. I hope you were understood, in some small measure, at least, though I fear not ; but this is not your business - to find understanding for your audience. I respect your benevolence in thus doing, for I esteem it one of the most gracious and philanthropic deeds, for a wise, thoughtful man, a philosopher, to attempt, at least, to awaken his fellow men from their drunken somnolence, perhaps to elevate them.
“But unimproved, Heaven’s noblest brows line vain,
No sun with plenty crowns the uncultured vale;
Where green lakes languish on the silent plain,
Death rides the billows of the western gale.”
What are we to think of a world that has had a Socrates, a Plato, a Christ for its teachers, and yet remaining in such outer darkness?
It appears to me it is only, age after age, the working over of the old original compound-man. We appear to gain nothing. A few noble, wise ones, mark the lustrums of the past - a few also will mark what we call the present. The things men rate so highly in modern times do not appear to me to be of very great value after all. What is it for a ship to cross the ocean by steam if its passengers have no godlike errand to perform? We have enough to wonder at in Nature already, why seek new wonders?
I have passed some peaceful hours of late, sawing wood by moonlight, in the field near the lane to our cow-pastures - the work does not interfere with, but rather favors meditation, and I have found some solace in the companionship of the woods near by, and the concert of their wind harps.
During my evening walks I hear the flight of passenger birds overhead, probably those of noctural habits, as I suppose others rest at this season (Night).
A small flock, only ten wild geese, passed over a few days ago. The Sylviacola coronata [Myrtle Warbler] have arrived from the north, and will remain until driven away by the severe cold. I have often seen them in the company of snow buntings about the house and during snowstorms, but they suffer and often die at such times if the storm be severe. Quails are gradually increasing, though still scarce. Last winter I saw a covey of some twelve or more near here, and occasionally have heard their whistle during the early part of the past summer.
I made the acquaintance of your friends, Blake [H. G. O. Blake] and Brown, [Theophilus Brown] very favorably at the Middleborough ponds, last June, on their way to Cape Cod. I had, however, seen Mr. Blake once before.
I should be happy to have a visit from you. Can you not come soon?
I have passed through some deep experiences since I last saw you. We are getting nearer. Is there not such a fact as human companionship? I need not add how much I owe you, and that I remain, faithfully your friend,
Bluebirds are still here, and meadow-larks are tuneful.
(The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau, 560-1)
15 October. Concord, Mass.
16 October. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - Paddle to Puffer’s and thence walk to Ledum Swamp and Conant’s Wood… Where we landed in front of Puffer’s, found a jug which the haymakers had left in the bushes… The ledum smells like a bee, - that peculiar scent they have. C., [William Ellery Channing] too, perceives it…” (Journal, 12:388-96).
17 October. Concord, Mass.
18 October. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Rains till 3 P. M., but is warmer. P. M. - To Assabet, front of Tarbell’s…” (Journal, 12:399-400).
Concord, Mass. Thoreau writes in his journal: “One comment I heard of by the postmaster of this village on the news of Brown’s [John Brown] death: ‘He died as the fool dieth.’ I should have answered this man, ‘He did not live as the fool liveth, and he died as he lived’… It galls me to listen to the remarks of craven-hearted neighbors who speak disparagingly of Brown because he resorted to violence, resisted the government, threw his life away!… C. [William Ellery Channing] says that he saw a loon at Walden the 15th. P. M. - To Lee’s Cliff…” (Journal, 12:400-10).
Worcester, Mass. Theophilus Brown writes to Thoreau:
The book came duly to hand, and as it was not for me, I intend to send you the money for it in this note -
Blake [H. G. O. Blake] must speak for himself and not for me when speaking of that mountain walk of ours. I enjoyed it well enough, and ought to be ashamed of myself that I did, perhaps, since it yielded me so little.
Our Cape Cod walk salts down better with me, & yet there wasn’t much salt in that, - enough to save it perhaps, but not enough of the sea & sand & sky. The good things I got in it were rather incidental - did not belong to the sea, But I did get some glimpses of the sea. I remember a smoke we had on a little barren knoll where we heard the plover, in North Dennis, in the twilight after a long & hot days walk. We heard the pounding of the surf against a shore twenty miles off (so said the man at whose house we passed the night, - ) and we were expecting to arrive there the next day.
I have been in the habit of thinking our journey culminated in that smoke, if it did’nt end there, for, though we arrived at the beach the next day according to programme & found the thirty miles stretch of it, with its accompaniments too large to complain of, yet - our anticipations were immense. But now in thinking of it the actual sea & sky loom up larger, while our smoke & dreams - hold their own pretty well -
20 October. Concord, Mass.
21 October. Concord, Mass.
22 October. Concord, Mass.
28 October. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Walnuts commonly fall, and the black walnuts at Smiths’ are at least half fallen…” (Journal, 12:439-40).
30 October. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau lectures on “The Character and Actions of Capt. John Brown” at the First Parish Meetinghouse (Studies in the American Renaissance 1996, 308-14).
Concord, Mass. A. Bronson Alcott writes in his journal: “Thoreau reads a paper of his on John Brown, his virtues, spirit, and deeds, at the Vestry this evening, and to the delight of his company I am told - the best that could be gathered on short notice, and among them Emerson. I am not informed in season, and have my meeting at the same time. I doubt not of its excellence and eloquence, and wish he may have opportunities of reading it elsewhere” (The Journals of Bronson Alcott, 320).
Concord, Mass. Thoreau writes to H. G. O. Blake:
I spoke to my townsmen last evening on “The character of Capt. Brown, now in the clutches of the slaveholder.” I should like to speak to any company in Worcester who may wish to hear me, & will come, if only my expenses are paid. I think that we should express ourselves at once, while Brown is alive. The sooner the better. Perhaps [T. W.] Higginson may like to have a meeting.
Wednesday evening would be a good time.
The people here are deeply interested in the matter.
Let me have an answer as soon as may be.
Henry D. Thoreau
[The following was written in pencil]
Boston, Mass. Charles W. Slack writes to Thoreau by telegraph:
To Henry D. Thoreau or Ralph Waldo Emerson. Concord.
P. S. I may be engaged toward the end of the week.
Thoreau must lecture for Fraternity Tuesday Evening - Douglas [Frederick Douglass] fails - Letter mailed
Charles W. Slack
Boston, Mass. Thoreau lectures on “The Character and Actions of Capt. John Brown” at Tremont Temple (Studies in the American Renaissance 1996, 314-20).
Concord, Mass. A. Bronson Alcott writes in his journal: “Thoreau goes to read his lecture tonight at the Music Hall, and again on Monday night at Worcester” (The Journals of Bronson Alcott, 320).
Boston, Mass. The Liberator later notes Thoreau’s lecture:
FIFTH FRATERNITY LECTURE. The programme of this course of lectures had promised one by Frederick Douglass of Rochester, N. Y., as the fifth in order. - It was understood that he was to discourse on “Self-made Men,” a subject on which he is well qualified to speak. Mr. Douglass, however, did not appear, and the explanation of his absence by the committee gave us to understand that he does not now consider himself safe in any part of the United States, in consequence of his alleged implication in the Harper’s Ferry invasion.
The vacancy thus made at a late hour had been filled by the voluntary offer of Henry D. Thoreau of Concord, who took for his subject one in whom all mankind are now interested, “Captain John Brown of Ossawattomie.” This exciting theme seemed to have awakened “the hermit of Concord” from his usual state of philosophic indifference, and he spoke with real enthusiasm for an hour and a half, giving much information respecting Captain Brown’s earlier life, and bestowing hearty praise upon the enterprize at Harper’s Ferry, and as hearty dispraise upon the apathy and reserve shown in regard to it by those portions of the periodical press which did not take the equally shameful ground of direct censure.
Mr. Thoreau took special pains to include the Liberator is the censure which he had at first bestowed upon the press generally. In doing this, he ignored the fact that Mr. Garrison has bestowed high and hearty eulogy upon Captain Brown, representing him as not only (judged from the ordinary stand-point of patriotism) superior in nobleness to the heroes of the American Revolution, but entitled to the higher praise of faithfully practising towards the most oppressed people of our country the lessons of the Golden Rule; and, moreover, he distorted Mr. Garrison’s first statement, (made on receipt of the first day’s telegraphic reports,) that the attempt was apparently an insane one, into a charge that he had represented Captain Brown as insane.
A very large audience listened to this lecture, crowding the hall half an hour before the time of its commencement, and giving hearty applause to some of the most energetic expressions of the speaker.
C. K. W. [Charles King Whipple ?]
New York, N.Y. The New-York Daily Tribune later notes Thoreau’s lecture: “Henry D. Thoreau delivered a lecture on John Brown at the Tremont Temple on Tuesday evening. It was one of the ‘Fraternity’ course. There were some just and striking remarks in it, and many foolish and ill-natured ones. Sneers at the Republicans were quite frequent. men like Gne. Wilson, and editors like those of THE TRIBUNE and The Liberator, who, while the lecturer was cultivating beans and killing woodchucks on the margin of Walden pond, made a public opinion strong enough on Anti-Slavery grounds to tolerate a speech from him in defense of insurrection, deserve better treatment than they receive from some of the upstart Abolitionists of the day” (New-York Daily Tribune, vol. 19, no. 5,787 (9 November 1859):3).
3 November. Worcester, Mass.
Thoreau lectures on “The Character and Actions of Capt. John Brown” at Washburn Hall (Studies in the American Renaissance 1996, 320-4).
4 November. Concord, Mass.
A. Bronson Alcott writes in his journal: “Thoreau calls and reports about the reading of his lecture on Brown at Boston and Worcester. Thoreau has good right to speak fully his mind concerning Brown, and has been the first to speak and celebrate the hero’s courage and magnanimity. It is these which he discerns and praises. The men have much in common: the sturdy manliness, straight-forwardness and independence. It is well they met, and that Thoreau saw what he sets forth as no one else can. Both are sons of Anak, the dwellers in Nature - Brown taking more to the human side and driving straight at institutions whilst Thoreau contents himself with railing at them and letting them otherwise alone. He is the proper panegyrist of the virtues he owns himself so largely, and so comprehend sin another” (The Journals of Bronson Alcott, 321).
5 November. Boston, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “In Boston. - The first Indian-summer day, after an unusually cold October. Sat at the end of Long Wharf for coolness, but it was very warm, with scarcely a breath of wind, and so thick a haze that I could see but little way down the harbor” (Journal, 12:441).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “The river is quite low, about four inches lower than the hub [?] I used in the summer, or lower than before, this year… C. [William Ellery Channing] thinks that he saw bats last evening” (Journal, 12:441).
Concord, Mass. A. Bronson Alcott writes to Daniel Ricketson: “Thoreau has just come back from reading a revolutionary Lecture on John Browne of Ossawatomee [sic], a hero and Martyr after his own heart and style. It was received here by our Concord folks with great favor, and he won praise for it also at Worcester. I wish the towns might become his auditors throughout the states and country” (The Letters of Amos Bronson Alcott, 306).
8 November. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Nut Meadow and Fair Haven Hill… Coombs says that quite a little flock of pigeons bred here last summer…” (Journal, 12:441-2).
9 November. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “A fine Indian-summer day. Have had pleasant weather about a week” (Journal, 12:442).
A. Bronson Alcott writes in his journal: “Thoreau calls again. He thinks someone for the North should see Gov. Wise, or write concerning Capt. Brown’s character and motives, to influence the Governor in his favor. Thoreau is the man to write, or Emerson; but there seems little or no hope of pleas for mercy. Slavery must have its way, and Wise must do its bidding on peril of his own safety with the rest” (The Journals of Bronson Alcott, 321).
10 November. Concord, Mass.
11 November. Concord, Mass.
12 November. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “The first sprinkling of snow, which for a short time whitens the ground in spots…” (Journal, 12:443).
15 November. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Ledum Swamp. I look up the river from the railroad bridge…” (Journal, 12:443-7).
17 November. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “I go down the railroad to Andromeda Ponds this afternoon. Captain Hubbard is having his large wood - oak and white pine, on the west of the railroad this side the pond - cut… I have been so absorbed of late in Captain Brown’s [John Brown] fate as to be surprised whenever I detected the old routine running still, - met persons going about their affairs indifferent…” (Journal, 12:447-8).
18 November. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “A fog this morning and yesterday morning, lasting till about 10 A. M…” (Journal, 12:448-9).
Concord, Mass. A. Bronson Alcott writes in his journal: “Ricketson [Daniel Ricketson] from New Bedford arrives. He and Thoreau take supper with us. Thoreau talks truly and enthusiastically about Brown, denouncing the Union, President, the States, and Virginia particularly. Wishes to publish his late speech, and has been to Boston publishers, but failed to find any to print it for him” (The Journals of Bronson Alcott, 322).
Daniel Ricketson writes in his journal: “Left home for Concord at 10½ A. M., arrived at Concord at 5½ P. M., leaving cars at Concord depot, walked down to the village bookstore (Mr. Stacey’s) where I found Mr. Alcott, by whose invitation I was going to visit him; also saw Thoreau at the post-office. Received with much kindness by Mrs. Alcott and her two daughters, Louisa and Abby. Spent the evening with Mr. A. in his library, where he has a wood fire on the hearth” (Daniel Ricketson and His Friends, 312).
Cincinnati, Ohio. Moncure Conway writes to Thoreau:
My dear Mr. Thoreau,
I trust that you also, with Emerson, [Ralph Waldo Emerson] will be moved by old and high memories to help us in starting out here a new incarnation of the old Dial. It certainly will prove worthy to be so called if we can obtain help from R. W. E. yourself and others. We will not be able at once to pay contributors, and the Editor expects to lose; but in due time we shall reap if we faint not. Will you not give the babe a birth-present? One of those fresh wood-zephyrs that fan our fevered hearts and bring health to blasé cheeks! You are the man, the only man, who can make green grass and flowers grow upon the pages of our Dial.
What is my chief wish of you? It is to have you interested in us: willing to send us a love-gift of thought: noting, now and then on paper, the form and [?] of some pearls, which I know you are constantly finding in that Oriental Sea of yours upstairs. So now Mr. Pearl-Diver, I await your word of cheer! May I say that I shall be assisted by H. D. Thoreau of Concord? Pray let me hear at once.
(The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau, 564-5)
Thoreau replies 23 November.
M. D. Conway.
20 November. Concord, Mass.
Daniel Ricketson writes in his journal: “I walked this P. M. with Thoreau to Walden Pond land the woods around. Took tea with T. and called upon Channing [William Ellery Channing] and smoked a pipe with him; returned to Thoreau’s, met Edmund Hosmer, an intelligent farmer, there. Talked on religious faith, &c., returned to Mr. Alcott’s [A. Bronson Alcott] late in the evening” (Daniel Ricketson and His Friends, 312).
21 November. Concord, Mass.
22 November. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “C. [William Ellery Channing] says that he saw to-day a procession of minnows (one to two inches long) some three or four feet wide, about forty abreast, passing slowly along northerly, close to the shore, at Wharf Rock, Flint’s Pond…” (Journal, 12:449).
Daniel Ricketson writes in his journal: “Called after breakfast on Channing, [William Ellery Channing] who left me below in his kitchen and went to his room in the attic. Proceeded to Mr. Alcott’s, [A. Bronson Alcott] dined with Thoreau, spent part of the afternoon with him at Mr. Alcott’s in the library, walked after with t. in the dark as far as the Hosmer farm, sat with Thoreau in his room talking till 11” (Daniel Ricketson and His Friends, 313).
24 November. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “See, on the railroad-slope by the pond, and also some days ago, a flock of goldfinches eating the seed of the Roman wormwood…” (Journal, 12:450).
Thoreau also writes to Calvin Greene:
The lectures which you refer to were reported in the newspapers, after a fashion, the last one in some half dozen of them, and if I possessed one, or all, of those reports I would send them to you, bad as they are. The best, or at least longest one of the Brown Lecture was in the Boston “Atlas & Bee” of Nov 2nd. Maybe half the whole. There were others in the Traveller - the Journal &c of the same date.
I am glad to know that you are interested to see my things. & I wish that I had them in a printed form to send to you. I exerted myself considerably to get the last discourse printed & sold for the benefit of Brown’s family - but the publishers are afraid of pamphlets & it is now too late.
I return the stamps which I have not used.
I shall be glad to see you if I ever came your way
Henry D. Thoreau
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - Paddle to Baker Farm… Landing at the ash tree above the railroad, I thought I heard the peculiar not of grackles toward the willow-row across the field, and made a memorandum of it, never doubting; but soon after I saw some farmers at work there, and found that it was the squeaking of the wheel that rolled before their plow… We hear the clattering sound of two ducks - which rise and fly low at first - before we can see them though quite far off by the side of the pond…” (Journal, 12:450-1).
26 November. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - Walk over the Colburn Farm wood-lot south [of] the road…” (Journal, 12:451-3).
27 November. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Colburn Farm wood-lot north of c. Hill…” (Journal, 12:453-4).
28 November. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To E. Hubbard’s Wood. Goodwin tells me that Therien, who live in a shanty of his own building and alone in Lincoln, uses for a drink only checkerberry-tea… Saw Abel Brooks there [Hubbard’s Wood] with a half-bushel basket on his arm…” (Journal, 12:455-6).
A. Bronson Alcott writes in his journal: “Evening, at Town Hall. A meeting called there to make arrangements for celebrating by appropriate services the day of Capt. Brown’s execution. Simon Brown, Dr. Bartlett, Keyes, Emerson, and Thoreau address the meeting, and Emerson, Thoreau, Brown, and Keyes are chosen a committee to prepare the services proper for the occasion. Sanborn is present also. Thoreau has taken a prominent part in this movement, and arranged for it chiefly” (The Journals of Bronson Alcott, 322).
29 November. Concord, Mass.
30 November. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “I am one of a committee of four, viz. Simon Brown (Ex-Lieutenant-Governor), R. W. Emerson, myself, and John Keyes (late High Sheriff), instructed by a meeting of citizens to ask liberty of the selectmen to have the bell of the first parish tolled at the time Captain Brown [John Brown] is being hung, and while we shall be assembled in the town house to express our sympathy with him… Dr. Bartlett tells me that Rockwood Hoar said he ‘hoped no such foolish thing would be done,’ and he also named
Stedman Buttrick, John Moore, Cheney (and others added Nathan Brooks, senior, and Francis Wheeler) as strongly opposed to it… I see in E. Hubbard’s gray oak wood, four rods from the old wall line and two or three rods over the brow of the hill, an apparent downy woodpecker’s nest in a dead white oak stub some six feet high…” (Journal, 12:457-8).
A. Bronson Alcott writes in his journal: “See Thoreau again, and Emerson, concerning the Brown Services on Friday. We do not intend to have any speeches made on the occasion, but have selected appropriate passages from Brown’s words, form the poets, and from the Scriptures, to be read by Thoreau, Emerson, and myself, chiefly; and the selection and arrangement is ours” (The Journals of Bronson Alcott, 322).
1 December. Concord, Mass.
A. Bronson Alcott writes in his journal: “Again see Thoreau and Emerson. It is arranged that I am to read the Martyr Service, Thoreau selections from the poets, and Emerson from Brown’s words. Sanborn has written a dirge, which will be sung, and Rev. Mr. Sears from Wayland will offer prayer. I copy the passages I am to read from the Book of Solomon’s Wisdom, David’s Psalms, also from Plato” (The Journals of Bronson Alcott, 322).
2 December. Concord, Mass.
A. Bronson Alcott writes in his journal: “2 P.M. Meet at Town Hall. Our townspeople present mostly, and many from the adjoining towns. Simon Brown, Chairman. Readings by Thoreau, Emerson, Bowers, Keyes, and Alcott, and Sanborn’s dirge is sung by the company, standing. The bells are not rung. I think not more than one or two of Brown’s friends wished them to be. I did not. It was more fitting to signify our sorrow in the subdued tones, and silent, then by any clamor of steeples and the awakening of angry feelings. Any conflict is needless as unamiable between neighbors, churchmen, and statesmen. The services are affecting and impressive; distinguished by modesty, simplicity, and earnestness; worthy alike of the occasion and of the man” (The Journals of Bronson Alcott, 323).
3 December. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Rode with a man this forenoon who said that if he did not clean his teeth when he got up , it made him sick all the rest of the day, but he had found by late experience that when he had not cleaned his teeth for several days they cleaned themselves… X [Francis Jackson Merriam] was betrayed by his eyes, which had a glaring film over them and no serene depth into which you could look. Inquired particularly the way to Emerson’s and the distance, and when I told him, said he knew it as well as if he saw it…” (Journal, 13:3-4).
4 December. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Awake to winter, and snow two or three inches deep, the first of any consequence” (Journal, 13:4).
5 December. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - Down Turnpike to Smith’s Hill. Rather hard walking in the snow… Returning from the post-office at early candle-light, I noticed for the first time this season the peculiar effect of lights in offices and shops seen over the snowy streets, suggesting how withdrawn and inward the life in the former, how exposed and outward in the latter…” (Journal, 13:5-7).
6 December. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Walden and Baker Bridge, in the shallow snow and mizzling rain… Returning up the railroad, I see the great tufts of sedge in Heywood’s meadow curving over like locks of the meadow’s hair, above the snow… The death of Irving, which at any other time would have attracted universal attention, having occurred while these things were transpiring, goes almost unobserved…” (Journal, 13:8-14). Washington Irving died 28 November.
8 December. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “I go to Pleasant Meadow, - or rather toward the sun, for the glaze shows best so…” (Journal, 13:14-18).
9 December. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “The river and Fair Haven Pond froze over generally (I see no opening as I walk) last night, though they were only frozen along the edges yesterday… I observe at mid-afternoon, the air being very quiet and serene, that peculiarly softened western sky, which perhaps is seen commonly after the first snow has covered the earth…” (Journal, 13:18-19).
10 December. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Get in my boat, in the snow. The bottom is coated with a glaze” (Journal, 13:19).
11 December. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “At 2 P. M. begins to snow, and snows till night… See one sheldrake in Walden…” (Journal, 13:19-20).
A. Bronson Alcott writes in his journal: “Thoreau calls, takes supper, and passes some hours, conversing on Emerson and the times. Tells me something of Redpath, [James Redpath] the Englishman, who has been here during the past week gathering information for his Life of Brown. His book, The Roving Editor, speaks freely of slavery and of the South. Perhaps the portraits are overdrawn sometimes, and tempered with prejudices unjust to all parties” (The Journals of Bronson Alcott, 323).
12 December. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Pine Hill and round Walden… As I talked with the woodchopper who had just cleared the top of Emerson’s [Ralph Waldo Emerson] I got a new view of the mountains over his pile of wood in the foreground…” (Journal, 13:20-2).
13 December. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - On river to Fair Haven Pond… There is now, at 2.30 P. M., the melon-rind arrangement of the clouds…” (Journal, 13:22-7).
14 December. Concord, Mass
Thoreau writes in his journal: “At 2 P. M. begins to snow again. I walk to Walden…” (Journal, 13:27-8).
15 December. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Slight as this snow was, these drifts now extend back four or five feet and as high as the wall, on the north side of the Corner Bridge road… I hear from J. [?] Moore that one man in Bedford has got eighteen minks the last fall… M. Miles, who came to collect his wood bill to-day, said, when I objected to the small size of his wood, that it was necessary to split wood fine in order to cure it well, that he had found that wood that was more than four inches in diameter would not dry, and moreover a good deal depended on the manner in which it was corded up in the woods…” (Journal, 13:28-9).
17 December. Concord, Mass.
18 December. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Assabet opposite Tarbell’s, via Abel Hosmer’s…” (Journal, 13:33-4).
19 December. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Farmer has lately been riding about in the neighboring towns west and northwest, as far as Townsend, buying up their furs, - mink, musquash, and fox. Says that Stow is as good a town for mink as any, but none of them have more musquash than Concord…” (Journal, 13:34-5).
20 December. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “A. M. - To T. Wheeler wood-lot…” (Journal, 13:36).
21 December. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “A. M. - A fine winter day and rather mild. Ride to T. Wheeler’s lot…” (Journal, 13:36-7).
22 December. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Flint’s Pond. C. [William Ellery Channing] is inclined to walk in the road, it being better walking there, and says: ‘You don’t wish to see anything but the sky to-day and breathe this air’… Three men are fishing on Flint’s Pond, where the ice is seven or eight inches thick…” (Journal, 13:37-40).
23 December. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Ball’s Hill across meadow. The gardener at Sleepy Hollow says that they caught many small pouts and some pickerel that weighed half a pound (!) in the little pond lately dug there… I ascended Ball’s Hill to see the sun set…” (Journal, 13:40-5).
24 December. Concord, Mass.
25 December. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - To Carlisle Bridge on river and meadow…” (Journal, 13:47-53).
26 December. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. - Skate to Lee’s Bridge and there measure back, by pacing, the breadth of the river. After being uniformly overcast all the forenoon, still and moderate weather, it begins to snow very gradually, at first imperceptibly, this afternoon, - at first I thought I imagined it, - and at length begins to snow in earnest about 6 P. M., but last only a few minutes…” (Journal, 13:53-5).
27 December. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Grows cold in the evening, so that our breaths condense and freeze on the windows…” (Journal, 13:56).
28 December. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “It is remarkable that the river should so suddenly contract at Pelham Pond…” (Journal, 13:56-7).
29 December. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “A very cold morning, - about -15º at 8 A. M. at our door. I went to the river immediately after sunrise… P. M. - To Ball’s Hill, skating…” (Journal, 13:57-63).
30 December. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “I awake to find it snowing fast, but it slackens in a few hours… P. M. - Going by Dodd’s, I see a shrike perched on the tip-top of the topmost upright twig of an English cherry tree before his house, standing square on the topmost bud, balancing himself by a slight motion of his tail from time to time… I spoke to the barber to-day about that whirl of hair on the occiput of most (if not all) men’s heads…” (Journal, 13:63-5).
31 December. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Thermometer at 7.45 A. M., -1º, yet even more vapor is rising from the open water below my boat’s place than on the 29th, when it was -15º… At 10 A. M., thermometer 18º… P. M. - To the sweet-gale meadow or swamp up Assabet…” (Journal, 13:65-70).