3 January. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “The third considerable snow-storm…” (Journal, 14:303-8).
8 January. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Trees, etc., covered with a dense hoar frost…” (Journal, 14:308-9).
14 January. Concord, Mass.
15 January. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “More snow last night, and still the first that fell remains on the ground. Rice thinks that it is two feet deep on a level now…” (Journal, 14:313-4).
31 January. Baltimore, Md.
Joseph Stubbs, from the Office of The Adams Express Company, writes to Thoreau:
Mr Hy. D. Thoreau Concord
Your Pcl and Bill for Collection, $10 oo on H. A. Lucas Balto has been presented and Payment Refused
Please advise us at once what disposition we shall make of the Goods, as they are held subject to your order, and at your RISK AGAINST FIRE, AND OTHER DANGERS.
Answer on THIS SHEET.
(The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau, 605)
For the Company
The New England Farmer prints a summary of Thoreau’s “The Succession of Forest Trees”:
SOCIETY REPORTS — SUCCESSION OF FOREST TREES
The Transactions of the Middlesex Agricultural Society for the year 1860 is a well prepared document, and contains valuable information to the farmer. I notice, however, one important omission, which, in common with many of the reports of county societies, detracts much from its interest and value. It is shortly this : In not giving full statements with regard to crops entered for premiums. What we want to know is, the most successful methods of culture, with the cost attending it, the nature of the soil, its previous use, the kind of seed, the amount sowed, and the manure applied. Without such statement, the reader only knows that A. B. raised twenty-five bushels of wheat to the acre, and nothing, more.
The address of Mr. Thoreau is a very interesting one, particularly that portion which explains the process of nature, by which when a decayed pine wood is cut down, oaks and other hard woods may at once take its place. In other words, how it is that, without the aid of man, a rotation of crops in the shape of trees takes place. This is done, as he truly says, by the winds, in some cases, by the birds and by animals in others. The squirrel is a great tree-planter, the oak, the walnut and the beech are mostly planted by him. They are brought from long distances and are buried in the ground for winter use ; some are forgotten or are not wanted and they vegetate the following spring. He is, however, mistaken in supposing the planting to be carried on annually of necessity, or that “the oldest seedlings annually die.” The plants come up and throw out from two to six leaves, and continue to do so from year to year, until the pines decay or arc removed, and the light and air come to them, when they at once commence a vigorous growth. I have marked within fifteen years, hundreds of oaks in their dormant state, and have never lost sight of them. There they are, just as when I first discovered them. Others I have opened to the light and air, by clearing away the pines which shadowed them, and they are vigorously taking their places. Providence has wisely made this provision for the future. These plantations are existing all around us, with no oaks within a large circuit — they have been all sacrificed years ago, yet the clearing up of a pine grove will reveal the careful providence of nature. If no oak has ever grown in a district, none will grow, for want of seed, but once planted and germinated, it is never lost.
The squirrel is equally efficient in planting the pine seed as the acorn. The cone of a pine contains from thirty to sixty sound germinating seed. The squirrel, with his sharp teeth, cuts off the little flaps which hold them and pouches them, carrying them to his retreat, where they are lightly buried. A common chipmunk will take in his pouches or cheeks more than a hundred seeds at a time.
It is not only the pine that acts as a sentry over the oak, preparing for its future growth by the annual decay of its spikelets. The birch, to some extent, performs the same office. If you carefully look through what appears to be an entire birch cover, you will frequently find the young oaks beneath abiding the period of its more rapid decay.
R. J. F. …
MIDDLESEX AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY. — We have before us the report of the last year's doings of the Society. The Address of Mr. Thoreau, ‘On the Succession of Forest Trees,’ is given in full. We have spoken of this before, and given extracts from it. It contains, also, reports on Sheep, Poultry, Grapes, Vegetables, Bread, and Plowing loith Single Teams, extracts from which we hope to find room for hereafter. There are several other short reports of no general interest.
3 February. Concord, Mass.
William Ellery Channing writes to Mary Russell Watson: “I regret very much to say that H.D.T. has not got well and that he has now been in the house ten weeks. His trouble appears to him bronchial, the cold air brings on coughing. he thinks it a trivial thing, but he is reduced much in stature. But R[alph] W[aldo] E[merson] says there is too much insurance on his life and A[mos] B[ronson] A[lcott] says there is too much weather in him to be fatally affected. I know not, None of H.D.T’s joy’s [or] diseases are like anybody’s else, He is of a strange temper and so more difficult to treat. Thus far, I am not anxious but my loss in his confinement is indescribable” (Emerson Society Quarterly 14 (1st quarter 1959):78).
4 February. Concord, Mass.
A. Bronson Alcott writes in his journal: “Call on Thoreau and take tea. He is busied about his MSS. and hopes to be out again soon. Has been classifying and arranging his papers by subjects, as if he had a new book in mind. I wish him to compile his Atlas of Concord, for which he has rich material, and the genius; but he must work in his own ways and times, sure to give us something worth waiting for, and surprising, when he shall print a book. With eyes abroad like his Emerson’s, and Hawthorne’s, Concord life and landscapes should yield their contributions to the literature of our times and keep its good fame fresh in the memory, and fair as ever” (The Journals of Bronson Alcott, 334).
5 February. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Horace Mann brings me a screech owl, which was caught in Hastings’s barn on the meeting-house avenue… Rice brings me an oak stick with a woodpecker’s hole in it by which it reached a pupa…” (Journal, 14:314).
8 February. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Coldest day yet: -22º at least (all we can read), at 8 A. M., and, [so far] as I can learn, not above -6º all day” (Journal, 14:314).
15 February. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “A little thunder and lightning late in the afternoon. I see two flashes and hear two claps…” (Journal, 14:314-5).
17 February. Concord, Mass.
William Ellery Channing writes to Mary Russell Watson mentioning Thoreau’s sickness (Emerson Society Quarterly, no. 14 (1st quarter 1959):78).
21 February. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “I have just read a book called ‘Carolina Sports by Land and Water; including Incidents of Devil-Fishing, Wild-cat, Deer and Bear Hunting, Etc. By the Hon. Wm. Elliot’…” (Journal, 14:315-20).
Concord, Mass. Thoreau writes in his journal: “2 P. M. — It is very pleasant and warm, and the ground half bare. As I am walking down the Boston road under the hill this side Clark’s, it occurs to me that I have just heard the twitter of a bluebird… Mother hears a robin to-day…” (Journal, 14:320-1).
New Bedford, Mass. Daniel Ricketson writes to Thoreau:
Dear Thoreau, —
“The bluebird has come, now let us rejoice!
This morning I heard his melodious voice.”
But a more certain herald of spring, the pigeon woodpecker, a few of which remain with us during the winter, has commenced his refreshing call. While I sit writing with my Shanty door open I hear, too, the sweet notes of meadow-lark, which also winters here, and regales us with his song nearly every fine morning. I have seen and heard the blackbird flying over, not his song, but crackle; the redwing, I doubt not he is quite garrulous in the warmer nooks of low and open woodlands and bushy pastures. There goes the woodpecker, rattling away on his “penny trumpet!”
It is one of those exquisitely still mornings when all nature, without and within, seems at peace. Sing away, dear bluebird! My soul swells with gratitude to the great Giver of all good and beautiful things. As I go to my Shanty door to dry my ink in the sun, I see swarms of little flies in the air near by. The crows are cawing from the more distant pine-woods, where you and I and my other dear poetic friends have walked together. Now I hear the lonely whistle of the black-cap, followed by his strange counterpart in song, the “chickadee” chorus.
2 p.m. Wind S. W. Thermometer 52 deg. in shade. I suppose that you are also enjoying somewhat of this spring influence, if not as fully as we. The winter has passed away thus far quite comfortably with us, and though not severe, with a few occasional exception, yet we have had a good deal of good skating, which has been well improved by both sexes, old and young. My sons and I again made a circuit of the Middleborough ponds on the 17th December, at which we should have liked very much you company. Our river has also been frozen strong enough, and we have had several afternoons’ skating there, visiting our friends below on the Fairhaven side. it was really a cheerful sight to see the large number — sometimes a thousand or more — enjoying the pastime and recreation. Many of our young women skate well, and among them our Emma. Walton makes his own skates, and really elegant affairs are they, and he is also very agile upon them. We have a large ship building a little below us, but far enough off not to interfere with the inland quiet of my rambles along shore, which I sometimes take in foggy weather, when I suppose I am [a] little more of a Hollander than usual.
As my object was principally to announce the bluebird, which may have reached you by the time this letter shall, I will soon close. March is close at hand again, and may be here by the time you read this. It is “a welcome month to me.” I call it the month of hope, and can patiently wait for the spring flowers and the songs of birds so near by. Soon the willow will put forth its catkins, and your friends the piping or peeping frogs set up their vernal choir, so gentle and soothing to the wounded spirit, where there is also a poetic ear to listen to it.
4 p.m. I fear, after all, that this will prove rather a disjointed letter, for I have been interrupted several times in its progress. During the intervals I have been to town — helped load a hay-wagon with hay, and am just returned from a short drive with my wife and daughters. The only objects of particular attraction were the pussies or catkins on the willows along the lower part of the Nash road, and the aments of the alder, the latter not much advanced.
Now that spring is so near at hand may I not expect to see you here once more? Truly pleasant would it be to ramble about with you, or sit and chat in the Shanty or with the family around our common hearthstone.
I send you this day’s Mercury with a letter and editorial (I suppose) of [William Ellery] Channing’s.
Hoping to hear from you soon, or, what is better, to see you here, I remain,
Your welcome letter of Nov. 4th last was duly received. I regret that mine which prompted it should have proved mystical to you. We must ‘bear and forbear’ with each other.
Thoreau replies on 22 March.
28 February. Concord, Mass. 1861.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P. M. — Down Boston road under the hill… Turn in at the gate this side of Moore’s and sit on the yellow stones rolled down in the bay of a digging, and examine the radical leaves, etc., etc…” (Journal, 14:321).
A. Bronson Alcott writes in his journal: “Blake [H. G. O. Blake] and Brown [Theophilus Brown] are here. They come to see Thoreau, who has walked out with Channing [William Ellery Channing] once or twice in the last days, and seems a little better. These men have something of the disciple’s faith in their master’s thought, and come sometimes on pilgrimage to Concord for an interview with him. This confidence in persons, this love of the mind, enthusiasm for a great man’s thoughts, is a promising trait in anyone, a disposition always graceful to witness, and is far too rarely seen in our times of personal indifference, if not of confessed unbelief in Persons and Ideas. I know of nothing more creditable to Thoreau than this thoughtful regard and constancy by which he had held for years some of the best persons of his time. They are not many, to be sure, but do credit alike to him and themselves” (The Journals of Bronson Alcott, 337).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Hear that there was a flock of geese in the river last night…” (Journal, 14:321-2).
A. Bronson Alcott writes in his journal: “Thoreau calls with Barker, who is passing the winter here, having left Leominster where he has been preaching for a year or two. Thoreau is impatient with the politicians, the state of the country, the State itself, and with statesmen generally; accuses the Republican party roundly of duplicity, and ends by calling me to an account for my favorable opinions of Seward and the Administration which takes charge of the national affairs today” (The Journals of Bronson Alcott, 337).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “I just heard peculiar faint sounds made by the air escaping from a stick which I had just put into my stove… A lady tells me that she met Deacon S. of Lincoln with a load of hay, and she, noticing that as he drove under the apple trees by the side of the road a considerable part of the hay was raked off by their boughs, informed him of it…” (Journal, 14:322-4).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “C. [William Ellery Channing] says that Walden is almost entirely open to-day, so that the lines on my map would not strike any ice, but that there is ice in the deep cove… My Aunt Sophia, now in her eightieth year, says that when she was a little girl my grandmother, who lived in Keene, N. H., eighty miles from Boston, went to Nova Scotia, and, in spite of all she could do, her dog Bob, a little black dog with his tail cut off, followed her to Boston, where she went aboard a vessel. Directly after, however, Bob returned to Keene…” (Journal, 14:324-7).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “A severe, blocking-up snow-storm” (Journal, 14:328).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Mother says that her father-in-law, Captain Minott, not only used to roast and eat a long row of little wild apples, reaching in a semicircle from jamb to jamb under the andirons on the reddened hearth (I used to buy many a pound of Spanish brown at the stores for mother to redden the jambs and heart with), but he had a quart of new milk regularly placed at the head of his bed, which he drank at many draughts in the course of the night…” (Journal, 14:328-30).
Concord, Mass. Thoreau writes in his journal: “A driving northeast snow-storm yesterday and last night, and to-day the drifts are high over the fences and the trains stopped. The Boston train due at 8.30 A. M. did not reach here till five this afternoon…” (Journal, 14:330-4).
Thoreau also writes to Daniel Ricketson in reply to his letter of letter of 27 February:
The bluebirds were here the 26 of Feb. at least, which is one day earlier than your date; but I have not heard of larks nor pigeon woodpeckers.
To tell the truth, I am not on the alert for the signs of Spring, not having had any winter yet. I took a severe cold about the 3 of Dec. which at length resulted in a kind of bronchitis, so that I have been confined to the house ever since, excepting a very few experimental trips as far as the P. O. in some particularly mild noons. My health otherwise has not been affected in the least, nor my spirits. I have simply been imprisoned for so long; & it has not prevented my doing a good deal of reading & the like.
Channing [William Ellery Channing] has looked after me very faithfully — says he has made a study of my case, & knows me better than I know myself &c &c. Of course, if I knew how it began, I should know better how it would end. I trust that when warm weather comes I shall begin to pick up my crumbs. I thank you for your invitation to come to New Bedford, and will bear it in mind, but at present my health will not permit my leaving home.
The day I received your letter Blake [H. G. O. Blake] and Brown [Theophilus Brown] arrived here, having walked from Worcester in two days, though Alcott who happened in soon after could not understand what pleasure they found in walking across the country at this season when the ways were so unsettled. I had a solid talk with them for a day & a half - though my pipes were not in good order — & they went they way again.
You may be interested to hear that Alcott is at present perhaps the most successful man in the town. He had his 2d annual exhibition of all the school in the town at the Town Hall last Saturday — at which all the masters & misses did themselves great credit, as I hear, & of course reflected some on their teachers & parents. They were making their little speeches from 1 till 6 o’clock pm, to a large audience which patiently listened to the end. In the meanwhile the children mad Mr A. an unexpected present, of a fine edition of Pilgrim’s Progress & Herberts Poems — which, of course, overcame all parties. I inclose our order of exercises.
We had, last night, an old fashioned N. E. snow storm, far worse than any in the winter, & the drifts are now very high above the fences. The inhabitants are pretty much confined to their houses, as I was already. All houses are one color white with the snow plastered over them, & you cannot tell whether they have blinds or not. Our pump has another pump, its ghost, as thick as itself, sticking to one side of it. The town has sent out teams of 8 oxen each to break out the roads & the train due from Boston at 8½ am has not arrived yet (4 pm) All the passing has been a train from above at 12 m - which also was due at 8½ am. Where are the bluebirds now think you? I suppose that you have not so much snow at New Bedford, if any.
Yrs Henry D. Thoreau
Ricketson replies on 30 June.
Philadelphia, Penn. L. Johnson & Co. writes to Thoreau:
Dear Sir —
Enclosed find $2. Note on Bank of Kenduskeag to replace the one returned. Of course we were not aware that there was any thing wrong with the one you returned.
L. Johnson & Co
William Ellery Channing writes to Mary Russell Watson: “Henry is not yet out. I didn’t give him your message (I never give messages)” (Emerson Society Quarterly 14 (1st quarter 1959):78).
30 March. Concord, Mass. 1861.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “High water, — up to sixth slat (or gap) above Smith’s second post…” (Journal, 14:334-5).
31 March. Concord, Mass. 1861.
Thoreau writes to his cousin George Thatcher:
I am surprised, but at the same time a little encouraged, to hear that you have been imprisoned by a cold, like myself, most of the winter. I am encouraged, because I should like to discover that it is owing to some peculiarity in the season, rather than in my constitution. I hope that the knowledge of my sickness will be, at least an equal benefit to you. I hear that throat complaints have been very prevalent and unmanageable of late; but it is hard to come at the truth, for it is natural that we, having such complaints, should hear much more than usual about them. I may say that I have been a close prisoner ever since the 3d of December, for the very few times I have ventured out a little way, in the warmest days, just to breathe the fresh air, it has been against the advice of my friends.
However, I may say that I have been unexpectedly well, considering how confined and sedentary my life has been. I have had a good time in the house, and it is really as if nothing had happened; or only I have lost the phenomena of winter. I have been quite as busy as usual, reading and writing, and I trust that, as warm weather advances, & I get out of doors more & more, my cough will gradually cease.
My mother continues as much better as she was, though it is not prudent for her to go about the house yet. Sophia, I think, has been better than usual.
I trust that Cousin Rebecca will be better soon, & will be able to make the contemplated visit. We shall all be glad to see you in Concord at the same time, & perhaps the change of air will be of service to you.
I am glad to hear that your boys are getting along so well. One would say that the most a parent can do, is to secure for his children, as far as possible, the opportunity to become what they were intended to be; but the rest must depend on themselves. The mention of the wilderness, where you say Benjamin is, & of moose-meat, is invigorating. But I feel a good way from these things now.
The only excursion that I made last year was a very short though pleasant one to Monadnock, with my neighbor Channing. We built 2 spruce huts, and lived (in one at a time) on the rocky summit, for 6 days & 5 nights, without descending. It was an easy way to get an idea of the mountain.
As for Charles, I shall be glad, and expect, to hear ere long that he is the master of a vessel. Possibly such a position may open yet new fields of enterprise to him, such as Navigation — Exploration & Marine discovery generally. At any rate, the Captain is always nearer shore than the sailor, if there is any advantage in that, because he looks beyond his present employment.
As to the condition of the country, though Lincoln has been president for nearly a month, I continue to feel as if I lived in an interregnum, & we had no government at all. I have not heard that a single person, north or south, has as yet been punished for treason — stealing from the public treasury — or murdering on political accounts.
If the people of the north thus come to see clearly that there can be no Union between freemen & slave-holders, & vote & act accordingly, I shall think that we have purchased that progress cheaply by this revolution. A nation of 20 million of freemen will be far more respectable & powerful, than if 10 millions of slaves & slave holders were added to them.
I am only afraid that they will still remember their miserable party watchwords — that Democrats will be Democrats still, & so by their concessions & want of patriotism, keep us in purgatory a spell longer.
Accept these words from
Henry D. Thoreau
April. Concord, Mass. 1861.
Mary Mann writes to Thoreau:
Dear Mr. Thoreau,
Mrs. Josiah Quincy, a lady who reads & admires your books very much, is passing a few days with me. Will you come in and dine with us to-day — It will give her much pleasure to see you, & when your are tired of talking with ladies, Horace will be glad to have his promised visit & you shall release yourself when you please.With much regard,
We dine at one.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “A drifting snow-storm, perhaps a foot deep on an average. Pratt thought the cowslip was out the 14th” (Journal, 14:335).
William Ellery Channing writes to Mary Russell Watson: “You remember what H.D.T. says of the verse about one of the sparrows, falling without ‘our Heavenly father &c’; ‘but they do fall.’ Rather smart, that ‘do’…” (Emerson Society Quarterly 14 (1st quarter 1959):78-9).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Am surprised to find the river fallen some nine inches notwithstanding the melted snow…” (Journal, 14:335).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Round the two-mile square… Saw in a roadside gutter at Simon Brown’s barn a bird like the solitary tattler, with a long bill, which at length flew off to the river…” (Journal, 14:335-6).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Examine the pitch pines, which have been much gnawed or barked this snowy winter…” (Journal, 14:336).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “… Worm-piles in grass at Clamshell” (Journal, 14:336).
Parker Pillsbury writes to Thoreau: “A friend of mine away in New York, wishes very much a copy of each of your ‘Memoirs’ - ‘In the Woods’ and On the Rivers.’… Can you & will you cause a copy of each to meet me at the Anti-Slavery Office…” (The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau, 610).
Thoreau also writes to Parker Pillsbury:
I am sorry to say that I have not a copy of “Walden” which I can spare, and know of none, unless possibly, Ticknor & Fields have one. I send, nevertheless a copy of the “Week,” the price of which is $1.25 which you can pay at your convenience.
As for my prospective reader, I hope that he ignores Fort Sumpter, & Old Abe, & all that, for that is just the most fatal and indeed the only fatal, weapon you can direct against evil ever; for as long as you know of it, you are particeps criminis. What business have you, if you are “an angel of light,” to be pondering over the deeds of darkness, reading the New York Herald, & the like? I do not so much regret the present condition of things in this country (provided I regret it at all) as I do that I ever heard of it. I know one or 2 who have this year, for the first time, read a president’s message. Blessed are the young for they do not read the president’s message.
Blessed are they who never read a newspaper, for they shall see Nature, and through her, God.
But alas I have heard of Sumpter, & Pickens, & even of Buchanan, (though I did not read his message).
I also read the New York Tribune, but then I am reading Herodotus & Strabo, & Blodget’s Climatology, and Six Years in the Deserts of North America, as hard as I can, to counterbalance it.
By the way, Alcott is at present our most popular & successful man, and has just published a volume on “vice,” in the shape of the annual school report, which, I presume, he has sent to you.
Yours, for remembering all good things,
Henry D. Thoreau
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Going to law. I hear that Judge Minott of Haverhill once told a client, by way of warning, that two millers who owned mills on the same stream went to law about a dam, and at the end of the lawsuit one lawyer owned one mill and the other the other” (Journal, 14:337).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Horace Mann says that he killed bullfrog in Walden Pond which had swallowed and contained a common striped snake which measured one foot and eight inches in length…” (Journal, 14:337).
William Ellery Channing writes to Mary Russell Watson: “Henry’s bronchitis is very obstinate. It does not perceptibly mend; it is understood the physician advises a warmer climate. I have still confidence that Henry may recover… knowing how perfectly obstinate he also is… Henry has lost much flesh; he is intensely sensitive about cold…” (Emerson Society Quarterly 14 (1st quarter 1959):79).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Horace Mann brings me the hermit thrush” (Journal, 14:337).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Pratt collects very handsome tufts of Hepatica tribola in flower at Melrose, and the bloodroot out also there” (Journal, 14:337).
22 April. Concord, Mass. 1861.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “It was high water again about a week ago, — Mann [Horace Mann Jr.] thinks with[in] three or four inches as high as at end of winter. He obtained to-day the buffle-headed duck, diving in the river near the Nine-Acre Corner bridge…” (Journal, 14:338).
Concord, Mass. Thoreau writes in his journal: “Think I hear bay-wings. Toads ring” (Journal, 14:338).
Shrewsbury, England. Thomas Cholmondeley writes to Thoreau:
My dear Thoreau —
It is now some time since I wrote to you or heard from you but do not suppose that I have forgotten you or shall ever cease to cherish in my mind those days at dear old Concord. The last I heard about you all was from Morton who was in England about a year ago; & I hope that he has got over his difficulties & is now in his own country again. I think he has seen rather more of English country life than most Yankee tourists; & appeared to find it curious, though I fear he was dulled by our ways, for he was too full of ceremony & compliments & bows, which is a mistake here; though very well in Spain. I am afraid he was rather on pins & needles; but he made a splendid speech at a volunteer supper, & indeed the very best, some said, ever heard in this part of the country.
We are here in a state of alarm & apprehension the world being so troubled in East & West & everywhere. Last year the harvest was bad & scanty. This year, our trade is beginning to feel the events in America. In reply to the northern tariff, of course we are going to smuggle as much as we can. The supply of cotton being such a necessity to us — we must work up India & South Africa a little better.
There is war even in old New Zealand but not in the same island where my people are! Besides we are certainly on the eve of a continental blaze. So we are making merry & living while we can: not being sure where we shall be this time year.
Give my affectionate regards to your father mother & sister & to Mr Emerson & his family, & to Channing Sanborn Ricketson Blake & Morton & Alcott & Parker. A thought arises in my mind whether I may not be enumerating some dead men! Perhaps Parker is! These rumors of wars make me wish that we had got done with this brutal stupidity of war altogether; & I believe, Thoreau, that the human race will at last get rid of it, though perhaps not in a creditable way — but such powers will be brought to bear that it will become monstrous even to the French.
Dundonald declared to the last that he possessed secrets which form their tremendous character would make war impossible. So peace may be begotten from the machinations of evil.Have you heard of any good books lately? I think “Burnt Njal” good & believe it to be genuine. “Hast thou not heard (says Steinrora to Thangbrand how Thor challenged Christ to single combat & how he did not dare to fight with Thor” When Gunnar brandishes his sword three swords are seen in air. The account of Ospah & Brodir & Brians battle is the only historical account of that engagement which the Irish talk so much of; for I place little trust in OHallorans authority though the outline is the same in both.
Darwin’s origin of species may be fanciful but it is a move in the right direction.
Emersons Conduct of Life has done me good; but it will not go down in England for a generation or so.
But these are some of them already a year or two old. The book of the season is DeChaillu’s Central Africa with accounts of the Gorilla, of which you are aware that you have had a skeleton at Boston for many years. There is also on in the British Museum; but they have now several stuffed specimens at the Geographical Society’s rooms in Town.
I suppose you will have seen Sir Emerson Tennent’s Ceylon, which is perhaps as complete a book as ever was published; & a better monument to a governors-residence in a great province was never made.
We have been lately astonished by a foreign Hamlet, a supposed impossibility; but Mr Fechter does real wonders. No doubt he will visit America & then you may see the best actor in the world. He has carried out Goethes idea of Hamlet as given in the Wilhelm Meister showing him forth as a fair hair’d & fat man. I suppose you are not yet fat yet!
Yrs ever truly
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Horace Mann brings me apparently a pigeon hawk…” (Journal, 14:338).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Water in our neighbors’ cellars quite generally…” (Journal, 14:338).
3 May. Concord, Mass. 1861.
Thoreau writes to H. G. O. Blake:
I am still as much an invalid as when you & Brown were here, if not more of one, and at this rate there is danger that the cold weather may come again, before I get over my bronchitis. The Doctor accordingly tells me that I must “clear out,” to the West Indies, or elsewhere, he does not seem to care much where. But I decide against the West Indies, on account of their muggy heat in the summer, & the S. of Europe, on ac of the expense of time & money, and have at last concluded that it will be most expedient for me to try the air of Minnesota, say somewhere about St Paul. I am only waiting to be well enough to start — hope to get off within a week or 10 days.
The inland air may help me at once, or it may not. At any rate I am so much of an invalid that I shall have to study my comfort in traveling to a remarkable degree — stopping to rest &c &c if need be. I think to get a through ticket to Chicago — with liberty to stop frequently on the way, making my first stop of consequence at Niagara Falls — several days or a week, at a private boarding house — then a night or day at Detroit — & as much at Chicago, as my health may require.
At Chicago I can decide at what point (Fulton, Dunleith or another) to strike the Mississippi & take a boat to St. Paul.
I trust to find a private boarding house in one or various agreeable places in that region, & spend my time there.
I expect, and shall be prepared to be gone 3 months — & I would like to return by a different route — perhaps Mackinaw & Montreal.
I have thought of finding a companion, of course, yet not seriously, because I had no right to offer myself as a companion to anybody — having such a peculiarly private & all absorbing but miserable business as my health, & not altogether his, to attend to — causing me to stop here & go there &c &c unaccountably.
Nevertheless, I have just now decided to let you know of my intentions, thinking it barely possible that you might like to make a part or the whole of this journey, at the same time, & that perhaps your own health may be such as to be benefitted by it.
Pray let me know, if such a statement offers any temptations to you. I write in great haste for the mail & must omit all the moral.
H. D Thoreau
Thoreau writes in his journal: “H. Mann [Horace Mann Jr.] brings me two small peewees, but not yellowish about the eye and bill, and bill is also black. Also a white-throat sparrow, Wilson’s thrush, and myrtlebird” (Journal, 14:338).
Ellen Tucker Emerson writes to her sister, Edith: "I forgot to tell you. I went to Mr Thoreau's to carry him a map. He said he was going to Minnesota tomorrow, (and Father says it is all a mistake that he is to send him. Mr T. goes at his own expense, tell Cousin Mary) and Horace Mann with him, so I asked him to dine and he accepted. Father said he should buy Mr Minot's piece today. The dinner talk was 1/2 Nat. Hist. and 1/2 politics." (The Letters of Ellen Tucker Emerson, 1:250)
Thoreau writes in his journal: “A boy brings me a salamander from S. Mason’s. Sent it to Mann [Horace Mann Jr.]. What kind?” (Journal, 14:339).
Ralph Waldo Emerson writes to Thoreau:
My dear Thoreau,
I give you a little list of names of good men whom you may chance to see on your road. If you come into the neighborhood of any of them, I pray you to hand this note to them, by way of introduction, praying them, from me, not to let you pass by, without salutation, and any aid and comfort they can administer to an invalid traveler, one so dear and valued by me and all good Americans.
R. W Emerson
Thoreau writes in his journal: “In Worcester. Rode to east side of Quinsigamond Pond with Blake [H. G. O. Blake] and Brown [Theophilus Brown] and a dry humorist, a gentleman who has been a sportsman and was well acquainted with dogs…” (Journal, 14:339-40).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Worcester to Albany… Put up at the Delavan House. Not so good as costly” (Journal, 14:340).
Albany, N.Y. Horace Mann, Jr. writes to his mother: “We have just arrived here and have had our suppers. It has been raining most of the afternoon but it is clear now, and we expect a pleasant day tomorrow. Mr. Thoreau has got along very well, only he is pretty tired. We are at the Delavan House now, and shall start tomorrow at half past eight for Niagara falls. We see things much greener here than at home. Our room overlooks the railroad and also the Hudson River” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 47).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Albany to Suspension Bridge…” (Journal, 14:340).
between 15 and 19 May. Niagara Falls, N.Y.
Thoreau writes to his mother and sister (Studies in the American Renaissance 1982, 391).
Thoreau writes in his journal:
To Niagara Falls. P.m. to Goat Island. Sight of rapids, from the Bridge like sea off Cape Cod. Most imposing sight as yet. The great apparent height of the waves tumbling over the successive ledges at a distance, while the water view is broad & boundless in that direction as if you were looking out to sea, you are so low. Yet the distances are very deceptive. The most distant billow was scarcely more than ¼ mile off, though it appeared 2 miles or more. Many ducks constantly floating a little way down the rapids, then flying back & alighting again.
Water falling apparently broken into lengths of 4 or 6 or more feet. Masses of ice under edge of cliff…
Horace Mann asked me if I did not hear the sound of the falls as we went — from the Depot to the Hotel last night — but I had not — though certainly it was loud enough. I had probably mistaken it for a train coming or a locomotive letting off steam of which we hear so much at home. It sounds hardly as loud this morning though now only ⅓ of a mile off — As I sit in my chamber is as if I were surrounded by many factories in full steam.
This is quite a town with numerous hotels & stores, paved streets & &c. I imagine the falls will soon be surrounded by a city. I intend to walk down to the Falls & Goat Island after dinner.
I pay a dollar a day here & shall certainly stay here till next Monday at least.
(Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 1-2, 29-30)
Niagara Falls, N.Y. Horace Mann Jr. writes to his mother Mary:
We arrived at the Suspension Bridge last night at about half past eight, and stopped over night at the New York Central House. This morning at ten minutes of eight we came up here, two miles in the cars, and went around to find a boarding place; we went to every house but one in the town I believe and at last took a room at the American house where we are now for one dollar a day. Mr. Thoreau seems to feel better all ready, and I think that he will get better before long. I have seen the falls though I have not been to look at them yet, and I hear them roaring now all the time. I am very well. I do not know of any more to say now but I will write again in a day or two and tell you what I have seen; Good bye
Your Loving son
P.S. You must direct to Chicago next time and send the letter so directed on Saturday if possible. H.M.
(Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 47)
Mary Mann replies on 18 May.
16 May. Niagara Falls, N.Y.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “P.m. Walk on Goat Island” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 2).
17 May. Niagara Falls, N.Y.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Go to Suspension Bridge & walk up the Canadian side. Completest view of Falls from that side. Pestered by coachman &c. &c. Clifton House commands best view of any public house. P.m. To river above falls. A man calls ducks coweens & says that the other ducks & geese, both wild & tame, alight in a mist & are often carried over falls. Catch with seine black & white bass, pickerel, muskelonge, &c. & under falls eels, catfish, &c. Find Indian pottery. In woods east of town, red-bellied woodpecker” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 2)
18 May. Niagara Falls, N.Y.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Bass, 14 ¼; beech, 7 7/12; bass, 13 5/12; beech, 8 ⅙. The ducks in the rapids are apparently the long-tailed duck or ‘old squaw.’ Population of Niagara Falls about 5,000?” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 3).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Niagara Falls to Detroit. Canada agreeably diversified, i.e. more as compared with N.Y., with a view of L. Ontario quite sea like. Decidedly more level west of London, & wet, but probably rich. Great fens with bullrush (?) & wildfowl south of L. St. Clair (of which a long & fine view) on each side the Thames crossing. Saw about Thamesville a small plump bird, red head & blackish or bluish back & wings, with broad white on the rounded wings & tail - probably red headed woodpecker” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 3).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Detroit to Chicago. Very level to [Ypsilanti], then hilly to Ann Arbor, then less hilly to Lake Michigan. All hard wood or no evergreen except some white pine, when we struck Lake Michigan, on the sands from the lake partly & some larch before. Phlox varying from white to bluish & painted cup: deep scarlet & also yellow ? or was this wall flower? All very very common thru’ Michigan & the former, at least, earlier. The one dollar houses in Detroit are the Garrison & Franklin House. In Chicago, try next City Hotel (?). The prevailing shade tree in Chicago the cottonwood” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 3).
22 May. Chicago, Ill. 1861.
Thoreau writes in his journal: "Saw last p.m. high dune hills along lake & much open oak wood low but old (?) with black trunks but light foliage. Chicago about 14 ft above the lake. Sewers or main drains fall but 2 feet in a mile. Rode down Michigan Avenue. See the land loom across the lake 60 miles. Chicago built chiefly of limestone from 40 miles southwest. Lake street the chief business one. Water milky. Fencing on railroad in Canada & Michigan narrow boards. & Virginia fence. No posts & rails. Another small fenny prairie on Calumet (?) River south of Lake Michigan with that rank dry grass (not bulrush) in it" (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 3).
Robert Collyer writes to Thoreau:
You will find herein the thing you wanted to know. Mr. Whitfield is very well posted about the country and what he says is reliable. I hope you will have a pleasant time get heartily well and write a book about the great West that will be to us what your other books are. A friend, I want you to stop in Chicago as you come back if it can be possible, and be my guest a few days. I should be very much pleased to have you take a rest and feel at home with us, and if you do please write in time so that I shall be sure to be at home.
I am very truly
Collyer later recalls a visit with Thoreau:
Thirty-one years ago last June a man came to see me in Chicago whom I was very glad and proud to meet. It was Henry Thoreau, the Diogenes of this new world, the Hermit of Walden Woods. The gentle and loving misanthropist and apostle of individualism so singular and separate that I do not know where to look for his father or son — The most perfect instance to be found I think of American independence run to seed, or shall we say to a mild variety which is very fair to look on but can never sow itself for another harvest. A man of natural mind which was not enmity against God, but in a great and wide sense was subject to the law of God and to no other law. The saint of the bright ages and the own brother in this to the Saint of the dark ages, who called the wild creatures that run and fly his sisters and brothers, and was more intimate with them than he was with our human kind. The man of whom, so far as pure seeing goes, Jesus would have said “blessed are your eyes, for they see,” and whose life I want to touch this evening for some lessons that as it seems to me he alone could teach those who would learn.
As I remember Henry Thoreau then, he was something over forty years of age but would have easily passed for thirty-five, and he was rather slender, but of a fine delicate mold, and with a presence which touched you with the sense of perfect purity as newly opened roses do. It is a clear rose-tinted face he turns to me through the mist of all these years, and delicate to look on as the face of a girl; also he had great gray eyes, the seer’s eyes full of quiet sunshine. But it is a strong face, too, and the nose is especially notable, being as Conway said to me once of Emerson’s nose, a sort of interrogation mark to the universe. His voice was low, but still sweet in the tones and inflections, though the organs were all in revolt just then and wasting away and he was making for the great tablelands beyond us Westwards, to see if he could not find there a new lease of life. His words also were as distinct and true to the ear as those of a great singer, and he had Tennyson’s splendid gift in this, that he never went back on his tracks to pick up the fallen loops of a sentence as commonplace talkers do. He would hesitate for an instant now and then, waiting for the right word, or would pause with a pathetic patience to master the trouble in his chest, but when he was through the sentence was perfect and entire, lacking nothing, and the word was so purely one with the man that when I read his books now and then I do not hear my own voice within my reading but the voice I heard that day.
This is the picture I treasure of Henry Thoreau as I saw him in my own house the year before he died.
Thoreau writes in his journal:
Chicago to Dunleith. Very level 1st 20 miles — then considerably more undulating. Greatest rolling prairie without trees just beyond Winnebago. Last 40 miles in northwest of Illinois quite hilly. Mississippi backwater in Galena River 8 miles back. Water high now. Flooded thin woods with more open water behind.
Much pink, flowered, apple-like tree (thorn-like) thru Illinois, which may be the Pyrus coronaria.
Distances on the prairie deceptive. A stack of wheat straw looks like a hill in the horizon ¼ or ½ mile off, It stands out so bold and high.
Only one boat up daily from Dunleith by this line. In no case allowed to stop on the way.
Small houses without barns, surrounded & overshadowed by great stacks of wheat straw, it being threshed on the ground. Some wood always visible, but generally not large. The inhabitants remind you of mice nesting in a wheatstack which is their wealth. Women working in fields quite commonly. Fences of narrow boards. Towns are, as it were, stations on a rail-road.
Staphylea trifolia out at Dunleith.
(Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 3)
Chicago, Ill. Horace Mann Jr. writes to his mother Mary in reply to her letter of 18 May:
I have just this minute [7:45 a.m.] been down to the post office & got your letter sent on the 18th. I was very glad to hear from you. I walked around most all day yesterday and saw considerable of Chicago. I went to Mr. Clarke’s in the afternoon after considerable trouble in finding it and found he had gone out but I saw his wife. I saw him later in the afternoon in town. I saw also Mr. Carter who let me have a check for a $100 which I got turned into gold. The Chicago banks are having a good deal of trouble just now and I suppose most of them must fail so I was very lucky in getting gold as it is scarce in the city. I got it of a Mr. [B. B.] Wiley, a kind of banker, a friend of Mr. Thoreau’s. We go this morning at 9:15 A.M., so I am in a good deal of a hurry and therefore write with a pencil as it is easier. you had better direct your next letter to St. Anthony, Minnesota. I cannot write you much about what I am doing till we get where we shall stay a while. It was a beautiful day here yesterday, but it is a little cloudy this morning though I do not think it will rain. I may write to you again from the boat on the Mississippi though perhaps not till I get to St. Paul. I am very well and Mr. Thoreau is getting along very well also, excepting a little trouble that the water gives him in the bowels, though that is of no account. I do not know as I can say anything more now, so
(Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 48)
Your loving son
24 May. Prairie du Chien, Wisc.
Thoreau writes in his journal:
River, say 60 rods wide, or ¾ to 1 mile between bluffs. Broad flooded low intervals covered wiht willow in bloom (20 feet high, rather, slender) & probably other kinds & elm & white maple & cottonwood. Now boatable between the trees & probably many ducks there. Bluffs say 150 to 200 ft. high. Rarely room for a village at base of cliffs. Oaks on top (white ?) ash, elm, aspen, Bass on slope & by shore. Kingfishers, small ducks, swallows, jays, &c.
land on the shore often with a plank. Great rafts of boards & shingles 4 or 5 rods wide & 15 or 20 long. Very few small boats. Holes in sides of hill, at Cassville where lead [has been] dug. Occasionally a little lonely house on a flat or slope is often deserted. Banks in primitive condition between the towns, which is almost everywhere. Load some 9 or 10 cords of wood at a landing. 20 men in 10 minutes. Disturb a bat which flies aboard. Willow shown floating horizontally across the river. Low islands occasionally. Macgregor a new town opposite to Prairie du Chien, the smartest town on the river. Exports the most wheat of any town between St. Paul & St. Louis. Wheat in sacks. Great heaps at P. du Chien, covered at night & all over the ground & the only seed wheat.
(Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 4)
Thoreau writes in his journal: "A Sunday. Breakfast at the American House, St. Pauls & come on by stage in rain 9 miles to St. Anthony’s over the Prairie. Road muddy & sandy. At St. Pauls [they] dig their building stone out of the cellar, but apparently poor stuff. Several houses yesterday & day before surrounded by water, where they sell wood - for some 3 & 4 dollars per cord was the price advertised. Towed a flatboat-load of stone-ware pots from Dubuque to Winona. Winona a pretty place. At St. Anthony, Ranunculus rhomboideus going out of bloom. Geum triflorum (?) yellow petals! Style at present sharp! Some 2 inches long. Draba nemorosa?" (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 5).
St. Anthony, Minn. Horace Mann Jr. writes to his mother Mary:
We have just got here; it is now about quarter past eleven, & we arrived here about quarter before ten. We had a very pleasant passage up the river. The cars left Chicago, Thursday morning about ten o’clock and we got to Dunleith at 20 minutes after six in the evening and went onto the boat “Itasca” & got our suppers, then I went on shore and got a few minerals out of the bluff and also a few flowers, when I went back to the boat and went to bed. The boat left Dunleith about 8:30 in the morning and went over to Dubuque across the river, and got under way about 9 o’clock in the morning We got to Prairie du Chien about 5 P.M. and had to wait till 8 P.M. for the cars with were late; in the morning we stopped at Brownsville, the first town on the river in Minnesota, about five o’clock, and at about four in the afternoon we entered Lake Pepin, arrived at Red Wing at about 7:30 P.M. and a little while after they left there we went to bed. The boat got to St. Paul about 2 or 3 o’clock this morning; we left it at six and went up in town to the American House where we got breakfast at 7:30 and at about 8:30 we left in the stage coach in a driving rain-storm and go here as I said before. The two days which we had on the river were the most beautiful days we have had this spring, they were very warm and not a bit of wind till late yesterday afternoon when a little breeze came up and sometime in the night it commenced to rain. When the sun rose this morning I thought it was going to clear off but about seven it commenced to rain and it is raining very hard now but I guess it will clear off and be a pleasant day to-morrow.
On both sides of the Mississippi all the way from Dunleith to St. Paul there are high bluffs from 150 ft. to 250 ft. in height and from one to five miles distant from each other. They are generally pretty steep and in some places very steep and high cliffs so as to make it impossible to climb them. Where they are farthest apart the river has several different channels made by low islands in the water, and covered by the water when it is high, which are covered with thick woods. From the tops of the luffs the country lays on every side level and most[ly] prairie with a little wood on it in different places.
We are at a house here called Tremont House, and from the window of my room I can see a little bit of the Falls of St. Anthony, though not enough to know how they look.
I write with a pencil because my ink bottle is stuck to-gether and I cannot get it open.
I do not know any more to say now excepting that I am well and Mr. Thoreau is pretty well too. From your loving son,
P.S. I thought I would write a little more before I sent my letter. It is now after supper. I had a good nap in the afternoon for I slept about 3 hours. I then waked up and went down to see the Falls of St. Anthony. I will draw a little plan of them so you can see about how they lie. [He here includes a brief sketch.] The fall is divided by Hennepin Island named after a Jesuit missionary, the first white man who ever saw them and who named them, arriving on St. Anthony’s day. A little above this island is Nicholas [Nicollet] Island and above that Boom Island and the dotted line in the River represents a boom made to catch logs and keep them from going over the falls. (Look out the meaning of Boom in a dictionary). Below the falls are two or three little, inaccessible islands which will some time be entirely washed away, I think, for they seem to be going slowly now. After supper I went up onto the prairie back of the and got a few flowers for Mr. Thoreau. He is doing very well now and I think will be a great deal better before long.
(Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 48-49)
27 May. St. Anthony, Minn. 1861.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Nicollet Island, where the bridge crosses… Hear and see red-headed woodpecker on a telegraph post within stone’s throw of post office… Dry cra-a-ck of hyla in sloughs on prairie… The Minnesota University here is set in the midst of such an oak opening & it looks quite artificial, & unlike our pines left standing will probably thrive as if nothing had happened” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 5).
Thoreau also writes to his sister Sophia: “I last evening called on Mr. Thatcher. He is much worse in consequence of having been recently thrown from a carriage, — so as to have had watchers within a few nights past. He was, however, able to give me a letter to Dr. Anderson of Minneapolis, just over the river. You may as well direct to Mr. Thatcher’s care still; for I cannot see where I may be a fortnight hence” (The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau, 616).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “To Minneapolis. [Increase A.] Lapham’s Fauna & Flora of Wisconsin in their state’s Agricultural Reports for 1852 says bison last seen east of Mississippi in 1832 & last beaver killed in south part of Wisconsin in 1819. Thaspium, variety apterum on prairie. (The doctor [Charles L. Anderson] has this & also the Z. aurea.) Osmorrhiza brevistylis. Dine with Dr. [Charles L.] Anderson, P.m., ride to Lake Calhoun 4 miles south… Spermophile tridecemlineatus erect, making a queer note like a plover, over his hole. Earth heap of gopher (according to Anderson), bursarius or pouched. Ribbon snake in swamp. Indian or deer path on prairie. Thresh grain with a machine. Poplars & willows the ornamental trees. Bass & bream in lake (1300 acres). Great no. of golden rods on prairie… Tuesday, put in wash, 3 shirts, 1 flannel, 1 pair drawers, 4 bosoms, 5 handkerchiefs (2 small cotton), 1 pair socks” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 6, 31).
St. Anthony, Minn. Horace Mann Jr. writes to his mother Mary on 1 June: "On Tuesday Mr. Thoreau thought he would go over to Minneapolis, which is on the other side of the river, and call upon a Dr. [Charles L.] Anderson, to whom he had a letter of introduction from Mr. [Samuel] Thatcher, and so I went over with him. We found him at last and Mr. Thoreau gave the letter to him and he said he was very glad to see us, and invited us to go to his house to dinner, so we went there, and after dinner he took us out to ride in his buggy, and went to Lake Calhoun about 4 miles s.w. of Minneapolis (look at the map). It is a very pretty little lake of about 640 acres as he told us. We wandered around there for a while and I got some shells and then we came home" (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 50)
In the letter of introduction, Thatcher “explained that Thoreau had ‘come to Minnesota to Clear up his Bronchitis and to Botanize,’ and that he had ‘in company with him Mr. Mann son of late Horace Mann.’ Thatcher noted that ‘Any attention Shown to my friend Thoreau’ would be personally gratifying to him, as he himself was incapacitated” (Westward I Go Free, 212).
29 May. St. Anthony, Minn. 1861.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “A.m. to Minnehaha Falls… Minnesota (the St. Peter’s River) is water-skyey or muddy — (or the color that it is)… The tridecimlineatus dirty grayish white beneath, above dirty brown with 6 dirty tawny or clay-colored or very light brown line alternating with broad (3 times as broad) dark brown lines, stripes, the last having an interrupted line or square spots of the same color with the first mentioned running down their middle, reminding me of the rude pattern of some Indian work — porcupine quills, baskets (gopher) & pottery.” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 7-8)
Horace Mann Jr. writes to his mother Mary on 1 June: “on Wednesday we went over [to Dr. Charles L. Anderson’s home], and he took us to ride down to the falls of Minne-ha-ha which are very beautiful… there is a hollow behind it so that you can go there though it is very wet so I did not try it. We staid around there for a while and I got some fossils, and as I had my gun along I had already got some Prairie gophers, the species Spermophilus tridicumlineatus, (look in Vol. VIII, Pacific R. R. Report) and some birds. From there we went to Fort Snelling at the junction of the Mississippi and St. Peters or Minnesota Rivers. The Minnesota voluntary militia are quartered there, and we saw a little of the regimental drill at four o’clock; they are all green at it. We then steered towards home and I shot some more birds and gophers on the way” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 50).
30 May. St. Anthony, Minn.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “A.m. to Hennepin Island… P.M. to woods, southeast” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 9).
Horace Mann Jr. writes to his mother Mary on 1 June: “On Thursday Mr. Thoreau and I went out behind St. Anthony and I got some more birds” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 50).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Ride west [and] north in large elm, bass, ostrya & red oak wood. Negundo there. Rosytinged Rubus triflorus. Pink variety of hop hornbeam — [they] especially make rails of it.How they caught great suckers in a brook Indian fashion… Indian graves in a oak opening on a ridge. Hazel bushes & sage willow beneath. 1st aspen & willow, then elm & ash & at last oak. The large woods I walked in this p.m. were like the wooded region westerner & parallel with the river & very dense or clogged with underwood as are old woods with us.” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 10)
St. Anthony, Minn. Horace Mann Jr. writes to his mother Mary on 1 June: “Yesterday (Friday) we went over to Dr. [Charles L.] Andersons again and we went out west of Minneapolis several miles and I shot two birds, Rosebreasted Grosbeaks, of which I had shot three before, two chipmunks and a gopher, and I would have shot a cart load more if my arms had not been so sore from the old gun kicking” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 50).
1 June. St. Anthony, Minn.
Horace Mann Jr. writes to his mother Mary:
Today it is cloudy and I am staying in the house this morning though I expect to go out this afternoon…
Q. II. Is Mr. Thoreau really better of his cough? A. Yes, and he can raise more and it does not hinder his sleeping so much.
Q. III. Has he a good appetite? Yes, he has a very good one…
Q. XIV. Do you think Mr. T. is prudent? Yes…
We cannot get rain water to drink, but Mr. Thoreau has got over his bowel complaint and is getting better of his cold.”
(Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 50-1)
Thoreau writes in his journal: “To Minneapolis. Lead plant. To Lake Calhoun & Harriet… A boy shot a S. Franklinii with peas. A horned lark soared very high over prairie at 3 ½ p.m. & sang the same twittering note” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 14).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “To Mrs. Hamilton’s. Horses come in to Minneapolis in night for salt… Catch fish — bream & bass. Hear snipe & loon & new(?) oriole” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 14).
6 June. Lake Calhoun, Minn.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Walk westward… P.m. A wild pigeon nest in a young bass tree 10 ft. from ground… Lumberers came here & speared this eve. Say the lumber above is more knotty than that of Maine, the river nothing for rapids to the Penobscot… Thunder in night. Get larch fish poles” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 14-15).
7 June. Lake Calhoun, Minn.
Horace Mann Jr. writes to his mother Mary:
You see by the date of this letter that we are staying at a house on the edge of Lake Calhoun. It is a beautiful sheet of water, perhaps a mile and a half or three quarters the longest way a nearly a mile the other way in breadth; it has an outlet by which it MTT itself into Lake Harriet, which lies a little ways to the SE of here, and that again MTT into the Minnehaha and goes over the falls. We are staying at the house of a Mrs. Hamilton, a widow, and one of the first settlers near this lake. The house is surrounded with very thick woods which is full of great big musquitoes, so when you walk in them, particularly near nightfall, they swarm around you in such a cloud that you can hardly see through them. There are also a great many pigeons in the woods back of the house, (though I should hardly know them from a musquito here by size) which are breeding, and I found the nest of one this afternoon which had but one egg in it which I took. The lake is full of fishes and we have them at every meal almost. I went into St. Anthony this morning where I put some birds and clams in alcohol and got some blotting paper to press flowers with and I have just been putting some away to press under the bed post… You want me to tell you how things make me feel but I will not do so about the musquitoes. It is pretty warm weather here all the time now. We had a thunder storm last night but I did not know it till I got up this morning. Mr. Thoreau and I went in swimming this afternoon and then we went to walk and we came to a pond hole near some woods which was full of shells and frogs… Mr. Thoreau continues to get better and I am very well of course. We drink lake water here. I will write more before I send this letter, so Good Night,
Your loving son
I wish you would leave the “Esq” off when you direct my letters because that is not any part of my name.
(Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 52)
Lake Calhoun, Minn. Thoreau writes in his journal: “P.m. to Lake Harriet, along swamp” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 16).
Concord, Mass. Mary Mann writes to her son Horace Mann Jr.: “Mr. Thoreau wrote his sister that you were having a nice time in Natural History. I was amused to hear from Miss Thoreau that the last war news Mr. T. had heard was of the killing of seven hundred men at Leavall’s Point, because that was a hoax and a fortnight old” (The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau, 618).
10 June. Lake Calhoun, Minn.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “A.m. to prairie” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 16).
Horace Mann Jr. writes to his mother Mary:
I shall take this letter in to town this morning, nothing has happened that I can tell you of that I think of now but I will write again in a day or two. Goodbye
Your loving son
It is such hard work to write that you must not expect every little particular, but I will tell you most of the things I do and how things look, and the rest when I get home. I am very well and have been ever since I left home and expect to be till I get back there again, and then I do not intend to be sick. Mr. Thoreau is getting well I think and I think will be entirely well before a great while, so do not fret about him.
Dont you show this to any body now nor let either of the boys.
Representation of your loving son shooting a bird with that gun that kicks so.
(Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 52)
11 June. Lake Calhoun, Minn. 1861.
Thoreau writes in his journal:
Going over a hill which had been cut off a year or 2 & the fires had run over it, I stooped to pluck a flower & smelled the spring fragrance stronger & nearer than ever. So, breaking plants, all freshly leafed & vigorously growing, & smelling them, I found one square-stemmed which yielded a strong anise scent, especially when bruised, though then it was far from being as agreeable as when perceived in the air. This seems to be the Lophanthus anisatus…
She [Mrs. Hamilton] said the wild [crab?] apple grew about her premises. Her husband 1st saw it on a ridge by the lake shore. They had dug up several & set them out, but all died. (The settlers also set out the wild plum & thimble berry &c.). So I went & searched in that very unlikely place, but could find nothing like it, though Mrs. Hamilton said there was on ether 3 feet higher than the lake. But I brought home a thorn in bloom instead & asked if that was it. She then gave me more particular directions & I searched again faithfully. & this time I brought home an Amelanchier as the nearest of kin, doubting if the apple had ever been seen there. But she knew both these plants. Her husband had first discovered it by the fruit. But she had not seen it in bloom here. Then called on Fitch & talked about it. He said it was found — the same they had in Vermont (?) & directed me to a Mr. [Jonathan T.] Grimes as one who had found it. He was gone to catch the horses to send his boy 6 miles for a doctor on account of the sick child. Evidently a [?] and enquiring man. The boy showed me some of the trees he had set out this spring. But they had all died, having a long tap root & being taken up too late. But then I was convinced by the sight of the just expanding though withered flower bud to analyze. Finally stayed & went in search of it with the father in his pasture, where I found it first myself, quite a cluster of them.
See a great flight of large ephemera this a.m. on Lake Harriet shore & this evening on Lake Calhoun.
(Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 17)
12 June. Lake Calhoun, Minn.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “A.m. around Lake Harriet… P.m. to prairie pond” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 18).
Horace Mann Jr. writes to his mother Mary:
I did not write till to-night because I have not been into town since Monday morning [10 June]; I shall go in tomorrow morning and then take his letter. I have not done much but walk around since Monday, except to collect some of those shells I spoke of in my last letter and to get a few birds and a red squirrel, the only kind of squirrel that they have here. It has been very warm weather here but there has been a wind most of the time so we could bear it pretty well.
We shall leave this place on Saturday morning [15 June] and go to St. Anthony and on Sunday morning we shall go down to St. Paul and I think we may go up to St Peters, or Minnesota, river to the lower Sioux agency where the indians are going to be paid off on the 18th and subsequent days. We shall not go however if we can not get good accommodations or if the fair is too high. If we do not go there we shall go to Redwing I suppose but I will write you again on Sunday and tell you if we go up there. I want you to direct to Redwing however as I asked Ed Neally to tell you to do some time ago. We are and have been having a very good time here. Mr. Thoreau is pretty well, and I am very well… I expect to be at home before the middle of July, I may say more before I put this in the post office. Good night.
Your loving son
(Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 53)
13 June. Lake Calhoun, Minn.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Spermophilus eating oats in horse-dung. See a scum on the smooth surface of the lake 3 or 4 feet from shore, the color of the sand of the shore, like pollen & lint, which I took it to be. Taking some up in my hand, I was surprised to find it the sand of the shore, sometimes pretty large grains 1/10 inch diameter - but most 1/20 or less. Some dark brown, some white or yellowish. Some minute but perfectly regular oval pebbles of white quartz. I suppose that the water rises gently, lifts up a layer of sand where it is slightly cemented by some glutinous matter, for I felt a slight stickiness on my hand after the (gravel or) sand was shaken off” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 18).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Leave Mrs. Hamilton’s at 12 ½ p.m…. Dr. [Charles L.] A[nderson] said that the anthers of the swamp vaccinium were awned. I find them not so — & the styles hairy — which would put it with the uliginosum!! section. He has a rattlesnake — another much larger light brown snake found on the prairie” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 18-19).
Concord, Mass. Mary Mann writes to her son Horace Mann Jr.: “Mrs. [Cynthia Dunbar] Thoreau called this morning to say she had heard from Mr. T. again. It was delightful to his mother to hear that Mr. T. has been swimming. He tells her that he does not pay any attention to his health, though he feels weak… He tells his mother that you and he are having a fine time” (The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau, 618).
Concord, Mass. A. Bronson Alcott writes in his journal:
Call again to inquire about Henry. He is still near St. Paul, and writes that he is finding some new plants in those parts and enjoying the freedom of the country house and wild life where he is staying, but says nothing concerning his health, from which we infer a change for the better.
The West opens a new field for his observations; and to one whose everyday walk was an expedition into some unexplored region of Concord in search of novelties, though his track had been taken but yesterday, that wilderness must have surprising attractions… I know not to whom that wild country belongs if not to this old explorer, and think it has waited with an Amazonian patience for his arrival… his visit must have been predestined from the beginning, and this lassitude of these late months only the intimation of his having exhausted these old fields and farms of Concord of the significance they had for him.
(The Journals of Bronson Alcott, 340)
Thoreau writes in his journal: “At St. Pauls. From St. Anthony to St. Pauls… Walked in p.m. across bridge south of St. Pauls” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 19).
Horace Mann Jr. writes to his mother Mary on 17 June: “… very strong cool wind blowing. In the afternoon we went over the St. Paul Bridge over the Mississippi and took a walk of several miles and found a few new plants. The bridge is a very long one and descending the whole way from St. Paul to the other bank, for it commences on a bluff of sandstone at St. Paul about 100 ft high and goes down to almost the level of the river on the other side” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 54).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “A.m., to Carver’s Cove… P.m. to west end of town” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 19).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “6 p.m. Start up the Minnesota River in the Frank Steele. River valley till 9 p.m… Near Shakopee at 9 p.m.” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 20).
St. Paul, Minn. Horace Mann Jr. writes to his mother Mary: “We shall go today in the Steamer Frank Steele up the Minnesota River. The mail closes at 12 oclock, and as I do not think of much to say I will soon close. I shall keep a kind of Journal of our trip up the Minnesota I think, or I shall try to, for I do not know how well I shall succeed. I am very well and Mr. Thoreau is getting along pretty well. It is a splendid morning and I hope we shall have good weather all the way” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 54).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “At 5 a.m. said to be in the great woods” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 20).
Henderson, Minn. On board the Frank Steele, Horace Mann Jr. writes to his mother Mary:
We are this moment [9 o’clock, a.m.] stopping at Henderson on the Minnesota River… We left St. Paul last night about 5 o’clock with Governor Ramsey, the Governor of Minnesota, on board and about 25 volunteers on board going up to Fort Ridgely.
Coming up this morning we [saw] a field, or rather a meadow on the banks of the river, which was pink with wild roses…
They have a band on board which is now playing a tune I do not know what one. There are I should think over a hundred passengers on board, and it is a small boat, so that a great many of them have to sleep wherever they can around on chairs, or on the floor, or on trunks, etc.
It is a beautiful day, rather hot in the sun and as the river is so narrow we can see everything on the banks very easily.
(Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 55-6)
Since I wrote the above we have passed Le Sueur, Traverse des Sioux, St. Peter’s and Mankato, & we are now stopping at South Bend and I do not know but what we may stay here all night as the water is pretty low and the river is full of sand bars and snags… I am writing in my bed in my stateroom.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “River today 8 to 12 rods wide only… At Fort Ridgely at eve” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 21).
Fort Ridgely, Minn. On board the Frank Steele, Horace Mann Jr. writes to his mother Mary on 20 June: “We passed a place called ‘Redstone’ from the color of the stone which is of a brick red color as I could see in some quarries opened on the banks of the river. The next place we passed was ‘New Ulm,’ a German town, and were told everyone there was, except three, two women & one man, American… At about 7 o’clock in the evening we arrived at Fort Ridgely, having been within 8 miles of it by land a little after noon but on account of the crooks it took us a good while to get there” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 56).
Thoreau writes in his journal:
Lay by last night at Fort Ridgely. Start about 4 a.m. get to Lower Sioux Agency about 9 a.m…
Indian strikes fire, takes a little punk (Illinois [man] says from white maple) & holds it flat against a flint, then strikes across their edges with a steel ring & puts the ignited punk on or in the pipe…
Pushes out pith of a green young ash for pipe.
Lie by, ½ way between Redwood & Fort. Illinois [man] says female whippoorwill make the note.
Indians, 30 dance, 12 musicians on drums & others strike arrows against bows. The dancers blow some flutes. Keep good time. Move feet & shoulders, one or both. No shirts. 5 bands there. Ox cut in 5 parts.
(Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 21-2)
Thoreau writes in his journal: "At New Ulm just before dinner… Pushed over a tree & disturbed the bats. Bee tree cut. Take in a cartload of earth. Swing round on bars & pull off by capstan. Lay by half night. Were 15 or 20 miles above Mankato" (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 22)
Horace Mann Jr. writes to his mother Mary on 23 June: “we got started about 9 o’clock Friday night, and we passed Mankato in the night but at length we had to lie by on account of fog” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 56).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “A.m. Some 15 miles below Mankato, detained by fog in last part of night. Big woods below Le Sueur… reach St. Pauls at 9 p.m.” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 22).
Horace Mann Jr. writes to his mother Mary on 23 June: “When I got up in the morning about 6:30, we were stuck fast about two miles above St. Peters, but we got off in about half an hour, and made the rest of the voyage during the day, arriving in St. Paul about 9 P.M. last (Saturday) night” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 56).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Leave St. Paul for Red Wing at 9 ½ a.m. Get to Red Wing at 2 p.m.” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 23).
Red Wing, Minn. Horace Mann Jr. writes to his mother Mary: "We went to the Merchants Hotel and staid over night, and started in the morning at 9:30 to come down here and arrived a few minutes after 2 P.M. We got a room at the Metropolitan House which is right on the landing and then went up on top of the Red-wing bluff which is about a dozen rods off and I can look right at it out of this window. I see three ladies on top of it now… We found a strawberry and a pigweed upon it besides other plants… We think of returning home from here through La Crosse, Milwaukee, Mackinaw, Detroit, Hamilton, Ogdensburg and home, though we may vary it more or less as we feel at the time. I do not know as I have any more to say except that I am very well, and Mr. Thoreau is getting along pretty well" (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 56-8)
Thoreau writes in his journal: "A.m. to bluffs south & south west… P.m. under Barn Bluff… The double path on bluff made by 2, one a little higher & fainter, ceasing near end on slope, like a regular 2 wheel track, 3 feet apart, the lower the deepest. The old Indian mound, say 1 rod x 3 feet & the new 2 x 4, 8 or 10 years old. Red Wing. According to [Nathan H.] Parker’s Minnesota Handbook [for] 1856-57, there were but 3 white families in St. Paul in Spring of 1847; in 1857 10,000. Principal capital invested in groceries, dry & Indian goods. (Make time & truck along the Minnesota)" (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 23)
Red Wing, Minn. Horace Mann Jr. writes to his mother Mary:
Today has been a very hot day, though there was, as there always is, a strong wind blowing from some quarter or other, which makes the heat much easier to bear.
This morning we walked over back of the town onto the bluffs & found a good many strawberries growing wild, which we ate. little while after dinner I went in swimming in the River and about two hours after that Mr. Thoreau went in. We walked around the bluff today.
We shall leave here I suppose on Wednesday afternoon [26 June], and we expect to get a letter before that time from home which will be the last one. I shall not send this letter till just before I go, and as I do not think of any-thing more to say I will bid you Good-night.
From your loving son
(Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 58)
25 June. Red Wing, Minn. 1861.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “See Prof. [Horace Brown] Wilson. (Rain in night & forenoon)” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 24).
Thoreau writes to Franklin B. Sanborn:
I was very glad to find awaiting me, on my arrival here on Sunday afternoon, a letter from you. I have performed this journey in a very dead and alive manner, but nothing has come so near waking me up as the receipt of letters from Concord. I read yours, and one from my sister (and Horace Mann, his four) near the top of a remarkable isolated bluff here, called Barn Bluff or the Grange, or Redwing Bluff, some 450 feet high and half a mile long — a bit of the main bluff or bank standing alone. The top, as you know, rises to the general level of the surrounding country, the river having eaten out so much. Yet the valley just above & below this (we are at the head of Lake Pepin) must be 3 or 4 miles wide.
I am not even so well informed as to the progress of the war as you suppose. I have seen but one eastern paper (that, by the way, was the Tribune) for 5 weeks. I have not taken much pains to get them; but, necessarily, I have not seen any paper at all for more than a week at a time. The people of Minnesota have seemed to me more cold — to feel less implicated in this war, than the people of Massachusetts. It is apparent that Massachusetts, for one state at least, is doing much more than her share, in carrying it on. However, I have dealt partly with those of southern birth, & have seen but little way beneath the surface. I was glad to be told yesterday that there was a good deal of weeping here at Redwing the other day, when the volunteers stationed at Fort Snelling followed the regulars to the seat of the war. They do not weep when their children go up the river to occupy the deserted forts, though they may have to fight the Indians there.
I do not even know what the attitude of England is at present.
The grand feature hereabouts is, of course, the Mississippi River. Too much can hardly be said of its grandeur, & of the beauty of this portion of it — (from Dunleith, and prob. from Rock Island to this place.) St. Paul is a dozen miles below the Falls of St. Anthony, or near the head of uninterrupted navigation on the main stream about 2000 miles from its mouth. There is not a “rip” below that, & the river is almost as wide in the upper as the lower part of its course. Steamers go up to the Sauk Rapids, above the Falls, near a hundred miles farther, & then you are fairly in the pine woods and lumbering country. Thus it flows from the pine to the palm.
The lumber, as you know, is sawed chiefly at the Falls of St. Anthony (what is not rafted in the log to ports far below) having given rise to the towns of St. Anthony, Minneapolis, &c &c In coming up the river from Dunleith you meet with great rafts of sawed lumber and of logs — 20 rods or more in length, by 5 or 6 wide, floating down, all from the pine region above the Falls. An old Maine lumberer, who has followed the same business here, tells me that the sources of the Mississippi were comparatively free from rocks and rapids, making easy work for them, but he thought that the timber was more knotty here than in Maine.
It has chanced that about half the men whom I have spoken with in Minnesota, whether travelers or settler, were from Massachusetts.
After spending some three weeks in and about St. Paul, St. Anthony, and Minneapolis, we made an excursion in a steamer some 300 or more miles up the Minnesota (St. Peter’s) River, to Redwood, or the Lower Sioux Agency, in order to see the plains & the Sioux, who were to receive their annual payment there. This is eminently the river of Minnesota, for she shares the Mississippi with Wisconsin, and it is of incalculable value to her. It flows through a very fertile country, destined to be famous for its wheat; but it is a remarkably winding stream, so that Redwood is only half as far from its mouth by land as by water. There was not a straight reach a mile in length as far as we went, — generally you could not see a quarter of a mile of water, & the boat was steadily turning this way or that. At the greater bends, as the Traverse des Sioux, some of the passengers were landed & walked across to be taken in on the other side. Two or three times you could have thrown a stone across the neck of the isthmus while it was from one to three miles around it. It was a very novel kind of navigation to me. The boat was perhaps the largest that had been up so high, & the water was rather low (it had been about 15 feet higher). In making a short turn, we repeatedly and designedly ran square into the steep and soft bank, taking in a cart-load of earth, this being more effectual than the rudder to fetch us about again; or the deeper water was so narrow & close to the shore, that we were obliged to run into & break down at least 50 trees which overhung the water, when we did not cut them off, repeatedly losing a part of our outworks, though the most exposed had been taken in. I could pluck almost any plant on the bank from the boat. We very frequently got aground and then drew ourselves along with a windlass & a cable fastened to a tree, or we swung round in the current, and completely blocked up & blockaded the river, one end of the boat resting on each shore. And yet we would haul ourselves round again with the windlass & cable in an hour or 2, though the boat was about 160 feet long & drew some 3 feet of water, or, often, water and sand. It was one consolation to know that in such a case we were all the while damming the river & so raising it. We once ran fairly on to a concealed rock, with a shock that aroused all the passengers, & rested there, & the mate went below with a lamp expecting to find a hole, but he did not. Snags & sawyers were so common that I forgot to mention them. The sound of the boat rumbling over one was the ordinary music. However, as long as the boiler did not burst, we knew that no serious accident was likely to happen. Yet this was a singularly navigable river, more so than the Mississippi above the Falls, & it is owing to its very crookedness. Ditch it straight, & it would not only be very swift, but soon run out. It was from 10 to 15 rods wide near the mouth & from 8 to 10 or 12 at Redwood. Though the current was swift, I did not see a “rip” on it, & only 3 or 4 rocks. For 3 months in the year I am told that it can be navigated by small steamers about twice as far as we went, or to its source in Big Stone Lake, & a former Indian agent told me that at high water it was thought that such a steamer might pass into the Red River.
In short this river proved so very long and navigable, that I was reminded of the last letter or two in the Voyages of the Baron la Hontan (written near the end of the 17 century, I think) in which he states that after reaching the Mississippi (by the Illinois or Wisconsin), the limit of previous exploration westward, he voyeaged up it with his Indians, & at length turned up a great river coming in from the west which he called “La Riviere Longue” & he relates various improbable things about the country & its inhabitants, so that this letter has been regarded as pure fiction — or more properly speaking a lie. But I am somewhat inclined now to reconsider the matter.
The Governor of Minnesota, (Ramsay) — the superintendent of Ind. Affairs in this quarter, — & the newly appointed Ind. agent were on board; also a German band from St. Paul, a small cannon for salutes, & the money for the Indians (aye and the gamblers, it was said, who were to bring it back in another boat). There were about 100 passengers chiefly from St. Paul, and more or less recently from the N. Eastern states; also half a dozen young educated Englishmen. Chancing to speak with one who sat next to me, when the voyage was nearly half over, I found that he was a son of the Rev. Samuel May, & a classmate of yours, & had been looking for us at St. Anthony.
The last of the little settlements on the river, was New Ulm, about 100 miles this side of Redwood. It consists wholly of Germans. We left them 100 barrels of salt, which will be worth something more when the water is lower, than at present.
Redwood is a mere locality, scarcely an Indian village — where there is a store & some houses have been built for them. We were now fairly on the great plains, and looking south, and after walking that way 3 miles, could see no tree in that horizon. The buffalo was said to be feeding within 25 or 30 miles —
A regular council was held with the Indians, who had come in on their ponies, and speeches were made on both sides thro’ an interpreter, quite in the described mode; the Indians, as usual, having the advantage in point of truth and earnestness, and therefore of eloquence. The most prominent chief was named Little Crow. They were quite dissatisfied with the white man’s treatment of them & probably have reason to be so. This council was to be continued for 2 or 3 days — the payment to be made the 2d day — and another payment to other bands a little higher up on the Yellow Medicine (a tributary of the Minnesota) a few days thereafter.
In the afternoon the half naked Indians performed a dance, at the request of the Governor, for our amusement & their own benefit & then we took leave of them & of the officials who had come to treat with them.
Excuse these pencil marks but my ink stand is unscrewable & I can only direct my letter at the bar. I could tell you more & perhaps more interesting thing, if I had time. I am considerably better than when I left home, but still far from well.
Our faces are already set toward home. Will you please let my sister know that we shall probably start for Milwaukee & Mackinaw in a day or 2 (or as soon as we hear from home) via Prairie du Chien & not La Crosse.
I am glad to hear that you have written to Cholmondeley, as it relieves me of some responsibility.
Horace Mann Jr. writes to his mother Mary:
Henry D. Thoreau
This morning early we had a very heavy thunder storm, but it held up after breakfast and I thought it might clear off, so I went up on top of the bluff to gather some pulsatilla for Uncle Nat; I gather a good lot of it, but it commenced to drizzle, and by the time I got home I was pretty damp. About half an hour after I got into the house, it commenced to rain in earnest and rained until about the middle of the afternoon when it cleared up and it is a beautiful evening now, and nice & cool. I have been asleep about half of the afternoon and part of the forenoon so as to get a little rested.
We have not received any letter yet, but expect to tomorrow morning, and if we do we shall leave here in the afternoon.
(Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 59)
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Walk up river… 2 p.m. Leave War Eagle for Prairie du Chien, some 200 miles distant. Mrs. [Margaret Barker] Upham of Clinton with us, has a cousin [John Quincy Adams] Clifton in Bedford. Lake Pepin. 1st northeast then east (?) by sun & compass. Reach Prairie du Chien about 9 a.m. [the] 27th” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 24).
Red Wing, Minn. Horace Mann Jr. writes to his mother Mary:
I have not yet received any letter from you, and so I have left word at the post-office to have any which may come, forwarded to Detroit where I may be able to get it. We shall leave this afternoon.
It is quite a cool day in the wind, though the sun is pretty warm.
Goodbye, your loving son
P. S. I shall write again from Milwaukee.
(Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 59)
Thoreau writes in his journal: “By cars to Milwaukee. 1st 60 miles up the valley of the Wisconsin which looked broad & shallow… Madison, capital & 4 lakes” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 24-5).
Milwaukee, Wisc. Horace Mann Jr. writes to his mother Mary:
As I am writing while the cars are going, I cannot do it up very well, but I will try to make it readable.
We left Red-wing yesterday at about 2 P.M. on the Steamer War Eagle and arrived in Prairie du Chien at 8 P.M. to-day. The train for Milwaukee did not leave till 10 o’clock so we had to wait a while. It is rather cooler today than we have had for some time so it is very comfortable travelling. We passed through Madison at 1:30 P.M. and shall arrive in Milwaukee at 6 o’clock this evening If we can find a boat going to mackinaw we shall take it immediately, if not, we shall wait until one does go, which will be in the course of a day anyhow, I suppose. There has been a riot in Milwaukee of which I suppose you have read long before this, but the Milwaukee paper says to-day that the city is quiet.
For the first 60 or 70 miles of travel to-day we kept in the valley of the Wisconsin River, which we crossed three times… You may think that I can write better, but I cannot, for this is one of the roughest roads I ever rode over. Madison is a very pretty place I should think and the lakes which surround it (stopping at Palmyra) are very beautiful. The state house is a large building standing on a rise of ground near the track as we enter the city; it is built out of dark cream colored limestone, which can be quarried all over that section of the state. I have nothing more to say now so Goodbye.
From your loving son
(Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 59-60)
Thoreau writes in his journal: “By propeller Edith to Mackinaw. Milwaukee best harbor on lake of settled places & shoal & rocky at south end of lake. Good harbors behind islands & at Traverse Bay in northeast. 9 miles wide & cannot see across, but see land loom sometimes on each side form middle… 28th at eve leave Sheboygan & steam north-east to Carp River” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 25).
Milwaukee, Wisc. Horace Mann Jr. writes to his mother Mary twice, the first being a postscript to his letter of 27 June:
We started this morning in the propeller Edith for Mackinaw. It is a beautiful morning. We are all well. Goodbye, your loving son
(Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 60)
As you see by the date we are on Lake Michigan. It is a beautiful day again, though it is a little cloudy this afternoon, & a little cool on the lake.
We bought our tickets for Boston this morning for which we paid $20.15 over $5.00 cheaper than the way we came out. The tickets are via Goderich, Stratford, Ogdensburg, Rouse’s Point, Vermont Central R.R. and Lowell to Boston. We have a lay over ticket by which we can stay as long as we please at Mackinaw, which will be, I think, about 5 days. We shall then come right home, stopping somewhere over Sunday [7 July].
(Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 60)
Thoreau writes in his journal: “10 a.m. at Carp River… Pass Manitou Islands on left in forenoon & opposite Fox Island run into Carp River. Leave there at noon & steam north & west to Beaver (or Mormon Islands) with its first hut & Morman homes. Leave there at eve & reach Mackinaw 2 a.m., 30th” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 25).
Mackinac Island, Mich. Thoreau writes in his journal: “Mackinaw House” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 25).
Mackinac Island, Mich. Horace Mann Jr. writes to his mother Mary:
Yesterday we had a very pleasant day on the lake and we got here about 2 o’clock this morning; we have been walking around the Island to-day gathering new plants and seeing the island. Instead of waiting and starting Thursday, I think we shall leave here Monday (to-morrow) night and so get home before Sunday if possible, but do not expect us at any particular time for very likely we may stop a day or two somewhere on the way home. I do not know as I have any more to say to you to-night, so
Your loving son
P.S. I may not write again, so do not expect anything.
(Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 60)
New Bedford, Mass. Daniel Ricketson writes to Thoreau in reply to his letter of 22 March:
I have been desirous of hearing from you for a long time, and particularly in regard to your health, which from your letter of 22 March I was sorry to hear was not as good as usual; but as you speak of your complaint as that of, ‘a severe cold,’ I hope by this time you have bid farewell to it and are once more traveling about the woods and fields of old Concord and boating on your favorite stream… My dear friend, since I saw you, & considerably since I wrote you last have I met with some fresh and very unexpected experiences, which have resulted in a change of my religious views. Long, long have I striven to become a good man, rather, to obtain that peace of mind which I consider to be the evidence of a soul in a state of acceptance with its Creator, but in vain have been my efforts — and my researches in the wisdom of the schools of ancient and modern philosophy, the (I fear) delusive and bewitching scepticism of so many noble minds. I am now quite inclined to believe in what are termed the dogmas of Christianity — at least in a part of them & have ceased to rebel against the rest. From my repeated failures in the path of virtue & godliness I am at last convinced of the necessity of regeneration i.e. a new heart — and what may surprise you still more, I am led to believe in the existence of an Evil Spirit, the great adversary of the Soul, whose malign influence has so often destroyed my fondest hopes of peace. I seize upon the truth of the gospel as recorded in the Old and New Testaments as a shipwrecked sailor to the hand stretched forth to rescue him from the whelming waves. The spiritual wants of man herein recorded and corroborated by his inward light seem to be so aptly fitted that nothing less than a Divine Master could have given them to us. What is human life without the faith and hope thus inspired within the Soul! — the faith of so many of the great and good, the Saints and Martyrs of the Church of Christ. Oh! dear T. we need it all. “I am not mad most noble Festus” but am willing to be accounted a fool for the sake of the great Head of this Church. I know that you are too good and too pure a man to smile at my new born zeal or rather newly awakened for I once before long ago was similarly led. Dont think that I am about to forsake my kind Concord friends, the purest, wisest and best of philosophers, dear noble souls — no — My heart year[n]s for your spiritual recognition of the revealed word, wherein ye may see that “ye must be born again.” Whatever takes from our faith and hopes in the future life, robs us of the only possessions that render our earthly existence endurable. Let us devoutly pray to God for light, for light & strength. We must feel contrite — be ready to smite our breast and cry “God be merciful to me a sinner.” O! there must be a listening ear to the fervent petition of the troubled soul — Our Heavenly Father will hear us He will answer to our prayers. I humbly trust that He hears mine.
As I said before I have no rebellion in my heart now — I gladly accept whatever provision God has made for our future happiness, & endeavor to repose with faith upon the arms of Divine wisdom — Welcome Christ the Saviour of our souls if God so wills, Mystery though it be — purest of the pure simplest & wisest of all teachers, who died for his faithfulness — the great exemplar & guide of man through the thorny road of earthly life, whose life blood sealed the great testimony of truth he wrought out for us — typical of regeneration He died for us all — How grateful we should feel towards him, the great Head of the Church.
Monday Morng. July 1… Do let me hear from you soon? And remember me kindly to Channing for whom I shall ever feel an affectionate interest, and to dear father Alcott… My wife has had a long illness, but is now recovering. My valued Uncle, James Thornton died 27 April last in his 64th year, of which please inform Channing, who knew him.
Thoreau replies on 15 August.
1 July. Mackinac Island, Mich.
Thoreau writes in his journal:
Mr. Todd, lighthouse keeper at Wabeshant (?) Point. His wife a Canadian, daughter of one who went in the Tonquin & took the name of LeBlanc.
Little Traverse Bay quite a place for Ottawa Indians.
Ice forms about middle of January & lasts firm till April. Mails from south (i.e., Chicago) along shore on the beach from Saginaw River by 2 Indians (14 employed) with a dog team if snow not too deep. Taking 1 week.
Ice at head of Lake Superior quite recently. [William Miengun Johnston], County clerk. Born by half breeds & French. Says Mississippi means “Everywhere water River.” Applied to upper waters only by Chippeway. Michilimacanac means not “island of the great turtle” but “of the great genii.” Offer buttermilk at dinner instead of water; had to ask for water.
(Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 26-7)
2 July. Mackinac Island, Mich.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Sat by fire July 2nd” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 27).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Spring disappears in stones of shore… Flies (like ants) in snow & marching to woods. William Johnson… Get woods from islands over ice. Plainly see a lighthouse 25 miles off. Used cedar bark for roofing & clapboards. Some wild Indians from eastward still offer tobacco. Leave it on the rocks at Mackinaw. noe fur trade of consequence for 20 years. 9 ½ p.m., take propeller Sun for Goderich, which we reach at 10 p.m. July 5th” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 27)
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Goodrich to Toronto. Towns often pretty large in the midst of stumps & no trees set out” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 27).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “Sunday in Toronto. Veronica Americana (?), park by Toronto College” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 27).
Thoreau writes in his journal: “To Ogdensburg. House roofed with hollow logs this side [of] Toronto” (Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey, 27).
Thoreau and Horace Mann Jr. arrive in Ogdensburg, N.Y. via the Grand Trunk Railway (Westward I Go Free, 369-80).
Thoreau and Horace Mann Jr. travel from Ogdensburg, N.Y. to Boston by train. They miss the last train to Concord and presumably spend the night in the station (Westward I Go Free, 381-95).
Thoreau and Horace Mann Jr. arrive in Concord via the Fitchburg Railway (Westward I Go Free, 397-413).
Simon Brown writes in his journal: “We had a slight shower in the night and this morning another and a drizzling rain for three or four hours. At ten I called for Mr. Thoreau and took him to ride. I have no doubt but he is in the first stage of consumption” (Thoreau Society Bulletin 76 (Summer 1961):3).
15 July. Concord, Mass. 1861.
Thoreau writes to a minister in Worcester:
Dear Sir: —
For such an excursion as you propose I would recommend you to carry as food for one for six days:
2 or 3 lbs. of boiled corned beef (I and my companions have preferred it to tongue).
2 lbs. of sugar.
¼ lb. of tea (or ½ lb. of coffee).
2 lbs. of hard bread, and a half a large loaf of home-made bread, (ready buttered if you like it), consuming the last first; or 4½ lbs. of hard bread alone.
Also a little moist and rich plum cake, of which you can take a pinch from time to time.
2 or 3 lemons will not come amiss to flavor poor water with.
If you multiply this amount by 8, the number of your party, subtract from 5 to 10 per cent.
Carry these different articles in separate cotton or linen bags labelled, and a small portion of the sugar in a box by itself for immediate use. (The same of salt, if you expect to get game or fish.)
As for clothing and other articles, I will state exactly what I should take in such a case (besides what I wore and what were already in my pockets), my clothes and shoes being old, but thick and stout.
1 pair socks.
1 thick waist-coat.
6 bosoms (or dickies).
Towel and soap.
Pins, needles, and thread.
A thick night cap (unless your day cap is soft and close fitting.)
A map of the route, and a compass.
(Such other articles as your peculiar taste and pursuits require.)
A hatchet, (for a party of half a dozen a light but long handled axe), for you will wish to make a great fire, however warm, and to cut large logs.
Paper and stamps.
Matches; some of these in a water-tight vial in your vest pocket.
A fish line and hooks, a piece of salt pork for bait, and a little salt always in your pocket, so as to be armed in case you should be lost in the woods.
Wastepaper and twine.
An iron spoon and a pint tin dipper for each man, in which last it will be well to insert a wire handle, whose curve will coincide with that of the dipper’s edge, and then you can use it as a kettle, if you like, and not put out the fire.
A four quart tin pail will serve very well for your common kettle.
For shelter, either a tent or a strong sheet large enough to cover all. If a sheet, the tent will be built shed-fashion, open to the fair weather side; two saplings, either as they stand or else stuck in the ground, serving for main posts, a third being placed horizontally in the forks of these, 6 or 7 feet from the ground, and two or three others slanted backward from it. This makes the frame on which to stretch your sheet, which must come quite down to the ground on the sides and the back.
You will lie, of course, on the usual twigged bed, with your feet to the front.
Moncure Daniel Conway writes later of a visit to Concord, Mass.: “I went to Concord, but optimism had fled even from the home of Emerson. The town was in trepidation for the fate of several of its youths who had not been heard from since the disaster at Manassas… Thoreau, sadly out of health, was the only cheerful man in Concordia; he was in a state of exaltation about the moral regeneration of the nation” (Autobiography, Memories and Experiences of Moncure Daniel Conway, 1:297).
15 August. Concord, Mass. 1861.
Thoreau writes to Daniel Ricketson in reply to his letter of 30 June:
When your last letter was written I was away in the far North-West, in search of health. My cold turned to bronchitis which made me a close prisoner almost up to the moment of my starting on that journey, early in May. As I had an incessant cough, my doctor told me that I must “clear out” — to the West Indies or elsewhere, so I selected Minnesota. I returned a few weeks ago, after a good deal of steady travelling, considerably, yet not essentially better, my cough still continuing. If I do not mend very quickly I shall be obliged to go to another climate again very soon.
My ordinary pursuits, both indoor and out, have been for the most part omitted, or seriously interrupted — walking, boating, scribbling, &c. Indeed I have been sick so long that I have almost forgotten what it is to be well, yet I feel that it all respects only my envelope.
Channing & Emerson are as well as usual, but Alcott, I am sorry to say, has for some time been more or less confined by a lameness, perhaps of a neuralgic character, occasioned by carrying too great a weight on his back while gardening.
On returning home, I found various letters awaiting me, among others one from [Thomas] Cholmondeley & one from yourself.
Of course I am sufficiently surprised to hear of your conversion, yet I scarcely know what to say about it, unless that judging by your account, it appears to me a change which concerns yourself peculiarly, and will not make you more valuable to mankind. However, perhaps, I must see you before I can judge.
Remembering your numerous invitations, I write this short note now chiefly to say that, if you are to be at home, and it will be quite agreeable to you, I will pay you a visit next week, & take such rides or sauntering walks with you as an invalid may.
Ricketson replies on 16 August.
Henry D. Thoreau
16 August. New Bedford, Mass. 1861.
Daniel Ricketson writes to Thoreau in reply to his letter of 15 August:
I have just received and read yours of yesterday, and in reply would say, that myself and family will be very glad to have a visit from you as you propose, next week — As you have fixed upon no particular time, I will be at the Head of the River depot for you by the Monday afternoon train from Boston which arrives about 6 o’clock The p.m. train from Boston for N. Bedford leaves at 4 ½ p.m.
I am glad to inform you that my health & spirits are better than they have been for some years & I can I trust infuse a little new physical life into you at which I am pretty good. I have just raised my wife from a frustrating illness, by an intelligent faith. What you want is to live easy, just like an intelligent Indian who is a little poorly — giving nature a fair chance — your body is well enough (normally) but the brain works too hard, the engine above is a little too heavy for the craft below — so slack up & let off the steam & float awhile along shore just using the helm occasionally as occasion requires.
I am sorry to hear of Mr Alcott’s lameness & hope he will soon recover. My son Arthur is a surgeon in the U.S. Navy on board ship Nightingale, & expects to sail from Brooklyn Navy Yard to-morrow. My wife who is you know constitutionally delicate had the bronchitis a few years ago & is now entirely well of it — her lungs which were weak and attended with cough much improved — her trouble now indigestion and palpitation of heart but getting better slowly of these. I am her doctor. I feel that your treatment should be directed to the brain principally & the remedy rest or agreeable occupation without excitement.
I was hardly wise I fear in writing about my late experiences which I find were considerably aroused by domestic afflictions yet not without some good results I hope.
19 August. New Bedford, Mass. 1861.
Daniel Ricketson writes in his journal: “Rode up to the depot for my friend Thoreau, who came by the P.M. train from Boston. Spent the evening conversing, Thoreau giving an interesting and graphic account of his late visit to the Mississippi, St. Anthony Falls, &c., — gone two months” (Daniel Ricketson and His Friends, 317-8).
20 August. New Bedford, Mass.
Daniel Ricketson writes in his journal: “At home this A.M. talking a good deal with Thoreau in the Shanty. Rode with Thoreau this P.M., visited the old house at Thomas Wood’s farm. In relation to my friend Thoreau’s health my impression is that his case is a very critical one as to recovery; he has a bad cough and expectorates a good call, is emaciated considerably, his spirits, however, appear as good as usual, his appetite good. Unless some favorable symptom shows itself soon I fear that he will gradually decline. He is thinking of going to a warm climate for the winter, but I think a judicious hydropathic treatment at home would be much better for him” (Daniel Ricketson and his Friends, 318).
21 August. New Bedford, Mass.
Daniel Ricketson writes in his journal: “Clear and fine, perfect weather. Rode to town with Thoreau this A.M. Got an Ambrotype of him at Dunshee’s which we all think an excellent likeness. Thence we drove to Clark’s Cove and so by Resolved Howland’s corner and new road to town. Got September number Atlantic Magazine. Called at Post-office and home by 1 P.M.” (Daniel Ricketson and His Friends, 318).
22 August. New Bedford, Mass.
Daniel Ricketson writes in his journal: “Long talk with my friend Thoreau on various matters this A.M. Rode this P.M. round by White’s factory with T. Walked over the ridge road called the ‘Back-bone of Acushnet’ with Thoreau” (Daniel Ricketson and His Friends, 318).
23 August. New Bedford, Mass.
Daniel Ricketson writes in his journal: “Rode this P.M. to Sassaquin Pond with Thoreau, walked round from the north end, where we left our horse and wagon (Billy and old buggy wagon). T. found one or more plants new to him, at least rare. I bathed in a little cove on the west shore, a mild, pleasant afternoon. Home by 6 ½” (Daniel Ricketson and His Friends, 318-9).
24 August. New Bedford, Mass.
Daniel Ricketson writes in his journal: “Clear and fine. Our friend H.. Thoreau who came on Monday P.M. left us by 7.10 A.M. train. Rode with him to Head River depot. The visit I trust has been agreeable to him as well as myself. His health is very poor, being afflicted with bronchitis, and the recovery of his health is I fear quite uncertain; still he has a good deal of toughness and great will, which are in his favor. It is my earnest desire that he may recover” (Daniel Ricketson and His Friends, 319).
Sophia Thoreau later recalls this time at Walden Pond:
Associations have rendered the spot so entirely sacred to me, that the music and dancing, swinging and tilting seemed like profanity almost. An overwhelming sense of my great loss saddened me, and I felt that only the waters sympathized in my bereavement, for there seemed in all that throng no heart nor eye to appreciate the purity and beauty of nature. The lover of Walden has indeed departed. I recalled my last day spent there with Henry —
“Sweet September Day, so calm, so cool, so bright,
The bridal of the earth and sky.”
While I sat sketching, Henry gathered grapes from a vine, dropping its fruit into the clear waters which gently laved its roots.
1 September. New Bedford, Mass. 1861.
Daniel Ricketson writes to Thoreau:
Dear Thoreau, — Dr. Denniston, to whom I recommended you to go, has kindly consented on his way from New Bedford to Northhampton, to go to Concord to see you. He has had much experience and success in the treatment of bronchitis, and I hope his visit to you will result in your placing yourself under his care, which I much desire.
Should the Doctor have the time, and you feel able, please show him a little of the Concord worthies and much oblige,
Daniel Ricketson writes in his journal: “Left home by A.M. train for Boston with Dr. Denniston to see my friend H. D. Thoreau, the Doctor professionally. After talk and examination by the Doctor walked with him and T. to the battle-ground; on return met Mr. [A. Bronson] Alcott, who joined us. Dr. D. left for Boston at 6 ½ P.M. I walked home with Mr. Alcott. Returned to Mr. Thoreau’s by 9” (Daniel Ricketson and His Friends, 320).
3 September. Concord, Mass.
Daniel Ricketson writes in his journal: “Weather warm and cloudy. Spent the forenoon with Mr. [A. Bronson] Alcott in his study, Thoreau there part of the time. On our way visited an antiquarian collection of Mr. Davis in company with Sophia Thoreau and Mr. Thoreau. Dined with Mr. Alcott, his wife, and daughters Louisa and Abby. Returned to Thoreau’s for tea, walked this evening in the dark, got lost for a time, but by retracing my steps found my way again. Dark cloudy evening, warm. Talked with T. till ten” (Daniel Ricketson and His Friends, 320).
4 September. Concord, Mass.
Daniel Ricketson writes in his journal: “Clear and fine, walked to Walden Pond with Mr. Thoreau, bathed; on our way called on Mr. [Ralph Waldo] Emerson; walked this P.M. with T. to Mr. Edmund Hosmer’s farm, Mr. H. with us from the post-office. Saw [William Ellery] Channing in the street, but no word between us, I not knowing how he would meet me if I addressed him. Took tea at Mrs. Brooke’s, returned to Mr. T.’s at 7 ½, walked alone on the hill beyond the bridge by the Wheeler farm, talked to T. till 9 ½. Clear, fine evening” (Daniel Ricketson and His Friends, 320).
Daniel Ricketson writes in his journal: “Clear and fine. Left Concord at 8 ½ A.M., my friend T. accompanying me to the depot; introduced to young Horace Mann, Mr. T.’s late companion to Minnesota; arrived home to dinner. I think T. seemed improving when I left him at Concord. Dr. D[enniston], though he faithfully examined his case, was unable to awaken in T. an interest in his mode of treating disease by the water practice. The Doctor kindly invited T. to come to Northhampton and stop a fortnight as a guest with him; discouraged his going to the West Indies. I hope T. may be improving and need no Doctor or absence from home” (Daniel Ricketson and His Friends, 320-1).
6 September. Concord, Mass.
William Ellery Channing writes to Mary Russell Watson: “You ask for Mr Thoreau’s health. He is no better. No hope that he can spend the winter in a cold climate” (The Emerson Society Quarterly 14 (1st quarter 1959):79).
17 September. New Bedford, Mass. 1861.
Daniel Ricketson writes to Thoreau:
Dear Friend, —
I am desirous to hear how you are getting along, although I have an impression that you are improving. I would not put you to the trouble to write me, could I fairly call upon any one else.
I look back with pleasure upon my late visit to Concord. The particularly bright spots are my walks with you to Farmer Hosmer’s and to Walden Pond, as well as our visit to friend Alcott.
I should like to have you make us a good long visit before cold weather sets in, and should this meet your approval please inform me when you answer this.
I expect to be absent from home for a few days the last of this month, but after that time I shall be at home for some time.
Our Indian Summer weather is very charming, and probably the air softer than more inland if a season so delightful has any difference in this section of New England.
I suppose you have hardly needed a fresh doctor since the bountiful supply I brought you. I was much pleased at the unceremonious way in which you described him. I hope the dread of another holocaust of the same kind will keep you in good heart for some time, for, assuredly, as soon as you begin to complain, which is hardly possible, after so great a feast as you have had of late, a bigger victim will be forthcoming upon whom the eagle-eye of some friend of yours is already fixed.
You will pardon my seeming levity, and attribute it to the fresh morning air and increasing health and spirits. I have tasted no sugar-plums of any kind since I left you. I thank you for the friendly caution. I need more. Come then, and be my kind Mentor still further.
With kind regards to all your family and to Mr. Alcott, Channing, Hosmer, &c.
P. S. Mrs Ricketson and our daughters join in regards and invitation to visit us soon. You will be welcome at any time. This is a good time to ride out to the ponds, &c. We are having beautiful weather here, calm and mild.
Thoreau replies on 14 October.
Please ask Channing if he received a book I sent him in care of Dr. W. Channing, Boston.
29 September. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “See a large hornets’ nest on a maple (September 29), the half immersed leaves turned scarlet” (Journal, 14:344).
5 October. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “This (October 5) is a rainy or drizzling day at last and the robins and sparrows are more numerous in the yard and about the house than ever” (Journal, 14:342).
14 October. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes to Daniel Ricketson in reply to his letter of 17 September:
I think that, on the whole, my health is better than when you were here; & my faith in the doctors has not increased.
I thank you all for your invitation to come to New Bedford, but I suspect that it must still be warmer here than there, that, indeed, new Bedford is warmer than Concord only in the winter, & so I abide by Concord.
September was pleasanter & much better for me than August, and October thus far has been quite tolerable. Instead of riding on horseback, I take a ride in a wagon about every other day. My neighbor, Mr [E. R.] Hoar, has two horses, & he being away for the most part this fall has generously offered me the use of one of them, and, as I notice, the dog throws himself in, and does scouting duty.
I am glad to hear that you no longer chew, but eschew , sugar plums. One of the worst effects of sickness even is that it may get one into the habit of taking a little something, his bitters or sweets, as if for his bodily good, from time to time, when he does not need it. However, there is no danger of this if you do not dose even when you are sick.
I met with a Mr Rodman, a young man of your town, here the other day - or week, looking at farms for sale, and rumor says that he is inclined to buy a particular one.
C[hanning] says that he received his book, but has not got any of yours.
It is easy to talk, but hard to write.
From the worst of all correspondents
Henry D. Thoreau
21 October. Concord, Mass.
William Ellery Channing writes to Mary Russell Watson: “I think Thoreau gains a little. He thinks he is stronger and can walk better. His cough is still very formidable at night, yet should he for another month improve as much as the last I should have a hope of his ultimate recovery. The winter is bad however.” (Emerson Society Quarterly 14 (1st quarter 1959):79).
3 November. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau writes in his journal: “After a violent easterly storm in the night, which clears up at noon (November 3, 1861), I notice that the surface of the railroad causeway, composed of gravel, is singularly marked, as if stratified like some slate rocks, on their edges, so that I can tell within a small fraction of a degree from what quarter the rain came…” (Journal, 14:346).
13 November. Concord, Mass. 1861.
Thoreau drafts a letter to W. and C. H. Smith:
Messrs W & C H Smith
I received on the 8th inst your draft in payment for plumbago sent to you Oct 23d I forgot to deduct the interest, but when I remarked it supposed that you would correct the mistake before I could — for I had agreed to make the deduction.
But the case is now altered for if I have to pay for the draft (which in any other conditions are not to be sent without cost) I think that you should not expect me to make any further deduction for interest
Henry D. Thoreau
15 November. Concord, Mass. 1861.
Thoreau writes to George Thatcher:
We are glad to hear that you are in the neighborhood, and shall be much disappointed if we do not see you & Caleb.
Come up any day that is most convenient to you — or, if you stay so long, perhaps you will spend Thanksgiving (the 21st) with us.
Yrs, in haste,
Henry D. Thoreau
20 November. Concord, Mass.
Thoreau is issued a bill of sale:
Town of Concord to H.D.Thoreau, Dr
For inspecting the Stone Bridge on the main stream & reporting on its condition.
H. D. Thoreau
2 December. Concord, Mass.
A. Bronson Alcott writes in his journal: “Dine at Thoreau’s with Sanborn. Thoreau is lively and entertaining, though feeble and failing. He does not conceal his impatience with the slowness of the present Administration and its disregard of honor and justice to the free sentiment of the North. We hope Congress, which assembles today, will spur the cabinet to do its duty, and better represent the demands of the country” (The Journals of Bronson Alcott, 341).
6 December. Philadelphia, Penn. 1861.
L. Johnson & Co. writes to Thoreau:
Dear Sir, — Enclosed find Fifteen Dollars ($15.00) in eastern funds in settlement of your bill of 28th. ulto. Please acknowledge receipt to
L. Johnson & Co