Also to Thoreau, and spend the evening, sad to find him failing and feeble. He is talkative, however; is interested in books and men, in our civil troubles especially, and speaks impatiently of what he calls the temporizing policy of our rulers; blames the people too for their indifferency to the true issues of national honor and justice. Even Seward’s letter to Earl Grey respecting Mason’s and Liddell’s case, comforting as it is to the country and serving as a foil to any hostile designs of England for the time at least, excites his displeasure as seeming to be humiliating to us, and dishonorable.
We talk of Pliny, whose books he is reading with delight. Also of Evelyn and the rural authors. If not a writer of verses, Thoreau is a poet in spirit, and has come as near to the writing of pastorals as any poet of his time. Were his days not numbered, and his adventures in the wild world once off his hands, then he might come to orchards and gardens, perhaps treat these in manner as masterly, uniting the spirit of naturalist and poet in his page. But the most he may hope for is to prepare his manuscripts for others’ editing, and take his leave of them and us. I fear he has not many months to abide here, and the spring’s summons must come for him soon to partake of “Syrian peace, immortal leisure.”
dollars in full for one yr rent
of House to Jan 1st 1862
Henry D Thoreau for Maria Thoreau.
I was in hope to read something more form your pen in Mr. Conway’s “Dial,” but only recognized that fine pair of Walden twinlets. Of your two books, I perhaps prefer the “Week,” — but after all, “Walden” is but little less a favorite. In the former, I like especially those little snatches of poetry interspersed throughout. I would like to ask what progress you have made in a work some way connected with natural history, — I think it was on Botany, — which Mr. Emerson told me something about in a short interview I had with him two years ago at Poughkeepsie… If you should feel perfectly able at any time to drop me a few lines, I would like much to know what your state of health is, and if there is, as I cannot but hope, a prospect of your speedy recovery.
I thought you would like to have a few lines from me, providing they required no answer.
I have quite recovered from my illness, and am able to walk and skate as usual. My son, Walton, and I do both nearly every day of late. The weather here — as I suppose has been the case with you at Concord — has been very cold, the thermometer as low one morn (Saturday last) as five degrees above zero.
We propose soon to take our annual tour on skates over the Middleboro’ ponds.
I received your sister’s letter in reply to mine inquiring after your health. I was sorry to hear of your having pleurisy, but it may prove favorable after all to your case, as a counter-irritant often does to sick people. It appears to me you will in time recover — Nature can’t spare you, and we all, your friends, can’t spare you. So you must look out for us and hold on these many years yet.
I wish I could see you oftener. I don’t believe in your silence and absence from congenial spirits. Companionship is one of the greatest blessings to me.
Remember me kindly to my valued friends Mr. and Mrs. Alcott.
Yours truly, in haste,
P.S. Thank your sister for her letter.
At any time when you wish to visit us, just send a line. You are always welcome.
The demand for your books here seems to be rather on the increase. Two copies of the Week are wanted & I am requested to write for them.
Walden also is wanted but I presume you can’t help us to that.
You will have to get out another edition of that. I hope the next edition of both books will be small in size & right for the pocket, & for “field service.”
Is it discouraging to you to have me speak thus of your books? — to see me sticking at what you have left? Have you left it?
Whether it be discouraging to you or the contrary, I have long desired to acknowledge my indebtedness to you for them & to tell you that through them the value of everything seems infinitely enhanced to me.
We took to the river and our skates, instead of the cars, on leaving you & had a good time of it, keeping above the ice all the way.
The little snow-storm that we started in grew into quite a large one, or fast one, & made the day all the better. There was a sober cheer in the day, such as belongs to stormy days.
But to come back to business. I was requested to ask you to write your name in one of the books. & I would like to have you write it in the other —
I have forgotten the price of your books but I have the impression that it is $1.25 and accordingly will enclose $2.50. If I am not right you will tell me.
If you have read the magazine which I loaned you the other day, (The Continental) will you have the goodness to give it to the bearer who will take it to Mrs [Sarah Bradford?] Ripley’s for Miss [Amelia?] Goodwin.
F. B. Sanborn
So much ez Em’son, Hawthorne, an’ Thoreau.
I know the village, though: was sent there once
A-schoolin’, coz to home I played the dunce;
An’ I’ve ben sence a-visitin’ the Jedge,
Whose garding whispers with the river’s edge,
Where I’ve sot mornin’s, lazy as the bream,
Whose only business is to head up-stream,
(We call ’em punkin-seed,) or else in chat
Along’th the Jedge, who covers with his hat
More wit an’ gumption an’ shrewd Yankee sense
Than there is mosses on an ole stone fence.
You may not have been informed of the state of Henry’s health this winter, and will be sorry to hear that he grows feebler day by day, and is evidently failing and fading from our sight. He gets some sleep, has a pretty good appetite, reads at intervals, takes notes of his readings, and likes to see his friends, conversing however with some difficulty as his voice partakes of his general debility.
We had thought this oldest inhabitant of our planet would be chosen to stay and see it fairly dismissed into the Chaos out of which he has brought so many precious jewels, gifts to friends to mankind generally, and a diadem for fames[?] coming followers[?] — forgetful of his claims to the honors — before he chose simply to withdraw from the places and times he has adorned by his [word]. But his work is nearly done for us here, and our woods and fields seem sorrowing, though not in sombre but in the robes of white most becoming the purity and probity that they have known so long and are soon to miss. There has been none such since Pliny, and it will be long before there comes his like; — the most knowing and wonderful worthy of his time.
I write at the suggestion of his sister, who thought his friend would like to be informed of his condition.
A. Bronson Alcott
Only extreme illness has prevented my answering your note earlier. I have no objection to having the papers you refer to printed in your monthly — if my feeble health will permit me to prepare them for the printer. What will you give me for them? They are, or have been used as, lectures of the usual length, — taking about an hour to read & I dont see how they can be divided without injury — How many pages can you print at once? — Of course, I should expect that no sentiment or sentence be altered or omitted without my consent, & to retain the copyright of the paper after you had used it in your monthly. — Is your monthly copyrighted?
S. E. Thoreau
for H. D. Thoreau
I will accept the offer contained in your last, & will forward to you a paper called “Autumnal Tints” in a day or two.
I must ask two favors. First, that I may see the proofs, chiefly that I may look after my peculiarities, for I may not be well enough thoroughly to revise them, and therefore trust that you have a sharp-eyed reader, who will save me that labor.
Secondly, I wish to have the MSS, of this article preserved, since I have no duplicate, & what I send will be culled out of a very large imperfect essay, whose integrity I wish to restore.
Henry D. Thoreau
I send you herewith, the paper called Autumnal Tints. I see that it will have to be divided, & I would prefer that the first portion terminate with page 42, in order that it may make the more impression. The rest I think will take care of itself.
I may as well say now that on pages 55-6-7-8 I have described the Scarlet Oak leaf very minutely. In my lecturing I have always carried a very large & handsome one displayed on a white ground, which did me great service with the audience. Now if you will read those pages, I think that you will see the advantage of having a simple outline engraving of this leaf & also of the White Oak leaf on the opposite page, that the readers may the better appreciate my words — I will supply the leaves to be copied when the time comes.
When you answer the questions in my last note, please let me know about how soon this article will be published.
Henry D. Thoreau
by S. E. Thoreau
Oct. 25th 1853 I received from Munroe & Co. the following note; “We send by express this day a box & bundle containing 250 copies of Concord River, & also 450. in sheets. All of which we trust you will find correct.”
I found by count the number of bound volumes to be correct. The sheets have lain untouched just as received, in stout paper wrappers ever since.
I find that I now have 146 bound copies. Therefore the whole number in my possession is,
Bound copies 146
In sheets 450
You spoke when here, of printing a new edition of the Walden. If you incline to do so, I shall be happy to make an arrangement with you to that effect.
H. D. Thoreau
by S. E. Thoreau
P S. I will send you an article as soon as I can prepare it, which has no relation to the seasons of the year.
I send you with this a paper called The Higher Law, it being much shorter & easier to prepare than that on Walking. It will not need to be divided on account of its length, as indeed the subject does not permit it. I should like to know that you receive it & also about what time it will be published.
H D. Thoreau
by S. E. Thoreau
This Scarlet Oak leaf is the smallest one in my collection, yet it must lose a bristle or two to gain admittance to your page.
I wish simply for a faithful outline engraving of the leaf bristles & all. In the middle of page 57 or of a neighboring page, is a note in pencil — The leaf should be opposite to this page & this note to be altered into a note for the bottom of the page like this — viz “The original of the leaf on the opposite page was picked from such a pile”
Henry D Thoreau
by S. E. Thoreau
I hereby acknowledge the receipt of your check for one hundred dollars on account of manuscript sent to you. — As for another title for the Higher Law article, I can think of nothing better than, Life without Principle. The paper on Walking will be ready ere long.
I shall be happy to have you print 250. copies of Walden on the terms mentioned & will consider this answer as settling the business. I wish to make one alteration in the new edition viz, to leave out from the title the words “Or Life in the Woods.”
H. D. Thoreau
by S. E. Thoreau
I send with this the paper on Walking & also the proofs of Autumnal Tints.
The former paper will bear dividing into two portions very well, the natural joint being, I think at the end of page 44. At any rate the two parcels being separately tied up, will indicate it —
I do not quite like to have the Autumnal Tints described as in two parts, for it appears as if the author had made a permanent distinction between them; Would it not be better to say at the end of the first portion “To be continued in the next number”?
As for the leaf, I had not thought how it should be engraved, but left it to you. Your note suggests that perhaps it is to be done at my expense. What is the custom? and what would be the cost of a steel engraving? I think that an ordinary wood engraving would be much better than nothing.
Henry D. Thoreau
by S. E. Thoreau
I thank you for your very kind letter, which, ever since I received it, I have intended to answer before I died, however briefly. I am encouraged to know, that, so far as you are concerned, I have not written my books in vain. I was particularly gratified, some years ago, when one of my friends and neighbors said, “I wish you would write another book, — write it for me.” He is actually more familiar with what I have written than I am myself.
The verses you refer to in Conway’s “Dial,” were written by F. B. Sanborn of this town . I never wrote for that journal.
I am pleased when you say that in “The Week” you like especially “those little snatches of poetry interspersed through the book,” for these, I suppose, are the least attractive to most readers. I have not been engaged in any particular work on Botany, or the like, though, if I were to live, I should have much to report on Natural History generally.
You ask particularly after my health. I suppose that I have not many months to live; but, of course, I know nothing about it. I may add that I am enjoying existence as much as ever, and regret nothing.
Henry D. Thoreau,
by Sophia E. Thoreau
As it is some time since I wrote you, I have thought that as a faithful chronicler of the season in this section, I would announce to you the present stage of our progress. I will not begin with the origin of creation as many worthy historians are wont, but would say that we have had a pretty steady cold winter through the months of January and February, but since the coming in of March the weather has been mild, though for the past week cloudy and some rain. Today the wind is southerly and the thermometer — 3 p.m. – 46º , north side of our house. A flock of wild geese flew over about an hour ago, which I viewed with my spy-glass — their course about due east. Few things give me a stronger sense of the sublime than the periodical flight of these noble birds. Bluebirds arrived here about a fortnight ago, but a farmer who lives about 1 ½ miles from here north, says he heard them on the 7th Feb’y. I hear the call of the golden winged woodpecker, and the sweet notes of the meadow lark in the morning, and yesterday morning for the first time this spring, we were saluted with the song of a robin in a tree near our house. The song sparrow has been calling the maids to hang on their teakettles for several weeks, and this morning I heard the crackle of the cow-bunting. I must not forget, too, that last evening I heard the ground notes speed, speed of the woodcock and his warbling while descending from his spiral flight. The catkins begin to expand upon the willows, and the grass in warm and rich spots to look green.
Truly spring is here, and each day adds to the interest of the season. I hope you will catch a share of its healthful influences; at least feast upon the stock you have in store, for as friend Alcott says, in his quaint way, you have all weathers within you. Am I right in my intimations that you are mending a little, and that you will be able once more to resume your favorite pursuits so valuable to us all as well as to yourself? May I not hope to see you the coming season at Brooklawn where you are always a welcome guest? I see that you are heralded in the Atlantic for April, and find a genial appreciative notice of you under the head of “Forester,” which I suppose comes from either Alcott or Emerson, and Channing’s lines at the close, which I was also glad to see.
I am reading a very interesting book called “Footnotes from the page of Nature, or first forms of vegetation.” By Rev. Hugh Macmillan, Cambridge and London, 1861. It treats of Mosses, Lichens, Fresh Water Algae and Fungi. The author appears to be rich in lore and writes in an easy manner with no pretension to science. Don’t fail to read it if you can obtain it. It is lent to me by a friendly naturalist.
Hoping to hear of your improved state of health, and with the affectionate regards of my whole family, as well as my own,
I remain, dear friend,
P.S. I notice that Walden is to appear in a second edition, and hope that your publishers will consider your interests as well as their own. Would they not like to buy your unbound copies of “The Week”?
Henry praised to me lately the manners of an old-established, calm, well-behaved river, as perfectly distinguished from those of a new river. A new river is a torrent; an old one slow and steadily supplied. What happens in any part of the old river relates to what befals in every other part of it. ’Tis full of compensations, resources, and reserve funds.
Alone, and idle here this pleasant Sunday p.m., I thought I might write you a few lines, not that I expect you to answer, but only to bring myself a little nearer to you. I have to chronicle this time, the arrival of the purple Finch, and a number of warblers and songsters of the sparrow tribe.
The spring is coming on nicely here, and to-day it is mild, calm, and sunny. I hope you are able to get out a little and breathe the pure air of your fields and woods. While sawing some pine wood the other day, the fragrance suggested to my mind that you might be benefited by living among, or at least frequenting pine woods. I have heard of people much improved in health who were afflicted in breathing, from this source, and I once seriously thought of taking my wife to the pine woods between here and Plymouth, or rather between Middleborough and Plymouth, where the pine grows luxuriantly in the dry yellow ground of that section.
I have thought you might, if still confined, transport yourself in imagination or spirit to your favorite haunts, which might be facilitated by taking a piece of paper and mapping out your usual rambles around Concord, making the village the centre of the chart and giving the name of each part, marking out the roads and footpaths as well as the more prominent natural features of the country.
I have had two unusually dreamy nights — last and the one before. Last night I was climbing mountains with some accidental companion, and among the dizzy heights when near the top I saw and pointed out to my fellow-traveller two enormous birds flying over our heads. These birds soon increased, and, from being as I at first supposed eagles of great size, became griffins! as large as horses, their huge bodies moved along by broadspread wings. The dream continued, but the remainder is as the conclusion of most dreams in strange contrast. I found myself passing through a very narrow and filthy village street, the disagreeable odor of which so quickened my speed as to either awake me or cut off my dream. At any rate, when I awoke my head was aching and I was generally exhausted. But enough of this.
Two young men in a buggy-wagon have just driven up the road singing in very sonorous strains the “John Brown” chorus. I wish its pathetic and heart-stirring appeals could reach the inward ears of Congress and the President. I hope you can see some light on our present benighted way, for I cannot except by the exercise of my faith in an overruling Providence.
I may write you again soon, and hope I do not tire you.
With kind regards to your family and my other Concord friend, I remain,
P.S. I have just seen a cricket in the path near the house. Flies are very lively in my shanty windows. Two flocks wild geese just passed, 4 p.m., N.E. by N. Honk-honk! Honk-honk!
At noise, but thrive unseen and dumb,
Keep clean, bear fruit, earn life, and watch
Till the white-winged reapers come.” – HENRY VAUGHAN.
The most welcome of companions, this plain countryman. One shall not meet with thoughts invigorating like his often: coming so scented of mountain and field breezes and rippling springs, so like a luxuriant clod from under forest-leaves, moist and mossy with earth-spirits. His presence is tonic, like ice-water in dog-days to the parched citizen pent in chambers and under brazen ceilings. Welcome as the gurgle of brooks, the dripping of pitchers, then drink and be cool! He seems one with things, of Nature’s essence and core, knit of strong timbers, most like a wood and its inhabitants. There are in him sod and shade, woods and waters manifold, the mould and mist of earth and sky. Self-poised and sagacious as any denizen of the elements, he has the key to every animals brain, every plant, every shrub and were an Indian to flower forth, and reveal the secrets hidden in his cranium, it would not be more surprising than the speech of our Sylvanus. He must belong to the Homeric age, – is older than pastures and gardens, as if he were of the race of heroes, and one with the elements. He, of all men, seems to be the native New-Englander, as much so as the oak, the granite ledge, our best sample of an indigenous American, untouched by the Old Country, unless he came down from Thor, the Northman; as yet unfathered by any, and a nondescript in the books of natural history.
A peripatetic philosopher, and out of doors for the best parts of his days and nights, he has manifold weather and seasons in him, and the manners of an animal of probity and virtues unstained. Of our moralists he seems the wholesomest; and the best republican citizen in the world, — always at home, and minding his own affairs. Perhaps a little over-confident sometimes, and stiffly individual, dropping society clean out of his theories, while standing friendly in his strict sense of friendship, there is in him an integrity and sense of justice that make possible and actual the virtues of Sparta and the Stoics, and all the more welcome to us in these times of shuffling and of pusillanimity. Plutarch would have made him immortal in his pages, had he lived before his day. Nor have we any so modern as he, — his own and ours; too purely so to be appreciated at once. A scholar by birthright, and an author, his fame has not yet travelled far from the banks of the rivers he has described in his books; but I hazard only the truth in affirming of his prose, that in substance and sense it surpasses that of any naturalist of his time, and that he is sure of a reading in the future. There are fairer fishes in his pages than any now swimming in our streams, and some sleep of his on the banks of the Merrimack by moonlight that Egypt never rivalled; a morning of which Memnon might have envied the music, and a greyhound that was meant for Adonis; some frogs, too, better than any of Aristophanes. Perhaps we have had no eyes like his since Pliny’s time. His senses seem double, giving him access to secrets not easily read by other men: his sagacity resembling that of the beaver and the bee, the dog and the deer; an instinct for seeing and judging, as by some other or seventh sense, dealing with objects as if they were shooting forth from his own mind mythologically, thus completing Nature all round to his senses, and a creation of his at the moment. I am sure he knows the animals, one by one, and everything else knowable in our town, and has named them rightly as Adam did in Paradise, if he be not that ancestor himself. His works are pieces of exquisite sense, celebrations of Natures virginity, exemplified by rare learning and original observations. Persistently independent and manly, he criticizes men and times largely, urging and defending his opinions with the spirit and pertinacity befitting a descendant of him of the Hammer. A head of mixed genealogy like his, Franco-Norman crossed by Scottish and New-England descent, may be forgiven a few characteristic peculiarities and trenchant traits of thinking, amidst his great common sense and fidelity to the core of natural things. Seldom has a head circumscribed so much of the sense of Cosmos as this footed intelligence, — nothing less than all out-of-doors sufficing his genius and scopes, and, day by day, through all weeks and seasons, the year round.
If one would find the wealth of wit there is in this plain man, the information, the sagacity, the poetry, the piety, let him take a walk with him, say of a winters afternoon, to the Blue Water, or anywhere about the outskirts of his village-residence. Pagan as he shall outwardly appear, yet he soon shall be seen to be the hearty worshipper of whatsoever is sound and wholesome in Nature, — a piece of russet probity and sound sense that she delights to own and honor. His talk shall be suggestive, subtile, and sincere, under as many masks and mimicries as the shows he passes, and as significant, — Nature choosing to speak through her chosen mouth-piece, — cynically, perhaps, sometimes, and searching into the marrows of men and times he chances to speak of; to his discomfort mostly, and avoidance. Nature, poetry, life, — not politics, not strict science, not society as it is, — are his preferred themes: the new Pantheon, probably, before he gets far, to the naming of the gods some coming Angelo, some Pliny, is to paint and describe. The world is holy, the things seen symbolizing the Unseen, and worthy of worship so, the Zoroastrian rites most becoming a nature so fine as ours in this thin newness, this worship being so sensible, so promotive of possible pieties, — calling us out of doors and under the firmament, where health and wholesomeness are finely insinuated into our souls, — not as idolaters, but as idealists, the seekers of the Unseen through images of the Invisible.
I think his religion of the most primitive type, and inclusive of all natural creatures and things, even to “the sparrow that falls to the ground,” — though never by shot of his, — and, for whatsoever is manly in man, his worship may compare with that of the priests and heroes of pagan times. Nor is he false to these traits under any guise, — worshipping at unbloody altars, a favorite of the Unseen, Wisest, and Best. Certainly he is better poised and more nearly self-reliant than other men.
Perhaps he deals best with matter, properly, though very adroitly with mind, with persons, as he knows them best, and sees them from Natures circle, wherein he dwells habitually. I should say he inspired the sentiment of love, if, indeed, the sentiment he awakens did not seem to partake of a yet purer sentiment, were that possible, — but nameless from its excellency. Friendly he is, and holds his friends by bearings as strict in their tenderness and consideration as are the laws of his thinking, – as prompt and kindly equitable, — neighborly always, and as apt for occasions as he is strenuous against meddling with others in things not his.
I know of nothing more creditable to his greatness than the thoughtful regard, approaching to reverence, by which he has held for many years some of the best persons of his time, living at a distance, and wont to make their annual pilgrimage, usually on foot, to the master, — a devotion very rare in these times of personal indifference, if not of confessed unbelief in persons and ideas.
He has been less of a housekeeper than most, has harvested more wind and storm, sun and sky; abroad night and day with his leash of keen scents, hounding any game stirring, and running it down, for certain, to be spread on the dresser of his page, and served as a feast to the sound intelligences, before he has done with it. We have been accustomed to consider him the salt of things so long that they must lose their savor without his to season them. And when he goes hence, then Pan is dead, and Nature ailing throughout.
His friend sings him thus, with the advantages of his Walden to show him in Nature: —
After we pass the wood that skirts the road,
A Lake, – the blue-eyed Walden, that doth smile
Most tenderly upon its neighbor Pines;
And they, as if to recompense this love,
In double beauty spread their branches forth.
This Lake has tranquil loveliness and breadth
And, of late years, has added to its charms;
For one attracted to its pleasant edge
Has built himself a little hermitage,
Where with much piety he passes life.
More fitting place I cannot fancy now,
For such a man to let the line run off
The mortal reel, – such patience hath the Lake
Such gratitude and cheer is in the Pines.
But more than either lake or forests depths
This man has in himself: a tranquil man,
With sunny sides where well the fruit is ripe,
Good front and resolute bearing to this life,
And some serener virtues, which control
This rich exterior prudence, – virtues high,
That in the principles of Things are set,
Great by their nature, and consigned to him,
Who, like a faithful Merchant does account
To God for what he spends, and in what way.
Thrice happy art thou, Walden, in thyself!
Such purity is in thy limpid springs, –
In those green shores which do reflect in thee,
And in this man who dwells upon thy edge,
A holy man within a Hermitage.
May all good showers fall gently into thee,
May thy surrounding forests long be spared,
And may the Dweller on thy tranquil marge
There lead a life of deep tranquillity,
Pure as thy Waters, handsome as thy Shores,
And with those virtues which are like the Stars!”
I send you herewith the paper on Wild Apples.
You have made me no offer for the “Week.” Do not suppose that I rate it too high, I shall be glad to dispose of it; & it will be an advantage to advertize it with Walden.
Henry D. Thoreau
by S. E. Thoreau
Your paper on Wild Apples is rece’d. In a few days we will send proof of the article on “Walking.” Touching the “Week on [page torn] we find by yours of [page torn] those already in cloth if we found them rusty. Since the volume was published prices have changed materially and discounts to Booksellers have largely increased. We now make ⅓ & 40% to the Trade as a matter of course. What with bad [page torn] we could not [page torn] our check for the amount.
Yours very truly
Ticknor & Fields
Another Sunday has come round, and as usual I am to be found in the Shanty, where I should also be glad to have you bodily present.
We have had a little interruption to our fine weather during the past week in the shape of a hail-storm yesterday p.m. and evening, but it is clear again to-day, though cooler.
I have to Kronikle the arrival of the white-bellied swallow and the commencement of the frog choir, which saluted my ear for the first time on the evening of the 3d inst. The fields are becoming a little greener, and the trailing moss is already waving along the sides of the rivulets. I have n’t walked much, however, as I have been busy about farm work, the months of April and May being my busiest time, but as my real business is with Nature, I do not let any of these ‘side issues’ lead me astray. How serenely and grandly amid the din of arms Nature preserves her integrity, nothing moved; with the return of spring come the birds and the flowers, the swollen streams go dancing on, and all the laws of the great solar system are perfectly preserved. How wise, how great, must be the Creator and Mover of it all! But I descend to the affairs of mortals, which particularly concern us at this time. I do not think that the people of the North appear to be awakened, enlightened, rather, to their duty in this great struggle. I fear that there is a great deal of treachery which time will alone discover and remove, for the Right must eventually prevail. Can we expect when we consult the page of history that this revolution will be more speedily terminated than others of a like nature? The civil war of England lasted, I think, some ten years, and the American Revolution some seven or eight years, besides the years of antecedent agitation. We have no Cromwell, unless Wendell Phillips shall by and by prove one; but at present he rather represents Hampden, whose mournful end was perhaps a better one than to be killed by a rotten-egg mob. The voice of Hogopolis (the mob portion of Cincinnati), if such grunts can be thus dignified, must prove a lasting disgrace. The government party, if we have a government, seems to continue with a saintly perseverance their faith in General McClellan. How much longer this state of delay will continue to be borne it is difficult to foresee, but I trust the force of circumstances (sub Deo) will soon require a move for the cause of liberty.
I read but little of the newspaper reports of the war, rather preferring to be governed by the general characteristics of the case, as they involuntarily affect my mind.
4 p.m. Since writing the foregoing, somewhat more than an hour ago, I have taken a stroll with my son Walton and our dog through the woods and fields west of our house, where you and I have walked several times; the afternoon is sunny and of mild temperature, but the wind from the N.W. rather cool, rendering overcoat agreeable. Our principal object was to look at lichens and mosses, to which W. is paying some attention. We started up a woodcock at the south edge of the woods, and a large number of robins in a field adjoining, also pigeon-woodpeckers, and heard the warble of bluebirds.
I remain, with faith in the sustaining forces of Nature and Nature’s God,
Yours truly and affectionately,
We remember your fathers kind offer to assist us in our affliction, and it will be very agreeable to us all if he can be with us tonight, please ask him if it is convenient. My dear brother has failed very much since your father last saw him.
S. E. Thoreau
I have just returned from driving our cow to pasture and assisting in our usual in and outdoor work, the first making a fire in our sitting-room, a little artificial warmth being still necessary for my invalid wife, although I sit most of the time as I do now, with my Shanty door open, and without fire in my stove.
Well, my dear friend and fellow-pilgrim, spring has again come, and here appears in full glow. The farmers are busy and have been for some weeks, ploughing and planting, — the necessity of paying more attention to agriculture being strongly felt in these hard times, — old fields and neglected places are now being brought into requisition, and with a good season our former neglected farms will teem with abundance.
I, too, am busy in my way, but on rather a small scale, principally in my garden and among my fruit trees. Walton, however, is head man, and I am obliged generally to submit to his superior judgment.
About all the birds have returned — the large thrush (T. rufus) arrived here on the 25th last month. I am now daily expecting the catbird and ground robin, and soon the Bob-o-link and golden robin. With the arrival of the two last our vernal choir becomes nearly complete. I have known them both to arrive the same day. Of the great variety of little woodland and wayside warblers, I am familiar with but few, yet some of them are great favorites of mine, particularly the oven bird, warbling vireo, veery (T. Wilsonii), etc., etc. The wind flower and blue violet have been in bloom some time, and I suppose the columbine and wild geranium are also, although I have not been to visit them as yet. How beautiful and how wonderful indeed is the return of life — how suggestive and how instructive to mankind! Truly God is great and good and wise and glorious.
I hope this will find you mending, and as I hear nothing to the contrary, I trust that it may be so that you are. I did expect to be able to go to Concord soon; I still may, but at present i do not see my way clear, as we ‘Friends’ say. I often think of you, however, and join hands with you in the spirit, if not in the flesh, which I hope always to do.
I see by the papers that Concord has found a new voice in the way of a literary journal y’cept “The Monitor,” which has my good wishes for its success. I conclude that Mr. [Franklin B.] Sanborn is the pioneer in this enterprise, who appears to be a healthy nursing child of the old mother of heroes. I do not mean to be classic, and only intend to speak of old Mother Concord. I hope [William Ellery] Channing will wake up and give us some of his lucubrations, and father [A. Bronson] Alcott strike his Orphic lyre once more, and [Ralph Waldo] Emerson discourse wisdom and verse from the woods around. There sings a whortleberry sparrow (F. juncorum) from our bush pasture beyond the garden. I hear daily your sparrow (F. Graminus) with his “here! here! there! there! come quick or I’m gone!” By the way, is not Emerson wrong in his interpretation of the whistle of the Chickadee as “Phoebe”? The low, sweet whistle of the “black cap” is very distinct from the clearly expressed Phoebe of the wood pewee. But I must not by hypercritical with so true a poet and lover of Nature as E.
How grandly is the Lord overruling all for the cause of the slave – defeating the evil machinations of men by the operation of his great universal and regulating laws, by which the universe of mind and matter is governed! I do not look for a speedy termination of the war, although matters look more hopeful, but I cannot doubt but that slavery will soon find its exodus. What a glorious country this will be for the next generation should this curse be removed!
Amid the song of purple finches, robins, meadow-larks, and sparrows — a kind of T. solitarius myself — and with heart full of kind wishes and affection for you, I conclude this hasty epistle.
As ever, yours faithfully,
P.S. I believe I answered your sister’s kind and thoughtful letter to me.
“Come tomorrow & bring Mrs Fields to my house. We will give you a very early dinner. Mr Channing is to write a hymn or dirge for the funeral, which is to be from the church, at 3 o’clock. I am to make an address, & probably Mr Alcott may say something.
R. W. Emerson
How faint the sunbeams light the shore? –
His heart more fixed than earth or main,
Henry! that faithful heart is o’er.
Oh, weep not thou thus vast a soul,
Oh, do not mourn this lordly man,
As long as Walden’s waters roll,
And Concord river fills a span.
For thoughtful minds in Henry’s page
Large welcome find, and bless his verse,
Drawn from the poet’s heritage,
From wells of right and nature’s source.
Fountains of hope and faith! inspire
Most stricken hearts to lift this cross;
His perfect trust shall keep the fire,
His glorious peace disarm all loss!
“There have been heroes for whom this world seemed expressly prepared, as if creation had at last succeeded; whose daily life was the stuff o f which our dreams are made, and whose present enhanced the beauty and ampleness of nature herself where they walked.”
“A more copious air invests the fields and clothes with purple light, and they know their own sun and stars. They have the heavens for their abettors, as those who have never stood from under them; they look at the stars with an answering ray. Our present senses are but the rudiments of what they are destined to become. Every generation makes the discovery that its divine vigor has been dissipated and each sense and faculty misapplied and debauched. The ears are made to hear celestial sounds; the eyes to behold beauty not invisible. Did not he that made that which is within make that which is without also? May we not see God? It is but a thin soil where we stand. I have felt my roots in a richer ere this. I have seen a bunch of violets in a glass vase, tied loosely with a wisp of straw, which reminded me of myself.”
Hawthorne [Nathaniel Hawthorne] and family, Blake [H. G. O. Blake] and Brown [Theophilus Brown] from Worcester, J. T. Fields [James T. Fields] and wife and Alger [William Rounseville Alger] from Boston, and many of his townspeople and children of the schools attend the funeral. He is laid in the burying-ground back of the meeting house, near the North Primary School House.
Afterwards interred in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, next to my lot and opposite Hawthorne’s.
And something plaintive let the robin sing;
Gone is our Woodman, leaving us forlorn,
And veiled with tears the merry face of Spring.
Our woods and pastures he for other groves
Forsakes and wanders now by fairer streams;
Yet not forgetful of his earthly loves, –
Ah, no! for so affection fondly dreams.
Dear One! ’T were shame to weep above thy grave,
Or doubtingly thy soul’s far flight pursue;
Peace and Delight must there await the brave,
And Love attend the loving, wise, and true.
Thy well-kept vows our broken aims shall mend,
Oft as we think of thee, great-hearted friend!
You are very attentive to Henry’s bequest in sending me, by fit hands, the rare and wise books, which in his last thoughtful hours, he deemed his friend worth inheriting. As every thought of his was a virtue, I shall prize these books the more on his account, and think tenderly of the giver whenever I open them. These volumes are from his choice library. They came to him honorably and are only older in time, but not in wisdom than his own writings. That he has left so much of his essence behind him: of his life, which he said
– “has been the poem I could have writ,
But I could not both live and utter it”
is a great happiness to his friends, and partly compensates for his laying aside his sun so soon. None living, had a better right to hold it. Nor do I think of contemporary who accomplished so much in so short a time as he has, whether we regard the weight of matter, or wealth of thought. We may be sure of his being read an prized by coming times, and the place and time pertaining to him will be forever and sweeter for his presence. For as flowers which are cut down with the morning dew upon them, do, for a long while after, retain their fragrancy, so the good actions of a wise man perfume his mind and leave a rich scent behind them; so that his memory is, as it were, watered with these essences, and owes it flourishing to them.
Though I address this note to the mother, the sister is in my thoughts, also, as I write.
For Henry’s sake,
as for yours,
your obliged friend.
A. Bronson Alcott
Thoreau’s “Autumnal Tints” is published in the Atlantic Monthly (Atlantic Monthly, vol. 10, no. 60 (October 1862):385-402).