From: Thoreau as Remembered by a Young Friend (1917)
Author: Edward Waldo Emerson
Published: Houghton Mifflin Company 1917 Boston


  1. Page 5, note 1. Thoreau writes in his journal: “We linger in manhood to tell the dreams of our childhood, and they are half forgotten ere we acquire the faculty of expressing them.”

  2. Page 9, note 1. Lowell never had any but the slightest acquaintance with Thoreau. During his rustication in Concord he had probably been prejudiced by village criticism of Thoreau’s independent ways. Lowell also was distinctly a “society man” and would have been unsympathetic with this rustic oddity. In the Fable for Critics he ridicules Thoreau as an imitator. Years later, in his essay, he treats with a superior levity, through more than half of his pages, this brave and serious man. In two or three pages at the end he gives praise which should make all the previous criticism dust in the balance. Unhappily the neutral public will be prepossessed by the wit and have formed their opinions on the first portion. But Lowell’s Essay, like Stevenson’s, written on imperfect knowledge, remains, and has influenced many people. There is good reason to think that his opinion in later years changed.

  But Lowell must be credited with this high praise of Thoreau’s quality as a writer:—“With every exception there is no writing comparable with Thoreau’s in kind, that is comparable with it in degree where it is best. His range was narrow, but to be a master is to be a master. There are sentences of his as perfect as anything in the language, and thoughts as clearly crystallized; his metaphors and images are always fresh from the soil.”

  3. Page 14, note 1. The late Mr. Horace Hosmer, of Acton, a very interesting man, whose valuable reminiscences of the Thoreau brothers as teachers of the Academy will be given later, kindly sent me, in 1890, the following:—

  Notes and jottings, impressions of Thoreau Family, etc.,—for Edward W. Emerson by Horace R. Hosmer.

  “That H. D. Thoreau was not a superior scion on an inferior stock; neither was he begotten by a northwest wind as many have supposed.

  “That there were good and sufficient reasons for the children’s taste for Botany and Natural History.· ‘The aspirations of parents often become realizations in the children’; John Thoreau and wife were seen year after year on the west bank of the Assabet, on Fairhaven, Lee’s Hill, (Nashawtuc] and at Walden. My mother said that one of the children narrowly escaped being born on Lee’s Hill. I never knew or heard of Mrs. Thoreau taking a second grade of anything willingly.

  “That John Thoreau satisfied her, and that he begot as much brains as was fashionable in those days; that his hand writing was beautiful, that his pencils, marbled paper, stove polish, plumbago for electrotyping was the best in the market.

  “That his negative nature coupled with the positive of his wife produced good results. Was remarkably cautious and secretive.

  “That the light which he hid under a bushel was worth more than the personal and real estate of Concord at that time. John, Jr., was his father turned inside out.

  “Am satisfied that I misconstrued Henry’s silence concerning John. [The young Hosmer, at the time, felt that Thoreau did not care as much as he, who almost worshipped John.] I honestly believed that John was the Architect and Henry only wrought out his plans, and think so yet. Jesus had Paul.”

  4. Page 18, note 1. Thoreau took the Bachelor of Arts, but never the Master of Arts degree, and very properly. For in his day, and for at least thirty years after, the possession of the latter parchment only signified that one’s vitality had held out to bum for three years, and that one could spare five dollars to the University.

  5. Page 22, note 1. This scholar was Horace R. Hosmer, whose account of the senior Thoreaus has been already quoted. His older brother had also been a pupil. Hosmer wrote to me as follows:—

  “Every one in that school had their duties assigned, as on a Cunard steamer, and did their own part.

  “When I first came, a little boy, John said ‘I want you to be a good boy and study, because you are my friend’s little brother.’ Soon after, I was called to his desk by John. He had spoken to me once or twice, but I had not heard, and he thought I was sulky. I said I had not heard him, and he looked at me and believed me, and to make amends opened his desk and took out Lazy Lawrence and gave it to me to read.

  “When the second term was to begin, he said to me, ‘If your father does n’t feel able to send you next term, you come, and you shall have your tuition free.’

  “Sometimes he used to take me by the hand and lead me home to dinner. I never forgot those dinners; the room was shaded and cool, there was no hustle. Mrs. Thoreau’s bread, brown and white, was the best I had ever tasted. They had, beside, vegetables and fruit, pies or puddings; but I never saw meat there. [The Thoreaus were not vegetarians exclusively, but this was at a time of saving.] Their living was a revelation to me. I think they were twenty years ahead of the times in Concord.

  “At the house there was nothing jarring. Mrs. Thoreau was pleasant and talkative and her husband was always kind. If I ever saw a gentleman at home, it was he. John would carry melons from his garden for the scholars. Once I found a piece of melon in my desk and should have supposed it was put there as a joke, but I caught the fragrance. It was the first citron melon I ever had seen.

  “In reading about Arnold of Rugby I have often thought that John Thoreau resembled him in conducting his school. To me that man seemed to make all things possible. Henry was not loved in the school. He had his scholars upstairs. I was with John only. John was the more human, loving; understood and thought of others. Henry thought more about himself. He was a conscientious teacher but rigid.” . . . Here follows the passage, quoted in the text, of Henry’s then being “in the green-apple stage.”

  As I parted from Mr. Hosmer, whom the memory of his loved master had deeply stirred, he exclaimed, “When I hear of Henry Thoreau’s growing fame the lines in Byron’s ‘Isles of Greece’ from our old Reading Book rise in my mind,—

‘Ye have the Pyrrhic dance as yet,—
Where is the Pyrrhic phalanx gone?
Of two such lessons why forget
The nobler and the manlier one?’”

And the tears stood in his eyes.

  6. Page 23, note 1. This pupil was Dr. Thomas Hosmer of Bedford, for many years a practitioner of dentistry in Boston. He and another Bedford boy, B.W. Lee, later of Newport, Vermont, used to walk to the Academy, four miles, and back, every day and were praised for never having been absent or tardy. In winter they could skate up the river part way. Henry taught the older classes Latin and Greek, also Natural Philosophy. Both of these boys valued the school and their teachers highly.

  Mr. Lee wrote to me, “There is one thing which I shall never forget of them, and that is their kindness and good will shown me while at their school, and their great desire to impress upon the minds of their scholars to do right always.”

  Dr. Hosmer added this pleasant picture to his story of Henry: “I have seen children catch him by the hand, as he was going home from school, to walk with him and hear more.”

  Thoreau’s morning talks, Dr. Hosmer said, “showed that he knew himself there to teach broadly, and to awaken thought,—not merely to hear lessons in the rudiments of letters.”

  7. Page 23, note 2. Henry thus treated of profanity: “Boys, if you went to talk business with a man, and he persisted in thrusting words having no connection with the subject into all parts of every sentence—Boot-jack, for instance,—would n’t you think he was taking a liberty with you, and trifling with your time, and wasting his own?” He then introduced the “Boot-jack” violently and frequently into a sentence, to illustrate the absurdity of street bad language in a striking way.

  8. Page 24, note 1. Mr. George Keyes, of Concord, spoke of that school as “very pleasant indeed.” He told me that the brothers organized a survey of Fairhaven Hill in Concord and the river-shore below it, to give the boys an idea of the field-work of surveying, and the use of instruments. In this he remembers Henry as the more active of the two.

  Mr. Keyes said: “We boys used to visit him on Saturday afternoons at his house by Walden, and he would show us interesting things in the woods near by. I did not see the philosophical side. He was never stern or pedantic, but natural and very agreeable, friendly,—but a person you would never feel inclined to fool with. A face that you would long remember. Though short in stature, and inconspicuous in dress, you would not fail to notice him in the street, as more than ordinary.”

  9. Page 24, note 2. Thoreau sent to his friend a copy of these verses. In Mr. Emerson’s journal for August, 1839, is written: “Last night came to me a beautiful poem from Henry Thoreau, ‘Sympathy.’ The purest strain, and the loftiest, I think, that has yet pealed from this unpoetic American forest. I hear his verses with as much triumph as I point to my Guido when they praise half poets and half painters.” [Carlyle had sent to Mr. and Mrs. Emerson a fine engraving of The Aurora.]

  Three years later, the older friend was more exacting in his praise of the younger. In November, 1842, he wrote: “Henry Thoreau wrote me verses which pleased, if not by beauty of particular lines, yet by the honest truth, and by the length of flight and strength of wing, for most of our poets are only writers of lines or of epigrams. These of Henry’s at least have rude strength, and we do not come to the bottom of the mine. Their fault is that the gold does not yet flow pure, but is drossy and crude. The thyme and marjoram are not yet made into honey.”

  10. Page 27, note 1. Thoreau wrote soon after little Waldo’s death to Mrs. Emerson’s sister:—“As for Waldo, he died as the mist rises from the brook which the sun will soon dart his rays through. Do not the flowers die every autumn? He had not even taken root here. I was not startled to hear that he was dead; it seemed the most natural thing that could happen. His fine organization demanded it, and Nature gently yielded his request. It would have been strange if he had lived.”

  11. Page 30, note 1. In 1843, after he had lived more than a year with the Emersons, Thoreau went to Staten Island as tutor to one of Mr. William Emerson’s sons for several months. After his return, Mr. Emerson went to England and again he kindly came to live and look after things in his friend’s home. After Mr. Emerson’s return his daughter Ellen, ten years old, the eldest child, went to visit her Staten Island relatives. Thoreau, perhaps remembering his homesickness while there, kindly wrote the following home letter to the little girl:—

CONCORD, July 31st, 1849.


  I think that we are pretty well acquainted, though we never had any very long talks. We have had a good many short talks, at any rate. Don’t you remember how we used to despatch our breakfasts two winters ago, as soon as Eddy could get on his feeding-tire, which was not always remembered before the rest of the household had come down? Don’t you remember our wise criticisms on the pictures in the portfolio and the Turkish book, with Eddy and Edith looking on,—how almost any pictures answered our purpose and we went through the Penny Magazine, first from beginning to end, and then from end to beginning, and Eddy stared just as much the second time as the first, and Edith thought that we turned over too soon, and that there were some things which she had not seen? I can guess pretty well what interests you and what you think about. Indeed I am interested in pretty much the same things myself. I suppose you think that persons who are as old as your father and myself are always thinking about very grave things, but I know that we are meditating the same old themes that we did when we were ten years old, only we go more gravely about it. You love to write or to read a fairy story, and that is what you will always like to do, in some form or other. By and by you will discover that you want what are called the necessaries of life only that you may realize some such dream.

  Eddy has got him a fish-pole and line with a pin-hook at the end, which he flourishes over the dry ground and the carpet at the risk of tearing out our eyes; but when I told him that he must have a cork and a sinker, his mother took off the pin and tied on a cork instead; but he doubts whether that will catch fish as well. He tells me that he is five years old. Indeed I was present at the celebration of his birth-day lately, and supplied the company with onion and squash pipes, and rhubarb whistles, which is the most I can do on such occasions. Little Sammy Hoar blowed them most successfully, and made the loudest noise, though it almost strained his eyes out to do it. Edith is full of spirits. When she comes home from school she goes hop, skip and jump down into the field to pick berries, currants, gooseberries, raspberries, and thimbleberries; if there is one of these that has thoughts of changing its hue by tomorrow morning, I guess that Edith knows something about it and will consign it to her basket for Grandmama.

  Children may now be seen going a-berrying in all directions. The white-lilies are in blossom, and the john’swort and goldenrod are beginning to come out. Old people say that we have not had so warm a summer for thirty years. Several persons have died in consequence of the heat,—Mr. Kendal, perhaps for one. The Irishmen on the railroad were obliged to leave off their work for several days, and the farmers left their fields and sought the shade. William Brown of the poor house is dead,—the one who used to ask for a cent—“Give me a cent?” I wonder who will have his cents now!

  I found a nice penknife on the bank of the river this afternoon, which was probably lost by some villager who went there to bathe lately. Yesterday I found a nice arrowhead, which was lost some time before by an Indian who was hunting there. The knife was a very little rusted; the arrowhead was not rusted at all.

  You must see the sun rise out of the ocean before you come home. I think that Long Island will not be in the way, if you climb to the top of the hill—at least, no more than Bolster Island, and Pillow Hills, and even the Lowlands of Never-get-up are elsewhere.

  Do not think that you must write to me because I have written to you. It does not follow at all. You would not naturally make so long a speech to me here in a month as a letter would be. Yet if some time it should be perfectly easy and pleasant to you, I shall be very glad to have a sentence.

Your old acquaintance,

  12. Page 34, note 1. This passage in Mr. Emerson’s journal in 1834 carries us back to the young mechanic period: “Henry Thoreau said he knew but one secret, which was, to do one thing at a time, and, though he has his evenings for study, if he was in the day inventing machines for sawing his plumbago, he invents wheels all the evening and night also; and if this week he has some good reading and thoughts before him his brain runs on that all day whilst pencils pass through his hands.”

  13. Page 35, note 1. In 1890, I talked with Mr. Warren Miles of Concord, who, having worked with the Munroes, earlier pencil-makers of Concord, came into the employ of John Thoreau, Sr. He told me that the graphite came from the Tudor Mine at Sturbridge for many years, until that mine was closed. Later, it was procured from Canada, but was not so good. It seems that the Germans got their lead, such as is used in the Fabers’ pencil, from Ceylon. Miles suggested the improvement of stones, instead of iron balls, for grinding. Presumably this was after the Thoreaus’ invention of the air-blast which gave the wonderfully fine powder to which they owed their success, for, before that, the grit of the stones would have spoiled the product. Mr. Miles thinks that John Thoreau, Sr., may have thought of the air-blast plan, but that Henry at any rate worked out the details. Mr. Miles took me to his mill to see the perfection and simplicity of the operation.

  Mr. Horace Hosmer, who, for a time, was the travelling selling agent of the pencils, stated that the Bavarian clay was used here at that time by the New England Glass Company, and by the Phœnix Crucible Company of Taunton. Perhaps the Thoreaus bought it through these companies. The old pencils were filled by applying the warm mixture of graphite, glue and spermaceti or bayberry wax with a brush to the grooved half of the pencil. The Thoreaus’ clay and graphite mixture, after casting into “leads,” hardened like stone and could stand intense heat.

  14. Page 45, note 1. Thoreau writes: “Explore your own higher latitudes; nay, be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought. Every man is lord of a realm beside which the earthly empire of the Czar is but a petty state. I do not wish to be any more busy with my hands than is necessary. My head is hands and feet. I feel all my best faculties concentrated in it. My instinct tells me that my head is an organ for burrowing, as some creatures use their snout and fore-paws, and with it I would mine and burrow my way through these hills. I think that the richest vein is somewhere hereabouts: so by the divining rod and thin rising vapours I judge: and here I will begin to mine.”

  Again: “If my curve is large, why bend it to a smaller circle?”

  Emerson wrote of Thoreau: “He who sees the horizon may securely say what he pleases of any twig or tree between him and it.”

  15. Page 54, note 1. “The Regicides,” Edward Goffe and William Whalley, distinguished officers under Cromwell, who, proscribed after the Restoration, fled to New England and with a price set on their heads lived to old age bidden among the bills near Hadley and New Haven.

  16. Page 65, note 1. Allusion has been made to the time when Staples became Emerson’s next neighbour and on the survey it appeared that the partition ditch was well over on the land of the latter. The matter being generously settled, Thoreau came into the house and sat down to rest in the study. He said: “I like Sam Staples; he has no hypocrisy about him. He has just been telling me how he came to Concord, nineteen years old, after a hard-worked boyhood, looking for a job. He had just a ninepence [they were then in use], and he went over to the tavern and spent half of it for rum, and he says it started him right, and in good spirits.” The youth’s steady advance from then to the day of his death ought not to make a good Sunday-School book. First, he was hostler, soon promoted to bar-keeper and clerk, then married the only daughter of the innkeeper; was chosen constable. Concord was then a shire-town and as judges, lawyers, jurymen, and witnesses had all made pleasant acquaintance with him in his honest dispensing of spirituous comforts, he was appointed jailor, and was a most able, humane and intelligent one, also tax-collector. Mr. Emerson had performed his marriage ceremony, and, as Alcott and John S. Dwight happened to be with him, they were present as witnesses in the “old Middlesex” parlor. Staples, later, confounded Dwight with the Englishman Wright (of the Fruitlands colony), so, in his old age, telling me the story, added, “I had both of ‘em in my jail soon after.” His steady friendship for Thoreau, his first prisoner for conscience’ sake, and his distinctly unsympathetic relation with Dr. Alcott whom, with entire kindness, he spoke of as “a regular dude,” have been told.

  A few years later he was chosen Representative in the General Court, and twice reëlected, serving sensibly and well on the Committees on Prisons and on Accounts. When the Court and jail were moved to Lowell, Staples became an auctioneer, real estate man. and farmer, but will be remembered perhaps chiefly as a kindly neighbour, advisor of unpractical people of all degrees in our village family, especially of widows and lone women. He called almost every one by their first names and it was not taken amiss. He was a genial member of the Social Circle. Once at one of their evening gatherings, the late Judge Keyes spoke of the interesting composition of the Club,—two ministers, three judges, one lawyer, one doctor, and so on through the list, ending “and one gentleman.” Immediately the chorus, “Who’s that, Judge?” rose, for we all were sure we were otherwise accounted for. “Why, Sam there. He’s our one retired gentleman,” said the judge. When, a few years later, in the winter of 1894-95, we lost Judge Hoar, Rev. Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Staples, we felt as if a tripod upholding Concord’s high standards and kindly, simple life had fallen.

  17. Page 66, note 1. The late George Bradford Bartlett remembered Thoreau’s coming often to his father, good Doctor Bartlett’s house. He did so the night after his release from prison. George felt as if he were seeing a Siberian exile, or John Bunyan.

  He said that Henry often did carpentry jobs, etc., for his father. The Doctor furnished a fence for poor Mrs. O’Brien, opposite the New Burying-ground, and Thoreau made it, with George’s boyish help. He used to visit Thoreau at Walden and remembers how the house was arranged. He recalls his pausing to hear songs of distant birds, telling what bird it was, and whether male or female, that sung or chirped; also calling attention to insect sounds, and his inferring the insect’s state of mind. He recalled the sudden increase of Thoreau’s library by his receiving upwards of four hundred volumes of the Week back from the publishers, and Mr. Emerson’s saying, “The day will come when this will be famous as Gilbert White’s Notes of Selborne,” was more than fulfilled. Mr. Bartlett also told me that, in Pennsylvania, he had met a student, a Russian Jew, who was eager to see him, as a man who had known Thoreau. This man said that, in his early youth, in Russia, he had read one of Thoreau’s books, and it had determined him to become a free man and helped him through the toil and danger required. His desire was to translate Thoreau’s works into Russian.

  18. Page 66, note 2. Thoreau had earlier objected to a man’s deliberately putting himself into an attitude of opposition to the laws of society, or of the land, but rather felt it his duty to “maintain himself, in whatever attitude he find himself through obedience to the laws of his being, which will never be one of opposition to a just government, if he should chance to meet with such.” Now, every sense of the man rebelled at the official attitude of his country with regard to human slavery.

  19. Page 67, note 1. But the judge, as in duty bound, explained to the Jury that this law had been regularly enacted by Congress, approved by the President, and held to be valid by the Supreme Court; hence, that all citizens were in practice legally bound to obey it. He admitted that even a Republic might pass a wicked law. “If a statute is passed which any citizen, examining his duty by the best light which God has given him, . . . believes to be wicked, and which, acting under the law of God, he thinks he ought to disobey, unquestionably he ought to disobey that statute, because he ought to ‘obey God rather than man.’ . . . But, gentlemen, a man whose private conscience leads him to disobey a law recognized by the community must take the consequences of that disobedience. It is a matter solely between him and his Maker. . . . . It will not do for the public authorities to recognize his private opinion as a justification of his acts.’’

  Emerson said, in public, at this period: “The Union is at an end so soon as an immoral law is enacted, and he who writes a crime into the statute-book digs under the foundations of the Capitol, to plant there a powder magazine, and lays a train.”

  20. Page 68, note 1. Mr. Henry S. Salt, who, in 1890, published in London his excellent and appreciative book on Thoreau, tells how in the same essay Stevenson summed up his character by the phrase “a skulker” but had to admit later—unhappily only in a preface—that he had quite misread Thoreau through lack of sufficient knowledge of his life.

  21. Page 72, note 1. Thoreau once said: “A thought would destroy, like the jet of a blowpipe, most persons.”

  22. Page 73, note 1. A lady who, from her youth upward, was constantly meeting Thoreau at the homes of two of his friends where she also often stayed, and who also was in friendly relation with his mother and sister, says: “When others say of Henry Thoreau that he took no interest except in his selfish concerns, that he was a mere hermit, that he was strange, indolent, had no occupation, immediately it comes to me that that is all wrong. It seems as if he had so much affection, was cordial with his kind, that is, when they were of his kind, where there were points of contact.

  “He took great pleasure in learning from Nature and he wished to divide what he learned with others, and to help let them see with his eyes, that is, show them how to see.”

  Thoreau wrote in his journal: “It is always a recommendation to me to know that a man has ever been poor, has been regularly born into this world; knows the language. . . . I require to be assured of certain philosophers that they have once been bare-footed, have eaten a crust because they had nothing better.”

  23. Page 74, note 1. Thoreau, living by Walden wrote: “In a pleasant spring morning all men’s sins are forgiven. Such a day is a truce to vice. While such a sun holds out to bum, the vilest sinner may return. Through our own recovered innocence we discern the innocence of our neighbours. You may have known your neighbour yesterday for a thief, a drunkard, or a sensualist, and merely pitied or despised him, and despaired of the world; but the sun shines bright and warm this spring morning, recreating the world, and you meet him at some serene work, and see how his exhausted and debauched veins expand with still joy and bless the new day, feel the spring influence with the innocence of infancy, and all his faults are forgotten. There is not only an atmosphere of goodwill about him, but even a savour of holiness groping for expression, blindly and ineffectually perhaps, like a new-born instinct, and for a short hour the south hill-side echoes to no vulgar jest. You see some innocent fair shoots preparing to burst from his gnarled rind and try another year’s life, tender and fresh as the youngest plant. Even he has entered into the joy of his lord. Why the jailor does not leave open his prison doors,—why the judge does not dismiss his case,—why the preacher does not dismiss his congregation. It is because they do not obey the hint that God gives them, nor accept the pardon that he freely offers to all.”

  24. Page 75, note 1. The “River Fisherman” was written by Mrs. Edith Emerson Forbes.

  25. Page 76, note 1. Thoreau wrote in his journal: “There are poets of all kinds and degrees, little known to each other. The Lake School is not the only, or the principal one. They love various things; some love beauty, and some love rum. Some go to Rome,—and some go a-fishing, and are sent to the house of correction once a month. They keep up their fires by means unknown to me. I know not their comings and goings. I know them wild, and ready to risk all when their muse invites. I meet these gods of the river and woods with sparkling faces (like Apollo’s), late from the house of correction, it may be,—carrying whatever mystic and forbidden bottles or other vessels concealed; while the dull, regular priests are steering their parish rafts in a prose mood. What care I to see galleries full of representations of heathen gods, when I can see actual living ones by an infinitely superior artist?”

  He loved the River: “It is my own highway, the only wild and unfenced part of the world hereabouts.” But always he looked for something behind what he saw. At another time he writes: “Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it, but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current glides away, but eternity remains. I would drink deeper; fish in the sky whose bottom is pebbly with stars.”

  26. Page 86, note 1. In the year of Our Lord, 1852, the alleged manifestations of departed spirits reached Concord, through various humble “mediums.” Judge Hoar remarked, “If this be a treasure, verily we have it in earthen vessels.”

  Thoreau writes to his sister, in Bangor: “Concord is just as idiotic as ever in relation to the spirits and their knockings. Most people here believe in a spiritual world which no respectable junk bottle, which had not met with a slip, would condescend to contain even a portion of for a moment,—whose atmosphere would extinguish a candle let down into it, like a well that wants airing; in spirits which the very bullfrogs in our meadows would blackball. Their evil genius is seeing how low it can degrade them. The hooting of owls, the croaking of frogs, is celestial wisdom in comparison. If I could be brought to believe in the things which they believe, I should make haste to get rid of my certificate of stock in this and the next world’s enterprises, and buy a share in the first Immediate Annihilation Company that offered. I would exchange my immortality for a glass of small beer this hot weather. Where are the heathen? Was there ever any superstition before? And yet I suppose there may be a vessel this very moment setting sail from the coast of Africa with a missionary on board! Consider the dawn and the sunrise,—the rainbow and the evening,—the words of Christ and the aspiration of all the saints! Hear music! see, smell, taste, feel, hear,—anything,—and then hear these idiots, inspired by the cracking of a restless board, humbly asking. ‘Please, Spirit, if you cannot answer by knocks, answer by tips of the table.’ ! ! ! ! ! ! !”

  27. Page 88, note 1. Through his neighbour Channing. Thoreau formed a friendship with the Ricketson family living near New Bedford, kindly people of high ideals, simple life, and lovers of Nature. The region about their home by the blue waters of Buzzard’s Bay and in its softer air made a pleasant change in Spring or Autumn, and Thoreau found himself much at home there. He was interested not only in the parents, but their boys, one of whom made, long after Thoreau’s death, the admirable bust of him of which I am permitted to use the photograph. He helped them in the alterations of their fishing boat and sailed with them. While Thoreau was visiting this family Mrs. Ricketson, playing on the piano, asked him if he cared for music and whether he sung. “Yes,” he answered, “I am fond of music, and when I am in the woods I sometimes sing.” She asked him to sing to the family. He answered, “Oh. I fear if I do I shall take the roof of the house off.” His hostess urged him, and sat down to play the accompaniment, and he sang his favorite “ Tom Bowling” with spirit and feeling, giving the full sentiment of the verses.

  Alcott and George William Curtis were both visiting Mr. Ricketson. and interesting discourse had gone on at the dinner, Thoreau talking very well. After dinner. Alcott and Curtis went with Mr. Ricketson to his “Shanty” for serious talk, but the others went into the parlor to consult some bird book. Mrs. Ricketson, playing at her piano, struck into “The Campbells are Coming.” Thoreau put down his book and began to dance—a sylvan dance, as of a faun among rocks and bushes in a sort of labyrinthine fashion. now leaping over obstacles, then advancing with stately strides, returning in curves, then coming back in leaps. Alcott, coming in, stood thunderstruck to see “Thoreau acting his feelings in motion” as he called it. Alcott did not have that kind of feelings.

  28. Page 96, note 1. The fishman in those days proclaimed his advent by blasts on a long tin horn as he drove his covered wagon through the country roads. Only towns near the seashore had fishmarkets.

  29. Page 97, note 1. The pickerel of Walden now nearly if not quite, extinct who lived in that pure water supplied by springs at the bottom, were quite different from those of the sluggish and more weedy river, with its darker water. The latter seemed of less delicate lines, and were of a dark, more muddy green, while the Walden pickerel were more silvery, and the green, as I recall it, was very pure, light and iridescent.

  30. Page 107, note 1. Abbot Samson is the hero in Carlyle’s Past and Present.

  31. Page l07, note 2. On my birthday, in the early summer, just before I went to take my examination for Harvard, my father and mother invited Thoreau and Channing, both, but especially Thoreau, friends from my babyhood, to dine with us. When we left the table and were passing into the parlour, Thoreau asked me to come with him to our East door—our more homelike door, facing the orchard. It was an act of affectionate courtesy, for he had divined my suppressed state of mind and remembered that first crisis in his own life, and the wrench that it seemed in advance, as a gate leading out into an untried world. With serious face, but with a very quiet, friendly tone of voice, he reassured me, told me that I should be really close to home; very likely should pass my life in Concord. It was a great relief.

  32. Page 108, note 1. The legend is beautifully given by Browning in his “Pheidippides.”

  33. [Page 113, note 1 was left out of the original text.]

  34. Page 117, note l. Mr. Reynolds also told how, speaking of Indian arrow-heads, he asked Thoreau if they were not rather hard to find. He said, “Yes, rather hard, but at six cents apiece I could make a comfortable living out of them.”

  Mr. Reynolds added: “Thoreau was one of the pleasantest gentlemen, most social and agreeable, I ever met. When I officiated at his father’s funeral he came over the next evening as a courteous acknowledgment, and spent two hours, and told his Canada story far better than in his book.”

  From his window Thoreau could see the quiet river. Mr. Emerson, coming home from a visit to him during the last weeks of his life, wrote,—

  “Henry praised to me the manners of an old, established, calm, well-behaved river, as 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 an old river relates to what befals in every other part of it. ‘Tis full of compensations, resources and reserved funds.”

  35. Page 118, note 1. The news of Thoreau’s death came to Louisa Alcott, then nursing in a military hospital. In the watches of the night, sitting by the cot of a dying soldier, her thoughts wandered back to the happy evenings when Thoreau might bring his flute with him to please the growing girls, when he visited the elders; that yellow flute, very melodious in its tone, which his brother John used to play. In these sad surroundings she wrote:—

Thoreau’s Flute

We sighing said, “Our Pan is dead—
His pipe hangs mute beside the river,
Around it friendly moonbeams quiver,
But music’s airy voice is fled.
Spring comes to us in guise forlorn,
The blue-bird chants a requiem,
The willow-blossom waits for him,
The genius of the wood is gone”

Then from the flute, untouched by hands,
There came a low, harmonious breath:
For such as he there is no death.
His life the eternal life commands.
Above men’s aims his nature rose.
The wisdom of a just content
Made one small spot a continent,
And turned to poetry life’s prose

Haunting the bills, the stream, the wild,
Swallow and aster, lake and pine
To him seemed human or divine,
Fit mates for this large-hearted child.
Such homage Nature ne’er forgets;
And yearly on the coverlid
‘Neath which her darling lieth hid
Will write his name in violets.

To him no vain regrets belong
Whose soul, that finer instrument,
Gave to the world no poor lament,
But wood-notes ever sweet and strong.
Oh lonely friend, He still will be
A potent presence, though unseen.
Steadfast, sagacious and serene.
Seek not for him: he is with Thee.

  36. Page 121, note 1. A month after the death of his friend, Mr. Emerson wrote in his journal:—

  “Henry Thoreau remains erect, calm, self-subsistent before me, and I read him, not only truly in his Journal, but he is not long out of mind when I walk, and, as to-day, row upon the Pond. He chose wisely, no doubt, for himself to be the bachelor of thought and nature that he was—how near to the old monks in their ascetic religion! He had no talent for wealth, and knew how to be poor without the least hint of squalor or inelegance. Perhaps he fell—all of us do—into his way of living without forecasting it much, but approved and confirmed it with later wisdom.”

  A little later Thoreau’s family put his Journals into Mr. Emerson’s hands for him to read. Their truth and beauty were a delight to him, and he felt that his friend had fully justified himself. He frequently came out of his study to read passages to the family. I find the following in his Journal for 1863:—

  “In reading Henry Thoreau’s journal, I am very sensible of the origin of his constitution. That oaken strength which I noted whenever he walked or worked or surveyed woodlots, the same unhesitating hand with which a field labourer accosts a piece of work, which I should shun as a waste of strength, Henry shows in his literary work. He has muscle and ventures on and performs feats which I am forced to decline. In reading him I find the same thoughts, the same spirit that is in me, but he takes a step beyond and illustrates by excellent images that which I should have conveyed in a sleepy generalization. ‘Tis as if I went into a gymnasium and saw youths leap, climb, and swing with a force unapproachable, though their feats are only continuations of my initial grapplings and jumps.”

  The friendship and honour one for the other ran true to the end, in spite of temperamental barriers in communication. Emerson spoke his feeling about his friend at the burial:—

  ‘“The Country knows not yet, or in the least part how great a son it has lost. It seems an injury that he should leave, in the midst, his broken task, which none can finish, a kind of indignity to so noble a soul that he should depart out of Nature before yet he has been really shown to his peers for what he is. But he, at least, is content. His soul was made for the noblest society; he had in a short life exhausted the capabilities of this world: wherever there is knowledge, wherever there is virtue. Wherever there is beauty, he will find a home.”

All Sub-Works of Thoreau as Remembered by a Young Friend (1917):
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