Thoreau’s Lectures After Walden: Lecture 62



9 March 1859, Wednesday; 7:30 p.m.
Concord, Massachusetts; Home of Ralph W. and Lidian (Jackson) Emerson


 NARRATIVE OF EVENT: In his diary entry for 9 March 1859, Bronson Alcott wrote in part, “Evening at Emerson’s with my wife, also Channing is there and some young people of the village. Thoreau reads us his paper on ‘Autumnal Tints,’ and admirable, the last work of our poet naturalist and seer of the seasons.”1
 ADVERTISEMENTS, REVIEWS, AND RESPONSES: Alcott’s diary entry for 9 March continues:

I think he stands nearest nature and to the mastery of her subtler secrets than any mind I have known; of a genius so penetrating, yet so holy, that in discriminating plant, animal, cloud, rock, any colour, or whatsoever nature shows, he wounds never, nor rends; as gentle as a maiden and as tender is his glance, his touch, his tread. Certain it is we had never seen leaves before, the chemistry of evenings and mornings, of twilight, of autumn’s comings and goings, her opulence of foliage, the ways she woos and wins the moral sentiment and the mind through all her changes of leaf and landscapes. And then his uses of the conventions of society in so witty ways to exalt and dignify Nature, his Beloved, the pleasure in common things, and the surprizes along trodden and plain ways. A leaf becomes a Cosmos, a Genesis, and Paradise preserved, in his wonderful treatment of its spirit and parts united.
 We sit till 10, and come home edified, entertained by this wizard townsman of ours. It was fairie land, and the Elysium of Autumn Season in Fancy and the thoughts while we listened.

“And such is he, a forest seer,
…And at his bidding seemed to come.”
Emerson’s Woodnotes.2

 Although it is unclear if Franklin B. Sanborn attended the lecture in Concord (he had heard Thoreau deliver “Autumnal Tints” in Worcester on 22 February), he wrote to Theodore Parker on 13 March to suggest that Parker invite Thoreau to deliver “Autumnal Tints” before his congregation at Boston’s Music Hall, saying of the lecture that it was “as good as anything Thoreau ever wrote” (Days, p. 414).
 In a comment with implications for both of the audience constituencies that Alcott had mentioned in his diary—the “young people of the village” and its elder statesmen such as Emerson, Channing, and Alcott himself—Thoreau wrote in his journal the day after his 9 March reading, “I feel it to be a greater success as a lecturer to affect uncultivated natures than to affect the most refined, for all cultivation is necessarily superficial, and its roots may not even be directed toward the centre of the being” (J, 12:32).
 DESCRIPTION OF TOPIC: See lecture 59 above.

 1. Alcott, MS “Diary for 1859,” entry of 9 March, MH (*59M-308).
 2. Alcott, MS “Diary for 1859,” entry of 9 March, MH (*59M-308).