Lincoln, Massachusetts; Centre School House
“AN EXCURSION TO CANADA”
NARRATIVE OF EVENT: Thomas Blanding has corrected an earlier misdating of this lecture delivery. Blanding states:
The date of Thoreau’s Canada lecture in Lincoln usually is given as January 6, 1852 … on the authority of Thoreau’s Journal entry for January 7, 1852: “Last evening, walked to Lincoln to lecture in a driving snow-storm” [PEJ4, p. 240]. The minutes of the Lincoln Lyceum for December 30, 1851, however, read: “Listened to a lecture by Mr. Thoreau, of Concord. Subject: His travels in Canada” [MassLyc, p. 223]. Thoreau’s journal entry for January 7 records the fact that he went to a lecture in Lincoln the evening before. The minutes for that evening read: “A lecture was delivered by the Rev. Mr. Woodbury, of Acton. Subject: The character of the Puritans” (MassLyc, p. 223).1
Thoreau may have decided to attend Woodbury’s lecture, probably having heard about it while at the Centre School House in Lincoln on the night of his own lecture, because he was at this time still working on his “Cape Cod” manuscript, a portion of which dealt with the Puritan character.
In any case, Thoreau’s lecture was the fourth in a course of thirteen that season (MassLyc, pp. 223-24). In his diary the next day, Bronson Alcott reported, “Pass the forenoon and dine with Thoreau, who reads me passages from his ‘Canadian Tour,’ which he is now compiling from notes for Lyceum Readings.—Also at Hillside.”2 Alcott’s entry indicates that Thoreau was anticipating further presentations of his new and probably still evolving manuscript. Specifically, the reference to Hillside indicates a prospective delivery in Plymouth, Massachusetts, as Hillside was the Plymouth estate of Thoreau’s friend B. Marston Watson, who was soon to begin facilitating Thoreau’s lecturing in that town. In a letter dated 15 February 1852, however, Watson asked Thoreau to deliver his “Life in the Woods” lectures in Plymouth, and Thoreau acceded to the request (see lecture 35 below).3
ADVERTISEMENTS, REVIEWS, AND RESPONSES: None known.
DESCRIPTION OF TOPIC: Thoreau had visited Quebec and Montreal with Channing from 25 September to 3 or 4 October 1850, but as his journal entry of 22 August 1851 (see lecture 34 below) and Alcott’s diary entry of 31 December 1851 suggest, he seems to have waited a year or more to begin working up his journal notes on the excursion into lecture form. The extant lecture manuscript, which is housed at CSmH (HM 949) and which Thoreau apparently used as two lectures, reads like a condensed version of the book A Yankee in Canada. Thoreau probably read only the first half of the almost two hundred-page manuscript in Lincoln, perhaps because he may have still been working on the second half of the manuscript.
2. Alcott, MS “Diary for 1851,” entry of 31 December, MH (*59M-308).
3. MPIPS; typescript at the Thoreau Textual Center, CU-SB.
Reprinted with permission