Concord, Massachusetts; Brick or Centre School
House, High School Room
“AN EXCURSION TO CANADA” (I)
NARRATIVE OF EVENT: Thoreau’s journal entry for 22 August 1851 is both a harbinger of his 7 January 1852 lecture and a partial preview of its contents. He says therein:
I found last winter that it was expected that I would give some account of canada because I had visited it and because many of them had & so felt interested in the subject—visited it as the bullet visits the wall at which it is fired & from which it rebounds as quickly & flattened (somewhat damaged, perchance)— Yes a certain man contracted to take 1500 live Yankees through Canada—at a certain rate & within a certain time— It did not matter to him what the commodity was—If only it were dilivered to him according to agreement at the right place & time—and rightly ticketed—so much in bulk—wet or dry[,] on deck or in the hold—at the option of the carrier how to stow the cargo & not always right side up— In the mean while it was understood that the freight was not to be willfully & intentionally debarred from seeing the country if it had eyes— It was understood that there would be a country to be seen on either side—though that was a secret advantage which the contractors seemed not to be aware of—
I fear that I have not got much to say[,] not having seen much—for the very rapidity of the motion had a tendency to keep my eye lids closed— What I got by going to Canada was a cold and not till I get a fever shall I appreciate it. (PEJ4, pp. 7-8)
What Thoreau also got by going to Canada was the lecture that he gave to his townspeople as the sixth lecture of eighteen in the Concord Lyceum’s season course a few months after penning this entry (MassLyc, pp. 165-66). The records of the Concord Lyceum read, “Wednesday Jan 7th 1852 Lecture by H. D. Thoreau. Subject: Excursion to Canada” (MassLyc, p. 166).
ADVERTISEMENTS, REVIEWS, AND RESPONSES: None known.
DESCRIPTION OF TOPIC: See lecture 33 above. Again, Thoreau apparently read the first half of the extant lecture manuscript housed at CSmH (HM 949).
Reprinted with permission