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TO VARIOUS PERSONS
HENRY D. THOREAU,
AUTHOR OF "A WEEK ON THE CONCORD AND MERRIMACK RIVERS,
"WALDEN," ETC., ETC.
TICKNOR AND FIELDS
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1865, by
TICKNOR AND FIELDS,
in the Clerk s Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.
UNIVERSITY PRESS : WELCH, BIGEXOW, & Co.
EDITOR S NOTICE.
IT may interest the reader of this book to
know that nearly all these letters have been
printed directly from the original autographs fur
nished by the persons to whom they were ad
dressed. A few have been carefully copied, but
without alteration, from the worn and torn origi
nals. In some letters, passages have been omit
ted on account of private or personal references.
Otherwise, the letters have been printed as they
stood, with very few verbal corrections.
R. W. E.
12 May, 1865.
SYMPATHY . . . . . . . .211
"ROMANS, COUNTRYMEN, AND LOVERS" . . 214
THE FISHER S BOY 220
SMOKE IN WINTER ...... 226
HAZE . 229
TO MISS THOREAU.
CONCORD, June 13, 1840.
That letter to J , for which you had an
opportunity doubtless to substitute a more perfect
communication, fell, as was natural, into the hands
of his " transcendental brother," who is his proxy in
such cases, having been commissioned to acknowl
edge and receipt all bills that may be presented.
But what s in a name ? Perhaps it does not mat
ter whether it be John or Henry. Nor will those
same six months have to be altered, I fear, to suit
his case as well. But methinks they have not
passed entirely without intercourse, provided we
have been sincere though humble worshippers of
the same virtue in the mean time. Certainly it is
better that we should make ourselves quite sure of
such a communion as this by the only course which
is completely free from suspicion, the coincidence
of two earnest and aspiring lives, than run the
risk of a disappointment by relying wholly or
chiefly on so meagre and uncertain a means as
speech, whether written or spoken, affords. How
often, when we have been nearest each other
bodily, have we really been farthest oif ! Our
tongues were the withy foils with which we fenced
each other off. Not that we have not met heartily
and with profit as members of one family, but it
was a small one surely, and not that other human
family. We have met frankly and without con
cealment ever, as befits those who have an instinc
tive trust in one another, and the scenery of whose
outward lives has been the same, but never as,
prompted by an earnest and affectionate desire to
probe deeper our mutual natures. Such inter
course, at least, if it has ever been, has not conde
scended to the vulgarities of oral communication,
for the ears are provided with no lid as the eye is,
and would not have been deaf to it in sleep. And
now glad am I, if I am not mistaken in imagining
that some such transcendental inquisitiveness has
travelled post thither, for, as I observed before,
where the bolt hits, thither was it aimed, any
arbitrary direction notwithstanding.
Thus much, at least, our kindred temperament
of mind and body and long family-arity have
done for us, that we already find ourselves stand
ing on a solid and natural footing with respect to
one another, and shall not have to waste time in
the so often unavailing endeavor to arrive fairly at
this simple ground.
Let us leave trifles, then, to accident ; and poll-
tics, and finance, and such gossip, to the moments
when diet and exercise are cared for, and speak to
each other deliberately as out of one infinity into
another, you there in time and space, and I
here. For beside this relation, all books and doc
trines are no better than gossip or the turning of a
Equally to you and S , from
Your affectionate brother,
H. D. THOREAU.
TO MRS. BROWN.
CONCORD, July 21, 1841.
DEAR FRIEND :
Don t think I need any prompting to write to
you ; but what tough earthenware shall I put in
to my packet to travel over so many hills, and
thrid so many woods, as lie between Concord
and Plymouth ? Thank fortune it is all the way
down hill, so they will get safely carried ; and yet
it seems as if it were writing against time and the
sun, to send a letter east, for no natural force for
wards it. You should go dwell in the west, and
then I would deluge you with letters, as boys
throw feathers into the air to see the wind take
them. I should rather fancy you at evening
dwelling far away behind the serene curtain of
the west, the home of fair weather, than over
by the chilly sources of the east wind.
What quiet thoughts have you now-a-days
which will float on that east wind to west, for so
we may make our worst servants our carriers,
what progress made from can t to can, in practice
and theory ? Under this category, you remem
ber, we used to place all our philosophy. Do you
have any still, startling, well moments, in which
you think grandly, and speak with emphasis ?
Don t take this for sarcasm, for not in a year of
the gods, I fear, will such a golden approach to
plain speaking revolve again. But away with
such fears ; by a few miles of travel, w r e have not
distanced each other s sincerity.
I grow savager and savager every day, as if
fed on raw meat, and my tameness is only the
repose of untamableness. I dream of looking
abroad summer and winter, with free gaze, from
some mountain-side, while my eyes revolve in an
Egyptian slime of health, I to be nature looking
into nature, with such easy sympathy as the blue-
eyed grass in the meadow looks in the face of the
sky. From some such recess I would put forth
sublime thoughts daily, as the plant puts forth
leaves. Now-a-nights I go on to the hill to see
the sun set, as one would go home at evening,
the bustle of the village has run on all day, and
left me quite in the rear ; but I see the sunset,
and find that it can wait for my slow virtue.
But I forget that you think more of this human
nature than of this nature I praise. Why won t
you believe that mine is more human than any
single man or woman can be ? that in it, in the
sunset there, are all the qualities that can adorn
a household, and that sometimes in a flutter
ing leaf, one may hear all your Christianity
You see how unskilful a letter- writer I am,
thus to have come to the end of my sheet, when
hardly arrived at the beginning of my story. I
was going to be soberer, I assure you, but now
have only room to add, that if the fates allot
you a serene hour, don t fail to communicate
some of its serenity to your friend,
HENRY D. THOREAU.
No, no. Improve so rare a gift for yourself,
and send me of your leisure.
TO MRS. L. C. B.
COXCORD, Wednesday Evening,
September 8 .
DEAR FRIEXD :
Your note came wafted to ( my hand, like the
first leaf of the Fall on the September wind, and
I put only another interpretation upon its lines,
than upon the veins of those which are soon to
be strewed around me. It is nothing but Indian
Summer here at present. I mean that any weather
seems reserved expressly for our late purposes,
whenever we happen to be fulfilling them. I do
not know what right I have to so much happiness,
but rather hold it in reserve till the time of my
What with the crickets, and the lowing of kine,
and the crowing of cocks, our Concord life is sono
rous enough. Sometimes I hear the cock bestir
himself on his perch under my feet and crow
shrilly long before dawn, and I think I might
have been born any year for all the phenomena I
We count sixteen eggs daily now, when arith
metic will only fetch the hens up to thirteen ; but
the world is young, and we wait to see this eccen
tricity complete its period.
My verses on Friendship are already printed
in the Dial, not expanded, but reduced to com
pleteness, by leaving out the long lines, which
always have, or should have, a longer, or at least
another sense than short ones.
Just now I am in the mid-sea of verses, and they
actually rustle round me, as the leaves would round
the head of Autumnus himself, should he thrust
it up through some vales which I know, but, alas !
many of them are but crisped and yellow leaves
like his, I fear, and will deserve no better fate than
to make mould for new harvests. I see the stanza
rise around me, verse upon verse, far and near,
like the mountains from Agiochook, not all hav
ing a terrestrial existence as yet, even as some of
them may be clouds ; but I fancy I see the gleam
of some Sebago Lake and silver cascade, at whose
well I may drink one day. I am as unfit for
any practical purpose I mean for the further
ance of the world s ends as gossamer for ship-
timber ; and I, who am going to be a pencil-maker
to-morrow, can sympathize with God Apollo, who
served King Admetus for a while on earth. But
I believe he found it for his advantage at last,
as I am sure I shall, though I shall hold the no
bler part at least out of the service.
Don t attach any undue seriousness to this
threnody, for I love my fate to the very core and
rind, and could swallow it without paring it, I
think. You ask if I have written any more
poems ? Excepting those which Vulcan is now
forging, I have only discharged a few more bolts
into the horizon, in all, three hundred verses, and
sent them, as I may say, over the mountains to
Miss Fuller, who may have occasion to remember
the old rhyme,
" Three scipen gode
Comen mid than flode
Three hundred cnihten."
But these are far more Vandalic than they. In
this narrow sheet there is not room even for one
thought to root itself; but you must consider this
an odd leaf of a volume, and that volume
HENRY D. THOREAU.
TO MRS. BROWN.
COKCOKD, October 5, 1841.
DEAR FRIEND :
I send you Williams s letter as the last remem
brancer to one of those " whose acquaintance he
had the pleasure to form while in Concord." It
came quite unexpectedly to me, but I was very
glad to receive it, though I hardly know whether
my utmost sincerity and interest can inspire a
sufficient answer to it. I should like to have you
send it back by some convenient opportunity.
Pray let me know what you are thinking about
any day, what most nearly concerns you. Last
winter, you know, you did more than your share
of the talking, and I did not complain for want of
an opportunity. Imagine your stove-door out of
order, at least, and then while I am fixing it, you
will think of enough things to say.
What makes the value of your life at present ?
what dreams have you ? and what realizations ?
You know there is a high table-land which not
even the east wind reaches. Now can t we walk
and chat upon its plane still, as if there were no
lower latitudes ? Surely our two destinies are
topics interesting and grand enough for any occa
I hope you have many gleams of serenity and
health, or, if your body will grant you no positive
respite, that you may, at any rate, enjoy your
sickness occasionally, as much as I used to tell of.
But here is the bundle going to be done up, so ac
cept a " good-night " from
HENRY D. THOREAU.
TO MRS. L. C. B.
CONCORD, March 2, 1842.
DEAR FRIEND :
I believe I have nothing new to tell you, for
what was news you have learned from other
sources. I am much the same person that I was,
who should be so much better ; yet when I re
alize what has transpired, and the greatness of
the part I am unconsciously acting, I am thrilled,
and it seems as if there were none in history to
Soon after John s death I listened to a music-
box, and if, at any time, that event had seemed in
consistent with the beauty and harmony of the
universe, it was then gently constrained into the
placid course of nature by those steady notes, in
mild and unoffended tone echoing far and wide
under the heavens. But I find these things more
strange than sad to me. What right have I to
grieve, who have not ceased to wonder ? We
feel at first as if some opportunities of kindness and
sympathy were lost, but learn afterward that any
pure grief is ample recompense for all. That is,
if we are faithful ; for a great grief is but sympa
thy with the soul that disposes events, and is as
natural as the resin on Arabian trees. Only Na
ture has a right to grieve perpetually, for she only
is innocent. Soon the ice will melt, and the
blackbirds sing along the river which he fre
quented, as pleasantly as ever. The same ever
lasting serenity will appear in this face of God,
and we will not be sorrowful, if he is not.
We are made happy when reason can discover
no occasion for it. The memory of some past
moments is more persuasive than the. experience
of present ones. There have been visions of such
breadth and brightness that these motes were in
visible in their light.
I do not wish to see John ever again, I mean
him who is dead, but that other, whom only he
would have wished to see, or to be, of whom he
was the imperfect representative. For we are not
what we are, nor do we treat or esteem each
other for such, but for what we are capable of
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 event that could happen. His fine
organization demanded it, and nature gently
yielded its request. It would have been strange
if he had lived. Neither will nature manifest any
sorrow at his death, but soon the note of the lark
will be heard down in the meadow, and fresh dan
delions will spring from the old stocks where he
plucked them last summer.
I have been living ill of late, but am now doing
better. How do you live in that Plymouth world,
now-a-days? Please remember me to M
R . You must not blame me if I do talk to
the clouds, for I remain
HENRY D. TIIOREAU.
TO MR. FULLER.
CONCORD, January 16, 1843.
DEAR RICHARD :
I need not thank you for your present, for I
hear its music, which seems to be playing just for
us two pilgrims marching over hill and dale of a
summer afternoon, up those long Bolton hills and
by those bright Harvard lakes, such as I see in
the placid Lucerne on the lid ; and whenever I
hear it, it will recall happy hours passed with its
When did mankind make that foray into nature
and bring off this booty ? For certainly it is but
history that some rare virtue in remote times plun
dered these strains from above and communicated
them to men. Whatever we may think of it,
it is a part of the harmony of the spheres you
have sent me, which has condescended to serve
us Admetuses, and I hope I may so behave
that this may always be the tenor of your thought
If you have any strains, the conquest of your
own spear or quill, to accompany these, let the
winds waft them also to me.
I write this with one of the " primaries " of my
osprey s wings, which I have preserved over my
glass for some state occasion, and now it offers.
Mrs. E sends her love.
HENRY D. THOREAU.
TO MKS. L. C. B.
CONCORD, January 24, 1843.
DEAR FRIEND :
The other day I wrote you a letter to go in
Mrs. E s bundle, but, as it seemed unworthy,
I did not send it, and now, to atone for that, I am
going to send this, whether it be worthy or not.
I will not venture upon news, for, as all the house
hold are gone to bed, I cannot learn what has
been told you. Do you read any noble verses
nowadays? or do not verses still seem noble?
For my own part, they have been the only things
I remembered, or that which occasioned them,
when all things else were blurred and defaced.
All things have put on mourning but they; for
the elegy itself is some victorious melody or joy
escaping from the wreck.
It is a relief to read some true book, wherein
all are equally dead, equally alive. I think the
best parts of Shakespeare would only be enhanced
by the most thrilling and affecting events. I have
found it so. And so much the more, as they are
not intended for consolation.
Do you think of coming to Concord again ? I
shall be glad to see you. I should be glad to
know that I could see you when I would.
We always seem to be living just on the brink
of a pure and lofty intercourse, which would make
the ills and trivialness of life ridiculous. After
each little interval, though it be but for the night,
we are prepared to meet each other as gods and
I seem to have dodged all my days with one or
two persons, and lived upon expectation, as if
the bud would surely blossom ; and so I am con
tent to live.
What means the fact, which is so common,
so universal, that some soul that has lost all
hope for itself can inspire in another listening soul
an infinite confidence in it, even while it is ex
pressing its despair ?
I am very happy in my present environment,
though actually mean enough myself, and so, of
course, all around me ; yet, I am sure, we for the
most part are transfigured to one another, and are
that to the other which we aspire to be ourselves.
The longest course of mean and trivial intercourse
may not prevent my practising this divine courtesy
to my companion. Notwithstanding all I hear
about brooms, and scouring, and taxes, and house
keeping, I am constrained to live a strangely
mixed life, as if even Valhalla might have its
kitchen. We are all of us Apollos serving some
I think I must have some muses in my pay that
I know not of, for certain musical wishes of mine
are answered as soon as entertained. Last sum
mer I went to Hawthorne s suddenly for the ex
press purpose of borrowing his music-box, and
almost immediately Mrs. H proposed to lend
it to me. The other day I said I must go to Mrs.
Barrett s to hear hers, and, lo ! straightway Rich
ard F sent me one for a present from Cam
bridge. It is a very good one. I should like to
have you hear it. I shall not have to employ you
to borrow for me now. Good night.
From your affectionate friend,
H. D. T.
TO MRS. L. C. B.
CONCORD, Friday Evening,
January 25, 1843.
DEAR FRIEND :
Mrs. E asks me to write you a letter, which
she will put into her bundle to-morrow along
with the Tribunes and Standards, and miscel
lanies, and what not, to make an assortment. But
what shall I write. You live a good way off, and
I don t know that I have anything which will
bear sending so far. But I am mistaken, or
rather impatient when I say this, for we all
have a gift to send, not only when the year be
gins, but as long as interest and memory last. I
don t know whether you have got the many I
have sent you, or rather whether you were quite
sure where they came from. I mean the letters
I have sometimes launched off eastward in my
thought ; but if you have been happier at one
time than another, think that then you received
them. But this that I now send you is of another
sort. It will go slowly, drawn by horses over
muddy roads, and lose much of its little value by
the way. You may have to pay for it, and it may
not make you happy after all. But what shall be
my new-year s gift, then ? Why, I will send
you my still fresh remembrance of the hours I
have passed with you here, for I find in the re
membrance of them the best gift you have left
to me. We are poor and sick creatures at best ;
but we can have well memories, and sound and
healthy thoughts of one another still, and an in
tercourse may be remembered which was without
blur, and above us both.
Perhaps you may like to know of my estate
nowadays. As usual, I find it harder to account
for the happiness I enjoy, than for the sadness
which instructs me occasionally. If the little of
this last which visits me would only be sadder, it
would be happier. One while I am vexed by a
sense of meanness ; one while I simply wonder
at the mystery of life ; and at another, and at an
other, seem to rest on my oars, as if propelled by
propitious breezes from I know not what quarter.
But for the most part, I am an idle, inefficient, lin
gering (one term will do as well as another, where
all are true and none true enough) member of the
great commonwealth, who have most need of my
own charity, if I could not be charitable and
indulgent to myself, perhaps as good a subject for
my own satire as any. You see how, when I
come to talk of myself, I soon run dry, for I
would fain make that a subject which can be no
subject for me, at least not till I have the grace to
I do not venture to say anything about your
griefs, for it would be unnatural for me to speak
as if I grieved with you, when I think I do not.
If I were to see you, it might be otherwise. But
I know you will pardon the trivialness of this let
ter ; and I only hope as I know that you have
reason to be so that you are still happier than
you are sad, and that you remember that the
smallest seed of faith is of more worth than the
largest fruit of happiness. I have no doubt that
out of S s death you sometimes draw sweet
consolation, not only for that, but for long-stand
ing griefs, and may find some things made smooth
by it, which before were rough.
I wish you would communicate with me, and
not think me unworthy to know any of your
thouo-hts. Don t think me unkind because I
have not written to you. I confess it was for so
poor a reason as that you almost made a principle
of not answering. I could not speak truly with
this ugly fact in the way ; and perhaps I wished
to be assured, by such evidence as you could not
voluntarily give, that it was a kindness. For
every glance at the moon, does she not send me
an answering ray ? Noah would hardly have
done himself the pleasure to release his dove, if
she had not been about to come back to him with
tidings of green islands amid the waste.
But these are far-fetched reasons. I am not
speaking directly enough to yourself now, so let
me say directly from
HENRY D. THOREAU.
TO R. F. FULLER.
CONCORD, April 2, 1843.
DEAR RICHARD :
I was glad to receive a letter from you so bright
and cheery. You speak of not having made any
conquests with your own spear or quill as yet ;
but if you are tempering your spear-head during
these days, and fitting a straight and tough shaft
thereto, will not that suffice ? We are more
pleased to consider the hero in the forest cutting
cornel or ash for his spear, than marching in tri
umph with his trophies, f The present hour is
always wealthiest when it is poorer than the fu
ture ones, as that is the pleasantest site which
affords the pleasantest prospects.
What you say about your studies furnishing
you with a " mimic idiom " only, reminds me that
we shall all do well if we learn so much as to talk,
to speak truth. The only fruit which even
much living yields seems to be often only some
trivial success, the ability to do some slight
thing better. We make conquest only of husks
and shells for the most part, at least apparently,
but sometimes these are cinnamon and spices,
you know. Even the grown hunter you speak of
slays a thousand buffaloes, and brings off only
their hides and tongues. What immense sacri
fices, what hecatombs and holocausts, the gods
exact for very slight favors ! How much sincere
life before we can even utter one sincere word.
fWhat I was learning in College was chiefly, I
think, to express myself, and I see now, that as the
old orator prescribed, 1st, action ; 2d, action ; 3d,
action ; my teachers should have prescribed to me,
1st, sincerity ; 2d, sincerity ; 3d, sincerity. The
old mythology is incomplete without a god or god
dess of sincerity, on whose altars we might offer
up all the products of our farms, our workshops,
and our studies. It should be our Lar when we
sit on the hearth, and our Tutelar Genius when we
walk abroad. This is the only panacea. I mean
sincerity in our dealings with ourselves mainly ;
any other is comparatively easy,/ But I must stop %
before I get to ITthly. I believe I have but one
text and one sermon.
Your rural adventures beyond the West Cam-
bridge hills have probably lost nothing by distance
of time or space. I used to hear only the sough
of the wind in the woods of Concord, when I was
striving to give my attention to a page of Calcu
lus. But, depend upon it, you will love your
native hills the better for being separated from
I expect to leave Concord, which is my Rome,
and its people, who are my Romans, in May, and
go to New York, to be a tutor in Mr. William
Emerson s family. So I will bid you good by till
I see you or hear from you again.
H. D. THOREAU.
TO MRS. E.
CASTLETON, Staten Island, May 22, 1843.
MY DEAR FKIEND :
I believe a good many conversations with you
were left in an unfinished state, and now indeed I
don t know where to take them up. But I will
resume some of the unfinished silence. I shall
not hesitate to know you. I think of you as some
elder sister of mine, whom I could not have
avoided, a sort of lunar influence, only of
such age as the moon, whose time is measured by
her light. You must know that you represent to
me woman, for I have not travelled very far or
wide, and what if I had ? I like to deal with
you, for I believe you do not lie or steal, and these
are very rare virtues. I thank you for your influ
ence for two years. I was fortunate to be sub
jected to it, and am now to remember it. It is the
noblest gift we can make ; what signify all others
that can be bestowed ? You have helped to keep
my life " on loft," as Chaucer says of Griselda,
and in a better sense. You always seemed to look
down at me as from some elevation some of
your high humilities and I was the better for
having to look up. I felt taxed not to disappoint
your expectation ; for could there be any accident
so sad as to be respected for something better than
we are ? It was a pleasure even to go away from
you, as it is not to meet some, as it apprised me
of my high relations ; and such a departure is a
sort of further introduction and meeting. ("Nothing
makes the earth seem so spacious as to have
friends at a distance ; they make the latitudes and
You must not think that fate is so dark there,
for even here I can see a faint reflected light over
Concord, and I think that at this distance I can
better weigh the value of a doubt there. Your
moonlight, as I have told you, though it is a re
flection of the sun, allows of bats and owls and
other twilight birds to flit therein. But I am
very glad that you can elevate your life with a
doubt, for I am sure that it is nothing but an insa
tiable faith after all, that deepens and darkens its
current. And your doubt and my confidence are
only a difference of expression.
I have hardly begun to live on Staten Island
yet ; but, like the man who, when forbidden to
tread on English ground, carried Scottish ground
in his boots, I carry Concord ground in my boots
and in my hat, and am I not made of Concord
dust ? I cannot realize that it is the roar of the
sea I hear now, and not the wind in Walden
woods. I find more of Concord, after all, in the
prospect of the sea, beyond Sandy Hook, than in
the fields and woods.
If you were to have this Hugh the gardener for
your man, you would think a new dispensation
had commenced. He might put a fairer aspect on
the natural world for you, or at any rate a screen
between you and the almshouse. There is a
beautiful red honeysuckle now in blossom in the
woods here, which should be transplanted to Con
cord ; and if what they tell me about the tulip-
tree be true, you should have that also. I have
not seen Mrs. Black yet, but I intend to call on
her soon. Have you established those simpler
modes of living yet? "In the full tide of suc
cessful operation ? "
Tell Mrs. Brown that I hope she is anchored in
a secure haven and derives much pleasure still
from reading the poets, and that her constellation
is not quite set from my sight, though it is sunk so
low in that northern horizon. Tell E H
that her bright present did " carry ink safely to
Staten Island," and was a conspicuous object in
Master Haven s inventory of my effects. Give
my respects to Madam E , whose Concord
face I should be glad to see here this summer ;
and remember me to the rest of the household
who have had vision of me. Shake a day-day to
Edith, and say good night to Ellen for me. Fare
HENRY D. THOREAU.
TO MRS. E.
STATEN ISLAND, June 20, 1843.
MY VERY DEAR FRIEND I
I have only read a page of your letter, and have
come out to the top of the hill at sunset, where I
can see the ocean, to prepare to read the rest. It
is fitter that it should hear it than the walls of my
chamber. The very crickets here seem to chirp
around me as they did not before. I feel as if it
were a great daring to go on and read the rest, and
then to live accordingly. There are more than
thirty vessels in sight going to sea. I am almost
afraid to look at your letter. I see that it will
make my life very steep, but it may lead to fairer
prospects than this.
You seem to me to speak out of a very clear
and high heaven, where any one may be who
stands so high. Your voice seems not a voice,
but comes as much from the blue heavens as from
My dear friend, it was very noble in you to
write me so trustful an answer. It will do as well
for another world as for this ; such a voice is for
no particular time nor person, but it makes him
who may hear it stand for all that is lofty and true
in humanity. The thought of you will constantly
elevate my life ; it will be something always above
the horizon to behold, as when I look up at the
evening star. I think I know your thoughts with
out seeing you, and as well here as in Concord.
You are not at all strange to me.
I could hardly believe, after the lapse of one
night, that I had such a noble letter still at hand
to read, that it was not some fine dream. I
looked at midnight to be sure that it was real. I
feel that I am unworthy to know you, and yet
they will not permit it wrongfully.
I, perhaps, am more willing to deceive by ap
pearances than you say you are ; it would not be
w r orth the while to tell how willing ; but I have
the power perhaps too much to forget my mean
ness as soon as seen, and not be incited by per
manent sorrow. My actual life is unspeakably
mean compared with what I know and see that it
might be. Yet the ground from which I see and
say this is some part of it. It ranges from heaven
to earth, and is all things in an hour. The experi
ence of every past* moment but belies the faith of
each present. We nevej* conceive the greatness
of our fates. Are not these faint flashes of light
which sometimes obscure the sun their certain
My friend, I have read your letter as if I was
not reading it. After each pause I could defer
the rest forever. The thought of you will be a
new motive for every right action. You are an
other human being whom I know, and might not
our topic be as broad as the universe ? What
have we to do with petty rumbling news ? We
have our own great affairs. Some times in Con
cord I found my actions dictated, as it were, by
your influence, and though it lead almost to trivial
Hindoo observances, yet it was good and elevat
ing. To hear that you have sad hours is not sad
to me. I rather rejoice at the richness of your
experience. Only think of some sadness away in
Pekin, unseen and unknown there. What a
mine it is ! Would it not weigh down the Celes
tial Empire, with all its gay Chinese ? Our sad
ness is not sad, but our cheap joys. Let us be
sad about all we see and are, for so we demand
and pray for better. It is the constant prayer and
whole Christian religion. I could hope that you
would get well soon, and have a healthy body for
this world, but I know this cannot be ; and the
Fates, after all, are the accomplishes of our hopes.
Yet I do hope that you may find it a worthy
struggle, and life seem grand still through the
What wealth is it to have such friends that we
cannot think of them without elevation ! And we
can think of them any time and anywhere, and it
costs nothing but the lofty disposition. I cannot
tell you the joy your letter gives me, which will
not quite cease till the latest time. Let me ac
company your finest thought.
I send my love to my other friend and brother,
whose nobleness I slowly recognize.
TO MB. E.
STATEN ISLAND, August 7, 1843.
MY DEAR FRIEND :
I fear I have nothing to send you worthy of so
good an opportunity. Of New York I still know
but little, though out of so many thousands there
are no doubt many units whom it would be worth
my while to know. Mr. James talks of going
to Germany soon with his wife to learn the lan
guage. He says he must know it ; can never
learn it here ; there he may absorb it ; and is
very anxious to learn beforehand where he had
best locate himself to enjoy the advantage of the
highest culture, learn the language in its purity,
and not exceed his limited means. I referred him
to Longfellow. Perhaps you can help him.
I have had a pleasant talk with Channing ; and
Greeley, too, it was refreshing to meet. They
were both much pleased with your criticism on
Carlyle, but thought that you had overlooked
what chiefly concerned them in the book, its
practical aim and merits.
I have also spent some pleasant hours with W.
and T. at their counting-room, or rather intelli
I must still reckon myself with the innumerable
army of invalids, undoubtedly in a fair field they
would rout the well, though I am tougher than
formerly. Methinks I could paint the sleepy god
more truly than the poets have done, from more
intimate experience. Indeed, I have not kept my
eyes very steadily open to the things of this world
of late, and hence have little to report concerning
them. However, I trust the awakening will come
before the last trump, and then perhaps I may
remember some of my dreams.
I study the aspects of commerce at its Narrows
here, where it passes in review before me, and this
seems to be beginning at the right end to under
stand this Babylon. I have made a very rude
translation of the Seven against Thebes, and
Pindar too I have looked at, and wish he was
better worth translating. f"l believe even the best
things are not equal to their fame. Perhaps it
would be better to translate fame itself, or is
not that what the poets themselves do ?J How
ever, I have not done with Pindar yet. I sent a
long article on Etzler s book to the Democratic
Review six weeks ago, which at length they
have determined not to accept, as they could not
subscribe to all the opinions, but asked for other
matter, purely literary, I suppose. O Sullivan
wrote me that articles of this kind have to be re
ferred to the circle, who, it seems, are represented
by this journal, and said something about " col
lective we," and " homogeneity."
Pray don t think of Bradbury and Soden any
" For good deed done through praiere
Is sold and bought too dear, I wis,
To herte that of great valor is."
I see that they have given up their shop here.
Say to Mrs. E that I am glad to remember
how she too dwells there in Concord, and shall
send her anon some of the thoughts that belong to
her. As for Edith, I seem to see a star in the east
over where the young child is. Remember me to
Mrs. B .
HENRY D. THOREAU.
TO MRS. E.
STATEX ISLAND, October 16, 1843.
MY DEAR FRIEND:
I promised you some thoughts long ago, but it
would be hard to tell whether these are the ones.
I suppose that the great questions of " Fate, Free
will, Foreknowledge absolute," which used to be
discussed at Concord, are still unsettled. And
here comes C banning, with his " Present," to vex
the world again, a rather galvanic movement, I
think. However, I like the man all the better,
though his schemes the less. I am sorry for his
confessions. Faith never makes a confession.
Have you had the annual berrying party, or sat
on the Cliffs a whole day this summer? I sup
pose the flowers have fared quite as well since I
was not there to scoff at them ; and the hens,
without doubt, keep up their reputation.
I have been reading lately what of Quarles s
poetry I could get. He was a contemporary of
Herbert, and a kindred spirit. I think you would
like him. It is rare to find one who was so much
of a poet and so little of an artist. He wrote long
poems, almost epics for length, about Jonah, Es
ther, Job, Samson, and Solomon, interspersed with
meditations after a quite original plan, Shep
herd s Oracles, Comedies, Romances, Fancies, and
Meditations, the quintessence of meditation,
and Enchiridions of Meditation, all divine,
and what he calls his Morning Muse ; besides
prose works as curious as the rest. He was an
unwearied Christian, and a reformer of some old
school withal. Hopelessly quaint, as if he lived
all alone and knew nobody but his wife, who ap
pears to have reverenced him. He never doubts
his genius ; it is only he and his God in all the
world. He uses language sometimes as greatly
as Shakespeare ; and though there is not much
straight grain in him, there is plenty of tough,
crooked timber. In an age when Herbert is re-
vived, Quarles surely ought not to be forgotten.
I. will copy a few such sentences, as I should
read to you if there. Mrs. Brown, too, may find
some nutriment in them.
How does the Saxon Edith do ? Can vou tell
yet to which school of philosophy she belongs,
whether she will be a fair saint of some Christian
order, or a follower of Plato and the heathen ?
Bid Ellen a good night or a good morning from
me, and see if she will remember where it comes
from ; and remember me to Mrs. B , and your
mother, and E H .
TO MRS. THOREAU.
STATEN ISLAND, July 7, 1843.
DEAR MOTHER :
I was very glad to get your letter and papers.
Tell father that circumstantial letters make very
substantial reading, at any rate. I like to know
even how the sun shines and garden grows with
you. Tell Sophia that I have pressed some blos
soms of the tulip-tree for her. They look some
what like white lilies.
Pray, have you the seventeen-year locust in
Concord ? The air here is filled with their din.
They come out of the ground at first in an imper
fect state, and, crawling up the shrubs and plants,
the perfect insect burst out through the back.
They are doing great damage to the fruit and for
est trees. The latter are covered with dead
twigs, which in the distance look like the blossoms
of the chestnut. They bore every twig of last
year s growth in order to deposit their eggs in it.
In a few weeks the eggs will be hatched, and the
worms fall to the ground and enter it, and in 1860
make their appearance again. I conversed about
their coming this season before they arrived.
They do no injury to the leaves, but, beside bor
ing the twigs, suck their sap for sustenance.
Their din is heard by those who sail along the
shore from the distant woods. Phar-r-r-aoh.
Phar-r-r-aoh. They are departing now. Dogs,
cats, and chickens subsist mainly upon them in
I have not been to New York for more than
three weeks. I have had an interesting letter
from Mr. Lane, describing their new prospects.
My pupil and I are getting on apace. He is re
markably well advanced in Latin, and is well
Your letter has just arrived. I was not aware
that it was so long since I wrote home ; I only
knew that I had sent five or six letters to the
town. It is very refreshing to hear from you,
though it is not all good news. But I trust that
Stearns Wheeler is not dead. I should be slow to
believe it. He was made to work very well in this
world. There need be no tragedy in his death.
The demon which is said to haunt the Jones
family, hovering over their eyelids with wings
steeped in juice of poppies, has commenced an
other campaign against me. I am "clear Jones "
in this respect at least. But he finds little encour
agement in my atmosphere, I assure you, for I do
not once fairly lose myself, except in those hours
of truce allotted to rest by immemorial custom.
However, this skirmishing interferes sadly with my
literary projects, and I am apt to think it a good
day s work if I maintain a soldier s eye till night
fall. Very well, it does not matter much in what
wars we serve, whether in the Highlands or the
Lowlands. Everywhere we get soldiers pay still.
Give my love to Aunt Louisa, whose benignant
face I sometimes see right in the wall, as naturally
and necessarily shining on my path as some star
of unaccountably greater age and higher orbit
than myself. Let it be inquired by her of George
Minott, as from me, for she sees him, if he
has seen any pigeons yet, and tell him there are
plenty of jack-snipes here. As for William P.,
the " worthy young man," as I live, my eyes have
not fallen on him yet.
I have not had the influenza, though here are
its head- quarters, unless my first week s cold
was it. Tell Helen I shall write to her soon. I
have heard Lucretia Mott. This is badly writ
ten ; but the worse the writing the sooner you
get it this time from
Your affectionate son,
H. D. T.
TO MISS THOREAU.
STATEN ISLAND, July 21, 1843.
DEAR HELEN :
I have pretty much explored this island, inland
and along the shore, finding my health inclined
me to the peripatetic philosophy. I have visited
Telegraph Stations, Sailors Snug Harbors, Sea
man s Retreats, Old Elm-Trees, where the Hu
guenots landed, Britton s Mills, and all the vil-
lages on the island. Last Sunday I walked over to
Lake Island Farm, eight or nine miles from here,
where Moses Prichard lived, and found the pres
ent occupant, one Mr. Davenport, formerly from
Massachusetts, with three or four men to help
him, raising sweet potatoes and tomatoes by the
acre. It seemed a cool and pleasant retreat, but
a hungry soil. As I was coming away, I took my
toll -out of the soil in the shape of arrow-heads,
which may after all be the surest crop, certainly
not affected by drought.
I am well enough situated here to observe one
aspect of the modern world at least. I mean the
migratory, the Western movement. Sixteen
hundred immigrants arrived at quarantine ground
on the 4th of July, and more or less every day
since I have been here. I see them occasionally
. washing their persons and clothes, or men, wo
men, and children gathered on an isolated quay
near the shore, stretching their limbs and taking
the air ; the children running races and swinging
on this artificial piece of the land of liberty, while
their vessels are undergoing purification. They
are detained but a day or two, and then go up to
the city, for the most part without having landed
/ In the city I have seen since I wrote last,
W. H. Channing, at whose house, in Fifteenth
Street, I spent a few pleasant hours, discussing
the all-absorbing question "what to do for the
LETTERS. . 35
race. / (He is sadly in earnest about going up
- tfie river to rusticate for six weeks, and issues
a new periodical called " The Present " in Sep
tember.) Also Horace Greelej, editor of the
" Tribune," who is cheerfully in earnest, at his
office of all work, a hearty New Hampshire boy
as one would wish to meet, and says, " Now be
neighborly," and believes only, or mainly, first,
in the Sylvania Association, somewhere in Penn
sylvania ; and, secondly, and most of all, in a new
association to go into operation soon in New Jer-J
sey, with which he is connected. Edward Palmer
came down to see me Sunday before last. As
for W and T , we have strangely dodged
one another, and have not met for some weeks.
I believe I have not told you anything about
Lucretia Mott. It was a good while ago that I
heard her at the Quaker Church in Hester Street.
She is a preacher, and it was advertised that she
would be present on that day. I liked all the pro
ceedings very well, their plainly greater harmony
and sincerity, than elsewhere. They do nothing
in a hurry. Every one that walks up the aisle in
his square coat and expansive hat has a history,
and comes from a house to a house. The women
come in one after another in their Quaker bon
nets and handkerchiefs, looking all like sisters or
so many chickadees. At length, after a long
silence waiting for the Spirit Mrs. Mott
rose, took off her bonnet, and began to utter very
deliberately what the Spirit suggested. Her self-
possession was something to say, if all else failed ;
but it did not. Her subject was, " The Abuse of
the Bible," and thence she straightway digressed
to slavery and the degradation of woman. It was
a good speech, transcendentalism in its mildest
form. She sat down at length, and, after a long
and decorous silence, in which some seemed to be
really digesting her words, the elders shook hands,
and the meeting dispersed. On the whole, I
liked their ways and the plainness of their meet
ing-house. It looked as if it was indeed made for
I think that Stearns Wheeler has left a gap in
the community not easy to be filled. Though he
did not exhibit the highest qualities of the scholar,
he promised, in a remarkable degree, many of the
essential and rarer ones ; and his patient industry
and energy, his reverent love of letters, and his
proverbial accuracy, will cause him to be associ
ated in my memory even with many venerable
names of former days. It was not w r holly unfit
that so pure a lover of books should have ended
his pilgrimage at the great book-mart of the world.
I think of him as healthy and brave, and am con
fident that if he had lived, he would have proved
useful in more ways than I can describe. He
would have been authority on all matters of fact,
and a sort of connecting link between men and
scholars of different walks and tastes. The liter-
ary enterprises he was planning for himself and
friends, remind me of an older and more studious
time. So much, then, remains for us to do who
survive. Tell all my friends in Concord that I do
not send my love, but retain it still.
Your affectionate brother,
H. D. T.
TO MKS. THOREAU.
STATEN ISLAND, August 6, 1843.
DEAR MOTHER :
I am chiefly indebted to. your letters for what
I have learned of Concord and family news,
and am very glad when I get one. I should
have liked to be in Walden woods with you,
but not with the railroad. I think of you all
very often, and wonder if you are still separated
from me only by so many miles of earth, or so
many miles of memory. This life we live is a
strange dream, and I don t believe at all any ac
count men give of it. Methinks I should be con
tent to sit at the back-door in Concord, under the
poplar- tree, henceforth forever. Not that I am
homesick at all for places are strangely indif
ferent to me but Concord is still a cynosure to
my eyes, and I find it hard to attach it, even in
imagination, to the rest of the globe, and tell
where the seam is.
I fancy that this Sunday evening you are poring
over some select book, almost transcendental per
chance, or else " Burgh s Dignity," or Massillon,
or the Christian Examiner. Father has just taken
one more look at the garden, and is now absorbed
in Chaptelle, or reading the newspaper quite ab
stractedly, only looking up occasionally over his
spectacles to see how the rest are engaged, and
not to miss any newer news that may not be in
the paper. H has slipped in for the fourth
time to learn the very latest item. S , I sup
pose, is at Bangor ; but Aunt L , without
doubt, is just flitting away to some good meeting,
to save the credit of you all.
It is still a cardinal virtue with me to keep
awake. I find it impossible to write or read ex
cept at rare intervals, but am, generally speaking,
tougher than formerly. I could make a pedestrian
tour round the world, and sometimes think it
would perhaps be better to do at once the things
I can, rather than be trying to do what at present
I cannot do well. However, I shall awake sooner
I have been translating some Greek, and read
ing English poetry, and a month ago sent a paper
to the Democratic Review, which, at length,
they were sorry they could not accept ; but they
could not adopt the sentiments. However, they
were very polite, and earnest that I should send
them something else, or reform that.
I go moping about the fields and woods here as
I did in Concord, and, it seems, am thought to be
a surveyor, an Eastern man inquiring narrowly
into the condition -and value of land, &c. here,
preparatory to an extensive speculation. One
neighbor observed to me, in a mysterious and half
inquisitive way, that he supposed I must be pretty
well acquainted with the state of things ; that I
kept pretty close : he did n t see any surveying
instruments, but perhaps I had them in my pocket, j
I have received H s note, but have not
heard of F H yet. She is a faint
hearted writer who could not take the responsi
bility of blotting one sheet alone. However, I
like very well the. blottings I get. Tell her I
have not seen Mrs. Child nor Mrs. Sedgwick.
Love to all from
Your affectionate son,
HENKY D. THOREAU.
TO MISS THOREAU.
STATEN ISLAND, October 18, 1843.
DEAR H :
What do you mean by saying that " we have
written eight times by private opportunity ? "
Is n t it the more the better ? And am I not
glad of it ? But people have a habit of not let-
ting me know it when they go to Concord from
New York. I endeavored to get you " The
Present " when I was last in the city, but they
were all sold ; and now another is out, which I
will send, if I get it. I did not send the Demo
cratic Review, because I had no copy, and my
piece was not worth fifty cents. You think that
Channing s words would apply to me too, as liv
ing more in the natural than the moral world ; but
I think that you mean the world of men and wo
men rather, and reformers generally. My ob
jection to the Editors and all that fraternity is,
that they need and deserve sympathy themselves
rather than are able to render it to others. They
want faith, and mistake their, private ail for an
infected atmosphere ; but let any one of them re
cover hope for a moment, and right his particular
grievance, and he will no longer train in that com
pany. To speak or do anything that shall concern
mankind, one must speak and act as if well, or
from that grain of health which he has left. This
" Present" book indeed is blue, but the hue of its
thoughts is yellow. I say these things with the
less hesitation, because I have the jaundice my
self; but I also know what it is to be well. But
do not think that one can escape from mankind
who is one of them, and is so constantly deal
ing with them.
I could not undertake to form a nucleus of an
institution for the development of infant minds,
where none already existed. It would be too
cruel. And then, as if looking all this while one
way with benevolence, to walk off another about
one s own affairs suddenly ! Something of this
kind is an unavoidable objection to that.
I am very sorry to hear such bad news about
Aunt M ; but I think that the worst is al
ways the least to be apprehended, for nature is
averse to it as well as we. I trust to hear that
she is quite well soon. I send love to her and
Aunt J . For three months I have not
known whether to think of Sophia as in Bangor
or Concord, and now you say that she is going di
rectly. Tell her ta^vrite to me, and establish her
whereabouts, and also to get well directly. And
see that she has something worthy to do when she
gets down there, for that s the best remedy for
Your affectionate brother,
II. D. THOREAU.
TO MR. B.
CONCORD, March 27, 1848.
I AM glad to hear that any words of mine,
though spoken so long ago that I can hardly
claim identity with their author, have reached
you. It gives me pleasure, because I have there-
fore reason to suppose that I have uttered what
concerns men, and that it is not in vain that
man speaks to man. This is the value of litera
ture. Yet those days are so distant, in every
sense, that I have had to look at that page again,
to learn what was the tenor of my thoughts then.
I should value that article, however, if only be
cause it was the occasion of your letter.
I do believe that the outward and the inward
life correspond ; that if any should succeed to live
a higher life, others would not know of it ; that
difference and distance are one. To set about
living a true life is to go a journey to a distant
country, gradually to find o^selves surrounded
by new scenes and men ; and as long as the old
are around me, I know that I am not in any true
sense living a new or a better life. The outward
is only the outside of that which is within. Men
are not concealed under habits, but are revealed
by them ; they are their true clothes. I care not
how curious a reason they may give for their abid
ing by them. Circumstances are not rigid and
unyielding, but our habits are rigid. We are
apt to speak vaguely sometimes, as if a divine life
were to be grafted on to or built over this present
as a suitable foundation. This might do if we
could so build over our old life as to exclude from
it all the warmth of our affection, and addle it, as
the thrush builds over the cuckoo s egg, and lays
her own atop, and hatches that only ; but the fact
is, we so there is the partition hatch them
both, and the cuckoo s always by a day first, and
that young bird crowds the young thrushes out of
the nest. No. Destroy the cuckoo s egg, or
build a new nest.
Change is change. No new life occupies the
old bodies ; they decay. It is born, and grows,
and flourishes. Men very pathetically inform the
old, accept and wear it. Why put up with the
almshouse when you may go to Heaven ? It is
embalming, no more. Let alone your ointments
and your linen swathes, and go into an infant s
body. You see in the catacombs of Egypt the
result of that experiment, that is the end of it.
I do belie ve in simplicity. It is astonishing a.s~~~J
well as sad, how many trivial affairs even the
wisest man thinks he must attend to in a day ;
how singular an affair he thinks he must omit.
When the mathematician would solve a difficult
problem, he first frees the equation of all encum
brances, and reduces it to its simplest terms. So
simplify the problem of life, distinguish the neces
sary and the real. Probe the earth to see where
your main roots run. I would stand upon facts.
Why not see, use our eyes ? Do men know
nothing? I know many men who, in common
things, are not to be deceived ; who trust no
moonshine ; who count their money correctly, and
know how to invest it ; who are said to be pru
dent and knowing, who yet will stand at a desk the
greater part of their lives, as cashiers in banks,
and glimmer and rust and finally go out there.
If they know anything, what under the sun do
they do that for ? Do they know what bread is ?
or what it is for ? Do they know what life is ?
If they knew something, the places which know
them now would know them no more forever^J
This, our respectable daily life, in which the
man of common sense, the Englishman of the
world, stands so squarely, and on which our insti
tutions are founded, is in fact the veriest illusion,
and will vanish like the baseless fabric of a vision ;
but that faint glimmer of reality which sometimes
illuminates the darkness of daylight for all men,
reveals something more solid and enduring than
adamant, which is in fact the corner-stone of the
.Men cannot conceive of a state of things so fail-
that it cannot be realized. Can any man honestly
consult his experience and say that it is so ? Have
we any facts to appeal to when we say that our
dreams are premature ? Did you ever hear of a
man who had striven all his life faithfully and
singly toward an object and in no measure ob
tained it ? If a man constantly aspires, is he not
elevated ? Did ever a man try heroism, magna
nimity, truth, sincerity, and find that there was
no advantage in them ? that it was a vain en
deavor ? Of course we do not expect that our para
dise will be a garden. I We know not what we ask.
To look at literature ; how many fine thoughts
has every man had ! how few fine thoughts are
expressed ! Yet we never have a fantasy so
subtile and ethereal, but that talent merely, with
more resolution and faithful persistency, after a
thousand failures, might fix and engrave it in dis
tinct and enduring words, and we should see that
our dreams are the solidest facts that we know.
But I speak not of dreams.
What can be expressed in words can be ex
pressed in life.
My actual life is a fact, in view of which I have
no occasion to congratulate myself; but for my
faith and aspiration I have respect. It is from
these that I speak. Every man s position is in fact
too simple to be described. I have sworn no oath.
I have no designs on society, or Nature, or God.
I am simply what I am, or I begin to be that. I
live in the present. I only remember the past,
and anticipate the future. I love to live. ( I love
reform better than its modes. There is no history
of how bad became better. I believe something,
and there is nothing else but that. I know that I
am. I know that another is who knows more
than I, who takes interest in me, whose creature,
and yet whose kindred, in one sense, am I. I
know that the enterprise is worthy. I know that
things work well. I have heard no bad news.
As for positions, combinations, and details,
what are they ? In clear weather, when we
look into the heavens, what do we see but the sky
and the sun ?
If you would convince a man that he does
wrong, do right. But do not care to convince
him. Men will believe what they see. Let them
Pursue, keep up with, circle round and round
your life, as a dog does his master s chaise. Do
what you love. Know your own bone : gnaw at
it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still. Do riot
be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of
much life so. Aim above morality. Be not
simply good ; be good for something. All fables,
indeed, have their morals ; but the innocent enjoy
the story. Let nothing come between you and
the light. Respect men as brothers only. When
you travel to the Celestial City, carry no letter of
introduction. When you knock, ask to see God,
none of the servants. In what concerns you
much, do not think that you have companions :
know that you are alone in the world./
Thus I write at random. I need to see you,
and I trust I shall, to correct my mistakes. Per
haps you have some oracles for me.
TO ME. B.
CONCORD, May 2, 1848.
" We must have our bread." But what is
our bread ? Is it baker s bread ? Methinks it
should be very home-made bread. What is our
meat ? Is it butcher s meat ? What is that
which we must have ? Is that bread which we
are now earning sweet ? Is it not bread which has
been suffered to sour, and then been sweetened
with an alkali, which has undergone the vinous,
acetous, and sometimes the putrid fermentation,
and then, been whitened with vitriol ? Is this the
bread which we must have ? Man must earn his
bread by the sweat of his brow, truly, but also
by the sweat of his brain within his brow. The
body can feed the body only. I have tasted but
little bread in my life. It has been mere grub
and provender for the most part. Of bread that
nourished the brain and the heart, scarcely any.
There is absolutely none even on the tables of the
There is not one kind of food for all men. You
must and you will feed those faculties which you
exercise. The laborer whose body is weary does
not require the same food with the scholar whose
brain is weary. Men should not labor foolishly
like brutes, but the brain and the body should al
ways, or as much as possible, work and rest to
gether, and then the work will be of such a kind
that when the body is hungry the brain will bo
hungry also, and the same food will suffice for
both ; otherwise the food which repairs the waste
energy of the over-wrought body will oppress the
sedentary brain, and the degenerate scholar will
come to esteem all food vulgar, and all getting a
How shall we earn our bread is a grave ques
tion ; yet it is a sweet and inviting question. Let
us not shirk it, as is usually done. It is the most im
portant and practical question which is put to man.
Let us not answer it hastily. Let us not be con
tent to get our bread in some gross, careless, and
hasty manner. Some men go a-hunting, some
a-fishing, some a-gaming, some to war ; but none
have so pleasant a time as they who in earnest seek
to earn their bread. It is true actually as it is true
really ; it is true materially as it is true spirit
ually, that they who seek honestly and sincerely,
with all their hearts and lives and strength, to earn
their bread, do earn it, and it is sure to be very
sweet to them. A very little bread, a very
few crumbs are enough, if it be of the right qual
ity, for it is infinitely nutritious. Let each man,
then, earn at least a crumb of bread for his body
before he dies, and know the taste of it, that it
is identical with the bread of life, and that they
both go down at one swallow.
Our bread need. not ever be sour or hard to
digest. What Nature is to the mind she is also to
the body. As she feeds my imagination, she will
feed my body ; for what she says she means, and
is ready to do. She is not simply beautiful to the
poet s ey&. Not only the rainbow and sunset are
beautiful, but to be fed and clothed, sheltered and
warmed aright, are equally beautiful and inspiring.
There is not necessarily any gross and ugly fact
which may not be eradicated from the life of man.
We should endeavor practically in our lives to
correct all the defects which our imagination de
tects. The heavens are as deep as our aspira
tions are high. So high as a tree aspires to grow,
so high it will find an atmosphere suited to it.
Every man should stand for a force which is per
fectly irresistible. How can any man be weak
who dares to be at all ? Even the tenderest plants
force their way up through the hardest earth, and
the crevices of rocks ; but a man no material
power can resist. What a wedge, what a beetle,
what a catapult, is an earnest man ! What can
resist him ?
It is a momentous fact that a man may be good,
or he may be bad; his life may be true, or it may
be false ; it may be either a shame or a glory to
him. The good man builds himself up; the bad
man destroys himself.
But whatever we do we must do confidently (if
we are timid, let us, then, act timidly), not ex
pecting more light, but having light enough. If
we confidently expect more, then let us wait for it.
But what is this which we have ? Have we not
already waited ? Is this the beginning of time ?
Is there a man who does not see clearly beyond,
though only a hair s breadth beyond where he at
any time stands ?
If one hesitates in his path, let him not proceed.
Let him respect his doubts, for doubts, too, may
have some divinity in them. That we have but
little faith is not sad, but that we have but little
faithfulness. By faithfulness faith is earned. When,
in the progress of a life, a man swerves, though
only by an angle infinitely small, from his proper
and allotted path (and this is never done quite un
consciously even at first ; in fact, that was his
broad and scarlet sin, ah, he knew of it more
than he can tell), then the drama of his life turns
to tragedy, and makes haste to its fifth act. When
once we thus fall behind ourselves, there is no ac
counting for the obstacles which rise up in our
path, and no one is so wise as to advise, and no
one so powerful as to aid us while we abide on
that ground. Such are cursed with duties, and
the neglect of their duties. For such the deca
logue was made, and other far more voluminous
and terrible codes.
These departures, who have not made them ?
for they are as faint as the parallax of a fixed
star, and at the commencement we say thev are
nothing, that is, they originate in a kind of
sleep and forgetfulness of the soul when it is
naught. A man cannot be too circumspect in
order to keep in the straight road, and be sure
that he sees all that he may at any time see, that
so he may distinguish his true path.
You ask if there is no doctrine of sorrow in my
philosophy. Of acute sorrow I suppose that I
know comparatively little. My saddest and most
genuine sorrows are apt to be but transient re
grets. The place of sorrow is supplied, perchance,
by a certain hard and proportionably barren in
difference. I am of kin to the sod, and partake
largely of its dull patience, in winter expecting
the sun of spring.
In my cheapest moments I am apt to think that
it is not my business to be " seeking the spirit,"
but as much its business to be seeking me.
I know very well what Goethe meant when he
said that he never had a chagrin, but he made a
poem out of it. I have altogether too much
patience of this kind. I am too easily contented
with a slight and almost animal happiness. My
happiness is a good deal like that of the wood-
Methinks I am never quite committed, never
wholly the creature of my moods, being always to
some extent their critic. My only integral ex
perience is in my vision. I see, perchance, with
more integrity than I feel.
But I need not tell you what manner of man I
am, my virtues or my vices. You can guess if
it is worth the while ; and I do not discriminate
I do not write this time at my hut in the woods.
I am at present living with Mrs. Emerson, whose
house is an old home of mine, for company during
Mr. E. s absence.
You will perceive that I am as often talking to
myself, perhaps, as speaking to you.
TO MR. B.
CONCORD, August 10, 1849.
MR. B :
I write now chiefly to say, before it is too late,
that I shall be glad to see you in Concord, and
will give you a chamber, &c., in my father s house,
and as much of my poor company as you can
I am in too great haste this time to speak to
your, or out of my, condition. I might say,
you might say, comparatively speaking, be not
anxious to avoid poverty. In this way the wealth
of the universe may be securely invested. What
a pity if we do not live this short time according
to the laws of the long time, the eternal laws !
Let us see that we stand erect here, and do not
lie along by our whole length in the dirt. Let our
meanness be our footstool, not our cushion. In
the midst of this labyrinth let us live a thread of
life. We must act with so rapid and resistless
a purpose in one direction, that our vices will
necessarily trail behind. The nucleus of a comet
is almost a star. Was there ever a genuine dilem
ma? The laws of earth are for the feet, or in
ferior man ; the laws of heaven are for the head,
or superior man ; the latter are the former sub
limed and expanded, even as radii from the earth s
centre go on diverging into space. Happy the
man who observes the heavenly and the terres
trial law in just proportion ; whose every faculty,
from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head,
obeys the law of its level ; who neither stoops nor
goes on tiptoe, but lives a balanced life, acceptable
to nature and to God.
These things I say ; other things I do.
I am sorry to hear that you did not receive my
book earlier. I addressed it and left it in Munroe s
shop to be sent to you immediately, on the twenty-
sixth of May, before a copy had been sold.
Will you remember me to Mr. when
you see him next : he is well remembered by
I still owe you a worthy answer.
TO MR. B.
CONCORD, November 20. 1S49.
MR. B :
I have not forgotten that I am your debtor.
When I read over your letters, as I have just
done, I feel that I am unworthy to have received
or to answer them, though they are addressed, as
I would have them, to the ideal of me. It be
hoves me, if I would reply, to speak out of the
rarest part of myself.
At present I am subsisting on certain wild fla
vors which nature wafts to me, which unaccount
ably sustain me, and make my apparently poor
life rich. Within a year my walks have extended
themselves, and almost every afternoon (I read,
or write, or make pencils in the forenoon, and by
the last means get a living for my body) I visit
some new hill, or pond, or wood, many miles dis
tant. I am astonished at the wonderful retirement
through which I move, rarely meeting a man in
these excursions, never seeing one similarly en
gaged, unless it be my companion, when I have
one. I cannot help feeling that of all the human
inhabitants of nature hereabouts, only we two have
leisure to admire and enjoy our inheritance.
" Free in this world as the birds in the air, dis--
engaged from every kind of chains, those who
have practised the yoga gather in Brahma the
certain fruit of their works."
Depend upon it, that, rude and careless as I am,
I would fain practise the yoga faithfully.
/ " The yogi, absorbed in contemplation, con
tributes in his degree to creation : he breathes a
divine perfume, he hears wonderful things. Di
vine forms traverse him without tearing him, and,
united to the nature which is proper to him, he
goes, he acts as animating original matter."
To some extent, and at rare intervals, even I
am a yogi.
I know little about the affairs of Turkey, but I
am sure that I know something about barberries
and chestnuts, of which I have collected a store
this fall. When I go to see my neighbor, he will
formally communicate to me the latest news from
Turkey, which he read in yesterday s mail,
" Now Turkey by this time looks determined, and
Lord Palmerston " Why, I would rather
talk of the bran, which, unfortunately, was sifted
out of my bread this morning, and thrown away.
It is a fact which lies nearer to me. The news
paper gossip with which our hosts abuse our ears
is as far from a true hospitality as the viands
which they set before us. We did not need them
to feed our bodies, and the news can be bought for
a penny. We want the inevitable news, be it sad
- or cheering, wherefore and by what means they
are extant this new day. If they are well, let
them whistle and dance ; if they are dyspeptic, it
is their duty to complain, that so they may in any
case be entertaining. If words were invented to
conceal thought, I think that newspapers are a
great improvement or a bad invention. Do not
[ suffer your life to be taken by newspapers.
I thank you for your hearty appreciation of my
book. I am glad to have had such a long talk
with you, and that you had patience to listen to
me to the end. I think that I had the advantage
of you, for I chose my own mood, and in one
sense your mood too, that is, a quiet and atten
tive reading mood. Such advantage has the writer
over the talker. I am sorry that you did not
come to Concord in your vacation. Is it not time
for another vacation ? I am here yet, and Con
cord is here.
You will have found out by this time who it is
that writes this, and will be glad to have you write
to him, without his subscribing himself
HENRY D. TIIOREAU.
P. S. It is so long since I have seen you,
that, as you will perceive, I have to speak, as it
were, in vacuo, as if I were sounding hollowly for
an echo, and it did not make much odds what
kind of a sound I made. But the gods do not
hear any rude or discordant sound, as we learn
from the echo ; and I know that the nature to
ward which I launch these sounds is so rich, that
it will modulate anew and wonderfully improve
my rudest strain.
TO MR. B.
CONCORD, April 3, 1850.
MR. B :
I thank you for your letter, and I will endeavor
to record some of the thoughts which it suggests^
whether pertinent or not. You speak of poverty
and dependence. Who are poor and dependent ?
Who are rich and independent ? When was it
that men agreed to respect the appearance and
not the reality ? Why should the appearance
appear? Are we well acquainted, then, with the
reality ? There is none who does not lie hourly
in the respect he pays to false appearance. How
sweet it would be to treat men and things, for
an hour, for just what they are ! We wonder
that the sinner does not confess his sin. When
we are weary with travel, we lay down our load
and rest by the wayside. So, when we are weary
with the burden of life, why do we not lay down
this load of falsehoods which we have volunteered
to sustain, and be refreshed as never mortal was ?
Let the beautiful laws prevail. Let us not weary
ourselves by resisting them. When we would
rest #ur bodies we cease to support them ; we re
cline on the lap of earth. So, when we would
rest our spirits, we must recline on the Great
Spirit. Let things alone ; let them weigh what
they will ; let them soar or fall. To succeed in
letting only one thing alone in a winter morning,
if it be only one poor, frozen-thawed apple that
hangs on a tree, what a glorious achievement!
Methinks it lightens through the dusky universe.
What an infinite wealth we have discovered !
God reigns, i. e. when we take a liberal view,
when a liberal view is presented us.
Let God alone if need be. Methinks, if I
loved him more, I should keep him, I should
keep myself rather, at a more respectful dis
tance. It is not when I am going to meet him,
but when I am just turning away and leaving him
alone, that I discover that God is. I say, God. I
am not sure that that is the name. You will
know whom I mean.
If for a moment we make way with our petty
selves, wish no ill to anything, apprehend no ill,
cease to be but as the crystal which reflects a ray,
what shall we not reflect! What a universe
will appear crystallized and radiant around us !
I should say, let the muse lead the muse, let
the understanding lead the understanding, though
in any case it is the farthest forward which leads
them both. If the muse accompany, she is no
muse, but an amusement. The muse should lead
like a star which is very far off ; but that doe^s not
imply that we are to follow foolishly, falling into
sloughs and over precipices, for it is not foolish
ness, but understanding, which is to follow, which
the muse is appointed to lead, as a fit guide of a
Will you live ? or will you be embalmed ? Will
you live, though it be astride of a sunbeam ; or
will you repose safely in the catacombs for a thou
sand years ? In the former case, the worst acci
dent that can happen is that you may break your
neck. Will you break your heart, your soul, to
save your neck ? Necks and pipe-stems are
fated to be broken. Men make a great ado
about the folly of demanding too much of life (or
of eternity?), and of endeavoring to live accord
ing to that demand. It is much ado about noth
ing. No harm ever came from that quarter. I
am not afraid that I shall exaggerate the value
and significance of life, but that I shall not be up
to the occasion which it is. I shall be sorry to
remember that I was there, but noticed noth
ing remarkable, not so much as a prince in
disguise ; lived in the golden age a hired man ;
visited Olympus even, but fell asleep after dinner,
and did not hear the conversation of the gods. I
lived in Judaea eighteen hundred years ago, but I
never knew that there was such a one as Christ
among my contemporaries ! If there is anything
more glorious than a congress of men a-framing
or amending of a constitution going on, which I
suspect there is, I desire to see the morning
papers. I am greedy of the faintest rumor, though
it were got by listening at the key-hole. I will
dissipate myself in that direction, j
I am glad to know that you find what I have
said on Friendship worthy of attention. I wish I
could have the benefit of your criticism ; it would
be a rare help to me. Will you not communicate
HENRY D. THOKEAU
TO ME. B.
CONCORD, May 28 1850.
MR. B :
" I never found any contentment in the life
which the newspapers record," anything of more
value than the cent which they cost. Content
ment in being covered with dust an inch deep !
We who walk the streets, and hold time together,
are but the refuse of ourselves, and that life is for
the shells of us, of our body and our mind,
for our scurf, a thoroughly scurvy life. It is
coffee made of coffee-grounds the twentieth time,
which was only coffee the first time, while the
living water leaps and sparkles by our doors. I
know some who, in their chanty, give their coffee-
grounds to the poor ! We, demanding news, and
putting up with such news ! Is it a new conven
ience, or a new accident, or, rather, a new per
ception of the truth that we want !
You say that " the serene hours in which friend
ship, books, nature, thought, seem alone primary
considerations, visit you but faintly." Is not the
attitude of expectation somewhat divine ? a sort
of home-made divineness ? Does it not compel a
kind of sphere-music to attend on it? And do
not its satisfactions merge at length, by insensible
degrees, in the enjoyment of the thing expected ?
What if I should forget to write about my not
writing ? It is not worth the while to make that
a theme. It is as if I had written every day. It
is as if I had never written before. I wonder that
you think so much about it, for not writing is the
most like writing, in my case, of anything I know.
Why will you not relate to me your dream ?
That would be to realize it somewhat. You tell
me that you dream, but not what you dream. I
can guess what comes to pass. So do the frogs
dream. Would that I knew what. I have never
found out whether they are awake or asleep,
whether it is day or night with them.
I am preaching, mind you, to bare walls, that
is, to myself; and if you have chanced to come
in and occupy a pew, do not think that my re
marks are directed at you particularly, and so
slam the seat in disgust. This discourse was
written long before these exciting times.
Some absorbing employment on your higher
ground, your upland farm, whither no cart-
path leads, but where you mount alone with your
hoe, where the life everlasting grows ; there
you raise a crop which needs not to be brought
down into the valley to a market ; which you
barter for heavenly products.
Do you separate distinctly enough the support
of your body, from that of your essence ? By
how distinct a course commonly are these two
ends attained ! Not that they should not be at
tained by one and the same means, that, in
deed, is the rarest success, but there is no half
and half about it.
I shall be glad to read my lecture to a small
audience in Worcester such as you describe, and
will only require that my expenses be paid. If
only the parlor be large enough for an echo, and
the audience will embarrass themselves with hear
ing as much as the lecturer would otherwise em
barrass himself with reading. But I warn you
that this is no better calculated for a promiscuous
audience than the last two which I read to you.
It requires, in every sense, a concordant audience.
I will come on next and spend Sunday
with you if you wish it. Say so if you do.
" Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring."
Be not deterred by melancholy on the path which
leads to immortal health and joy. When they
tasted of the water of the river over which they
were to go, they thought it tasted a little bitter
ish to the palate, but it proved sweeter when it
H. D. T.
TO MR. B.
CONCORD, August 9, 1850.
MR. B :
I received your letter just as I was rushing to
Fire Island beach to recover what remained of
Margaret Fuller, and read it on the way. That
event and its train, as much as anything, have pre
vented my answering it before. It is wisest to
speak when you are spoken to. I will now en
deavor to reply, at the risk of having nothing to
I find that actual events, notwithstanding the
singular prominence which we all allow them, are
far less real than the creations of my imagination.
They are truly visionary and insignificant, all
that we commonly call life and death, and affect
me less than my dreams. This petty stream which
from time to time swells and carries away the
mills and bridges of our habitual life, and that
mightier stream or ocean on which we securely
float, what makes the difference between them ?
I have in my pocket a button which I ripped off
the coat of the Marquis of Ossoli, on the sea-shore,
the other day. Held up, it intercepts the light,
an actual button, and yet all the life it is
connected with is less substantial to me, and inter
ests me less, than my faintest dream. Our
thoughts are the epochs in our lives: all else is
but as a journal of the winds that blew while we
I say to myself, Do a little more of that work
which you have confessed to be good. You are
neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with yourself, with
out reason. Have you not a thinking faculty of
inestimable value ? If there is an experiment
which you would like to try, try it. Do not en
tertain doubts if they are not agreeable to you.
Remember that you need not eat unless you are
hungry. Do not read the newspapers. Improve
every opportunity to be melancholy. As for
health, consider yourself well. Do not engage to
find things as you think they are. Do what no
body else can do for you. Omit to do anything
else. It is not easy to make our lives respectable
by any course of activity. We must repeatedly
withdraw into our shells of thought, like the
tortoise, somewhat helplessly ; yet there is more
than philosophy in that.
Do not waste any reverence on my attitude. I
merely manage to sit up where I have dropped. I
am sure that my acquaintances mistake me. They
ask my advice on high matters, but they do not
know even how poorly on t I am for hats and shoes.
I have hardly a shift. Just as shabby as I am in
my outward apparel, ay, and more lamentably
shabby am I in my inward substance. If I should
turn myself inside out, my rags and meanness
would indeed appear. I am something to him
that made me, undoubtedly, but not much to any
other that he has made.
Would it not be worth while to discover nature
in Milton ? be native to the universe ? I, too,
love Concord best, but I am glad when I discover,
in oceans and wildernesses far away, the material
of a million Concords : indeed, I am lost, unless I
discover them. I see less difference between a
city and a swamp than formerly. It is a swamp,
however, too dismal and dreary even for me,
and I should be glad if there were fewer owls, and
frogs, and mosquitoes in it. I prefer ever a more
cultivated place, free from miasma and crocodiles.
I am so sophisticated, and I will take my choice.
As for missing friends, what if we do miss
one another ? have we not agreed on a rendez
vous ? While each wanders his own way through
the wood, without anxiety, ay, with serene joy,
though it be on his hands and knees, over rocks
and fallen trees, he cannot but be in the right
way. There is no wrong way to him. How can
he be said to miss his friend, whom the fruits still
nourish and the elements sustain? A man who
missed his friend at a turn, went on buoyantly,
dividing the friendly air, and humming a tune to
himself, ever and anon kneeling with delight to
study each little lichen in his path, and scarcely
made three miles a day for friendship. As for
conforming outwardly, and living your own life
inwardly, I do not think much of that. Let not
your right hand know what your left hand does in
that line of business. It will prove a failure.
Just as successfully can you walk against a sharp
steel edge which divides you cleanly right and
left. Do you wish to try your ability to resist
distension ? It is a greater strain than any soul
can long endure. When you get God to pulling
one way, and the devil the other, each having his
feet well braced, to say nothing of the con
science sawing transversely, almost any timber
will give way._j/
I do not dare invite you earnestly to come to
Concord, because I know too well that the berries
are not thick in my fields, and we should have to
take it out in viewing the landscape. But come,
on every account, and we will see one another.
HEXRY D. THOREAU.
TO SOPHIA THOEEAU.
CONCORD, July 13, 1852.
DEAR SOPHIA :
I am not on the trail of any elephants or mas
todons, but have succeeded in trapping only a few
ridiculous mice, which cannot feed my imagina
tion. I have become sadly scientific. I would
rather come upon the vast valley-like " spore "
only of some celestial beast which this world s
woods can no longer sustain, than spring my net
over a bushel of moles. You must do better in
those woods where you are. You must have
some adventures to relate and repeat for years
to come, which will eclipse even mother s voyage
to Goldsborough and Sissiboo.
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 bull-frogs in our
meadows would blackball. Their evil genius is
seeing how low it can degrade them. The hoot
ing of owls, the croaking of frogs is celestial wis
dom 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 Com
pany that offered. I would exchange my im
mortality 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 North America to that of Af
rica with a missionary on board! Consider the
dawn and the sunrise, the rainbow and the
evening, the words of Christ and the aspira
tions of all the saints ! Hear music ! see, smell,
taste, feel, hear, anything, and then hear
these idiots, inspired by the cracking of a rest
less board, humbly asking, " Please, Spirit, if you
cannot answer by knocks, answer by tips of the
H. D. THOREAU.
TO MR. B.
CONCORD, July 21, 1852.
MR. B :
I am too stupidly well these days to write to
you. My life is almost altogether outward, all
shell and no tender kernel ; so that I fear the re
port of it would be only a nut for you to crack,
with no meat in it for you to eat. Moreover, you
have not cornered me up, and I enjoy such large
liberty in writing to you, that I feel as vague as
the air. However, I rejoice to hear that you have
attended so patiently to anything which I have
said heretofore, and have detected any truth in
it. It encourages me to say more, not in this
letter, I fear, but in some book which I may write
one day. I am glad to know that I am as much
to any mortal as a persistent and consistent scare
crow is to a farmer, such a bundle of straw in
a man s clothing as I am, with a few bits of tin to
sparkle in the sun dangling about me, as if I were
hard at work there in the field. However, if this
kind of life saves any man s corn, why, he is the
gainer. I am not afraid that you will flatter me
as long as you know what I am, as well as what I
think, or aim to be, and distinguish between these
two, for then it will commonly happen that if you
praise the last you will condemn the first.
I remember that walk to Asneburnskit very
well, a fit place to go to on a Sunday ; one of
the true temples of the earth. A temple, you
know, was anciently " an open place without a
roof," whose walls served merely to shut out the
world and direct the mind toward heaven ; but a
modern meeting-house shuts out the heavens, while
it crowds the world into still closer quarters.
Best of all is it when, as on a mountain-top, you
have for all walls your own elevation and deeps
of surrounding ether. The partridge-berries, wa
tered with mountain dews which are gathered
there, are more memorable to me than the words
which I last heard from the pulpit at least ; and
for my part, I would rather look toward Rutland
than Jerusalem. Rutland, modern town, land
of ruts, trivial and worn, not too sacred,
with no holy sepulchre, but profane green fields
and dusty roads, and opportunity to live as holy a
life as you can, where the sacredness, if there
is any, is all in yourself and not in the place.
I fear that your Worcester people do not often
enough go to the hill- tops, though, as I am told,
the springs lie nearer to the surface on your hills
than in your valleys. They have the reputation
of being Free-Soilers. Do they insist on a free
atmosphere too, that is, on freedom for the head
or brain as well as the feet ? If I were con
sciously to join any party, it would be that which
is the most free to entertain thought.
All the world complain now-a-days of a press
of trivial duties and engagements, which prevents
their employing themselves on some higher ground
they know of; but, undoubtedly, if they were
made of the right stuff to work on that higher
ground, provided they were released from all
those engagements, they would now at once fulfil
the superior engagement, and neglect all the rest, as
naturally as they breathe. They would never be
caught saying that they had no time for this, when
the dullest man knows that this is all that he has
time for. No man who acts from a sense of duty
ever puts the lesser duty above the greater. No
man has the desire and the ability to work on high
things, but he has also the ability to build himself
a high staging.
As for passing through any great and glorious
experience, and rising above it, as an eagle might
fly athwart the evening sky to rise into still
brighter and fairer regions of the heavens, I can
not say that I ever sailed so creditably, but my
bark ever seemed thwarted by some side wind,
and went off over the edge, and now only occa-
sionally tacks back toward the centre of that sea
again. I have outgrown nothing good, but, I do
not fear to say, fallen behind by whole continents
of virtue, which should have been passed as
islands in my course ; but I trust what else can
I trust that, with a stiff wind, some Friday,
when I have thrown some of my cargo overboard,
I may make up for all that distance lost.
Perchance the time will come when we shall
not be content to go back and forth upon a raft to
some huge Homeric or Shakespearian Indiaman
that lies upon the reef, but build a bark out of
that wreck and others that are buried in the sands
of this desolate island, and such new timber as
may be required, in which to sail away to whole
new worlds of light and life, where our friends
Write again. There is one respect in which
you did not finish your letter : you did not write
it with ink, and it is not so good, therefore, against
or for you in the eye of the law, nor in the eye of
H. D. T.
TO MK. B.
MR. B :
Here come the sentences which I promised you.
You may keep them, if you will regard and use
them as the disconnected fragments of what I may
find to be a completer essay, on looking over my
journal, at last, and may claim again.
I send you the thoughts on Chastity and Sensu
ality with diffidence and shame, not knowing how
far I speak to the condition of men generally, or
how far I betray my peculiar defects. Pray en
lighten me on this point if you can.
What the essential difference between man and
woman is that they should be thus attracted to
one another, no one has satisfactorily answered.
Perhaps we must acknowledge the justness of the
distinction which assigns to man the sphere of
wisdom, and to woman that of love, though
neither belongs exclusively to either. Man is
continually saying to woman, Why will you not
be more wise? Woman is continually saying to
man, Why will you not be more loving? It is
not in their wills to be wise or to be loving ; but,
unless each is both wise and loving, there can be
neither wisdom nor love.
All transcendent goodness is one, though ap
preciated in different ways, or by different senses.
In beauty we see it, in music we hear it, in fra
grance we scent it, in the palatable the pure
palate tastes it, and in rare health the whole body
feels it. The variety is in the surface or manifes-
tatlon ; but the radical identity we fail to express.
The lover sees in the glance of his beloved the
same beauty that in the sunset paints the western
skies. It is the same daimon, here lurking under
a human eyelid, and there under the closing
eyelids of the day. Here, in small compass, is
the ancient and natural beauty of evening and
morning. What loving astronomer has ever fath
omed the ethereal depths of the eye ?
The maiden conceals a fairer flower and sweeter
fruit than any calyx in the field ; and, if she goes
with averted face, confiding in her purity and high
resolves, she will make the heavens retrospective,
and all nature humbly confess its queen.
Under the influence of this sentiment, man is a
string of an JEolian harp, which vibrates with the
zephyrs of the eternal morning.
There is at first thought something trivial in the
commonness of love. So many Indian youths and
maidens along these banks have in ages past
yielded to the influence of this great civilizer.
Nevertheless, this generation is not disgusted nor
discouraged, for love is no individual s experience ;
and though we are imperfect mediums, it does not
partake of our imperfection ; though we are finite,
it is infinite and eternal ; and the same divine in
fluence broods over these banks, whatever race
may inhabit them, and perchance still would, even
if the human race did not dwell here.
Perhaps an instinct survives through the intens-
est actual love, which prevents entire abandon
ment and devotion, and makes the most ardent
lover a little reserved. It is the anticipation of
change. For the most ardent lover is not the less
practically wise, and seeks a love which will last
K Considering how few poetical friendships there
are, it is remarkable that so many are married.
It would seem as if men yielded too easy an obe
dience to nature without consulting their genius.
One may be drunk with love without being any
nearer to finding his mate^ There is more of good
nature than of good sense at the bottom of most
marriages. But the good nature must have the
counsel of the good spirit or Intelligence. If com
mon sense had been consulted, how many mar
riages would never have taken place ; if uncom
mon or divine sense, how few marriages such as
we witness would ever have taken place !
Our love may be ascending or descending.
What is its character, if it may be said of it,
" We must respect the souls above.
But only those below we love."
Love is a severe critic. Hate can pardon more
than love. They who aspire to love worthily,
subject themselves to an ordeal more rigid than
Is your friend such a one that an increase of
worth on your part will rarely make her more
your friend ? Is she retained, is she attracted,
by more nobleness in you, by more of that
virtue which is peculiarly yours ; or is she indif
ferent and blind to that ? Is she to be flattered
and won by your meeting her on any other than
the ascending path ? Then duty requires that you
separate from her.
Love must be as much a light as a flame.
Where there is not discernment, the behavior
even of the purest soul may in effect amount to
A man of fine perceptions is more fruly fem
inine than a merely sentimental woman. The
heart is blind ; but love is not blind. None of the
gods is so discriminating.
In love and friendship the imagination is as
much exercised as the heart ; and if either is out
raged the other will be estranged. It is commonly
the imagination which is wounded first, rather
than the heart, it is so much the more sensi
Comparatively, we can excuse any offence against
the heart, but not against the imagination. The
imagination knows nothing escapes its glance
from out its eyry and it controls the breast. My
heart may still yearn toward the valley, but my
imagination will not permit me to jump off the
precipice that debars me from it, for it is wounded,
its wings are dipt, and it cannot fly, even descend-
ingly. Our " blundering hearts ! " some poet says.
The imagination never forgets ; it is a re-member-
ing. It is not foundationless, but most reasonable,
and it alone uses all the knowledge of the intel
Love is the profoundest of secrets. Divulged,
even to the beloved, it is no longer Love. As
if it were merely I that loved you. When love
ceases, then it is divulged.
In our intercourse with one we love, we wish
to have answered those questions at the end of
which we do not raise our voice ; against which
we put no interrogation-mark, answered with
the same unfailing, universal aim toward every
point of the compass.
I require that thou knowest everything without
being told anything. I parted from my beloved
because there was one thing which I had to tell
her. She questioned me. She should have known
all by sympathy. That I had to tell it her was the
difference between us, the misunderstanding.
A lover never hears anything that is told, for
that is commonly either false or stale ; but he
hears things taking place, as the sentinels heard
Trenck mining in the ground, and thought it was
The relation may be profaned in many ways.
The parties may not regard it with equal sacred-
ness. What if the lover should learn that his
beloved dealt in incantations and philters ! What
if he should hear that she consulted a clairvoy
ant ! The spell would be instantly broken.
If to chaffer and higgle are bad in trade, they
are much worse in Love. It demands directness
as of an arrow.
There is danger that we lose sight of what our
friend is absolutely, while considering what she is
to us alone.
The lover wants no partiality. He says, Be so
kind as to be just.
Canst them love with thy mind,
And reason with thy heart ?
Canst thoxi be kind,
And from thy darling part ?
Can st them range earth, sea, and air,
And so meet me everywhere "?
Through all events I will pursue thee,
Through all persons I will woo thee.
I need thy hate as much as thy love. Thou
wilt not repel me entirely when thou repellest
what is evil in me.
Indeed, indeed, I cannot tell,
Though I ponder on it well,
"Which were easier to state,
All my love or all my hate.
Surely, surely, thou wilt trust me
When I say thou dost disgust me
I hate thee with a hate
That would fain annihilate ;
Yet, sometimes, against my will,
My dear Friend, I love thee still.
It were treason to our love,
And a sin to God above,
One iota to abate
Of a pure, impartial hate.
It is not enough that we are truthful ; we must
cherish and carry out high purposes to be truthful
It must be rare, indeed, that we meet with one
to whom we are prepared to be quite ideally re
lated, as she to us. We should have no reserve ;
we should give the whole of ourselves to that so
ciety ; we should have no duty aside from that.
One who could bear to be so wonderfully and
beautifully exaggerated every day. I would take
my friend out of her low self and set her higher,
infinitely higher, and there know her. But, com
monly, men are as much afraid of love as of hate.
They have lower engagements. They have near
ends to serve. They have not imagination enough
to be thus employed about a human being, but
must be coopering a barrel, forsooth.
What a difference, whether, in all your walks,
you meet only strangers, or in one house is one
who knows you, and whom you know. To have
a brother or a sister ! To have a gold mine on
your farm ! To find diamonds in the gravel heaps
before your door ! How rare these things are !
To share the day with you, to people the earth.
Whether to have a god or a goddess for com
panion in your walks, or to walk alone with hinds
and villains and carles. Would not a friend en
hance the beauty of the landscape as- much as a
deer or hare ? Everything would acknowledge
and serve such a relation ; the corn in the field,
and the cranberries in the meadow. The flowers
would bloom, and the birds sing, with a new im
pulse. There would be more fair days in the
The object of love expands and grows before us
to eternity, until it includes all that is lovely, and
we become all that can love.
CHASTITY AND SENSUALITY.
The subject of sex is a remarkable one, since,
though its phenomena concern us so much, both
directly and indirectly, and, sooner or later, it
occupies the thoughts of all, yet all mankind, as it
were, agree to be silent about it, at least the sexes
commonly one to another. One of the most in
teresting of all human facts is veiled more com
pletely than any mystery. It is treated with such
secrecy and awe, as surely do not go to any re
ligion. I believe that it is unusual even for the
most intimate friends to communicate the pleasures
and anxieties connected with this fact, much as the
external affair of love, its comings and goings, are
bruited. The Shakers do not exaggerate it so much
by their manner of speaking of it, as all mankind
by their manner of keeping silence about it. Not
that men should speak on this or any subject with-,
out having anything worthy to say ; but it i
plain that the education of man has hardly com
menced, there is so little genuine intercom
In a pure society, the subject of marriage
would not be so often avoided from shame and
not from reverence, winked out of sight, and
hinted at only, but treated naturally and simply,
perhaps simply avoided, like the kindred mys
teries. If it cannot be spoken of for shame, how
can it be acted of? But, doubtless, there is far
more purity, as well as more impurity, than is
Men commonly couple with their idea of mar
riage a slight degree at least of sensuality ; but
every lover, the world over, believes in its incon
If it is the result of a pure love, there can be
nothing sensual in marriage. Chastity is some
thing positive, not negative. It is the virtue of
the married especially. All lusts or base pleasures
must give place to loftier delights. They who
meet as superior beings cannot perform the deeds
of inferior ones. The deeds of love are less
questionable than any action of an individual can
be, for, it being founded on the rarest mutual
respect, the parties incessantly stimulate each
other to a loftier and purer life, and the act in
which they are associated must be pure and noble
indeed, for innocence and purity can have no
equal. In this relation we deal with one whom
we respect more religiously even than we respect
our better selves, and we shall necessarily conduct
as in the presence of God. What presence can
be more awful to the lover than the presence of
his beloved ?
If you seek the warmth even of affection from
a similar motive to that from which cats and dogs
and slothful persons hug the fire, because your
temperature is low through sloth, you are on
the downward road, and it is but to plunge yet
deeper into sloth. Better the cold affection of the
sun, reflected from fields of ice and snow, or his
warmth in some still wintry dell. The warmth
of celestial love does not relax, but nerves and
braces its enjoyer. Warm your body by health
ful exercise, not by cowering over a stove.
Warm your spirit by performing independently
noble deeds, not by ignobly seeking the sympathy
of your fellows who are no better than yourself.
A man s social and spiritual discipline must an
swer to his corporeal. He must lean on a friend
who has a hard breast, as he would lie on a hard
bed. He must drink cold water for his only bev
erage. So he must not hear sweetened and col-
ored words, but pure and refreshing truths. He
must daily bathe in truth cold as spring water, not
warmed by the sympathy of friends.
Can love be in aught allied to dissipation ? Let
us love by refusing, not accepting one another.
Love and lust are far asunder. The one is good,
the other bad. When the affectionate sympathize
by their higher natures, there is love ; but there is
danger that they will sympathize by their lower
natures, and then there is lust. It is not ne
cessary that this he deliberate, hardly even con
scious ; hut, in the close contact of affection, there
is danger that we may stain and pollute one an
other, for we cannot embrace but with an entire
We must love our friend so much that she shall
be associated with our purest and holiest thoughts
alone. When there is impurity, we have " de
scended to meet," though we knew it not.
The luxury of affection, there s the danger.
There must be some nerve and heroism in our
love, as of a winter morning. In the religion of
all nations a purity is hinted at, which, I fear,
men never attain to. We may love and not ele
vate one another. The love that takes us as it
finds us degrades us. What watch we must keep
over the fairest and purest of our affections, lest
there be some taint about them. May we so love
as never to have occasion to repent of our love.
There is to be attributed to sensuality the loss
to language of how many pregnant symbols ?
Flowers, which, by their infinite hues and fra
grance, celebrate the marriage of the plants, are
intended for a symbol of the open and unsuspected
beauty of all true marriage, when man s flowering
Virginity, too, is a budding flower, and by an
impure marriage the virgin is deflowered. Who
ever loves flowers, loves virgins and chastity.
Love and lust are as far asunder as a flower-
garden is from a brothel.
J. Biberg, in the Amcenitates Botanicce, edited
by Linnaeus, observes (I translate from the Latin) :
" The organs of generation, which, in the animal
kingdom, are for the most part concealed by Na
ture, as if they were to be ashamed of, in the veg
etable kingdom are exposed to the eyes of all ;
and, when the nuptials of plants are celebrated, it
is wonderful what delight they afford to the be
holder, refreshing the senses with the most agree
able color and the sweetest odor ; and, at the
same time, bees and other insects, not to mention
the humming-bird, extract honey from their nec
taries, and gather wax from their effete pollen. "
Linnaeus himself calls the calyx the thdlamus, or
bridal chamber ; and the corolla the aulceum, or
tapestry of it, and proceeds to explain thus every
part of the flower.
Who knows but evil spirits might corrupt the
flowers themselves, rob them of their fragrance
and their fair hues, and turn their marriage into
a secret shame and defilement ? Already they are
of various qualities, and there is one whose nup
tials fill the lowlands in June with the odor of
The intercourse of the sexes, I have dreamed,
is incredibly beautiful, too fair to be remembered.
I have had thoughts about it, but they are among
the most fleeting and irrecoverable in my experi-
ence. It is strange that men will talk of miracles,
revelation, inspiration, and the like, as things past,
while love remains.
A true marriage will differ in no wise from
illumination. In all perception of the truth there
is a divine ecstasy, an inexpressible delirium of
joy, as when a youth embraces his betrothed
virgin. The ultimate delights of a true marriage
are one with this.
No wonder that, out of such a union, not as
end, but as accompaniment, comes the undying
race of man. The womb is a most fertile soil.
Some have asked if the stock of men could not
be improved, if they could not be bred as
cattle. Let Love be purified, and all the rest
will follow. A pure love is thus, indeed, the
panacea for all the ills of the world.
The only excuse for reproduction is improve
ment. Nature abhors repetition. Beasts merely
propagate their kind; but the offspring of noble
men and women will be superior to themselves,
as their aspirations are. By their fruits ye shall
TO MR. B.
CONCORD, February 27, 1853.
MR. B :
I have not answered your letter before because
I have been almost constantly in the fields survey
ing of late. It is long since I have spent so many
days so profitably in a pecuniary sense ; so un-
profitably, it seems to me, in a more important
sense. I have earned just a dollar a day for
seventy-six days past ; for, though I charge at a
higher rate for the days which are seen to be
spent, yet so many more are spent than appears.
This is instead of lecturing, which has not offered,
to pay for that book which I printed. I have not
only cheap hours, but cheap weeks and months,
that is, weeks which are bought at the rate I have
named. Not that they are quite lost to me, or
make me very melancholy, alas ! for I too often take
a cheap satisfaction in so spending them, weeks
of pasturing and browsing, like beeves and deer,
which give me animal health, it may be, but
create a tough skin over the soul and intellectual
part. Yet, if men should offer my body a main
tenance for the work of my head alone, I feel that
it would be a dangerous temptation.
As to whether what you speak of as the
" world s way " (which for the most part is my
way), or that which is shown me, is the better,
the former is imposture, the latter is truth. I
have the coldest confidence in the last. There is
only such hesitation as the appetites feel in follow
ing the aspirations. The clod hesitates because it
is inert, wants animation. The one is the way of
death, the other of life everlasting. My hours
are not " cheap in such a way that I doubt
whether the world s way would not have been
better," but cheap in such a way, that I doubt
whether the world s way, which I have adopted
for the time, could be worse. The whole en
terprise of this nation, which is not an upward,
but a westward one, toward Oregon, California,
Japan, &c., is totally devoid of interest to me,
whether performed on foot, or by a Pacific railroad.
It is not illustrated by a thought ; it is not warmed
by a sentiment ; there is nothing in it which one
should lay down his life for, nor even his gloves,
hardly which one should take up a newspaper for.
It is perfectly heathenish, a filibustering toward
heaven by the great western route. No; they
may go their way to their manifest destiny, which
I trust is not mine. May my seventy-six dollars,
whenever I get them, help to carry me in the
other direction. I see them on their winding way,
but no music is wafted from their host, only the
rattling of change in their pockets. I would
rather be a captive knight, and let them all pass
by, than be free only to go whither they are
bound. What end do they propose to themselves
beyond Japan ? What aims more lofty have they
than the prairie dogs ?
As it respects these things, I have not changed
an opinion one iota from the first. As the stars
looked to me when I was a shepherd in Assyria,
they look to me now a New-Englander. The
higher the mountain on which you stand, the less
change in the prospect from year to year, from
age to age. Above a certain height there is no
change. I am a Switzer on the edge of the
glacier, with his advantages and disadvantages,
goitre, or what not. (You may suspect it to be
some kind of swelling at any rate.) I have had
but one spiritual birth (excuse the word), and
now whether it rains or snows, whether I laugh or
cry, fall further below or approach nearer to my
standard ; whether Pierce or Scott is elected,
not a new scintillation of light flashes on me, but
ever and anon, though with longer intervals, the
same surprising and everlastingly new light dawns
to me, with only such variations as in the coming
of the natural day, with which, indeed, it is often
As to how to preserve potatoes from rotting,
your opinion may change from year to year ; but
as to how to preserve your soul from rotting, I
have nothing to learn, but something to practise.
Thus I declaim against them ; but I in my folly
am the world I condemn.
I very rarely, indeed, if ever, " feel any itching
to be what is called useful to my fellow-men."
Sometimes, it may be when my thoughts for
want of employment fall into a beaten path or
humdrum, I have dreamed idly of stopping a
man s horse that was running away ; but, per
chance, I wished that he might run, in order that
I might stop him ; or of putting out a fire ; but
then, of course, it must have got well a-going.
Now, to tell the truth, I do not dream much of
acting upon horses before they run, or of prevent
ing fires which are not yet kindled. What a foul
subject is this of doing good, instead of minding
one s life, which should be his business ; doing
good as a dead carcass, which is only fit for
manure, instead of as a living man, instead of
taking care to flourish, and smell, and taste sweet,
and refresh all mankind to the extent of our
capacity and quality. People will sometimes try
to persuade you that you have done something
from that motive, as if you did not already know
enough about it. If I ever did a man any good, in
their sense, of course it was something exceptional
and insignificant compared with the good or evil
which I am constantly doing by being what I am.
As if you were to preach to ice to shape itself into
burning-glasses, which are sometimes useful, and
so the peculiar properties of ice be lost. Ice that
merely performs the office of a burning-glass does
not do its duty.
The problem of life becomes, one cannot say by
how many degrees, more complicated as our ma
terial wealth is increased, whether that needle
they tell of was a gateway or not, since the prob
lem is not merely nor mainly to get life for our
bodies, but by this or a similar discipline to get life
for our souls ; by cultivating the lowland farm on
right principles, that is, with this view, to turn it
into an upland farm. You have so many more
talents to account for. If I accomplish as much
more in spiritual work as I am richer in worldly
goods, then I am just as worthy, or worth just as
much, as I was before, and no more. I see that,
in my own case, money might be of great service
to me,. but probably it would not be, for the diffi
culty now is, that I do not improve my opportuni
ties, and therefore I am not prepared to have my
opportunities increased. Now, I warn you, if it
be as you say, you have got to put on the pack
of an upland farmer in good earnest the coming
spring, the lowland farm being cared for ; ay, you
must be selecting your seeds forthwith, and doing
what winter work you can ; and, while others are
raising potatoes and Baldwin apples for you, you
must be raising apples of the Hesperides for them.
(Only hear how he preaches !) No man can sus
pect that he is the proprietor of an upland farm,
upland in the sense that it will produce nobler
crops, and better repay cultivation in the long
run, but he will be perfectly sure that he ought
to cultivate it.
Though we are desirous to earn our bread, we
need not be anxious to satisfy men for it, though
we shall take care to pay them, but God, who
alone gave it to us. Men may in effect put us in
the debtors jail for that matter, simply for paying
our whole debt to God, which includes our debt to
them, and though we have his receipt for it, for his
paper is dishonored. The cashier will tell you
that he has no stock in his bank.
How prompt we are to satisfy the hunger and
thirst of our bodies ; how slow to satisfy the hun
ger and thirst of our souls. Indeed, we would-be-
practical folks cannot use this world without blush
ing because of our infidelity, having starved this
substance almost to a shadow. We feel it to be as
absurd as if a man were to break forth into a
eulogy oh his dog, who has n t any! An ordinary
man will work every day for a year at shovelling
dirt to support his body, or a family of bodies ;
but he is an extraordinary man who will work a
whole day in a year for the support of his soul.
Even the priests, the men of God, so called, for
the most part confess that they work for the sup
port of the body. But he alone is the truly en
terprising and practical man who succeeds in
maintaining his soul here. Have not we our ever
lasting life to get ? and is not that the only excuse
at last for eating, drinking, sleeping, or even carry
ing an umbrella when it rains ? A man might as
well devote himself to raising pork, as to fattening
the bodies, or temporal part merely, of the whole
human family. If we made the true distinction,
we should almost all of us be seen to be in the
almshouse for souls.
I am much indebted to you because you look so
steadily at the better side, or rather the true centre
of me (for our true centre may, and perhaps often-
est does, lie entirely aside from us, and we are in
fact eccentric), and, as I have elsewhere said,
"give me an opportunity to live." You speak as
if the image or idea which I see were reflected
from me to you, and I see it again reflected from
you to me, because we stand at the right angle to
one another ; and so it goes zigzag to what suc
cessive reflecting surfaces, before it is all dissipated
or absorbed by the more unreflecting, or differ
ently reflecting, who knows ? Or, perhaps,
what you see directly, you refer to me. What a
little shelf is required, by which we may impinge
upon another, and build there our eyrie in the
clouds, and all the heavens we see above us we
refer to the crags around and beneath us. Some
piece of mica, as it were, in the face or eyes of
one, as on the delectable mountains, slanted at the
right angle, reflects the heavens to us. But, in
the slow geological upheavals and depressions, these
mutual angles are disturbed, these suns set, and
new ones rise to us. That ideal which I wor
shipped was a greater stranger to the mica than
to me. It was not the hero I admired, but the
reflection from his epaulet or helmet. It is noth
ing (for us) permanently inherent in another,
but his attitude or relation to what we prize, that
we admire. The meanest man may glitter with
micacious particles to his fellow s eye. These are
the spangles that adorn a man. The highest
union, the only un-ion (don t laugh), or cen
tral oneness, is the coincidence of visual rays. Our
club-room was an apartment in a constellation
where our visual rays met (and there was no de
bate about the restaurant). The way between
us is over the mount.
Your words make me think of a man of my
acquaintance whom I occasionally meet, whom
you, too, appear to have met, one Myself, as
he is called. Yet, why not call him Yourself?
If you have met with him and know him, it is
all I have done; and surely, where there is a
mutual acquaintance, the my and thy make a
distinction without a difference.
I do not wonder that you do not like my Can
ada story. It concerns me but little, and prob
ably is not worth the time it took to tell it. Yet
I had absolutely no design whatever in my mind,
but simply to report what I saw. I have inserted
all of myself that was implicated, or made the ex
cursion. It has come to an end, at any rate ; they
will print no more, but return me my MS. when
it is but little more than half done, as well as an
other I had sent them, because the editor requires
the liberty to omit the heresies without consulting
me, a privilege California is not rich enough to
I thank you again and again for attending to
me ; that is to say, I am glad that you hear me,
and that you also are glad. Hold fast to your
most indefinite, waking dream. The very green
dust on the walls is an organized vegetable ; the
atmosphere has its fauna and flora floating in it ;
and shall we think that dreams are but dust and
ashes, are always disintegrated and crumbling
thoughts, and not dust-like thoughts trooping to
their standard with music, systems beginning to be
organized ? These expectations, these are roots,
these are nuts, which even the poorest man has in
his bin, and roasts or cracks them occasionally in
winter evenings, which even the poor debtor re
tains with his bed and his pig, i. e. his idleness
and sensuality. Men go to the opera because they
hear there a faint expression in sound of this news
which is never quite distinctly proclaimed. Sup
pose a man were to sell the hue, the least amount
of coloring matter in the superficies of his thought,
for a farm, were to exchange an absolute and
infinite value for a relative and finite one, to gain
the whole world and lose his own soul !
Do not wait as long as I have before you write.
If you will look at another star, I will try to sup
ply my side of the triangle.
Tell Mr. , that I remember him, and trust
that he remembers me.
H. D. T.
P. S. Excuse this rather flippant preaching,
which does not cost me enough ; and do not think
that I mean you always, though your letter re
quested the subjects.
TO MR. B.
CONCORD, April 10, 1853.
Mfi. B :
Another singular kind of spiritual foot-ball,
really nameless, handleless, homeless, like myself,
a mere arena for thoughts and feelings ; defi
nite enough outwardly, indefinite more than enough
inwardly. But I do not know why we should be
styled misters or masters : we come so near to be
ing anything or nothing, and seeing that we are
mastered, and not wholly sorry to be mastered, by
the least phenomenon. It seems to me that we
are the mere creatures of thought, one of the
lowest forms of intellectual life, we men, as the
sunfish is of animal life. As yet our thoughts
have acquired no definiteness nor solidity ; they
are purely molluscous, not vertebrate ; and the
height of our existence is to float upward in an
ocean where the sun shines, appearing only like a
vast soup or chowder to the eyes of the immortal
navigators. It is wonderful that I can be here,
and you there, and that we can correspond, and
do many other things, when, in fact, there is so
little of us, either or both, anywhere. In a few
minutes, I expect, this slight film or dash of vapor
that I am will be what is called asleep, resting !
forsooth from what ? Hard work ! and thought ! !
The hard work of the dandelion down, which
floats over the meadow all day ; the hard work of
a pismire, that labors to raise a hillock all day,
and even by moonlight. Suddenly I can come for
ward into the utmost apparent distinctness, and
speak with a sort of emphasis to you ; and the
next moment I am so faint an entity, and make so
slight an impression, that nobody can find the
traces of me. I try to hunt myself up, and find that
the little of me that is discoverable is falling asleep,
and then I assist and tuck it up. It is getting
late. How can I starve or feed ? Can / be said
to sleep ? There is not enough of me even for
that. If you hear a noise, t aint I, t aint I,
as the dog says with a tin-kettle tied to his tail.
I read of something happening to another the
other day : how happens it that nothing ever hap
pens to me ? A dandelion down that never alights,
settles, blown off by a boy to see if his moth
er wanted him, some divine boy in the upper
Well, if there really is another such a meteor
sojourning in these spaces, I would like to ask you
if you know whose estate this is that we are on ?
For my part, I enjoy it well enough, what with
the wild apples and the scenery ; but I should n t
wonder if the owner set his dog on me next. I
could remember something not much to the pur
pose, probably ; but if I stick to what I do know,
"It is worth the while to live respectably unto
ourselves. We can possibly get along with a
neighbor, even with a bedfellow, whom we re
spect but very little ; but as soon as it comes to
that, that we do not respect ourselves, then we do
not get along at all, no matter how much money
we are paid for halting. There are old heads in
the world who cannot help me by their example
or advice to live worthily and satisfactorily to my
self ; but I believe that it is in my power to elevate
myself this very hour above the common level of
my life. It is better to have your head in the
clouds, and know where you are, if indeed you
cannot get it above them, than to breathe the
clearer atmosphere below them, and think that you
are in paradise.
Once you were in Milton doubting what to do.
To live a better life, this surely can be done.
Dot and carry one. Wait not for a clear sight,
for that you are to get. What you see clearly
you may omit to do. Milton and Worcester ! It
is all B , B . Never mind the rats in
the wall; the cat will take care of them. AIL
that men have said or are is a very faint rumor,
and it is not worth the while to remember or refer
to that. If you are to meet God, will you refer
to anybody out of that court? How shall men
know how I succeed, unless they are in at the life ?
I did not see the " Times " reporter there.
Is it not delightful to provide one s self with
the necessaries of life, to collect dry wood for
the fire when the weather grows cool, or fruits
when we grow hungry ? not till then. And
then we have all the time left for thought !
Of what use were it, pray, to get a little wood
to burn to warm your body this cold weather, if
there were not a divine fire kindled at the same
time to warm your spirit ? -Unless he can
" Erect himself above himself,
How poor a thing is man."
I cuddle up by my stove, and there I get up another
fire which warms fire itself. Life is so short that
it is not wise to take roundabout ways, nor can
we spend much time in waiting. Is it absolutely
necessary, then, that we should do as we are do
ing ? Are we chiefly under obligations to the
devil, like Tom Walker? Though it is late to
leave off this wrong way, it will seem early the
moment we begin in the right way; instead of
mid-afternoon, it will be early morning with us.
We have not got half-way to dawn yet.
As for the lectures, I feel that I have something
to say, especially on Travelling, Vagueness, and
Poverty ; but I cannot come now r . I will wait
till I am fuller, and have fewer engagements.
Your suggestions will help me much to write
them when I am ready. I am going to Haver-
hill to-morrow surveying, for a week or more.
You met me on my last errand thither.
I trust that you realize what an exaggerator I
am, that I lay myself out to exaggerate when-
ever I have an opportunity, pile Pelion upon
Ossa, to reach heaven so. Expect no trivial truth
from me, unless I am on the witness-stand. I will
come as near to- lying as you can drive a coach-
and-four. If it is n t thus and so with me, it is
with something. I am not particular whether I
get the shells or meat, in view of the latter s
I see that I have not at all answered your letter,
but there is time enough for that.
H. D. THOREAU.
TO MR. B.
CONCORD. December 19, 1853.
MR. B :
My debt has accumulated so that I should have
answered your last letter at once, if I had not
been the subject of what is called a press of en
gagements, having a lecture to write for last
Wednesday, and surveying more than usual be
sides. It has been a kind of running fight with
me, the enemy not always behind me, I trust.
True, a man cannot lift himself by his own
waistbands, because he cannot get out of himself ;
but he can expand himself (which is better, there
being no up nor down in nature), and so split his
waistbands, being already within himself.
You speak of doing and being, and the vanity,
real or apparent, of much doing. The suckers
I think it is they make nests in our river in
the spring of more than a cart-load of small stones,
amid which to deposit their ova. The other day
I opened a muskrat s house. It was made of
weeds, five feet broad at base, and three feet high,
and far and low within it was a little cavity, only
a foot in diameter, where the rat dwelt. It may
seem trivial, this piling up of weeds, but so the
race of muskrats is preserved. We must heap up
a great pile of doing, for a small diameter of being.
Is it not imperative on us that we do something,
if we only work in a tread-mill? And, indeed,
some sort of revolving is necessary to produce a
centre and nucleus of being. What exercise is
to the body, employment is to the mind and mor
als. Consider what an amount of drudgery must
be performed, how much humdrum and prosaic
labor goes to any work of the least value. There
are so many layers of mere white lime in every
shell to that thin inner one so beautifully tinted.
Let not the shell-fish think to build his house of
that alone ; and pray, what are its tints to him ?
Is it not his smooth, close-fitting shirt merely,
whose tints are not to him, being in the dark, but
only wlien he is gone or dead, and his shell is
heaved up to light, a wreck upon the beach, do
they appear. With him, too, it is a song of the
shirt, " Work, work, work ! " And the work
is not merely a police in the gross sense, but in the
higher sense, a discipline. If it is surely the
means to the highest end we know, can any work
be humble or disgusting ? Will it not rather be
elevating as a ladder, the means by which we are
How admirably the artist is made to accomplish
his self-culture by devotion to his art ! The wood-
sawyer, through his effort to do his work well,
becomes not merely a better wood-sawyer, but
measurably a better man. Few are the men that
can work on their navels, only some Brahmins
that I have heard of. To the painter is given
some paint and canvas instead ; to the Irishman a
hog, typical of himself. In a thousand apparently
humble ways men busy themselves to make some
right take the place of some wrong, if it is only
to make a better paste-blacking, and they are
themselves so much the better morally for it.
You say that you do not succeed much. Does
it concern you enough that you do not ? Do you
work hard enough at it ? Do you get the benefit
of discipline out of it ? If so, persevere. Is it a
more serious thing than to walk a thousand miles
in a thousand successive hours ? Do you get any
corns by it ? Do you ever think of hanging your
self on account of failure ?
If you are going into that line, going to be
siege the city of God, you must not only be
strong in engines, but prepared with provisions to
starve out the garrison. An Irishman came to see
me to-day, who is endeavoring to get his family out
to this New World. He rises at half past four,
milks twenty-eight cows (which has swollen the
joints of his fingers), and eats his breakfast, with
out any milk in his tea or coffee, before six ; and
so on, day after day, for six and a half dollars a,
month ; and thus he keeps his virtue in him, if he
does not add to it ; and he regards me as a gentle
man able to assist him ; but if I ever get to be a
gentleman, it will be by working after my fashion
harder than he does. If my joints are not swollen,
it must be because I deal with the teats of celestial
cows before breakfast (and the milker in this case
is always allowed some of the milk for his break
fast), to say nothing of the flocks and herds of
It is the art of mankind to polish the world,
and every one who works is scrubbing in some
If the work is high and far, you must not only
aim aright, but draw the bow with all your might.
You must qualify yourself to use a bow which no
humbler archer can bend.
" Work, work, work ! "
Who shall know it for a bow ? It is not of yew-
tree. It is straighter than a ray of light; flexi
bility is not known for one of its qualities.
So far I had got when I was called off to sur
vey. Pray read the life of Haydon the painter,
if you have not. It is a small revelation for these
latter days ; a great satisfaction to know that he
has lived, though he is now dead. Have you met
with the letter of a Turkish cadi at the end of
Layard s "Ancient Babylon " ? that also -is refresh
ing, and a capital comment on the whole book
which precedes it, the Oriental genius speaking
Those Brahmins put it through. They come
off, or rather stand still, conquerors, with some
withered arms or legs at least to show ; and they
are said to have cultivated the faculty of abstrac
tion to a degree unknown to Europeans. If we
cannot sing of faith and triumph, we will sing our
despair. We will be that kind of bird. There
are day owls, and there are night owls, and each is
beautiful and even musical while about its busi
Might you not find some positive work to do
with your back to Church and State, letting your
back do all the rejection of them ? Can you not
go upon your pilgrimage, Peter, along the wind
ing mountain path whither you face ? A step
more will make those funereal church bells over
your shoulder sound far and sweet as a natural
Work, work, work ! "
Why not make a very large mud-pie and bake it in
the sun ! Only put no Church nor State into it,
nor upset any other pepper-box that way. Dig
out a woodchuck, for that has nothing to do
with rotting institutions. Go ahead.
Whether a man spends his day in an ecstasy or
despondency, he must do some work to show for
it, even s there are flesh and bones to show for
him. We are superior to the joy we experience.
Your last two letters, methinks, have more
nerve and will in them than usual, as if you had
erected yourself more. Why are not they good
work, if you only had a hundred correspondents
to tax you ?
Make your failure tragical by the earnestness
and steadfastness of your endeavor, and then it
will not differ from success. Prove it to be the
inevitable fate of mortals, of one mortal, if
You said that you were writing on immortality.
I wish you would communicate to me what you
know about that. You are sure to live while that
is your theme.
Thus I write on some text which a sentence of
your letters may have furnished.
I think of coming to see you as soon as I get a
new coat, if I have money enough left. I will
write to you again about it.
HENRY D. THOREAU.
TO MR. B.
CONCORD, January 21, 1854.
MR. B :
My coat is at last done, and my mother and
sister allow that I am so far in a condition to go
abroad. I feel as if I had gone abroad the mo
ment I put it on. It is, as usual, a production
strange to me, the wearer, invented by some
Count D Orsay, and the maker of it was not
acquainted with any of my real depressions or
elevations. He only measured a peg to hang it
on, and might have made the loop big enough to
go over my head. It requires a not quite inno
cent indifference, not to say insolence, to wear it.
Ah ! the process by which we get our coats is not
what it should be. Though the Church declares
it righteous, and its priest pardons me, my own
good genius tells me that it is hasty, and coarse,
and false. I expect a time when, or rather an
integrity by which a man will get his coat as hon
estly and as perfectly fitting as a tree its bark.
Now our garments are typical of our conformity to
the ways of the world, i. e. of the devil, and to
some extent react on us and poison us, like that
shirt which Hercules put on.
I think to come and see you next week, on
Monday, if nothing hinders. I have just returned
from court at Cambridge, whither I was called as
a witness, having surveyed a water-privilege, about
which there is a dispute, since you were here.
Ah ! what foreign countries there are, greater
in extent than the United States or Russia, and
with no more souls to a square mile, stretching
away on every side from every human being, with
whom you have no sympathy. Their humanity
affects me as simply monstrous. Rocks, earth,
brute beasts, comparatively, are not so strange to
me. When I sit in the parlors and kitchens of
some with whom my business brings me I was
going to say in contact (business, like misery,
makes strange bedfellows), I feel a sort of awe,
and as forlorn as if I were cast away on a desolate
shore. I think of Riley s narrative and his suffer
ings. You, who soared like a merlin with your
mate through the realms of ether, in the presence
of the unlike, drop at once to earth, a mere amor
phous squab, divested of your air-inflated pinions.
(By the way, excuse this writing, for I am using
the stub of the last feather I chance to possess.)
You travel on, however, through this dark and
desert world ; you see in the distance an intelli
gent and sympathizing lineament ; stars come forth
in the dark, and oases appear in the desert.
But (to return to the subject of coats), we are
well nigh smothered under yet more fatal coats,
which do not fit us, our whole lives long. Consider
the cloak that our employment or station is ; how
rarely men treat each other for what in their true
and naked characters they are ; how we use and
tolerate pretension ; how the judge is clothed with
dignity which does not belong to him, and the
trembling witness with humility that does not be
long to him, and the criminal, perchance, with
shame or impudence which no more belong to
him. It does not matter so much, then, what is
the fashion of the cloak with which we cloak these
cloaks. Change the coat; put the judge in the
criminal-box, and the criminal on the bench, and
you might think that you had changed the men.
No doubt the thinnest of all cloaks is conscious
deception or lies ; it is sleazy and frays out ; it is
not close-woven like cloth ; but its meshes are a
coarse net-work. A man can afford to lie only at
the intersection of the threads ; but truth puts in
the filling, and makes a consistent stuff.
I mean merely to suggest how much the station
affects the demeanor and self-respectability of the
parties, and that the difference between the judge s
coat of cloth and the criminal s is insignificant,
compared with, or only partially significant of, the
difference between the coats which their respective
stations permit them to wear. What airs the
judge may put on over his coat which the crim
inal may not! The judge s opinion (sententict)
of the criminal sentences him, and is read by the
clerk of the court, and published to the world,
and executed by the sheriff; but the criminal s
opinion of the judge has the weight of a sentence,
and is published and executed only in the supreme
court of the universe, a court not of common
pleas. How much juster is the one than the
other ? Men are continually sentencing each
other ; but, whether we be judges or crimi
nals, the sentence is ineffectual unless we con
I am glad to hear that I do not always limit
your vision when you work this way; that you
sometimes see the light through me ; that I am
here and there windows, and not all dead wall.
Might not the community sometimes petition a*
man to remove himself as a nuisance, a darkener
of the day, a too large mote ?
H. D. T.
TO MR. B.
CONCORD, August 8, 1854.
MR. B :
Methinks I have spent a rather unprofitable
summer thus far. I have been too much with
the world, as the poet might say. The complet-
est performance of the highest duties it imposes
would yield me but little satisfaction. Better the
neglect of all such, because your life passed on a
level where it was impossible to recognize them.
Latterly, I have heard the very flies buzz too dis
tinctly, and have accused myself because I did not
still this superficial din. We must not be too
easily distracted by the crying of children or of
dynasties. The Irishman erects his sty, and gets
drunk, and jabbers more and more under my
eaves, and I am responsible for all that filth and
folly. I find it, as ever, very unprofitable to have
much to do with men. It is sowing the wind, but
not reaping even the whirlwind ; only reaping an
unprofitable calm and stagnation. Our conversa
tion is a smooth, and civil, and never-ending spec
ulation merely. I take up the thread of it again
in the morning, with very much such courage as
the invalid takes his prescribed Seidlitz powders.
Shall I help you to some of the mackerel ? It
would be more respectable if men, as has been
said before, instead of being such pigmy despe
rates, were Giant Despairs. Emerson says that
his life is so unprofitable and shabby for the most
part, that he is driven to all sorts of resources, and,
among the rest, to men. I tell him that we differ
only in our resources. Mine is to get away from
men. They very rarely affect me as grand or
beautiful ; but I know that there is a sunrise and a
sunset every day. In the summer, this world is a
mere watering-place, a Saratoga, drinking so
many tumblers of Congress water; and in the
winter, is it any better, with its oratorios ? I have
seen more men than usual, lately ; and, well as
I was acquainted with one, I am surprised to find
what vulgar fellows they are. They do a little
business commonly each day, in order to pay their
board, and then they congregate in sitting-rooms,
and feebly fabulate and paddle in the social slush ;
and when I think that they have sufficiently re
laxed, and am prepared to see them steal away to
their shrines, they go unashamed to their beds,
and take on a new layer of sloth. They may
be single, or have families in their faineancy. I
do not meet men who can have nothing to do
with me because they have so much to do with
themselves. However, I trust that a very few
cherish purposes which they never declare. Only
think, for a moment, of a man about his affairs !
How we should respect him ! How glorious he
would appear! Not working for any corporation,
its agent, or president, but fulfilling the end of his
being ! A man about his business would be the
cynosure of all eyes.
The other evening I was determined that I
would silence this shallow din ; that I would walk
in various directions and see if there was not to be
found any depth of silence around. As Bona
parte sent out his horsemen in the Red Sea on all
sides to find shallow water, so I sent forth my
mounted thoughts to find deep water. I left the
village and paddled up the river to Fair Haven
Pond. As the sun went down, I saw a solitary
boatman disporting on the smooth lake. The
falling dews seemed to strain and purify the air,
and I was soothed with an infinite stillness. I
got the world, as it were, by the nape of the neck,
and held it under in the tide of its own events, till
it was drowned, and then I let it go down stream
like a dead dog. Vast hollow chambers of silence
stretched away on every side, and my being ex
panded in proportion, and filled them. Then first
could I appreciate sound, and find it musical.
But now for your news. Tell us of the year.
Have you fought the good fight? What is the
state of your crops? Will your harvest answer
well to the seed-time, and are you cheered by the
prospect of stretching cornfields ? Is there any
blight on your fields, any murrain in your herds ?
Have you tried the size and quality of your potatoes ?
It does one good to see their balls dangling in the
lowlands. Have you got your meadow hay before
the fall rains shall have set in ? Is there enough
in your barns to keep your cattle over ? Are you
killing weeds now-a-days? or have you earned
leisure to go a-fishing ? Did you plant any Giant
Regrets last spring, such as I saw advertised ? It
is not a new species, but the result of cultivation
and a fertile soil. They are excellent for sauce.
How is it with your marrow squashes for winter
use ? Is there likely to be a sufficiency of fall
feed in your neighborhood ? What is the state of
the springs ? I read that in your county there is
more water on the hills than in the valleys. Do
you find it easy to get all the help you require ?
Work early and late, and let your men and teams
rest at noon. Be careful not to drink too much
sweetened water, while at your hoeing, this hot
weather. You can bear the heat much better for it.
H. D. T.
TO MB. D. K.
CONCORD, October 1, 1854.
I had duly received your very kind and frank
letter, but delayed to answer it thus long, because
I have little skill as a correspondent, and wished
to send you something more than my thanks. I
was gratified by your prompt and hearty accept
ance of my book. Your s is the only word of
greeting I am likely to receive from a dweller in
the woods like myself, from where the whip-poor-
will and cuckoo are heard, and there are better
than moral clouds drifting over, and real breezes
Your account excites in me a desire to see the
Middleboro Ponds, of which I had already heard
somewhat ; as also some very beautiful ponds on
the Cape, in Harwich, I think, near which I
once passed. I have sometimes also thought of
visiting that remnant of our Indians still living
near you. But then, you know, there is nothing
like one s native fields and lakes. The best news
you send me is, not that Nature with you is so
fair and genial, but that there is one there who
likes her so well. That proves all that was
Homer, of course, you include in your list of
lovers of Nature ; and, by the way, let me men
tion here, for this is my thunder " lately,"
William Gilpin s long series of books on the Pic
turesque, with their illustrations. If it chances
that, you have not met with these, I cannot just
now frame a better wish than that you may one
day derive as much pleasure from the inspection
of them as I have.
Much as you have told me of yourself, you have
still, I think, a little the advantage of me in this
correspondence, for I have told you still more in
my book. You have therefore the broadest mark
to fire at.
A young Englishman, Mr. Cholmondeley, is
just now waiting for me to take a walk with him ;
therefore excuse this very barren note from
Yours, hastily at last,
HENRY D. THOKEAU.
TO MR. B.
CONCORD, December 19, 1854.
MR. B :
I suppose you have heard of my truly provi
dential meeting with Mr. , providential
because it saved me from the suspicion that my
words had fallen altogether on stony ground, when
it turned out that there was some Worcester soil
there. You will allow me to consider that I cor
respond with him through you.
I confess that I am a very bad correspondent,
so far as promptness of reply is concerned ; but
then I am sure to answer sooner or later. The
longer I have forgotten you, the more I remember
you. For the most part I have not been idle
since I saw you. How does the world go with
you ? or rather, how do you get along without it ?
I have not yet learned to live, that I can see, and
I fear that I shall not very soon. I find, how
ever, that in the long run things correspond to
my original idea, that they correspond to noth
ing else so much ; and thus a man may really be
a true prophet without any great exertion. The
day is never so dark, nor the night even, but that
the laws at least of light still prevail, and so may
make it light in our minds if they are open to the
truth. There is considerable danger that a man
will be crazy between dinner and supper ; but it
will not directly answer any good purpose that I
know of, and it is just as easy to be sane. We
have got to know what both life and death are, be
fore we can begin to live after our own fashion.
Let us be learning our a-b-c s as soon as possible.
I never yet knew the sun to be knocked down and
rolled through a mud-puddle ; he comes out honor-
bright from behind every storm. Let us then
take sides with the sun, seeing we have so much
leisure. Let us not put all we prize into a foot
ball to be kicked, when a bladder will do as well.
When an Indian is burned, his body may be
broiled, it may be no more than a beef-steak.
What of that ? They may broil his heart, but
they do not therefore broil his courage^ his
principles. Be of good courage ! That is the
?jlf a man were to place himself in an attitude
to bear manfully the greatest evil that can be in
flicted on him, he would find suddenly that there
was no such evil to bear ; his brave back would
go a-begging. When Atlas got his back made
up, that was all that was required. (In this case
a priv., not pleon., and rA^A".) The world rests
on principles. The wise gods will never make
underpinning of a man. But as long as he
crouches, and skulks, and shirks his work, every
creature that has weight will be treading on his
toes, and crushing him ; he will himself tread with
one foot on the other foot.
The monster is never just there where we think
he is. What is truly monstrous is our cowardice
Have no idle disciplines like the Catholic Church
and others ; have only positive and fruitful ones.
Do what you know you ought to do. Why should
we ever go abroad, even across the way, to ask a
neighbor s advice ? There is a nearer neighbor
within is incessantly telling us how we should be
have. But we wait for the neighbor without to
tell us of some false, easier way.
They have a census-table in which they put
down the number of the insane. Do you believe
that they put them all down there ? Why, in
every one of these houses there is at least one
man fighting or squabbling a good part of his time
with a dozen pet demons of his own breeding and
cherishing, which are relentlessly gnawing at his
vitals ; and if perchance he resolve at length that
he will courageously combat them, he says, " Ay !
ay! I will attend to you after dinner!" And,
when that time comes, he concludes that he is
good for another stage, and reads a column or two
about the Eastern War ! Pray, to be in earnest,
where is Sevastopol? Who is Menchikoff? and
Nicholas behind these? who the Allies? Did
not we fight a little (little enough to be sure, but
just enough to make it interesting) at Alma, at
Balaclava, at Inkermann ? We love to fight far
from home. Ah ! the Minie musket is the king
of weapons. Well, let us get one then.
I just put another stick into my stove, a
pretty large mass of white oak. How many men
will do enough this cold winter to pay for the fuel
that will be required to warm them ? I suppose I
have burned up a pretty good-sized tree to-night,
- and for what ? I settled with Mr. Tarbell for it
the other day ; but that was n t the final settlement.
I got off cheaply from him. At last, one will say,
" Let us see, how much wood did you burn, sir ? "
And I shall shudder to think that the next ques
tion will be, " What did you do while you were
warm ? " Do we think the ashes will pay for it ?
that God is an ash-man ? It is a fact that we
have got to render an account for the deeds done
in the body.
Who knows but we shall be better the next year
than we have been the past ? At any rate, I wish
you a really new year, commencing from the in
stant you read this, and happy or unhappy, ac
cording to your deserts.
HENRY D. THOREAU.
TO MR. B.
CONCORD, September 26, 1855.
The other day I thought that my health must
be better, that I gave at last a sign of vitality,
because I experienced a slight chagrin. But I
do not see how strength is to be got into my legs
again. These months of feebleness have yielded
few, if any, thoughts, though they have not passed
without serenity, such as our sluggish Musketa-
quid suggests. I hope that the harvest is to come.
I trust that you have at least warped up the stream
a little daily, holding fast by your anchors at night,
since I saw you, and have kept my place for me
while I have been absent.
Mr. R , of New Bedford, has just made me
a visit of a day and a half, and I have had a quite
good time with him. He and C have got on
particularly well together. He is a man of very
simple tastes, notwithstanding his wealth ; a lover
of nature ; but, above all, singularly frank and
plain-spoken. I think that you might enjoy meet
ing him. / Sincerity is a great but rare virtue, and
we pardon to it much complaining, and the be
trayal of many weaknesses.- R says of him
self, that he sometimes thinks that he has all the in
firmities of genius, without the genius; is wretch
ed without a hair-pillow, &c. ; expresses a great
and awful uncertainty with regard to " God,"
"Death," his "immortality"; says, " If I only
knew," &c. He loves Cowper s Task better than
anything else ; and thereafter, perhaps, Thomson,
Gray, and even Howitt. He has evidently suffered
for want of sympathizing companions. He says that
he sympathizes with much in my books, but much
in them is naught to him, " namby-pamby,"
"stuff," "mystical." Why will not I, having
common sense, write in plain English always ;
teach men in detail how to live a simpler life, &c. ;
not go off into ? But I say that I have no
scheme about it, no designs on men at all ; and,
if I had, my mode would be to tempt them with
the fruit, and not with the manure. To what end
do I lead a simple life at all, pray ? That I may
teach others to simplify their lives ? and so all
our lives be simplified merely, like an algebraic for-
mula ? Or not, rather, that I may make use of
the ground I have cleared, to live more worthily
and profitably ? I would fain lay the most stress
forever on that which is the most important,
imports the most to me, though it were only
(what it is likely to be) a vibration in the air. As
a preacher, I should be prompted to tell men, not
so much how to get their wheat-bread cheaper, as
of the bread of life compared with which that is
bran. Let a man only taste these loaves, and he
becomes a skilful economist at once. He 11 not
waste much time in earning those. Don t spend
your time in drilling soldiers, who may turn out
hirelings after all, but give to undrilled peasantry
a country to fight for. The schools begin with
what they call the elements, and where do they
I was glad to hear the other day that H
and were gone to Katahdin ; it must be so
much better to go to than a Woman s Rights or
Abolition Convention ; better still, to the delect
able primitive mounts within you, which you have
dreamed of from your youth up, and seen, per
haps, in the horizon, but never climbed.
But how do you do ? Is the air sweet to you?
Do you find anything at which you can work,
accomplishing something solid from day to day ?
Have you put sloth and doubt behind consider
ably ? had one redeeming dream this summer ?
I dreamed, last night, that I could vault over any
height it pleased me. That was something ; and
I contemplated myself with a slight satisfaction
in the morning for it.
Methinks I will write to you. Methinks you
will be glad to hear. We will stand on solid
foundations to one another, ~ la column planted
on this shore, you on that. We meet the same
sun in his rising. We were built slowly, and have
come to our bearing. We will not mutually fall
over that we may meet, but will grandly and eter
nally guard the straits. Methinks I see an in
scription on you, which the architect made, the
stucco being worn off to it. The name of that
ambitious worldly king is crumbling away. I see
it toward sunset in favorable lights. Each must
read for the other, as might a sailer by. Be sure
you are star-y-pointing still. How is it on your
I will not require an answer until you think I
have paid my debts to you.
I have just got a letter from R , urging me
to come to New Bedford, which possibly I may
do. He says I can wear my old clothes there.
Let me be remembered in your quiet house.
HENRY D. THOREAU.
TO MR. D. R.
CONCORD, September 27, 1855.
FRIEND R :
I am sorry that you were obliged to leave Con
cord without seeing more of it, its river and
woods, and various pleasant walks, and its worthies.
I assure you that I am none the worse for my
walk with you, but on all accounts the better.
Methinks I am regaining my health ; but I would
like to know first what it was that ailed me.
I have not yet conveyed your message to Mr.
H , but will not fail to do so. That idea of
occupying the old house is a good one, quite
feasible, and you could bring your hair-pillow
with you. It is an inn in Concord which I had
not thought of, a philosopher s inn. That large
chamber might make a man s idea expand propor-
tionably. It would be well to have an interest in
some old chamber in a deserted house in every
part of the country which attracted us. There
would be no such place to receive one s guests
as that. If old furniture is fashionable, why not
go the whole house at once? I shall endeavor
to make Mr. H believe that the old house is
the chief attraction of his farm, and that it is his
duty to preserve it by all honest appliances. You
might take a lease of it in perpetuo, and done
I am so wedded to my way of spending a day,
require such broad margins of leisure, and such
a complete wardrobe of old clothes, that I am ill-
fitted for going abroad. Pleasant is it sometimes
to sit at home, on a single egg all day, in your
own nest, though it may prove at last to be an egg
of chalk. The old coat that I wear is Concord ;
it is my morning-robe and study-gown, my work
ing dress and suit of ceremony, and my night
gown after all. Cleave to the simplest ever.
Home, home, home. Cars sound like cares
I am accustomed to think very long of going
anywhere, am slow to move. I hope to hear a
response of the oracle first.
However, I think that I will try the effect of
your talisman on the iron horse next Saturday,
and dismount at Tarkiln Hill. Perhaps your sea
air will be good for me.
I conveyed your invitation to C , but he
apparently will not come.
Excuse my not writing earlier ; but I had not
HENRY D. THOREAU.
TO ME. D. K.
CONCORD, October 12, 1855.
MR. E :
I fear that you had a lonely and disagreeable
ride back to New Bedford, through the Carver
woods and so on, perhaps in the rain too, and I
am in part answerable for it. I feel very much
in debt to you and your family for the pleasant
days I spent at Brooklawn. Tell A and
W that the shells which they gave me are
spread out, and make quite a show to inland eyes.
Methinks I still hear the strains of the piano, the
violin, and the flageolet blended together. Ex
cuse me for the noise which I believe drove you to
take refuge in the shanty. That shanty is indeed
a favorable place to expand in, which I fear I did
not enough improve.
On my way through Boston, I inquired for
Gilpin s works at Little, Brown, & Co. s, Mon
roe s, Ticknor s, and Burnham s. They have
not got them. They told me at Little, Brown,
and Co. s that his works (not complete), in twelve
vols., 8vo, were imported and sold in this country
five or six years ago for about fifteen dollars.
Their terms for importing are ten per cent on
the cost. I copied from the " London Catalogue
of Books, 1816-51," at their shop, the following
list of Gilpin s Works :
Gilpin, (Wm.) Dialogues on Various Subjects. 8vo. 9s. Cadell.
Essays on Picturesque Subjects. 8vo. 15s. Cadell.
Exposition of the New Testament. 2 vols. 8vo.
Forest Scenery, by Sir T. D. Lauder. 2 vols. 8vo.
18s. Smith &E.
Lectures on the Catechism. 12mo. 3s. 6c?. Longman.
Lives of the Reformers. 2 vols. 12mo. 8s. Rivington.
Sermons Illustrative and Practical. 8vo. 12 s.
Sermons to Country Congregations. 4 vols. 8vo.
1 16s. Longman.
Tour in Cambridge, Norfolk, &c. 8vo. 18s. Cadell.
Tour of the River Wye. 12mo. 4s. With plates.
8vo. 17s. Cadell.
Gilpin, (W. S. (?) ) Hints on Landscape Gardening. Royal
8vo. 1. Cadell.
Beside these, I remember to have read one
volume on Prints ; his Southern Tour (1775) ;
Lakes of Cumberland, two vols. ; Highlands of
Scotland and West of England, two vols. N. B.
There must be plates in every volume.
I still see an image of those Middleborough
Ponds in my mind s eye, broad shallow lakes,
with an iron mine at the bottom, comparatively
unvexed by sails, only by Tom Smith and his
squaw, Sepits, " Sharper." I find my map of the
state to be the best I have seen of that district.
It is a question whether the islands of Long Pond
or Great Quitticus offer the greatest attractions to
a Lord of the Isles. That plant which I found on
the shore of Long Pond chances to be a rare and
beautiful flower, the Sabbatia chloroides, re
ferred to Plymouth.
In a Description of Middleborough in the Hist.
Coll., Vol. III., 1810, signed Nehemiah Bennet,
Middleborough, 1793, it is said: "There is on the
easterly shore of Assawampsitt Pond, on the shore
of Betty s Neck, two rocks which have curious
marks thereon (supposed to be done by the In
dians), which appear like the steppings of a person
with naked feet which settled into the rocks ; like
wise the prints of a hand on several places, with a
number of other marks ; also there is a rock on a
high hill a little to the eastward of the old stone
fishing wear, where there is the print of a person s
hand in said rock."
It would be well to look at those rocks again
more carefully ; also at the rock on the hill.
I should think that you would like to explore
Sinpatuct Pond in Rochester, it is so large and
near. It is an interesting fact that the alewives
used to ascend to it, if they do not still, both
from Mattapoisett and through Great Quitticus.
There will be no trouble about the chamber
in the old house, though, as I told you, Mr.
Hosmer may expect some compensation for it.
He says, " Give my respects to Mr. R , and
tell him that I cannot be at a large expense to
preserve an antiquity or curiosity. Nature must
do its work." " But," say I, " he asks you only
not to assist Nature."
HENRY D. THOREAU.
TO MK. D. K.
CONCORD, October 16, 1855.
FRIEND RICKETSON :
I have got both your letters at once. You must
not think Concord so barren a place when C
is away. There are the river and fields left yet ;
and I, though ordinarily a man of business, should
have some afternoons and evenings to spend with
you, I trust, that is, if you could stand so much
of me. If you can spend your time profitably
here, or without ennui, having an occasional ram
ble or tete-a-tete with one of the natives, it will
give me pleasure to have you in the neighborhood.
You see I am preparing you for our awful un
social ways, keeping in our dens a good part of
the day, sucking our claws perhaps. But then
we make a religion of it, and that you cannot but
If you know the taste of your own heart, and
like it, come to Concord, and I ll warrant you
enough here to season the dish with, ay, even
though C and E* and I were all away.
We might paddle quietly up the river. Then
there are one or two more ponds to be seen, &c.
I should very much enjoy further rambling with
you in your vicinity, but must postpone it for the
present. To tell the truth, I am planning to get
seriously to work after these long months of ineffi
ciency and idleness. I do not know whether you
are haunted by any such demon which puts you
on the alert to pluck the fruit of each day as it
passes, and store it safely in your bin. True, it is
well to live abandonedly from time to time ; but,
to our working hours that must be as the spile to
the bung. So for a long season I must enjoy only
a low slanting gleam in my mind s eye from the
Middleborough Ponds far away.
Metliinks I am getting a little more strength
into those knees of mine ; and, for my part, I
believe that God does delight in the strength of a
man s legs.
HENRY D. THOREAU.
TO MR. B.
CONCORD, December 9, 1855.
MR. B :
Thank you ! thank you for going a-wooding
with me, and enjoying it; for being warmed
by my wood fire. I have indeed enjoyed it much
alone. I see how I might enjoy it yet more with
company, how we might help each other to
live. And to be admitted to Nature s hearth
costs nothing. None is excluded ; but excludes
himself. You have only to push aside the curtain.
I am glad to hear that you were there too.
There are many more such voyages, and longer
ones, to be made on that river, for it is the water
of life. The Ganges is nothing to it. Observe
its reflections, no idea but is familiar to it.
That river, though to dull eyes it seems terrestrial
wholly, flows through Elysium. What powers
bathe in it invisible to villagers ! Talk of its shal-
lowness, that hay-carts can be driven through it
at midsummer : its depth passeth my understand
ing. If, forgetting the allurements of the world, I
could drink deeply enough of it ; if cast adrift
from the shore, I could with complete integrity
float on it, I should never be seen on the mill-dam
again. If there is any depth in me, there is a cor
responding depth in it. It is the cold blood of the
gods. I paddle and bathe in their artery.
I do not want a stick of wood for so trivial a
use as to burn even ; but they get it over night,
and carve and gild it that it may please my eye.
What persevering lovers they are ! What infinite
pains to attract and delight us ! They will supply
us with fagots wrapped in the daintiest packages,
and freight paid ; sweet-scented woods, and bufst-
ing into flower, and resounding as if Orpheus
had just left them, these shall be our fuel,
and we still prefer to chaffer with the wood-mer
The jug we found still stands draining bottom
up on the bank, on the sunny side of the house.
That river, who shall say exactly whence it
came, and whither it goes ? Does aught that
flows come from a higher source ? Many things
drift downward on its surface which w r ould enrich
a man. If you could only be on the alert all day,
and every day. And the nights are as long as the
Do you not think you could contrive thus to
get woody fibre enough to bake your wheaten
bread with? Would you not perchance have
tasted the sweet crust of another kind of bread in
the mean while, which ever hangs ready baked on
the bread-fruit trees of the world ?
Talk of burning your smoke after the wood has
been consumed ! There is a far more important
and warming heat, commonly lost, which precedes
the burning of the wood. It is the smoke of in
dustry, which is incense. I had been so thoroughly
warmed in body and spirit, that when at length
my fuel was housed, I came near selling it to the
ash-man, as if I had extracted all its heat.
You should have been here to help me get in my
boat. The last time I used it, November 27th,
paddling up the Assabet, I saw a great round pine
log sunk deep in the water, and with labor got it
aboard. When I was floating this home so gently,
it occurred to me why I had found it. It was to
make wheels with to roll my boat into winter
.quarters upon. So I sawed off two thick rollers
from one end, pierced them for wheels, and then
of a joist which I had found drifting on the river
in the summer, I made an axle-tree, and on this I
rolled my boat out.
Miss Mary Emerson is here, the youngest
person in Concord, though about eighty, and
the most apprehensive of a genuine thought ; ear
nest to know of your inner life ; most stimulating
society ; and exceedingly witty withal. She says
they called her old when she was young, and she
has never grown any older. I wish you could see
My books did not arrive till November 30th,
the cargo of the Asia having been complete when
they reached Liverpool. I have arranged them in
a case which I made in the mean while, partly of
river boards. I have not dipped far into the new
ones yet. One is splendidly bound and illumi
nated. They are in English, French, Latin, Greek,
and Sanscrit. I have not made out the signifi
cance of this Godsend yet.
Farewell, and bright dreams to you !
HENRY D. THOREAU.
TO MR. D. E.
CONCORD, December 25, 1865.
FRIEND R :
Though you have not shown your face here, I
trust that you did not interpret my last note to
my disadvantage. I remember that, among other
things, I wished to break it to you, that, owing to
engagements, I should not be able to show you so
much attention as I could wish, or as you had
shown to me. How we did scour over the coun
try ! I hope your horse will live as long as one
which I hear just died in the south of France at
the age of forty. Yet I had no doubt you would
get quite enough of me. Do not give it up so
easily. The old house is still empty, and Hosmer
is easy to treat with.
C was here about ten days ago. I told
him of my visit to you, and that he too must go
and see you and your country. This may have
suggested his writing to you.
That island lodge, especially for some weeks in
a summer, and new explorations in your vicinity,
are certainly very alluring ; but such are my en
gagements to myself, that I dare not promise to
wend your way, but will for the present only
heartily thank you for your kind and generous
offer. When my vacation comes, then look out.
My legs have grown considerably stronger, and
that is all that ails me.
But I wish now above all to inform you,
though I suppose you will not be particularly in
terested, that Cholmondeley has gone to the
Crimea, " a complete soldier," with a design,
when he returns, if he ever returns, to buy a
cottage in the South of England, and tempt me
over ; but that, before going, he busied himself in
buying, and has caused to be forwarded to me by
Chapman, a royal gift, in the shape of twenty-one
distinct works (one in nine volumes, forty-four
volumes in all), almost exclusively relating to an
cient Hindoo literature, and scarcely one of them
to be bought in America. I am familiar with
many of them, and know how to prize them.
I send you information of this as I might of the
birth of a child.
Please remember me to all your family.
HENRY D. THOREAU.
TO MR. D. R.
CONCORD, March 5, 1856.
DEAR SIR :
I have been out of town, else I should have
acknowledged your letter before. Though not in
the best mood for writing, I will say what I can
now. You plainly have a rare, though a cheap,
resource in your shanty. Perhaps the time will
come when every country-seat will have one,
when every country-seat will be one. I would ad
vise you to see that shanty business out, though
you go shanty-mad. Work your vein till it is ex
hausted, or conducts you to a broader one ; so that
C shall stand before your shanty, and say,
" That is your house."
This has indeed been a grand winter for me,
and for all of us. I am not considering how much
I have enjoyed it. What matters it how happy or
unhappy we have been, if we have minded our
business and advanced our affairs. I have made it
a part of my business to wade in the snow, and
take the measure of the ice. The ice on our pond
was just two feet thick on the first, of March ; and
I have to-day been surveying a wood-lot, where I
sank about two feet at every step.
It is high time that you, fanned by the warm
breezes of the Gulf stream, had begun to " lay"
for even the Concord hens have, though one won
ders where they find the raw material of egg-shell
here. Beware how you put off your laying to any
later spring, else your cackling will not have the
inspiring early spring sound.
As for visiting you in April, though I am in
clined enough to take some more rambles in your
neighborhood, especially by the seaside, I dare not
engage myself, nor allow you to expect me. The
truth is, I have my enterprises now as ever, at
which I tug with ridiculous feebleness, but admi
rable perseverance, and cannot say when I shall be
sufficiently fancy-free for such an excursion.
You have done well to write a lecture on
Covvper. In the expectation of getting you to
read it here, I applied to the curators of our Ly
ceum ; but, alas ! our Lyceum has been a failure
this winter for want of funds. It ceased some
weeks since, with a debt, they tell me, to be car
ried over to the next year s account. Only one
more lecture is to be read by a Signor Somebody,
an Italian, paid for by private subscription, as a
deed of charity to the lecturer. They are not rich
enough to offer you your expenses even, though
probably, a month or two ago, they would have
been glad of the chance.
However, the old house has not failed yet.
That offers you lodging for an indefinite time
after you get into it ; and in the mean while I offer
you bed and board in my father s house, always
excepting hair-pillows and new-fangled bedding.
Remember me to your family.
H. D. T.
TO MR. B.
CONCORD, March 13, 1856.
MR. B :
It is high time I sent you a word. I have
not heard from Harrisburg, since offering to go
there, and have not been invited to lecture any
where else the past winter. So you see I am fast
growing rich. This is quite right, for such is my
relation to the lecture-goers, I should be sur
prised and alarmed if there were any great call for
me. I confess that I am considerably alarmed
even when I hear that an individual wishes to
meet me, for my experience teaches me that we
shall thus only be made certain of a mutual
strangeness, which otherwise we might never
have been aware of.
I have not yet recovered strength enough for
such a walk as you propose, though pretty well
again for circumscribed rambles and chamber
work. Even now, I am probably the greatest
walker in Concord, to its disgrace be it said. I
remember our walks and talks and sailing in the
past with great satisfaction, and trust that we shall
have more of them erelong, have more wood-
ings-up, for even in the spring we must still
seek " fuel to maintain our fires."
As you suggest, we would fain value one an
other for what we are absolutely, rather than
relatively. How will this do for a symbol of
As for compliments, even the stars praise me,
and I praise them. They and I sometimes belong
to a mutual admiration society. Is it not so with
you ? I know you of old. Are you not tough
and earnest to be talked at, praised or blamed ?
Must you go out of the room because you are the
subject of conversation ? Where will you go to,
pray ? Shall we look into the " Letter Writer "
to see what compliments are admissible ? I am
not afraid of praise, for I have practised it on my
self. As for my deserts, I never took an account
of that stock, and in this connection care not
whether I am deserving or not. When I hear
praise coming, do I not elevate and arch myself to
hear it like the sky, and as impersonally ? Think
I appropriate any of it to my weak legs ? No.
Praise away till all is blue.
I see by the newspapers that the season for
making sugar is at hand. Now is the time,
whether you be rock, or white-maple, or hick
ory. I trust that you have prepared a store of
sap-tubs and sumach-spouts, and invested largely
in kettles. Early the first frosty morning, tap
your maples, the sap will not run in summer,
you know. It matters not how little juice you
get, if you get all you can, and boil it down.
I made just one crystal of sugar once, one-twen
tieth of an inch cube, out of a pumpkin, and
it sufficed. Though the yield be no greater than
that, this is not less the season for it, and it will be
not the less sweet, nay, it will be infinitely the
Shall, then, the maple yield sugar, and not
man ? Shall the farmer be thus active, and surely
have so much sugar to show for it, before this
very March is gone, while I read the news
paper ? While he works in his sugar-camp let
me work in mine, for sweetness is in me, and
to sugar it shall come, it shall not all go to
leaves and wood. Am I not a sugar-maple man,
Boil down the sweet sap which the spring
causes to flow within you. Stop not at syrup,
go on to sugar, though you present the world with
but a single crystal, a crystal not made from
trees in your yard, but from the new life that stirs
in your pores. Cheerfully skim your kettle, and
watch it set and crystallize, making a holiday of it
if you will. Heaven will be propitious to you as
Say to the farmer, There is your crop ; here
is mine. Mine is a sugar to sweeten sugar with.
If you will listen to me, I will sweeten your whole
load, your whole life.
Then will the callers ask, Where is B ?
He is in his sugar-camp on the mountain-side.
Let the world await him.
Then will the little boys bless you, and the great
boys too, for such sugar is the origin of many con
diments, B ians in the shops of Worcester, of
new form, with their mottos wrapped up in them.
Shall men taste only the sweetness of the maple
and the cane, the coming year ?
A walk over the crust to Asnybumskit, stand
ing there in its inviting simplicity, is tempting to
think of, making a fire on the snow under some
rock ! The very poverty of outward nature im
plies an inward wealth in the walker. What a
Golconda is he conversant with, thawing his fin
gers over such a blaze ! But, but
Have you read the new poem, " The Angel in
the House " ? Perhaps you will find it good for
H. D. T.
TO MR. B.
CONCORD, May 21, 1856.
MR. B :
I have not for a long time been putting such
thoughts together as I should like to read to the
company you speak of. I have enough of that
sort to say, or even read, but not time now to
arrange it. Something I have prepared might
prove for their entertainment or refreshment per
chance ; but I would not like to have a hat car
ried round for it. I have just been reading some
papers to see if they would do for your company ;
but though I thought pretty well of them as long
as I read them to myself, when I got an auditor to
try them on, I felt that they would not answer.
How could I let you drum up a company to hear
them? In fine, what I have is either too scat
tered or loosely arranged, or too light, or else is
too scientific and matter of fact (I run a good deal
into that of late) for so hungry a company.
I am still a learner, not a teacher, feeding some
what omnivorously, browsing both stalk and
leaves ; but I shall perhaps be enabled to speak
with the more precision and authority by and by,
if philosophy and sentiment are not buried under
a multitude of details.
I do not refuse, but accept your invitation, only
changing the time. I consider myself invited to
Worcester once for all, and many thanks to the
As for the Harvard excursion, will you let me
suggest another? Do you and B come to
Concord on Saturday, if the weather promises
well, and spend the Sunday here on the river or
hills, or both. So we shall save some of our money
(which is of next importance to our souls), and
lose I do not know what. You say you talked
of coming here before, now do it. I do not pro
pose this because I think that I am worth your
spending time with, but because I hope that we
may prove flint and steel to one another. It is
at most only an hour s ride farther, and you can
at any rate do what you please when you get here.
Then we will see if we have any apology to
offer for our existence. So come to Concord,
come to Concord, come to Concord ! or
your suit shall be defaulted.
As for the dispute about solitude and society,
any comparison is impertinent. It is an idling
down on the plain at the base of a mountain, in
stead of climbing steadily to its top. Of course
you will be glad of all the society you can get to
go up with. Will you go to glory with me ? is
the burden of the song. I love society so much
that I swallowed it all at a gulp, that is, all that
came in my way. It is not that we love to be
alone, but that we love to soar, and when we do
soar, the company grows thinner and thinner till
there is none at all. It is either the tribune on the
plain, a sermon on the mount, or a very private
ecstasy still higher up. We are not the less to
aim at the summits, though the multitude does not
ascend them. Use all the society that will abet
you. But perhaps I do not enter into the spirit
of your talk.
H. D. T.
TO MR. A.
CONCORD, September 1, 1856.
MB. A :
I remember, that, in the spring, you invited me
to visit you. I feel inclined to spend a day or two
with you and on your hills at this season, return
ing, perhaps, by way of Brattleboro. What if I
should take the cars for Walpole next Friday
morning? Are you at home? And will it be
convenient and agreeable to you to see me then ?
I will await an answer.
I am but poor company, and it will not be
worth the while to put yourself out on my ac
count ; yet from time to time I have some thoughts
which would be the better for an airing. I also
wish to get some hints from September on the
Connecticut to help me understand that season on
the Concord ; to snuff the musty fragrance of the
decaying year in the primitive woods. There is
considerable cellar-room in my nature for such
stores ; a whole row of bins waiting to be filled,
before I can celebrate my thanksgiving. Mould
in the richest of soils, yet I am not mould. It
will always- be found that one flourishing institu
tion exists and battens on another mouldering one.
The Present itself is parasitic to this extent.
HENRY D. THOREAU.
TO MR. B.
EAGLESWOOD, November 19, 1850.
MR. B :
I have been here much longer than I expected,
but have deferred answering you, because I could
not foresee when I should return. I do not know
yet within three or four days. This uncertainty
makes it impossible for me to. appoint a day to
meet you, until it shall be too late to hear from
you again. I think, therefore, that I must go
straight home. I feel some objection to reading
that " What shall it profit " lecture again in
Worcester ; but if you are quite sure that it will
be worth the while (it is a grave consideration), I
will even make an independent journey from Con
cord for that purpose. I have read three of my old
lectures (that included) to the Eagleswood peo
ple, and, unexpectedly, with rare success, i. e.
I was aware that what I was saying was silently
taken in by their ears.
You must excuse me if I write mainly a busi
ness letter now, for I am sold for the time, am
merely Thoreau the surveyor here, and solitude
is scarcely obtainable in these parts.
Alcott has been here three times, and, Sunday
before hist, I went with him and Greeley, by invi
tation of the last, to G. s farm, thirty-six miles
north of New York. The next day, A. and I
heard Beecher preach ; and what was more, we
visited W the next morning, (A. had already
seen him,) and were much interested and pro
voked. He is apparently the greatest democrat
the world has seen. Kings and Aristocracy go by
the board at once, as they have long deserved to.
A remarkably strong though coarse nature, of a
sweet disposition, and much prized by his friends.
Though peculiar and rough in his exterior, his
skin (all over ( ? ) ) red, he is essentially a gentle
man. I am still somewhat in a quandary about
him, feel that he is essentially strange to me, at
any rate ; but I am surprised by the sight of him.
He is very broad, but, as I have said, not fine.
He said that I misapprehended him. I am not
quite sure that I do. He told us that he loved to
ride up and down Broadway all day on an omni
bus, sitting beside the driver, listening to the roar
of the carts, and sometimes gesticulating and de
claiming Homer at the top of his voice. He has
long been an editor and writer for the newspapers,
was editor of the New Orleans Crescent once ;
but now has no employment but to read and write
in the forenoon, and walk in the afternoon, like all
the rest of the scribbling gentry.
I shall probably be in Concord next week ; so
you can direct to me there.
H. D. THOREAU.
TO MR. B.
CONCORD, December 6, 1856.
MR. B :
I trust that you got a note from me at Eagles-
wood, about a fortnight ago. I passed through
Worcester on the morning of the 25th of Novem
ber, and spent several hours (from 3.30 to 6.20)
in the travellers room at the depot, as in a dream,
it now seems. As the first Harlem train unex
pectedly connected with the first from Fitchburg,
I did not spend the forenoon with you as I had
anticipated, on account of baggage, &c. If it had
been a seasonable hour, I should have seen you,
i. e. if you had not gone to a horse-race. But
think of making a call at half past three in the
morning ! (would it not have implied a three
o clock in the morning courage in both you and
me ? ) as it were, ignoring the fact that mankind
are really not at home, are not out, but so
deeply in that they cannot be seen, nearly half
their hours at this season of the year.
I walked up and down the main street, at half
past five, in the dark, and paused long in front of
s store, trying to distinguish its features ;
considering whether I might safely leave his
" Putnam " in the door-handle, but concluded
not to risk it. Meanwhile a watchman (?)
seemed to be watching me, and I moved off.
Took another turn round there, and had the very
earliest offer of the Transcript from an urchin be
hind, whom I actually could not see, it was so
dark. So I withdrew, wondering if you and B.
would know that I had been there. You little
dream who is occupying Worcester when you are
all asleep. Several things occurred there that
night which I will venture to say were not put
into the Transcript. A cat caught a mouse at the
depOt, and gave it to her kitten to play with. So
that world-famous tragedy goes on by night as
well as by day, and nature is emphatically wrong.
Also I saw a young Irishman kneel before his
mother, as if in prayer, while she wiped a cinder
out of his eye with her tongue ; and I found that
it was never too late (or early?) to learn some
thing. These things transpired while you and B.
were, to all practical purposes, nowhere, and good
for nothing, not even for society, not for
horse-races, nor the taking back of a Putnam s
Magazine. It is true, I might have recalled you
to life, but it would have been a cruel act, con
sidering the kind of life you would have come
However, I would fain write to you now by
broad daylight, and report to you some of my life,
such as it is, and recall you to your life, which is
not always lived by you, even by daylight.
B ! B ! are you awake ? are you aware
what an ever-glorious morning this is, what
long-expected, never-to-be-repeated opportunity is
now offered to get life and knowledge ?
For my part, I am trying to wake up, to
wring slumber out of my pores ; for, generally, I
take events as unconcernedly as a fence post,
absorb wet and cold like it, and am pleasantly
tickled with lichens slowly spreading over me.
Could I not be content, then, to be a cedar post,
which lasts twenty-five years ? Would I not
rather be that than the farmer that set it ? or he
that preaches to that farmer ? and go to the heaven
of posts at last ? I think I should like that as well
as any would like it. But I should not care if I
sprouted into a living tree, put forth leaves and
flowers, and bore fruit.
I am grateful for what I am and have. My
thanksgiving is perpetual. It is surprising how
contented one can be with nothing definite, only
a sense of existence. Well, anything for variety.
I am ready to try this for the next ten thousand
years, and exhaust it. How sweet to think of !
my extremities well charred, and my intellectual
part too, so that there is no danger of worm or rot
for a long while. My breath is sweet to me. O
how I laugh when I think of my vague, indefinite
riches. No run on my bank can drain it, for my
wealth is not possession but enjoyment.
What are all these years made for? and now
another winter come, so much like the last ? Can t
we satisfy the beggars once for all ?
Have you got in your wood for this winter ?
What else have you got in ? Of what use a great
fire on the hearth, and a confounded little fire in
the heart ? Are you prepared to make a decisive
campaign, to pay for your costly tuition, to
pay for the suns of past summers, for happi
ness and unhappiness lavished upon you ?
Does not Time go by swifter than the swiftest
equine trotter or racker ?
Stir up . Remind him of his duties, which
outrun the date and span of Worcester s years past
and to come. Tell him to be sure that he is on
the main street, however narrow it may be, and to
have a lit sign, visible by night as well as by day.
Are they not patient waiters, they who wait
for us ? But even they shall not be losers.
That Walt Whitman, of whom I wrote to you,
is the most interesting fact to me at present. I
have just read his second edition (which he gave
me), and it has done me more good than any read
ing for a long time. Perhaps I remember best the
poem of Walt Whitman, an American, and the
Sun-Down Poem. There are two or three pieces
in the book which are disagreeable, to say the
least ; simply sensual. He does not celebrate love
at all. It is as if the beasts spoke. I think that
men have not been ashamed of themselves without
reason. No doubt there have always been dens
where such deeds were unblushingly recited, and
it is no merit to compete with their inhabitants.
But even on this side he has spoken more truth
than any American or modern that I know. I
have found his poem exhilarating, encouraging.
As for its sensuality, and it may turn out to
be less sensual than it appears, I do not so much
wish that those parts were not written, as that
men and women were so pure, that they could read
them without harm, that is, without understanding
them. One woman told me that no woman could
read it, as if a man could read what a woman
could not. Of course Walt Whitman can com
municate to us no experience, and if we are
shocked, whose experience is it that we are re
minded of ?
On the whole, it sounds to me very brave and
American, after whatever deductions. I do not
believe that all the sermons, so called, that have
been preached in this land put together are equal
to it for preaching.
We ought to rejoice greatly in him. He occa
sionally suggests something a little more than
human. You can t confound him with the other
inhabitants of Brooklyn or New York. How
they must shudder when they read him ! He is
To be sure I sometimes feel a little imposed
on. By his heartiness and broad generalities he
puts me into a liberal frame of mind prepared to
see wonders, as it were, sets me upon a hill or
in the midst of a plain, stirs me well up, and
then throws in a thousand of brick. Though
rude and sometimes ineffectual, it is a great prim
itive poem, an alarum or trumpet-note ringing
through the American camp. Wonderfully like
the Orientals, too, considering that when I asked
him if he had read them, he answered, " No :
tell me about them."
I did not get far in conversation with him,
two more being present, and among the few
things which I chanced to say, I remember that
one was, in answer to him as representing Amer
ica, that I did not think much of America or of
politics, and so on, which may have been some
what of a damper to him.
Since I have seen him, I find that I am not dis
turbed by any brag or egoism in his book. He
may turn out the least of a braggart of all, having
a better right to be confident.
He is a great fellow.
H. T. D.
TO MR. W.
CONCORD, December 12, 1856.
MR. W :
It is refreshing to hear of your earnest purpose
with respect to your culture, and I can send you
no better wish than that you may not be thwarted
by the cares and temptations of life. Depend on
it, now is the accepted time, and probably you will
never find yourself better disposed or freer to
attend to your culture than at this moment.
When They who inspire us with the idea are
ready, shall not we be ready also?
I do not remember anything which Confucius
has said directly respecting man s "origin, pur
pose, and destiny." He was more practical than
that. Pie is full of wisdom applied to human rela
tions, to the private life, the family, gov
ernment, &c. It is remarkable that, according to
his own account, the sum and substance of his
teaching is, as you know, to do as you would be
He also said (I translate from the French),
" Conduct yourself suitably toward the persons of
your family, then you will be able to instruct and
to direct a nation of men."
" To nourish one s self with a little rice, to drink
water, to have only his bended arm to support his
head, is a state which has also its satisfaction. To
be rich and honored by iniquitous means, is for
me as the floating cloud which passes."
" As soon as a child is born he must respect its
faculties : the knowledge which will come to it by
and by does not resemble at all its present state.
If it arrive at the age of forty or fifty years, with
out having learned anything, it is no more worthy
of any respect." This last, I think, will speak to
But at this rate, I might fill many letters.
Our acquaintance with the ancient Hindoos is
not at all personal. The full names that can be
relied upon are very shadowy. It is, however,
tangible works that we know. The best I think of
are the Bhagvat Geeta (an episode in an ancient
heroic poem called the Mahabarat), the Vedas, the
Vishnu Purana, the Institutes of Menu, &c.
I cannot say that Swede nborg has been directly
and practically valuable to me, for I have not been
a reader of him, except to a slight extent ; but I
have the highest regard for him, and trust that I
shall read his works in some world or other. He
had a wonderful knowledge of our interior and
spiritual life, though his illuminations are occasion
ally blurred by trivialities. He comes nearer to
answering, or attempting to answer, literally,
your questions concerning man s origin, purpose,
and destiny, than any of the worthies I have re
ferred to. But I think that that is not altogether
a recommendation ; since such an answer to these
questions cannot be discovered any more than per
petual motion, for which no reward is now offered.
The noblest man it is, methinks, that knows, and
by his life suggests, the most about these things.
Crack away at these nuts, however, as long as
you can, - the very exercise will ennoble you,
and you may get something better than the an
swer you expect.
H. D. THOREAU.
TO MR. B.
CONCORD, December 31, 1856.
MR. B :
I think it will not be worth the while for
me to come to Worcester to lecture at all this
year. It will be better to wait till I am perhaps
unfortunately more in that line. My writing
has not taken the shape of lectures, and therefore
I should be obliged to read one of three or four
old lectures, the best of which I have read to some
of your auditors before. I carried that one which
I call " Walking, or the Wild," to Amherst, N. H.,
the evening of that cold Thursday, and I am to
read another at Fitchburg, February 3. I am
simply their hired man. This will probably be
the extent of my lecturing hereabouts.
I must depend on meeting Mr. W some
Perhaps it always costs me more than it comes
to to lecture before a promiscuous audience. It is
an irreparable injury done to my modesty even,
I become so indurated.
O solitude ! obscurity ! meanness ! I never
triumph so as when I have the least success in
my neighbor s eyes. The lecturer gets fifty dol
lars a night; but what becomes of his winter?
What consolation will it be hereafter to have fifty
thousand dollars for living in the world ? I should
like not to exchange any of my life for money.
These, you may think, are reasons for not lec
turing, when you have no great opportunity. It is
even so, perhaps. I could lecture on dry oak
leaves, I could ; but who could hear me ? If I
were to try it on any large audience, I fear it
would be no gain to them, and a positive loss to
me. I should have behaved rudely toward my
I am surveying, instead of lecturing at present.
Let me have a skimming from your u pan of un-
H. D. T.
TO MR. R.
COKCORD, April 1, 1857.
DEAR R :
I got your note of welcome, night before last. 1
expect, if the weather is favorable, to take the 4.30
train from Boston to-morrow, Thursday, p. M., for
I hear of no noon train, and shall be glad to find
your wagon at Tarkile Hill, for I see it will be
rather late for going across lots.
I have seen all the spring signs you mention,
and a few more, even here. Nay, I heard one frog
peep nearly a week ago, metbinks the very first
one in all this region. I wish that there were a
few more signs of spring in myself; however, I
take it that there are as many within us as we
think we hear without us. I am decent for a
steady pace, but not yet for a race. I have a little
cold at present, and you speak of rheumatism
about the head and shoulders. Your frost is not
quite out. I suppose that the earth itself has a
little cold and rheumatism about these times ; but
all these things together produce a very fair general
result. In a concert, you know, we must sing our
parts feebly sometimes, that we may not injure the
general effect. I shouldn t wonder if my ...two-
year-old invalidity had been a positively charming
feature to some amateurs favorably located. Why
not a blasted man as well as a blasted tree, on your
If you should happen not to see me by the train
named, do not go again, but wait at home for me,
or a note from
HENRY D. THOREAU,
TO MR. W.
CONCORD, April 26, 1857.
MR. W :
I see that you are turning a broad furrow among
the books, but I trust that some very private jour
nal all the while holds its own through their midst.
Books can only reveal us to ourselves, and as often
as they do us this service, we lay them aside. I
should say,- read Goethe s Autobiography, by all
means, also Gibbon s, Haydon the Painter s, and
our Franklin s of course ; perhaps also Alfieri s,
Benvenuto Cellini s, and De Quincey s Confessions
of an Opium Eater, since you like autobiog
raphy. I think you must read Coleridge again,
and further, skipping all his theology, i. e. if you
value precise definitions and a discriminating use
of language. By the way, read De Quincey s
Reminiscences of Coleridge and Wordsworth.
How shall we account for our pursuits, if they
are original ? We get the language with which
to describe our various lives out of a common
mint. If others have their losses which they are
busy repairing, so have I mine, and their hound
and horse may perhaps be the symbols of some of
them. But also I have lost, or am in danger of
losing, a far finer and more ethereal treasure,
which commonly no loss of, which they are con
scious, will symbolize. This I answer hastily and
with some hesitation, according as I now under
stand my words
Methinks a certain polygamy with its troubles
is the fate of almost all men. They are
married to two wives : their genius (a celestial
muse), and also to some fair daughter of the
earth. Unless these two were fast friends before
marriage, and so are afterward, there will be but
little peace in the house.
TO MR. B.
CONCORD, August 18, 1857.
MR. B :
Fifteentlily. It seems to me that you need some
absorbing pursuit. It does not matter much what it
is, so it be honest. Such employment will be favor
able to your development in more characteristic and
important directions. You know there must be
impulse enough for steerage way, though it be not
toward your port, to prevent your drifting help
lessly on to rocks or shoals. Some sails are set
for this purpose only. There is the large fleet of
scholars and men of science, for instance, always
to be seen standing off and on on every coast, and
saved thus from running on to reefs, who will at
last run into their proper haven, we trust.
It is a pity you were not here with and
. I think that in this case, for a rarity, the
more the merrier.
You perceived that I did not entertain the idea
of our going together to Maine on such an excur
sion as I had planned. The more I thought of it,
the more imprudent it appeared to me. I did
think to have written to you before going, though
not to propose your going also ; but I went at last
very suddenly, and could only have written a busi
ness letter, if I had tried, when there was no busi
ness to be accomplished. I have now returned,
and think I have had a quite profitable journey,
chiefly from associating with an intelligent Indian.
My companion, E H , also found his ac
count in it, though he suffered considerably from
being obliged to carry unusual loads over wet and
rough " carries," in one instance five miles
through a swamp, where the water was frequently
up to our knees, and the fallen timber higher than
our heads. He went over the ground three times,
not being able to carry all his load at once. This
prevented his ascending Ktaadn. Our best nights
were those when it rained the hardest, on account
of the mosquitos. I speak of these things, which
were not unexpected, merely to account for my
not inviting you.
Having returned, I flatter myself that the world
appears in some respects a little larger, and not, as
usual, smaller and shallower, for having extended
my range. I have made a short excursion into
the new world which the Indian dwells in, or is.
He begins where we leave off. It is worth the
while to detect new faculties in man, he is so
much the more divine ; . and anything that fairly
excites our admiration expands us. The Indian,
who can find his way so wonderfully in the woods,
possesses so much intelligence which the white
man does not, and it increases my own capacity,
as well as faith, to observe it. I rejoice to find that
intelligence flows in other channels than I knew.
It redeems for me portions of what seemed brut
It is a great satisfaction to find that your oldest
convictions are permanent. With regard to essen
tials, I have never had occasion to change my
mind. The aspect of the world varies from year
to year, as the landscape is differently clothed,
but I find that the truth is still true, and I never
regret any emphasis which it may have inspired.
Ktaadn is there still, but much more surely my old
conviction is there, resting with more than moun
tain breadth and weight on the world, the source
still of fertilizing streams, and affording glorious
views from its summit, if I can get up to it again.
As the mountains still stand on the plain, and far
more unchangeable and permanent, stand still
grouped around, farther or nearer to my maturer
eye, the ideas which I have entertained, the ever
lasting teats from which we draw our nourishment.
H. D. T.
TO MR., D. R.
CONCORD, August 18, 1857.
DEAR SIR :
Your Wilson Flagg seems a serious person, and
it is encouraging to hear of a contemporary who
recognizes Nature so squarely, and selects such a
theme as "Barns." (I would rather "Mount
Auburn" were omitted.) But he is not alert
enough. He wants stirring up with a pole. He
should practise turning a series of somersets rap
idly, or jump up and see how many times he can
strike his feet together before coming down. Let
him make the earth turn round now the other
way, and whet his wits on it, whichever way it
goes, as on a grindstone ; in short, see how many
ideas he can entertain at once.
His style, as I remember, is singularly vague (I
refer to the book), and, before I got to the end of
the sentences, I was off the track. If you indulge
in long periods, you must be sure to have a snap
per at the end. As for style of writing, if one has
anything to say, it drops from him simply and
directly, as a stone falls to the ground. There
are no two ways about it, but down it comes, and
he may stick in the points and stops wherever he
can get a chance. New ideas come into this world
somewhat like falling meteors, with a flash and an
explosion, and perhaps somebody s castle-roof per
forated. To try to polish the stone in its descent, to
give it a peculiar turn, and make it whistle a tune,
perchance, would be of no use, if it were possible.
Your polished stuff turns out not to be meteoric,
but of this earth. However, there is plenty of
time, and Nature is an admirable schoolmistress.
Speaking of correspondence, you ask me if I
" cannot turn over a new leaf in that line." I
certainly could if I were to receive it ; but just
then I looked up and saw that your page was
dated " May 10," though mailed in August, and
LETTERS. . 159
it occurred to me that I had seen you since that
date this year. Looking again, it appeared that
your note was written in 56 ! ! However, it was
a new leaf to me, and I turned it over with as much
interest as if it had heen written the day before.
Perhaps you kept it so long, in order that the
manuscript and subject-matter might be more in
keeping with the old-fashioned paper on which it
I travelled the length of Cape Cod on foot, soon
after you were here, and, within a few days, have
returned from the wilds of Maine, where I have
made a journey of three hundred and twenty-five
miles with a canoe and an Indian, and a single
white companion, E H , Esq., of this
town, lately from California, traversing the
headwaters of the Kennebeck, Penobscot, and St.
Can t you extract any advantage out of that de
pression of spirits you refer to ? It suggests to me
cider-mills, wine-presses, &c., &c. All kinds of
pressure or power should be used and made to
turn some kind of machinery.
C was just leaving Concord for Plymouth
when I arrived, but said he should be here again in
two or three days.
Please remember me to your family, and say
that I have at length learned to sing Tom Bowlin
according to the notes.
HENRY D. THOREAU.
TO MR. D. K.
CONCORD, September 9, 1857.
FRIEND R :
I thank you for your kind invitation to visit
you, but I have taken so many vacations this
year, at New Bedford, Cape Cod, and Maine,
that any more relaxation call it rather dis
sipation will cover me with shame and disgrace.
I have not earned what I have already enjoyed.
As some heads cannot carry much wine, so it
would seem that I cannot bear so much society as
you can. I have an immense appetite for solitude,
like an infant for sleep, and if I don t get enough
of it this year, I shall cry all the next.
My mother s house is full at present ; but if it
were not, I would have no right to invite you
hither, while entertaining such designs as I have
hinted at. However, if you care to storm the
town, I will engage to take some afternoon walks
with you, retiring into profoundest solitude the
most sacred part of the day.
H. D. T.
TO MR. B.
CONCORD, November 16, 1857.
MR. B :
You have got the start again. It was I that
owed you a letter or two, if I mistake not.
They make a great ado now-a-days about hard
times ; but I think that the community generally,
ministers and all, take a wrong view of the mat
ter, though, some of the ministers preaching ac
cording to a formula, may pretend to take a right
one. This general failure, both private and pub
lic, is rather occasion for rejoicing, as reminding us
whom we have at the helm, that justice is al
ways done. If our merchants did not most of
them fail, and the banks too, my faith in the old
laws of the world would be staggered. The state
ment that ninety-six in a hundred doing such busi
ness surely break down, is perhaps the sweetest
fact that statistics have revealed, exhilarating as
the fragrance of sallows in spring. Does it not
say somewhere, " The Lord reigneth, let the earth
rejoice"? If thousands are thrown out of em
ployment, it suggests that they were not well
employed. Why don t they take the hint ? It is
not enough to be industrious ; so are the ants.
What are you industrious about ?
The merchants and company have long laughed
at transcendentalism, higher laws, &c., crying,
" None of your moonshine," as if they were an-
cliored to something not only definite, but sure
and permanent. If there was any institution
which was presumed to rest on a solid and secure
basis, and more than any other represented this
boasted common sense, prudence, and practical
talent, it was the bank ; and now those very banks
are found to be mere reeds shaken by the w r ind.
Scarcely one in the land has kept its promise. It
would seem as if you only need live forty years
in any age of this world, to see its most promising
government become the government of Kansas,
and banks nowhere. Not merely the Brook
Farm and Fourierite communities, but now the
community generally has failed. But there is the
moonshine still, serene, beneficent, and unchanged.
Hard times, I say, have this value, among others,
that they show us what such promises are worth,
where the sure banks are. I heard some mer
chant praised the other day, because he had paid
some of his debts, though it took nearly all he
had (why, I ve done as much as that myself many
times, and a litttle more), and then gone to board.
What if he has ? I hope he s got a good boarding-
place, and can pay for it. It s not everybody that
can. However, in my opinion, it is cheaper to
keep house, i. e. if you don t keep too big a one.
Men will tell you sometimes that " money s
hard." That shows it was not made to eat, I
say. Only think of a man in this new world, in
his log cabin, in the midst of a corn and potato
patch, with a sheepfold on one side, talking about
money being hard ! So are flints hard ; there is
no alloy in them. What has that to do with his
raising his food, cutting his wood (or breaking it),
keeping in-doors when it rains, and, if need be,
spinning and weaving his clothes ? Some of those
who sank with the steamer the other day found
out that money was heavy too. Think of a man s
priding himself on this kind of wealth, as if it
greatly enriched him. As if one struggling in
mid-ocean with a bag of gold on his back should
gasp out, " I am worth a hundred thousand dol
lars." I see them struggling just as ineffectually
on dry land, nay, even more hopelessly, for, in the
former case, rather than sink, they w r ill finally let
the bag go ; but in the latter they are pretty sure
to hold and go down with it. I see them swim
ming about in their great-coats, collecting their
rents, really getting their dues, drinking bitter
draughts which only increase their thirst, be
coming more and more water-logged, till finally
they sink plumb down to the bottom. But enough
Have you ever read Ruskin s books ? If not, I
would recommend you to try the second and third
volumes (not parts) of his Modern Painters. I
am now reading the fourth, and have read most of
his other books lately. They are singularly good
and encouraging, though not without crudeness
and bigotry. The themes in the volumes referred
to are Infinity, Beauty, Imagination, Love of Na
ture, &c., all treated in a very living manner.
I am rather surprised by them. It is remarkable
that these things should be said with reference
to painting chiefly, rather than literature. The
Seven Lamps of Architecture, too, is made of good
stuff; but, as I remember, there is too much about
art in it for me and the Hottentots. We want to
know about matters and things in general. Our
house is as yet a hut.
You must have been enriched by your solitary
walk over the mountains. I suppose that I feel the
same awe when on their summits that many do on
entering a church. To see what kind of earth that
is on which you have a house and garden some
where, perchance ! It is equal to the lapse of
many years. You must ascend a mountain to
learn your relation to matter, and so to your own
body, for it is at home there, though you are not.
It might have been composed there, and will have
no further to go to return to dust there, than in
your garden ; but your spirit inevitably comes
away, and brings your body with it, if it lives.
Just as awful really, and as glorious, is your gar
den. See how I can play with my fingers ! They
are the funniest companions I have ever found.
Where did they come from ? What strange con
trol I have over them! Who am I? What are
they? those little peaks call them Madison,
Jefferson, Lafayette. What is the matter f My
fingers ten, I say. Why, erelong, they may
form the topmost crystal of Mount Washington.
I go up there to see my body s cousins. There
are some fingers, toes, bowels, &c., that I take an
interest in, and therefore I am interested in all
Let me suggest a theme for you : to state to
yourself precisely and completely what that walk
over the mountains amounted to for you, re
turning to this essay again and again, until you
are satisfied that all that was important in your
experience is in it. Give this good reason to your
self for having gone over the mountains, for man
kind is ever going over a mountain. Don t suppose
that you can tell it precisely the first dozen times
you try, but at em again, especially when, after a
sufficient pause, you suspect that you are touching
the heart or summit of the matter, reiterate your
blows there, and account for the mountain to your
self. Not that the story need be long, but it will
take a long while to make it short. It did not take
very long to get over the mountain, you thought ;
but have you got over it indeed ? If you have been
to the top of Mount Washington, let me ask,
what did you find there ? That is the way they
prove witnesses, you know. Going up there and
being blown on is nothing. We never do much
climbing while we are there, but we eat our
luncheon, &c., very much as at home. It is after
we get home that we really go over the mountain,
if ever. What did the mountain say ? What
did the mountain do ?
I keep a mountain anchored off eastward a little
way, which I ascend in my dreams both awake
and asleep. Its broad base spreads over a village
or two, which do not know it; neither does it
know them, nor do I when I ascend it. I can see
its general outline as plainly now in my mind as
that of Wachuset. I do not invent in the least,
but state exactly what I see. I find that I go up
it when I am light-footed and earnest. It ever
smokes like an altar with its sacrifice. I am not
aware that a single villager frequents it or knows
of it. I keep this mountain to ride instead of a
Do you not mistake about seeing Moosehead
Lake from Mount Washington? That must be
about one hundred and twenty miles distant, or
nearly twice as far as the Atlantic, which last
some doubt if they can see thence. Was it not
Dr. Solger has been lecturing in the ves-try in
this town on Geography, to Sanborn s scholars, for
several months past, at five P. M. E and
A have been to hear him. I was surprised
when the former asked me, the other day, if I was
not going to hear Dr. Solger. What, to be sitting
in a meeting-house cellar at that time of day,
when you might possibly be out-doors ! I never
thought of such a thing. What was the sun made
for ? If he does not prize daylight, I do. Let
him lecture to owls and dormice. He must be a
wonderful lecturer indeed who can keep me in
doors at such an hour, when the night is coming
in which no man can walk.
Are you in want of amusement now-a-days ?
Then play a little at the game of getting a living.
There never was anything equal to it. Do it tem
perately, though, and don t sweat. Don t let this
secret out, for I have a design against the Opera.
OPERA ! ! Pass along the exclamations, devil.
Now is the time to become conversant with
your wood-pile (this comes under Work for the
Month), and be sure you put some warmth into it
by your mode of getting it. Do not consent to
be passively warmed. An intense degree of that
is the hotness that is threatened. But a positive
warmth within can withstand the fiery furnace, as
the vital heat of a living man can withstand the
heat that cooks meat.
HENKY D. THOREAU.
TO MR. D. R.
CONCORD, June 30, 1858.
FRIEND K :
I am on the point of starting for the White
Mountains in a wagon with my neighbor E
II , and I write to you now rather to apologize
for not writing, than to answer worthily your
three notes. I thank you heartily for them. You
will not care for a little delay in acknowledging
them, since your date shows that you can afford to
wait. Indeed, my head has been so full of com
pany, &c., that I could not reply to you fitly be
fore, nor can I now.
As for preaching to men these days in the Wai-
den strain, is it of any consequence to preach to
an audience of men who can fail, or who can be
revived ? There are few beside. Is it any success
to interest these parties ? If a man has speculated
and failed, he will probably do these things again,
in spite of you or me.
I confess that it- is rare that I rise to sentiment
in my relations to men, ordinarily to a mere
patient, or may be wholesome good-will. I can
imagine something more, but the truth compels
me to regard the ideal and the actual as two
Channing has come, and as suddenly gone, and
left a short poem, " Near Home," published (?)
or printed by Monroe, which I have hardly had
time to glance at. As you may guess, I learn
nothing of you from him.
You already foresee my answer to your invita
tion to make you a summer visit : I am bound for
the mountains. But I trust that you have van
quished, ere this, those dusky demons that seem to
lurk around the Head of the River. You know
that this warfare is nothing but a kind of night
mare, and it is our thoughts alone which give
those tmworthies any body or existence.
I made an excursion with B , of Worcester,
to Monadnock, a few weeks since. We took our
blankets and food, spent two nights on the moun
tain, and did not go into a house.
A has been very busy for a long time re
pairing an old shell of a house, and I have seen
very little of him. I have looked more at the
houses which birds build. W made us all
very generous presents from his nursery in the
spring. Especially did he remember A .
Excuse me for not writing any more at present,
and remember me to your family.
H. D. THOEEAU.
TO MR. D. R.
CONCORD. November 6, 1858.
FRIEND R :
I was much pleased with your lively and life
like account of your voyage. You were more
than repaid for your trouble after all. The coast
of Nova Scotia, which you sailed along from
Windsor westward, is particularly interesting to
the historian of this country, having been settled
earlier than Plymouth. Your " Isle of Haut " is
properly " Isle Haute," or the High Island of
Champlain s map. There is another off the coast
of Maine. By the way, the American elk, of
American authors, (Cervus Canadensis,) is a dis
tinct animal from the moose (Cervus alces), though
the latter is also called elk by many.
You drew a very vivid portrait of the Australian,
short and stout, with a pipe in his mouth, and
his book inspired by beer, Pot First, Pot Second,
&c. I suspect that he must be pot-bellied withal.
Methinks I see the smoke going up from him as
from a cottage on the moor. If he does not
quench his genius with his beer, it may burst into
a clear flame at last. However, perhaps he inten
tionally adopts the low style.
What do you mean by that ado about smoking,
and my " purer tastes " ? I should like his pipe
as well as his beer, at least. Neither of them is
so bad as to be " highly connected," which you say
he is, unfortunately. No ! I expect nothing but
pleasure in " smoke from your pipe."
You and the Australian must have put your
heads together when you concocted those titles,
with pipes in your mouths over a pot of beer. I
suppose that your chapters are, Whiff the First,
Whiff the Second, &c. But of course it is a more
modest expression for " Fire from my Genius."
You must have been very busy since you came
back, or before you sailed, to have brought out
your History, of whose publication I had not
heard. I suppose that I have read it in the Mer
cury. Yet I am curious to see how it looks in a
volume, with your name on the title-page.
I am more curious still about the poems. Pray
put some sketches into the book : your shanty for
frontispiece ; A and W s boat (if you
can) running for Cuttyhunk in a tremendous
gale ; not forgetting " Be honest boys," &c., near
by ; the Middleborough Ponds, with a certain
island looming in the distance ; the Quaker meet
ing-house, and the Brady House, if you like ; the
villagers catching smelts with dip-nets in the
twilight, at the Head of the River, &c., &c. Let
it be a local and villageous book as much as pos
sible. Let some one make a characteristic selec
tion of mottoes from your shanty walls, and
sprinkle them in an irregular manner, at all angles,
over the fly leaves and margins, as a man stamps
his name in a hurry ; and also canes, pipes, and
jackknives, of all your patterns, about the frontis
piece. I can think of plenty of devices for tail
pieces. Indeed, I should like to see a hair-pillow,
accurately drawn, for one ; a cat, with a bell on, for
another ; the old horse, with his age printed in the
hollow of his back ; half a cocoa-nut shell by a
spring ; a sheet of blotted paper ; a settle occupied
by a settler at full length, &c., &c., &c. Call all
the arts to your aid.
Don t wait for the Indian summer, but bring it
H. D. T.
P. S. Let me ask a favor. I am trying to write
something about the autumnal tints, and I wish to
know how much our trees differ from Eno-lish and
European ones in this respect. Will you observe,
or learn for me, what English or European trees,
if any, still retain their leaves in Mr. Arnold s
garden (the gardener will supply the true names) ;
and also if the foliage of any (and what) Euro
pean or foreign trees there have been brilliant the
past month. If you will do this you will greatly
oblige me. I return the newspaper with this.
TO ME. B.
COXCORD, January 1, 1859.
It may interest you to hear that C has been
this way again, via Montreal and Lake Huron, go
ing to the West Indies, or rather to Weiss-nicht-
wo, whither he urges me to accompany him. He
is rather more demonstrative than before, and, on
the whole, what would be called " a good fellow,"
is a man of principle, and quite reliable, but
very peculiar. I have been to New Bedford with
him, to show him a whaling town and R . I
was glad to hear that you had called on R .
How did you like him ? I suspect that you did
not see one another fairly.
I have lately got back to that glorious society,
called Solitude, where we meet our Friends con
tinually, and can imagine the outside world also to
be peopled. Yet some of my acquaintance would
fain hustle me into the almshouse for the sake of
society, as if I were pining for that diet, when I
seem to myself a most befriended man, and find
constant employment. However, they do not be
lieve a word I say. They have got a club, the
handle of which is in the Parker House at Boston,
and with this they beat me from time to time, ex
pecting to make me tender or minced meat so, fit
for a club to dine off.
" Hercules with his club
The Dragon did drub ;
But More of More Hall,
With nothing at all,
He slew the Dragon of Wantley."
Ah ! that More of More Hall knew what fair play
was. C , who wrote to me about it once,
brandishing the club vigorously, being set on by
another, probably, says now, seriously, that he is
sorry to find by my letters that I am " absorbed
in politics," and adds, begging my pardon for his
plainness, " Beware of an extraneous life ! " and so
he does his duty, and washes his hands of me. I
tell him that it is as if he should say to the sloth,
that fellow that creeps so slowly along a tree, and
cries ai from time to time, " Beware of dancing ! "
The doctors are all agreed that I am suffering
for want of society. Was never a case like it ?
First, I did not know that I was suffering at all.
Secondly, as an Irishman might say, I had thought
it was indigestion of the society I got.
As for the Parker House, I went there once,
when the Club was away, but I found it hard to see
through the cigar smoke, and men were deposited
about in chairs over the marble floor, as thick as
legs of bacon in a smoke-house. It was all smoke,
and no salt, attic or other. The only room in
Boston which I visit with alacrity, is the Gentle
men s Room at the Fitchburg Dep8t, where I wait
for the cars, sometimes for, two hours, in order to
get out of town. It is a paradise to the Parker
House, for no smoking is allowed, and there is far
more retirement. A large and respectable club of
us hire it (Town and Country Club), and I am
pretty sure to find some one there whose face is
set the same w r ay as my own.
My last essay, on which I am still engaged, is
called Autumnal Tints. I do not know how read
able (i. e. by me to others) it will be.
I met Mr. J the other night at Emerson s,
at an Alcottian conversation, at which, however,
A did not talk much, being disturbed by
J "s opposition. The latter is a hearty man
enough, with whom you can differ very satisfac
torily, on account of both his doctrines and his
good temper. He utters quasi philanthropic dog
mas in a metaphysic dress ; but they are for all
practical purposes very crude. He charges society
with all the crime committed, and praises the
criminal for committing it. But I think that all
the remedies he suggests out of his head, for
he goes no farther, hearty as he is, would leave
us about where we are now. For, of course, it is
not by a gift of turkeys on Thanksgiving Day that
he proposes to convert the criminal, but by a true
sympathy with each one, with him, among the
rest, who lyingly tells the world from the gallows
that he has never been treated kindly by a single
mortal since he was born. But it is not so easy a
thing to sympathize with another, though you may
have the best disposition to do it. There is Dob-
son over the hill. Have not you and I and all
the world been trying, ever since he was born, to
sympathize with him ? (as doubtless he with us,)
and yet we have got no further than to send him
to the House of Correction once at least ; and he,
on the other hand, as I hear, has sent us to an
other place several times. This is the real state
of things, as I understand it, as least so far as
J s remedies go. We are now, alas! exer
cising what chanty we actually have, and new
laws would not give us any more. But, per
chance, we might make some improvements in the
House of Correction. You and I are Dobson ;
what will J do for us ?
Have you found at last in your wanderings a
place where the solitude is sweet ?
What mountain are you camping on now-a-
days ? Though I had a good time at the moun
tains, I confess that the journey did not bear any
fruit that I know of. I did not expect it would.
The mode of it was not simple and adventurous
enough. You must first have made an infinite de
mand, and not unreasonably, but after a corre
sponding outlay, have an all-absorbing purpose,
and at the same time that your feet bear you
hither and thither, travel much more in imagina
To let the mountains slide, live at home like
a traveller. It should not be in vain that these
things are shown us from day to day. Is not
each withered leaf that I see in my walks some
thing which I have travelled to find? travelled,
who can tell how far ? What a fool he must be
who thinks that his El Dorado is anywhere but
where he lives !
We are always, methinks, in some kind of ra
vine, though our bodies may walk the smooth
streets of Worcester. Our souls (I use this word
for want of a better) are ever perched on its rocky
sides, overlooking that lowland. (What a more
than Tuckerman s Ravine is the body itself, in
which the " soul" is encamped, when you come to
look into it ! However, eagles always have chosen
such places for their eyries.)
Thus is it ever with your fair cities of the
plain. Their streets may be paved with silver
and gold, and six carriages roll abreast in them,
but the real homes of the citizens are in the Tuck
erman s Ravines which ray out from that centre
into the mountains round about, one for each man,
woman, and child. The masters of life have so
ordered it. That is their beau-ideal of a country
seat. There is no danger of being "tuckered"
out before you get to it.
So we live in Worcester and in Concord, each
man taking his exercise regu]arly in his ravine,
like a lion in his cage, and sometimes spraining his
ancle there. We have very few clear days, and a
great many small plagues which keep us busy.
Sometimes, I suppose, you hear a neighbor halloo
(B , may be) and think it is a bear. Never
theless, on the whole, we think it very grand and
exhilarating, this ravine life. It is a capital ad
vantage withal, living so high, the excellent drain
age of that city of God. Routine is but a shal
low and insignificant sort of ravine, such as the
ruts are, the conduits of puddles. But these ra
vines are the source of mighty streams, precipi
tous, icy, savage, as they are, haunted by bears
and loup-cerviers, there are born not only Sacos
and Amazons, but prophets who will redeem the
world. The at last smooth and fertilizing water
at which nations drink and navies supply them
selves, begins with melted glaciers, and burst
thunder-spouts. Let us pray, that, if we are not
flowing through some Mississippi valley which we
fertilize, and it is not likely we are, we may
know ourselves shut in between grim and mighty
mountain walls amid the clouds, falling a thousand
feet in a mile, through dwarfed fir and spruce,
over the rocky insteps of slides, being exercised in
our minds, and so developed.
H. D. T.
TO MR. B.
CONCORD, September 26, 1859.
MR. B :
I am not sure that I am in a fit mood to write
to you, for I feel and think rather too much like a
business man, having some very irksome affairs to
attend to these months and years on account of
my family. This is the way I am serving King
Admetus, confound him ! If it were not for my
relations, I would let the wolves prey on his flocks
to their bellies content. Such fellows you have to
deal with ! herdsmen of some other king, or of the
same, who tell no tale, but in the sense of count
ing their flocks, and then lie drunk under a hedge.
How is your grist ground ? Not by some mur
muring stream, while you lie dreaming on the
bank ; but, it seems, you must take hold with
your hands, and shove the wheel round. You
can t depend on streams, poor feeble things ! You
can t depend on worlds, left to themselves ; but
you ve got to oil them and goad them along. In
short, you ve got to carry on two farms at once,
the farm on the earth and the farm in your
mind. Those Crimean and Italian battles were
mere boys play, they are the scrapes into
which truants get. But what a battle a man
must fight everywhere to maintain his standing
army of thoughts, and march with them in orderly
array through the always hostile country ! How
many enemies there are to sane thinking ! Every
soldier has succumbed to them before he enlists for
those other battles. Men may sit in chambers,
seemingly safe and sound, and yet despair, and
turn out at last only hollowness and dust within,
like a Dead Sea apple. A standing army of nu
merous, brave, and well-disciplined thoughts, and
you at the head of them, marching straight to
your goal ! How to bring this about is the prob
lem, and Scott s Tactics will not help you to it.
Think of a poor fellow begirt only with a sword-
belt, and no such staff of athletic thought ! his
brains rattling as he walks and talks ! These are
your pretorian guard. It is easy enough to main
tain a family, or a state, but it is hard to maintain
these children of your brain (or say, rather, these
guests that trust to enjoy your hospitality), they
make such great demands ; and yet, he who does
only the former, and loses the power to think
originally, or as only he ever can, fails misera
bly. Keep up the fires of thought, and all will go
Zouaves ? pish ! How you can overrun a
country, climb any rampart, and carry any for
tress, with an army of alert thoughts I. thoughts
that send their bullets home to heaven s door,
with which you can take the whole world, without
paying for it, or robbing anybody. See, the con
quering hero comes ! You fail in your thoughts,
or you prevail in your thoughts only. Provided
you think well, the heavens falling, or the earth
gaping, will be music for you to march by. No
foe can ever see you, or you him ; you cannot so
much as think of him. Swords have no edges,
bullets no penetration, for such a contest. In your
mind must be a liquor which will dissolve the
w r orld whenever it is dropt in it. There is no
universal solvent but this, and all things together
cannot saturate it. It will hold the universe in
solution, and yet be as translucent as ever. The
vast machine may indeed roll over our toes, and we
not know it, but it would rebound and be staved
to pieces like an empty barrel, if it should strike
fair and square on the smallest and least angular
of a man s thoughts.
You seem not to have taken Cape Cod the right
way. I think that you should have persevered in
walking on the beach and on the bank, even to
the land s end, however soft, and so, by long
knocking at Ocean s gate, have gained admittance
at last, better, if separately, and in a storm, not
knowing where you would sleep by night, or eat
by day. Then you should have given a day to
the sand behind Provincetown, and ascended the
hills there, and been blown on considerably. I
hope that you like to remember the journey better
than you did to make it.
I have been confined at home all this year, but
I am not aware that I have grown any rustier
than was to be expected. One while I explored
the bottom of the river pretty extensively. I
have engaged to read a lecture to Parker s Society
on the 9th of October next.
I am off a barberrying.
II. D. T.
TO MR. B.
CONCORD, May 20, 1860.
MR. B :
I must endeavor to pay some of my debts to
To begin where we left off, then.
The presumption is that we are always the
same ; our opportunities, and Nature herself, fluc
tuating. Look at mankind. No great difference
between two, apparently ; perhaps the same height,
and breadth, and weight ; and yet, to the man who
sits most east, this life is a weariness, routine, dust
and ashes, and he drowns his imaginary cards ( ! )
(a sort of friction among his vital organs) in a
bowl. But to the man who sits most west, his con
temporary ( !), it is a field for all noble endeavors,
an elysium, the dwelling-place of heroes and demi
gods. The former complains that he has a thou
sand affairs to attend to ; but he does not realize
that his affairs (though they may be a thousand)
and he are one.
Men and boys are learning all kinds of trades
but how to make men of themselves. They learn
to make houses ; but they are not so well housed,
they are not so contented in their houses, as the
woodchucks in their holes. What is the use of a
house if you have n t got a tolerable planet to put
it on ? if you cannot tolerate the planet it is on ?
Grade the ground first. If a man believes and
expects great things of himself, it makes no odds
where you put him, or what you show him (of
course you cannot put him anywhere, nor show
him anything), he will be surrounded by grand
eur. He is in the condition of a healthy and
hungry man, who says to himself, How sweet
this crust is ! If he despairs of himself, then
Tophet is his dwelling-place, and he is in the con
dition of a sick man who is disgusted with the
fruits of finest flavor.
Whether he sleeps or wakes, whether he runs
or walks, whether he uses a microscope or a
telescope, or his naked eye, a man never dis
covers anything, never overtakes anything, or
leaves anything behind, but himself. Whatever
he says or does, he merely reports himself. If he
is in love, he loves ; if he is in heaven, he enjoys ;
if he is in hell, he suffers. It is his condition that
determines his locality.
The principal, the only thing a man makes, is
his condition or fate. Though commonly he does
not know it, nor put up a sign to this effect, " My
own destiny made and mended here." [Not
yours.~\ He is a master-workman in the business.
He works twenty-four hours a day at it, and gets
it done. Whatever else he neglects or botches, no
man was ever known to neglect this work. A
great many pretend to make shoes chiefly, and
would scout the idea that they make the hard
times which they experience.
Each reaching and aspiration is an instinct with
which all nature consists and co-operates, and
therefore it is not in vain. But alas ! each relax
ing and desperation is an instinct too. To be
active, well, happy, implies rare courage. To be
ready to fight in a duel or a battle, implies des
peration, or that you hold your life cheap.
If you take this life to be simply what old re
ligious folks pretend, (I mean the effete, gone to
seed in a drought, mere human galls stung by the
devil once,) then all your joy and serenity is re
duced to grinning and bearing it. The fact is,
you have got to take the world on your shoulders
like Atlas, and put along with it. You will do
this for an idea s sake, and your success will be in
proportion to your devotion to ideas. It may
make your back ache occasionally, but you will
have the satisfaction of hanging it or twirling it to
suit yourself. Cowards suffer, heroes enjoy. After
a long day s walk with it, pitch it into a hollow
place, sit down and eat your luncheon. Unex
pectedly, by some immortal thoughts, you will be
compensated. The bank whereon you sit will be
a fragrant and flowery one, and your world in the
hollow a sleek and light gazelle.
Where is the " unexplored land " but in our
own untried enterprises ? To an adventurous
spirit any place London, New York, Worces
ter, or his own yard is " unexplored land," to
seek which Fremont and Kane travel so far. To
a sluggish and defeated spirit even the Great
Basin and the Polaris are trivial places. If they
can get there (and, indeed, they are there now),
they will want to sleep, and give it up, just as they
always do. These are the regions of the Known
and of the Unknown. What is the use of going
right over the old track again ? There is an
adder in the path which your own feet have
worn. You must make tracks into the Unknown.
That is what you have your board and clothes for.
Why do you ever mend your clothes, unless that,
wearing them, you may mend your ways.
Let us sing.
H. D. T.
TO MR. D. R.
CONCORD, November 4, 1860.
FRIEND R :
I thank you for the verses. They are quite
too good to apply to me. However, I know what
a poet s license is, and will not get in the way.
But what do you mean by that prose ? Why
will you waste so many regards on me, and not
know what to think of my silence ? Infer from
it what you might from the silence of a dense pine
wood. It is its natural condition, except when
the winds blow, and the jays scream, and the
chickaree winds up his clock. My silence is just
as inhuman as that, and no more.
You know that I never promised to correspond
with you, and so, when I do, I do more than I
Such are my pursuits and habits, that I rarely
go abroad ; and it is quite a habit with me to de
cline invitations to do so. Not that I could not
enjoy such visits, if I were not otherwise occupied.
I have enjoyed very much my visits to you, and
my rides in your neighborhood, and am sorry that
I cannot enjoy such things oftener ; but life is
short, and there are other things also to be done.
I admit that you are more social than I am, and
far more attentive to " the common courtesies of
life ; but this is partly for the reason that you have
fewer or less exacting private pursuits.
Not to have written a note for a year, is with
me a very venial offence. I think that I do not
correspond with any one so often as once in six
I have a faint recollection of your invitation re
ferred to ; hut I suppose that I had no new nor
particular reason for declining, and so made no
new statement. I have felt that you would be
glad to see me almost whenever I got ready to
come ; but I only offer myself as a rare visitor,
and a still rarer correspondent.
I am very busy, after my fashion, little as there
is to show for it, and feel as if I could not spend
many days nor dollars in travelling ; for the short
est visit must have a fair margin to it, and the
days thus affect the w r eeks, you know. Neverthe
less, we cannot forego these luxuries altogether.
You must not regard me as a regular diet, but
at most only as acorns, which, too, are not to be
despised, which, at least, we love to think are
edible in a bracing walk. We have got along
pretty well together in several directions, though
we are such strangers in others.
I hardly know what to say in answer to your
Some are accustomed to write many letters,
others very few. I am one of the last. At any
rate, we are pretty sure, if we write at all, to send
those thoughts which we cherish, to that one, who,
we believe, will most religiously attend to them.
This life is not for complaint, but for satisfaction.
I do not feel addressed by this letter of yours. It
suggests only misunderstanding. Intercourse may
be good ; but of what use are complaints and apol
ogies ? Any complaint I have to make is too
serious to be uttered, for the evil cannot be
Turn over a new leaf.
My out-door harvest this fall has been one Can
ada lynx, a fierce-looking fellow, which, it seems,
we have hereabouts ; eleven barrels of apples from
trees of my own planting ; and a large crop of
\vhite-oak acorns, which I did not raise.
Please remember me to your family. I have a
very pleasant recollection of your fireside, and I
trust that I shall revisit it ; also of your shanty
and the surrounding regions.
HENRY D. THOREAU.
TO MR. B.
CONCORD, November 4, I860.
MR. B :
I am glad to hear any particulars of your excur
sion. As for myself, I looked out for you some
what on that Monday, when, it appears, you
passed Monadnock ; turned my glass upon several
parties that were ascending the mountain half a
mile on one side of us. In short, I came as near
to seeing you as you to seeing me. I have no
doubt that we should have had a good time if you
had come, for I had, all ready, two good spruce
houses, in which you could stand up, complete in
all respects, half a mile apart, and you and B.
could have lodged by yourselves in one, if not
We made an excellent beginning of our moun
tain life. You may remember that the Saturday
previous was a stormy day. Well, we went up
in the rain, wet through, and found ourselves
in a cloud there at mid-afternoon, in no situation
to look about for the best place for a camp. So
I proceeded at once, through the cloud, to that
memorable stone, "chunk yard," in which we
made our humble camp once, and there, after
putting our packs under a rock, having a good
hatchet, I proceeded to build a substantial house,
which C. declared the handsomest he ever saw.
(He never camped out before, and was, no doubt,
prejudiced in its favor.) This was done about
dark, and by that time we were nearly as wet as
if we had stood in a hogshead of water. We then
built a fire before the door, directly on the site of
our little camp of two years ago, and it took a long
time to burn through its remains to the earth be
neath. Standing before this, and turning round
slowly, like meat that is roasting, we were as dry,
if not drier, than ever, after a few hours, and so,
at last, we " turned in."
This was a great deal better than going up there
in fair weather, and having no adventure (not
knowing how to appreciate either fair weather or
foul) but dull, commonplace sleep in a useless
house, and before a comparatively useless fire,
such as we get every night. Of course, we
thanked our stars, when we saw them, which was
about midnight, that they had seemingly with
drawn for a season. We had the mountain all to
ourselves that afternoon and night. There was
nobody going up that day to engrave his name on
the summit, nor to gather blueberries. The
genius of the mountains saw us starting from
Concord, and it said, There come two of our
folks. Let us get ready for them. Get up a
serious storm, that will send a-paeking these holi
day guests. (They may have their say another
time.) Let us receive them with true mountain
hospitality, kill the fatted cloud. Let them
know the value of a spruce roof, and of a fire of
dead spruce stumps. Every bush dripped tears
of joy at our advent. Fire did its best, and re
ceived our thanks. What could fire have done
in fair weather ? Spruce roof got its share of our
blessings. And then, such a view of the wet
rocks, with the wet lichens on them, as we had the
next morning, but did not get again !
We and the mountain had a sound season, as
the saying is. How glad we were to be wet, in
order that we might be dried ! How glad we
were of the storm which made our house seem
like a new home to us ! This day s experience
was indeed lucky, for we did not have a thunder-
shower during all our stay. Perhaps our host
reserved this attention in order to tempt us to
Our next house was more substantial still.
One side was rock, good for durability ; the floor
the same ; and the roof which I made would have
upheld a horse. I stood on it to do the shingling.
I noticed, when I was at the White Mountains
last, several nuisances which render travelling
thereabouts unpleasant. The chief of these was
the mountain houses. I might have supposed that
the main attraction of that region, even to citizens,
lay in its wildness and unlikeness to the city, and
yet they make it as much like the city as they can
afford to. I heard that the Crawford House was
lighted with gas, and had a large saloon, with its
band of music, for dancing. But give me a spruce
house made in the rain.
An old Concord farmer tells me that he ascend
ed Monadnock once, and danced on the top. How
did that happen ? Why, he being up there, a
party of young men and women came up, bring
ing boards and a fiddler ; and, having laid down
the boards, they made a level floor, on which they
danced to the music of the fiddle. I suppose the
tune was " Excelsior." This reminds me of the
fellow who climbed to the top of a very high spire,
stood upright on the ball, and hurrahed for
what? Why, for Harrison and Tyler. That s
the kind of sound which most ambitious people
emit when they culminate. They are wont to be
singularly frivolous in the thin atmosphere ; they
can t contain themselves, though our comfort and
their safety require it; it takes the pressure of
many atmospheres to do this; and hence they
helplessly evaporate there. It would seem, that,
as they ascend, they breathe shorter and shorter,
and, at each expiration, some of their wits leave
them, till, when they reach the pinnacle, they are
so light-headed as to be fit only to show how the
wind sits. I suspect that E s criticism called
" Monadnock " was inspired, not by remembering
the inhabitants of New Hampshire as they are in
the valleys, so much as by meeting some of them
on the mountain-top.
After several nights experience, C. came to the
conclusion that he was " lying out-doors," and in
quired what was the largest beast that might nib
ble his legs there. I fear that he did not improve
all the night, as he might have done, to sleep. I
had asked him to go and spend a week there.
We spent five nights, being gone six days, for C.
suggested that six working days made a week, and
I saw that he was ready to de-camp. However,
he found his account in it as well as I.
We were seen to go up in the rain, grim and
silent, like two genii of the storm, by Fassett s
men or boys ; but we were never identified after
ward, though we were the subject of some con
versation which we overheard. Five hundred
persons at least came on to the mountain while we
were there, but not one found our camp. We
saw one party of three ladies and two gentlemen
spread their blankets and spend the night on the
top, and heard them converse ; but they did not
know that they had neighbors, who were compara
tively old settlers. We spared them the chagrin
which that knowledge would have caused them,
and let them print their story in a newspaper
Yes, to meet men on an honest and simple foot
ing, meet with rebuffs, suffer from sore feet, as
you did, ay, and from a sore heart, as perhaps
you also did, all that is excellent. What a pity
that that young prince could not enjoy a little of
the legitimate experience of travelling, be dealt
with simply and truly, though rudely. He might
have been invited to some hospitable house in the
country, had his bowl of bread and milk set be
fore him, with a clean pinafore ; been told that
there were the punt and the fishing-rod, and he
could amuse himself as he chose; might have
swung a few birches, dug out a woodchuck, and
had a regular good time, and finally been sent to
bed with the boys, and so never have been in-
troduced to Mr. Everett at all. I have no doubt
that this would have been a far more memorable
and valuable experience than he got.
The snow-clad summit of Mount Washington
must have been a very interesting sight from Wa-
chusett. How wholesome winter is, seen far or
near; how good, above all mere sentimental,
warm - blooded, short - lived, soft - hearted, moral
goodness, commonly so-called. Give me the good
ness w y hich has forgotten its own deeds, which
God has seen to be good, and let be. None of
your just made perfect, pickled eels ! All that
will save them will be their picturesqueness, as
with blasted trees. Whatever is, and is not
ashamed to be, is good. I value no moral good
ness or greatness unless it is good or great, even
as that snowy peak is. Pray, how could thirty
feet of bowels improve it ? Nature is goodness
crystallized. You looked into the land of promise.
Whatever beauty we behold, the more it is dis
tant, serene, and cold, the purer and more durable
it is. It is better to warm ourselves with ice than
Tell B that he sent me more than the price
of the book, viz., a word from himself, for which
I am greatly his debtor.
H. D. T.
TO MR. P.
CONCORD, April 10, 1861.
FRIEND P :
I am sorry to say that I have not a copy of
" Walden " which I can spare ; and know of none,
unless possibly Ticknor and Fields may have one.
I send, nevertheless, a copy of " The Week,"
the price of which is one dollar and twenty-five
cents, which you can pay at your convenience.
As for your friend, my prospective reader, I
hope he ignores Fort Sumter, and " Old Abe,"
and all that; for that is just the most fatal, and,
indeed, the only fatal weapon you can direct
against evil, ever : for, as long as you know of it,
you are particeps criminis. What business have
you, if you are " an angel of light," to be ponder
ing over the deeds of darkness, reading the New
York Herald and the like ?
I do not so much regret the present condition
of things in this country (provided I regret it at
all), as I do that I ever heard of it. I know one
or two, who have this year, for the first time, read
a President s Message ; but they do not see that
this implies a fall in themselves, rather than a rise
in the President. Blessed were the days before you
read a President s Message. Blessed are the young,
for they do not read the President s Message.
Blessed are they who never read a newspaper, for
they shall see Nature, and, through her, God.
But, alas ! I have heard of Sumter and Pick-
ens, and even of Buchanan (though I did not read
I also read the New York Tribune ; but then, I
am reading Herodotus and Strabo, and Blodget s
Climatology, and " Six Years in the Desert of
North America," as hard as I can, to counterbal
By the way, Alcott is at present our most pop
ular and successful man, and has just published
a volume in size, in the shape of the Annual
School Report, which I presume he has sent to
Yours, for remembering all good things,
HENRY D. THOREAU.
TO MR. B.
CONCORD, May 3, 1861.
MR. B :
I am still as much an invalid as when you and
B were here, if not more of one, and at this
rate there is danger that the cold weather may
come again, before I get over my bronchitis. The
doctor accordingly tells me that I must " clear
out " to the West Indies, or elsewhere, he does
not seem to care much where. But I decide
against the West Indies, on account of their muggy
heat in the summer, and the South of Europe, on
account of the expense of time and money, and
have at last concluded that it will be most ex
pedient for me to try the air of Minnesota, say
somewhere about St. Paul s. I am only wait
ing to be well enough to start. Hope to get off
within a week or ten days.
The inland air may help me at once, or it may
not. At any rate, I am so much of an invalid,
that I shall have to study my comfort in travelling
to a remarkable degree, stopping to rest, &c.,
&c., if need be. I think to get a through ticket
to Chicago, with liberty to stop frequently on the
way, making my first stop of consequence at Ni
agara Falls, several days or a week, at a private
boarding-house ; then a night or day at Detroit ;
and as much at Chicago as my health may re
At Chicago I can decide at what point (Fulton,
Dunleith, or another) to strike the Mississippi, and
take a boat to St. Paul s.
I trust to find a private boarding-house in one
or various agreeable places in that region, and
spend my time there.
I expect, and shall be prepared to be gone
three months ; and I would like to return by a
different route, perhaps Mackinaw and Mon
I have thought of finding a companion, of
course, yet not seriously, because I had no right
to offer myself as a companion to anybody, having
such a peculiarly private and all-absorbing but
miserable business as my health, and not altogether
his, to attend to, causing me to stop here and go
there, &c., &c., unaccountably.
Nevertheless, I have just now decided to let
you know of my intention, thinking it barely pos
sible that you might like to make a part or the
whole of this journey at the same time, and that
perhaps your own health may be such as to be
benefited by it.
Pray let me know if such a statement offers any
temptations to you. I write in great haste for the
mail, and must omit all the moral.
H. D. THOREAU.
TO MR. S.
REDWING, Minnesota, June 26, 1861.
MR. S :
I was very glad to find awaiting me, on my ar
rival here on Sunday afternoon, a letter from you.
I have performed this journey in a very dead and
alive manner, but nothing has come so near wak
ing me up as the receipt of letters from Concord.
I read yours, and one from my sister (and Horace
M his four), near the top of a remarkable,
isolated bluff here, called Barn Bluff, or the
Grange, or Redwing Bluff, some four hundred and
fifty feet high, and half a mile long, a bit of the
main bluff or bank standing alone. The top, as
you know, rises to the general level of the sur
rounding country, the river having eaten out so
much. Yet the valley just above and below this,
(we are at the head of Lake Pepin,) must be three
or four miles wide.
I am not even so well informed as to the pro
gress of the war as you suppose. I have seen but
one Eastern paper (that, by the way, was the
Tribune) for five weeks. I have not taken much
pains to get them ; but, necessarily, I have not
seen any paper at all for more than a week at a
time. The people of Minnesota have seemed to
me more cold, to feel less implicated in this war
than the people of Massachusetts. It is apparent
that Massachusetts, for one State at least, is doing
much more than her share in carrying it on.
However, I have dealt partly with those of South
ern birth, and have seen but little way beneath
the surface. I was glad to be told yesterday that
there was a good deal of weeping here at Red
wing the other day, when the volunteers stationed
at Fort Snelling followed the regulars to the
seat of the war. They do not weep when their
children go up the river to occupy the deserted
forts, though they may have to fight the Indians
I ao not even know what the attitude of Eng
land is at present.
The grand feature hereabouts is, of course, the
Mississippi River. Too much can hardly be said
of its grandeur, and of the beauty of tins portion
of it (from Dunleith, and probably from Rock
Island to this place). St. Paul is a dozen miles
below the Falls of St. Anthony, or near the head
of uninterrupted navigation on the main stream,
about two thousand miles from its mouth. There
is not a " rip " below that, and the river is almost
as wide in the upper as the lower part of its course.
Steamers go up to the Sauk Rapids, above the
Falls, near a hundred miles farther, and then you
are fairly in the pine-woods and lumbering coun
try. Thus it flows from the pine to the palm.
The lumber, as you know, is sawed chiefly at
the Falls of St. Anthony (what is not rafted in
the log to ports far below), having given rise to
the towns of St. Anthony, Minneapolis, &c., &c.
In coming up the river from Dunleith, you meet
with great rafts of sawed lumber and of logs,
twenty rods or more in length, by five or six wide,
floating down, all from the pine region above the
Falls. An old Maine lumberer, who has followed
the same business here, tells me that the sources of
the Mississippi were comparatively free from rocks
and rapids, making easy work for them ; but he
thought that the timber was more knotty here than
It has chanced that about half the men whom I
have spoken with in Minnesota, whether travellers
or settlers, were from Massachusetts.
After spending some three weeks in and about
St. Paul, St. Anthony, and Minneapolis, we made
an excursion in a steamer some three hundred or
more miles up the Minnesota (St. Peter s) River,
to Redwood, or the Lower Sioux Agency, in order
to see the plains, and the Sioux, who were to re
ceive their annual payment there. This is emi
nently the river of Minnesota, (for she shares the
Mississippi with Wisconsin,) and it is of incalcu
lable value to her. It flows through a very fertile
country, destined to be famous for its wheat ; but
it is a remarkably winding stream, so that Red
wood is only half as far from its mouth by land as
by water. There was not a straight reach a mile
in length as far as we went, generally you could
not see a quarter of a mile of water, and the boat
was steadily turning this way or that. At the
greater bends, as the Traverse des Sioux, some of
the passengers were landed, and walked across to
be taken in on the other side. Two or three times
you could have thrown a stone across the neck
of the isthmus, while it was from one to three
miles around it. It was a very novel kind of
navigation to me. The boat was perhaps the
largest that had been up so high, and the water
was rather low (it had been about fifteen feet
higher). In making a short turn, we repeatedly
and designedly ran square into the steep and soft
bank, taking in a cart-load of earth, this being
more effectual than the rudder to fetch us about
again ; or the deeper water was so narrow and
close to the shore, that we were obliged to run
into and break down at least fifty trees which
overhung the water, when we did not cut them
off, repeatedly losing a part of our outworks,
though the most exposed had been taken in. I
could pluck almost any plant on the bank from
the boat. We very frequently got aground, and
then drew ourselves along with a windlass and
a cable fastened to a tree, or we swung round in
the current, and completely blocked up and block
aded the river, one end of the boat resting on each
shore. And yet we would haul ourselves round
again with the windlass and cable in an hour or
two, though the boat was about one hundred and
sixty feet long, and drew some three feet of water,
or, often, water and sand. It was one consolation
to know that in such a case we were all the while
damming the river, and so raising it. We once
ran fairly on to a concealed rock, with a shock
that aroused all the passengers, and rested there,
and the mate went below with a lamp, expecting
to find a hole, but he did not. Snags and saw
yers were so common that I forgot to mention
them. The sound of the boat rumbling over one
was the ordinary music. However, as long as the
boiler did not burst, we knew that no serious ac-
cident was likely to happen. Yet this was a
singularly navigable river, more so than the Mis
sissippi above the Falls, and it is owing to its very
crookedness. Ditch it straight, and it would not
only be very swift, but soon run out. It was from
ten to fifteen rods wide near the mouth, and from
eight to ten or twelve at Redwood. Though the
current was swift, I did not see a " rip " on it, and
only three or four rocks. For three months in the
year, I am told that it can be navigated by small
steamers about twice as far as we went, or to
its source in Big Stone Lake ; and a former
Indian agent told me that at high water it was
thought that such a steamer might pass into the
In short, this river proved so very long and
navigable, that I was reminded of the last letter
or two in the voyage of the Baron la Hontan
(written near the end of the seventeenth century,
I thinlc), in which he states, that, after reaching
the Mississippi (by the Illinois or Wisconsin), the
limit of previous exploration westward, he voyaged
up it with his Indians, and at length turned up a
great river coming in from the west, which he
called " La Riviere Longue " ; and he relates
various improbable things about the country and
its inhabitants, so that this letter has been regard
ed as pure fiction, or, more properly speaking, a
lie. But I am somewhat inclined now to recon
sider the matter.
The Governor of Minnesota (Ramsay), the
superintendent of Indian affairs in this quarter,
and the newly-appointed Indian agent were on
board ; also a German band from St. Paul, a small
cannon for salutes, and the money for the Indians
(ay, and the gamblers, it was said, who were to
bring it back in another boat). There were
about one hundred passengers, chiefly from St.
Paul, and more or less recently from the North
eastern States ; also half a dozen young educated
Englishmen. Chancing to speak with one who
sat next to me, when the voyage was nearly half
over, I found that he was the son of the Rev.
Samuel May, and a classmate of yours, and had
been looking for us at St. Anthony.
The last of the little settlements on the river
was New Ulm, about one hundred miles this side
of Redwood. It consists wholly of Germans.
We left them one hundred barrels of salt, which
will be worth something more when the water is
lowest than at present.
Redwood is a mere locality, scarcely an In
dian village, where there is a store, and some
houses have been built for them. We were now
fairly on the great plains, and looking south ;
and, after walking that way three miles, could
see no tree in that horizon. The buffalo was
said to be feeding within twenty-five or thirty
A regular council was held with the Indians,
who had come in on their ponies, and speeches
were made on both sides through an interpreter,
quite in the described mode, the Indians, as
usual, having the advantage in point of truth and
earnestness, and therefore of eloquence.
The most prominent chief was named Little
Crow. They were quite dissatisfied with the white
man s treatment of them, and probably have rea
son to be so. This council was to be continued
for two or three days, the payment to be made
the second day ; and another payment to other
bands a little higher up, on the Yellow Medicine
(a tributary of the Minnesota), a few days there
In the afternoon, the half-naked Indians per
formed a dance, at the request of the Governor,
for our amusement and their own benefit ; and
then we took leave of them, and of the officials
who had come to treat with them.
Excuse these pencil marks, but my inkstand is
unscrewdble, and I can only direct my letter at the
bar. I could tell you more, and perhaps more in
teresting things, if I had time.
I am considerably better than when I left home,
but still far from well.
Our faces are already set toward home. Will
you please let my sister know that we shall prob
ably start for Milwaukee and Mackinaw in a day
or two (or as soon as we hear from home) via
Prairie du Chien, and not La Crosse.
I am glad to hear that you have written to
Cholmondoley, as it relieves me of some respon
HENRY D. THOREAU.
TO MR. M. B. B.
CONCORD, March 21, 1862.
DEAR SIR :
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 an
other book, write it for me." He is actually
more familiar with what I have written than I am
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 sup
pose, 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
You ask particularly after my health. I sup
pose 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
HENRY D. THOREAU,
by SOPHIA E. THOREAU.
LATELY, alas ! I knew a gentle boy,
Whose features all were cast in Virtue s mould,
As one she had designed for Beauty s toy,
But after manned him for her own stronghold.
On every side he open was as day,
That you might see no lack of strength within ;
For walls and ports do only serve alway
For a pretence to feebleness and sin.
Say not that Caesar was victorious,
With toil and strife who stormed the House of Fame,
In other sense this youth was glorious,
Himself a kingdom, wheresoe er he came.
No strength went out to get him victory,
When all was income of its own accord ;
For where he went none other was to see,
But all were parcel of their noble lord.
He forayed like the subtle haze of summer,
That stilly shows fresh landscapes to our eyes,
And revolutions works without a murmur,
Or rustling of a leaf beneath the skies.
So was I taken unawares by this,
I quite forgot my homage to confess ;
Yet now am forced to know, though hard it is,
I might have loved him, had I loved him less.
Each moment as we nearer drew to each,
A stern respect withheld us farther yet,
So that we seemed beyond each other s reach,
And less acquainted than when first we met.
We two were one while we did sympathize,
So could we not the simplest bargain drive ;
And what avails it, now that we are wise,
If absence doth this doubleness contrive ?
Eternity may not the chance repeat ;
But I must tread my single way alone,
In sad remembrance that we once did meet,
And know that bliss irrevocably gone.
The spheres henceforth my elegy shall sing,
For elegy has other subject none ;
Each strain of music in my ears shall ring
Knell of departure from that other one.
Make haste and celebrate my tragedy ;
With fitting strain resound, ye woods and fields ;
Sorrow is dearer in such case to me
Than all the joys other occasion yields.
Is t then too late the damage to repair ?
Distance, forsooth, from my weak grasp has reft
The empty husk, and clutched the useless tare,
But in my hands the wheat and kernel left.
If I but love that virtue which he is,
Though it be scented in the morning air,
Still shall we be truest acquaintances,
Nor mortals know a sympathy more rare.
ROMANS, COUNTRYMEN, AND
LET such pure hate still underprop
Our love, that we may be
Each other s conscience,
And have our sympathy
Mainly from thence.
We 11 one another treat like gods,
And all the faith we have
In virtue and in truth, bestow
On either, and suspicion leave
To gods below.
Two solitary stars,
Unmeasured systems far
Between us roll ;
But by our conscious light we are
Determined to one pole.
What need confound the sphere,
Love can afford to wait ;
For it no hour s too late
That witnesseth one duty s end,
Or to another doth beginning lend.
It will subserve no use,
More than the tints of flowers ;
Only the independent guest
Frequents its bowers,
Inherits its bequest.
No speech, though kind, has it ;
But kinder silence doles
Unto its mates :
By night consoles,
By day congratulates.
What saith the tongue to tongue ?
What heareth ear of ear ?
By the decrees of fate
From year to year,
Does it communicate.
Pathless the gulf of feeling yawns ;
No trivial bridge of words,
Or arch of boldest span,
Can leap the moat that girds
The sincere man.
No show of bolts and bars
Can keep the foeman out,
Or scape his secret mine,
Who entered with the doubt
That drew the line.
No warder at the gate
Can let the friendly in :
But, like the sun, o er all
He will the castle win,
And shine alono; the wall.
There s nothing in the world I know
That can escape from love,
For every depth it goes below,
And every height above.
It waits, as waits the sky,
Until the clouds go by,
Yet shines serenely on
With an eternal day,
Alike when they are gone,
And when they stay.
Implacable is Love,
Foes may be bought or teased
From their hostile intent,
But he goes unappeased
Who is on kindness bent.
IF with light head erect I sing,
Though^ all the Muses lend their force.
From my poor love of anything,
The verse is weak and shallow as its source.
But if with bended neck I grope
Listening behind me for my wit,
With faith superior to hope,
More anxious to keep back than forward it ;
Making my soul accomplice there
Unto the flame my heart hath lit,
Then will the verse forever wear,
Time cannot bend the line which God has writ.
I hearing get, who had but ears,
And sight, who had but eyes before ;
I moments live, who lived but years,
And truth discern, who knew but learning s lore.
Now chiefly is my natal hour,
And only now my prime of life,
Of manhood s strength it is the flower,
T is peace s end, and war s beginning strife.
It comes in summer s broadest noon,
By a gray wall, or some chance place,
Unseasoning time, insulting June,
And vexing day with its presuming face.
I will not doubt the love untold
Which not my worth nor want hath bought,
Which wooed me young, and wooes me old,
And to this evening hath me brought.
THE FISHER S BOY.
MY life is like a stroll upon the beach,
As near the ocean s edge as I can go ;
My tardy steps its waves sometimes o erreach,
Sometimes I stay to let them overflow.
My sole employment is, and scrupulous care,
To place my gains beyond the reach of tides,
Each smoother pebble, and each shell more rare,
Which Ocean kindly to my hand confides.
I have but few companions on the shore :
They scorn the strand who sail upon the sea ;
Yet oft I think the ocean they ve sailed o er
Is deeper known upon the strand to me.
The middle sea contains no crimson dulse,
Its deeper waves cast up no pearls to view ;
Along the shore my hand is on its pulse,
And I converse with many a shipwrecked crew.
WITH frontier strength ye stand your ground,
With grand content ye circle round,
Tumultuous silence for all sound,
Ye distant nursery of rills,
Monadnock, and the Peterboro hills ;
Like some vast fleet
Sailing through rain and sleet,
Through winter s cold and summer s heat ;
Still holding to your high emprise,
Until ye find a shore amid the skies ;
Not skulking close to land,
With cargo contraband ;
For they who sent a venture out by ye
Have set the sun to see
Ships of the line, each one,
Ye to the westward run,
Always before the gale,
Under a press of sail,
With weight of metal all untold ;
I seem to feel ye in my firm seat here,
Immeasurable depth of hold,
And breadth of beam and length of running gear.
Methinks ye take luxurious pleasure
In your novel Western leisure ;
So cool your brows, and freshly blue,
As time had nought for ye to do ;
For ye lie at your length,
An unappropriated strength,
Unhewn primaeval timber
For knees so stiff, for masts so limber ;
The stock of which new earths are made,
One day to be our Western trade,
Fit for the stanchions of a world
Which through the seas of space is hurled.
While we enjoy a lingering ray,
Ye still o ertop the Western day,
Reposing yonder on God s croft,
Like solid stacks of hay.
Edged with silver and with gold,
The clouds hang o er in damask fold,
And with fresh depth of amber light
The west is dight,
Where still a few rays slant,
That even heaven seems extravagant.
On the earth s edge, mountains and trees
Stand as they were on air graven,
Or as the vessels in a haven
Await the morning breeze.
I fancy even
Through your defiles windeth the way to heaven ;
And yonder still, in spite of history s page,
Linger the golden and the silver age ;
Upon the laboring gale
The news of future centuries is brought,
And of new dynasties of thought,
From your remotest vale.
But special I remember thee,
Wachusett ! who, like me,
Standest alone without society.
Thy far blue eye,
A remnant of the sky,
Seen through the clearing of the gorge,
Or from the windows on the forge,
Doth leaven all it passes by.
Nothing is true,
But stands " tween me and you,
Thou western pioneer,
Who know st not shame nor fear,
By venturous spirit driven
Under the eaves of heaven,
And can st expand thee there,
And breathe enough of air ;
Upholding heaven, holding down earth,
Thy pastime from thy birth,
Not steadied by the one, nor leaning on the other,
May I approve myself thy worthy brother !
LIGHT-WIXGED Smoke ! Icarian bird,
Melting thy pinions in thy upward flight ;
Lark without song, and messenger of dawn,
Circling above the hamlets as thy nest ;
Or else, departing dream, and shadowy form
Of midnight vision, gathering up thy skirts ;
By night star-veiling, and by day
Darkening the light and blotting out the sun ;
Go thou, my incense, upward from this hearth,
And ask the gods to pardon this clear flame.
SMOKE IN WINTER.
".;;""* t. -
THE sluggish smoke curls up from some deep dell,
The stiffened air exploring in the dawn,
And making slow acquaintance with the day ;
Delaying now upon its heavenward course,
In wreathed loiterings dallying with itself,
With as uncertain purpose and slow deed,
As its half-wakened master by the hearth,
Whose mind, still slumbering, and sluggish thoughts
Have not yet swept into the onward current
Of the new day ; and now it streams afar,
The while the chopper goes with step direct,
And mind intent to wield the early axe.
First in the dusky dawn he sends abroad
His early scout, his emissary, smoke,
The earliest, latest pilgrim from his roof,
To feel the frosty air, inform the day ;
And, while he crouches still beside the hearth,
Nor musters courage to unbar the door,
It has gone down the glen with the light wind,
And o er the plain unfurled its venturous wreath,
Draped the tree-tops, loitered upon the hill,
And warmed the pinions of the early bird ;
And now, perchance, high in the crispy air,
Has caught sight of the day o er the earth s edge,
And greets its master s eye at his low door,
As some refulgent cloud in the upper sky.
Fountain-head and source of rivers,
And napkin spread by fays ;
Drifting meadow of the air,
Where bloom the daisied banks and violets,
And in whose fenny labyrinth
The bittern booms and heron wades ;
Spirit of lakes and seas and rivers,
Bear only perfumes and the scent
Of healing herbs to just men s fields.
WOOF of the fen, ethereal gauze,
Woven of Nature s richest stuffs,
Visible heat, air-water, and dry sea,
Last conquest of the eye ;
Toil of the day displayed, sun-dust,
Aerial surf upon the shores of earth,
Ethereal estuary, frith of light,
Breakers of air, billows of heat,
Fine summer spray on inland seas ;
Bird of the sun, transparent-winged,
Owlet of noon, soft-pinioned,
From heath or stubble rising without song,
Establish thy serenity o er the fields.
Cambridge : Stereotyped and Printed by Welch, Bigelow, & Co.