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Full text of "Letters to various persons"

T 

. LETTERS 
TO VARIOUS PERSONS 



BY 



HENRY D. THOREAU, 

AUTHOR OF "A WEEK ON THE CONCORD AND MERRIMACK RIVERS, 
"WALDEN," ETC., ETC. 




BOSTON : 

TICKNOR AND FIELDS 
1865. 




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. 
CAMBRIDGE. 



r o 



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. 



CONTENTS. 



PAGH 
LETTERS 1 

POEMS. 

SYMPATHY . . . . . . . .211 

"ROMANS, COUNTRYMEN, AND LOVERS" . . 214 

INSPIRATION 218 

THE FISHER S BOY 220 

MOUNTAINS 221 

SMOKE 225 

SMOKE IN WINTER ...... 226 

MIST 228 

HAZE . 229 



LETTERS. 



TO MISS THOREAU. 

CONCORD, June 13, 1840. 

DEARH : 

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 
I A 



2 LETTERS. 

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- 



LETTERS. 3 

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 
spit. 

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 



4 LETTERS. 

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. 



LETTERS. 5 

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 
preached. 

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 [1841]. 

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, 



6 LETTERS. 

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 
desert. 

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 
know. 

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 



LETTERS. 7 

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 



8 LETTERS. 

thought to root itself; but you must consider this 
an odd leaf of a volume, and that volume 
Your friend, 

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 



LETTERS. 9 

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 
sion. 

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 
match it. 

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 
1* 



10 LETTERS. 

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 
being. 



LETTERS. 11 

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 

Your friend, 

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 



12 LETTERS. 

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 
donor. 

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 
for me. 

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. 

Your friend, 

HENRY D. THOREAU. 



LETTERS. 13 

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 



14 LETTERS. 

each little interval, though it be but for the night, 
we are prepared to meet each other as gods and 
goddesses. 

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 
Admetus. 

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 



LETTERS. 15 

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 



16 LETTERS. 

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 



LETTERS. 17 

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 
rule myself. 

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 

55 

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 



18 LETTERS. 

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 

Your friend, 

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 



LETTERS. 19 

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- 

.V 



20 LETTERS. 

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 
them. 

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. 
Your friend, 

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 



LETTERS. 21 

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 
longitudes.^/ 

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 



22 LETTERS. 

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 



LETTEKS. 23 

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 
well. 

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. 



24 LETTERS. 

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 
the paper. 

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 



LETTERS. 25 

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 
dawn ? 

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 



26 LETTERS. 

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 
clouds. 

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. 

HENRY. 



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 



LETTERS. 27 

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 
gence office. 

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 



28 LETTERS. 

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 
more, 

" 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 . 

Your friend, 

HENRY D. THOREAU. 



LETTERS. 29 



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, 



30 LETTERS. 

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- 

O 

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 . 

Your friend, 

HENKY. 



LElHRS. 31 

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, 



32 LITERS. 

cats, and chickens subsist mainly upon them in 
some places. 

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 
advancing. 

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. 



LETTERS. 33 

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- 

2* C 



34 LETTERS. 

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 
here. 

/ 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 



36 LETTERS. 

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 



o 

service. 



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- 



LETTERS. 37 

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. 



38 LETTERS. 

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 
or later. 

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. 



LETTERS. 39 

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- 



40 LETTERS. 

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, 



LETTERS. 41 

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 
disease. 

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- 



42 LETTERS. 

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 



LETTERS. 43 

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 



44 LETTERS. 

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 
world. 

.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. 



LETTERS. 45 

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 



4b LETTERS. 

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 
see. 

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. 

HENRY THOKEAU. 



(\J 



LETTERS. 47 

K 



K 



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 
rich. 

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 



48 LETTERS. 

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 
living drudgery. 

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 



LETTERS. 49 

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. 

3 D 



50 LETTERS. 

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 



LETTERS. 51 

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- 
chucks. 

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 



52 LETTERS. 

it is worth the while ; and I do not discriminate 
them well. 

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. 

HENRY THOREAU. 



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 
bear. 

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 



LETTERS. 53 

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 

HENRY THOREAU. 

I still owe you a worthy answer. 



54 LETTERS. 



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." 



LETTERS. 55 

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 



56 LETTEKS. 

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. 



LETTERS. 57 

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, 

3* 



58 LETTERS. 

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 
fit follower. 



LETTERS. 59 

-^ 

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 



60 LETTERS. 

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 

it? 

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 



LETTERS. 61 

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 



62 LETTERS. 

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 

was down. 

H. D. T. 



LETTERS. b6 

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 
say. 

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 
were here. 



64 LETTERS. 

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. 



LETTERS. 65 

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. 



66 LETTERS. 

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 



LETTERS. 67 

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, 



68 LETTERS. 

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 

table." !!!!!! 

Yours, 

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 



LETTERS. 69 

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, 



70 LETTERS. 

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- 



LETTERS. 71 

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 
are. 

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. 

September, 1852. 

MR. B : 

Here come the sentences which I promised you. 
You may keep them, if you will regard and use 



72 LETTERS. 

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. 

LOVE. 

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- 



LETTERS. 73 

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- 

4 



74 LETTERS. 

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 
forever. 

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 
any other. 

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, 



LETTERS. 75 

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 
coarseness. 

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 
tive. 

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- 



76 LETTERS. 

ing. It is not foundationless, but most reasonable, 
and it alone uses all the knowledge of the intel 
lect. 

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 
moles. 

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. 



LETTERS. 77 

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. 



78 LETTERS. 

It is not enough that we are truthful ; we must 
cherish and carry out high purposes to be truthful 
about. 

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, 



LETTERS. 79 

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 
year. 

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 
munication. 



80 LETTERS. 

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 
apparent. 

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 
ceivable purity. 

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 



LETTERS. 81 

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- 

o 

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 

4* F 



82 LETTERS. 

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 
embrace. 

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 
season arrives. 

Virginity, too, is a budding flower, and by an 
impure marriage the virgin is deflowered. Who 
ever loves flowers, loves virgins and chastity. 



LETTERS. 83 

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 
carrion. 

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- 



84 LETTERS. 

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 
know them. 



LETTERS. 85 

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 



86 LETTERS. 

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 ? 



LETTERS. 87 

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 
coincident. 

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 



88 LETTEKS. 

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 



LETTERS. 89 

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 



90 LETTERS. 

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. 



LETTERS. 91 

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 



92 LETTERS. 

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 
bid for. 

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 



LETTERS. 93 

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. 

Yours, 

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. 



94 LETTERS. 

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 ! ! 

5 

The hard work of the dandelion down, which 
floats over the meadow all day ; the hard work of 



LETTERS. 95 

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 
pastures. 

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, 

then 

"It is worth the while to live respectably unto 
ourselves. We can possibly get along with a 



96 LETTERS. 

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 



LETTERS. 97 

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- 



98 LETTERS. 

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 
worth. 

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. 



LETTERS. 99 

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 



100 LETTERS. 

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 
translated ? 

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 



LETTERS. 101 

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 
Admetus afterward. 

It is the art of mankind to polish the world, 
and every one who works is scrubbing in some 
part. 

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. 



102 LETTERS. 

December 22. 

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 
through him. 

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 
ness. 

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 
sound. 

Work, work, work ! " 



LETTERS. 103 

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 can. 

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. 



104 LETTERS. 

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. 



LETTERS. 105 

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 

5* 



106 LETTERS. 

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 



LETTERS. 107 

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 
tinue ourselves. 

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 



108 LETTERS. 

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 ; 



LETTERS. 109 

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 



110 LETTERS. 

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. 



LETTERS. Ill 

TO MB. D. K. 

CONCORD, October 1, 1854. 

DEAR SIR: 

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 
blowing. 

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 
asserted. 

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," 



112 LETTERS. 

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. 



LETTERS. 113 

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 



114 LETTERS. 

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 
main thing. 

?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 
and sloth. 

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 



LETTERS. 115 

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 



116 LETTERS. 

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 



LETTERS. 117 

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- 



118 LETTERS. 

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 
end? 

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 



LETTERS. 119 

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 
side ? 

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. 



120 LETTERS. 



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 
with it. 

I am so wedded to my way of spending a day, 



LETTERS. 121 

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 
to me. 

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 
decided. 

Yours, 

HENRY D. THOREAU. 



122 LETTERS. 



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 : 



LETTERS. 123 

Gilpin, (Wm.) Dialogues on Various Subjects. 8vo. 9s. Cadell. 

Essays on Picturesque Subjects. 8vo. 15s. Cadell. 

Exposition of the New Testament. 2 vols. 8vo. 

16s. Longman. 

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. 

Hatchavd. 

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. 



124 LETTERS. 

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." 

Yours, 

HENRY D. THOREAU. 



LETTERS. 125 

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 
respect. 

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 



126 LETTERS. 

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. 



Yours, 

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. 



LETTERS. 127 

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 
chant. 

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 



128 LETTERS. 

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 
days. 

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 



LETTERS. 129 

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 
her. 

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. 



6* 



130 LETTERS. 



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. 



LETTERS. 131 

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. 
Yours truly, 

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, 



132 LETTERS. 

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 



LETTERS. 133 

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. 

Yours, 

H. D. T. 



134 LETTERS. 



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 



LETTERS. 135 

relatively. How will this do for a symbol of 
sympathy ? 




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, 



136 LETTEKS. 

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 
sweeter. 

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, 
then? 

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 
to him. 

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. 



LETTERS. 137 

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 

you. 

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 



138 LETTERS. 

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 
inviter. 

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 



LETTERS. 139 

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. 



140 LETTERS. 

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. 
Your fellow-traveller, 

HENRY D. THOREAU. 



LETTERS. 141 

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 



142 LETTERS. 

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. 
In haste, 

H. D. THOREAU. 



LETTERS. 143 

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 



144 LETTERS. 

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 
back to. 

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 ? 



LETTERS. 145 

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 
7 j 



146 LETTERS. 

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. 

December 7. 

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. 



LETTERS. 147 

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 
awfully good. 

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 



148 LETTERS. 

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 



LETTERS. 149 

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 
done by. 

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 
your condition. 



150 LETTERS. 

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. 

Yours, 

H. D. THOREAU. 



LETTERS. 151 

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 

other time. 

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. 



152 LETTERS. 

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 
rustling friends. 

I am surveying, instead of lecturing at present. 
Let me have a skimming from your u pan of un- 

wrinkled cream." 

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 



LETTERS. 153 

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 
lawn ? 

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 

Yours, 

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 
7* 



154 LETTERS. 

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. 



LETTERS. 155 

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, 



156 LETTERS. 

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. 

o 

It redeems for me portions of what seemed brut 
ish before. 



LETTERS. 157 

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 



158 LETTERS. 

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 
was written. 

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. 
John s. 

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. 

Yours truly, 

HENRY D. THOREAU. 



160 LETTERS. 



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. 

Yours sincerely, 

H. D. T. 



LETTERS. 161 

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- 



162 LETTERS 

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 



LETTERS. 163 

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 
of this. 

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 



164 LETTERS. 

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 



LETTERS. 165 

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 
their relations. 

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, 



166 LETTERS. 

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 
horse. 

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 
Umbagog ? 

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 



LETTERS. 167 

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. 



168 LETTERS. 



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 
things. 

Channing has come, and as suddenly gone, and 
left a short poem, " Near Home," published (?) 
or printed by Monroe, which I have hardly had 



LETTERS. 169 

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. 
Yours, 

H. D. THOEEAU. 



170 LETTERS. 



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 



LETTERS. 171 

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 



172 LETTERS. 

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 

with you. 

Yours truly, 

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. 



LETTERS. 173 

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. 



174 LETTERS. 

" 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 



LETTERS. 175 

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- 



176 LETTERS. 

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 
tion. 

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 



LETTERS. 177 

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 



178 LETTERS. 

(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. 



LETTERS. 179 

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 



180 LETTERS. 

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 
well. 

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 



LETTERS. 181 

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 



182 LETTERS. 

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 
you. 

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 



LETTERS. 183 

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 



184 LETTERS. 

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 



LETTERS. 185 

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. 



186 LETTERS. 



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 
promised. 

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. 



LETTERS. 187 

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 
months. 

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 
letter. 

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. 



188 LETTERS. 

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 
mended. 

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. 
Yours truly, 

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 



LETTERS. 189 

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 
with us. 

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 



190 LETTERS. 

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 ! 



LETTERS. 191 

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 
come again. 

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 



192 LETTERS. 

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. 



LETTERS. 193 

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 
accordingly. 

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- 



194 LETTERS. 

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 
with fire. 

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. 



LETTERS. 195 

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. 



196 LETTERS. 

But, alas ! I have heard of Sumter and Pick- 
ens, and even of Buchanan (though I did not read 
his Message). 

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 
ance it. 

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 
you. 

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 



LETTERS. 197 

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 
quire. 

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 
treal. 

I have thought of finding a companion, of 
course, yet not seriously, because I had no right 



198 LETTERS. 

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, 



LETTERS. 199 

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 
there. 



200 LETTERS. 

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 
in Maine. 



LETTERS. 201 

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 
9* 



202 LETTERS. 

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- 



LETTERS. 203 

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 
Red River. 

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. 



204 LETTERS. 

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 
miles. 

A regular council was held with the Indians, 



LETTERS. 205 

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 
after. 

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. 



206 LETTERS. 

I am glad to hear that you have written to 
Cholmondoley, as it relieves me of some respon 
sibility. 

Yours truly, 

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 
myself. 

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 



LETTERS. 207 

Botany, or the like, though, if I were to live, I 
should have much to report on Natural History 
generally. 

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 
regret nothing. 

Yours truly, 

HENRY D. THOREAU, 
by SOPHIA E. THOREAU. 



POEMS. 



SYMPATHY. 

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. 



212 POEMS. 

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. 



POEMS. 213 

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. 



214 POEMS. 



ROMANS, COUNTRYMEN, AND 
LOVERS." 

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. 



POEMS. 215 

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, 



216 POEMS. 

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. 

O 

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. 



POEMS. 217 



Implacable is Love, 
Foes may be bought or teased 
From their hostile intent, 
But he goes unappeased 
Who is on kindness bent. 



10 



218 POEMS. 



INSPIRATION. 

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. 



POEMS. 219 

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. 



220 POEMS. 



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. 



POEMS. 221 



MOUNTAINS. 

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 

Their honesty. 

Ships of the line, each one, 

Ye to the westward run, 

Always before the gale, 

Under a press of sail, 



222 POEMS. 

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 



POEMS. 223 

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, 



224 POEMS. 

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 ! 



POEMS. 225 



SMOKE. 

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. 



226 POEMS. 



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, 



POEMS. 227 

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. 

7 



228 POEMS. 



MIST. 

LOW-ANCHORED cloud, 

Newfoundland air, 

Fountain-head and source of rivers, 

Dew-cloth, dream-drapery, 

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. 



POEMS. 229 



HAZE. 

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. 



THE END. 



Cambridge : Stereotyped and Printed by Welch, Bigelow, & Co. 



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