**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


Henry D. Thoreau
by [?]

If Henry Thoreau had held on a few years, until the pilgrims began to arrive at Concord, he could have gotten rich selling souvenir pencils. But he just dozed and dreamed and tramped and philosophized; and when he wrote he used an eagle’s quill, with ink he himself distilled from elderberries, and at first, birch-bark sufficed for paper. “Wild men and wild things are the only ones that have life in abundance,” he used to say.

* * * * *

Brook Farm was a serious, sober experiment inaugurated by the Reverend George Ripley with intent to live the ideal life–the life of useful effort, direct honesty, simplicity and high thinking.

But Thoreau could not be induced to join the community–he thought too much of his liberty to entrust it to a committee. He was interested in the experiment, but not enough to visit the experimenters. Emerson looked in on them, remained one night, and went back home to continue his essay on Idealism.

Hawthorne remained long enough to get material for his “Blithedale Romance.” Margaret Fuller secured good copy and the cordial and lifelong dislike of Hawthorne, all through misprized love, alas! George William Curtis and Charles Dana graduated out of Brook Farm, and went down to New York to make goodly successes in the great game of life.

At Brook Farm they succeeded in the high thinking all right, but the entrepreneur is quite as necessary as the poet–and a little more so. Brook Farm had no business head, and things unfit fall into natural dissolution. But the enterprise did not fail, any more than a rotting log fails when it nourishes a bank of violets. The net results of Brook Farm’s high thinking have passed into the world’s treasury, smelted largely by Emerson and Thoreau, who were not there.

* * * * *

Immanuel Kant has been called the father of modern Transcendentalists: but Socrates and his pupil Plato, so far as we know, were the first of the race.

Neither buzzing bluebottles nor the fall of dynasties disturbed them. “The soul is everything,” said Plato. “The soul knows all things,” says Emerson.

In every century a few men have lived who knew the value of plain living and high thinking, and very often the men who reversed the maxim have passed them the hemlock.

All those sects known as Primitive Christians represent variations of the idea–Quakers, Mennonites, Communists, Shakers and Dunkards!

A Transcendentalist is a Dukhobortsi with a college education. A Quaker with an artistic bias becomes a Preraphaelite, and lo! we have News from Nowhere, a Dream of John Ball, Merton Abbey, Kelmscott, and half a world is touched and tinted by the simplicity, sterling honesty and genuineness of one man.

George Ripley, Bronson Alcott, and Ralph Waldo Emerson evolved New England Transcendentalism, and very early Henry Thoreau added a few bars of harmonious discords to the symphony. Horace Greeley once contended in a “Tribune” editorial that Sam Staples, the bum bailiff who locked Thoreau behind the bars, was an important factor in the New England renaissance, and as such should be immortalized by a statue made of punk, set up on Boston Common for the delectation of bean-eaters. I fear me Horace was a joker.

California quail are quite different from the quail of New York State, and naturalists tell us that this is caused by a difference in environment–quail being a product of soil and climate.

And man is a product of soil and climate–for only in a certain soil can you produce a certain type of man. As a whole, this world is better adapted for the production of fish than genius–most of the really good climate falls on the sea. Christian Scientists are Transcendentalists whose distinguishing point is that they secrete millinery–California quail with rainbow tints and topknots, Balboaic instincts well defined.