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Beauty! Let me know whether you go to the lonely hut,' and write to me about Shakespeare, if you read him there. I have many thoughts about him, which I have never yet been led to express.
MARGARET F. * The penciled paper Mr. E. put into my hands, I have taken the liberty to copy it. You expressed one day my own opinion, — that the moment such a crisis is passed, we may speak of it. There is no need of artificial delicacy, of secrecy; it keeps its own secrets; it cannot be made false. Thus you will not be sorry that I have seen the paper. Will you not send me some other records of the good week ? ”
“ Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” This searching criticism would not offend Thoreau; nor yet the plainness with which the same tongue told the faults of a prose paper — perhaps “ The Recruit,” – which Margaret rejected in this note :
“[Concord) 1st December (1841). “I am to blame for so long detaining your manuscript. But my thoughts have been so engaged that I have not found a suitable hour to reread it as I wished, till last night. This second reading only confirms my impression from the
i The Hollowell Place, no doubt.
first. The essay is rich in thoughts, and I should be pained not to meet it again. But then, the thoughts seem to me so out of their natural order, that I cannot read it through without pain. I never once feel myself in a stream of thought, but seem to hear the grating of tools on the mosaic. It is true, as Mr. Emerson says, that essays not to be compared with this have found their way into the • Dial. But then, these are more unassuming in their tone, and have an air of quiet goodbreeding, which induces us to permit their presence. Yours is so rugged that it ought to be commanding.”
These were the years of Thoreau's apprenticeship in literature, and many were the tasks and mortifications he must endure before he became a master of the writer's art.
FRIENDS AND COMPANIONS.
" MARGARET FULLER," says William Henry Channing, “ was indeed The Friend; this was her vocation.” It was no less the vocation of Thoreau, though in a more lofty, unvarying, and serene manner.
“ Literally,” says the friend who best knew him, “his views of friendship were high and noble. Those who loved him never had the least reason to regret it. He made no useless professions, never asked one of those questions that destroy all relation ; but he was on the spot at the time, and had so much of human life in his keeping to the last, that he could spare a breathing-place for a friend. He meant friendship, and meant nothing else, and stood by it without the slightest abatement; not veering as a weathercock with each shift of a friend's fortune, nor like those who bury their early friendships, in order to make room for fresh corpses."
It is, therefore, impossible to sketch him
by himself. He could have said, with Ellery Channing, – “O band of Friends, ye breathe within this space, And the rough finish of a humble man By your kind touches rises into art.” His earliest companion was his brother John, “a flowing generous spirit,” as one described him, for whom his younger brother never ceased to grieve. Walking among the Cohasset rocks and looking at the scores of shipwrecked men from the Irish brig St. John, in 1849, he said, “ A man can attend but one funeral in his life, can behold but one corpse.” With him it was the funeral of John Thoreau in February, 1842. They had made the voyage of the Concord and Merrimac together, in 1839; they had walked and labored together, and invented Indian names for one another from boyhood. John was “Sachem Hopeful of Hopewell,” — a sunny soul, always serene and loving. When publishing his first book, in 1849, Henry dedicated it to this brother, with the simple verse -
“Where'er thou sail'st who sailed with me,
Though now thou climbest loftier mounts,
John Thoreau's death was singular and painful ; his brother could not speak of it without physical suffering, so that when he related it to his friend Ricketson at New Bedford, he turned pale and was forced to go to the door for air. This was the only time Mr. Ricketson ever saw him show deep emotion. His sister Sophia once said:
“ Henry rarely spoke of dear John; it pained him too much. He sent the following verses from Staten Island in May, 1843, the year after John's death, in a letter to Helen. You will see that they apply to himself: "
“Brother, where dost thou dwell?
What sun shines for thee now?
As we wished here below ?
“What season didst thou find ?
'T was winter here.
Than they appear ?
“Is thy brow clear again,
As in thy youthful years ?
The summit of thy fears ?
“Yet thou wast cheery still ;
They could not quench thy fire;
And then retire.