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I should see you later in the day. But as I did not, will you allow me to seek you out, when next I come to Concord ?
“ The author of the criticism in the Harvard Magazine'is Mr. Morton of Plymouth, a friend and pupil of your friend, Marston Watson, of that old town. Accordingly I gave him the book which you left with me, judging that it belonged to him. He received it with delight, as a gift of value in itself, and the more valuable for the sake of the giver.
“We who at Cambridge look toward Concord as a sort of Mecca for our pilgrimages, are glad to see that your last book finds such favor with the public. It has made its way where your name has rarely been heard before, and the inquiry, • Who is Mr. Thoreau?' proves that the book has in part done its work. For my own part, I thank you for the new light it shows me the aspects of Nature in, and for the marvelous beauty of your descriptions. At the same time, if any one should ask me what I think of your philosophy, I should be apt to answer that it is not worth a straw. Whenever again you visit Cambridge, be assured, sir, that it would give me much pleasure to see you at my room. There, or in Concord, I hope soon to see you; if I may intrude 80 much on your time. “ Believe me always, yours very truly,
“ F. B. SANBORN."
This note, which I had entirely forgotten, and of which I trust my friend soon forgave the pertness, came to me recently among his papers; with one exception, it is the only letter that passed between us, I think, in an acquaintance of more than seven years. Some six weeks after its date, I went to live in Concord, and happened to take rooms in Mr. Channing's house, just across the way from Thoreau's. I met him more than once in March, 1855, but he did not call on my sister and me until the 11th of April, when I made the following brief note of his appearance:
“ To-night we had a call from Mr. Thoreau, who came at eight and stayed till ten. He talked about Latin and Greek — which he thought ought to be studied — and about other things. In his tones and gestures he seemed to me to imitate Emerson, so that it was annoying to listen to him, though he said many good things. He looks like Emerson, too, — coarser, but with something of that serenity and sagacity which E. has. Thoreau looks eminently sagacious — like a sort of wise, wild beast. He dresses plainly, wears a beard in his throat, and has a brown complexion.”
A month or two later my diary expanded this sketch a little, with other particulars :
“He is a little under size, with a huge Emersonian nose, bluish gray eyes, brown hair, and a ruddy weather-beaten face, which reminds me of some shrewd and honest animal's — some retired philosophical woodchuck or magnanimous fox. He dresses very plainly, wears his collar turned over like Mr. Emerson ” [we young collegians then wearing ours upright], " and often an old dress-coat, broad in the skirts, and by no means a tit. He walks about with a brisk, rustic air, and never seems tired.”
Notwithstanding the slow admiration that these trivial comments indicated, our friendship grew apace, and for two years or more I diner? with him almost daily, and often joined in his walks and river voyages, or swam with him in some of our numerous Concord waters. In 1857 I introduced John Brown to him, then a guest at my house; and in 1859, the evening before Brown's last birthday, we listened together to the old captain's last speech in the Concord Town Hall. The events of that year and the next brought us closely together, and I found him the stanchest of friends.
This chapter might easily be extended into a volume, so long was the list of his companions, and so intimate and perfect his relation with them, at least on his own side.
“A truth-speaker he," said Emerson at his funeral, “ capable of the most deep and strict conversation ; a physician to the wounds of any soul ; a friend, knowing not only the secret of friendship, but almost worshipped by those few persons who resorted to him as their confessor and prophet, and knew the deep value of his mind and great heart. His soul was made for the noblest society; he had in a short life exhausted the capabilities of this world; whereever there is knowledge, wherever there is virtue, wherever there is beauty, he will find a home.”
THE WALDEN HERMITAGE.
It is by his two years' encampment on the shore of a small lake in the Walden woods, a mile south of Concord village, that Thoreau is best known to the world ; and the book which relates how he lived and what he saw there is still, as it always was, the most popular of his writings. Like all his books, it contains much that might as well have been written on any other subject; but it also describes charmingly the scenes and events of his sylvan life, — his days and nights with Nature. He spent two years and a half in this retreat, though often coming forth from it.
The localities of Concord which Thoreau immortalized were chiefly those in the neighborhood of some lake or stream, — though it would be hard to find in that well-watered town, especially in springtime, any place which is not neighbor either