In explanation of the passages concerning Bronson Alcott, in this letter, it should be said that he was then living at the Hosmer Cottage, in Concord, with his English friends, Charles Lane and Henry Wright, and that he had refused to pay a tax to support what he considered an unjust government, and was arrested by the deputy sheriff, Sam Staples, in consequence.
I. THOREAU TO EMERSON.
CONCORD, January 24, 1843.
DEAR FRIEND, — The best way to correct a mistake is to make it right. I had not spoken of writing to you, but as you say you are about to write to me when you get my letter, I make haste on my part in order to get yours the sooner. I don’t well know what to say to earn the forthcoming epistle, unless that Edith takes rapid strides in the arts and sciences — or music and natural history — as well as over the carpet; that she says “papa” less and less abstractedly every day, looking in my face, — which may sound like a Ranz des Vaches to yourself. And Ellen declares every morning that “papa may come home to-night;” and by and by it will have changed to such positive statement as that “papa came home larks night.”
Elizabeth Hoar still flits about these clearings, and I meet her here and there, and in all houses but her own, but as if I were not the less of her family for all that. I have made slight acquaintance also with one Mrs. Lidian Emerson, who almost persuades me to be a Christian, but I fear I as often lapse into heathenism. Mr. O’Sullivan was here three days. I met him at the Atheneum [Concord], and went to Hawthorne’s [at the Old Manse] to tea with him. He expressed a great deal of interest in your poems, and wished me to give him a list of them, which I did; he saying he did not know but he should notice them. He is a rather puny-looking man, and did not strike me. We had nothing to say to one another, and therefore we said a great deal! He, however, made a point of asking me to write for his Review, which I shall be glad to do. He is, at any rate, one of the not-bad, but does not by any means take you by storm, — no, nor by calm, which is the best way. He expects to see you in New York. After tea I carried him and Hawthorne to the Lyceum.
Mr. Alcott has not altered much since you left. I think you will find him much the same sort of person. With Mr. Lane I have had one regular chat à la George Minott, which of course was greatly to our mutual grati- and edi- fication; and, as two or three as regular conversations have taken place since, I fear there may have been a precession of the equinoxes. Mr. Wright, according to the last accounts, is in Lynn, with uncertain aims and prospects, — maturing slowly, perhaps, as indeed are all of us. I suppose they have told you how near Mr. Alcott went to the jail, but I can add a good anecdote to the rest. When Staples came to collect Mrs. Ward’s taxes, my sister Helen asked him what he thought Mr. Alcott meant, — what his idea was, — and he answered, “I vum, I believe it was nothing but principle, for I never heard a man talk honester.”
There was a lecture on Peace by a Mr.