Correspondence: The Dial Period
By F.B. Sanborn
The Atlantic Monthly, May 1892
Note: These letters of Emerson and Thoreau are all from 1843. Sanborn's article was published almost 50 years after they were written.
In the early part of 1843 Thoreau was still living in Emerson's family, of which he became an inmate in April, 1841, and to which he returned in the autumn of 1847, after closing the chapter of his Walden hermit-life. In the first of the following letters he returns his thanks to Emerson for the hospitality thus afforded; and I have no doubt that a beautiful poem called The Departure, which I first printed in the Boston Commonwealth in the year following Thoreauís death, was written twenty years before ó in 1843 ó to commemorate his first separation from that friendly household when he went, in the spring of 1843, to reside as tutor in the family of Mr. William Emerson, at Staten Island, N. Y. The letter numbered I., however, was written by Thoreau in the Emerson household at Concord to Emerson at Staten Island, or perhaps in New York, where he was that winter giving a course of lectures.
And now the localities of the two friends are reversed in the letters which follow. Mr. Emerson had returned to Concord in March, and in May Mr. Thoreau had gone to Staten Island, into the family of Emersonís elder brother, William, where he was teaching the eldest son, William, and studying New York, at long range or at close quarters. The first letter in the series comes from Emerson.
Soon after [the last] letter was received by Thoreau
at Staten Island he returned to Concord, and there lived with his father,
mother, and two sisters, Helen and Sophia, until he went, in March,1845,
to live in the Walden woods. He was so near his friend Emerson in 1844-47
that few or no letters passed between them. The Dial perished in
the mean time, ó the number for April, 1844, being the last of the sixteen,
and containing a few of Thoreauís promised translations from Pindar. From
that time until 1849 he was at work on his first book, The Week.
Ellery Channing, in 1844-45, had gone to New York to help Horace Greeley
edit the Tribune, and had afterwards sailed up the Mediterranean and made
his short visit to Rome; Hawthorne had left the Old Manse and entered the
Salem custom house; and Alcott had bought the Wayside estate (which Hawthorne
afterwards occupied), and was gardening there in 1846-47. Finally, after
many invitations, Emerson decided to visit England, and in the autumn of
1847 Thoreau left his Walden hut to reside in Emersonís house at the village,
and to renew the correspondence of four years earlier. This will make another
Sanborn's Note: The earliest note which I find from Emerson to Thoreau bears no date, but was doubtless written in 1840 or 1841, for at no later time could the persons named in it have visited Concord together. Thoreau must have been living with his father and mother in the Parkman house, where the Library now stands.
MY DEAR HENRY, ó We have here G. P. Bradford, R. Bartlett, G. W. Lippitt, C. S. Wheeler, and Mr. Alcott. Will you not come down and spend an hour?There is also a brief note asking Thoreau to join the Emersons in a party to the Cliffs (Fairhaven hill), and to bring his flute. Living near each other, the two friends did not often write until 1843. - back