The First and Last Journeys of Thoreau, Volume 1/Prefatory Note



Other names in Learning s page,
Brighter, in their day, than thine,
But ill withstand the test of age;
While thy renown has brighter grown,
And other ages than thine own
Resound thy praise unstintedly.

Henry D. Thoreau has attained to such an exalted position in the ranks of American authors that it seems quite needless for us to extol his virtues at this time. It may be remarked, however, that although Thoreau's genius has long been recognized abroad, and a secure place has by popular acclaim been accorded to him among the immortals in literature, there has been a tendency in some foreign quarters to place him foremost amongst American writers. In a letter, dated July 20, 1905, written from London, Doctor Garnett says:

"I feel no doubt that the reputation of Thoreau, both as an essayist and as a practical philosopher, is augmenting, and that it is destined to rise still higher. The times are favourable to him. The increase of wealth and luxury has naturally begotten a reaction in many minds,—and disposed many more who see wealth and luxury out of their reach,—to inquire whether these are indeed essential to happiness. Hence a cult of 'The Simple Life' is springing up, of which the author of the book so entitled (M. Maeterlinck) and Mr. Edward Carpenter may be regarded as apostles. The wide circulation of their writings must gain readers for Thoreau, who, besides his great literary charm, has the advantage over most preachers of the natural life of having himself attained it. It is true that he was too much of a recluse to allow of his example being literally copied, but it affords an ideal for the votaries of simplicity; and his entire cast of thought is in harmony with the movement which is at present creating 'garden cities.' Every garden citizen should have a copy of Thoreau."

Such of the members of The Bibliophile Society as are acquainted with the writings of Thoreau will at once appreciate the great importance of this publication, as being a valuable contribution to the literature of our country, and also as a work that will arouse a lively interest among collectors of First Editions. When an "unpublished manuscript" of Thoreau was first announced, it created somewhat of a sensation, and many admirers of this great poet-naturalist and philosopher ventured to assume that "it can t be so; it must be a forgery." But, startling as the fact may be, the Society has, through the liberality and kindness of Mr. Bixby, come into possession of an important collection of unpublished Thoreau manuscripts, which are now printed for the first time, and placed within the reach of the members of The Bibliophile Society.

Of the genuineness of the originals there can be no doubt, for every line is in the autograph of the author himself. Their authenticity is attested by the editor, Mr. F. B. Sanborn, who was the neighbor and personal friend of Thoreau, as also of Emerson, Hawthorne, and Channing. Mr. Sanborn is Thoreau's biographer, and has at various times edited a number of his writings. It is indeed fortunate that the present manuscripts came to light in time to permit us to avail ourselves of the sound scholarship and thorough conversance of one who spent many years in personal contact and close fellowship with their distinguished author.

H. H. H.