The biographical sketch which introduces this volume was in its original form an address by Mr. Emerson at the funeral of Mr. Thoreau. He expanded it for use in The Atlantic Monthly, August, 1862, and it has until now done service in the volume Excursions, the first collection of Thoreau's papers which was published after his death.
The contents of Excursions in the present series represented the fugitive papers by Thoreau upon subjects with which he is most identified, aspects of nature, especially seen in longer or shorter journeys. The papers here grouped under the title Miscellanies are the product of the somewhat less known Thoreau, the student of human life, of literature and religion, though the reader may easily have discovered both sides of his nature in A Week, which blends observation and reflection, and is a transcript from a diary which records the march of the "daughters of Time," as
"To each they offer gifts after his will
Bread, kingdoms, stars, and sky that holds them all."
The several papers are arranged substantially in the order of their first appearance. One only, heretofore printed among Thoreau's writings, is omitted, for Prayers as Mr. Edward W. Emerson shows, was written by Mr. R. W. Emerson, and published by him in The Dial. The verses included in it were alone by Thoreau.
The earliest production of Thoreau which has found its way into print appears to be an essay, dated July, 1840, and headed The Service; Qualities of the Recruit. Mr. Sanborn, who read extracts from this essay before the Concord Summer School of Philosophy in 1882, states that it probably was the one offered to The Dial which Miss Margaret Fuller rejected, accompanying her rejection with criticism, as narrated by Mr. Sanborn in his Thoreau. These extracts are reprinted here from Concord Lectures in Philosophy, published by Moses King, Cambridge, Mass.
Paradise (to be) Regained was in the form of a review of a book by J. A. Etzler, and was published in The Democratic Review, New York, for November, 1843. It was written during Thoreau's short residence in Staten Island.
Herald of Freedom was printed in The Dial, April, 1844, as a commendatory notice of the anti-slavery paper of that name conducted by the fearless Nathaniel P. Rogers.
Wendell Phillips before the Concord Lyceum was a letter addressed to Mr. Garrison, the editor of The Liberator, and published in that journal, March 28, 1845.
Thomas Carlyle and his Works was printed first in Graham's Magazine, March and April, 1847. It was written during Thoreau's stay at Walden. The history of his adventure in getting the article published is amusingly told in the letters written by his faithful friend Horace Greeley, who acted as his intermediary. The letters will be found in Mr. Sanborn's Thoreau, pp. 219-224.
Slavery in Massachusetts was an address, delivered at the Anti-slavery Convention at Framingham, Massachusetts, July 4, 1854, and was printed in The Liberator for July 21 of the same year.
A Plea for Captain John Brown was read before the citizens of Concord, Massachusetts, October 30, 1859. It was taken from his diary written during the eventful period of Brown's expedition. When Captain Brown lay in prison, Thoreau did not wait for a public meeting, but went about among his neighbors, summoning them to come together to hear what he had to say. The Last Days of John Brown was read by the author at North Elba, July 4, 1860, and was printed in The Liberator on the 27th of the same month. After the Death of John Brown contains the remarks made at Concord by Thoreau on the day of the execution. It is reprinted from a volume, Echoes from Harper's Ferry.
The Dial published besides various original papers by Thoreau compilations made by him from ancient writings, translations, and poems. The compilations representing his taste and judgment only are not here preserved, but his translation of The Prometheus Bound and of some of the verses of Pindar, published originally in 1843 and 1844, are given. His translations from Anacreon are included in A Week on the Concord and, Merrimack Rivers. In that volume also and in Walden are imbedded many of Thoreau's poems, and it has not been found expedient to reproduce them in a collection here, but to gather the few, already printed in The Dial and in Mr. Sanborn's Thoreau, which are not found in other volumes in this series.
The General Index covers the contents of the ten volumes, and has been prepared for this edition.
The portrait of Thoreau prefixed to this volume is from an ambrotype taken in 1861 at New Bedford. Mr. Ricketson, for whom the picture was made, writes: "His health was then failing,—he had a racking cough,—but his face, except a shade of sadness in the eyes, did not show it." He quotes from a letter of Miss Sophia Thoreau these words: "I discover a slight shade about the eyes, expressive of weariness; but a stranger might not observe it. I am very glad to possess a picture of so late a date. The crayon, drawn eight years ago next summer [i. e., in 1854], we considered good; it betrays the poet. Mr. Channing, Mr. Emerson, Mr. Alcott, and many other friends who have looked at the ambrotype, express much satisfaction."
- Emerson in Concord, p. 133.