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Item 671 - Henry David Thoreau Catalog 443 (Dec 2014)

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Description


Exceptional handwritten manuscript fragment from a final draft of Thoreau’s manuscript for ‘Chesuncook,’ unsigned, one page both sides, 7.25 x 9.75, no date but circa 1858. Thoreau’s final draft for a piece to be published in The Atlantic Monthly. In full: "[Here and there, however, was a full-grown, tall, and] slender, but defective one, what lumbermen call a konchus tree, which they ascertain with their axes, or by the knots. It reminded me of the Greek [Greek characters], a conch or shell, and I amused myself with fancying that it might signify the dead sound which the trees yield when struck. All the rest of the pines had been driven off.

How far men go for the material of their houses! The inhabitants of the most civilized cities, in all ages, send into far primitive forests, beyond the bounds of their civilization, where the moose and bear and savage dwell, for their pine boards for ordinary use. And, on the other hand, the savage soon receives from cities iron arrow points, hatchets and guns to point his savageness with.

The solid and well defined fir tops, like sharp and regular spear-heads, black against the sky, gave a peculiar dark and somber look to the forest. The spruce tops have a similar but more ragged outline, their shafts also merely feathered below. The firs were somewhat oftener regular and dense pyramids. I was struck by this universal spiring upward of the forest evergreens. The tendency is to slender spiring tops." Docketed on the reverse by notable New England poet and the first editor of The Atlantic Monthly, James Russell Lowell, "Autograph of H. D. Thoreau." In fine condition, with central vertical and horizontal folds, light soiling, a small tape-repaired edge tear (unobtrusively affecting only two words), and a mounting strip to one edge.

In January 1858, James Russell Lowell desired a Maine narrative for The Atlantic Monthly and reached out to Thoreau, who he knew had written on his trips to Maine in 1853 and 1857. Thoreau had a near-finished account of the earlier excursion, and drew the material for this article from his journals written while in the Maine backwoods from September to November 1853. Titled after a lakeside village, ‘Chesuncook’ appeared in three installments during the summer of 1858. The present manuscript was split between the June and July issues, with the first paragraph concluding the segment published in June, and the remainder published to begin the continuing portion in July. Thoreau grew angry with Lowell due to editorial liberties taken without his approval—Lowell removed one line from a different part of the essay—and Thoreau refused to work with Lowell again. An exceedingly desirable piece highlighting the transcendental quality of Thoreau's close relationship with nature, a definitive quality of his oeuvre. Pre-certified John Reznikoff/PSA/DNA and RR Auction COA.

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