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thinking” imply, they gradually withdrew from that occupation, — declining the opportunities by which other young persons, situated as they then were, rise to worldly success, and devoting themselves, within lim. its somewhat narrow, to the pursuit of lofty ideals. The household of which they were loving and thoughtful members (let one be permitted to say who was for a time domesticated there) had, like the best families everywhere, a distinct and individual existence, in which each person counted for something, and was not a mere drop in the broad water-level that American Society tends more and more to become. To meet one of the Thoreaus was not the same as to encounter any other person who might happen to cross your path. Life to them was something more than a parade of pretensions, a conflict of ambitions, or an incessant scramble for the common objects of desire. They were fond of climbing to the hill-top, and could look with a broader and kindlier vision than most of us on the commotions of the plain and the mists of the valley. Without wealth, or power, or social prominence, they still held a rank of their
own, in scrupulous independence, and with qualities that put condescension out of the question. They could have applied to themselves, individually, and without hauteur, the motto of the French chevalier:
“ Je suis ni roi, ni prince aussi,
Je suis le seigneur de Coucy.'
“Nor king, nor duke? Your pardon, no;
I am the master of Thoreau.” They lived their life according to their genius, without the fear of man or of “ the world's dread laugh,” saying to Fortune what Tennyson sings :“ Turn, Fortune, turn thy wheel with smile or frown, With that wild wheel we go not up nor down; Our hoard is little, but our hearts are great. Smile, and we smile, the lords of many lands; Frown, and we smile, the lords of our own hands, For man is man, and master of his fate.”
CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH.
CONCORD, the Massachusetts town in which Thoreau was born, is to be distinguished from the newer but larger town of the same name which became the capital of New Hampshire about the time the first American Thoreau made his appearance in “old Concord.” The latter, the first inland plantation of the Massachusetts Colony, was bought of the Indians by Major Willard, a Kentish man, and Rev. Peter Bulkeley, a Puritan clergyman from the banks of the Ouse in Bedfordshire, and was settled under their direction in 1635. Mr. Bulkeley, from whom Mr. Emerson and many of the other Concord citizens of Thoreau's day were descended, was the first minister of the town, which then included the present towns of Concord, Acton, Bedford, Carlisle, and Lincoln ; and among his parishioners were the ancestors of the principal families that now inhabit these towns. Concord itself, the centre of this large tract, was thought eligible for settlement because of its great meadows on the Musketaquid or Meadow River. It had been a seat of the Massachusetts Indians, and a powerful Sachem, Tahattawan, lived between its two rivers, where the Assabet falls into the slow-gliding Musketaquid Thoreau, the best topographer of his birthplace, says:
“It has been proposed that the town should adopt for its coat of arms a field verdant, with the Concord circling nine times round. I have read that a descent of an eighth of an inch in a mile is sufficient to produce a flow. Our river has probably very near the smallest allowance. But wherever it makes a sudden bend it is shallower and swifter, and asserts its title to be called a river. For the most part it creeps through broad meadows, adorned with scattered oaks, where the cranberry is found in abundance, covering the ground like a mossbed. A row of sunken dwarf willows borders the stream on one or both sides, while at a greater distance the meadow is skirted with maples, alders, and other fluviatile trees, overrun with the grape-vine, which bears fruit in its season, purple, red, white, and other grapes.”
From these river-grapes, by seedling cul
tivation, a Concord gardener, in Thoreau's manhood, bred and developed the Concord grape, which is now more extensively grown throughout the United States than any other vine, and which adorns, in vineyards large and small, the hillsides over which Thoreau rambled. The uplands are sandy in many places, gravelly and rocky in others, and nearly half the township is now covered, as it has always been, with woods of oak, pine, chestnut, and maple. It is a town of husbandmen, chiefly, with a few mechanics, merchants, and professional men in its villages ; a quiet region, favorable to thought, to rambling, and to leisure, as well as to that ceaseless industry by which New England lives and thrives. Its population now approaches 4,000, but at Thoreau's birth it did not exceed 2,000. There are few great estates in it, and little poverty ; the mode of life has generally been plain and simple, and was so in Thoreau's time even more than now. When he was born, and for some years afterward, there was but one church, and the limits of the parish and the township were the same. At that time it was one of the two shire towns of the