The Sons of Anak: Henry David Thoreau and John Brown

The Sons of Anak

Concord, Massachusetts – Fall 1859

“It is only when we forget all our learning that we begin to know.”
— Journal, October 4, 1859

On September 5, 1859, Concord was seasonably cool after strong winds (those that pelted the fifty-six-year-old Emerson’s yard with unripe pears),[1] prevailed two days previous. Green urgent sprouts of corn emerged from Concord’s fertile loam and pumpkins, “yellow and yellowing,” blazed the earth creating what Thoreau described as a “genuine New England scene.”[2]

On this day, Thoreau sauntered through the Acton woods searching for a millstone suitable for crushing plumbago into the fine powder he sold to electrotyping firms. (An advertisement in local newspapers of the day states: “PLUMBAGO Prepared EXPRESSLY FOR ELECTROTYPING by JOHN THOREAU, PENCIL MAKER, CONCORD MASS.”) The business was a responsibility inherited (along with the lead mill) solely by Thoreau after the passing of John Sr. in February 1859. Within the first weeks of that year, Thoreau had initiated a period that would begin and end with the presence of death, that of his father and, in December, a distant acquaintance named John Brown.

Read the rest of my new essay on Henry David Thoreau at EMPTY MIRROR.

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