back on the Gilbertian comment upon the young man who ‘expresses himself in terms too deep for me.’ The imitation of Emerson's poetry is even more marked and results in what Lowell calls Thoreau's ‘worsification.’ He had no candid friend to tell him what Dryden told ‘Cousin Swift.’ There was, on the other hand, no little benefit in mere contact with such a personality as Emerson, much more in continual and close intercourse with him. The stimulus to thought must have been most potent, and Emerson's influence could not but stiffen Thoreau in his natural independence and confirm him in his design of living his own life. The village rebel who will not conform rebels first against the local religion. It is the obvious thing to rebel against. What Thoreau dissented from was New England Puritanism, as is plainly shown in ‘Sunday’ of A Week. The atmosphere of that lost religion hangs about the letter of his roommate at Harvard, who became a minister in due course. One thinks of the letters young Mr. Tennyson of Trinity was exchanging with other Cambridge ‘Apostles’ about the same time. The salutation is ‘Friend Thoreau,’ which seems to have been the accepted convention at the time. Perhaps the most significant sentence in it runs:
I hear that you are comfortably located in your native town, as the guardian of its children, in the immediate vicinity, I suppose, of one of our most distinguished apostles of the future, R. W. Emerson, and situated under the ministry of our old friend Reverend Barzillai Frost, to whom please make my remembrances.It does not appear that Thoreau after reaching manhood was ever ‘situated under the ministry’ of the Reverend Barzillai Frost. In ‘Civil Disobedience,’ he writes:
Some years ago, the State met me on behalf of the Church and commanded me to pay a certain sum toward the support of a clergyman, whose preaching my father attended, but never I myself. ‘Pay’ it said, ‘or be locked up in jail.’ I declined to pay. But unfortunately, another man saw fit to pay it.The recusant even rendered the authorities a reason in writing for his recusancy.