Massachusetts

Henry David Thoreau Calls ‘All the Light of November’ an ‘Afterglow’

Henry David Thoreau found beauty in nature no matter the season or the weather. "There is just as much beauty visible to us in the landscape as we are prepared to appreciate,--not a grain more," he wrote in his journal in November 1858. "Be on the alert, and let nothing escape your observation."

Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau

That fall he was 41 years old, struggling with tuberculosis that may have been exacerbated by his work in the family pencil factory. The Civil War was approaching. Thoreau, an ardent abolitionist, helped slaves as a conductor on the Underground Railroad and later defended John Brown. Thoreau had published Walden a few years earlier and earned a small following and good reviews for the book.

By then he was living in a rented room in his parents house in Concord, Mass. He made a living surveying, lecturing, publishing essays and working in the family pencil business. Thoreau pencils were considered the best in the United States, mostly because Henry had studied German pencil-making techniques.

What he lived for, though, were his daily walks in the Concord woods, recording his observations about nature in his journal and writing essays for publication.

Site of Thoreau's cabin

Site of Thoreau's cabin in the Concord woods.

On Nov. 10, 1858, Henry David Thoreau wrote the following observation about his daily walk in his journal,

I look out westward across Fair Haven Pond. The warmer colors are now rare. A cool and silvery light is the prevailing one; dark-blue or slate-colored clouds in the west, and the sun going down in them. All the light of November may be called an afterglow.

Aphides on alder.

Sap still flows in scarlet oak.

Returned by Spanish Brook Path. Notice the glaucous white bloom on the thimble-berry of late, as there are fewer things to notice. So many objects are white or light, preparing us for winter.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Alex Knight

    November 11, 2014 at 10:30 am

  2. New England Genealogy

    November 11, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    shared

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