Lot 704: Fantastic handwritten manuscript, unsigned, one page both sides, 7.5 x 9.5, no date but circa 1854. A page from Thoreau's draft for his 'Moonlight' lecture delivered at Leyden Hall in Plymouth, Massachusetts, on October 7, 1854. In part: "I complain of arctic voyageurs that in their accounts they do not enough remind us directly or indirectly of the peculiar dreariness of the scenery-and the perpetual twilight of the arctic night. So he whose theme is moon light will find it difficult to illustrate it with the light of the moon alone though this I think is necessary. I fear that I have not put duskiness enough into my night & moonlight walks. Every sentence should contain some twilight or night, at least the light in it should be the yellow or creamy light of the moon with at most a silvery radiance-or the fine beams of stars and not the white or dazzling light of day. Occasionally a mere phosphorescence or gleaming as from rotten wood-Nor should any complain if at rare intervals it is uncertain & wandering, far over treacherous bogs like an ignis fatuus. The peculiar dusky serenity of the sentences must not allow the hearer to forget that it is evening or night, though I do not warn him that it is dark of the darkness-Otherwise he will of course presume a day light atmosphere. If my pages were written in larger character, I would extinguish these lamps & standing by a window read them by the light of the moon alone." Thoreau makes a few corrections and emendations to the text. A central horizontal band of toning, slight show-through from writing to opposing sides, and pinholes to left edge, otherwise fine condition. The first portion of this passage appears on page 59 of Volume 8 of Thoreau's Journal as published by Houghton Mifflin in 1906.
Thoreau delivered his 'Moonlight' lecture at Leyden Hall in Plymouth in October of 1854, just two months after the publication of Walden. Benjamin Marston Watson, a Harvard classmate, and his wife Mary Russell Watson, a close friend of the Emersons, invited Thoreau to speak as a part of their Sunday lecture series organized to provide those who preferred not to go to church an alternative gathering. This speech, delivered before fellow Transcendentalists and intellectuals, beautifully captures the language and style exhibited in Walden, making it an exceptionally desirable piece.
RR Auction's Fine Autographs & Artifacts
Friday, 23rd October 2015
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