Though little evidence of the fact appears in extant letters, the year 1897 was one of great importance in Muir’s career. So significant, indeed, was his work in defending [This service was specially recognized in 1897 by the University of Wisconsin, his alma mater, in the bestowal of an LL.D. degree.] the recommendations of the National Forest Commission of 1896 that we must reserve fuller discussion of it for a chapter on Muir’s service to the nation. With the exception of his story of the dog Stickeen and a vivid description of an Alaska trip, appearing respectively in the August and September numbers of the “Century,” nearly the entire output of his pen that year was devoted to the saving of the thirteen forest reservations proclaimed by President Cleveland on the basis of the Forest Commission’s report.
During the month of August he joined Professor C. S. Sargent and Mr. William M. Canby on an expedition to study forest trees in the Rocky Mountains and in Alaska. To this and other matters allusion is made in the following excerpt from a November letter to Professor Henry Fairfield Osborn.
I spent a short time [he writes] in the Rocky Mountain forests between Banff and Glacier with Professor Sargent and Mr. Canby, and then we went to Alaska, mostly by the same route you traveled. We were on the Queen and had your state-rooms. The weather was not so fine as during your trip. The glorious color we so enjoyed on the upper deck was wanting, but the views of the noble peaks of the Fairweather Range were sublime, They were perfectly clear, and loomed in the azure, ice-laden and white, like very gods. Canby and Sargent were lost in admiration as if they had got into a perfectly new world, and so they had, old travelers though they are.One of the pleasant by-products of Muir’s spirited defense of the reservations was the beginning of a warm friendship with the late Walter Hines Page, then editor of the “Atlantic.” The latter, like Robert Underwood Johnson, stimulated his literary productiveness and was largely responsible for his final choice of Houghton, Mifflin & Company as his publishers. Some years later, in 1905, Mr. and Mrs. Page paid a visit to Muir at his home in the Alhambra Valley. The articles contributed to the “Atlantic” during the nineties were in 1901 brought out in book form under the title of “Our National Parks.”
I’ve been writing about the forests, mostly, doing what little I can to save them. “Harper’s Weekly” ["Forest Reservations and National Parks,” June 5, 1897.] and the “Atlantic Monthly” have published something; the latter published an article ["American Forests."] last August. I sent another two weeks ago and am pegging away on three others for the same magazine on the national parks—Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Sequoia—and I want this winter to try some more Alaska. But I make slow, hard work of it—slow and hard as glaciers. . . . When are you coming again to our wild side of the continent and how goes your big book? I suppose it will be about as huge as Sargent’s Silva."
Apropos of Muir’s apologetic references to the fact that he found writing a slow, hard task, Page remarked: “I thank God that you do not write in glib, acrobatic fashion: anybody can do that. Half the people in the world are doing it all the time, to my infinite regret and confusion. . . . The two books on the Parks and on Alaska will not need any special season’s sales, nor other accidental circumstances: they’ll be Literature!” On another occasion, in October, 1897, Page writes: “Mr. John Burroughs has been spending a little while with me, and he talks about nothing else so earnestly as about you and your work. He declares in the most emphatic fashion that it will be a misfortune too great to estimate if you do not write up all those bags of notes which you have gathered. He encourages me to put it in his own words, to ‘keep firing at him, keep firing at him."’
In February, 1898, Professor Sargent wrote Muir that he was in urgent
need of the flowers of the red fir to be used for an illustrative plate
in his “Silva.” The following letter is in part a report on Muir’s first
futile effort to secure them. Ten days later, above Deer Park in the Tahoe
region, he succeeded in finding and collecting specimens of both pistillate
and staminate flowers, which up to that time, according to Sargent, “did
not exist in any herbarium in this country or in Europe.”
To Charles Sprague SargentMartinez, June 7, 1898My dear Professor Sargent:
Yesterday I returned from a week’s trip to Shasta and the Scott Mountains for [Abies] magnifica flowers, but am again in bad luck. I searched the woods, wallowing through the snow nearly to the upper limit of the fir belt, but saw no flowers or buds that promised anything except on a few trees. I cut down six on Shasta and two on Scott Mountains west of Sissons. On one of the Shasta trees I found the staminate flowers just emerging from the scales, but not a single pistillate flower. I send the staminate, though hardly worth while, Last year’s crop of cones was nearly all frost. killed and most of the leaf buds also, so there is little chance for flowers thereabouts this year.
Sonne writes that the Truckee Lumber Company is to begin cutting Magnifica in the Washoe Range ten miles east of Truckee on the 8th or 10th of this month, and he promises to be promptly on hand among the fresh-felled trees to get the flowers, while Miss Eastwood starts this evening for the Sierra summit above Truckee, and I have a friend in Yosemite watching the trees around the rim of the Valley, so we can hardly fail to get good flowers even in so bad a year as this is.
I have got through the first reading of your Pine volume. [Volume XI of Sargent’s Silva, devoted to the Coniferae. The author’s dedication reads, “To John Muir, lover and interpreter of nature, who best has told the story of the Sierra forests, this eleventh volume of The Silva of North America is gratefully dedicated."] It is bravely, sturdily, handsomely done. Grand old Ponderosa you have set forth in magnificent style, describing its many forms and allowing species-makers to name as many as they like, while showing their inseparable characters. But you should have mentioned the thick, scaly, uninflammable bark with which, like a wandering warrior of King Arthur’s time, it is clad, as accounting in great part for its wide distribution and endurance of extremes of climate. You seem to rank it above the sugar pine. But in youth and age, clothed with beauty and majesty, Lambertiana is easily King of all the world-wide realm of pines, while Ponderosa is the noble, unconquerable mailed knight without fear and without reproach.
By brave and mighty Proteus-Muggins [Probably Pinus contorta of the Silva, one of its variants being the Murray or Tamarac Pine of the High Sierra.] you have also done well, though you might have praised him a little more loudly for hearty endurance under manifold hardships, defying the salt blasts of the sea from Alaska to the California Golden Gate, and the frosts and fires of the Rocky Mountains—growing patiently in mossy bogs and on craggy mountain-tops crouching low on glacier granite pavements, holding on by narrow cleavage joints, or waving tall and slender and graceful in flowery garden spots sheltered from every wind among columbines and lilies, etc. A line or two of sound sturdy Mother Earth poetry such as you ventured to give Ponderosa in no wise weakens or blurs the necessarily dry, stubbed, scientific description, and I’m sure Muggins deserves it. However, I’m not going faultfinding. It’s a grand volume—a kingly Lambertiana job, and on many a mountain trees now seedlings will be giants and will wave their shining tassels two hundred feet in the sky ere another pine book will be made. So you may well sing your nunc dimittis, and so, in sooth, may I, since you have engraved my name on the head of it.
That Alleghany trip you so kindly offer is mighty tempting. It has stirred up wild lover’s longings to renew my acquaintance with old forest friends and gain new ones under such incomparable auspices. I’m just dying to see basswood and shell-bark and liriodendron once more. When could you start, and when would you have me meet you? I think I might get away from here about the middle of July and go around by the Great Northern and lakes, stopping a few days on old familiar ground about the shores of Georgian Bay. I want to avoid cities and dinners as much as possible and travel light and free. If tree-lovers could only grow bark and bread on their bodies, how fine it would be, making even handbags useless!Ever yours
While trying to avoid people as much as possible and seeing only you and trees, I should, if I make this Eastern trip, want to call on Mrs. Asa Gray, for I heartily love and admire Gray, and in my mind his memory fades not at all,
The projected trip into the Alleghanies with Sargent and Canby was undertaken during September and October when the Southern forests were in their autumn glory. Muir had entered into the plan with great eagerness. “I don’t want to die,” he wrote to Sargent in June, “without once more saluting the grand, godly, round-headed trees of the east side of America that I first learned to love and beneath which I used to wee for joy when nobody knew me.” The task of mapping a route was assigned by Sargent to Mr. Canby on account of his special acquaintance with the region. “Dear old streak o’ lightning on ice,” the latter wrote to Muir in July, “I was delighted to hear from the glacial period once more and to know that you were going to make your escape from Purgatory and emerge into the heavenly forests of the Alleghanies. . . . Have you seen the Luray Caverns or the Natural Bridge? If not, do you care to? I should like to have you look from the summit of Salt Pond Mountain in Virginia and the Roan in North Carolina.”
For a month or more the three of them roamed through the Southern forests, Muir being especially charmed by the regions about Cranberry, Cloudland, and Grandfather Mountain, in North Carolina. From Roan Mountain to Lenoir, about seventy-five miles, they drove in a carnage—in Muir’s judgment “the finest drive of its kind in America.” In Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama he crossed at various times his old trail of 1867.
On his return to Boston, he “spent a night at Page’s home and visited Mrs. Gray and talked over old botanic times.” On the first of November he is at “Four Brook Farm,” R. W. Gilder’s country-place at Tyringham in the Berkshire Hills, whence he writes to his daughter Wanda: “Tell mamma that I have enjoyed Mr. and Mrs. Gilder ever so much. On the way here, on the car, I was introduced to Joseph Choate, the great lawyer, and on Sunday Mr. Gilder and I drove over to his fine residence at Stockbridge to dinner, and I had a long talk with him about forests as well as glaciers. To-day we all go back to New York. This evening I dine with Johnson, and to-morrow I go up the Hudson to the Osborns’.”
To Helen Muir"Wing-and-Wing”My darling Helen:
November 4, 1898
This is a fine calm thoughtful morning, bracing and sparkling, just the least touch of hoar-frost, quickly melting where the sunbeams, streaming through between the trees, fall in yellow plashes and lances on the lawns. Every now and then a red or yellow leaf comes swirling down, though there is not the slightest breeze. Most of the hickories are leafless now, but the big buds on the ends of the twigs are full of baby leaves and flowers that are already planning and thinking about next summer. Many of the maples, too, and the dogwoods are showing leafless branches; but many along the sheltered ravines are still rejoicing in all their glory of color, and look like gigantic goldenrods. God’s forests, my dear, are among the grandest of terrestrial things that you may look forward to. I have not heard from Professor Sargent since he left New York a week ago, and so I don’t know whether he is ready to go to Florida, but I’ll hear soon, and then I’ll know nearly the time I’ll get home. Anyhow, it won’t be long.
I am enjoying a fine rest, I have “the blue room” in this charming home, and it has the daintiest linen and embroidery I ever saw. The bed is so soft and fine I like to lie awake to enjoy it, instead of sleeping. A servant brings in a cup of coffee before I rise. This morning when I was sipping coffee in bed, a red squirrel looked in the window at me from a branch of a big tulip-tree, and seemed to be saying as he watched me. “Oh, John Muir! camping, tramping, tree-climbing scrambler! Churr, churr I why have you left us? Chip churr, who would have thought it?"
Five days after the date of the above letter he writes to his wife:
"Dear Lassie, it is settled that I go on a short visit to Florida with Sargent. . . . I leave here [Wing-and-Wing] to-morrow for New York, dine with Tesla and others, and then meet Sargent at Wilmington, Wednesday. I’ve had a fine rest in this charming home and feel ready for Florida, which is now cool and healthy. I’m glad to see the South again and may write about it.”
The trip to Florida, replete with color and incident, is too full of particularity for recital here. A halt in Savannah, Georgia, stirred up old memories, for “here,” he writes in a letter to his wife, “is where I spent a hungry, weary, yet happy week camping in Bonaventure graveyard thirty one years ago. Many changes, I’m told, have been made in its groves and avenues of late, and how many in my life!”
A dramatic occurrence was the finding at Archer of Mrs. Hodgson, who had nursed him back to health on his thousand-mile walk to the Gulf. The incident is told in the following excerpt from a letter to his wife under date of November 21, 1898:
The day before yesterday we stopped at Palatka on the famous St. Johns River, where I saw the most magnificent magnolias, some four feet in diameter and one hundred feet high, also the largest and most beautiful hickories and oaks. From there we went to Cedar Keys. Of course I inquired for the Hodgsons, at whose house I lay sick so long. Mr. Hodgson died long ago, also the eldest son, with whom I used to go boating, but Mrs. Hodgson and the rest of the family, two boys and three girls, are alive and well, and I saw them all to-day, except one of the boys. I found them at Archer, where I stopped four hours on my way from Cedar Keys. Mrs. Hodgson and the two eldest girls remembered me well. The house was pointed out to me, and I found the good old lady who nursed me in the garden. I asked her if she knew me. She answered no, and asked my name. I said Muir. "John Muir?” she almost screamed. “My California John Muir? My California John?” I said, “Why, yes, I promised to come back and visit you in about twenty-five years, and though a little late I’ve come.” I stopped to dinner and we talked over old times in grand style, you may be sure.
The following letter, full of good-natured badinage and new plans for travel, was written soon after his return home in December:
To Charles Sprague SargentMartinez, December 28, 1898My dear Professor Sargent:
I’m glad you’re miserable about not going to Mexico, for it shows that your heartwood is still honest and loving towards the grand trees down there, though football games and Connecticut turkey momentarily got the better of you. The grand Taxodiums were object enough for the trip, and I came pretty near making it alone—would certainly have done it had I not felt childishly lonesome and woe-begone after you left me. No wonder I looked like an inland coot to friend Mellichamp. But what would that sharp observer have said to the Canby huckleberry party gyrating lost in the Delaware woods, and splashing along the edge of the marshy bay “froggin’ and crabbin’” with devout scientific solemnity!!!
Mellichamp I liked ever so much, and blessed old Mohr more than ever. For these good men and many, many trees I have to thank you, and I do over and over again as the main blessings of the passing year. And I have to thank you also for Gray’s writings—Essays, etc.—which I have read with great interest. More than ever I want to see Japan and eastern Asia. I wonder if Canby could be converted to sufficient sanity to go with us on that glorious dendrological trip. . . . Confound his Yankee savings bank! He has done more than enough in that line. It will soon be dark. Soon our good botanical pegs will be straightened in a box and planted, and it behooves us as reasonable naturalists to keep them trampling and twinkling in the woods as long as possible. . . .
Wishing you and family and “Silva” happy New Year, I am,Ever yours
There were not a few among Muir’s literary friends, men like Walter Hines Pagee and Richard Watson Gilder, who as early as 1898 began to urge him to write his autobiography. “I thank you for your kind suggestions about ‘Recollections of a Naturalist,’” he replies to Gilder in March, 1899. “Possibly I may try something of the sort some of these days, though my life on the whole has been level and uneventful, and therefor hard to make a book of that many would read. I am not anxious to tell what I have done, but what Nature has done—an infinitely more important story.”
In April, 1899, he accepted an invitation to join the Harriman Alaska
Expedition. During the cruise a warm friendship sprang up between him
and Mr. Harriman, who came to value highly not only his personal qualities,
but also his sturdy independence. It was some years afterward, while he
was the guest of Mr. Harriman at Pelican Lodge on Klamath Lake, that Muir
was persuaded to dictate his memoirs to Mr. Harriman’s private secretary.
We owe it to the use of this expedient that Muir was enabled to complete
at least a part of his autobiography before he passed on. The little book
Henry Harriman, by John Muir. 1916.] written by Muir in appreciation
of Mr. Harriman after his death sprang from memories of many kindnesses,
and unheralded occasions too, when Mr. Harriman’s influence turned the
scales in favor of some important conservation measure dear to Muir’s heart.
Both held in warm regard Captain P. A. Doran, of the Elder, which in 1899
carried the expetionary party. “I am deeply touched at your letter of the
second just received,” wrote Mr. Harriman to Muir on August 8, 1907, shortly
after a tragedy of the sea in which Captain Doran perished. “We all grieved
much over poor Doran. I had grown to look upon him as a real friend and
knew him to be a true man. I am glad to have shared his friendship with
you. I am fortunate in having many friends and am indeed proud to count
you among the best. My troubles are not to be considered with yours and
some others, for they are only passing and will be eventually cleared up
and understood even by the ‘some’ to whom you refer. The responsibilities
weigh most when such misfortunes occur as the loss of the poor passenger
who passed on with brave Doran.”
To Charles Sprague SargentMartinez, April 30, 1899My dear Professor Sargent:
You are no doubt right about the little Tahoe reservation—a scheme full of special personalities, pushed through by a lot of lawyers, etc., but the more we get the better anyhow. It is a natural park, and because of its beauty and accessibility is visited more than any other part of the Sierra except Yosemite.
All I know of the Rainier and Olympic reservations has come through the newspapers. The Olympic will surely be attacked again and again for its timber, but the interests of Seattle and Tacoma will probably save Rainier. I expect to find out something about them soon, as I am going north from Seattle to Cook Inlet and Kodiak for a couple months with a “scientific party.”. . . This section of the coast is the only one I have not seen, and I’m glad of the chance.
Good luck to you. I wish I were going to those leafy woods instead of icy Alaska. Be good to the trees, you tough, sturdy pair. Don’t frighten the much-enduring Crataeguses and make them drop their spurs, and don’t tell them quite eternally that you are from Boston and the Delaware Huckleberry Peninsula.
My love to Canby—keep his frisks within bounds. Remember me to the Biltmore friends and blessed Mohr and Mellichamp. And remember me also to the Messrs. Hickory and Oak, and, oh, the magnolias in bloom! Heavens, how they glow and shine and invite a fellow! Good-bye. I’ll hope to see you in August.Ever yours
To Walter Hines Page[Martinez, California, May, 1899]My dear Page:
I send the article on Yosemite Park to-day by registered mail. It is short, but perhaps long enough for this sort of stuff. I have three other articles on camping in the park, and on the trees and shrubs, gardens, etc., and on Sequoia Park, blocked out and more than half written. I wanted to complete these and get the book put together and off my hands this summer, and, now that I have all the material well in hand and on the move, I hate to leave it.
I start to-morrow on a two months’ trip with Harriman’s Alaska Expedition. John Burroughs and Professor [W. H.] Brewer and a whole lot of good naturalists are going. But I would not have gone, however tempting, were it not to visit the only part of the coast I have not seen and one of the scenes that I would have to visit sometime anyhow. This has been a barren year, and I am all the less willing to go, though the auspices are so good. I lost half the winter in a confounded fight with sheep and cattlemen and politicians on behalf of the forests. During the other half I was benumbed and interrupted by sickness in the family, while in word works, even at the best, as you know, I’m slow as a glacier. You’ll get these papers, however, sometime, and they will be hammered into a book—if I live long enough.
I was very glad to get your letter, as it showed you were well enough to be at work again.With best wishes, I am, Faithfully yours J. M.
To Mrs. MuirVictoria, June 1, 1899Dear Louie:
We sail from here in about two hours, and I have just time to say another good-bye. The ship is furnished in fine style, and I find we are going just where I want to go—Yakutat, Prince William Sound, Cook Inlet, etc. I am on the Executive Committee, and of course have something to say as to routes, time to be spent at each point, etc. The company is very harmonious for scientists. Yesterday I tramped over Seattle with John Burroughs. At Portland the Mazamas were very demonstrative and kind. I hope you are all busy with the hay. Helen will keep it well tumbled and tramped with Keenie’s help. I am making pleasant acquaintances. Give my love to Maggie. Good-bye. Ever your affectionate husbandJohn Muir
To Wanda and Helen MuirFort Wrangell, June 5, [1899,] 7 A.M.How are you all? We arrived here last evening. This is a lovely morning—water like glass. Looks like home. The flowers are in bloom, so are the forests. We leave in an hour for Juneau. The mountains are pure white. Went to church at Metlakatla, heard Duncan preach, and the Indians sing. Had fine ramble in the woods with Burroughs. He is ashore looking and listening for birds. The song sparrow, a little dun, speckledy muggins, sings best. Most of the passengers are looking at totem poles.
Have letters for me at Seattle. No use trying to forward them up here, as we don’t know where we will touch on the way down home.
I hope you are all well and not too lonesome. Take good care of Stickeen and Tom. We landed at four places on the way up here. I was glad to see the woods in those new places,
Love to all. Ever your loving papaJ. M.
To Louie, Wanda, and HelenJuneau, June 6, [1899,] 9 A. M.Cold rainy day. We stop here only a few minutes, and I have only time to scribble love to my darlings. The green mountains rise into the gray cloudy sky four thousand feet, rich in trees and grass and flowers and wild goats.
We are all well and happy. Yesterday was bright and the mountains all the way up from Wrangell were passed in review, opening their snowy, icy recesses, and closing them, like turning over the leaves of a grand picture book. Everybody gazed at the grand glaciers and peaks, and we saw icebergs floating past for the first time on the trip.
We landed on two points on the way up and had rambles in the woods, and the naturalists set traps and caught five whitefooted mice. We were in the woods I wandered in twenty years ago, and I had many questions to answer. Heaven bless you. We go next to Douglas Mine, then to Skagway, then to Glacier Bay.Good-bye John Muir
To Mrs. Muir and daughtersSitka, Alaska, June 10, 1899Dear Louie, Wanda, and Helen:
I wrote two days ago, and I suppose you will get this at the same time as the other. We had the Governor at dinner and a society affair afterward that looked queer in the wilderness. This eve we are to have a reception at the Governor’s, and to-morrow we sail for Yakutat Bay, thence to Prince William Sound, Cook Inlet, etc. We were at the Hot Springs yesterday, fifteen miles from here amid lovely scenery.
The Topeka arrived last eve, and sails in an hour or so. I met Professor Moses and his wife on the wharf and then some Berkeley people besides; then the Raymond agent, who introduced a lot of people, to whom I lectured in the street. The thing was like a revival meeting, The weather is wondrous fine, and all goes well. I regret not having [had] a letter forwarded here, as I long for a word of your welfare. Heaven keep you, darlings. Ever yoursJohn Muir
To Mrs. MuirSitka, June 14, 1899Dear Louie and bairns:
We are just entering Sitka Harbor after a delightful sail down Peril Straits, and a perfectly glorious time in Glacier Bay—five days of the most splendid weather I ever saw in Alaska. I was out three days with Gilbert and Palache revisiting the glaciers of the upper end of the Bay. Great changes have taken place. The Pacific Glacier has melted back four miles and changed into three separate glaciers, each discharging bergs in grand style. One of them, unnamed and unexplored, I named last evenmg, in a lecture they made me give in the social hall, the Harriman Glacier, which was received with hearty cheers. After the lecture Mr. Harriman came to me and thanked me for the great honor I had done him. It is a very beautiful glacier, the front discharging bergs like the Muir—about three quarters of a mile wide on the sea wall.
Everybody was delighted with Glacier Bay and the grand Muir Glacier, watching the beautiful bergs born in thunder, parties scattered out in every direction in rowboats and steam and naphtha launches on every sort of quest. John Burroughs and Charlie Keeler climbed the mountain on the east side of Muir Glacier, three thousand feet, and obtained a grand view far back over the mountain to the glorious Fairweather Range. I tried hard to get out of lecturing, but was compelled to do it. All seemed pleased. Lectures every night. The company all good-natured and harmonious. Our next stop will be Yakutat.
I’m all sunburned by three bright days among the bergs. I often wish you could have been with us. You will see it all some day. Heaven bless you. Remember me to Maggie. Good-bye[John Muir]
To Mrs. MuirOff Prince William SoundDear Louie and darlings:
June 24, 1899
We are just approaching Prince William Sound—the place above all others I have long wished to see. The snow and ice-laden mountains loom grandly in crowded ranks above the dark, heaving sea, and I can already trace the courses of some of the largest of the glaciers, It is 2 P.M., and in three or four hours we shall be at Orca, near the mouth of the bay, where I will mail this note.
We had a glorious view of the mountains and glaciers in sailing up the coast along the Fairweather Range from Sitka to Yakutat Bay. In Yakutat and Disenchantment Bays we spent four days, and I saw their three great glaciers discharging bergs and hundreds of others to best advantage. Also the loveliest flower gardens. Here are a few of the most beautiful of the rubuses. This charming plant covers acres like a carpet. One of the islands we landed on, in front of the largest thundering glacier, was so flower-covered that I could smell the fragrance from the boat among the bergs half a mile away.
I’m getting strong fast, and can walk and climb about as well as ever, and eat everything with prodigious appetite.
I hope to have a good view of the grand glaciers here, though some of the party are eager to push on to Cook Inlet. I think I’ll have a chance to mail another letter ere we leave the Sound.Love to all
To Wanda MuirUnalaska, July 8, 1899My dear Wanda and Helen and Mama:
We arrived here this cloudy, rainy, foggy morning after a glorious sail from Sand Harbor on Unga Island, one of the Shumagin group, all the way along the volcano-dotted coast of the Alaska Peninsula and Unimak Island. The volcanoes are about as thick as haycocks on our alfalfa field in a wet year, and the highest of them are smoking and steaming in grand style. Shishaldin is the handsomest volcanic cone I ever saw and it looked like this last evening.
I’ll show you a better sketch in my notebook when I get home. About nine thousand feet high, snow and ice on its slopes, hot and bare at the top. A few miles from Shishaldin there is a wild rugged old giant of a volcano that blew or burst its own head off a few years ago, and covered the sea with ashes and cinders and killed fish and raised a tidal wave that lashed the shores of San Francisco—and even Martinez.
There is a ship, the Loredo, that is to sail in an hour, so Pin in a hurry, as usual. We are going to the Seal Islands and St. Lawrence Island from here, and a point or two on the Siberian coast—then home. We are taking on coal, and will leave in three or four hours. I hope fondly that you are all well. . . . I’ll soon be back, my darlings. God bless you.Good-bye[John Muir]
“To the ‘Big Four’: the Misses Mary and Cornelia Harriman, and the Misses Elizabeth Averell and Dorothea Draper, who with Carol and Roland [Harriman], the ‘Little Two,’ kept us all young on the never-to-be-forgotten H.A.E.” [Harriman Alaska Expedition.]
[Martinez,] August 30, 1899Dear Girls:
I received your kind compound letter from the railroad washout with great pleasure, for it showed, as I fondly thought, that no wreck, washout, or crevasse of any sort will be likely to break or wash out the memories of our grand trip, or abate the friendliness that sprung up on the Elder among the wild scenery of Alaska during these last two memorable months. No doubt every one of the favored happy band feels, as I do, that this was the grandest trip of his life. To me it was peculiarly grateful and interesting because nearly all my life I have wandered and studied alone. On the Elder, I found not only the fields I liked best to study, but a hotel, a club, and a home, together with a floating University in which I enjoyed the instruction and companionship of a lot of the best fellows imaginable, culled and arranged like a well-balanced bouquet, or like a band of glaciers flowing smoothly together, each in its own channel, or perhaps at times like a lot of round boulders merrily swirling and chafing against each other in a glacier pothole.
And what a glorious trip it was for you girls, flying like birds from wilderness to wilderness, the wildest and brightest of America, tasting almost every science under the sun, with fine breezy exercise, scrambles over mossy logs and rocks in the spruce forests, walks on the crystal prairies of the glaciers, on the flowery boggy tundras, in the luxuriant wild gardens of Kodiak and the islands of Bering Sea, and plashing boat rides in the piping bracing winds, all the while your eyes filled with magnificent scenery—the Alexander Archipelago with its thousand forested islands and calm mirror waters, Glacier Bay, Fairweather Mountains, Yakutat and Enchantment Bays, the St. Elias Alps and glaciers and the glorious Prince William Sound, Cook Inlet, and the Aleutian Peninsula with its flowery, ley, smoky volcanoes, the blooming banks and bracs and mountains of Unalaska, and Bering Sea with its seals and Innuits, whales and whalers, etc., etc., etc.
It is not easy to stop writing under the exhilaration of such an excursion, so much pure wildness with so much fine company. It is a pity so rare a company should have to be broken, never to be assembled again. But many, no doubt, will meet again. On your side of the continent perhaps half the number may be got together. Already I have had two trips with Merriam to the Sierra Sequoias and Coast Redwoods, during which you may be sure the H.A.E. was enjoyed over again. A few days after I got home, Captain Doran paid me a visit, most of which was spent in a hearty review of the trip. And last week Gannett came up and spent a couple of days, during which we went over all our enjoyments, science and fun, mountain ranges, glaciers, etc., discussing everything from earth sculpture to Cassiope and rhododendron gardens—from Welsh rarebit and jam and cracker feasts to Nunatak. I hope to have visits from Professor Gilbert and poet Charlie ere long, and Earlybird Ritter, and possibly I may see a whole lot more in the East this coming winter or next. Anyhow, remember me to all the Harrimans and Averells and every one of the party you chance to meet, Just to think of them!! Ridgway with wonderful bird eyes, all the birds of America in them; Funny Fisher ever flashing out wit; Perpendicular E., erect and majestic as a Thlinket totem pole Old-sea-beach G., hunting upheavals, downheavals, sideheavals, and hanging valleys, the Artists reveling in color beauty like bees in flower-beds; Ama-a-merst tripping along shore like a sprightly sandpiper, pecking kelp-bearded boulders for a meal of fossil molluscs; Genius Kincaid among his beetles and butterflies and “red tailed bumble-bees that sting awful hard”; Innuit Dall smoking and musing, flowery Trelease and Coville; and Seaweed Saunders our grand big-game Doctor, and how many more! Blessed Brewer of a thousand speeches and stories and merry ha-has, and Genial John Burroughs, who growled at and scowled at good Bering Sea and me, but never at thee. I feel pretty sure that he is now all right at his beloved Slabsides and I have a good mind to tell his whole Bering story in his own sort of good-natured, gnarly, snarly, jungle, jangle rhyme.
There! But how unconscionably long the thing is! I must stop short. Remember your penitential promises. Kill as few of your fellow beings as possible and pursue some branch of natural history at least far enough to see Nature’s harmony. Don’t forget me. God bless you. Good-bye.Ever your friend
To Julia Merrill MooresJuly 25, 1900My dear friends:
I scarce need say that I have been with you and mourned with you every day since your blessed sister was called away, and wished I could do something to help and comfort you. Before your letter came, I had already commenced to write the memorial words you ask for, and I’ll send them soon.
Her beautiful, noble, helpful life on earth was complete, and had she lived a thousand years she would still have been mourned, the more the longer she stayed. Death is as natural as life, sorrow as joy. Through pain and death come all our blessings, life and immortality.
However clear our faith and hope and love, we must suffer—but with glorious compensation. While death separates, it unites, and the Sense of loneliness grows less and less as we become accustomed to the new light, communing with those who have gone on ahead in spirit, and feeling their influence as if again present in the flesh. Your own experience tells you this, however. The Source of all Good turns even sorrow and seeming separation to our advantage, makes us better, drawing us closer together in love, enlarging, strengthening, brightening our views of the spirit world and our hopes of immortal union. Blessed it is to know and feel, even at this cost, that neither distance nor death can truly separate those who love.
My friends, whether living or dead, have always been with me in my so-called lonely wanderings, so kind and wonderful are God’s compensations. Few, dear friends, have greater cause for sorrow, or greater cause for joy, than you have. Your sister lives in a thousand hearts, and her influence, pure as sunshine and dew, can never be lost. . . .
Read again and again those blessed words, ever old, ever new: “Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with loving kindness and tender mercy,” who pities you “like as a father pitieth his children, for He knoweth our frame, He knoweth that we are dust. Man’s days are as grass, as a flower of the field the wind passeth over it and it is gone, but the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting.”
In His strength we must live on, work on, doing the good that comes to heart and hand, looking forward to meeting in that City which the streams of the River of Life make glad.Ever your loving friend J.M.
To Walter Hines PageMartinez, June 12, 1900My Dear Mr. Page:
I sent by mail to-day manuscript of ice article for the Harriman book, the receipt of which please acknowledge, and as it is short I hope you will read it, not for wandering words and sentences out of plumb, but for the ice of it. Coming as you do from the unglacial South, it may “fill a long-felt want.” And before you settle down too hopelessly far in book business take a trip to our western Iceland. Go to Glacier Bay and Yakutat and Prince William Sound and get some pure wildness into your inky life. Neglect not this glacial advice and glacial salvation this hot weather, and believe meFaithfully yours John Muir
Very many letters of appreciation were written to Muir by persons who were strangers to him, except in spirit. One such came during the autumn of 1900 from an American woman resident in Yokohama. “More than twenty years ago,” said the writer,” when I was at my mountain home in Siskiyou County, California, I read a short sketch of your own, in which you pictured your sense of delight in listening to the wind, with its many voices, sweeping through the pines. That article made a lifelong impression on me, and shaped an inner perception for the wonders of Nature which has gladdened my entire life since. . . . It has always seemed that I must some time thank you."
To Mrs. Richard SwainMartinez, California October 21, 1900Mrs. Richard Swain:
That you have so long remembered that sketch of the windstorm in the forest of the Yuba gives me pleasure and encouragement in the midst of this hard life work, for to me it is hard, far harder than tree or mountain climbing. When I began my wanderings in God’s wilds, I never dreamed of writing a word for publication, and since beginning literary work it has never seemed possible that much good to others could come of it. Written descriptions of fire or bread are of but little use to the cold or starving. Descriptive writing amounts to little more than “Hurrah, here’s something! Come!” When my friends urged me to begin, saying, “We cannot all go to the woods and mountains; you are free and love wildness; go and bring it to us,” I used to reply that it was not possible to see and enjoy for others any more than to eat for them or warm for them. Nature’s tables are spread and fires burning. You must go warm yourselves and eat. But letters like yours which occasionally come to me show that even nature writing is not altogether use-less.
Some time I hope to see Japan’s mountains and forests. The flora of Japan and Manchuria is among the richest and most interesting on the globe. With best wishes, I amVery truly yours
To Katherine Merrill GraydonMartinez, October 22, 1900My dear Miss Graydon:
. . . Of course you know you have my sympathy in your loneliness—loneliness not of miles, but of loss—the departure from earth of your great-aunt Kate, the pole-star and lode” stone of your life and of how many other lives. What she was to me and what I thought of her I have written and sent to your Aunt Julia for a memorial book [The Man Shakespeare, and Other Essays. By Catharine Merrill. The Bowen-Merrill Company, 1902.] her many friends are preparing. A rare beloved soul sent of God, all her long life a pure blessing. Her work is done; and she has gone to the Better Land, and now you must get used to seeing her there and hold on to her as your guide as before. . . .
Wanda, as you know, is going to school, and expects soon to enter the University. She is a faithful, steady scholar, not in the least odd or brilliant, but earnest and unstoppable as an avalanche. She comes home every Friday or Saturday by the new railway that crosses the vineyards near the house. Muir Station is just above the Reid house. What sort of a scholar Helen will be I don’t know. She is very happy and strong. My sister Sarah is now with us, making four Muirs here, just half the family. . . .Ever your friend John Muir
To Dr. C. Hart MerriamMartinez, Cal.My dear Dr. Merriam:
October 23, 1900
I am very glad to get your kind letter bringing back our big little Sierra trip through the midst of so many blessed chipmunks and trees. Many thanks for your care and kindness about the photographs and for the pile of interesting bird and beast Bulletins. No. 3 [North American Fauna, No. 3—Results of a Biological Survey of San Francisco Mountains and the Desert of the Little Colorado, Arizona, by C. Hart Merriam, September, 1900.] contains lots of masterly work and might be expanded into a grand book. This you should do, adding and modifying in accordance with the knowledge you have gathered during the last ten years. But alas! Here you are pegging and puttering with the concerns of others as if in length of life you expect to rival Sequoia. That stream and fountain ["Fountains and Stream of the Yosemite National Park,” Atlantic, April, 1901.] article, which like Tennyson’s brook threatened to “go on forever,” is at last done, and I am now among the Big Tree parks. Not the man with the hoe, but the poor toiler with the pen, deserves mile-long commiseration in prose and rhyme.
Give my kindest regards to Mrs. and Mr. Bailey, and tell them I’ll go guide with them to Yosemite whenever they like unless I should happen to be hopelessly tied up in some way.
With pleasant recollections from Mrs. Muir and the girls, I amVery truly yours John Muir
To Mrs. Henry Fairfield OsbornMartinez, CaliforniaMy dear Mrs. Osborn
November 18, 1900
Nothing could be kinder than your inventation to Wing-and-Wing, and how gladly we would accept, you know. But grim Duty, like Bunyan’s Apollyon, is now “straddling across the whole breadth of the way,” crying “No.”. ..
I am at work on the last of a series of park and forest articles to be collected and published in book form by Houghton, Mifflin & Company and which I hope to get off my hands soon, But there is endless work in sight ahead—Sierra and Alaska things to follow as fast as my slow, sadly interrupted pen can be spurred to go.
Yes, I know it is two years since I enjoyed the dainty chickaree room you so kindly call mine. Last summer as you know I was in Alaska. This year I was in the Sierra, going up by way of Lake Tahoe and down by Yosemite Valley, crossing the range four times along the headwaters of the Truckee, Carson, Mokelumne, Stanislaus, Calaveras, Walker, Tuolumne and Merced Rivers, revisiting old haunts, examining forests, and learning what I could about birds and mammals with Dr. Merriam and his sister and Mr. Bailey—keen naturalists with infinite appetite for voles, marmots, squirrels, chipmunks, etc. We had a delightful time, of course, and in Yosemite I remembered your hoped-for visit to the grand Valley and wished you were with us. I’m sorry I missed Sir Michael Foster. Though prevented now, I hope ere long to see Wing-and-Wing in autumn glory. In the mean time and alwaysI am ever your friend
To Walter Hines PageMartinez, Cal.Big thanks, my dear Page, for your great letter. The strength and shove and hearty ringing inspiration of it is enough to make the very trees and rocks write. The Park book, the publishers tell me, is successful. To you and Sargent it owes its existence; for before I got your urgent and encouraging letters I never dreamed of writing such a book. As to plans for others, I am now at work on—
January 10, 1902
1. A small one, “Yosemite and Other Yosemites,” which Johnson has been trying to get me to write a long time and which I hope to get off my hands this year. I’ll first offer it to the Century Company, hoping they will bring it out in good shape, give it a good push toward readers and offer fair compensation. . . .
2. The California tree and shrub book was suggested by Merriam last summer, but I have already written so fully on forest trees and their underbrush I’m not sure that I can make another useful book about them. Possibly a handy volume, with short telling descriptions and illustrations of each species, enabling the ordinary observer to know them at sight, might be welcomed. This if undertaken will probably be done season after next, and you shall have the first sight of it.
3. Next should come a mountaineering book—all about walking, climbing, and camping, with a lot of illustrative excursions,
4. Alaska—glaciers, forests, mountains, travels, etc.
5. A book of studies—the action of landscape-making forces, earth sculpture, distribution of plants and animals, etc. My main real book in which I’ll have to ask my readers to cerebrate. Still I hope it may be made readable to a good many.
6. Possibly my autobiography which for ten years or more all sorts of people have been begging me to write. My life, however, has been so smooth and regular and reasonable, so free from blundering exciting adventures, the story seems hardly worth while in the midst of so much that is infinitely more important. Still, if I should live long enough I may be tempted to try it. For I begin to see that such a book would offer fair opportunities here and there to say a good word for God.
The Harriman Alaska book is superb and I gladly congratulate you on the job. In none of the reviews I have seen does Dr. Merriam get half the credit due him as editor.
Hearty thanks for the two Mowbray volumes. I’ve read them every word. The more of such nature books the better. Good luck to you. May your shop grow like a sequoia and may I meet you with all your family on this side the continent amid its best beauty.Ever faithfully yours
To Dr. C. Hart Merriam[January, 1902]My dear Dr. Merriam:
I send these clippings to give a few hints as to the sheep and forests. Please returrn them. If you have a file of “The Forester” handy, you might turn to the February and July numbers of 1898, and the one of June, 1900, to solemn discussions of the “proper regulation” of sheep grazing.
With the patronage of the business in the hands of the Western politician, the so-called proper regulation of sheep grazing by the Forestry Department is as hopelessly vain as, would be laws and regulations for the proper management of ocean currents and earthquakes.
The politicians, in the interest of wealthy mine, mill, sheep, and cattle owners, of course nominate superintendents and supervisors of reservations supposed to be harmlessly blind to their stealings. Only from the Military Department, free from political spoils poison, has any real good worth mention been gained for forests, and so, as far as I can see, it will be, no matter how well the Forestry Department may be organized, until the supervisors, superintendents, and rangers are brought under Civil Service Reform. Ever yoursJohn Muir
To Charles Sprague SargentMartinez, September 10, 1902My dear Sargent:
What are you so wildly “quitting” about? I’ve faithfully answered all your letters, and as far as I know you are yourself the supreme quitter—Quitter gigantea—quitting Mexico, quitting a too trusting companion in swamps and sand dunes of Florida, etc., etc. Better quit quitting, though since giving the world so noble a book you must, I suppose, be allowed to do as you like until time and Siberia effect a cure.
I am and have been up to the eyes in work, insignificant though it be. Last spring had to describe the Colorado Grand Cañon—the toughest job I ever tackled, strenuous enough to disturb the equanimity of even a Boston man. Then I had to rush off to the Sierra with [the Sierra] Club outing. Then had to explore Kern River Cañon, etc. Now I’m at work on a little Yosemite book. Most of the material for it has been published already, but a new chapter or two will have to be written. Then there is the “Silva” review, the most formidable job of all, which all along I’ve been hoping some abler, better equipped fellow would take off my hands. Can’t you at least give me some helpful suggestions as to the right size, shape, and composition of this review?
Of course I want to take that big tree trip with you next season, and yet I should hate mortally to leave either of these tasks unfinished. Glorious congratulations on the ending of your noble book!Ever faithfully yours
To Mrs. Anna R. DickeyMartinez, October 12, 1902Dear Mrs. Dickey:
I was glad to get your letter. It so vividly recalled our memorable ramble, merry and nobly elevating, and solemn in the solemn aboriginal woods and gardens of the great mountains—commonplace, sublime, and divine. I seemed to hear your voice in your letter, and see your gliding, drifting, scrambling along the trails with all the gay good company, or seated around our many camp-fires in the great illuminated groves, etc., etc.—altogether a good trip in which everybody was a happy scholar at the feet of Nature, and all learned something direct from earth and sky, bird and beast, trees, flowers, and chanting winds and waters; hints, suggestions, little-great lessons of God’s infinite power and glory and goodness. No wonder your youth is renewed and Donald goes to his studies right heartily.
To talk plants to those who love them must ever be easy and delightful. By the way, that little fairy, airy, white-flowered plant which covers sandy dry ground on the mountains like a mist, which I told you was a near relative to Eriogonum, but whose name I could never recall, is Oxytheca spergulina. There is another rather common species in the region we traveled, but this is the finest and most abundant.
I’m glad you found the mountain hemlock, the loveliest of conifers. You will find it described in both my books. It is abundant in Kings River Cañon, but not beside the trails. The “heather” you mention is no doubt Bryanthus or Cassiope. Next year you and Donald should make collections of at least the most interesting plants. A plant press, tell Donald, is lighter and better than a gun. So is a camera., and good photographs of trees and shrubs are much to be desired.
I have heard from all the girls. Their enthusiasm, is still fresh, and they are already planning and plotting for next year’s outing in the Yosemite, Tuolumne, and Mono regions. . . . Gannett stayed two days with us, and is now, I suppose at home. I was hoping you might have a day or two for a visit to our little valley. Next time you come to the city try to stop off at “Muir Station” on the Santa Fé. We are only an hour and a half from the city. I should greatly enjoy a visit at your Ojai home, as you well know, but when fate and work will let me I dinna ken. . . . Give my sincere regard to Donald.Ever faithfully yours
To Robert Umderwood JohnsonMartinez, September 15, 1902Dear Mr. Johnson:
On my return from the Kern region I heard loud but vague rumors of the discovery of a giant sequoia in Converse Basin on Kings River, one hundred and fifty-three feet in circumference and fifty feet in diameter, to which I paid no attention, having heard hundreds of such “biggest-tree-inthe-world” rumors before. But at Fresno I met a surveyor who assured me that he had himself measured the tree and found it to be one hundred and fifty-three feet in circumference six feet above ground. So of course I went back up the mountains to see and measure for myself, carrying a steel tape-line.
At one foot above ground it is 108 feet in circumference
" four feet “ “ “ “ 97 “ 6 inches in “
" six “ “ “ “ “ 93 “ “ “
One of the largest and finest every way of living sequoias that have been measured. But none can say it is certainly the largest. The immensely larger dead one that I discovered twenty-seven years ago stands within a few miles of this new wonder, and I think I have in my notebooks measurements of living specimens as large as the new tree, or larger. I have a photo of the tree and can get others, I think, from a photographer who has a studio in Converse Basin. I’ll write a few pages on Big Trees in general if you like; also touching on the horrible destruction of the Kings River groves now going on fiercely about the mills.
As to the discovery of a region grander than Yosemite by the Kelly brothers in the Kings Cañon, it is nearly all pure bosh. I explored the Cañon long ago. It is very deep, but has no El Capitan or anything like it.Ever yours faithfully
To Henry Fairfield OsbornMartinez, California July 16, 1904Dear Mr. Osborn:
In the big talus of letters, books, pamphlets, etc., accumulated on my desk during more than a year’s absence, I found your Boone and Crockett address ["Preservation of the Wild Animals of North America,” Forest and Stream, April 16, 1904, pp. 312-13.] and have heartily enjoyed it. It is an admirable plea for our poor horizontal fellow-mortals, so fast passing away in ruthless starvation and slaughter. Never before has the need for places of refuge and protection been greater. Fortunately, at the last hour, with utter extinction in sight, the Government has begun to act under pressure of public opinion, however slight. Therefore your address is timely and should be widely published. I have often written on the subject, but mostly with non-effect. The murder business and sport by saint and sinner alike has been pushed ruthlessly, merrily on, until at last protective measures are being called for, partly, I suppose, because the pleasure of killing is in danger of being lost from there being little or nothing left to kill, and partly, let us hope, from a dim glimmering recognition of the rights of animals and their kinship to ourselves.
How long it seems since my last visit to Wing-and-Wing! and how far we have been! I got home a few weeks ago from a trip more than a year long. I went with Professor Sargent and his son Robeson through Europe visiting the principal parks, gardens, art galleries, etc. From Berlin we went to St. Petersburg, thence to the Crimea, by Moscow, the Caucasus, across by Dariel Pass from Tiflis, and back to Moscow. Thence across Siberia, Manchuria, etc., to Japan and Shanghai.
At Shanghai left the Sargents and set out on a grand trip alone and free to India, Egypt, Ceylon, Australia, New Zealand. Thence by way of Port Darwin, Timor, through the Malay Archipelago to Manila. Thence to Hong Kong again and Japan and home by Honolulu. Had perfectly glorious times in India, Australia, and New Zealand. The flora of Australia and New Zealand is so novel and exciting I had to begin botanical studies over again, working night and day with endless enthusiasm. And what wondrous beasts and birds, too, are there!
Do write and let me know how you all are. Remember me with kindest regards to Mrs. Osborn and the children and believe me everFaithfully yours
When the battle for the recession of the Yosemite Valley grew keen during January and February, 1905, Mr. Muir and Mr. Colby went to Sacramento in order to counteract by their personal presence the propaganda of falsehoods which an interested opposition was industriously spreading. The bill passed by a safe majority and the first of the two following letters celebrates the event; the second relates to the later acceptance of the Valley by Congress, as an integral part of the Yosemite National Park.
On the heels of this achievement came a devastating bereavement—the death of his wife. Earlier in the year his daughter Helen had been taken seriously ill, and when she became convalescent she had to be removed to the dry air of Arizona. While there with her, a telegram called him back to the bedside of his wife, in whose case a long-standing illness had suddenly become serious. She died on the sixth of August, 1905, and thereafter the old house on the hill was a shelter and a place of work from time to time, but never a home again. “Get out among the mountains and the trees, friend, as soon as you can,” wrote Theodore Roosevelt. “They will do more for you than either man or woman could.” But anxiety over the health of his daughter Helen bound him to the Arizona desert for varying periods of time. There he discovered remnants of a wonderful petrified forest, which he studied—with great eagerness. He urged that it be preserved as a national monument, and it was set aside by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 under the name of the Petrified Forest National Monument.
These years of grief and anxiety proved comparatively barren in literary work. But part of the time he probably was engaged upon a revised and enlarged edition of his “Mountains of California,” which appeared in 1911 with an affectionate dedication to the memory of his wife. In some notes, written during 1903, for his autobiography, Muir alludes to this period of stress with a pathetic foreboding that he might not live long enough to gather a matured literary harvest from his numerous notebooks.
The letters of the closing years of his life show an increasing sense of urgency regarding the unwritten books mentioned in his letter to Walter Hines Page, and he applied himself to literary work too unremittingly for the requirements of his health. Much of his writing durinig this period was done at the home of Mr. and Mrs. J. D. Hooker in Los Angeles and at the summer home of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Fairfield Osborn at Garrison’s-on-the-Hudson. The last long journey, in which he realized the dreams of a lifetime, was undertaken during the summer of 1911. It was the trip to South America, to the Amazon—the goal which he had in view when he set out on his thousand-mile walk to the Gulf in 1867. His chief object was to see the araucaria forests of Brazil. This accomplished, he went from South America to South Africa in order to see the Baobab tree in its native habitat.
During these few later years of domestic troubles and anxieties [he
wrote in 1911] but little writing or studying of any sort has been possible.
But these, fortunately, are now beginning to abate, and I hope that something
worth while may still be accomplished before the coming of life’s night.
I have written but three [Mountains of California, Our
National Parks, and My First Summer in the Sierra.] books
as yet, and a number of scientific and popular articles in magazines, news-papers,
etc. In the beginning of my studies I never intended to write a word for
the press. In my life of lonely wanderings I was pushed and pulled on and
on through everything by unwavering never-ending love of God’s earth plans
and works, and eternal, immortal,, all-embracing Beauty; and when importuned
to “write, write, write, and give your treasures to the world,” I have
always said that I could not stop field work until too old to climb mountains;
but now, at the age of seventy, I begin to see that if any of the material
collected in notebooks, already sufficient for a dozen volumes, is to be
arranged and published by me, I must make haste.
To Robert Underwood JohnsonMartinez, February 24, Dear Mr. Johnson:
I wish I could have seen you last night when you received my news of the Yosemite victory, which for so many years, as commanding general, you have bravely and incessantly fought for.
About two years ago public opinion, which had long been on our side, began to rise into effective action. On the way to Yosemite [in 1903] both the President and our Governor [President Theodore Roosevelt and Governor George C. Pardee.] were won to our side, and since then the movement was like Yosemite avalanches. But though almost everybody was with us, so active was the opposition of those pecuniarily and politically interested, we might have failed to get the bill through the Senate but for the help of Mr. H—— [Harriman], though, of course, his name or his company were never in sight through all the fight. About the beginning of January I wrote to Mr. H—— [Harriman]. He promptly telegraphed a favorable reply.
Wish you could have heard the oratory of the opposition—fluffy, nebulous, shrieking, howling, threatening like sandstorms and dust whirlwinds in the desert. Sometime I hope to tell you all about it.
I am now an experienced lobbyist; my political education is complete. Have attended Legislature, made speeches, explained, exhorted, persuaded every mother’s son of the legislators, newspaper reporters, and everybody else who would listen to me. And now that the fight is finished and my education as a politician and lobbyist is finished, I am almost finished my-self.
Now, ho! for righteous management. . . . Of course you’ll have a long editorial in the “Century.”Faithfully yours
To Robert Underwood JohnsonAdamana, ArizonaYes, my dear Johnson, sound the loud timbrel and let every Yosemite tree and stream rejoice!
July 16, 1906
You may be sure I knew when the big bill passed. Getting Congress to accept the Valley brought on, strange to say, a desperate fight both in the House and Senate. Sometime I’ll tell you all the story. You don’t know how accomplished a lobbyist I’ve become under your guidance. The fight you planned by that famous Tuolumne camp-fire seventeen years ago is at last fairly, gloriously won, every enemy down derry down.
Write a good, long, strong, heart-warming letter to Colby. He is the only one of all the Club who stood by me in downright effective fighting.
I congratulate you on your successful management of Vesuvius, as Gilder says, and safe return with yourself and family in all its far-spreading branches in good health. Helen is now much better. Wanda was married last month, and I am absorbed in these enchanted carboniferous forests. Come and let me guide you through them and the great Cañon.Ever yours John Muir
To Francis Fisher Browne
[Editor of The Dial from 1880 to his death in 1913. A tribute by Muir under the title “Browne the Beloved” appeared in The Dial during June, 1913.]325 West Adams StreetMy dear Mr. Browne:
Los Angeles, California
June 1, 1910
Good luck and congratulations on the “Dial’s” thirtieth anniversary, and so Scottishly and well I learned to know you two summers ago, with blessed John Burroughs & Co., that I seem to have known you always.
I was surprised to get a long letter from Miss Barrus written at Seattle, and in writing to Mr. Burroughs later I proposed to him that he follow to this side of the continent and build a new Slabsides “where rolls the Oregon,” and write more bird and bee books instead of his new-fangled Catskill Silurian and Devonian geology on which he at present seems to have gane gite, clean gite, having apparently forgotten that there is a single bird or bee in the sky. I also proposed that in his ripe, mellow, autumnal age he go with me to the basin of the Amazon for new ideas, and also to South Africa and Madagascar, where he might see something that would bring his early bird and bee days to mind.
I have been hidden down here in Los Angeles for a month or two and have managed to get off a little book to Houghton Mifflin, which they propose to bring out as soon as possible. It is entitled “My First Summer in the Sierra.” I also have another book nearly ready, made up of a lot of animal stories for boys, drawn from my experiences as a boy in Scotland and in the wild oak openings of Wisconsin. I have also rewritten the autobiographical notes dictated at Harriman’s Pelican Lodge on Klamath Lake two years ago, but that seems to be an endless job, and, if completed at all, will require many a year. Next month I mean to bring together a lot of Yosemite material into a hand-book for travelers, which ought to have been written long ago.
So you see I am fairly busy, and precious few trips will I be able to make this summer, although I took Professor Osborn and family into the Yosemite for a few days, and Mr. Hooker and his party on a short trip to the Grand Cañon.
Are you coming West this year? It would be delightful to see you once more.
I often think of the misery of Mr. Burroughs and his physician, caused by our revels in Burns’ poems, reciting verse about in the resonant board chamber whose walls transmitted every one of the blessed words to the sleepy and unwilling ears of John. . . . Fun to us, but death and broken slumbers to Oom John!
With all best wishes, my dear Browne, and many warmly cherished memories, I amEver faithfully your friend
Wapama Falls (1700 feet)
in Hetch-Hetch Valley
To Henry Fairfield Osborn325 West Adams StreetMy dear Mr. Osborn:
Los Angeles, California
June 1, 1910
Many thanks for the copy you sent me of your long good manly letter to Mr. Robert J. Collier on the Hetch-Hetchy Yosemite Park. As I suppose you have seen by the newspapers, San Francisco will have until May 1, 1911, to show cause why Hetch-Hetchy Valley should not be eliminated from the permit which the Government has given the city to develop a water supply in Yosemite Park. Meantime the municipality is to have detailed surveys made of the Lake Eleanor watershed, of the Hetch-Hetchy, and other available sources, and furnish such data and information as may be directed by the board of army engineers appointed by the President to act in an advisory capacity with Secretary Ballinger. Mr Ballinger said to the San Francisco proponents of the damming scheme, “I want to know, what is necessary so far as the Hetch-Hetchy is concerned.” He also said, “What this Government wants to know and the American people want to know is whether it is a matter of absolute necessity for the people of San Francisco to have this water supply. Otherwise it belongs to the people for the purpose of a national park for which it has been set aside.” Ballinger suggested that the Lake Eleanor plans should be submitted to the engineers at once so that they could have them as a basis for ascertaining if the full development of that watershed is contemplated, and to make a report of its data to the engineers as its preparation proceeded so that they may be kept in immediate touch with what is being done. Of the outcome of this thorough examination of the scheme there can be no doubt, and it must surely put the question at rest for all time, at least as far as our great park is concerned, and perhaps all the other national parks.
I have been hidden down here in Los Angeles a month or two working hard on books. Two or three weeks ago I sent the manuscript of a small book to Houghton Mifflin Company, who expect to bring it out as soon as possible. It is entitled “My First Summer in the Sierra,” written from notes made forty-one years ago. I have also nearly ready a lot of animal stories for a boys’ book, drawn chiefly from my experiences as a boy in Scotland and in the wild oak openings of Wisconsin. I have also rewritten a lot of autobiographical notes dictated at Mr. Harriman’s Pelican Lodge on Klamath Lake two years ago. Next month I hope to bring together a lot of Yosemite sketches for a sort of travelers’ guidebook, which ought to have been written many years ago.
So you see, what with furnishing illustrations, reading proof, and getting this Yosemite guidebook off my hands, it will not be likely that I can find time for even a short visit to New York this summer. Possibly, however, I may be able to get away a few weeks in the autumn. Nothing, as you well know, would be more delightful than a visit to your blessed Garrison’s-on-the-Hudson, and I am sure to make it some time ere long, unless my usual good luck should fail me utterly.
With warmest regards to Mrs. Osborn and Josephine and all the family, I am, my dear Mr. Osborn,Ever faithfully your friend John Muir
To Mrs. J. D. HookerMartinez, September 15, 1910Dear Mrs Hooker:
Be of good cheer, make the best of whatever befalls; keep as near to headquarters as you may, and you will surely triumph over the ills of life, its frets and cares, with all other vermin of either earth or sky.
I’m ashamed to have enjoyed my visit so much. A lone good soul can still work miracles, charm an outlandish, crooked, zigzag flat into a lofty inspiring Olympus.
Do you know these fine verses of Thoreau?"I will not doubt for evermore,
Nor falter from a steadfast faith,
For though the system be turned o'er,
God takes not back the word which once he saith.
“I will, then, trust the love untold
Which not my worth nor want has bought,
Which wooed me young and wooes me old,
And to this evening hath me brought."Ever your friend
To Mrs. J. D. HookerMartinez, December 17,1910Dear Mrs. Hooker:
I’m glad you’re at work on a book, for as far as I know, however high or low Fortune’s winds may blow o'er life’s solemn main, there is nothing so saving as good hearty work. From a letter just received from the Lark I learn the good news that Mr. Hooker is also hard at work with his pen.
As for myself, I’ve been reading old musty dusty Yosemite notes until I’m tired and blinky blind, trying to arrange them in something like lateral, medial, and terminal moraines on my den floor. I never imagined I had accumulated so vast a number. The long trains and embankments and heaped-up piles are truly appalling. I thought that in a quiet day or two I might select all that would be required for a guidebook; but the stuff seems enough for a score of big jungle books, and it’s very hard, I find, to steer through it on anything like a steady course in reasonable time. Therefore, I’m beginning to see that I’ll have to pick out only a moderate-sized bagful for the book and abandon the bulk of it to waste away like a snowbank or grow into other forms as time and chance may determine.
So, after all, I may be able to fly south in a few days and alight in your fine cañon garret. Anyhow, with good will and good wishes, to you all, I amEver faithfully, affectionately
To Mrs. J. D. Hooker[June 26, 1911]. . . I went to New Haven Tuesday morning, the 20th, was warmly welcomed and entertained by Professor Phelps and taken to the ball game in the afternoon. Though at first a little nervous, especially about the approaching honorary degree ceremony, I quickly caught the glow of the Yale enthusiasm. Never before have I seen or heard anything just like it. The alumni, assembled in classes from all the country, were arrayed in wildly colored uniforms, and the way they rejoiced and made merry, capered and danced, sang and yelled, marched and ran, doubled, quadrupled, octupled is utterly indescribable; autumn leaves in whirlwinds are staid and dignified in comparison,
Then came memorable Wednesday when we donned our radiant academic robes and marched to the great hall where the degrees were conferred, shining like crow blackbirds. I was given perhaps the best seat on the platform, and when my name was called I arose with a grand air, shook my massive academic plumes into finest fluting folds, as became the occasion, stepped forward in awful majesty and stood rigid and solemn like an ancient sequoia while the orator poured praise on the honored wanderer’s head—and in this heroic attitude I think I had better leave him. Here is what the orator said. Pass it on to Helen at Daggett.
My love to all who love you.Faithfully, affectionately
To John BurroughsGarrison, N. Y.Dear John Burroughs:
July 14, 1911
When I was on the train passing your place I threw you a hearty salute across the river, but I don’t suppose that you heard or felt it. I would have been with you long ago if I had not been loaded down with odds and ends of duties, bookmaking, book-selling at Boston, Yosemite and Park affairs at Washington, and making arrangements for getting off to South America, etc., etc. I have never worked harder in my life, although I have not very much to show for it. I have got a volume of my autobiography finished. Houghton Mifflin are to bring it out. They want to bring it out immediately, but I would like to have at least part of it run through some suitable magazine, and thus gain ten or twenty times more readers than would be likely to see it in a book.
I have been working for the last month or more on the Yosemite book, trying to finish it before leaving for the Amazon, but I am not suffering in a monstrous city. I am on the top of as green a hill as I have seen in all the State, with hermit thrushes, woodchucks, and warm hearts, something like those about yourself.
I am at a place that I suppose you know well, Professor Osborn’s summer residence at Garrison’s, opposite West Point. After Mrs. Harriman left for Arden I went down to the “Century” Editorial Rooms, where I was offered every facility for writing in Gilder’s room, and tried to secure a boarding-place. near Union Square, but the first day was so hot that it made my head swim, and I hastily made preparations for this comfortable home up on the hill here, where I will remain until perhaps the 15th of August, when I expect to sail.
Nothing would be more delightful than to go from one beautiful place to another and from one friend to another, but it is utterly impossible to visit a hundredth part of the friends who are begging me to go and see them and at the same time get any work done. I am now shut up in a magnificent room pegging away at that book, and working as hard as I ever did in my, life.. making so many books all at once. It is not natural. . . .
With all good wishes to your big and happy family, I am everFaithfully your friend
To Mrs. Henry Fairfield OsbornPara, Brazil,Dear Mrs. Osborn:
August 29, 1911
Here at last is The River and thanks to your and Mrs. Harriman’s loving care I’m well and strong for all South American work in sight that looks like mine.
Arrived here last eve—after a pleasant voyage—a long charming slide all the way to the equator between beautiful water and beautiful sky.
Approaching Para, had a glorious view of fifty miles or so of forest on the right bank of the river. This alone is noble compensation for my long desired and waited-for Amazon journey, even should I see no more.
And it’s delightful to contemplate your cool restful mountain trip which is really a part of this equator trip. The more I see of our goodly Godly star, the more plainly comes to sight and mind the truth that it is all one like a face, every feature radiating beauty on the others.
I expect to start up the river to Manaos in a day or two on the Dennis. Will write again on my return before going south—and will hope to get a letter from you and Mr. Osborn, who must be enjoying his well-earned rest. How often I’ve wished him with me. I often think of you and Josephine among the Avalanche Lake clintonias and linnaeas. And that lovely boy at Castle Rock. Virginia played benevolent mother delightfully and sent me off rejoicing.
My love to each and all; ever, dear friend and friends,Faithfully, gratefully
To Mrs. J. D. HookerPara Brazil. . . Of course you need absolute rest. Lie down among the pines for a while, then get to plain, pure, white love-work with Marian, to help humanity and other mortals and the Lord—heal the sick, cheer the sorrowful, break the jaws of the wicked, etc. But this Amazon delta sermon is growing too long. How glad I am that Marian was not with me, on account of yellow fever and the most rapidly deadly of the malarial kinds so prevalent up the river.
Nevertheless, I’ve had a most glorious time on this trip, dreamed of nearly half a century—have seen more than a thousand miles of the noblest of Earth’s streams, and gained far more telling views of the wonderful forests than I ever hoped for. The Amazon, as you know, is immensely broad, but for hundreds of miles the steamer ran so close to the bossy leafy banks I could almost touch the out-reaching branches—fancy how I stared and sketched.
I was a week at Manaos on the Rio Negro tributary, wandered in the wonderful woods, got acquainted with the best of the citizens through Mr. Sanford, a graduate of Yale, was dined and guided and guarded and befriended in the most wonderful way, and had a grand telling time in general. I have no end of fine things for you in the way of new beauty. The only fevers I have had so far are burning enthusiasms, but there’s no space for them in letters.
Here, however, is something that I must tell right now. Away up in that wild Manaos region in the very heart of the vast Amazon basin I found a little case of books in a lonely house. Glancing over the titles, none attracted me except a soiled volume at the end of one of the shelves, the blurred title of which I was unable to read, so I opened the glass door, opened the book, and out of it like magic jumped Katharine and Marian Hooker, apparently in the very flesh. The book, needless to say, was “Wayfarers in Italy.” The joy-shock I must not try to tell in detail, for medical Marian might call the whole story an equatorial fever dream.
Dear, dear friend, again good-bye. Rest in God’s peace.Affectionately
To Mrs. J. D. HookerPyramides Hotel, MontevideoMy Dear Friend:
December 6, 1911
Your letter of October 4th from San Francisco was forwarded from Para to Buenos Aires and received there at the American Consulate. Your and Marian’s letter, dated August 7th, were received at Para, not having been quite in time to reach me before I sailed, but forwarded by Mrs. Osborn. I can’t think how I could have failed to acknowledge them. I have them and others with me, and they have been read times numberless when I was feeling lonely on my strange wanderings in all sorts of places.
But I’m now done with this glorious continent, at least for the present, as far as hard journeys along rivers, across mountains and tablelands, and through strange forests are concerned. I’ve seen all I sought for, and far, far, far more. From Para I sailed to Rio de Janeiro and at the first eager gaze into its wonderful harbor saw that it was a glacier bay, as unchanged by weathering as any in Alaska, every rock in it and about it a glacial monument, though within 23° of the equator, and feathered with palms instead of spruces, while every mountain and bay all the way down the coast to the Rio Grande do Sul corroborates the strange icy story. From Rio I sailed to Santos, and thence struck inland and wandered most joyfully a thousand miles or so, mostly in the State of Parana, through millions of acres of the ancient tree I was so anxious to find, Araucaria Brasiliensis. Just think of the glow of my joy in these noble aboriginal forests—the face of every tree marked with the inherited experiences of millions of years. From Paranagua I sailed for Buenos Aires; crossed the Andes to Santiago, Chile; thence south four or five hundred miles; thence straight to the snow-line, and found a glorious forest of Araucaria imbricata, the strangest of the strange genus.
The day after to-morrow, December 8th, I intend to sail for Teneriffe on way to South Africa; then home some way or other. But I can give no address until I reach New York. I’m so glad your health is restored, and, now that you are free to obey your heart and have your brother’s help and Marian’s cosmic energy, your good-doing can have no end. I’m glad you are not going to sell the Los Angeles garret and garden. Why, I hardly know. Perhaps because I’m weary and lonesome, with a long hot journey ahead, and I feel as if I were again bidding you all good-bye. I think you may send me a word or two to Cape Town, care the American Consul. It would not be lost, for it would follow me.
It’s perfectly marvelous how kind hundreds of people have been to this wanderer, and the new beauty stored up is far beyond telling. Give my love to Marian, Maude, and Ellie and all who love you. I wish you would write a line now and then to darling Helen. She has a little bungalow of her own now at 233 Formosa Avenue, Hollywood, California.
It’s growing late, and I’ve miserable packing to do. Goodnight. And once more, dear, dear friend, good-bye.John Muir
To Mr. and Mrs. Henry Fairfield OsbornNear ZanzibarDear Friends:
January 31, 1912
What a lot of wild water has been roaring between us since those blessed, Castle Rock days! But, roll and roar as it might, you have never been out of heart-sight.
How often I’ve wished you with me on the best of my wanderings so full of good things guided by wonderful luck, or shall I reverently, thankfully say Providence? Anyhow, it seems that I’ve had the most fruitful time of my life on this pair of hot continents. But I must not try to write my gains, for they are utterly unletterable both in size and kind. I’ll tell what I can when I see you, probably in three months or less. From Cape Town I went north to the Zambesi baobab forests and Victoria Falls, and thence down through a glacial wonderland to Beira, where I caught this steamer, and am on my way to Mombasa and the Nyanza Lake region. From Mombasa I intend starting homeward via Suez and Naples and New York, fondly hoping to find you well. In the meantime I’m sending lots of wireless, tireless love messages to each and every Osborn, for I amEver faithfully yours
To Mrs. Anna R. DickeyMartinezDear cheery, exhilarating Mrs. Dickey:
May 1, 1912
Your fine lost letter has reached me at last. I found it in the big talus heap awaiting me here. The bright, shining, faithful, hopeful way you bear your crushing burdens is purely divine, out of darkness cheering everybody else with noble godlike sympathy. I’m so glad you have a home with the birds in the evergreen oaks—the feathered folk singing for you and every leaf shining, reflecting God’s love. Donald, too, is so brave and happy. With youth on his side and joyful work, he is sure to grow stronger and under every disadvantage do more as a naturalist than thousands of others with every resource of health and wealth and special training.
I’m in my old library den, the house desolate, nobody living in it save a hungry mouse or two. . . . [I hold] dearly cherished memories about it and the fine garden grounds full of trees and bushes and flowers that my wife and fatherin-law and I planted—fine things from every land.
But there’s no good bread hereabouts and no housekeeper, so I may never be able to make it a home, fated, perhaps, to wander until sun. down. Anyhow, I’ve had a glorious life, and I’ll never have the heart to complain. The roses now are overrunning all bounds in glory of full bloom, and the Lebanon and Himalaya cedars, and the palms and Australian trees and shrubs, and the oaks on the valley hills seem happier and more exuberant than ever.
The Chelan trip would be according to my own heart, but whether or no I can go I dinna ken. Only lots of hard pen work seems certain. Anywhere, anyhow, with love to Donald, I am,
Ever faithfully, affectionately yoursJohn Muir
To William E. Colby
Mr. and Mrs. Edward T. Parsons1525 Formosa AvenueDear Mr. Colby and Mr. and Mrs. Parsons:
June 24, 1912
I thank you very much for your kind wishes to give me a pleasant Kern River trip, and am very sorry that work has been so unmercifully piled upon me that I find it impossible to escape from it, so I must just stay and work.
I heartily congratulate you and all your merry mountaineers on the magnificent trip that lies before you. As you know, I have seen something of nearly all the mountain-chains of the world, and have experienced their varied climates and attractions of forests and rivers, lakes and meadows, etc. In fact, I have seen a little of all the high places and low places of the continents, but no mountain-range seems to me so kind, so beautiful, or so fine in its sculpture as the Sierra Nevada. If you were as free as the winds are and the light to choose a campground in any part of the globe, I could not direct you to a single place for your outing that, all things considered, is so attractive, so exhilarating and uplifting in every way as just the trip that you are now making. You are far happier than you know. Good luck to you all, and I shall hope to see you all on your return —boys and girls, with the sparkle and exhilaration of the mountains still in your eyes. With love and countless fondly cherished memories,Ever faithfully yoursOf course, in all your camp-fire preaching and praying you will never forget Hetch-Hetchy.
To Howard PalmerMartinez, Cal.Mr. Howard Palmer:
December 12, 1912
Secretary American Alpine Club
New London, Conn.
At the National Parks conference in Yosemite Valley last October, called by the Honorable Secretary of the Interior, comparatively little of importance was considered. The great question was, “Shall automobiles be allowed to enter Yosemite?” It overshadowed all others, and a prodigious lot of gaseous commercial eloquence was spent upon it by auto-club delegates from near and far.
The principal objection urged against the puffing machines was that on the steep Yosemite grades they would cause serious accidents. The machine men roared in reply that far fewer park-going people would be killed or wounded by the auto-way than by the old prehistoric wagon-way. All signs indicate automobile victory, and doubtless, under certain precautionary restrictions, these useful, progressive, blunt-nosed mechanical beetles will hereafter be allowed to puff their way into all the parks and mingle their gas-breath with the breath of the pines and waterfalls, and, from the mountaineer’s standpoint, with but little harm or good.
In getting ready for the Canal-celebration visitors the need of opening the Valley gates as wide as possible was duly considered, and the repair of roads and trails, hotel and camp building, the supply of cars and stages and arrangements in general for getting the hoped-for crowds safely into the Valley and out again. But the Yosemite Park was lost sight of, as if its thousand square miles of wonderful mountains, cañons, glaciers, forests, and songful falling rivers had no existence.
In the development of the Park a road is needed from the Valley along the upper cañon of the Merced, across to the head of Tuolumne Meadows, down the great Tuolumne Cañon to Hetch-Hetchy valley, and thence back to Yosemite by the Big Oak Flat road. Good walkers can go anywhere in these hospitable mountains without artificial ways. But most visitors have to be rolled on wheels with blankets and kitchen arrangements.
Of course the few mountaineers present got in a word now and then on the need of park protection from commercial invasion like that now threatening Hetch-Hetchy. In particular the Secretary of the American Civic Association and the Sierra Club spoke on the highest value of wild parks as places of recreation, Nature’s cathedrals, where all may gain inspiration and strength and get nearer to God.
The great need of a landscape gardener to lay out the roads and direct the work of thinning out the heavy undergrowth was also urged.
With all good New Year wishes, I am Faithfully yoursJohn Muir
To Asa K. McIlhaneyMartinez, CaliforniaMr. Asa K. McIlhaney
January 10, 1913
I thank you for your fine letter, but in reply I can’t tell which of all God’s trees I like best, though I should write a big book trying to. Sight-seers often ask me which is best, the Grand Cañon of Arizona or Yosemite. I always reply that I know a show better than either of them—both of them.
Anglo-Saxon folk have inherited love for oaks and heathers. Of all I know of the world’s two hundred and fifty oaks perhaps I like best the macrocarpa, chrysolepis, lobata, Virginiana, agrifolia, and Michauxii. Of the little heather folk my favorite is Cassiope; of the trees of the family, the Menzies arbutus, one of the world’s great trees. The hickory is a favorite genus—I like them all, the pecan the best. Of flower trees, magnolia and liriodendron and the wonderful baobab; of conifers, Sequoia gigantea, the noblest of the whole noble race, and sugar pine, king of pines, and silver firs especially magnifica. The grand larch forests of the upper Missouri and of Manchuria and the glorious deodars of the Himalaya, araucarias of Brazil and Chile and Australia. The wonderful eucalyptus, two hundred species, the New Zealand metrosideros and agathis. The magnificent eriodendron of the Amazon and the palm and tree fern and tree grass forests, and in our own country the delightful linden and oxydendron and maples and so on, without end. I may as well stop here as anywhere.
Wishing you a happy New Year and good times in God’s woods,Faithfully yours
To Miss M. MerrillMartinez, California May 31, 1913
Dear Mina Merrill:
I am more delighted with your letter than I can tell—to see your handwriting once more and know that you still love me. For through all life’s wanderings you have held a warm place in my heart, and I have never ceased to thank God for giving me the blessed Merrill family as lifelong friends. As to the Scotch way of bringing up children, to which you refer, I think it is often too severe or even cruel. And as I hate cruelty, I called attention to it in the boyhood book while at the same time pointing out the value of sound religious training with steady work and restraint.
I’m now at work on an Alaska book, and as soon as it is off my hands I mean to continue the autobiography from leaving the University to botanical excursions in the northern woods, around Indianapolis, and thence to Florida, Cuba, and California. This will be volume number two.
It is now seven years since my beloved wife vanished in the land of the leal. Both of my girls are happily married and have homes and children of their own. Wanda has three lively boys, Helen has two and is living at Daggett, California. Wanda is living on the ranch in the old adobe, while I am alone in my library den in the big house on the hill where you and sister Kate found me on your memorable visit long ago.
As the shadows lengthen in life’s afternoon, we cling all the more fondly to the friends of our youth. And it is with the warmest gratitude that I recall the kindness of all your family when I was lying in darkness. That Heaven may ever bless you, dear Mina, is the heart prayer of your—Affectionate friend
To Mrs. Henry Fairfield OsbornMartinezJuly 3, 1913Dear Mrs. Osborn:
Warm thanks, thanks, thanks for your July invitation to blessed Castle Rock. How it goes to my heart all of you must know, but wae’s me! see no way of escape from the work piled on me here—the gatherings of half a century of wilderness wanderings to be sorted and sifted into something like clear, useful form. Never mind—for, anywhere, every-where in immortal soul sympathy, I’m always with my friends, let time and the seas and continents spread their years and miles as they may,Ever gratefully, faithfully
To Henry Fairfield OsbornMartinezJuly 15,1913Dear Friend Osborn:
I had no thought of your leaving your own great work and many-fold duties to go before the House Committee on the everlasting Hetch-Hetchy fight, but only to write to members of Congress you might know, especially to President Wilson, a Princeton man. This is the twenty-third year of almost continual battle for preservation of Yosemite National Park, sadly interrupting my natural work. Our enemies now seem to be having most everything their own wicked way, working beneath obscuring tariff and bank clouds, spending millions of the people’s money for selfish ends. Think of three or four ambitious, shifty traders and politicians calling themselves “The City of San Francisco,” bargaining with the United States for half of the Yosemite Park like Yankee horse-traders, as if the grandest of all our mountain playgrounds, full of God’s best gifts, the joy and admiration of the world, were of no more account than any of the long list of tinker tariff articles.
Where are you going this summer? Wish I could go with you. The pleasure of my long lovely Garrison-Hudson Castle Rock days grows only the clearer and dearer as the years flow by.
My love to you, dear friend, and to all who love you.Ever gratefully, affectionately
To Mr. and Mrs. Henry Fairfield OsbornMartinezDear Friends Osborns:
January 4, 1914
With all my heart I wish you a happy New Year. How hard you have fought in the good fight to save the Tuolumne Yosemite I well know. The battle has lasted twelve years, from Pinchot and Company to President Wilson, and the wrong has prevailed over the best aroused sentiment of the whole country.
That a lane lined with lies could be forced through the middle of the U.S. Congress is truly wonderful even in these confused political days—a devil’s masterpiece of logrolling road-making. But the approval of such a job by scholarly, virtuous, Princeton Wilson is the greatest wonder of all! Fortunately wrong cannot last; soon or late it must fall back home to Hades, while some compensating good must surely follow.
With the new year to new work right gladly we will go—you to your studies of God’s lang-syne people in their magnificent Wyoming-Idaho mausoleums, I to crystal ice.So devoutly prays your grateful admiring friend
To Andrew CarnegieMartinez, CaliforniaMany thanks, dear Mr. Carnegie, for your admirable “Apprenticeship.” To how many fine godly men and women has our stormy, craggy, glacier-sculptured little Scotland given birth, influencing for good every country under the sun! Our immortal poet while yet a boy wished that for poor auld Scotland’s sake he might “sing a sang at least.” And what a song you have sung with your ringing, clanging hammers and furnace fires, blowing and flaming like volcanoes—a truly wonderful Caledonian performance. But far more wonderful is your coming forth out of that tremendous titanic iron and dollar work with a heart in sympathy with all humanity.
January 22, 1914
Like John Wesley, who took the world for his parish, you are teaching and preaching over all the world in your own Scotch way, with heroic benevolence putting to use the mine and mill wealth won from the iron bills. What wonderful burdens you have carried all your long life, and seemingly so easily and naturally, going right ahead on your course, steady as a star! How strong you must be and happy in doing so much good, in being able to illustrate so nobly the national character founded on God’s immutable righteousness that makes Scotland loved at home, revered abroad! Everybody blessed with a drop of Scotch blood must be proud of you and bid you godspeed.Your devoted admirer
To Dr. C. Hart MerriamMartinez, CaliforniaDear Dr. Merriam:
February 11, 1914
I was very glad to hear from you once more last month, for, as you say, I haven’t heard from you for an age. I fully intended to grope my way to Lagunitas in the fall before last, but it is such ancient history that I have only very dim recollections of the difficulty that hindered me from making the trip, I hope, however, to have better luck next spring for I am really anxious to see you all once more.
I congratulate Dorothy on her engagement to marry Henry Abbot. If he is at all like his blessed old grandfather he must prove a glorious prize in life’s lottery. I have been intimately acquainted with General Abbot ever since we camped together for months on the Forestry Commission, towards the end of President Cleveland’s second administration.
Wanda, her husband, and three boys are quite well, living on the ranch here, in the old adobe, while I am living alone in the big house on the bill.
After living a year or two in Los Angeles, Helen with her two fine boys and her husband returned to the alfalfa ranch on the edge of the Mojave Desert near Daggett, on the Santa Fé Railway. They are all in fine health and will be glad to get word from you.
Our winter here has been one of the stormiest and foggiest I have ever experienced, and unfortunately I caught the grippe. The last two weeks, however, the weather has been quite bright and sunny and I hope soon to be as well as ever and get to work again.
That a few ruthless ambitious politicians should have been able to run a tunnel lined with all sorts of untruthful bewildering statements through both houses of Congress for Hetch-Hetchy is wonderful, but that the President should have signed the Raker Bill is most wonderful of all. As you say, it is a monumental mistake, but it is more, it is a monumental crime.
I have not heard a word yet from the Baileys. Hoping that they are well and looking forward with pleasure to seeing you all soon in California, I am as everFaithfully yours John Muir
Despite his hopeful allusion to the grippe which he had caught early in the winter of 1914, the disease made farther and farther inroads upon his vitality. Yet he worked away steadily at the task of completing his Alaska book. During the closing months he had the aid of Mrs. Marion Randall Parsons, at whose home the transcription of his Alaska journals had been begun in November, 1912. Unfortunately the Hetch-Hetchy conspiracy became acute again, and the book, barely begun, had to be laid aside that be might save, if possible, his beloved “Tuolumne Yosemite.” “We may lose this particular fight,” he wrote to William E. Colby, “but truth and right must prevail at last. Anyhow we must be true to ourselves and the Lord.”
This particular battle, indeed, was lost because the park invaders had finally got into office a Secretary of the Interior who had previously been on San Francisco’s payroll as an attorney to promote the desired Hetch-Hetchy legislation; also, because various other politicians of easy convictions on such fundamental questions of public policy as this had been won over to a concerted drive to accomplish the “grab” during a special summer session when no effective representation of opposing organizations could be secured. So flagrant was the performance in every aspect of it that Senator John D. Works of California afterwards introduced in the Senate a bill to repeal the Hetch-Hetchy legislation and in his vigorous remarks accompanying the same set forth the points on which he justified his action. But the fate of the Valley was sealed.
John Muir turned sadly but courageously to his note-books and memories of the great glacier-ploughed wilderness of Alaska. Shortly before Christmas, 1914, he set his house in order as if he had a presentiment that he was leaving it for the last time, and went to pay a holiday visit to the home of his younger daughter at Daggett. Upon his arrival there he was smitten with pneumonia and was rushed to a hospital in Los Angeles, where all his wanderings ended on Christmas Eve. Spread about him on the bed, when the end came, were manuscript sheets of his last book—”Travels in Alaska"—to which he was bravely struggling to give the last touches before the coming of “the long sleep.”
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