Mind the


of the


These children, as I told, being eat,

Men, Women, Girls and Boys,

Sighing and sobbing, came to his Lodging,
And made a hideous Noise.

O save us all,

Moor of Moore-Hall

Thou peerless Knight of these Woods,

Do but slay this Dragon,

He wont leave us a Rag on,

We'll give thee all our Goods.

What can be more pathetical than he won't leave us a Rag on? or more proper to touch the Heroe? Which, as it was impossible it shou'd not, we find the next Stanza does: But their Goods he generously refuses, and asks nothing but a Lass that smiles about the Mouth, which, if they wou'd give him, he wou'd engage to hew down the Dragon, which expression Longinus dislikes; for, he says, he could not be supposed to hew him down without some Arms; whereas he had the Honour to kill him with nothing: But Torrentius, that eternal admirer of this Author says, it was spoke metaphorically, and signifies no more than that fatal Kick. . .

The Terror and Pomp he goes into the Field with, and the spiked Armour he was cased in, which was beset

With Spikes about,

Not within, but without;

are wonderfully poetical, and strikes the Reader with an agreeable Surprize, beyond any thing imaginable; and the Quart of AquaVitae, is a Thought ever to be admired, as being singular. But as a Poet is to be valued no less for his instructive, as well as descriptive Part of his Piece, so ours claims our Admiration in this stanza.

It is not Strength that always wins,
For Wit does Strength excell,

Which made our cunning Champion
Creep down into a Well.

A Place, I'm sure, no Body but our Heroe cou'd have thought on, but yet an excellent Place, considering the Dragon was so great a Drinker. I am wonderfully pleas'd with the spirit of Poetry in these Lines:

And as he stoop'd low,
He rose up and Cry'd Boo,
And hit him in the Mouth:

Which, as our Proverb has it, the first stroke is half the Battle, was of vast service to him, but, to pass by the Sir-reverence, and the good Dousing the Dragon met with, as the Praeludium Martis; the Fight affords us every thing that's Great. The Dragon's Speech need not be wonder'd at, for as Homer makes his Heroes talk to their Horses, I don't know why our Author, by poetick Licence, may not make his Dragon talk to his Heroe, especially upon Presumption he was thought a Witch. But, to observe further, never was any Language more suited to the Purpose; and, as Mr. Pope says, is an Echo to the Sense; As,

the Verse labours

as well as the Combatants,

At length the hard Earth began to quake,

The Dragon gave him such a Knock,

Which made him to reel, and straight he thought
To lift him as high as a Rock.

The Dragon's last dying Speech is as extraordinary as the Manner

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The early love of Henry Thoreau for Ellen Sewall has long been known to all biographers; but, because of a desire of the families. concerned to keep so personal a matter private, very few details have been accessible. After so long a time this desire has no longer any force, and so interesting an incident of Thoreau's life should be known more fully and accurately. As Robert Louis Stevenson pointed out, the story softens the appearance of ascetic harshness in Thoreau's character.


Several mistakes have appeared in the biographies; among them the story that Thoreau heroically renounced his love for his brother's sake. Less important errors are the supposition that Ellen Sewall preferred John Thoreau and the tentative explanation of the poem Sympathy as referring to Ellen Sewall instead of her brother. Biographers have never felt sure of these details and have never known certainly what was Miss Sewall's attitude toward the Thoreau brothers. Miss Sewall married and long afterward told her story to her daughters, who have now expressed their willingness for its publication.2

The acquaintance between Ellen Devereux Sewall and Henry Thoreau was the result of the previous long intimacy between Miss Sewall's mother and the aunts of Thoreau. Miss Sewall's aunt lived with the Thoreaus as a 'paying guest,' and her mother also had done so before marriage. Through this relation of the two families Thoreau first met the eleven-year old brother of Ellen

1 On the authority of Emerson.


* Two of Ellen Sewall's daughters, Mrs. George Davenport of Los Angeles and Mrs. L. O. Koopman of Cambridge, Massachusetts, wrote down later the story which she had told them separately. This account is in the possession of the present writer and is the basis of this article. Since Miss Sewall, for obvious reasons, destroyed Thoreau's love-letter and cut out of her journal certain passages which probably refer to him, manuscript documentation is impossible. But Ellen Sewall's journal, on which some of the dates in this article depend, is in existence, in the hands of a granddaughter, Miss Ellen Collier of Cohasset, Massachusetts. Mrs. Davenport has the originals of the two letters from which quotations are given in this article.

Sewall, who had, with his mother, paid a short visit to Mrs. Thoreau in June, 1839. That visit was the occasion of the affection from which sprang the poem Sympathy. This poem was written on June 24, 1839, and has sometimes been supposed to refer to Ellen Sewall herself with her identity disguised by the phrase, "gentle boy." At that time, however, Thoreau had probably not seen Miss Sewall for years, since the time when she was a girl in school. Very possibly he had not known her at all. The common knowledge of the family says that the poem refers to Edmund Sewall, who became next year a pupil of Thoreau's; and the boy was much embarrassed, it is said, by the poem.

In July, 1839, when Ellen Sewall was seventeeen and Henry Thoreau was twenty-two, Ellen visited the Thoreau family for the first time. She received an invitation from Mrs. Thoreau and went to Concord on July 20 for a stay of two weeks. The young girl was of a happy nature, and wrote a long letter to her father full of copious concrete detail and full of delight in everything. She observed with interest the little gazelle and "this famous animal," the giraffe, which could temporarily be seen in a tent-show at Concord, and she gave particular attention to various pleasant walks and drives and rowing excursions with the Thoreau brothers, John and Henry-of course, properly chaperoned excursions, all of them.

Ellen Sewall was an attractive girl, humorous, sympathetic, nervous, with distinct intellectual interests, and with a reputation for beauty. Both of the Thoreau brothers felt her charm. The acquaintance begun in Concord was continued in a rather quiet way; and in July, 1840, John Thoreau came to Scituate and asked Ellen Sewall to marry him. She was surprised, and in her surprise accepted him, and then she wondered if she had not been hasty in doing so. She liked him very much, but felt that it was Henry Thoreau whom she preferred. She was very young and far from sure of herself.

When she reached home after the walk on the beach with John Thoreau, who had chosen for his proposal a moment when they were separated a little from their chaperone, her mother asked if John had said anything of especial interest. When Ellen told of her engagement, Mrs. Sewall immediately protested. The Thoreau brothers were transcendentalists; and transcendentalism, which was soon to exert a powerful influence because of Emerson, was still a

vicious tendency in the eyes of some of the older Unitarians. Ellen's father, who was a Unitarian minister, would be terribly shocked by such an engagement. The girl yielded. She was devotedly attached to her father and hesitated all the more to pain him because of his extremely frail health. She was already questioning the extent of her affection for John. During the next month or so she became convinced that she cared more for Henry than for his brother.

Nearly four months later, in November, 1840, she received a letter from Henry Thoreau while she was on a visit to relatives in Watertown, New York. He knew nothing of John's proposal and its result and asked Ellen to marry him. She knew what her father would say. His opposition to Henry on religious grounds would be stronger than his opposition to John. She felt no power of resistance in herself. Her mistake in accepting John deeply embarrassed the young girl and tied her hands. The situation might seem to others to have something of the elements of comedy, but to her it was necessarily serious. She had no doubt what would be or what should be the outcome. But she communicated with her father, who responded as she had expected.

"He wished me to write immediately in a short, explicit, and cold manner to Mr. Thoreau," she told her aunt in a letter. "He seemed very glad I was of the same opinion as himself with regard to the matter. I wrote to H. T. that evening. I never felt so badly at sending a letter in my life. I could not bear to think that both those friends whom I had enjoyed so much with, would no longer be able to have free pleasant intercourse with us as formerly. My letter was very short indeed. But I hope it was the thing. It will not be best for either you or me to allude to this subject in our letters to each other. I do feel so sorry he wrote to me. It was such a pity, though I would rather have it so than to have him say the same things on the beach or anywhere else. . . .”

Henry Thoreau must have expected the answer which he received,


The opinions which Henry Thoreau expressed in conversation at the time can be guessed at by the reflections in A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, Chapter Sunday." Such a catholic comparison of Oriental religions with Christianity would scarcely be pleasing to an older minister of the Unitarian church. The river excursion occurred in this period, to be exact, in 1839.

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