John Muir


John Muir


[Ralph Waldo] Emerson


Yosemite Valley March 18th /72

Dear Emerson, Come to our mountain fountains, come to Yosemite, Last year you left against law, & I turn to you now in your town & up the valley to Tissiack to see if there be no misunderstanding betwixt you, There are no apologies in Nature else you would owe her one. You cannot be content with last years baptism 'Twas only a sprinkle, come be immersed. Your hitherward affunties are not half satisfied. I can't understand the laws that control you to Concord. You are called of the Sierras - An atom elect strange you come not to your magnets. If you will come about June & stay until October I will have a hut & horse ready for you. You will see not only Yosemite so- called but a hundred others besides & all their compassing Sierras. Yosemite is only on of many & we will dwell with the whole Merced brotherhood, & we will know how they were made, & how they are now changing from glory to glory. You will lose no time, nothing but civilized sins, Think of the soul l[illegible]ings & bathings you will get Think of the glow of your after life. You have been able to look past the fogs of culture to the fountain loves & lives beyond. Here those fountains are bare & un- mingled. Here are the shores of all our eternities How blessed 'twill be after all your hard toils to rest hushed & soothed on those plain spirit shores.

I do not beckon you here because mountains are more glorious than plains, but because they are less glorious, because they are simple & absorbable. Here we may [never?] easily see God. I know smooth places on the mountains & you will never be wearied. You will have a tent & be warm every night in a sheltered grove or on the plushy bank of the glacier meadow. Do you know the manners of mountain clouds? Those angels of lakes & streams? - We will travel like them lingering about rockwalls & brows - waving softly along glacial curves from mountain to mountain from dome to dome, halting about the skirts of forests, poising on slender peaks in full exposure to the powers of fountain light. If you come in June we will witness grand upheavals of mountain ranges in the sky, cloud Sierras close allied to the granite at their feet. We are a kind of c[illegible] cloud ourselves, Sun thrilled vapors condensed at this terrestrial temperature to degrees that we call Solid & liquid. Sky clouds may come as glaciers & go about the mountains dense as we. Your daughter could not come at all last year. May she not come now. The mountains will make her strong. She will dwell in rayless atmospheres of the very Soul of Light. Tell her that, & she will not be weary, for these mountains dissolve human bodies She will go about effortless & free, & her body will follow light as mist. People speak of sitting in their bones we will have both bones & flesh melted off & sit in our souls. If Shakepeare were with us we would teach him

how to get out of a mortal coil without shuffling. Tell her that she will see glossy glacier polished domes of porphyritic granite so full of life that she will touch them tenderly as if made of nervous shrinking flesh, & she will see countless daisied gentianed meadows beautiful beyond thought & crystal lakes & cascades & falls innumerable spread everywhere like lace, & confiding russet sparrows on the highest summit peaks, & crimson butterflies not found in all the world besides, & she will see the Williamson Spruce the most graceful tree creature of the Sierras, & Casseope the blessed with her showers of purple arms, & she will see sunsets not purple & golden belonging to Earth but of a transparent Spirit Kind that are windows of heaven. And tell her that angels are abundant every- where. Above all tell her of the light, she will bathe in holy mountain Light. Is it her husband that is so fond of hunting If so the Tuolumne Canon wh is an immense Yosemite over twenty miles long, is full of bears & deer that are [never?] disturbed & to a bold hunter it will be paradise & the grand- eur of its scenery in wh I mingled for the first time last Nov' will make it interesting for all. - I am glad you call me to your house. I will come, but first I have two or three years work to do here on glaciers & Mtn' structure. I was about done for myself but Prof Runkle of Boston & Mrs Carr are making me study it into shapefor others, & of course a great deal of Arithmetic is involved. I have a low opinion of mountain books, they are like

Signal smokes to call attention, little more, No amount of engraving on language or wood will ever make a single soul to know there mountains, As well try to warm the naked & frost bitten by lectures on Calorie, or painted fires, One days exposure will do more than Cartloads of books. No photographers plate is so sensitive as those of the human soul provided only that they are pure. A little time ago a friend sent Tyndalls Hours of Ex' in Alps, wherein he speaks doubtfully gropingly of mountain structure. It is astonishing to see how little the greatest know in this field. If Tyndall would leave his lectures & books & dwell with the Alps he would finally make a speech or book of everlasting worth, but he does not allow himself time to fill I wish you could bring him with you. Do you know him? There is a glorious feast here for him. He would emerge from our fountains a new Creature, So also would Agazziz & Gray notwithstanding all they have enjoyed. Prof Runkle was here last fall. I beckoned him back among the wombs of Yo Semite glaciers. We saw hosts of icy ghosts & believed our glacial theory of mtn' structure etc I only made gestures & pointed to rock forms & canons, & spoke a few broken words about Yo sem' formation. He soon laid "It is true". receiving knowledge by absorption past all his flinty mathematics quite forgetful of his ghaunt raw boned Euclidal "Wherefors" He thinks that if the damp mosses & lichens were scraped off I might make a teacher - A professor faggot to burn beneath their Technological furnaces, All in kindness but I'd rather grown green in the sky. Thanks for the books & for your generous words. Your time is precious, & all the world wants it. My letters look for but little answer, only an electric tap or two of your busy pen to make [in margin: Mrs [illegible] that we see each other. Let me hear soon concerning your coming. Most cordially yrs John Muir]


Yosemite Valley

Date Original

1872 Mar 18


Original letter dimensions unknown.

Resource Identifier


File Identifier

Reel 02, Image 0725

Collection Identifier

Online finding aid for the microform version of the John Muir Correspondence

Copyright Statement

The unpublished works of John Muir are copyrighted by the Muir-Hanna Trust. To purchase copies of images and/or obtain permission to publish or exhibit them, see

Owning Institution

The Houghton Library, Harvard University. Please contact this institution directly to obtain copies of the images or permission to publish or use them beyond educational purposes.

Copyright Holder

Muir-Hanna Trust

Copyright Date



4 pages


Environmentalist, naturalist, travel, conservation, national parks, John Muir, Yosemite, California, history, correspondence, letters



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