Mary [Harriman et al.]
To the "Big Four": the misses Mary and Cornelia Harriman,and the misses Elizabeth [illegible]and Dorothea Draper
[Rough Draft of letter]
["Big Four": refers to Mary and Cornelia Harriman, Elizabeth Averell & Dorothea?
Girls four, Mary and Cornelia, Elizabeth and Dorothea -- the "Big Four"Who with Carol and Roland Harriman, the "Little Two", kept us all young on the never-to-be-forgotten H.A.E.1
I received your kind compound letter from the R.R. 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 bowlders 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 most 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 Bearing 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, Fair-weather Mountains, Yakutat and Enchantment Bays, the St. Elias Alps and glaciers and the glorious Prince Williams Sound, Cook Inlet and the Aleutian Peninsula with its flowery, icy, smoky volcanoes, the blooming banks and braes and mountains of Unalaska and Bearing Sea with its seals and Inuits, 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 Bity 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 fine 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 Welch rarebit and jam and cracker feasts to Nunatak, I hope to have visits from Prof. 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 flowerbeds; Ama-a-merst tripping along shore like a sprightly sandpiper, pecking kelp-bearded bowlders for a meal of fossil molluscs; Genius Kincaid among his beetles and butterflies and "red-tailed bumble bees that sting awful hard"; Inuit Dall smoking and musing; flowery Trelease and Coville; and Seaweed Saunders; our grand big game Doctor, and-how, many more! Blessed Brewer of a l000 speeches and stories and merry ha-has, and Genial John B[illegible] who growled at and scowled at good Bearing 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 Bearing story in his own sort of goodnatured, 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. Goodbye.
Ever your friend,
1 Harriman Alaska Expedition.
1899 Aug 30
Original letter dimensions: 25 x 20 cm.
Muir, John, "Letter from John Muir to Mary [Harriman et al.], 1899 Aug 30." (1899). John Muir Correspondence (PDFs). 2437.
Reel 10, Image 0939
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