John Muir


John Muir


[Robert Underwood] Johnson



Martinez May 3, 1895

My dear Mr Johnson.

To both your questions the answer is No. I hate this personal rubbish & I have always sheltered myself as best I could in the thickest shade I could find, celebrating only the glory of God as I saw it in nature.
The foundations for the insignificant stories you mention are as far as I know about as follows. More than 20 years ago Prof. Runkle was in Yosemite & I took him into the adjacent wilderness & of course night & day preached to him the gospel of glaciers. When he went away he urged me to go with him saying the Institute of Technology in Boston was the right place for me, that I could have the choice of several professorships there & every facility for fitting myself for the duties required etc etc.
Then came Emerson & more preaching. He said Don't tarry too long in the woods. Listen for the word of your guardian angel,

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You are needed by the young men in our colleges. Solitude is a sublime mistress but an intolerable wife. When Heaven gives the sign leave the mountains, come to my house & live with me until you are tired of me & then I will show you to better people.
Then came Gray & more fine rambles & sermons. He said "When you get ready come to Harvard. You have good & able & enthusiastic friends there & we will gladly push you ahead" etc etc etc So much for Ha-a-a-rvard. But you must surely know that I never for a moment though of leaving God's big show. for a mere profship, call who may. The Agassiz sayings you refer to are more nearly true than the college ones. Yosemite was my home when Agassiz was in San Francisco, & I never saw him. When he was there I wrote him a long icy letter telling what glorious things I had to show him & urging him to come to the mountains.

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The reply to this letter was written by Mrs Agassiz in which she told me that when Agassiz read my letter he said excitedly Here is the first man I have ever found who has any adequate conception of glacial action. Also that he told her to say in reply to my invitation that if he should accept it now he could not spend more than six months with me at most. That he would rather go home now but next year he would come & spend all summer with me. But as you know he went home to die.
Shortly afterward I came down out of my haunts to Oakland & there met Joseph Le Conte whom I had led to the Lyell Glacier a few months before Agassiz' arrival He (Le Conte) told me that in the course of a conversation with Agassiz on the geology of the Sierra he told him that a young man by the name of Muir studying up there

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perhaps knew more about the glaciation of the Sierra than anyone else. To which Agassiz replied warmly & bringing his fist down on the table "He knows all about it. Now there! You've got it all, & what a mess of mere J. M. you've made me write. Dont you go & publish it. Burn it.

Ever cordially yours

John Muir

What of the summer day now dawning. remember you have a turn at the helm How are you going to steer How fares Tesla & the auroral lightening Shall we go to Icy Alaska or to the [pinks?] & streets & taluses of the Sierra. That was a good strong word you said for the vanishing forests.

Bancroft Library


Martinez [Calif]

Date Original

1895 May 03


Original letter dimensions unknown.

Resource Identifier


File Identifier

Reel 08, Image 0977

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 Bancroft Library, University of California at Berkeley. 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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