Mary J. Arnold
Lakeport, Lake Co. Cal. Mar. 9, 1902.
Mr. John Muir,
Mr. Galen Clark of Yo Semite, who is an old friend of mine, favored me with your address. I, too, am a worshipper at Nature's shrine and in the name of our exalted adoration I make an appeal to you. Your knowledge is from the book of nature and your expressed opinion will be accepted as authority. What do you think about the slaughter of birds? Every boy from five years old up, carries a slingshot and fires at every bird he sees, not only that, but they go out in groups for the same purpose and none are exempt from their merciless hands. Another result is, wounded birds that must suffer until they starve, In my
walks I find them with broken wings, broken legs and blood-stained breasts. I have asked boys why they did this, the reply is "Oh! for fun" One boy said he killed birds to feed his cat, Think of it! feeding songbirds to cats, I have also asked boys of church worship [illegible] (not God worshippers) if their mothers allowed them to take innocent lives, The answer always is "Oh! they dont care." In nesting time mother birds are killed and the little ones cry for food until they starve, I cannot tell you how these things grieve me. What do you think of doing these same things and calling it science? Six months ago they began a High School here, with a corps of teachers from Stanford University, Well, a woman (God pity her) told a class of reckless boys that they
must have birds to stuff for science you can imagine the consequence. I appealed to one of the professors and told him that they were calling murder, science, and that John Muir's hands were not stained with blood in studying bird life, The number killed for the school probably runs into the hundreds and the students have been instructed in lessons of cruelty while the institution boasts of the number of its corpses, There will always be one lone mourner in their funeral train. A bird to me is one of God's most beautiful thoughts made manifest in the flesh and I would not give the trilling melody in one bird's throat, for all the stuffed birds with which pedants are deceiving their unthinking disciples. Are birds so destructive in orchards that
they must be slain by hundreds? Is not their work as insect destroyers some equivalent? I have a table sprinkled with crumbs where many birds have fed this winter I love to hear the soft flitting of their wings and to take hope from their notes of joy. I only wish I owned a forest where all unwelcome ones could come to my domain. In their behalf I hope your immortal pen will bequeath something to a reckless red-handed humanity. And the birds egg fad was instituted by teachers, Sunday school teachers and christmas(?) I know many boys here who have from dozens, to hundreds, of bird's eggs. if they must be exterminated, taking the eggs is more merciful than crippling and starving them to death. We were taught that a bird's nest was a sacred thing, to be guarded by our love and care and
their rights were inviolate. All this aggressive cruelty is the initiative to graver crimes, and it is beyond me why parents, and teachers do not stamp it out. I do not presume upon a reply to this informal letter, Emerson said "You may trust the heart" and I have written from conviction. Please reply through some publication, where your convincing truths may do the greatest good to the greatest number, and where I shall have the pleasure of reading it. Your pen should never be idle, it has the touch of the Divine in it and the world needs it, as it needed the work of that other humane and loving teacher, Christ. Pardon my intrusion and believe me yours in sympathy, with all that is good, true, and beautiful.
(Mrs.) Mary J. Arnold.
Lakeport, Lake Co.
1902 Mar 9
Original letter dimensions: 25.5 x 20.5 cm.
Arnold, Mary J., "Letter from Mary J. Arnold to John Muir, 1902 Mar 9." (1902). John Muir Correspondence (PDFs). 4621.
Reel 12, Image 0247
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