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List Of Contents | Contents of In the Wilderness, by Charles Dudley Warner
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blessings and happiness of riteousness if we did not know innicuty
was in the world: in fact, there would be no riteousness without
innicuty."  Writing also of his great enjoyment of being in the
woods, especially since he has had the society there of some people
he names, he adds, "And since I have Literature, Siance, and Art all
spread about on the green moss of the mountain woods or the gravell
banks of a cristle stream, it seems like finding roses, honeysuckels,
and violets on a crisp brown cliff in December.  You know I don't
believe much in the religion of seramony; but any riteous thing that
has life and spirit in it is food for me."  I must not neglect to
mention an essay, continued in several numbers of his local paper, on
"The Growth of the Tree," in which he demolishes the theory of Mr.
Greeley, whom he calls "one of the best vegetable philosophers,"
about "growth without seed."  He treats of the office of sap: "All
trees have some kind of sap and some kind of operation of sap flowing
in their season," the dissemination of seeds, the processes of
growth, the power of healing wounds, the proportion of roots to
branches, &c.  Speaking of the latter, he says, "I have thought it
would be one of the greatest curiosities on earth to see a thrifty
growing maple or elm, that had grown on a deep soil interval to be
two feet in diameter, to be raised clear into the air with every root
and fibre down to the minutest thread, all entirely cleared of soil,
so that every particle could be seen in its natural position.  I
think it would astonish even the wise ones."  From his instinctive
sympathy with nature, he often credits vegetable organism with
"instinctive judgment."  " Observation teaches us that a tree is
given powerful instincts, which would almost appear to amount to
judgment in some cases, to provide for its own wants and

Here our study must cease.  When the primitive man comes into
literature, he is no longer primitive.



It seems to be agreed that civilization is kept up only by a constant
effort: Nature claims its own speedily when the effort is relaxed.
If you clear a patch of fertile ground in the forest, uproot the
stumps, and plant it, year after year, in potatoes and maize, you say
you have subdued it.  But, if you leave it for a season or two, a
kind of barbarism seems to steal out upon it from the circling woods;
coarse grass and brambles cover it; bushes spring up in a wild
tangle; the raspberry and the blackberry flower and fruit; and the
humorous bear feeds upon them.  The last state of that ground is
worse than the first.

Perhaps the cleared spot is called Ephesus.  There is a splendid city
on the plain; there are temples and theatres on the hills; the
commerce of the world seeks its port; the luxury of the Orient flows
through its marble streets.  You are there one day when the sea has
receded: the plain is a pestilent marsh; the temples, the theatres,
the lofty gates have sunken and crumbled, and the wild-brier runs
over them; and, as you grow pensive in the most desolate place in the
world, a bandit lounges out of a tomb, and offers to relieve you of
all that which creates artificial distinctions in society.  The
higher the civilization has risen, the more abject is the desolation
of barbarism that ensues.  The most melancholy spot in the
Adirondacks is not a tamarack-swamp, where the traveler wades in moss
and mire, and the atmosphere is composed of equal active parts of
black-flies, mosquitoes, and midges.  It is the village of the
Adirondack Iron-Works, where the streets of gaunt houses are falling
to pieces, tenantless; the factory-wheels have stopped; the furnaces
are in ruins; the iron and wooden machinery is strewn about in
helpless detachment; and heaps of charcoal, ore, and slag proclaim an
arrested industry.  Beside this deserted village, even Calamity Pond,
shallow, sedgy, with its ragged shores of stunted firs, and its
melancholy shaft that marks the spot where the proprietor of the
iron-works accidentally shot himself, is cheerful.

The instinct of barbarism that leads people periodically to throw
aside the habits of civilization, and seek the freedom and discomfort
of the woods, is explicable enough; but it is not so easy to
understand why this passion should be strongest in those who are most
refined, and most trained in intellectual and social fastidiousness.
Philistinism and shoddy do not like the woods, unless it becomes
fashionable to do so; and then, as speedily as possible, they
introduce their artificial luxuries, and reduce the life in the
wilderness to the vulgarity of a well-fed picnic.  It is they who
have strewn the Adirondacks with paper collars and tin cans.  The
real enjoyment of camping and tramping in the woods lies in a return
to primitive conditions of lodging, dress, and food, in as total an
escape as may be from the requirements of civilization.  And it
remains to be explained why this is enjoyed most by those who are
most highly civilized.  It is wonderful to see how easily the
restraints of society fall off.  Of course it is not true that
courtesy depends upon clothes with the best people; but, with others,
behavior hangs almost entirely upon dress.  Many good habits are
easily got rid of in the woods.  Doubt sometimes seems to be felt
whether Sunday is a legal holiday there.  It becomes a question of
casuistry with a clergyman whether he may shoot at a mark on Sunday,
if none of his congregation are present.  He intends no harm: he only
gratifies a curiosity to see if he can hit the mark.  Where shall he
draw the line?  Doubtless he might throw a stone at a chipmunk, or
shout at a loon.  Might he fire at a mark with an air-gun that makes
no noise?  He will not fish or hunt on Sunday (although he is no more
likely to catch anything that day than on any other); but may he eat
trout that the guide has caught on Sunday, if the guide swears he
caught them Saturday night?  Is there such a thing as a vacation in
religion?  How much of our virtue do we owe to inherited habits?

I am not at all sure whether this desire to camp outside of
civilization is creditable to human nature, or otherwise.  We hear
sometimes that the Turk has been merely camping for four centuries in
Europe.  I suspect that many of us are, after all, really camping
temporarily in civilized conditions; and that going into the
wilderness is an escape, longed for, into our natural and preferred
state.  Consider what this " camping out " is, that is confessedly so
agreeable to people most delicately reared.  I have no desire to
exaggerate its delights.

The Adirondack wilderness is essentially unbroken.  A few bad roads
that penetrate it, a few jolting wagons that traverse them, a few
barn-like boarding-houses on the edge of the forest, where the
boarders are soothed by patent coffee, and stimulated to unnatural
gayety by Japan tea, and experimented on by unique cookery, do little
to destroy the savage fascination of the region.  In half an hour, at
any point, one can put himself into solitude and every desirable
discomfort.  The party that covets the experience of the camp comes
down to primitive conditions of dress and equipment.  There are
guides and porters to carry the blankets for beds, the raw
provisions, and the camp equipage; and the motley party of the
temporarily decivilized files into the woods, and begins, perhaps by
a road, perhaps on a trail, its exhilarating and weary march.  The
exhilaration arises partly from the casting aside of restraint,
partly from the adventure of exploration; and the weariness, from the
interminable toil of bad walking, a heavy pack, and the grim monotony
of trees and bushes, that shut out all prospect, except an occasional
glimpse of the sky.  Mountains are painfully climbed, streams forded,
lonesome lakes paddled over, long and muddy "carries" traversed.
Fancy this party the victim of political exile, banished by the law,
and a more sorrowful march could not be imagined; but the voluntary
hardship becomes pleasure, and it is undeniable that the spirits of
the party rise as the difficulties increase.

For this straggling and stumbling band the world is young again: it
has come to the beginning of things; it has cut loose from tradition,
and is free to make a home anywhere: the movement has all the promise
of a revolution.  All this virginal freshness invites the primitive
instincts of play and disorder.  The free range of the forests
suggests endless possibilities of exploration and possession.
Perhaps we are treading where man since the creation never trod
before; perhaps the waters of this bubbling spring, which we deepen
by scraping out the decayed leaves and the black earth, have never
been tasted before, except by the wild denizens of these woods.  We
cross the trails of lurking animals,--paths that heighten our sense
of seclusion from the world.  The hammering of the infrequent
woodpecker, the call of the lonely bird, the drumming of the solitary
partridge,--all these sounds do but emphasize the lonesomeness of
nature.  The roar of the mountain brook, dashing over its bed of
pebbles, rising out of the ravine, and spreading, as it were, a mist
of sound through all the forest (continuous beating waves that have
the rhythm of eternity in them), and the fitful movement of the air-
tides through the balsams and firs and the giant pines,--how these
grand symphonies shut out the little exasperations of our vexed life!
It seems easy to begin life over again on the simplest terms.
Probably it is not so much the desire of the congregation to escape
from the preacher, or of the preacher to escape from himself, that
drives sophisticated people into the wilderness, as it is the
unconquered craving for primitive simplicity, the revolt against the
everlasting dress-parade of our civilization.  From this monstrous
pomposity even the artificial rusticity of a Petit Trianon is a
relief.  It was only human nature that the jaded Frenchman of the
regency should run away to the New World, and live in a forest-hut

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