December 16, 1859

in Thoreau’s Journal:

AM —to Cambridge—where I read in Gerard’s Herbal— His admirable though quaint descriptions are, to my mind, more greatly superior to the modern scientific ones. He describes not according to rule but to his natural delight in the plants. He brings them vividly before you as one who has seen & delighted in them.  It is almost as good as to see the plants themselves. It suggests that we cannot too often get rid of the barren assumption that is in our science. His leaves are leaves—his flowers flowers, his fruit fruit. They are green & colored & fragrant. It is a man’s knowledge added to a child’s delight. Modern botanical descriptions approach ever nearer to the dryness of an algebraic formula–as if X+Y were = to a love-letter. It is the keen joy & discrimination of the child who has just seen a flower for the first time & comes running in with it to its friends– How much better to describe your objects in fresh English words–rather than in these conventional Latinisms! He has really seen & smelt & tasted–& reports his sensations.

Bought a book at Little & Brown’s paying a ninepence more on a volume than it was offered me for elsewhere–The customer thus pays for the more elegant style of the store.