No man is any use until he has dared everything

RLS’s rail journey across America began from the New Jersey terminal of the Pennsylvania Railroad on the evening of 18 August 1879. At Pittsburgh on 19 August evening he changed to the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railroad and travelled through Ohio and Indiana on the next day, arriving in Chicago late that evening.

The quoting at the end of this letter is Matthew 17:20.

[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 3, 645.]

To Sidney Colvin [Colvin 1911, 1, pp. 282-284]

[In the emigrant train from New York to San Francisco, 20 August 1879.]

Dear Colvin,

I am in the cars between Pittsburgh and Chicago, just now bowling through Ohio.

An Ohio River Rail Road 4-6-0 leads a work train near Parkersburg, West Virginia during the line’s construction in the 1880s.[]

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Railroad Union Depot, late 1870s []

I am taking charge of a kid, whose mother is asleep, with one eye, while I write you this with the other. I reached N.Y. Sunday night; and by five o’clock Monday was under way for the West. It is now about ten on Wednesday morning, so I have already been about forty hours in the cars. It is impossible to lie down in them, which must end by being very wearying.

S.G. McCutcheon, “On an Immigrant Train, Westward Bound”, June 11, 1881 []

R. F. Zogbaum. “The Modern Ship of the Plains”, Harper’s Weekly, Nov. 13, 1886 []

Emigrant train []


I had no idea how easy it was to commit suicide. There seems nothing left of me; I died a while ago; I do not know who it is that is travelling.

Of where or how, I nothing know;

       And why, I do not care;

       Enough if, even so,

My travelling eyes, my travelling mind can go

By flood and field and hill, by wood and meadow fair,

Beside the Susquehannah and along the Delaware.

I think, I hope, I dream no more

       The dreams of otherwhere,

       The cherished thoughts of yore;

I have been changed from what I was before;

And drunk too deep perchance the lotus of the air

Beside the Susquehannah and along the Delaware.


Unweary God me yet shall bring

       To lands of brighter air,

       Where I, now half a king,

Shall with enfranchised spirit loudlier sing,

And wear a bolder front than that which now I wear

Beside the Susquehannah and along the Delaware.

Exit Muse, hurried by child’s games.


G. Innes, The Lackaanna Valley, c. 1855

G. Innes, Harvest scene in the Delaware Valley, 1867

G. Innes, The Delaware Water Gap, c. 1860

Have at you again, being now well through Indiana […].

In America you eat better than anywhere else: fact. The food is heavenly.

No man is any use until he has dared everything; I feel just now as if I had, and so might become a man. ‘If ye have faith like a grain of mustard seed.’ That is so true! just now I have faith as big as a cigar-case; I will not say die, and do not fear man nor fortune.


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