Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Earth Day - Thomas Starr King: Nature Writer

Mt. Starr King, Yosemite National Park

Love of nature has its root in wonder and veneration, and it issues in many forms of practical good. There can be no abounding and ardent patriotism where sacred attachment to our civil home is wanting; and there can be no abiding and inspiring religious joy in the heart that recognizes no presence and touch of God in the permanent surroundings of our earthly abode.
We are not to live outside the world, but in it, feeling its passions, working in its interests, striving to do our duty in its trials. And yet large districts of our life and feeling should be above the world, on the Sierra heights from which the world and our toil and our home cares and our surroundings look noble, precious, bathed in light.
From "Lessons from the Sierra Nevada," Christianity and humanity; a series of sermons, by Thomas Starr King. Edited, with a memoir, by Edwin P. Whipple. Boston, J.R. Osgood, 1877.

Thomas Starr King (1824-1864) today is either forgotten or only partially remembered. He is best known for his efforts to keep the state of California in the Union during the Civil War. A popular Universalist and Unitarian minister, his writings on the beauty of the White Hills and of the Sierras place him on equal footing with Henry David Thoreau. His sermons offer eloquent testimony to the beauty of nature and God.

Along with a number of schools, King has peaks in Yosemite and the White Mountains named in his honor. To remember his writings on the White Mountains, the citizens of Plymouth, NH, named a beautiful elm tree after him. Unfortunately, the tree fell victim to Dutch Elm disease and was cut down in 1965.

The GTU archives is the repository for the Thomas Starr King Collection, owned by Starr King School of Ministry. One of the larger archival collections on King--his personal library was lost to fire-- the Finding Aid can be viewed at Online Archive of California. The library recently received a microfilm copy of 400 of his sermons from the Boston Public Library.

This post was inspired by recent visits to see the collection by a Harvard researcher studying views of nature in the 19th century and by a San Francisco teacher. Other related sources on the web are:

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