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Glaciers in Alaska

An Enthusiastic Report of John Muir's Lecture at Vancouver

by O. O. Howard

Excerpted from The Oregonian, January 24, 1880.


We had quite a treat in a lecture from John Muir. We have a lecture association, confining itself usually to amateur performances at the Oak Grove Theater...

John Muir spent a portion of the day in making sketched diagrams which were skillfully executed in chalk on the blackboard, and being numbered, answered as briefs. The lecture on glaciers and glacial action was of exceeding interest holding the attention of the audience without interruption of upwards of two hours. Not the least part of it springs from the lecturer himself. He is a young man of great modesty, appearing like one who, as he says, has taken a walk among the mountains for fifteen years. Healthful in complexion, simple yet careful in expression, of medium size and build - one would say "not remarkable" except when his subject has so much absorbed him as to make him for a moment forget his surrounds, then the animation and ready action of Agassiz appears and you are wondering at his young face and his wonderful powers of generalization and condensation still never excluding some simple similes that make a strong lodgment in your memory. To-day I am enthused by the subject which I have not been able to sleep off.

[Howard goes on to detail each of Muir's ten sketches of glaciers, mountains, icebergs, glacial canyons, avalanches, etc., and summarizing the lecture Muir gave on each one.]

The lecturer's whole face lighted up as he talked of the youth of the world, the present morning of creation, the beginning of the work of the infinite, who worketh hitherto and yet just commences. I wish I could give you the sublime passage in his lecture near its close, where he makes the storms, the winds, the avalanches, the earthquakes, and all natural phenomena, deemed by man terrific, the ample instruments in the hands of that engineer, producing only beauty and harmony, for the changes multiplied a thousand times and in a thousand ways are only from beauty to beauty.



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