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Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.

NUMBER: 1528
AUTHOR: Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–82)
QUOTATION: Mr. Emerson visited Thoreau at the jail, and the meeting between the two philosophers must have been interesting and somewhat dramatic. The account of the meeting was told me by Miss Maria Thoreau [Henry Thoreau’s aunt]—“Henry, why are you here?” Waldo, why are you not here?
ATTRIBUTION: Attributed to RALPH WALDO EMERSON and Henry David Thoreau.—Arthur Samuel Jones, Thoreau’s Incarceration [As Told by His Jailer], p. 15 (1962).

This exchange was supposed to have taken place on July 23 or 24, 1846, in the Concord, Massachusetts, jail where Thoreau was placed for nonpayment of poll taxes. There are many versions of this story, but Thoreau’s account does not mention a visit by Emerson, in his Reform Papers, ed. Wendell Glick, pp. 79–84 (1973), so it is probably apocryphal.