Quotation by Henry David Thoreau

They have been foolish enough to put at the end of all this earnest the old joke of a diploma. Let every sheep keep but his own skin, I say.
Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862), U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist. Letter, November 14, 1847, to Ralph Waldo Emerson, in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, vol. 6, p. 138, Houghton Mifflin (1906).

In the context of a description of the intellectual (especially scientific) progress of his alma mater, Thoreau here laments the fact that Harvard University still followed the Oxford and Cambridge custom of awarding an unearned Master's degree to all alumni five years after graduation. His remark about sheep and their skins echoes his own refusal to accept such a degree when offered it.
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