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Posted May 18, 2009
Posted June 7, 2010
24 years have passed since Robert D. Richardson Jr brought out the first great book of the trilogy of excellent American 19th Century minds he has written, the one about Henry Thoreau; the following ones dealing with Emerson and William James. Nothing in it seems to have lost value, it is as fresh and rewarding to read as it was when it was first published, as essential and indispensable for every one studying Thoreau or just wishing to enter more deeply into the life and the inner world of the writer of that masterpiece world-wide known as "Walden".
The secret behind Richardson's method is his perfect balance between Leben und Werk, between life and letters, between social individual and inner mind. Here is no vexing wallowing in trifling, insignificant details, so common in the surge of literary biographies to-day. Nor are there any exclusive, over-abstract analyses of texts, also an academic vogue in later days. No, only the elementary facts of Thoreau's life, though still full and rich enough to give you a most satisfying picture of his career and its connections with his writings. And the works are presented in an informative style, easy to read, though advanced enough to give you the pleasure of widening perspective and deepening insights in that free and creative spirit of Thoreau's. This inner biography is an ideal form of studying a writer and his achievement, no exaggerations in any direction, but the focus always in essentials.
The book is composed in nine main chapters and no less than 100 sub-chapters. This enhances its legibility considerably, even though it leads to a certain insuperable difficulty, when searching for some paragraphs or some lines you want to return to. But this is a trifle, as the wholeness is overwhelming and the 100 sub-chapters inspire you with a majestic feeling of intruding into a territory as divine as the virgin soil into which Thoreau entered with such an enthusism.
A most stimulative journey into that true Walden mind that made Thoreau one of our perpetual companions in a world where Nature, Environment, Ecology are highly essential fields of concern.