Overview

An updated edition of Thoreau's most widely read works.

Self-described as "a mystic, a transcendentalist, and a natural philosopher to boot," Henry David Thoreau dedicated his life to preserving his freedom as a man and as an artist. Nature was the fountainhead of his inspiration and his refuge from what he considered the follies of society. Heedless of his friends' advice to live in a more orthodox manner, he determinedly pursued his own ...
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The Portable Thoreau

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Overview

An updated edition of Thoreau's most widely read works.

Self-described as "a mystic, a transcendentalist, and a natural philosopher to boot," Henry David Thoreau dedicated his life to preserving his freedom as a man and as an artist. Nature was the fountainhead of his inspiration and his refuge from what he considered the follies of society. Heedless of his friends' advice to live in a more orthodox manner, he determinedly pursued his own inner bent-that of a poet-philosopher-in prose and verse. Edited by noted Thoreau scholar Jeffrey S. Cramer, this edition promises to be the new standard for those interested in discovering the great thinker's influential ideas about everything from environmentalism to limited government.


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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101128107
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 3/27/2012
  • Series: PORTABLE LIBRARY Series
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 656
  • Sales rank: 313,411
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau was born in Concord, Massachusetts in 1817. He graduated from Harvard in 1837, the same year he began his lifelong Journal. Inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thoreau became a key member of the Transcendentalist movement that included Margaret Fuller and Bronson Alcott. The Transcendentalists' faith in nature was tested by Thoreau between 1845 and 1847 when he lived for twenty-six months in a homemade hut at Walden Pond. While living at Walden, Thoreau worked on the two books published during his lifetime: Walden (1854) and A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849). Several of his other works, including The Maine Woods, Cape Cod, and Excursions, were published posthumously. Thoreau died in Concord, at the age of forty-four, in 1862.

Biography

Henry David Thoreau was born on July 12, 1817, in Concord, Massachusetts, the third of four children. His family lived on a modest, sometimes meager, income; his father, John, worked by turns as a farmer, schoolteacher, grocer, and pencil-maker; his mother, Cynthia, was a teacher and would take in boarders when money was scarce. Young Henry's gifts manifested themselves early. He wrote his first piece, "The Seasons," at age ten, and memorized portions of Shakespeare, the Bible, and Samuel Johnson while studying at the Center School and Concord Academy. In addition to his academic pursuits, Henry rambled through the countryside on exploratory walks and attended lectures at the Concord Lyceum, where as an adult he would fascinate audiences with his discourses on life on Walden Pond.

Thoreau began his studies at Harvard College in 1833. His years at Harvard were stimulating, if solitary; he immersed himself in a traditional humanities curriculum of multiple languages, anatomy, history, and geography. Upon graduation in 1837, he began teaching in Concord at the Center School, the public school he'd attended as a boy, but left his post after being told to administer corporal punishment to a student. During these years following college Thoreau published his first essay and poem, began lecturing at the Concord Lyceum, and attended Transcendentalist discussions at the home of his mentor, the renowned essayist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. At Emerson's urging, Thoreau started a journal -- a project that would become his lifelong passion and culminate in more than two million words.

A boat trip with his brother, John, in 1839 set the foundation for his well known work A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. Sadly, unforeseen tragedy separated the tightly knit brothers in 1842, when John died of lockjaw caused by a razor cut. The following year, Thoreau joined Emerson in editing the Transcendental periodical The Dial, a publication to which Thoreau would become a prolific contributor. He also pulled up stakes for a time, accepting a position to tutor Emerson's children in Staten Island, New York. Half a year later, Thoreau returned to his family's house in Concord, deeply affected by the abolitionists he had met in Manhattan. He dedicated much of his time to lectures and essays advocating abolition and became involved in sheltering runaway slaves on their journey north.

In 1846 Thoreau was briefly imprisoned for refusing to pay a poll tax to the village of Concord, in protest against the government's support of slavery, as well as its war of expansion with Mexico. His experience in the Concord jail led to the writing of what would later be titled "Civil Disobedience." Unappreciated in Thoreau's lifetime, "Civil Disobedience" is now considered one of the country's seminal political works.

During this period, Thoreau built his cabin on Walden Pond and lived there for a little more than two years. In this small home on Emerson's property, he began writing his most enduring work, Walden; or, Life in the Woods, and finished the manuscript for A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. Sales were exceedingly poor, with Thoreau eventually acquiring 706 unsold copies of the original 1000 copy print run. Thoreau quipped, "I have now a library of nearly nine hundred volumes, over seven hundred of which I wrote myself." When Walden was published in 1854, sales were brisk and its reception favorable, although Thoreau's work as a whole remained somewhat obscure during his lifetime.

By the time Walden was published, Thoreau had turned from the largely symbolic approach to nature that he had learned from Emerson and other Romantic writers to a much more empirical approach, more in keeping with new scientific methods. His observations of nature throughout the 1850s, largely recorded in his journals, have come to be regarded as a model of ecological attentiveness, even though the term "ecology" was not coined until 1866. He developed several talks on the natural history of the Concord region, and even set to work on a series of longer, book-length manuscripts. Two of these, one on the dispersal of tree seeds and the other on the region's many wild fruits, were not published until 1993 and 2000 respectively. Today, Thoreau's writing is valued for both the poetic imagination and the scientific methodology it displays.

As the years passed, Thoreau's commitment to the antislavery movement strengthened, as did his popularity as a lecturer and essayist. Even in the declining health of his later years, he remained a man of conviction and action, writing on many subjects and participating in various political causes until shortly before his death from tuberculosis. George Eliot's review of Walden singles out qualities that attract readers to this day: "a deep poetic sensibility" and "a refined as well as a hardy mind." Henry David Thoreau died on May 6, 1862, in Concord.

Author biography from the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of Walden.

Good To Know

Thoreau's mother originally christened him David Henry Thoreau.

Both of his elder brothers were schoolteachers who helped to pay Thoreau's way through Harvard (about $179 a year in 1837).

Most biographers remain undecided about Thoreau's sexuality. He never married, although he proposed to friend Ellen Sewall in 1840 (she rejected his offer). Some believe he was a "repressed" homosexual, and others that he was asexual and wholly celibate.

Thoreau's grave is located in the Sleepy Hollow cemetery at Concord, Massachusetts, beside those of fellow literary legends Nathaniel Hawthorne and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

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    1. Also Known As:
      David Henry Thoreau (birth name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 12, 1817
    2. Place of Birth:
      Concord, Massachusetts
    1. Date of Death:
      May 6, 1862
    2. Place of Death:
      Concord, Massachusetts

Table of Contents

The Portable Thoreau Introduction by the Editor Chronology Natural History of Massachusetts, 1842
A Winter Walk, 1843
The Maine Woods, 1848
The Wilds of the Penobscot Life in the Wilderness

Civil Disobedience, 1849
A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, 1849
Poems
I Am a Parcel of Vain Strivings Tied In the Busy Streets, Domains of Trade I Knew a Man by Sight Lately, Alas, I Knew a Gentle Boy Each More Melodious Note I Hear Independence Not Unconcerned Wachusett Rears His Head My Friends, Why Should We Live Low in the Eastern Sky Great Friend Fog Brother Where Dost Thou Dwell This Is My Carnac, Whose Unmeasured Dome Love Equals Swift and Slow Though All the Fates Should Prove Unkind Manhood Between the Traveler and the Setting Sun Nature

A Yankee in Canada, 1853
Concord to Montreal

Walden, 1854
Economy Where I Lived, and What I Lived For Reading Sounds Solitude Visitors The Bean Field The Village The Ponds Baker Farm Higher Laws Brute Neighbors Housewarming Former Inhabitants; and Winter Visitors Winter Animals The Pond in Winter Spring Conclusion

Journal, 1858
Walking, 1862
Life without Principle, 1863

Cape Cod, 1864
The Wellfleet Oysterman

The Last Days of John Brown, 1860
Epilogue by the Editor Further Reading

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 12, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    For Philosophers and Thoreau/Transcendentalist Scholars only

    This was a very difficult book for me to read as there was too much going on. Thoreau had a wandering mind as well as body, and that comes out quite well in this collection of his works. Unfortunately, I don't like that sort of writing. It always felt like he was rambling and would never stick to one topic. While this is an admirable quality it is also frustrating. There were some interesting parts in this book. I particularly liked aspects of "Civil Disobedience," the chapter in Walden on reading was riveting, and his "Life Without Principles," had some interesting thoughts. And, too be fair, I read through this rather quickly. But, this is a book only for philosophers and Thoreau/Transcendentalist scholars. Average readers should stick with "Civil Disobedience" and Walden.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2001

    calming

    As a sixteen year old junior, I grasped 'Walden' in an attempt to escape to the true essentials in life. The hectic times of high school as well as trying to deal with a sudden move half-way across the country, 'Walden' helped sand down those tough places in my life. I would absolutely recommend Thoreau, or transcendentalism in general, to anyone in a similar situation.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2002

    A Great Collection of Essays From A Great Man

    As a Unitrian Universalist I thouroughly enjoyed this book. I recommend reading Civil Disobedience to anyone who wants to learn how to use non-violent methods to protest against war and any other injustices in our own country and around the world. Long Live Thoreau!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2010

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    Posted December 21, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2012

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