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The Quotable Thoreau

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Few writers are more quotable than Henry David Thoreau. His books, essays, journals, poems, letters, and unpublished manuscripts contain an inexhaustible treasure of epigrams and witticisms, from the famous ("The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation") to the obscure ("Who are the estranged? Two friends explaining") and the surprising ("I would exchange my immortality for a glass of small beer this hot weather"). The Quotable Thoreau, the most comprehensive and authoritative collection of Thoreau quotations...

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Overview

Few writers are more quotable than Henry David Thoreau. His books, essays, journals, poems, letters, and unpublished manuscripts contain an inexhaustible treasure of epigrams and witticisms, from the famous ("The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation") to the obscure ("Who are the estranged? Two friends explaining") and the surprising ("I would exchange my immortality for a glass of small beer this hot weather"). The Quotable Thoreau, the most comprehensive and authoritative collection of Thoreau quotations ever assembled, gathers more than 2,000 memorable passages from this iconoclastic American author, social reformer, environmentalist, and self-reliant thinker. Including Thoreau's thoughts on topics ranging from sex to solitude, manners to miracles, government to God, life to death, and everything in between, the book captures Thoreau's profundity as well as his humor ("If misery loves company, misery has company enough"). Drawing primarily on The Writings of Henry D. Thoreau, published by Princeton University Press, The Quotable Thoreau is thematically arranged, fully indexed, richly illustrated, and thoroughly documented. For the student of Thoreau, it will be invaluable. For those who think they know Thoreau, it will be a revelation. And for the reader seeking sheer pleasure, it will be a joy.

  • Over 2,000 quotations on more than 150 subjects
  • Richly illustrated with historic photographs and drawings
  • Thoreau on himself and his contemporaries
  • Thoreau's contemporaries on Thoreau
  • Biographical time line
  • Appendix of misquotations and misattributions
  • Fully indexed
  • Suggestions for further reading


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Editorial Reviews

Choice
Henry David Thoreau is one of the most oft-quoted essayists in the American literary canon, and now his sage aphorisms are gathered together in a beautifully compiled and impressively comprehensive volume. Edited by Cramer, curator of collections at the Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods, this volume draws from well-known works such as Walden and A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers as well as Thoreau's journals, letters, and other papers. . . . This volume will appear to both casual, browsing readers and to researchers needing an authoritative source on the words of Thoreau.
American Reference Books Annual
This quotable book is a handy guide and should find its way onto the shelves of any library, public or academic, school or special. But given its price at under $20, it should fall on the shelves of every American. While Thoreau will always smell something of the pine woods to some of us, those woods are our very own.
— Mark Y. Herring
American Reference Books Annual - Mark Y. Herring
This quotable book is a handy guide and should find its way onto the shelves of any library, public or academic, school or special. But given its price at under $20, it should fall on the shelves of every American. While Thoreau will always smell something of the pine woods to some of us, those woods are our very own.
Historical Journal of Massachusetts - Jeffrey Mifflin
The Quotable Thoreau is not meant to be read all at once. It should, rather, be savored bit by bit for maximum engagement, preferably in outdoor settings at various times of the year. Readers would be well advised to digest a page or two each day, consider the passages, and accept or reject them according to preference.
From the Publisher
Recipient of an Umhoefer Prize for Achievement in Humanities, Arts and Humanities Foundation in 2011

Selected for The Best of the Best Program at the 2012 ALA Annual Conference

"Henry David Thoreau is one of the most oft-quoted essayists in the American literary canon, and now his sage aphorisms are gathered together in a beautifully compiled and impressively comprehensive volume. Edited by Cramer, curator of collections at the Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods, this volume draws from well-known works such as Walden and A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers as well as Thoreau's journals, letters, and other papers. . . . This volume will appear to both casual, browsing readers and to researchers needing an authoritative source on the words of Thoreau."Choice

"This quotable book is a handy guide and should find its way onto the shelves of any library, public or academic, school or special. But given its price at under $20, it should fall on the shelves of every American. While Thoreau will always smell something of the pine woods to some of us, those woods are our very own."—Mark Y. Herring, American Reference Books Annual

"The Quotable Thoreau is not meant to be read all at once. It should, rather, be savored bit by bit for maximum engagement, preferably in outdoor settings at various times of the year. Readers would be well advised to digest a page or two each day, consider the passages, and accept or reject them according to preference."—Jeffrey Mifflin, Historical Journal of Massachusetts

"The Quotable Thoreau is thematically arranged, fully indexed, richly illustrated, and thoroughly documented. For the student of Thoreau, it will be invaluable. For those who think they know Thoreau, it will be a revelation. And for the reader seeking sheer pleasure, it will be a joy."World Book Industry

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691139975
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 5/5/2011
  • Pages: 552
  • Sales rank: 445,238
  • Product dimensions: 4.50 (w) x 7.40 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeffrey S. Cramer is curator of collections at the Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods, an independent research institution that holds the world's most comprehensive collection of Thoreau-related material. Cramer is the editor of "The Portable Thoreau" (Penguin), "Walden: A Fully Annotated Edition", and "I to Myself: An Annotated Selection from the Journal of Henry D. Thoreau", among other books.

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

Preface xiii
A Note on the Texts xix
Introduction: Thoreau’s Garment of Art xxi
On Pronouncing the Name Thoreau xxxvii
A Thoreau Chronology xliii

Thoreau Describes Himself 3
Questions 15
The Thoughts and Words of Henry D. Thoreau 19
Beauty 19
Brute Neighbors: Animals, Birds, Fish, and Insects 22
Change 31
Character 34
Charity and Philanthropy 38
Children 43
Cities 46
Conservation 49
Conversation and Talk 58
Day and Night 60
Dress and Fashion 65
Education and Learning 70
Expectation 77
Experience 80
Farmers and Farming 83
Food and Diet 87
Freedom and Slavery 92
Friendship 107
Genius 116
Good and Evil 119
Government and Politics 121
Health and Illness 127
The Heard and the Unheard 131
Sound 131
Silence 135
Music 137

The Heavens: Sun, Moon, and Stars 141
Heroes and the Heroic: Courage and Fear, Right and Wrong 143
Higher Law 146
Human Nature 148
The Mass of Men 148
Individuality 156
Hunting and Fishing 158
Imagination 163
Indians 166
Institutions 173
Land: Mountains, Bogs, and Meadows 177
Life and Death 180
From His Death-Bed 192
Literary Matters 193
Writing and Writers 193
Poets and Poetry 206
Books 210
Love 218
Manners 220
Nature 223
News, Newspapers, and the Press 236
Observation 241
Opinion and Advice 246
Past, Present, and Future 254
Possessions 256
Poverty and Wealth 259

Religious Concerns 265
Religion and Religions 265
Faith and Spirit 268
God 271
Science 275
The Seasons 278
Simplicity 288
Society 293
Solitude 298
Success 303
Temperament and Attitude 307
Thoughts and Thinking 316
Time 324
Travel and Home 327
Trees and Woods 335
Truth and Sincerity 342
Walking 349
Water: Rivers, Ponds, and Oceans 353
Weather: Rain, Snow, and Wind 358
Wildness 364
Wisdom and Ignorance 369
Women 372
Work and Business 376
Thoreau Describes His Contemporaries 430
Thoreau Described by His Contemporaries: 439
Appendix: Misquotations and Misattributions 465
Bibliography 471
Index 477

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