Walden and Other Writingsby Henry David Thoreau
Thoreau’s literary classic, an elegantly written record of his experiment in simple living, has engaged readers and thinkers for a century and a half. This edition of Walden is the first to set forth an authoritative text with generous annotations. Thoreau scholar Jeffrey S./i>
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The ultimate gift edition of Walden for bibliophiles, aficionados, and scholars.
Thoreau’s literary classic, an elegantly written record of his experiment in simple living, has engaged readers and thinkers for a century and a half. This edition of Walden is the first to set forth an authoritative text with generous annotations. Thoreau scholar Jeffrey S. Cramer has meticulously corrected errors and omissions from previous editions of Walden and here provides illuminating notes on the biographical, historical, and geographical contexts of Thoreau’s life.
Cramer’s newly edited text is based on the original 1854 edition of Walden, with emendations taken from Thoreau’s draft manuscripts, his own markings on the page proofs, and notes in his personal copy of the book. In the editor’s notes to the volume, Cramer quotes from sources Thoreau actually read, showing how he used, interpreted, and altered these sources. Cramer also glosses Walden with references to Thoreau’s essays, journals, and correspondence. With the wealth of material in this edition, readers will find an unprecedented opportunity to immerse themselves in the unique and fascinating world of Thoreau. Anyone who has read and loved Walden will want to own and treasure this gift edition. Those wishing to read Walden for the first time will not find a better guide than Jeffrey S. Cramer.
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Henry David Thoreau was the last male descendant of a French ancestor who came to this country from the Isle of Guernsey. His character exhibited occasional traits drawn from this blood, in singular combination with a very strong Saxon genius.
He was born in Concord, Massachusetts, on the 12th of July, 1817. He was graduated at Harvard College in 1837, but without any literary distinction. An iconoclast in literature, he seldom thanked colleges for their service to him, holding them in small esteem, whilst yet his debt to them was important. After leaving the University, he joined his brother in teaching a private school, which he soon renounced. His father was a manufacturer of lead-pencils, and Henry applied himself for a time to this craft, believing he could make a better pencil than was then in use. After completing his experiments, he exhibited his work to chemists and artists in Boston, and having obtained their certificates to its excellence and to its equality with the best London manufacture, he returned home contented. His friends congratulated him that he had now opened his way to fortune. But he replied that he should never make another pencil. "Why should I? I would not do again what I have done once." He resumed his endless walks and miscellaneous studies, making every day some new acquaintance with Nature, though as yet never speaking of zoology or botany, since, though very studious of natural facts, he was incurious of technical and textual science.
At this time, a strong, healthy youth, fresh from college, whilst all his companions were choosing their profession, or eager to begin some lucrative employment, it was inevitable that his thoughts should beexercised on the same question, and it required rare decision to refuse all the accustomed paths and keep his solitary freedom at the cost of disappointing the natural expectations of his family and friends: all the more difficult that he had a perfect probity, was exact in securing his own independence, and in holding every man to the like duty. But Thoreau never faltered. He was a born protestant. He declined to give up his large ambition of knowledge and action for any narrow craft or profession, aiming at a much more comprehensive calling, the art of living well. If he slighted and defied the opinions of others, it was only that he was more intent to reconcile his practice with his own belief. Never idle or self-indulgent, he preferred, when he wanted money, earning it by some piece of manual labor agreeable to him, as building a boat or a fence, planting, grafting, surveying or other short work, to any long engagements. With his hardy habits and few wants, his skill in wood-craft, and his powerful arithmetic, he was very competent to live in any part of the world. It would cost him less time to supply his wants than another. He was therefore secure of his leisure.
A natural skill for mensuration, growing out of his mathematical knowledge and his habit of ascertaining the measures and distances of objects which interested him, the size of trees, the depth and extent of ponds and rivers, the height of mountains and the air-line distance of his favorite summitsthis, and his intimate knowledge of the territory about Concord, made him drift into the profession of land-surveyor. It had the advantage for him that it led him continually into new and secluded grounds, and helped his studies of Nature. His accuracy and skill in this work were readily appreciated, and he found all the employment he wanted.
He could easily solve the problems of the surveyor, but he was daily beset with graver questions, which he manfully confronted. He interrogated every custom, and wished to settle all his practice on an ideal foundation. He was a protestant à outrance, and few lives contain so many renunciations. He was bred to no profession, he never married; he lived alone; he never went to church; he never voted; he refused to pay a tax to the State; he ate no flesh, he drank no wine, he never knew the use of tobacco; and, though a naturalist, he used neither trap nor gun. He chose, wisely no doubt for himself, to be the bachelor of thought and Nature. He had no talent for wealth, and knew how to be poor without the least hint of squalor or inelegance. Perhaps he fell into his way of living without forecasting it much, but approved it with later wisdom. "I am often reminded," he wrote in his journal, "that if I had bestowed on me the wealth of Crsus, my aims must be still the same, and my means essentially the same." He had no temptations to fight againstno appetites, no passions, no taste for elegant trifles. A fine house, dress, the manners and talk of highly cultivated people were all thrown away on him. He much preferred a good Indian, and considered these refinements as impediments to conversation, wishing to meet his companion on the simplest terms.
He declined invitations to dinner-parties, because there each was in every one's way, and he could not meet the individuals to any purpose. "They make their pride," he said, "in making their dinner cost much; I make my pride in making my dinner cost little." When asked at table what dish he preferred, he answered, "The nearest." He did not like the taste of wine, and never had a vice in his life. He said"I have a faint recollection of pleasure derived from smoking dried lily-stems, before I was a man. I had commonly a supply of these. I have never smoked anything more noxious."
He chose to be rich by making his wants few, and supplying them himself. In his travels, he used the railroad only to get over so much country as was unimportant to the present purpose, walking hundreds of miles, avoiding taverns, buying a lodging in farmers' and fishermen's houses, as cheaper, and more agreeable to him, and because there he could better find the men and the information he wanted.
There was somewhat military in his nature, not to be subdued, always manly and able, but rarely tender, as if he did not feel himself except in opposition. He wanted a fallacy to expose, a blunder to pillory, I may say required a little sense of victory, a roll of the drum, to call his powers into full exercise. It cost him nothing to say No; indeed he found it much easier than to say Yes. It seemed as if his first instinct on hearing a proposition was to controvert it, so impatient was he of the limitations of our daily thought. This habit, of course, is a little chilling to the social affections; and though the companion would in the end acquit him of any malice or untruth, yet it mars conversation. Hence, no equal companion stood in affectionate relations with one so pure and guileless. "I love Henry," said one of his friends, "but I cannot like him; and as for taking his arm, I should as soon think of taking the arm of an elm-tree."
Yet, hermit and stoic as he was, he was really fond of sympathy, and threw himself heartily and childlike into the company of young people whom he loved, and whom he delighted to entertain, as he only could, with the varied and endless anecdotes of his experiences by field and river: and he was always ready to lead a huckleberry-party or a search for chestnuts or grapes. Talking, one day, of a public discourse, Henry remarked that whatever succeeded with the audience was bad. I said, "Who would not like to write something which all can read, like Robinson Crusoe? and who does not see with regret that his page is not solid with a right materialistic treatment, which delights everybody?" Henry objected, of course, and vaunted the better lectures which reached only a few persons. But, at supper, a young girl, understanding that he was to lecture at the Lyceum, sharply asked him, "Whether his lecture would be a nice, interesting story, such as she wished to hear, or whether it was one of those old philosophical things that she did not care about." Henry turned to her, and bethought himself, and, I saw, was trying to believe that he had matter that might fit her and her brother, who were to sit up and go to the lecture, if it was a good one for them.
From the Paperback edition.
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Meet the Author
Jeffrey S. Cramer is curator of collections, The Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods. He is the editor of Thoreau on Freedom: Attending to Man: Selected Writings of Henry David Thoreau.
- Date of Birth:
- July 12, 1817
- Date of Death:
- May 6, 1862
- Place of Birth:
- Concord, Massachusetts
- Place of Death:
- Concord, Massachusetts
- Concord Academy, 1828-33); Harvard University, 1837
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Walden was poorly received upon its publication and Thoreau died in relative obscurity but its message ought to be heeded by more Americans. Just how big of a house, car, etc. do you really NEED? What is the essence of happiness? How has mankind become enslaved by 'conveniences'? All of these questions Thoreau dared to ask at the height of the Industrial Revolution. Thoreau died in relative obscurity because, with apologies to Apple, he dared to 'think different[ly].' Read Walden and you may too.
I thought that this book was a good book because of Henry David Thoreau's aspect on simplifying his life to such an extent that nobody back then would probably think about doing. Then he took it a step further and published his thoughts about it. This book showed the story of Henry trying to seek simplicty, and truth by living in the woods by himself.
Walden is an incredible feat of self-reliance, truth and discovery through nature, and independence. Never have I ever experienced-yes, experienced, not just read-such a unique, cultivating work! The story of Thoreau withdrawing from a busy society to the serene embrace of the woods will calm, soothe, and enlighten you. I derived more realizations about life and nature and connected more with this book than any other. If you need a life revitalization and a purging of irritating cynicism, submerse yourself in the embrace of Walden Pond.
I feel a bit humbled at approaching this great work, this true American classic. Thoreau is the great solitary ,Emerson's disciple and soul- mate in one sense, and a man alone in commune with nature , in another. He sees and observes the world precisely and these precisions become metaphors and these metaphors become moral insights and with them he reads the book of the world. His world , the one he found within himself by withdrawing from the noise of the world around was rich in a kind of aphoristic poetry "There is no day to dawn and the sun is but a morning star " is a typical flash of his brilliance . It is possible of course to ridicule the great pioneer who went a few miles from home to get away from it all, to ridicule too the man who did not make the kind of connection in love with another human being which is in some sense essential to the highest life. But Thoreau who does hear the sound of his own drummer , and who does have the courage to by being more right than his neighbors be a majority of one is a unique voice and among the few great American originals who can live as example and ideal for mankind. His book is a celebration of sight and insight of a time and a world few of us are still able to see. He walks alone and in his walking he opens before us another stretch of brighter and better worlds still to come.
I truly enjoy reading this book. I'm not done but it is so calm and written wonderfuly. I hope you will read this book! If you like poetry or would like to chat sometime email me!
I read this book, and it was fairly tedious to read (Thank g-d I'm done). At any point, the content may seem irrelevant while reading, but in the end, after pondering, its all there. Thoreau was participating in a 'philosophical experiment,' which was to see if he could survive by himself and how it affected the person mentally and physically. In the end, Thoreau failed, finding out that human nature through his experiments showed him humans need to live with contact with other humans. This philosophy can be applied to any species, but for what it is worth, this book is a classic book with tedious content, but a noble experiment well documented
In March of 1845, Henry David Thoreau, 'borrowed an axe and went down to the woods by Walden Pond,' where he spent the next two years, living as simply as any one man could. So begins the remarkable story, 'Walden.' Thoreau lives in a house, which he builds himself, by Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts. His closest neighbor is more than a mile away, but Thoreau never feels alone. He fills his time hoeing his beans, fishing, making conversation with people passing through the area, and most importantly, 'living deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach.' Thoreau keeps a simple diet of beans, fish, bread, and water from the pond. He spends countless hours just, 'watching the changing of the seasons,' and is absolutely content to do so. Nowhere is there a book, which commands as much respect for the author as 'Walden.' In 'Walden,' the detail of environment is extremely important. Thoreau starts his new life in the spring of 1845. He chooses to take residence near Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. We see the aspen trees, small hills, dense forests, and open meadows, all of which are filled with various types of wildlife, surrounding the pond. Thoreau does an extraordinary job of describing the surrounding area. He describes the trees as being 'tall arrowy white pines, still in their youth.' From atop a nearby hill he beholds, 'a pleasing vista southward across the pond, through a wide indention in the hills which form the shore there, where their opposite sides sloping toward each other suggested a stream flowing out in that direction through a wooded valley, but stream there was none.' Of the abundant wildlife he observes that, 'the partridge and the rabbit are still sure to thrive, like true natives of the soil, whatever revolutions occur.' These observations are key to Thoreau's description of his home.