his home in Concord and received many visitors at his hut. The simplicity and freedom of this unconventional life and its nearness to the heart of nature were his delight. He was handy with the axe and with all tools. He philosophized as he hoed his beans in the early morning.

"When my hoe tinkled against the stones, that music echoed to the woods and the sky, and was an accompaniment to my labor which yielded an instant and immeasurable crop. It was no longer beans that I hoed, nor I that hoed beans; and I remembered with as much pity as pride, if I remembered at all, my acquaintances who had gone to the city to attend the oratorios."

Walden, or Life in the Woods, contains the story and the thought of these two years; it reveals Thoreau at his best and has long since become an American classic. The book was published in 1854.

The Week.

An earlier volume had appeared in 1849, the preparation of which had formed no small part of that "private business" which had induced Thoreau's retirement to the hut on Walden Pond. A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers is the title of the volume, and the voyage which is the basis of its chapters had occurred ten years previous, when its author, two years out of college, together with his brother, in a boat built by their own hands, had explored the courses of these beautiful streams. Richly descriptive, the Week is also full of the philosophy of Thoreau, sometimes expanded into essay-like proportions, sometimes expressed in queer, crude lines of verse which somehow suggest the rhyming of an ancient bard; for example: --

"Conscience is instinct bred in the house;
Feeling and Thinking propagate the sin
By an unnatural breeding in and in.
I say, Turn it outdoors,
Into the moors.
I love a life whose plot is simple,
And does not thicken with every pimple,
A soul so sound no sickly conscience binds it,
That makes the universe no worse than 't finds it."1

It is in his prose that the essayist oftenest shows himself a poet.

"It required some rudeness to disturb with our boat the mirror-like surface of the water, in which every twig and blade of grass was so faithfully reflected; too faithfully indeed for art to imitate, for only Nature may exaggerate herself. The shallowest still water is unfathomable. Wherever the trees and skies are reflected, there is more than Atlantic depth, and no danger of fancy running aground. We notice that it required a separate intention of the eye, a more free and abstracted vision, to see the reflected trees and the sky, than to see the river bottom merely; and so are there manifold visions in the direction of every object, and even the most opaque reflect the heavens from their surface. Some men have their eyes naturally intended to the one and some to the other object."2

Less than three hundred copies of the thousand comprising this first edition were sold; the remainder were thrown on the author's hands after four years' mute appeal in the bookstores. "I have now a library of nearly 900 volumes," Thoreau wrote in his diary; "over 700 of which I wrote myself. Is it not well that the author should behold the fruit of his labor?"

Yet Thoreau continued to write. Shortly after leaving college he had begun to keep a journal which was both diary and commonplace book; and this journal he continued throughout his life. From this source he drew the material of the Week and of Walden as well as of his posthumous books and his lectures, essays, and addresses. The journal was also drawn upon by others after his death to make books and magazine articles, and in 1906 was published in its entirety in fourteen volumes.

Essays and Excursions.

Various articles by Thoreau were published in The Dial and, through the friendship and assistance of Horace Greeley, in the New York magazines as well as in the Tribune itself. Thoreau made other excursions to the Maine woods, to Canada, to Cape Cod; and these furnished fresh material for observation

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission.
See our FAQ for more details.