Henry David Thoreau: A Life

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Item#: 9780226344690
Author Dassow Walls, Laura
Cover Hardback
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“Walden. Yesterday I came here to live. That entry from the journal of Henry David Thoreau, and the intellectual journey it began, would by themselves be enough to place Thoreau in the American pantheon. His attempt to “live deliberately in a small woods at the edge of his hometown of Concord has been a touchstone for individualists and seekers since the publication ofWaldenin 1854.But there was much more to Thoreau than his
ief experiment in living at Walden Pond. A member of the vi
ant intellectual circle centered on his neighbor Ralph Waldo Emerson, he was also an ardent naturalist, a manual laborer and inventor, a radical political activist, and more. Many books have taken up various aspects of Thoreau's character and achievements, but, as Laura Dassow Walls writes, “Thoreau has never been captured between covers; he was too quixotic, mischievous, many-sided. Two hundred years after his birth, and two generations after the last full-scale biography, Walls restores Henry David Thoreau to us in all his profound, inspiring complexity.Walls traces the full arc of Thoreau's life, from his early days in the intellectual hothouse of Concord, when the American experiment still felt fresh and precarious, and “America was a family affair, earned by one generation and about to pass to the next. By the time he died in 1862, at only forty-four years of age, Thoreau had witnessed the transformation of his world from a community of farmers and artisans into a bustling, interconnected commercial nation. What did that portend for the contemplative individual and abundant, wild nature that Thoreau cele
ated?Drawing on Thoreau's copious writings, published and unpublished, Walls presents a Thoreau vigorously alive in all his quirks and contradictions: the young man shattered by the sudden death of his
other; the ambitious Harvard College student; the ecstatic visionary who closedWaldenwith an account of the regenerative power of the Cosmos. We meet the man whose belief in human freedom and the value of labor made him an uncompromising abolitionist; the solitary walker who found society in nature, but also found his own nature in the society of which he was a deeply interwoven part. And, running through it all, Thoreau the passionate naturalist, who, long before the age of environmentalism, saw tragedy for future generations in the human heedlessness around him.“The Thoreau I sought was not in any book, so I wrote this one, says Walls. The result is a Thoreau unlike any seen since he walked the streets of Concord, a Thoreau for our time and all time.

Table of Contents
PrefaceIntroduction: Land of the Grass-Ground RiverTahatawan's ArrowheadEnclosures and CommonsThe Genesis of MusketaquidThe Coming of the EnglishLiving the RevolutionPart IThe Making of ThoreauChapter 1Concord Sons and DaughtersComing to ConcordThe Early Years of John and Cynthia ThoreauMaking Concord HomeChapter 2Higher Learning from Concord to Harvard (1826-1837)A Concord EducationA Harvard PortraitLearning to Leave HarvardChapter 3Transcendental Apprentice (1837-1841)Sic VitaTranscendental Self-CultureConcord Social CultureThe Thoreau School“There is no remedy for love but to love moreCompensationsChapter 4“Not till We Are Lost (1842-1844)The Death of John Thoreau“Surely joy is the condition of life!: New Friends, New VenturesThoreau on Staten IslandThe Road to WaldenPart IIThe Making ofWaldenChapter 5“Walden, Is It You? (1845-1847)PreparationsOn Walden Pond: The First SeasonGoing to Extremes I: Thoreau in JailGoing to Extremes II: Thoreau on KatahdinLeaving WaldenChapter 6A Writer's Life (1847-1849)“Will you be my father?: Thoreau at the Emersons'“Lectures multiply on my desk: Thoreau Finds His Audience“Civil DisobedienceA Basket of Delicate Texture: Weaving Thoreau'sWeekChapter 7From Concord to Cosmos: Thoreau's Turn to Science (1849-1851)“The law which reveals: Cape Cod“Even this may be the year: 1850“The captain of a huckleberry partyChapter 8The Beauty of Nature, the Baseness of Men (1852-1854)Abolition and Reform after the Fugitive Slave LawThe Hermit at HomeThe Higher Law from Chesuncook toWaldenReadingWaldenPart IIISuccessionsChapter 9Walden-on-Main (1854-1857)“What Shall It Profit?: Thoreau afterWaldenIllness and Recovery“The infinite extent of our relationsChapter 10Wild Fruits (1857-1859)The Last Excursions to Cape Cod and the Maine WoodsLife in the Commons: Village, Mountain, River“A Transcendentalist above all: Thoreau and John BrownChapter 11A Constant New Creation (1860-1862)The Year of Darwin“The West of which I speak: Thoreau's Last Journey“The leaves teach us how to dieAcknowledgmentsAb