|The Thoreau Society eNewsletter: October 2013 - Founded in 1941, The Thoreau Society, Inc. is the oldest and largest organization devoted to an American author. The Society exists to stimulate interest in and foster education about Thoreau's life, works, legacy and his place in his world and in ours, challenging all to live a deliberate, considered life.|
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Michael J Frederick
Executive Director, The Thoreau Society
Thoreau Society Bulletin - No. 275 - Summer 2011
Building a Thoreau Library
Each time I arrive in Concord for the July Annual Gathering, the question comes up regarding books by and about Thoreau. These requests usually come from folks who are relatively new to the world of Thoreau and seem overwhelmed by the many and varied works on the market. Having had the opportunity over the years of reading most of the materials, both scholarly and popular, I have come to the conclusion that there is a basic collection that is useful for enthusiasts with a variety of levels of interests.
In trying to create a list of books that I feel are most accessible and helpful, I go back to the ones I most often refer to. For this short review, I have chosen books that seem most approachable for the general reader regarding Thoreau's life and works. I do this aware that others may have additions or criticism. That is
always the case when trying to seek an abbreviated bibliography of anyone with the stature and historical significance of one such as Henry D. Thoreau.
In biographies, there are two that are must-reads for an understanding of Thoreau's life and times. The first one, referred to in any work on Thoreau, is Walter Harding's definitive biography, The Days of Henry Thoreau, originally published by Alfred A.
Knopf in 1965. Since that time it has been re-issued by Princeton University Press and also by Dover Books, the latter containing additional notes. All studies of Thoreau begin here. Another important biographical work is that by Robert D. Richardson, Jr., Henry David Thoreau: A Life of the Mind, published by the
University of California Press in 1986.
There are many books and collections of essays about Thoreau, and it is challenging to make the right choice when funds are scarce. One I turn to frequently is The Cambridge Companion to Henry David Thoreau, edited by Joel Myerson. This collection, published in 1995, contains a "who's who" of Thoreau scholarship. Essays by Harding and Richardson are included, as well as ones by such scholars as Robert Sattelmeyer, Elizabeth Hall Witherell, Richard J. Schneider, Ronald Hoag, Joseph J. Moldenhauer, Len Gougeon, Lawrence Buell, and several other well-known Thoreau experts. Such topics as Thoreau's nature studies, poetry, and his two major books, Walden and A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, are included in this collection. More recently, Sandra Petrulionis and Laura Dassow Walls have edited a collection of essays by a number of scholars, More Day to Dawn: Thoreau's 'Walden' For the Twenty-first Century, published by the University of Massachusetts in 2006.
Examples of Thoreau's writings with annotations are helpful when trying to read his work in the context of both his times and ours. A number of these annotated works are available. I frequently refer to The Annotated Walden by Philip Van Doren Stern, an oversized volume that includes a chronology of Thoreau's life, a number of excellent illustrations of Concord, as well as other references by Thoreau. The text of "Civil Disobedience" is also included. First published in 1970 by Clarkson N. Potter, it was later reprinted by Barnes and Noble in 1992. This is a one-volume reference to a good bit of Thoreauviana that can be easily found in used bookstores and online. The single most useful collection of Thoreau's essays, which includes excellent annotations, is edited by Lewis Hyde and published by North Point Press. This volume, titled The Essays of Henry D. Thoreau, was published in 2002,
and in it Hyde pays tribute to the assistance of Bradley P. Dean for much of the annotation contained in the volume.
Thoreau's journals are a challenge to find for purchase or to read in their entirety. A number of collections abbreviate the work for easier enjoyment. Although not created for scholarly work, they are helpful in getting a sense of how he approached his work. A recent, handsome volume published by Yale University Press in 2007 and edited by Jeffrey Cramer of the Thoreau Institute is titled I to Myself: An Annotated Selection from the Journal of Henry D. Thoreau. A very readable book of Thoreau's nature study and interpretations is Robert Kuhn McGregor's A Wider View of the Universe, published in 1997 by the University of Illinois Press.
There are several collections of aphorisms and thoughts by Thoreau. Edwin Way Teale published a wonderful book, The Thoughts of Thoreau. First out in 1962 by Dodd, Mead, it was later reissued by the same company in 1987. The chapters are based around like-minded topics. I frequently refer to this collection when working on lectures. Another easy-to-use volume Simplify, Simplify, edited by K. P. Van Anglen was published in 1996 by Columbia University Press and has recently been reissued in paperback. Jeffrey Cramer has edited a new and expanded collection of Thoreau's quotations published by Princeton University Press titled The Quotable Thoreau.
One cannot fully understand Thoreau without some awareness of the surrounding influences on his life and times. There are several works that I find helpful for this. First, there are two biographies on Ralph Waldo Emerson that are rich in content and also very readable. Robert Richardson's Emerson: The Mind on Fire published in 1995 by the University of California Press is a very thorough study of Emerson's life and work. Another is Emerson Among the Eccentrics: A Group Portrait by Carlos Baker and published in 1996 by Viking. These two books provide an excellent insight into the minds and times of a number of influential figures in Thoreau's own development.
Finally, if one can ever come to closure on the rich world of Thoreau-related literature, there are two other books that I find helpful as references to Thoreau's time and world. The first, edited by Lawrence Buell, is The American Transcendentalists: Essential Writings. This is a Modern Library paperback edition published in 2006. It provides excellent brief biographies of many influential
transcendental thinkers and includes samples of their writings. Its well-worn pages are always within reach on my writing desk. In 1980, Paul Brooks wrote a wonderful, small volume about the town of Concord in 1846. The People of Concord: One Year in the Flowering of New England is the story of the town and some of its people during that exciting period. It was published by Globe Pequot Press of Chester, CT.
These titles and comments are written as a guide for those who are seeking some of the more useful materials about Thoreau and his times. In my opinion these books are helpful because they are approachable by both the scholar, laying a foundation for his or her more advanced work, and the person seeking personal
growth in an understanding of Thoreau and his influence. I hope this effort will be helpful as you seek to enlarge your Thoreau collection and gain more understanding of this exciting man of his time and ours.
Continue exploring at www.mappingthoreaucountry.org
Date: October 11, 2013 - 7:30pm
Coming Home to the Peace Of A Simple Life With Diana Lorence of Innermost House
"THE PEACE THAT I FELT DEEP WITHIN AS DIANA SPOKE
FELT WONDERFUL ...I CAME HOME."
For seven years Diana Lorence lived with her husband in an unelectrified, twelve-foot-square house hidden in the woods, in a world lit only by fire. Her Innermost Life answers her deepest need for something we have all left behind. Diana reminds us that it is not too late to regain the Paradise we have lost. What she has done in her way, we may do in our own. We each see something of ourselves in Diana's beautiful story. We all have an Innermost Life.
What people are saying
"...OPENS THE SOUL TO MEANING AND THE HEART TO FEELING LIFE ON A DEEPER LEVEL."
"I AM STILL A LITTLE STUNNED BY THE WHOLE EXPERIENCE ...
OPENS THE SOUL TO THE MEANING AND THE HEART TO FEELING LIFE ON A DEEPER LEVEL."
- Marion Crew, Unity Church, Walnut Creek, CA
"A LOVELY WOMAN WHO EMBODIES ... A PRAYERFUL, MEDITATIVE AND UNCOMPLICATED LIFESTYLE ...
WHAT WOULD THAT BE LIKE TO LIVE SO SIMPLY?"
- Natural Awakenings Magazine
"...IN FIFTEEN YEARS, THE BEST SPEAKER WE HAVE EVER HAD!"
- Unity Church Womens Club, Union City, CA
"...CAN'T GET ENOUGH OF THE DEPTH, SOUL, LOVE THAT YOU ARE CAPABLE OF SHARING..."
- Sandra Call-Sultan, President, Napa Women's Club, Napa, CA
Trancendentalism Council, First Parish
FLOATING FROM PAST TO FUTURE:
Henry David Thoreau and his boat, the Musketaquid
Date: October 14, 2013 - 12:00pm - 2:00pm
Location: Walden Pond (Main Beach)
"...We seemed to be embarked on the placid current of our dreams, floating from the past to future as silently as one awakes to fresh morning or evening thoughts. We glided noiselessly down the stream..." Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack River
Date: October 17, 2013 - 4:00pm - 6:00pm
Location: Cumnock Hall, UMass Lowell
Date: October 18, 2013 - 8:00pm
Location:51 Walden, Concord, Massachusetts
Concord: The Transcendentalists
Hector Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique
Charles Ives, The Unanswered Question
Date: October 19, 2013 - 8:00pm
Location: 51 Walden, Concord, Massachusetts
Concord: The Transcendentalists
Eric Sawyer, World Premier of Fantasy Concerto: Concord Conversations. Soloists are Triple Helix: Bayla Keyes, violin; Lois Shapiro: piano; Rhonda Rider: cello
Date: November 4, 2013 - 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Location: Thoreau Farm, 341 Virginia Road, Concord, MA
"Walden" Seminar and Discussion Group
4 Mondays, November 4-25
Before Botox, Thoreau was the champion of perennial youth: "Age is no better, hardly so well, qualified for an instructor as youth, for it has not profited so much as it has lost." We will see how Thoreau goads us into seeing multiple perspectives -- there are "as many ways as there can be drawn radii from one centre" -- in order to help us to "give up our prejudices." Conversation will explore elements and consistency of Thoreau's worldview, as he moves us from our work-a-day lives into the beauty and wonder that surrounds us. Thoreau's Ode to Joy!
The commentary and discussion will explore key themes of Thoreau's classic work, Walden. Emphasis will be given to individual as opposed to collective action, the exploration of living not only deliberately but also authentically, and the importance of time, eternity, and myth within the work. Walden gives voice to Thoreau's vision but also to the spirit of the times -- romanticism, science, and philosophy -- of New England Transcendentalism, which you will understand finally in all its esoteric and exacting splendor.
Takeaways: Walden demystified. Thoreau de-stereotyped. All your questions answered. And a greater sense of the wonder, to boot, at being awake, aware, and alive!
Michael Frederick, Executive Director of The Thoreau Society, will lead a discussion group on Thoreau's Walden. Co-sponsored by The Thoreau Society and the Transcendentalism Council of First Parish in Concord. Michael did his graduate work at Harvard on Thoreau's Social Philosophy and post graduate work at the Thoreau Institute on Thoreau's late natural history project, Wild Fruits. Enrollment limited to 12.
Fee: $60 donation to the Thoreau Society
Includes Refreshments at the Birth House of Henry D. Thoreau. Participants will receive a paperback edition of Walden, Princeton University Press.
Time/Place: 7:00-9:00 pm, Thoreau Birth House, 341 Virginia Road Concord, MA
Requirements: You should read the "Economy" Chapter before the first session.