Articles and Features

Henry David Thoreau Publishes Walden

August 9, 1854

Week of August 9, 1998

A busy summer is no excuse to ignore Henry David Thoreau. After weeks of silence from me, I've finally found a reason to sacrifice some of my valuable time to this endeavor, the 144th anniversary of the publishing of Henry David Thoreau's book, Walden.

It was one of those holidays when I received gifts, either Christmas or my birthday. I was in high school and I had asked my parents for a book by Henry David Thoreau. My mother nodded as if she knew that I really didn't know what I wanted, "Why do you want that?" My only answer was some mumblings about wanting to read the book, when in reality, a teacher of mine had recommended it with a brief description of Thoreau's philosophy. When I received my present I knew it was a book by its weight, but still said, "I wonder what it is." My grandfather had a knowing look in his eye and replied, "It's Walden." I'm sure he was so positive of my lack of research that he was safe telling me that much, but I had learned the title of the book I wanted, even though I didn't know why I wanted it. I smiled and eagerly tore the wrapping paper saying, "Alright, Henry David Thoreau!"

I tried to read the book. It sits on my book shelf beside other unread classics that I have purchased because a library "should" have them. Walden was my first experience with the act of buying a book because "smart" people read books like that. No matter how smart I become, I still find myself doing that. Ironically, my quote collection has tons of Thoreau quotes that I find true and lovely. I think I will rescue my copy of Walden and read it for myself.

In other news, Quotes of the Week might not be so weekly for the rest of the summer. With that I will leave you with the first Thoreau quote.

Introduction and quote compilation by Laura S. Moncur, Staff Writer.

"Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each."
"Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life. Aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something."
"If you would convince a man that he does wrong, do right. Men will believe what they see."
"What people say you cannot do, you try and find that you can."
"Do not hire a man who does your work for money, but him who does it for love of it."
"There is no remedy for love but to love more."
Journal, July 25, 1839
"He enjoys true leisure who has time to improve his soul's estate."
Journal, February 11, 1840
"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."
Walden, Conclusion, 1854
"Our houses are such unwieldy property that we are often imprisoned rather than housed in them."
Walden: Economy, 1854
"Man is the artificer of his own happiness."
Journal, January 21, 1838
"Goodness is the only investment that never fails."
Walden: Higher Laws, 1854
"I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestioned ability of a man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor."
"If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them."
"That man is the richest whose pleasures are the cheapest."
"[Water is] the only drink for a wise man."
"Men are born to succeed, not fail."
"It is an interesting question how far men would retain their relative rank if they were divested of their clothes."
Walden, 1854
"How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book."
Walden: Reading, 1854
Featured Books
The following books and tapes are available through
  • Walden Paperback by Henry David Thoreau - Every library should have it and its spine should be well cracked. (I'm going to crack mine as soon as I'm finished here.)
  • Civil Disobedience, Solitude and Life Without Principle Paperback by Henry David Thoreau - The justification for his rebellion (he refused to pay taxes because of the Mexican American War).
  • Henry David Thoreau : Three Complete Books Hardcover by Henry David Thoreau - Get Walden, Cape Cod, and The Maine Woods in a hardbound edition surely to last forever in your bookcase (especially if you don't read it).
  • The Portable Thoreau Paperback by Henry David Thoreau, Carl Bode - If you are actually planning on reading his works, this is the book to buy. At 698 pages, it hardly seems portable, but you receive a collection of his works to keep you reading for awhile. Enjoy!
For more information about Henry David Thoreau, try these links:
  • Thoreau World Wide - A good introduction to Henry David Thoreau. Make sure you read Background behind Walden.
  • The Life of Henry David Thoreau - No snazzy pictures, but a good outline of the author's life.
  • The Writings of Henry D. Thoreau - A great site! You can view a scan of Thoreau's handwriting (including analysis and translation), a list of related sites, and a frequently asked questions (FAQ) file.
Previous: Dave Barry Next: The Suicide of Cleopatra