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Thoreau published "Walden" 150 years ago this month

 
 
Reply Mon 9 Aug, 2004 01:14 pm
Thoreau was a thinker and writer whose ideas still resonate. He died a virtual unknown and this book was out of print shortly after he published it. Yet 150 years later, it's published in several editions.

Here's a nice article about "Walden" though I think you have to register with the Seattle Times to access it.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/artsentertainment/2001998673_walden09.html

Has Thoreau ever inspired you?
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Noddy24
 
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Reply Mon 9 Aug, 2004 02:35 pm
I read Thoreau in my teens and felt that he spent a great deal of time patting himself on the back for his sensitivity and simplicity.

Since then, I've come to appreciate him more.

Interestingly enough, both of my sons as teenagers felt that his tendency to brag was an off-putting flaw.
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Dartagnan
 
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Reply Mon 9 Aug, 2004 03:26 pm
Interesting. I've read a fair amount about Thoreau lately and that point has been made, that he's a bit too self-congratulatory. Maybe so. For some reason, I forgive him that, even though it's a behavior I normally despise!

I'm almost done reading "A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers," his first book. Also published to no fanfare. He touches on some of the same themes as "Walden" though not as elegantly. His admiration for Hindu philosophy comes through loud and clear, though...
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littlek
 
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Reply Mon 9 Aug, 2004 05:55 pm
My first thought on reading this title is - "Just 150 years ago?" I always thought it was longer ago.
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farmerman
 
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Reply Mon 9 Aug, 2004 05:58 pm
never engage in any enterprise that requires a new suit.
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Letty
 
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Reply Tue 10 Aug, 2004 07:44 am
Read and taught Thoreau, D'art. Admire him and quote him often. "Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity."

I can't verify this, but I love what he is reputed to have said to his aunt as he lay dying:

Aunt: Henry, have you made your peace with God?
Thoreau: Why Auntie. I didn't know that we had ever quarreled.
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Dartagnan
 
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Reply Tue 10 Aug, 2004 08:45 am
My own fave quote, als0 possibly apocryphal, goes something like this: Thoreau served a day in the Concord jail for not paying a tax that he felt supported the Mexican War (and the expansion of slavery into Texas). This part is true.

Supposedly, when his friend and mentor Emerson visited him in jail, he asked, "Henry, what are you doing in there?"

And Thoreau replied, "Ralph, what are you doing out there?"
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Letty
 
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Reply Tue 10 Aug, 2004 08:49 am
I had forgotten that one, D'art. and that night in jail was the impetus for passive resistance, a cause taken up by Martin Luther King, Jr. Quite a man, Henry.
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Piffka
 
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Reply Tue 10 Aug, 2004 09:11 am
Hi D'artgnan. Thanks for reminding us. As it happened, I'm in the midst of moving my office furniture around and had Walden in hand yesterday. I said to myself that I really should re-read this and put it on my (new) re-read shelf.

It is surprising to me that Thoreau was only on Walden Pond for a short time -- two years, two months and two days.

I love the sentiment of this quote and think I've lived my life believing it:

"We can never have enough of nature. We must be refreshed by inexhaustible vigor, vast and titanic features...."


I admit, the sentence goes on to mention several other marvels of nature including rain lasting three weeks. <grin>
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Dartagnan
 
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Reply Tue 10 Aug, 2004 09:56 am
Yes, Thoreau has had a major influence, both as a political thinker (and actor) and as a naturalist. Gandhi is also supposed to have read "Civil Disobedience".

He wasn't really well known until the 1960s, which makes perfect sense when you think about it. It's as though the popular imagination wasn't ready for him until then! The US Postal Service came out with a stamp in his honor (finally) c. 1971...
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Letty
 
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Reply Tue 10 Aug, 2004 10:09 am
I was taking a look see at Brook Farm today. Wish I knew a little more about that experiment that failed. Was Thoreau a part of that? I know that Emerson was. Never quite understood transcendentalism.
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Dartagnan
 
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Reply Tue 10 Aug, 2004 10:23 am
Can't recall if Thoreau was at Brook Farm; I thinkn not. Transcendentalism is a complex topic, and I don't feel competent to sum it up accurately. It was an amalgam of various systems, including some of the German philosophers of the time, as well as Eastern thought.

Key, I think, was the idea that God (or god) was inherent in all of us, and in all living things...
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Letty
 
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Reply Tue 10 Aug, 2004 10:30 am
I'll check it out again, D'art. If I recall correctly, transcendentalism had to do with abandoning the THEN world in favor of a better one.

I do recall Emerson's quote about, "....the world exists for you, build therefore your own world..."

Good thread, D'art, however, I have been doing far too much research lately. Confused
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Dartagnan
 
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Reply Tue 10 Aug, 2004 01:25 pm
I found this by googling Transcendentalism. It's from a site maintained by a guy named Joel Peckham, who seem to know something about the subject:

The American Romantic movement and its offspring, American Transcendentalism participated in the reaction against a neoclassical ideal that stressed the value of rational, order-centered, approaches to art and spirituality as they were expressed in the writings of Locke and Bacon. Based in the artistic philosophies of German transcendentalists and Romantics such as Goethe, Kant, Schiller, and Hegel, and on the literary conventions of British authors such as Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Byron, major 19 century American authors and artists created a unique movement integrating these revolutionaly ideals (particularly the romantic emphasis on a harmonious, almost, primitive, connectedness to the natural world and the spiritual signifigance of its sublime manifestations) with the dawning frontier spirit, intense nationalism, and democratic idealization of the common man that characterized American social and political movements of the period.

http://www.geocities.com/joelpeckham/transcendentalism.html
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Letty
 
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Reply Tue 10 Aug, 2004 01:58 pm
Great! Thanks, d'art. The Germans and the Brits. That's an interesting combination. I can see Blake's mysticism, and definitely the common man approach on the part of Thoreau.

"I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately"...fascinating that quote.(think that's how it went)
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