The Heart of Thoreau's Journals

The Heart of Thoreau's Journals

The Heart of Thoreau's Journals

The Heart of Thoreau's Journals

Excerpt

Among the few pieces of personal property left by Thoreau at his death, by far the most valuable were the thirty- nine volumes of his journals, carefully packed in a stout wooden box of his own making. Although he had quarried from these most of the material in the two books published during his lifetime, and also much of that used in his addresses, lectures, essays, poems, and private letters, only a small fraction of their two million words had yet found the way into print. William Ellery Channing used these journals freely in preparing his 'Thoreau: The Poet-Naturalist.' On the death of Sophia Thoreau they passed into the hands of H. G. O. Blake, who made from them his successive compilations entitled 'Early Spring in Massachusetts,' 'Summer,' 'Winter,' and 'Autumn.' These ably edited volumes, appearing at intervals between 1881 and 1892, did much to hasten the growth of Thoreau's reputation, but they were partially responsible for the still general impression that Thoreau was above all an observer of nature and an amateur scientist, and for our consequent neglect of his thought. Because he chose to arrange his selections, not chronologically, but according to the seasons of the year, Blake was forced to ignore his author's intellectual development and, in effect, to convert into the random notes of a naturalist a work which is best regarded as an enormous autobiography. Believing that the public interest in Thoreau's journals was not yet satisfied, Houghton Mifflin Company . . .

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