The Correspondence of Henry D. Thoreau - Vol. 1

The Correspondence of Henry D. Thoreau - Vol. 1

The Correspondence of Henry D. Thoreau - Vol. 1

The Correspondence of Henry D. Thoreau - Vol. 1


This is the inaugural volume in the first full-scale scholarly edition of Thoreau's correspondence in more than half a century. When completed, the edition's three volumes will include every extant letter written or received by Thoreau--in all, almost 650 letters, roughly 150 more than in any previous edition, including dozens that have never before been published.

Correspondence 1 contains 163 letters, ninety-six written by Thoreau and sixty-seven to him. Twenty-five are collected here for the first time; of those, fourteen have never before been published. These letters provide an intimate view of Thoreau's path from college student to published author. At the beginning of the volume, Thoreau is a Harvard sophomore; by the end, some of his essays and poems have appeared in periodicals and he is at work on A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers and Walden. The early part of the volume documents Thoreau's friendships with college classmates and his search for work after graduation, while letters to his brother and sisters reveal warm, playful relationships among the siblings. In May 1843, Thoreau moves to Staten Island for eight months to tutor a nephew of Emerson's. This move results in the richest period of letters in the volume: thirty-two by Thoreau and nineteen to him. From 1846 through 1848, letters about publishing and lecturing provide details about Thoreau's first years as a professional author. As the volume closes, the most ruminative and philosophical of Thoreau's epistolary relationships begins, that with Harrison Gray Otis Blake. Thoreau's longer letters to Blake amount to informal lectures, and in fact Blake invited a small group of friends to readings when these arrived.

Following every letter, annotations identify correspondents, individuals mentioned, and books quoted, cited, or alluded to, and describe events to which the letters refer. A historical introduction characterizes the letters and connects them with the events of Thoreau's life, a textual introduction lays out the editorial principles and procedures followed, and a general introduction discusses the significance of letter-writing in the mid-nineteenth century and the history of the publication of Thoreau's letters. Finally, a thorough index provides comprehensive access to the letters and annotations.


Mr Sparhawk Sir

The occupants of Hollis 32 would like to have that room painted and whitewashed, also if possible to have a new hearth put in

yours respectfully Thoreau & Richardson

Correspondent: Oliver Sparhawk (1805–1835), son of Samuel and Elizabeth McKinstry Sparhawk of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, attended Norwich Academy in Norwich, Vermont. He graduated from the school in 1823 and became a businessman in Conway, New Hampshire. Sparhawk later moved to Cambridge, where he kept books for Harvard’s treasurer before being appointed stew; ard of the college in 1831, a position he held until his death in June 1835. Sparhawk married Sarah B. Coffin (1809?-1861), daughter of Charles and Dorcas Parker Coffin, in 1834.

T and James Richardson Jr. (1817–1863), one of T’s college friends who corresponded with him, were roommates in Harvard’s Hollis Hall during the 1834 academic year.

Copy-text: ALS (MaLiTIW, Walden Woods Project)

Published: “Earliest Thoreau Letter Purchased,” Notes from Walden Woods (Lincoln, Mass.: Te Walden Woods Project, 2008): 5

Editor’s Notes

This letter is addressed “Mr O Sparhawk”.

PE supplies the year “1834” based on the fact that T and James Richardson Jr. roomed together only during that year.

From Augustus Goddard Peabody

May 30, 1836

Cambridge May 30. 1836.

Dear Thoreau,

After nine days of constant rain, we have some prospect of pleasant weather. I cannot describe my feelings of joy, rapture, and astonishment, but you may have some idea . . .

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