Walden is Thoreau's classic autobiographical account of his experiment in solitary living, his refusal to play by the rules of hard work and the accumulation of wealth, and above all the freedom it gave him to adapt his living to the natural world around him. This new edition traces the sources of Thoreau's reading and thinking and considers the author in the context of his birthplace and sense of history--social, economic, and natural. An ecological appendix provides modern identifications of the myriad plants and animals to which he gave close attention as he became acclimated to his life in the woods by Walden Pond.


Concord and Thoreau

Unlike his (then) more celebrated neighbours, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Ellery Channing the younger, Bronson Alcott and his daughter Louisa May, Thoreau was a native son of Concord. He was born in 1817 in a house on the old Virginia Road, around two miles east of the town centre. True, the family soon moved away, first to Chelmsford, Massachusetts, then to Boston, but by the time Henry was 7, they had returned to his native town, where his father gave up schoolteaching to go into the business of making lead pencils. So the boy could fairly be said to have grown up in the region, exploring its rivers and surrounding woods even as he received his more formal education. And the man lived there all his life, apart from his four years at Harvard, a year on Staten Island, tutoring the children of William Emerson, brother of Ralph Waldo, and brief trips to Maine, Cape Cod, New Jersey, and the Great Lakes.

There is no town in the United States more densely associated with the political and cultural history of the country. Lying less than twenty miles west-north-west of Boston, the township was settled as early as 1635, only five years after the Great Migration of non-separating Puritans from England. Set in a central position in Massachusetts as settled through the eighteenth century, but far enough from Boston not to be swamped by its economic and political dominance, Concord not only prospered in its modest way as a centre for agriculture and trade, but was chosen as the site of the colony's first provincial congress in 1774-5, the radicals' alternative to the government-dominated General Court of Massachusetts.

By then the American Revolution was all but under way. That provincial congress was voting money to support a militia . . .

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