Imagens das páginas



Ir was in August and September, 1839, as the chronicle notes, that the voyage here recorded was made. Thoreau was just past his twenty-second birthday; he had been two years out of college, and though he had thus far printed nothing, he had already, four years before, begun that practice of noting his experience, observation, and reflection in a diary which he continued through life, so that not only did his journals furnish him with the first draft of what he published in his lifetime, but they formed a magazine from which, after his death, friendly editors drew successive volumes.

The Week is much more than a mere reproduction of his journal during the period under consideration. It was not published as a book until 1849, ten years after the excursion which it commemorated; but in its final form were inclosed many verses and some prose passages which had already appeared in the short

lived historic The Dial. It will be remembered that Thoreau was not only a contributor to that periodical from the beginning, but for a while had editorial charge of it; the editing, indeed, seemed to be handed about from one to another of the circle most concerned in its issue. Thus in the first number, July, 1840, appeared the excursus on Aulus Persius Flaccus, printed in the Week, pp. 405-412. So, also, his poems on Friendship saw the light first in the second number of The Dial, and there also appeared the poems The Inward Morning, The Poet's Delay, Rumors from an Eolian Harp, and others, as well as the study of Anacreon, with examples in translation. It is easy for the reader to see that the Week is Thoreau's commonplace book as well as journal.

He was living in his hut on Walden Pond when he edited his manuscripts for publication in book form, and Alcott visiting him one evening there heard him read some passages from the work. It is interesting to observe how immediately this man of fine instincts perceived the worth of what had as yet struck his ear only, listening as a friend. "The book," he writes in his diary, "is purely American, fragrant with the life of New England woods and streams, and could have been written nowhere else. Especially am I touched by his suffi

ciency and soundness, his aboriginal vigor, as if a man had once more come into Nature who knew what Nature meant him to do with her; Virgil and White of Selborne, and Izaak Walton, and Yankee settler all in one. I came home at midnight through the snowy woodpaths, and slept with the pleasing dream that presently the press would give me two books to be proud of,- Emerson's Poems and Thoreau's Week."1

This was written in March, 1847, and Thoreau was probably just about to try the publishers, if his manuscript were not even now resting in his hut from one of its journeys. For in a letter to Emerson, at that time in England, written November 14, 1847, Thoreau says, "I suppose you will like to hear of my book, though I have nothing worth writing about it. Indeed, for the last month or two, I have forgotten it, but shall certainly remember it again. Wiley & Putnam, Munroe, the Harpers, and Crosby & Nichols, have all declined printing it with the least risk to themselves; but Wiley & Putnam will print it in their series, and any of them anywhere, at my risk. If I liked the book well enough, I should not delay; but for the present I am indifferent. I believe this is, after all,

1 A. Bronson Alcott; his Life and Philosophy. By F. B. Sanborn and William T. Harris, p. 446.


the course you advised, Apto let it lie." 1 parently he used the opportunity of having it by him to touch it up now and then, for in a letter to Mr. J. Elliot Cabot, written in March, 1848, he says: "My book, fortunately, did not find a publisher ready to undertake it, and you can imagine the effect of delay on an author's estimate of his own work. However, I like it well enough to mend it, and shall look at it again, directly when I have dispatched some other things." The essay on Friendship which precedes the poem Friends, Romans, Countrymen, and Lovers, already referred to, appears to have been written at this time, for Mr. Alcott in his diary, under date of January 13, 1848, notes: "Henry Thoreau came in after my hours with the children, and we had a good deal of talk on the modes of popular influence. He read me a manuscript essay of his on Friendship, which he had just written, and which I thought superior to anything I had heard."8

Apparently Thoreau was convinced of the impossibility of persuading any publisher to take the book at his own risk, and was sufficiently confident of the worth of the volume to

1 The Emerson - Thoreau Correspondence in The Atlantic Monthly, June, 1892.

2 Ibid.

8 Henry D. Thoreau. By F. B. Sanborn [American Men of Letters], p. 304.

bear the expense of publication himself, although to do this he was obliged to borrow money, and, since the book did not meet its expenses, afterward to take up the occupation of surveying in order to cancel his obligation. The book was published by James Munroe & Co., Boston and Cambridge, apparently in the summer of 1849. Mr. George Ripley wrote a kindly notice of it in The Tribune, and James Russell Lowell reviewed it in a dozen pages in the Massachusetts Quarterly Review for December of the same year. With his own cunning in literary art he quickly divined the interior structure of the Week. "The great charm," he says, "of Mr. Thoreau's book seems to be that its being a book at all is a happy fortuity. The door of the portfolio cage has been left open, and the thoughts have flown out of themselves. The paper and types are only accidents. The page is confidential like a diary. . . . He begins honestly enough as the Boswell of Musketaquid and Merrimack. As long as he continues an honest Boswell, his book is delightful, but sometimes he serves his two rivers as Hazlitt did Northcote, and makes them run Thoreau or Emerson or indeed anything but their own transparent element. . . . We have digressions on Boodh, on Anacreon (with translations hardly so good as Cowley),

« AnteriorContinuar »