Early Essays and Miscellanies


This collection of fifty-three early pieces by Thoreau represents the full range of his youthful imagination. Collected, arranged, and carefully edited for the first time here, the writings date from 1828 to 1852 and cover a broad range of subjects: learning, morals, literature, history, politics, and love. Included is a major essay on Sir Walter Raleigh that was not published during the author's lifetime and a fragmentary college piece here published for the first time. Titles of essays published in the volume are given below.

Early Essays

  • The Seasons
  • Anxieties and Delights of a Discoverer
  • Men Whose Pursuit Is Money
  • Of Keeping a Private Journal
  • "We Are Apt to Become What Others . . . Think Us to Be"
  • Forms, Ceremonies, and Restraints of Polite Society
  • A Man of Business, a Man of Pleasure, a Man of the World
  • Musings
  • Kinds of Energetic Character
  • Privileges and Pleasures of a Literary Man
  • Severe and Mild Punishments
  • Popular Feeling
  • Style May . . . Offend against Simplicity
  • The Book of the Seasons
  • Sir Henry Vane
  • Literary Digressions
  • Foreign Influence on American Literature
  • Life and Works of Sir W. Scott
  • The Love of Stories
  • Cultivation of the Imagination
  • The Greek Classic Poets
  • The Meaning of "Fate"
  • Whether the Government Ought to Educate
  • Travellers & Inhabitants
  • History . . . of the Roman Republic
  • A Writer's Nationality and Individual Genius
  • L'Allegro & Il Penseroso
  • All Men Are Mad
  • The Speeches of Moloch & the Rest
  • People of Different Sections
  • Gaining or Exercising Public Influence
  • Titles of Books
  • Sublimity
  • The General Obligation to Tell the Truth
  • "Being Content with Common Reasons"
  • The Duty, Inconvenience and Dangers of Conformity
  • Moral Excellence
  • Barbarities of Civilized States
  • T. Pomponius Atticus
  • Class Book Autobiography
  • "The Commercial Spirit of Modern Times"


  • DIED . . . Miss Anna Jones
  • Aulus Persius Flaccus
  • The Laws of Menu
  • Sayings of Confucius
  • Dark Ages
  • Chinese Four Books
  • Homer. Ossian. Chaucer.
  • Hermes Trismegistus . . . From the Gulistan of Saadi
  • Sir Walter Raleigh
  • Thomas Carlyle and His Works
  • Love
  • Chastity & Sensuality

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Concord River
Notes on Illustrations
Historical Introduction
Textual Introduction
Textual Notes
Table of Textual Variants
Table of Emendations
Direitos de autor

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Palavras e frases frequentes

Acerca do autor (1975)

In September 1842, Nathaniel Hawthorne noted this social encounter in his journal: "Mr. Thorow dined with us yesterday. He is a singular character---a young man with much of wild original nature still remaining in him; and so far as he is sophisticated, it is in a way and method of his own. He is as ugly as sin, long-nosed, queer-mouthed, and with uncouth and somewhat rustic, although courteous manners, corresponding very well with such an exterior. But his ugliness is of an honest and agreeable fashion, and becomes him much better than beauty. On the whole, I find him a healthy and wholesome man to know." Most responses to Thoreau are as ambiguously respectful as was Hawthorne's. Thoreau was neither an easy person to like nor an easy writer to read. Thoreau described himself as a mystic, a Transcendentalist, and a natural philosopher. He is a writer of essays about nature---not of facts about it but of his ideals and emotions in its presence. His wish to understand nature led him to Walden Pond, where he lived from 1845 to 1847 in a cabin that he built. Though he was an educated man with a Harvard degree, fluent in ancient and modern German, he preferred to study nature by living "a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust." Knowing this, we should beware of misreading the book that best reflected this great experience in Thoreau's life: Walden; or, Life in the Woods (1854). It is not a handbook of the simple life. Though there are elements in the book of a "whole-earth catalogue" mentality, to focus on the radical "economic" aspects of Thoreau's work is to miss much in the book. Nor is it an autobiography. The right way to read Walden is as a "transcendental" narrative prose poem, whose hero is a man named Henry, a modern Odysseus in search of a "true America." Thoreau left Walden Pond on September 6, 1846, exactly two years, two months, and two days after he had settled there. As he explained in the pages of Walden: "I left the woods for as good a reason as I went to live there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one." Growth, change, and development were essential to his character. One should not overlook the significance of his selecting July 4 as the day for taking possession of his residence at Walden Pond, a day that celebrates the establishment of a new government whose highest ideal is individual freedom. In terms of Thoreau's redefinition of the nation-idea, "the only true America" is that place where one may grow wild according to one's nature, where one may "enjoy the land, but own it not." Thoreau believed that each person should live according to individual conscience, willing to oppose the majority if necessary. An early proponent of nonviolent resistance, he was jailed briefly for refusing to pay his poll tax to support the Mexican War and the slave system that had promoted that war. His essay "On Civil Disobedience" (1849), which came from this period of passive resistance, was acknowledged by Mahatma Gandhi (who read it in a South African jail) as the basis for his campaign to free India. Martin Luther King, Jr. later attributed to Thoreau and Gandhi the inspiration for his leadership in the civil rights movement in the United States. Thoreau contracted tuberculosis in 1835 and suffered from it sporadically afterwards. His health declined over three years with brief periods of remission, until he eventually became bedridden. Recognizing the terminal nature of his disease, Thoreau spent his last years revising and editing his unpublished works, particularly The Maine Woods and Excursions, and petitioning publishers to print revised editions of A Week and Walden. He died on May 6, 1862 at age 44.

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