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Who was Thoreau?

ThoreauThose of you who are taking the slow and steady approach to reading the first chapter of Walden are finally making your way out of the philosophical part of the chapter and into the nitty gritty --- what a relief!  Meanwhile, the fast readers who are waiting for the rest of us to catch up might be interested in the essay titled "Thoreau" by his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson. 

Mom recommended the additional reading material, which is really a heart-felt eulogy and character sketch.  I'm glad she did.  The 21 page essay is easier to read than Walden, and it made me like Thoreau a lot better.  You can read the essay online (or download it) here --- skip ahead to page 207 to find the part I'm talking about.

Here are some teaser quotes:

[Thoreau] was bred to no profession; he never married; he lived alone; he never went to church; he never voted; he refused to pay a tax to the State; he ate no flesh, he drank no wine, he never knew the use of tobacco; and, though a naturalist, he used neither trap nor gun....

"I love Henry," said one of his friends, "but I cannot like him; and as for taking his arm, I should as soon think of taking the arm of an elm tree...."

No college ever offered him a diploma, or a professor's chair; no academy made him its corresponding secretary, its discoverer, or even its member. Perhaps these learned bodies  feared the satire of his presence....

There is a flower known to botanists, one of the same  genus with our summer plant called "Life-Everlasting", a Gnaphalium like that, which grows on the most inaccessible cliffs of the Tyrolcsc mountains, where the chamois dare hardly venture, Weekend Homesteader paperbackand which the hunter, tempted by its beauty, and by his love (for it is immensely valued by the Swiss maidens), climbs the cliffs to gather, and is sometimes found dead at the foot, with the flower in his hand. It is called by botanists the Gnaphalium leontopodium, but by the Swiss Edelweiss, which signifies Noble Purity. Thoreau seemed to me living in the hope to gather this plant, which belonged to him of right. The scale on which his studies proceeded was so large as to require longevity, and we were the less prepared for his sudden disappearance.


For those of you who are waiting until the last minute, you've still got a week before we'll start discussing chapter one of Walden.  Don't forget!



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