The Journal of Henry David Thoreau - Volume 3

When Henry David Thoreau died in 1862 he left behind a journal of over two million words, more than what most major writers produce in a lifetime.
alternate textJohn Dos Passos tells a brutal and dehumanizing story of the effects of a regimented war machine on ordinary soldiers.

The winter of 1851–52 was a period of loneliness for Thoreau. His friendship with both Waldo and Lidian Emerson continued to deteriorate, a situation he regretted with a measure of bitterness. Thoreau writes often in this volume of his longing for close friendship and laments his personal coldness although he continued to see his friend Ellery Channing, taking long walks with him and his dog, furthering what would be the most lasting friendship of Thoreau’s life.

Despite his loneliness, he was very involved in human affairs. He cared for a fugitive slave on his way to freedom in Canada, an act of disobedience that could have landed Thoreau in jail. He also sympathized with the recent Irish Catholic immigrants, deeply resenting their mistreatment at the hands of those who maligned them. He gathered clothing for their children and visited them in their shanties.During this time Thoreau’s walks became an even larger part of his days in Concord, gradually widening to encompass nearby towns. His reading of the works of the British essayist William Gilpin had an impact on his consciousness of the landscape and its many shades of color, resulting in his studies of sunsets and moonlit nights.

He was outdoors a great deal of the time, walking or working at various surveying jobs. More studies of nature occupied him: bees and wasps in the fall; lichens in late winter; the dimensions of an April flood, Concord’s worst in decades. He began to value Concord’s older farmers—men who found joy in the beauty of the world around them and loved life with a natural ease despite the drudgery of their work.

Thoreau did little professional writing during this time, although we find him writing drafts for “Walking” and “Wild Apples” and writing at some length on the craft of writing and pondering how a journal can be a work of art.

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