The Adventures Of Henry Thoreau
On Sale: February 18, 2014
Hardcover / e-Book
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Henry David Thoreau has long been an intellectual icon and
folk hero. In this strikingly original profile, Michael Sims
reveals how the bookish, quirky young man who kept quitting
jobs evolved into the patron saint of environmentalism and
Working from nineteenth-century letters and diaries by
Thoreau’s family, friends, and students, Sims charts Henry’s
course from his time at Harvard through the years he spent
living in a cabin beside Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts.
Sims uncovers a previously hidden Thoreau—the rowdy boy
reminiscent of Tom Sawyer, the sarcastic college iconoclast,
the devoted son who kept imitating his beloved older
brother’s choices in life. Thoreau was deeply influenced by
his parents—his father owned a pencil factory in Concord,
his mother was an abolitionist and social activist—and by
Ralph Waldo Emerson, his frequent mentor. Sims relates
intimate, telling moments in Thoreau’s daily life—in
Emerson’s library; teaching his neighbor and friend,
Nathaniel Hawthorne, to row a boat; exploring the natural
world and Native American culture; tutoring Emerson’s nephew
on Staten Island and walking the streets of New York in the
hope of launching a writing career.
Returned from New York, Thoreau approached Emerson to ask if
he could build a cabin on his mentor’s land on the shores of
Walden Pond, anticipating the isolation would galvanize his
thoughts and actions. That it did. While at the cabin, he
wrote his first book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack
Rivers, and refined the journal entries that formed the core
of Walden. Resisting what he felt were unfair taxes, he
spent the night in jail that led to his celebrated essay
“Civil Disobedience,” which would inspire the likes of
Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
Chronicling Thoreau’s youthful transformation, Sims reveals
how this decade would resonate over the rest of his life,
and thereafter throughout American literature and history.
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