Thank goodness for Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac, which reminds us that it was on August 9, 1854 -- 160 years ago today -- that Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, his book of reflections upon living simply in natural surroundings, was first published. The Almanac explains:
Walden described two years in Thoreau’s life, during which he lived in a cabin by Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts, on land that belonged to his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson. In the spring of 1845, Thoreau borrowed an ax from Bronson Alcott and began clearing white pine for a space to build his home. The one-room cabin was 10 feet by 15 feet and cost $28 to build.Today’s edition of The Writer’s Almanac also notes that it is the birthday of English author Izaak Walton (The Compleat Angler). And it was 40 years ago when Republican U.S. President Richard M. Nixon, embroiled in the Watergate scandal and with impeachment proceedings against him set to commence in the House of Representatives, became the first and only American chief executive to resign the office. You can watch his announcement of that decision by clicking here.
Thoreau never claimed that he would be a total recluse during those years; he wrote in Walden: “I am naturally no hermit.” There were busy roads nearby, and he lived just a mile and a half outside of Concord. He went to town to see friends, do laundry at his parents’ house, or purchase supplies, and his friends often stopped by to see him -- Emerson of course, and Nathaniel Hawthorne and the Alcotts. …
People regularly asked Thoreau questions about the day-to-day details of his life at Walden: what he ate, whether he got lonely, how he made a living, and how much money he spent. In February of 1845, Thoreau agreed to give two lectures in Concord about his life at Walden, focused on his personal economics. By the time Thoreau left Walden Pond in 1847, he had compiled his journal entries and lectures into a rough draft of the book that would eventually become Walden. He wrote: “I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one.”