Walden

Walden

by Henry D. Thoreau
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Overview

One of the most influential and compelling books in American literature, Walden is a vivid account of the years that Henry D. Thoreau spent alone in a secluded cabin at Walden Pond. This edition—introduced by noted American writer John Updike—celebrates the perennial importance of a classic work, originally published in 1854. Much of Walden's material is derived from Thoreau's journals and contains such engaging pieces from the lively "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For" and "Brute Neighbors" to the serene "Reading" and "The Pond in the Winter." Other famous sections involve Thoreau's visits with a Canadian woodcutter and with an Irish family, a trip to Concord, and a description of his bean field. This is the complete and authoritative text of Walden—as close to Thoreau's original intention as all available evidence allows.

This is the authoritative text of Walden and the ideal presentation of Thoreau's great document of social criticism and dissent.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781537080161
Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date: 08/22/2016
Pages: 278
Product dimensions: 5.51(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.58(d)

About the Author

Henry D. Thoreau (1817–62) was an American author, naturalist, poet, and philosopher. He wrote many essays and books, including Civil Disobedience, Walking, and The Maine Woods, among others. John Updike (1932–2009) was a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, short story writer, and poet.

Read an Excerpt

Walden


By Henry D. Thoreau, J. Lyndon Shanley

PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS

Copyright © 2004 Princeton University Pres
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4008-8079-9



CHAPTER 1

Economy

When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I had built myself, on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and earned my living by the labor of my hands only. I lived there two years and two months. At present I am a sojourner in civilized life again.

I should not obtrude my affairs so much on the notice of my readers if very particular inquiries had not been made by my townsmen concerning my mode of life, which some would call impertinent, though they do not appear to me at all impertinent, but, considering the circumstances, very natural and pertinent. Some have asked what I got to eat; if I did not feel lonesome; if I was not afraid; and the like. Others have been curious to learn what portion of my income I devoted to charitable purposes; and some, who have large families, how many poor children I maintained. I will therefore ask those of my readers who feel no particular interest in me to pardon me if I undertake to answer some of these questions in this book. In most books, the I, or first person, is omitted; in this it will be retained; that, in respect to egotism, is the main difference. We commonly do not remember that it is, after all, always the first person that is speaking. I should not talk so much about myself if there were any body else whom I knew as well. Unfortunately, I am confined to this theme by the narrowness of my experience. Moreover, I, on my side, require of every writer, first or last, a simple and sincere account of his own life, and not merely what he has heard of other men's lives; some such account as he would send to his kindred from a distant land; for if he has lived sincerely, it must have been in a distant land to me. Perhaps these pages are more particularly addressed to poor students. As for the rest of my readers, they will accept such portions as apply to them. I trust that none will stretch the seams in putting on the coat, for it may do good service to him whom it fits.

I would fain say something, not so much concerning the Chinese and Sandwich Islanders as you who read these pages, who are said to live in New England; something about your condition, especially your outward condition or circumstances in this world, in this town, what it is, whether it is necessary that it be as bad as it is, whether it cannot be improved as well as not. I have travelled a good deal in Concord; and every where, in shops, and offices, and fields, the inhabitants have appeared to me to be doing penance in a thousand remarkable ways. What I have heard of Brahmins sitting exposed to four fires and looking in the face of the sun; or hanging suspended, with their heads downward, over flames; or looking at the heavens over their shoulders "until it becomes impossible for them to resume their natural position, while from the twist of the neck nothing but liquids can pass into the stomach;" or dwelling, chained for life, at the foot of a tree; or measuring with their bodies, like caterpillars, the breadth of vast empires; or standing on one leg on the tops of pillars,–even these forms of conscious penance are hardly more incredible and astonishing than the scenes which I daily witness. The twelve labors of Hercules were trifling in comparison with those which my neighbors have undertaken; for they were only twelve, and had an end; but I could never see that these men slew or captured any monster or finished any labor. They have no friend Iolas to burn with a hot iron the root of the hydra's head, but as soon as one head is crushed, two spring up.

I see young men, my townsmen, whose misfortune it is to have inherited farms, houses, barns, cattle, and farming tools; for these are more easily acquired than got rid of. Better if they had been born in the open pasture and suckled by a wolf, that they might have seen with clearer eyes what field they were called to labor in. Who made them serfs of the soil? Why should they eat their sixty acres, when man is condemned to eat only his peck of dirt? Why should they begin digging their graves as soon as they are born? They have got to live a man's life, pushing all these things before them, and get on as well as they can. How many a poor immortal soul have I met well nigh crushed and smothered under its load, creeping down the road of life, pushing before it a barn seventy-five feet by forty, its Augean stables never cleansed, and one hundred acres of land, tillage, mowing, pasture, and wood-lot! The portionless, who struggle with no such unnecessary inherited encumbrances, find it labor enough to subdue and cultivate a few cubic feet of flesh.

But men labor under a mistake. The better part of the man is soon ploughed into the soil for compost. By a seeming fate, commonly called necessity, they are employed, as it says in an old book, laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal. It is a fool's life, as they will find when they get to the end of it, if not before. It is said that Deucalion and Pyrrha created men by throwing stones over their heads behind them:–

Inde genus durum sumus, experiensque laborum, Et documenta damus quâ simus origine nati.


Or, as Raleigh rhymes it in his sonorous way,–

"From thence our kind hard-hearted is, enduring pain and care, Approving that our bodies of a stony nature are."


So much for a blind obedience to a blundering oracle, throwing the stones over their heads behind them, and not seeing where they fell.

Most men, even in this comparatively free country, through mere ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labors of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them. Their fingers, from excessive toil, are too clumsy and tremble too much for that. Actually, the laboring man has not leisure for a true integrity day by day; he cannot afford to sustain the manliest relations to men; his labor would be depreciated in the market. He has no time to be any thing but a machine. How can he remember well his ignorance–which his growth requires–who has so often to use his knowledge? We should feed and clothe him gratuitously sometimes, and recruit him with our cordials, before we judge of him. The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling. Yet we do not treat ourselves nor one another thus tenderly.

Some of you, we all know, are poor, find it hard to live, are sometimes, as it were, gasping for breath. I have no doubt that some of you who read this book are unable to pay for all the dinners which you have actually eaten, or for the coats and shoes which are fast wearing or are already worn out, and have come to this page to spend borrowed or stolen time, robbing your creditors of an hour. It is very evident what mean and sneaking lives many of you live, for my sight has been whetted by experience; always on the limits, trying to get into business and trying to get out of debt, a very ancient slough, called by the Latins, æs alienum, another's brass, for some of their coins were made of brass; still living, and dying, and buried by this other's brass; always promising to pay, promising to pay, to-morrow, and dying to-day, insolvent; seeking to curry favor, to get custom, by how many modes, only not state- prison offences; lying, flattering, voting, contracting yourselves into a nutshell of civility, or dilating into an atmosphere of thin and vaporous generosity, that you may persuade your neighbor to let you make his shoes, or his hat, or his coat, or his carriage, or import his groceries for him; making yourselves sick, that you may lay up something against a sick day, something to be tucked away in an old chest, or in a stocking behind the plastering, or, more safely, in the brick bank; no matter where, no matter how much or how little.

I sometimes wonder that we can be so frivolous, I may almost say, as to attend to the gross but somewhat foreign form of servitude called Negro Slavery, there are so many keen and subtle masters that enslave both north and south. It is hard to have a southern overseer; it is worse to have a northern one; but worst of all when you are the slave-driver of yourself. Talk of a divinity in man! Look at the teamster on the highway, wending to market by day or night; does any divinity stir within him? His highest duty to fodder and water his horses! What is his destiny to him compared with the shipping interests? Does not he drive for Squire Make-a-stir? How godlike, how immortal, is he? See how he cowers and sneaks, how vaguely all the day he fears, not being immortal nor divine, but the slave and prisoner of his own opinion of himself, a fame won by his own deeds. Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion. What a man thinks of himself, that it is which determines, or rather indicates, his fate. Self-emancipation even in the West Indian provinces of the fancy and imagination,–what Wilberforce is there to bring that about? Think, also, of the ladies of the land weaving toilet cushions against the last day, not to betray too green an interest in their fates! As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.

When we consider what, to use the words of the catechism, is the chief end of man, and what are the true necessaries and means of life, it appears as if men had deliberately chosen the common mode of living because they preferred it to any other. Yet they honestly think there is no choice left. But alert and healthy natures remember that the sun rose clear. It is never too late to give up our prejudices. No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof. What every body echoes or in silence passes by as true to-day may turn out to be falsehood to-morrow, mere smoke of opinion, which some had trusted for a cloud that would sprinkle fertilizing rain on their fields. What old people say you cannot do you try and find that you can. Old deeds for old people, and new deeds for new. Old people did not know enough once, perchance, to fetch fresh fuel to keep the fire a-going; new people put a little dry wood under a pot, and are whirled round the globe with the speed of birds, in a way to kill old people, as the phrase is. Age is no better, hardly so well, qualified for an instructor as youth, for it has not profited so much as it has lost. One may almost doubt if the wisest man has learned any thing of absolute value by living. Practically, the old have no very important advice to give the young, their own experience has been so partial, and their lives have been such miserable failures, for private reasons, as they must believe; and it may be that they have some faith left which belies that experience, and they are only less young than they were. I have lived some thirty years on this planet, and I have yet to hear the first syllable of valuable or even earnest advice from my seniors. They have told me nothing, and probably cannot tell me any thing, to the purpose. Here is life, an experiment to a great extent untried by me; but it does not avail me that they have tried it. If I have any experience which I think valuable, I am sure to reflect that this my Mentors said nothing about.

One farmer says to me, "You cannot live on vegetable food solely, for it furnishes nothing to make bones with;" and so he religiously devotes a part of his day to supplying his system with the raw material of bones; walking all the while he talks behind his oxen, which, with vegetable-made bones, jerk him and his lumbering plough along in spite of every obstacle. Some things are really necessaries of life in some circles, the most helpless and diseased, which in others are luxuries merely, and in others still are entirely unknown.

The whole ground of human life seems to some to have been gone over by their predecessors, both the heights and the valleys, and all things to have been cared for. According to Evelyn, "the wise Solomon prescribed ordinances for the very distances of trees; and the Roman prætors have decided how often you may go into your neighbor's land to gather the acorns which fall on it without trespass, and what share belongs to that neighbor." Hippocrates has even left directions how we should cut our nails; that is, even with the ends of the fingers, neither shorter nor longer. Undoubtedly the very tedium and ennui which presume to have exhausted the variety and the joys of life are as old as Adam. But man's capacities have never been measured; nor are we to judge of what he can do by any precedents, so little has been tried. Whatever have been thy failures hitherto, "be not afflicted, my child, for who shall assign to thee what thou hast left undone?"

We might try our lives by a thousand simple tests; as, for instance, that the same sun which ripens my beans illumines at once a system of earths like ours. If I had remembered this it would have prevented some mistakes. This was not the light in which I hoed them. The stars are the apexes of what wonderful triangles! What distant and different beings in the various mansions of the universe are contemplating the same one at the same moment! Nature and human life are as various as our several constitutions. Who shall say what prospect life offers to another? Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other's eyes for an instant? We should live in all the ages of the world in an hour; ay, in all the worlds of the ages. History, Poetry, Mythology!–I know of no reading of another's experience so startling and informing as this would be.

The greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad, and if I repent of any thing, it is very likely to be my good behavior. What demon possessed me that I behaved so well? You may say the wisest thing you can old man,–you who have lived seventy years, not without honor of a kind,–I hear an irresistible voice which invites me away from all that. One generation abandons the enterprises of another like stranded vessels.

I think that we may safely trust a good deal more than we do. We may waive just so much care of ourselves as we honestly bestow elsewhere. Nature is as well adapted to our weakness as to our strength. The incessant anxiety and strain of some is a well nigh incurable form of disease. We are made to exaggerate the importance of what work we do; and yet how much is not done by us! or, what if we had been taken sick? How vigilant we are! determined not to live by faith if we can avoid it; all the day long on the alert, at night we unwillingly say our prayers and commit ourselves to uncertainties. So thoroughly and sincerely are we compelled to live, reverencing our life, and denying the possibility of change. This is the only way, we say; but there are as many ways as there can be drawn radii from one centre. All change is a miracle to contemplate; but it is a miracle which is taking place every instant. Confucius said, "To know that we know what we know, and that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge." When one man has reduced a fact of the imagination to be a fact to his understanding, I foresee that all men will at length establish their lives on that basis.


Let us consider for a moment what most of the trouble and anxiety which I have referred to is about, and how much it is necessary that we be troubled, or, at least, careful. It would be some advantage to live a primitive and frontier life, though in the midst of an outward civilization, if only to learn what are the gross necessaries of life and what methods have been taken to obtain them; or even to look over the old day-books of the merchants, to see what it was that men most commonly bought at the stores, what they stored, that is, what are the grossest groceries. For the improvements of ages have had but little influence on the essential laws of man's existence; as our skeletons, probably, are not to be distinguished from those of our ancestors.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Walden by Henry D. Thoreau, J. Lyndon Shanley. Copyright © 2004 Princeton University Pres. Excerpted by permission of PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

1.Economy
2.Where I Lived, and What I Lived For
3.Reading
4.Sounds
5.Solitude
6.Visitors
7.The Bean-Field
8.The Village
9.The Ponds
10.Baker Farm
11.Higher Laws
12.Brute Neighbors
13.House-Warming
14.Former Inhabitants and Winter Visitors
15.Winter Animals
16.The Pond in Winter
17.Spring
18.Conclusion
On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

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Walden (Illustrated + FREE audiobook link + Active TOC) 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 123 reviews.
KyleofNWPHS More than 1 year ago
I recently had the pleasure of reading this fine book authored by Henry David Thoreau. This book has garnered a fair bit of controversy among those who have read it. Its a love it or hate it sort of book, and one must have an open mind truly appreciate the book. Inclosed in Walden, is the author's deep personal thoughts and beliefs, with his own unique brand of philosophy. Thoreau has a one of a kind writing style I have never seen outside of his own work. For his time, he probably would have been described as edgy, and without bounds. Enough of my own subjective opinion, lets take an analytical look at this interesting piece of American literature. In the first chapter in this book, our author in detail, describes his intentions to build a cabin and live off the land of Walden Pond. This was not in any way a new concept, as much of America lived in this rural way, but what sets Thoreau apart is he documented and wrote about his experience. Henry Thoreau believed he was making an attempt at achieving a purer form of lifestyle. Also included in this first chapter is the exact cost the author payed to appropriate his desired lifestyle in the form of the price of the materials paid to construct his dwelling, and precise accounts of price paid for the modest amount of food Thoreau purchased on his occasional visits into town. Often throughout the book, Henry Thoreau will enclose his own thoughts on certain topics. In on section, he reminisces on a time he spent in jail for a refusal to pay a state tax. This is just the sort of rebellion Thoreau would approve of. He held the view that the "savage" (as indians were apparently called during that time), lived a purer and less corrupt form of lifestyle. This opinion was formed by the reflection of the average man's life at the time. A man would work to afford a home, work to afford and buy all of these things that the author though to be unnecessary or too luxurious than needed. A "savage" simply made what he needed, he would never become a "slave" to any type of property owner or tax man. Henry David Thoreau had a unique and one of a kind form of philosophy. One finds it difficult to approximately and descisivly label his beliefs. Our author believed that each person should live by their own means, and their own way. Rejection of society norms was not necessarily a give-in to his school of thought, so long as those norms suited that individual. It is quite easy to dismiss Henry Thoreau as an antisocial misfit, but there is evidence in the book that he made frequent trips into town, and mentioned elsewhere he would have visitors at his home, and would seek to visit others. So this kind of belief form could really be best described as "to each his own", and to do only what you believe in and want to do. Lastly, self-sufficiency was stressed greatly, and is a great proponent to this way of thinking, as one who acts alone needs to be able to provide for themselves. Overall this was a very interesting book to read, and brings many things into questioning. It is a thinking person's book, and I enjoyed it greatly. Few authors have such a notoriety to just one book, and next to Civil Disobedience, it is his most famous work. All outdoor enthusiasts, fans of old literature, anarchists, and people with an offbeat point of view, will likely greatly appreciate and enjoy this great book by a man remembered mainly only for his be
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Walden" is one of the greatest and most important books in American literature, but this version is almost illegible on the Nook. Spend a couple more bucks and get another version.
Guest More than 1 year ago
On Easter of 2000 I visited Concord, Massachusetts, and purchased this volume in a gift shop just across Rt. 62 from the site of Henry¿s cabin. It had been raining the entire trip, but armed with my coat of many pockets, my backpack, and my umbrella, I entered and ¿sauntered¿ about the gift shop, glad to get out of the cold dampness if only for a moment. I picked up a couple of the customary t-shirts one needs as souvenirs when traveling and then found myself in the book section, drawn to the items which enthrall me wherever I go. One book stood out¿not because I needed it, for I had a copy at home that was given to me by a friend for my birthday one year, but because of the photo on the cover. Whoever had designed the cover had actually BEEN to Walden, and the proof was the wet leaf among the terra firma known as the Pond. With an accompanying introduction by Joyce Carol Oates, I couldn¿t refuse. The cover still touches me, but I have taken to reading books and giving them away afterward, a habit that I am almost sure that Henry would love. I instead remember Walden in other ways, as rain falling on cedars. Walden to me is always Easter, always Earth Day, always truth, and most of all, always a reminder that my life is not mean or poor but rich and ready for picking. The chapters relying on Spring, Economy, Reading, and most of all the swelling Conclusion, like a gentle coda after the soaring symphony, remind me of what still waits, regardless of how old I am, and how old I will get.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Walden was written as a backlash against consumerism and conformity. Thoreau built his own house with affordable and left over materials and sustained himself for a very small amount of money. The philosophy that he offers is one that many of us could benefit in listening to. Do we really need the most expensive cell phone on the market, or will the free model do? Do we really need a designer bag? Does it make us any happier to buy a house that is so elaborate it will add ten more years before we can retire? Walden questions what is truly important in life and what things are unnecessary burdens that we allow society to place on us.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Timeless words of wisdom.
saggie More than 1 year ago
I bought thid book and it took forever to download so i didnt get a chance to read it--too bad, maybe I will try again another time
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book manages to pass on more wisdom and inspiration then any other work I can think of. It will convict you into living life, it will cause you to see the world as a place of wonder and oppotunity. Only to be read with an open mind.
nazgul.sp on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The whole book reads like a journal of Thoreau's life in the woods. At some points it becomes very detailed and specific on the topic which he's talking about (fish, topography, plants, etc...) but it is worth reading through just to get to some of the best of his insights.
briandarvell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Walden turned out to be everything I expected. It was both an advocat for nature and environmentalism before such ever really existed in our minds. It was also a plead for simpleness and thought on behalf of the 19th-century people. He could see that people were changing and things were far too removed from what the original human condition used to be.This book is very applicable today, and I might even venture to say moreso than even at the time it was written. In the book Thoreau complains about how trains are making life too fast. What would he think of people who cannot even go to the grocery store without wearing a Bluetooth? What would he even think of a giant grocery store?Thoreau mentioned many of his colleagues whom came to his cottage or who he met during his walks. Although many of them weren't rich or worldly he still admired many for their straightforward approach to life. He was very critical of the modern cosmopolitan.The author gives a very plain look to doing things well. Almost too plain in my eyes since in the book nowhere does he mention what I believe is a very important aspect to life: responsibility to others. Be that as it may, his advice is still sound and pleasing to hear.My favorite portions of the book were related to his thoughts about lifestyle and reading. The concluding chapter is excellent as a summary of his beliefs in case one doesn't want to read through some of the tedious details in his later chapters (ie: size of ponds and how thick ice freezes in certain areas). I would happy recommend this book but it not so much an easy read anymore since the style is quite old-fashioned and I believe one could get almost as much out of reading half the book as the whole thing. If one is interested in reading a book that stands the test of time in the topics of simple and rewarding living this would be a great choice.
vandev11 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Henry David Thoreau's story follows his simple life at Walden Pond and his musings on life and society.At a first glance, "Walden" may seem to be a problematic work to discuss in a high school classroom. It is definitely a very dense work, and more suited for avid readers. However, the discussion that can occur as a class after reading this work is extremely important. There are ample opportunities to examine writing style as well as space for an in-depth discussion of the role of society and the individual.
marybethmcc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An important book for me - great read in the spring.
shellyiam on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love this book! When I'm stressed out I just sit down and read a few pages and it all goes away.
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I don't know if was just my copy or everyones but the second chapter was missing! That chapter was needed for a book report i had to do, so j had to buy a second copy that had said chapter! So i would not buy this book if i was you!
manirul01 More than 1 year ago
I really enjoy it
SophiaGracer80 More than 1 year ago
When I read Walden, it felt like Thoreau was filled with a deep sense of leisure that was wrought with an emotional and compassionate link to nature. The book was sprinkled with his usual irony, and like nature, Thoreau's beautiful melodic rhythym of writing.
VivPhD More than 1 year ago
"Walden" is the most important book ever written and published in the United States. Advocating simplicity of life, Thoreau has written America's most anti-American and anti-capitalist book. He was the last man to think hard about what life is actually for. He said he "wanted to drive life into a corner, to see whether it be mean or sublime." He said he "liked to have a broad margin to his life" which meant that he worked only a few hours a day for absolute necessities, so he could spend the rest of his time doing the things that interested him. In our busy, busy, rush, rush, smogbound world, Henry Thoreau was a breath of fresh air, a truly independent soul, who allowed no one else to do his thinking for him. He was the last real American, and he made an indelible impression on my life. I have re-read Walden every single year of my life, and am always the better for it.
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Did you know he was enviermentallsist