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How I met Henry David Thoreau . . .

01 Mar

At some point during the decade of the 1970s I read an article in the San Antonio Light, one of San Antonio’s daily newspapers, a report of an interview conducted by a Light reporter with a nationally-known San Antonio attorney that specialized in criminal cases. His work took him across the nation and to many foreign destinations, and he talked about the extensive travel his duties required.

He told the reporter and readers of the San Antonio Light that he always carried a copy of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden on his travels. Whether on a plane or train or bus, whether in a hotel amid the hustle and bustle of big cities or in a motel room in a rural area, Thoreau’s journal provided the peace and quiet he needed for rest and relaxation. He said that over the years, his original copy became so worn that it needed to be replaced.

Fascinated by the effect of the writing as voiced by the attorney, I hastened to the library in search of Thoreau—I found him, and in the years since I have held Thoreau and his writings  close at hand—they give me the same peace and quiet enjoyed by the criminal lawyer. The well-thumbed copy I now use, one that I heartily recommend, is entitled Henry David Thoreau—Walden and “Civil Disobedience,” a Signet Classic paperback printed in 1980 by The New American Library, Inc., New York, NY. I treasure the copy for several reasons, not the least of which is the former owner’s signature inside the front cover, that of my youngest daughter, penned while studying Thoreau during her first year of college.

The runner-up to “Why I value my copy of Walden” is the afterword written by Perry Miller (1905—1963), an American intellectual historian and Harvard University professor. Miller’s brilliant analysis of Walden and “Civil Disobedience” should be read before reading the book—such pre-reading will give the reader a head start on understanding Thoreau’s life and his writings.

I believe that many, perhaps most, of those that read this posting will rush out to look for the book. There’s no need to rush, and no need to leave home—at the time of this posting, twenty-three copies of the book may be found online at http://www.abebooks.com/, the same site that the folks at http://www.halfpricebooks.com/ use to determine their selling price for books. At Abebooks, prices for Walden begin at one dollar and top out at twenty dollars. Try the site—you’ll like it! (In the interests of full disclosure, I must say, regretfully, that I have no stock in either company).

If any readers of this posting have not been formally introduced to Henry David Thoreau, I will proudly make the introduction by referring such persons to the following biographical study—plato.stanford.edu/entries/thoreau/. I trust that they will find a new friend in Hank—yep, I take the liberty of calling him Hank based on our long friendship.

Enjoy!

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