Henry David Thoreau gravesite
Henry David Thoreau
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery
Concord, Massachusetts


"I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion."

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"The greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad, and if I repent of anything, it is very likely to be my good behavior."

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"If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life."

          —Henry David Thoreau




by Lucius Furius

Henry on a mid-19th-century talk show....

[AB=Ainsworth Brown; HDT=Henry David Thoreau]

AB: Good afternoon. This is "The Ainsworth Brown Show" and I am Ainsworth Brown. We are privileged to have as our guest this afternoon Henry David Thoreau who has written a book, Walden; or, Life in the Woods. Henry, come on out....

[Applause from studio audience as Thoreau enters]

Welcome, welcome. Glad you could come... Have a seat....

HDT: Thank you.

AB: Henry, I have not had a chance to read your book yet but I do know that it is, in the popular parlance, "hot, hot, hot." Graham's Magazine has called it "always racy and stimulating", the product of a "powerful and accomplished mind"... So what's this Walden about?

HDT: It's the story of the two years, two months, and two days I spent living alone in a cabin by Walden Pond, near Concord, Massachusetts.

AB: What happened?

HDT: I built the cabin. That first summer I grew some beans as a cash crop. In the book I talk about the food I ate, the plants and animals I saw, and the changing of the seasons.

AB: So what did you eat?

HDT: I ate wild berries and grapes. I occasionally caught some fish or a wild animal—I once trapped and butchered a woodchuck who was bothering my bean plants—but mostly I ate rice, bread made from rye and cornmeal with molasses as sweetening, potatoes, and peas.

AB: Frankly, Henry, except for the woodchuck, it sounds pretty boring.

HDT: I can see why you might think so, Mr. Brown. But, as I contend in the book, the external circumstances in which one finds one's self are far less important than one's inner life. I wanted to simplify my material needs to a point where I could spend just a few hours each day satisfying them and have all the rest of my time free for contemplation and self-improvement. Most men are slaves to their possessions and to the jobs they are forced to perform in order to pay for them.

AB: I get it—a Marxist/capitalist kind of thing....

HDT: I'm not sure I know what you mean....

AB: What were the results of your contemplations?

HDT: I have recorded many of my thoughts in the book, but I don't really think of contemplation as a means for book-creation, or as a means to anything at all, but rather as an end in itself.

AB: I see... so it's like meditation, TM, that kind of thing....

HDT: Yes, it is meditation.

AB: But you would meditate for like—what—ten hours a day?

HDT: Yes, it might frequently have been that long.

AB: Wow! Did you spend all your time at the pond or did you go other places too?

HDT: I have always walked wherever I've wanted to. Individual men may think they own particular pieces of property but, in a truer sense, trees, mountains and animals cannot be owned; they belong to Nature and to the men who would love and protect them.

AB: [Turning to camera] So, there you have it. Henry David Thoreau, Marxist eco-warrior. He has regularly spent ten hours a day in meditation and once killed, butchered with his own hands, and ate a woodchuck who was devouring his bean plants. His book [holding a copy up to the camera] is Walden; or, Life in the Woods. Thank you, Henry. Please tune in tomorrow when my guest will be....