Yet another volume about Thoreau on the centennial anniversary of his death brings us a firm, well-fixed portrait of the man. The profile reveals Thoreau at all periods of his life, in his life, in his home-setting and the infrequent sallies forth from his beloved Concord (to Harvard to get his education, to Staten Island to teach, to Fire Island to seek Margaret Fuller Ossoli's body, to the Maine Woods and Cape Cod and finally in a vain effort to improve his health to the Minnesota woods). The words chosen are his own ("Says I to Myself", his journal, provides insight on writing and nature; excerpts from Walden and "The Last Days of John Brown" show his mature style and social outlook) and those of famed contemporaries (Josiah Quincy remarked on his seeming indifference at Harvard, George Eliot retrospectively reviewed Walden, Emerson said at his grave "He had a beautiful soul"). The pitch of intellectual life at Concord, singular in time and place when Hawthorne, Bronson Alcott, Emerson, Thoreau, Channing intermingled — and the timbre of Thoreau's incorruptible individualism whether as student, teacher, lecturer, surveyor, traveller, writer — come through clearly. A chronology of life, works, list of mss. collections and for the tourist four tours through Concord conclude a book less exciting and provocative than The Thoughts of Thoreau (p. 955, 1962) but for its historical neatness a solid contribution.
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