THOREAU OF WALDEN by Henry Beetle Hough


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Thoreau's brief, outwardly uneventful life nevertheless invites a more colorful choice of detail, more penetration into motives and a better grasp of his intellectual traditions and influences that this biographer achieves. Beyond its dreary factualism the biography falls into a peculiar stylistic error; the prose seems deliberately to smack of Thoreau's own exalted lyricism, and there is resultant loss of any sense of objectivity. Emerson, of course, figures prominently; Hawthorne, Greeley, Whitman (less so), but no one emerges as a clear, unmistakable personality. What the book needs above all is a surmise, interpretation, some sense of a central, organizing hand; an emphasis upon context, a notion even that Thoreau played a role within the Yankee spirit or within the protest against trialism. Give me H.S. Canby, Mark Van Doren, or any one of the other biographers and essayists who have helped place Thoreau in the modern understanding.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster