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Walden Pond: A History

Homage to Thoreau's masterpiece, demonstrating just how central Walden is to American environmentalism

By: W Barksdale Maynard

404 pages, 95 halftones, 6 line illus

Oxford University Press USA

Paperback | Dec 2005 | #152850 | ISBN: 0195181379
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £12.99 $16/€14 approx

About this book

Compiled to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Thoreau's masterpiece, this is at once homage and exegesis on the fount of American environmentalism.

From the publisher's announcement:

Perhaps no other natural setting has as much literary, spiritual, and environmental significance for Americans as Walden Pond. Some 700,000 people visit the pond annually, and countless others journey to Walden in their mind, to contemplate the man who lived there and what the place means to us today. Here is the first history of the Massachusetts pond Thoreau made famous 150 years ago. W. Barksdale Maynard offers a lively and comprehensive account of Walden Pond from the early nineteenth century to the present. From Thoreau's first visit at age 4 in 1821--"That woodland vision for a long time made the drapery of my dreams"--to present day efforts both to conserve the pond and allow public access, Maynard captures Walden Pond's history and the role it has played in social, cultural, literary, and environmental movements in America. Along the way Maynard details the geography of the pond; Thoreau's and Emerson's experiences of Walden over their lifetimes; the development of the cult of Thoreau and the growth of the pond as a site of literary and spiritual pilgrimages; rock star Don Henley's Walden Woods Project and the much publicized battle to protect the pond from developers in the 1980s; and the vitally important ecological symbol Walden Pond has become today. Exhaustively researched, vividly written, and illustrated with historical photographs and the most detailed maps of Thoreau country yet created, Walden Pond: A History reveals the many ways an ordinary pond has come to be such an extraordinarily inspiring symbol.


"Important, illuminating, and of great narrative appeal."--Natural History
"A painstakingly researched, reportorial history that begins with Thoreau's first glimpse of the pond in 1821 and carries through to the present day. It's a classic tale of Americans loving their national treasures to death.... This book will surely appeal to Thoreau buffs and to those concerned with natural and historic preservation. It provides a comprehensive history of the landscape that inspired one of America's most important authors."--Publishers Weekly "Delightful and engaging.... A clear, evenhanded rendering of a complex human drama."Philadelphia Inquirer
"Maynard has delivered what will be the enduring chronicle, from Thoreau's first dream to our time, of one of America's and the world's most important historical sites."--Edward O. Wilson, Harvard University "Essential for readers of Thoreau."--Kirkus Reviews
"Fresh and original. This book is going to be a standard work for anyone interested in the legacy of Thoreau and transcendentalism in America." --Donald Worster, author of Nature's Economy: A History of Ecological Ideas "Maynard's move to disengage Walden the idea--the shrine of the environmental movement--from Walden the place, one that 'has long been a beloved swimming hole for greater Boston,' has helped him to construct a scholarly study of an iconic, if less than idyllic place."--John Motyka, The New York Times Book Review
"An eminently readable, deeply informed account of the tangled history of one of this country's most sacred--and contested--places."--Lawrence Buell, author of Emerson
"A tour de force.... I stand in awe of what Mr. Maynard has been able to do."--Edmund Schofield, Thoreau Society Bulletin
"This is a book we have long needed, and Maynard is clearly the person to have written it. Painstakingly researched, delightfully written--Maynard tells a fascinating story that's a joy to read."--Bradley P. Dean, editor of Thoreau's Faith in a Seed
"Whether Thoreau himself, his biographers, an early 1900s photographer, or dirt-on-the-hands naturalists, each such person's affinity for a special spot at Walden will resonate with Maynard's readers. The intimacy this generates in Maynard's history only strengthens its vitally important contribution to Thoreauvian studies."--Booklist
"W. Barksdale Maynard picks up where Henry David Thoreau left off. In the pond that Thoreau transformed into a symbol of spirituality, the birthplace of environmentalism, and a classic of American literature, Maynard discerns a fascinating mirror of a changing American culture. Combining environmental, social, and literary history, Maynard surveys the clashing interests at the pond and plumbs the conflicts of American life. As his thorough study makes plain, lovers of Walden have at once helped to preserve and to endanger their sanctuary. If that special place is to survive for new generations, it requires sensitivity to the many purposes it has served. Walden Pond bears a complex past. Thanks to Maynard, it may continue to enjoy an inspiring future." --Robert A. Gross, University of Connecticut
"Maynard's superb social, cultural, and environmental history of Walden Pond brings alive its history, from geological times through Thoreau's stay there to the trailer park and town dump of the present. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in Thoreau, Walden, or the American environmental movement."--Joel Myerson, editor of Transcendentalism: A Reader

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