This volume of seven essays and a late lecture by Henry David Thoreau makes available important material written both before and after Walden. First appearing in the 1840s through the 1860s, the essays were written during a time of great change in Thoreau's environs, as the Massachusetts of his childhood became increasingly urbanized and industrialized.
William Rossi's introduction puts the essays in the context of Thoreau's other major works, both chronologically and intellectually. Rossi also shows how these writings relate to Thoreau's life and career as both writer and naturalist: his readings of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Charles Darwin; his failed bid for commercial acceptance of his work; and his pivotal encounter with the utter wildness of the Maine woods. In the essays themselves, readers will see how Thoreau melded conventions of natural history writing with elements of two popular literary forms – travel writing and landscape writing – to explore concerns ranging from America's westward expansion to the figural dimensions of scientific facts and phenomena.
Thoreau the thinker, observer, wanderer, and inquiring naturalist – all emerge in this distinctive composite picture of the economic, natural, and spiritual communities that left their marks on one of our most important early environmentalists.
William Rossi is an associate professor of English at the University of Oregon. He is the author of essays on Thoreau, Emerson, and others and coeditor of two volumes of Thoreau's Journal for the Princeton University Press edition of his writings.
"I know of no one working in Thoreau studies with a deeper understanding of Thoreau's relation to the natural sciences and the natural history of his day. William Rossi's introduction is better than any treatment of these essays I have seen."
– H. Daniel Peck, Vassar College
"This slender volume is filled with an amazing range of topics, and it gives us great insight into the world of Thoreau as well as into life in America in the nineteenth century."
– Barbara G. Mahany, Current Books on Gardening & Botany