Henry David Thoreau

His speech was called “our intellectual Declaration of Independence.” Its theme was the universe itself; its hero, Man Thinking. Now, one hundred and seventy-five years later, a noted scholar sees Emerson’s great vision as both more beleaguered and more urgent than ever.

ON AUGUST 31, 1837, THE DAY AFTER COMMENCEMENT—they don’t seem to have gone in for vacations in those earnest times—the academic year at Harvard was ushered in with Ralph Waldo Emerson’s address to Phi Beta Kappa on a stock topic, “The American Scholar.” The meetin Read more >>

Elizabeth, Mary, and Sophia Peabody managed to extend the boundaries that cramped the lives of nineteenth-century women. Elizabeth introduced the kindergarten movement to America, Mary developed a new philosophy of mothering that we now take for granted, and Sophia was liberated from invalidism by her passionate love for her husband.

Other men,” Ralph Waldo Emerson told an admiring crowd in Boston’s Odeon Theater toward the end of 1845, “are lenses through which we read our own minds.” The eminent philosopher then went on to tell his audience of the importance in their lives of “Represent Read more >>

In the blustery days of late fall, the traveler still can find the sparseness and solitude that so greatly pleased the Concord naturalist in 1849

One morning in early October 1849, Henry David Thoreau peered through the rainstreaked window of a stagecoach as it rolled along a sandy, rutted road on the north shore of Cape Cod. Read more >>

From Fort Ticonderoga to the Plaza Hotel, from Appomattox Courthouse to Bugsy Siegel’s weird rose garden in Las Vegas, the present-day scene is enriched by knowledge of the American past

Walden is here, of course; but so too is Fanny Farmer’s first cookbook

America is not a nation of readers, yet books have had a deep and lasting effect on its national life. Read more >>
EARLY IN THE afternoon of the last day of August 1839, Henry David Thoreau and his brother John put a homemade dory in the Concord River, not far above the bridge where the Minutemen had fired on British troops sixty-four years Read more >>

The city has been a lure for millions, but most of the great American minds have been appalled by its excesses. Here an eminent observer, who knows firsthand the city’s threat, surveys the subject.

EVERY THURSDAY , when I leave my apartment in a vast housing complex on Columbus Avenue to conduct a university seminar on the American city, I reflect on a double life—mine. Read more >>
When Constable Samuel Staples of Concord, Massachusetts, placed Henry David Thoreau under arrest for nonpayment of his state poll tax in late July of 1846, he had no idea that his act would bring about international repercussions a century later. Read more >>
About to die at the untimely age of forty-four in 1883, Dr. George Miller Beard, a Connecticut physician and pioneer in neurology, remarked: “I should like to record the thoughts of a dying man for the benefit of science, but it is impossible.” And with those words, Dr. Read more >>