Key Collecting Areas: Collecting Thoreau

46.  Henry David Thoreau.  Manuscript for the essay “Walking,” readied for publication in the Atlantic Monthly, [1862].

Walking, by  H.D. Thoreau

Ink on paper, with some pencil markings.  From the Henry David Thoreau Papers (part of the CFPL Vault Collection).  Gift of James T. Fields, 1873.

The essay “Walking” is one of a number of pieces Thoreau reworked for publication in the months before his death from tuberculosis in May 1862.  It was based largely on journal entries dating between 1850 and 1852 and on lectures he had delivered at two different periods in the 1850s.  Some of the pages in this manuscript were literally removed from Thoreau’s lecture notes; some were copied directly from his journal.  Portions of it are in the hand of his sister Sophia, whose assistance as amanuensis the dying author required.  First published in the Atlantic Monthly for June 1862, the piece was—like Emerson’s essay “Culture” (see item 40)—part of the dedication gift James T. Fields sent to the Concord Free Public Library in October 1873.

Made famous by the title of a Sierra Club book, the passage shown here (below the extensive deletion) is one of the most-quoted from all of Thoreau’s writings: “The West of which I speak is but another name for the Wild; and what I have been preparing to say is, that in Wildness is the preservation of the world.”

When Fields gave this piece to the library in 1873, Thoreau’s reputation offered little reason to suspect that its appraisal value would eventually far surpass that of the Emerson, Holmes, Lowell, and Motley manuscripts that formed part of the same gift or the Hawthorne manuscript that he presented two years later.


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