Thoreau: In Praise Of Sensuality

Kyle Minor unearths an 1856 letter from Thoreau to Unitarian minister H.G.O. Blake. He expresses dueling opinions on Walt Whitman's 2nd edition of Leaves Of Grass:

There are 2 or 3 pieces in the book which are disagreeable to say the least, simply sensual. He does not celebrate love at all. It is as if the beasts spoke. I think that men have not been ashamed of themselves without reason. No doubt, there have always been dens where such deeds were unblushingly recited, and it is no merit to compete with their inhabitants.

But even on this side, he has spoken more truth than any American or modern I know. I have found his poem exhilaratingly encouraging. As for its sensuality,–& it may turn out to be less sensual than it appeared–I do not so much wish that those parts were not written, as that men & women were so pure that they could read them without harm, that is, without understanding them. ...Of course Walt Whitman can communicate to us no experience, and if we are shocked, whose experience is it that we are reminded of?