Some remaining thoughts from readers on the lovable crank, Henry David Thoreau. Here’s Dr. Mark Yakich, an English professor at Loyola University:
In reply to the ongoing discussion about Thoreau and his contradictions, I’d like to highlight his Journal. When most of us think of Thoreau, we think of Walden and Civil Disobedience and perhaps an essay such as “Walking.” What all those texts have in common, in fact, is his journal—the two million words he wrote over 20-some years and mined continually as he wrote his more formal essays and lectures. There are numerous abridged versions of the journal, which has never been published in its entirety, the latest and, I believe, the best was published by New York Review Books and edited by Damion Searls.
As to Thoreau’s contradictions, which other readers have rightly noted are often our own internal contradictions, I can offer two examples nearly at random, thumbing through my underlined copy of the Journal. On the one hand, we have this (from p. 257, April 13, 1854):
On the evening of the 5th the body of a man was found in the river between Fair Haven Pond and Lee’s, much wasted. How these events disturb our associations and tarnish the landscape! It is a serious injury done to a stream.
And then this (from p. 418, December 3, 1856):