Walden, or, Life in the Woods

Walden, or, Life in the Woods

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On July 4, 1845, Henry David Thoreau moved into the cabin he had built on the shore of Walden Pond, thus beginning the most famous experiment in simple living in American history. On the 150th anniversary of that event, Houghton Mifflin, successor to Thoreau's original publisher, is proud to publish a new edition of Walden, annotated by the distinguished Thoreau scholar Walter Harding and illustrated with Thoreau's own drawings. Even those who have read Walden many times will find much that is new in this edition, and those reading the book for the first time will discover why it has changed the lives of generations of readers.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 295 pages
  • 134.62 x 208.28 x 25.4mm | 498.95g
  • Random House USA Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Annotated
  • annotated edition
  • 0679418962
  • 9780679418962
  • 49,037

Flap copy

In 1845 Henry David Thoreau left his pencil-manufacturing business and began building a cabin on the shore of Walden Pond near Concord, Massachusetts. This lyrical yet practical-minded book is at once a record of the 26 months Thoreau spent in withdrawal from society -- an account of the daily minutiae of building, planting, hunting, cooking, and, always, observing nature -- and a declaration of independence from the oppressive mores of the world he left behind. Elegant, witty, and quietly searching, Walden remains the most persuasive American argument for simplicity of life clarity of conscience. For the first time, the authoritative editions of works by major American novelists, poets, scholars, and essayists collected in the hardcover volumes of The Library of America are being published singly in a series of handsome paperback books. A distinguished writer has contributed an introduction for each volume, which also includes a chronology of the author's life and career, an essay on the text, and notes. "From the Trade Paperback edition.show more

Back cover copy

By virtue of its casual, off-handedly brilliant wisdom and the easy splendor of its nature writing, Thoreau's account of his adventure in self-reliance on the shores of a pond in Massachusetts is one of the signposts by which the modern mind has located itself in an increasingly bewildering world.show more

About Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau was born on July 12, 1817, in Concord, Massachusetts. His father worked successively as a farmer, a grocer, and a manufacturer of pencils, and the family was frequently in difficult financial straits. After studying locally, Thoreau won admission to Harvard. When Ralph Waldo Emerson moved to Concord in 1835, Thoreau formed a close relationship with him (although the friendship would later give way to mutual criticism) and with others associated with the Transcendentalist group, including Margaret Fuller, Orestes Brownson, Bronson Alcott, Jones Very, and Theodore Parker. He worked in his father's pencil business while keeping the journals that would become his life's work, running to millions of words.  Thoreau took over the Concord Academy for several years, where he taught foreign languages and science, before closing the school in 1841. By now he was regularly publishing poems and essays in The Dial. For a time he worked in Emerson's household as a handyman, and in 1845 he built a cabin on some property of Emerson's at Walden Pond, staying for a little over two years: 'My purpose in going to Walden Pond was not to live cheaply nor to live dearly there, but to transact some private business with the fewest obstacles.' (During this time he maintained an active social life in Concord.) He spent a night in jail in 1846 as a protest against slavery, and later explained his motives in the essay 'Civil Disobedience' (1849). His first book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849), most of which had been written at Walden Pond, was based on a boat trip he took some years earlier with his brother. The book made little impact and sold only a few hundred copies.  Thoreau--who at this time was supporting himself as a surveyor--became increasingly involved in the Abolitionist movement and began to work for the Underground Railroad, sheltering escaped slaves en route to Canada.  Walden, on which he had been working ever since his residence at the pond, went through multiple revisions before he considered it ready for publication. This was intended as the fullest expression of his philosophy: 'Be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought. Every man is the lord of a realm beside which the earthly empire of the Czar is but a petty state, a hummock left by the ice.' It was published in 1854 and proved unexpectedly successful.  Thoreau met John Brown in 1857, and following Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry delivered 'A Plea for Captain John Brown' in his defense: 'I know that the mass of my countrymen think that the only righteous use that can be made of Sharpe's rifles and revolvers is to fight duels with them, when we are insulted by other nations, or to hunt Indians, or shoot fugitive slaves with them, or the like. I think that for once the Sharpe's rifles and the revolvers were employed in a righteous cause.' For many years Thoreau had been at work on a projected study of American Indians, compiling thousands of pages of notes and extracts, and in 1861 he traveled to Minnesota, where he visited the Lower Sioux Agency at Redwood. By this time, however, he had contracted tuberculosis and it became clear that he would not live long; he died on May 6, 1862. His later travel writings, The Maine Woods (1864) and Cape Cod (1865), were published posthumously.show more