Henry David Thoreau
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery
"I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion."
* * * * * *
"The greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad, and if I repent of anything, it is very likely to be my good behavior."
* * * * * *
"If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life."
—Henry David Thoreau
by Lucius Furius
Henry on a mid-19th-century talk show....
[AB=Ainsworth Brown; HDT=Henry David Thoreau]
AB: Good afternoon. This is "The Ainsworth Brown Show" and I am Ainsworth Brown. We are privileged to have as our guest this afternoon Henry David Thoreau who has written a book, Walden; or, Life in the Woods. Henry, come on out....
[Applause from studio audience as Thoreau enters]
Welcome, welcome. Glad you could come... Have a seat....
HDT: Thank you.
AB: Henry, I have not had a chance to read your book yet but I do know that it is, in the popular parlance, "hot, hot, hot." Graham's Magazine has called it "always racy and stimulating", the product of a "powerful and accomplished mind"... So what's this Walden about?
HDT: It's the story of the two years, two months, and two days I spent living alone in a cabin by Walden Pond, near Concord, Massachusetts.
AB: What happened?
HDT: I built the cabin. That first summer I grew some beans as a cash crop. In the book I talk about the food I ate, the plants and animals I saw, and the changing of the seasons.
AB: So what did you eat?
HDT: I ate wild berries and grapes. I occasionally caught some fish or a wild animal—I once trapped and butchered a woodchuck who was bothering my bean plants—but mostly I ate rice, bread made from rye and cornmeal with molasses as sweetening, potatoes, and peas.
AB: Frankly, Henry, except for the woodchuck, it sounds pretty boring.
HDT: I can see why you might think so, Mr. Brown. But, as I contend in the book, the external circumstances in which one finds one's self are far less important than one's inner life. I wanted to simplify my material needs to a point where I could spend just a few hours each day satisfying them and have all the rest of my time free for contemplation and self-improvement. Most men are slaves to their possessions and to the jobs they are forced to perform in order to pay for them.
AB: I get it—a Marxist/capitalist kind of thing....
HDT: I'm not sure I know what you mean....
AB: What were the results of your contemplations?
HDT: I have recorded many of my thoughts in the book, but I don't really think of contemplation as a means for book-creation, or as a means to anything at all, but rather as an end in itself.
AB: I see... so it's like meditation, TM, that kind of thing....
HDT: Yes, it is meditation.
AB: But you would meditate for like—what—ten hours a day?
HDT: Yes, it might frequently have been that long.
AB: Wow! Did you spend all your time at the pond or did you go other places too?
HDT: I have always walked wherever I've wanted to. Individual men may think they own particular pieces of property but, in a truer sense, trees, mountains and animals cannot be owned; they belong to Nature and to the men who would love and protect them.
AB: [Turning to camera] So, there you have it. Henry David Thoreau, Marxist eco-warrior. He has regularly spent ten hours a day in meditation and once killed, butchered with his own hands, and ate a woodchuck who was devouring his bean plants. His book [holding a copy up to the camera] is Walden; or, Life in the Woods. Thank you, Henry. Please tune in tomorrow when my guest will be....