The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Walden (book)
WALDEN; or, LIFE IN THE WOODS, the record of Henry D. Thoreau's famous experiment of Walden published at Boston in 1854. In 1845 Thoreau, impelled by the desire of proving that man could be entirely independent of his kind, retired to the shores of Walden Pond, near Concord, Mass., and there built a hut with his own hands and kept it in order for two years. His livelihood was gained by the cultivation of a few acres, by his labor as a surveyor and by odd jobs as carpenter, etc., for his neighbors. His vaunted independence was still far from realization, but this life of a recluse gave him time for introspection. He read and wrote a great deal and became very familiar with the wild life of the neighborhood. Birds answered his call and beasts approached him without fear, as in the case of Saint Francis of Assisi. ‘Walden’ is the record of his experiences and the key to his mental processes during that interesting period. Because of the author's high standing as naturalist, litterateur, poet and above all as interpreter of nature the work is of the greatest interest and has also great psychological value. The work is free from the pedantry of science, is replete with interesting facts in natural history, not, however, retailed disjointly. The permanent interest of the work, one of the greatest of woodland books and one of the most original works in American literature, is due to the variable charm, contradictions and surprises in which it abounds as does nature herself. Consult the work in the new edition of Thoreau's works (Boston 1906) and Thoreau's ‘Walden’ (in ‘Macmillan's Pocket Classics,’ New York 1911).