Walden Pond is a sacred place in American literature, a symbol of one man's effort to savor and preserve the natural world. Now, on the 150th anniversary of the publication of Henry David Thoreau's Walden comes a fitting tribute to the man, the book and the location that inspired this seminal experiment in simple living.

In Walden Pond: A History, author W. Barksdale Maynard not only offers a wonderfully detailed portrait of the place itself but also explains the cultural context for Thoreau's decision to build a home in the woods. A professor of architecture at Johns Hopkins University and a consultant for the Walden Woods Project, Maynard weaves together a history of the land, the Transcendental movement and the all-important relationship between Thoreau and his mentor, Ralph Waldo Emerson.

It was Emerson, the father of Transcendentalism, who owned the land on the shores of Walden Pond where Thoreau and a group of his friends raised a 10- by 15-foot house in 1845. Emerson supported Thoreau's endeavor but wasn't interested in year-round rustic living himself, preferring "a comfortable study in town." Using old photographs, maps and illustrations, Maynard creates a vivid picture of the house and its environs that will enrich any reader's appreciation of Walden. Also included is a comprehensive look at Thoreau's influence on figures from Yeats to Kerouac and a description of recent efforts to save Walden Pond from environmental threats that would undoubtedly trouble the man who made it famous.

 

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