Friday, July 11, 2014


Gosh, what an ugly looking book. Your hand might not want to reach for it, but you should, the reading is a delight from both Henry David Thoreau's own time when he traveled by train in 1861 (one year before his untimely death) with young Horace Mann, Jr. (also an early fatality) from Massachusetts to Minnesota and back, to the 21st century author Corinne Hosfeld Smith's charmed and friendly prose. She's a librarian from Paxton, Massachusetts and I want to imagine an ideal one. She has much the same vigor, humor and hankering for detail that Thoreau had and she shares it throughout this sturdy portrait and study. This is the longest and least known of the Thoreau's excursions, which included up and in and around New England and the American Northeast, Canada (Quebec), Maine Woods and Cape Cod. As Thoreau scholar Laura Dassow Walls shares in her excellent introduction, "Walking became a form of thinking, which took shape as writing — he (Thoreau) once remarked that the length of his walks marked the length of his journal entries — and in his second essay, "A Walk to Wachusett," he wrote that "the landscape lies far and fair within, and the deepest thinker is the farthest travelled."

Go west, young man.


Westward I Go Free:
tracing Thoreau's last journey

Corinne Hosfeld Smith
Green Frigate Books, 2012 



Luster said...


I saw the photograph, had the thought and then saw that you had written it as your first sentence. A homely book but one that sounds well worth reading.

journey forth,

Bob Arnold / Longhouse said...


I've never cared for Thoreau in the full beard (late in life) when we can have the beard underneath chin, clean chiseled man of the mountains visage, hair wildly brushed by hand to one side, and the stare from the owl branches. Nothing compared.

This is a terrific addition to the Thoreau scholarship library. . .and since you are hiking through his "Journals" right now, perfect. Don't hesitate.

The RR tracks of the cover photograph are key since they seem to be the same tracks just edging the aura of his Walden hermitage. The author when visiting the site was praying for a passing of the train (commuter) and she got lucky and there the train came. Every time I've been there, over five decades, any visit, the train has passed. Lucky, I guess.

You sort of want the train to appear to balance and vie with the emerald of the place. It all comes together then. As long as the train keeps going, as all good trains must do.

all's well, Bob