Daily Observations

Daily Observations: Thoreau on the Days of the Year

Edited by Steve Grant
Engravings by Barry Moser
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 128
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  • Book Info
    Daily Observations
    Book Description:

    "How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book," wrote Henry David Thoreau in Walden. Today that book continues to provoke, inspire, and change lives all over the world, and each rereading is fresh and challenging. Yet as Thoreau's countless admirers know, there is more to the man than Walden. An engineer, poet, teacher, naturalist, lecturer, and political activist, he truly had multiple lives to lead, and each one speaks forcefully to us today.Sponsored by the Thoreau Society, the brief, handsomely presented books in this series offer the thoughts of a great writer on a variety of topics, some that we readily associate with him, some that may be surprising. Each volume includes selections from his familiar published works as well as from less well known lectures, letters, and journal entries. The books include original engravings by renowned illustrator and book artist Barry Moser.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-096-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. INTRODUCTION: Henry David Thoreau and His Journal
    (pp. v-xiii)

    This book is drawn entirely from the pages of Henry David Thoreau’sJournal. It is organized as a daybook, with a journal excerpt for each day of the year, usually but a fraction of what Thoreau entered for that day. It constitutes a circle of the seasons, which Thoreau watched intensely and wrote about almost daily. There is much else here, too, because Thoreau always kept one eye on society—and its shortcomings.

    To those unfamiliar with his life, Henry David Thoreau is often regarded as the hermit who lived in a little hut in the woods beside Walden Pond...

    (pp. 1-8)

    1 January 1852I have so much faith in the power of truth to communicate itself, that I should not believe a friend if he should tell me that he had given credit to an unjust rumor concerning me.

    2 January 1859When I hear the hypercritical quarrelling about grammar and style, the position of the particles, etc. etc., stretching or contracting every speaker to certain rules of theirs,—Mr. Webster, perhaps, not having spoken according to Mr. Kirkham’s rule,—I see that they forget that the first requisite and rule is that expression shall be vital and natural, as...

    (pp. 9-16)

    1 February 1852 It depends upon how a man has spent his day—whether he has any right to be in his bed. So spend some hours that you may have a right to sleep in the sunshine.

    2 February 1854 Already we begin to anticipate spring, and this is an important difference between this time and a month ago. We begin to say that the day is springlike.

    Is not January the hardest month to get through? When you have weathered that, you get into the gulfstream of winter, nearer the shores of spring.

    3 February 1852 Those who...

  5. MARCH
    (pp. 17-25)

    1 March 1852After having read various books on various subjects for some months I take up “a report on “Farms by a committee of Middlesex Husbandmen—and read of the number of acres of bog that some farmer has redeemed & the number of rods of stone wall that he has built—& the number of tons of hay he now cuts or of bushels of corn or potatoes he raises there—& I feel as if I had got my foot down on to the—solid & sunny earth—the basis of all philosophy—& poetry—& religion...

  6. APRIL
    (pp. 27-34)

    1 April 1852Sat awhile before sun-set on the rocks in Saw Mill Brook—A brook need not be large to afford us pleasure by its sands & meanderings and falls & their various accompaniments. It is not so much size that we want as picturesque beauty & harmony. If the sound of its fall fills my ear it is enough.

    2 April 1853We cannot well afford not to see the geese go over a single spring, and so commence our year regularly.

    3 April 1853The last two Tribunes I have not looked at—I have no time...

  7. MAY
    (pp. 35-42)

    1 May 1859The catechism says that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, which of course is applicable mainly to God as seen in his works. Yet the only account of its beautiful insects—butterflies, etc.—which God has made and set before us which the State ever thinks of spending any money on is the account of those which are injurious to vegetation! This is the way we glorify God and enjoy him forever. Come out here and behold a thousand painted butterflies and other beautiful insects which people the air, then...

  8. JUNE
    (pp. 43-49)

    1 June 1854Now I see gentle men and ladies sitting at anchor in boats on the lakes in the calm afternoons—under parasols—making use of nature—Not always accumulating money. The farmer hoeing is wont to look with scorn & pride on a man sitting in a motionless boat a whole half day—but he does not realize that the object of his own labor is perhaps merely to add another dollar to his heap—nor through what coarseness & inhumanity to his family & servants he often accomplishes this.

    2 June 18533 ½ Am When I...

  9. JULY
    (pp. 51-56)

    1 July 1852I drank some high colored water from a little stream in the meadow—for I love to drink the water of the meadow or the river I pass the day on—& so get eyes to see it with—

    2 July 1858There is something in the scenery of a broad river equivalent to culture and civilization. Its channel conducts our thoughts as well as bodies to classic and famous ports, and allies us to all that is fair and great.

    3 July 1840Do not thoughts and men’s lives enrich the earth and change the aspect...

  10. AUGUST
    (pp. 57-65)

    1 August 1860How much of beauty—of color, as well as form—on which our eyes daily rest goes unperceived by us! No one but a botanist is like to distinguish nicely the different shades of green with which the open surface of the earth is clothed,—not even a landscape-painter if he does not know the species of sedges and grasses which paint it.

    2 August 1854I must cultivate privacy. It is very dissipating to be with people too much. As C. says, it takes the edge off a man’s thoughts to have been much in society...

    (pp. 66-73)

    1 September 1859Bought a pair of shoes the other day, and, observing that as usual they were only wooden-pegged at the toes, I required the seller to put in an extra row of iron pegs there while I waited for them. So he called to his boy to bring those zinc pegs, but I insisted upon iron pegs and no zinc ones. He gave me considerable advice on the subject of shoes, but I suggested that even the wearer of shoes, of whom I was one, had an opportunity to learn some of their qualities.

    2 September 1856My...

    (pp. 75-87)

    1 October 18515 Pm Just put a fugitive slave who has taken the name of Henry Williams into the cars for Canada. He escaped from Stafford County Virginia to Boston last October, has been in Shadracks place at the Cornhill Coffee-house—had been corresponding through an agent with his master who is his father about buying—himself—his master asking $600 but he having been able to raise only $500.—heard that there were writs out for two Williamses fugitives—and was informed by his fellow servants & employer that Augerhole Burns & others of the police had called...

    (pp. 88-96)

    1 November 1858As the afternoons grow shorter, and the early evening drives us home to complete our chores, we are reminded of the shortness of life, and become more pensive, at least in this twilight of the year. We are prompted to make haste and finish our work before the night comes.

    2 November 1858The beauty of the earth answers exactly to your demand and appreciation.

    3 November 1857To see a remote landscape between two near rocks! I want no other gilding to my picture-frame. There they lie, as perchance they tumbled and split from off an...

    (pp. 97-104)

    1 December 1856Slate-colored snowbirds flit before me in the path, feeding on the seeds on the snow, the countless little brown seeds that begin to be scattered over the snow, so much the more obvious to bird and beast. A hundred kinds of indigenous grain are harvested now, broadcast upon the surface of the snow. Thus at a critical season these seeds are shaken down on to a clean white napkin, unmixed with dirt and rubbish, and off this the little pensioners pick them. Their clean table is thus spread a few inches or feet above the ground.


    (pp. 105-106)
    (pp. 107-108)
    (pp. 109-110)
    Wesley T. Mott
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 111-112)