I to Myself

I to Myself: An Annotated Selection from the Journal of Henry D. Thoreau

Edited by Jeffrey S. Cramer
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 528
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5vm41v
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  • Book Info
    I to Myself
    Book Description:

    It was his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson, another inveterate journal keeper, who urged Thoreau to keep a record of his thoughts and observations. Begun in 1837, Thoreau's journal spans a period of twenty-five years and runs to more than two million words, coming to a halt only in 1861, shortly before the author's death. The handwritten journal had somewhat humble origins, but as it grew in scope and ambition it came to function as a record of Thoreau's interior life as well as the source for his books and essays. Indeed, it became the central concern of the author's literary life. Critics now recognize Thoreau's journal as an important artistic achievement in its own right.

    Making selections from the entirety of the journal, Cramer presents all aspects of Thoreau: writer, thinker, naturalist, social reformer, neighbor, friend. No other single-volume edition offers such a full picture of Thoreau's life and work. Cramer's annotations add to the reader's enjoyment and understanding. He provides notes on the biographical, historical, and geographical contexts of Thoreau's life. The relation between Journal passages and the texts of works published in the author's lifetime receive special emphasis. A companion toWalden: A Fully Annotated Edition, this gift edition of the Journal will be dipped into and treasured, and it makes a welcome addition to any book lover's library.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15004-9
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xv-xxx)

    “My Journal is that of me which would else spill over and run to waste,” Thoreau wrote in 1841. At Walden a few years later he wrote this about the purpose of his journal:

    From all points of the compass, from the earth beneath and the heavens above, have come these inspirations and been entered duly in the order of their arrival in the journal. Thereafter, when the time arrived, they are winnowed into lectures, and again, in due time, from lectures into essays. And at last they stand, like the cubes of Pythagoras, firmly on either basis; like statues...

  6. Map of Concord
    (pp. xxvi-xxvii)
  7. THE JOURNAL
    • 1830s
      (pp. 1-14)

      October 22. “What are you doing now?” he asked.¹ “Do you keep a journal?” So I make my first entry to-day.

      To be alone I find it necessary to escape the present,—I avoid myself. How could I be alone in the Roman emperor’s chamber of mirrors?² I seek a garret. The spiders must not be disturbed, nor the floor swept, nor the lumber³ arranged.

      The Germans say, “Es ist alles wahr wodurch du besser wirst.”⁴

      November 3. If one would reflect, let him embark on some placid stream, and float with the current. He cannot resist the Muse.5As...

    • 1840s
      (pp. 15-43)

      January 27. What a tame life we are living! How little heroic it is!

      February 28. On the death of a friend,¹ we should consider that the fates through confidence have devolved on us the task of a double living, that we have henceforth to fulfill the promise of our friend’s life also, in our own, to the world.

      March 21. The world is a fit theater to-day in which any part may be acted. There is this moment proposed to me every kind of life that men lead anywhere, or that imagination can paint. By another spring I may...

    • 1850
      (pp. 44-61)

      After January 5. There is no interpreter between us and our consciousness.

      We lose our friends when we cease to be friends, not when they die. Then they depart; then we are sad and go into mourning for them. Death is no separation compared with that which takes place when we cease to have confidence in one with whom we have walked in confidence, when we cease to love one whom we had loved, when we know him no more. When we look for him and cannot find him, how completely is he departed!

      February 28. I sometimes discovered a...

    • 1851
      (pp. 62-120)

      January 7. I must live above all in the present.

      I felt my spirits rise when I had got off the road into the open fields, and the sky had a new appearance. I stepped along more buoyantly. There was a warm sunset over the wooded valleys, a yellowish tinge on the pines. Reddish dun-colored clouds like dusky flames stood over it. And then streaks of blue sky were seen here and there. The life, the joy, that is in blue sky after a storm! There is no account of the blue sky in history. Before I walked in the...

    • 1852
      (pp. 121-170)

      January 11. What need to travel? There are no sierras equal to the clouds in the sunset sky. And are not these substantial enough?

      The question is not where did the traveller go? what places did he see?—it would be difficult to choose between places—but who was the traveller? how did he travel? how genuine an experience did he get?¹ For travelling is, in the main, like as if you stayed at home, and then the question is how do you live and conduct yourself at home? What I mean is that it might be hard to decide...

    • 1853
      (pp. 171-218)

      January 2. We build a fire on the Cliffs. When kicking to pieces a pine stump for the fat knots¹ which alone would burn in this icy day, at the risk of spoiling my boots, having looked in vain for a stone, I thought how convenient would be an Indian stone axe to batter it with. The bark of white birch, though covered with ice, burned well. We soon had a roaring fire of fat pine on a shelf of rock, from which we overlooked the icy landscape. The sun, too, was melting the ice on the rocks, and the...

    • 1854
      (pp. 219-236)

      January 1. The snow is the great betrayer. It not only shows the tracks of mice, otters, etc., etc., which else we should rarely if ever see, but the tree sparrows are more plainly seen against its white ground, and they in turn are attracted by the dark weeds which it reveals. It also drives the crows and other birds out of the woods to the villages for food. We might expect to find in the snow the footprint of a life superior to our own, of which no zoölogy takes cognizance. Is there no trace of a nobler life...

    • 1855
      (pp. 237-252)

      January 5. Emerson told of Mr. Hill, his classmate, of Bangor,¹ who was much interested in my “Walden,” but relished it merely as a capital satire and joke, and even thought that the survey and map of the pond were not real, but a caricature of the Coast Surveys.²

      January 5. Emerson told of Mr. Hill, his classmate, of Bangor,1 who was much interested in my “Walden,” but relished it merely as a capital satire and joke, and even thought that the survey and map of the pond were not real, but a caricature of the Coast Surveys.² January 12....

    • 1856
      (pp. 253-300)

      January 10. I love to wade and flounder through the swamp now,¹ these bitter cold days when the snow lies deep on the ground, and I need travel but little way from the town to get to a Nova Zembla solitude,—to wade through the swamps, all snowed up, untracked by man, into which the fine dry snow is still drifting till it is even with the tops of the water andromeda and half-way up the high blueberry bushes. I penetrate to islets inaccessible in summer, my feet slumping to the sphagnum far out of sight beneath, where the alder...

    • 1857
      (pp. 301-348)

      January 4. After spending four or five days surveying and drawing a plan incessantly,¹ I especially feel the necessity of putting myself in communication with nature again, to recover my tone, to withdraw out of the wearying and unprofitable world of affairs. The things I have been doing have but a fleeting and accidental importance, however much men are immersed in them, and yield very little valuable fruit. I would fain have been wading through the woods and fields and conversing with the sane snow. Having waded in the very shallowest stream of time, I would now bathe my temples...

    • 1858
      (pp. 349-377)

      January 1. I have lately been surveying the Walden woods so extensively and minutely that I now see it mapped in my mind’s eye—as, indeed, on paper—as so many men’s wood-lots,¹ and am aware when I walk there that I am at a given moment passing from such a one’s wood-lot to such another’s. I fear this particular dry knowledge may affect my imagination and fancy, that it will not be easy to see so much wildness and native vigor there as formerly. No thicket will seem so unexplored now that I know that a stake and stones...

    • 1859
      (pp. 378-419)

      January 2. P.M.—To Cliffs and Walden.

      Going up the hill through Stow’s young oak woodland,¹ I listen to the sharp, dry rustle of the withered oak leaves. This is the voice of the wood now. It would be comparatively still and more dreary here in other respects, if it were not for these leaves that hold on. It sounds like the roar of the sea, and is enlivening and inspiriting like that, suggesting how all the land is seacoast to the aerial ocean. It is the sound of the surf, the rut of an unseen ocean, billows of air...

    • 1860
      (pp. 420-446)

      January 5. A man receives only what he is ready to receive,¹ whether physically or intellectually or morally, as animals conceive at certain seasons their kind only. We hear and apprehend only what we already half know. If there is something which does not concern me, which is out of my line, which by experience or by genius my attention is not drawn to, however novel and remarkable it may be, if it is spoken, we hear it not, if it is written, we read it not, or if we read it, it does not detain us. Every man thus...

    • 1861
      (pp. 447-458)

      January 3. What are the natural features which make a township handsome? A river, with its waterfalls and meadows, a lake, a hill, a cliff or individual rocks, a forest, and ancient trees standing singly. Such things are beautiful; they have a high use which dollars and cents never represent. If the inhabitants of a town were wise, they would seek to preserve these things, though at a considerable expense; for such things educate far more than any hired teachers or preachers, or any at present recognized system of school education. I do not think him fit to be the...

  8. Choice of Copy Text and Editorial Emendations
    (pp. 459-462)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 463-470)
  10. Index
    (pp. 471-493)