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Wild Apples and Other Natural History Essays

Wild Apples and Other Natural History Essays

Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Wild Apples and Other Natural History Essays
    Book Description:

    This volume of seven essays and a late lecture by Henry David Thoreau makes available important material written both before and after Walden. First appearing in the 1840s through the 1860s, the essays were written during a time of great change in Thoreau's environs, as the Massachusetts of his childhood became increasingly urbanized and industrialized. William Rossi's introduction puts the essays in the context of Thoreau's other major works, both chronologically and intellectually. Rossi also shows how these writings relate to Thoreau's life and career as both writer and naturalist: his readings of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Charles Darwin; his failed bid for commercial acceptance of his work; and his pivotal encounter with the utter wildness of the Maine woods. In the essays themselves, readers will see how Thoreau melded conventions of natural history writing with elements of two popular literary forms--travel writing and landscape writing--to explore concerns ranging from America's westward expansion to the figural dimensions of scientific facts and phenomena. Thoreau the thinker, observer, wanderer, and inquiring naturalist--all emerge in this distinctive composite picture of the economic, natural, and spiritual communities that left their marks on one of our most important early environmentalists.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-2636-8
    Subjects: Biological Sciences, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. vii-xxiv)

    Born on his maternal grandmother’s farm two miles outside the agricultural village of Concord, Massachusetts, on July 12, 1817, Henry Thoreau grew up in a family that participated actively in the popular nineteenth-century passion for natural history. Local legend held that one of the children was nearly born during a parental botanizing excursion in the woods and hills surrounding the town. Until he left for Harvard College in September 1833, Thoreau spent an uninterrupted boyhood in this environment, acquiring the knowledge of boatcraft and woodcraft that later so impressed his neighbor and mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson. Like other Concord children...

  5. A Note on Texts
    (pp. xxv-xxx)
  6. Natural History of Massachusetts
    (pp. 1-24)

    Books of natural history make the most cheerful winter reading. I read in Audubon with a thrill of delight, when the snow covers the ground, of the magnolia, and the Florida keys, and their warm sea-breezes; of the fence-rail, and the cotton-tree, and the migrations of the rice-bird; of the breaking up of winter in Labrador, and the melting of the snow on the forks of the Missouri; and owe an accession of health to these reminiscences of luxuriant nature.

    Within the circuit of this plodding life,

    There enter moments of an azure hue,

    Untarnished fair as is the violet...

  7. A Walk to Wachusett CONCORD, JULY 19, 1842.
    (pp. 25-41)

    Summer and winter our eyes had rested on the dim outline of the mountains in our horizon, to which distance and indistinctness lent a grandeur not their own, so that they served equally to interpret all the allusions of poets and travelers; whether with Homer, on a spring morning, we sat down on the many-peaked Olympus, or with Virgil and his compeers roamed the Etrurian and Thessalian hills, or with Humboldt measured the more modern Andes and Teneriffe. Thus we spoke our mind to them, standing on the Concord cliffs:—

    With frontier strength ye stand your ground,

    With grand content...

  8. A Winter Walk
    (pp. 42-58)

    The wind has gently murmured through the blinds, or puffed with feathery softness against the windows, and occasionally sighed like a summer zephyr lifting the leaves along, the livelong night. The meadow mouse has slept in his snug gallery in the sod, the owl has sat in a hollow tree in the depth of the swamp, the rabbit, the squirrel, and the fox have all been housed. The watch-dog has lain quiet on the hearth, and the cattle have stood silent in their stalls. The earth itself has slept, as it were its first, not its last sleep, save when...

  9. Walking
    (pp. 59-92)

    I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil,—to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society. I wish to make an extreme statement, if so I may make an emphatic one, for there are enough champions of civilization: the minister and the school committee and every one of you will take care of that.

    I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking,...

  10. The Succession of Forest Trees
    (pp. 93-108)

    Every man is entitled to come to Cattle-Show, even a transcendentalist; and for my part I am more interested in the men than in the cattle. I wish to see once more those old familiar faces, whose names I do not know, which for me represent the Middlesex country, and come as near being indigenous to the soil as a white man can; the men who are not above their business, whose coats are not too black, whose shoes do not shine very much, who never wear gloves to conceal their hands. It is true, there are some queer specimens...

  11. Autumnal Tints
    (pp. 109-139)

    Europeans coming to America are surprised by the brilliancy of our autumnal foliage. There is no account of such a phenomenon in English poetry, because the trees acquire but few bright colors there. The most that Thomson says on this subject in his “Autumn” is contained in the lines,—

    “But see the fading many-colored woods

    Shade deepening over shade, the country round

    Imbrown; a crowded umbrage, dusk and dun,

    Of every hue, from wan declining green

    To sooty dark;”

    and in the line in which he speaks of

    “Autumn beaming o’er the yellow woods.”

    The autumnal change of our woods...

  12. Wild Apples
    (pp. 140-165)

    It is remarkable how closely the history of the apple tree is connected with that of man. The geologist tells us that the order of the Rosaceae, which includes the apple, also the true grasses, and the Labiatae, or mints, were introduced only a short time previous to the appearance of man on the globe.

    It appears that apples made a part of the food of that unknown primitive people whose traces have lately been found at the bottom of the Swiss lakes, supposed to be older than the foundation of Rome, so old that they had no metallic implements....

  13. Huckleberries
    (pp. 166-202)

    Many public speakers are accustomed, as I think foolishly, to talk about what they call little things in a patronising way sometimes, advising, perhaps, that they be not wholly neglected; but in making this distinction they really use no juster measure than a ten-foot pole, and their own ignorance. According to this rule a small potato is a little thing, a big one a great thing. A hogshead-full of anything, the big cheese which it took so many oxen to draw, a national salute, a state-muster, a fat ox, the horse Columbus, or Mr. Blank, the Ossian Boy—there is...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 203-220)
  15. Suggestions for Further Reading
    (pp. 221-226)
  16. Index
    (pp. 227-236)