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1. Harding, in reviewing Thoreau's earliest works, concurs with Moser (1951) that “all of Thoreau's basic ideas are in the college essays, the seeds are all present, awaiting maturation” (quoted by Harding 1959, p. 43), a reading that is important in how we regard Thoreau's relationship to Emerson and the development of Thoreau's ideas, especially in light of the socalled Romantic conversion of 1851–52 (Adams and Ross 1988, pp. 143–90). (All these matters are considered in later chapters.) While I recognize that Thoreau certainly developed his ideas over two decades, I am far less concerned with tracing that development than in outlining the basic structure of his thought that I perceive as essentially established by the early 1840s. [BACK]

2. If we could pierce the obscurity of those remote years, we should find it light enough; only there is not our day…. There has always been the same amount of light in the world…. Always the laws of light are the same, but the modes and degrees of seeing vary…. There was but the sun and the eye from the first. The ages have not added a new ray to the one, nor altered a fibre of the other. (A Week, 1980 a, p. 157) [BACK]


3. A Week was written in memory of a camping trip Thoreau took with his brother John in 1839. John's tragic death of tetanus in January 1842 was a profound loss for Henry, and Peck has interpreted A Week both as a memorial work to John and as a psychological conflict fought between an attempt to kill time (“by containing it, by taking the entire temporal order … within himself” and thereby “kill the vehicle of temporality in which the world and the self have their being and their relation; in this sense he has committed suicide” or at the very least become “trapped deeply within a solipsism of his own making” [Peck 1990, pp. 5–6]) and an effort to resituate the self in the world, or, in Peck's parlance, “to keep time without killing it” (ibid., p. 8). Thoreau's preoccupation with history and memory in A Week is thus explained by Peck as an elaborate psychological catharsis initiated by a grief response whose existential manifestation is an elaborate treatise on the nature of time and our attempt to understand temporality, whereby “remembrance becomes redemptive” (ibid., p. 14), a theme further developed by Burbick (1987; see note 7). [BACK]

4. Duston was the first American woman to be honored with a commemorative statue, erected at the site of the escape, in Boscawen, New Hampshire, in 1874. A second monument, dedicated in 1879, may be seen in Haverhill, Massachusetts, the site of the Indian abduction. The story has routinely appeared in various histories of New Hampshire and Massachusetts (e.g., Chase 1861; McClintock 1889; Lyford 1903; Pillsbury 1927; Squires 1956; for further citations see Arner 1973, note 25), and might fairly be spoken of as “being now ‘frozen’ in the New England imagination” (Arner 1973, p. 22). Perhaps the most thorough recent review was made by a legislative historian, Leon Anderson (1973).

Duston remains a highly enigmatic figure for nineteenth- and twentieth-century commentators. In 1836, Hawthorne wrote for the American Magazine, “Would that bloody old hag been drowned in crossing Contocook river, or that she had sunk over head and ears in a swamp, and been there buried, until summoned forth to confront her victims at the Day of Judgement” (quoted by Ulrich 1982, p. 172). She figures as a historical foil for a contemporary murder mystery by Susan Conant (1997), who implies that Duston might have exhibited certain sociopathic or psychopathic tendencies dominant in her family by citing a relationship discovered by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (1982): “Cotton Mather preached a sermon about Hannah Duston, who was in church when he proclaimed her a savior of New England. Four years earlier, Mather had preached a sermon of condemnation about a woman named Elizabeth Emerson. The unmarried mother of one child, Elizabeth Emerson had given surreptitious birth to twins and promptly killed them. In 1693, she was convicted of murdering her newborn babies. Hannah Duston's maiden name was Emerson. Hannah Duston and Elizabeth Emerson were sisters” (Conant 1997, pp. 114–15). To what extent the Emerson sisters were prone to violence and whether the psychodynamics of their family might have promoted such behavior it is impossible to decide. In any case, Ulrich's account of colonial women clearly documents their not so infrequent violent behavior (chapters 9 and 10) and notes that Hannah

Duston's exploits followed a long tradition of women defenders of the New England Zion—if not against aggressive Indians, certainly in the more traditional role of maintaining Puritan mores and protecting the family, writ large. [BACK]

5. Mather's ecclesiastical history of New England devotes chapter 25, entitled “A Notable Exploit—Dux Femina Facti” (A Woman the Leader of the Deed), to Duston, who apparently told him,

in Obedience to instructions which the French have given them, they [the Indians] would have Prayers in their family no less than thrice every day … nor would they ordinarily let their children Eat or Sleep, without first saying their Prayers.

Indeed, these Idolaters were, like the rest of their whiter brethren, Persecutors, and would not endure that these poor women should retire to their English Prayers, if they could hinder them.

Nevertheless, the poor women had nothing but fervent prayers to make their lives comfortable or tolerable; and by being daily sent upon Business, they had Opportunities, together and asunder, to do like another Hannah, in pouring out their souls before the Lord. Nor did their praying friends among ourselves forbear to pour out supplications for them.

Now, they could not observe it without some Wonder, that their Indian master sometimes when he saw them dejected, would say unto them What need you trouble yourself? If your God would have you delivered, you shall be so.

And it seems our God would have it so to be. … One of these women took up a resolution to imitate the action of Jael upon Siseria; and being where she had not her own Life secured by any Law unto her, she thought she was not forbidden by any law to take away the Life of the Murderers by whom her children had been Butchered. (Mather 1702, book 7, pp. 90–91 ; English spellings modernized)

This deist bent was subscribed to by Duston herself. A remarkable testimony is given in her 1727 membership application to the Haverhill Center Congregational Church: “I am thankful for my captivity, twas the Comfortablest time that ever I had; In my affliction God made his Word Comfortable to me. I remembered 43d ps. ult [“Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God”]—and those words came to my mind—ps 118.17 [“I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord”]” (Anderson 1973). Hannah Duston, 39 years old at the time of her celebrated exploits, gave birth to her last (thirteenth) child in October 1698 and lived to age 80. [BACK]

6. In America these wars between England and France are generally known as King William's War (1689–97); Queen Anne's War (1702–13); King George's War (1744–48); and the French and Indian War (1754–63). [BACK]

7. History is always valueladen, and certainly the historians to whom Thoreau was reacting wrote within a long line of committed religious ideology (see Buell 1986, part 3, “Reinventing Puritanism: The New England Historical Imagination” for an excellent survey). So the issue is not that of a lost objectivism as some positivist ideal, but rather that Thoreau was selfconsciously writing history in opposition to the dominant tradition and ethos of his time. This point of view is consonant with that of Joan Burbick (1987), who similarly argues that Thoreau wrote an “alternative” history, one she characterizes as “uncivil” (i.e., natural) in contrast to the false civilized history of tamed America.

This “redemptive” history became one of Thoreau's attempts to show the true relationship of man and nature, where the Puritan ethic of greed and dominance, the shortterm economies of profit, might be replaced with another naturerelated, communal, nonproprietary mode of existence (also developed by Berry 1987). The opening chapter of Walden is, of course, the clearest statement of this perspective, but Burbick gleans the essential ethical lesson by a systematic examination of Thoreau's early and late writings, not all of which are obviously “historical” in the usual sense. More importantly, Burbick regards Thoreau's historiography as firmly integrated within what we would normally characterize as his nature writing—or his translation of perception: In “his grand experiment of observation, Thoreau faces the dilemma of … extracting from sequences of perceived natural events a law or demonstrable pattern of redemptive growth,” which would suit “his need to formulate a sustained vision of history” (pp. 123–24). Thus, while building on Hildebidle's (1983) insight of how Thoreau's natural history methodologically informed and guided his historiography, Burbick goes further in the direction I am proceeding in by insisting on emphasizing the moral character of Thoreau's historical project—how history was invoked to support his natural history and vice versa, both of which in turn were in service to his moral philosophy. It is all of one piece. In the following chapters I will more fully develop how Thoreau's moral attitude framed his natural history and more deeply the metaphysics of his selfhood. [BACK]

8. This part of the story is particularly suspicious according to my Boscawen, New Hampshire, neighbors, who live along the river at the site of Hannah's escape. The Merrimack River at the end of March is in full rush from the melting snows of the mountains, and it is highly unlikely that Duston would have made the effort, even if it were possible, to execute an upriver navigation. Given that an Indian child and woman had escaped, Duston would well have made haste to place as much distance as possible between her and alerted Indians. Given the falls at Concord, another significant obstacle to her downriver run, Duston's delay might well have been a fatal mistake. Thoreau must have appreciated these factors, and therefore his keeping Mirick's embellishment over Mather's account can only be explained by Thoreau's larger literary intentions unencumbered by historical accuracy in a narrower sense. Thoreau remained intrigued with Duston and visited the original homestead after A Week was published (May 12, 1850,Journal 3, 1990, p. 64). [BACK]

9. Although this general orientation dates to the Romantics, it was Nietzsche who perhaps best celebrated the need to mend the subjective-objective divide as the very basis of a meaningful epistemology. There are many vantages from which we might pick up his argument, but perhaps as a historian his early critique of his fellow philologists is most relevant to our own discussion. In On the Advantage and Disadvantage of History for Life ([1874] 1980), he argued that the historian must already possess something of the past within himself or he will fail to see what is being offered to him:

And might not an illusion lurk even in the highest interpretation of the word “objectivity”? By this word one understands a condition in the historian in which his view of

an event with all of its motives and consequences is so pure that it has no effect at all on his subjectivity; one has in mind that aesthetic phenomenon, that detachment from all personal interest with which the painter sees his inner picture in a stormy landscape amid lightening and thunder on a rough sea, one has in mind the total absorption in things: yet it is a superstition to believe that the picture which things produce in a man in such a state of mind reproduces the empirical essence of those things. Or is one to think that things in such moments, as it were, retrace, counterfeit, reproduce themselves photographically on a pure passivity through their own activity? (Pp. 34–35)

Subjectivity in this view is then partially constitutive of objectivity, a view already articulated by Thoreau. [BACK]

10. Of course engineers routinely design for likelihood of such a single incident per century—and rarely make allowance for it beyond that limit—but that is beside the point of historicity that Thoreau is making. [BACK]

11. Ginzburg further explains: “The object is the study of individual cases, situations, and documents, precisely because they are individual, and for this reason get results that have an unsuppressible speculative margin…. Even if the historian is sometimes obliged to refer back, explicitly or implicitly, to a sequence of comparable phenomena, the cognitive strategy, as well as the codes by which he expresses himself, remain intrinsically individualizing” (Ginzburg 1989, p. 106). [BACK]

12. “Scientist” was coined by William Whewell in 1833, and irrespective of his own philosophical intent in using the term, at first the designation had a somewhat derogatory connotation. Instead of being “philosophical” (in the sense of eighteenth-century natural philosophy being the global study of nature in both epistemological and metaphysical contexts), the “scientist” was generally understood to have interests in developing technology, which, of course, had commercial overtones that might sully investigation for its own sake. [BACK]

13. “In 1802 Gottfried Reinhold Treviranus announced the birth of a new scientific discipline. He called it ‘Biologie,’ the science whose aim was to determine the conditions and laws under which the different forms of life exist, and their causes. The significance of his declaration was not in denying that biological phenomena had been investigated previously … rather Treviranus sought to affirm a set of methods which characterized biology as a discipline in its own right” (Lenoir 1990, p. 119). [BACK]

14. Thoreau's keen interest in Indian history highlights his concern that a balanced rendition of the colonial period include the native perspective. After all, “the Indian is absolutely forgotten but by some persevering poets…. For Indian deeds there must be an Indian memory—the white man will remember his own only–We have forgotten their hostility as well as friendship” (Journal 2, 1984, pp. 38–39). This is but one example of many in which Thoreau's critical acumen regarded what passed as scientific history with a jaundiced eye. [BACK]

15. Emerson was heavily influenced by Thomas Carlyle and refers to him in many places. See especially Emerson's comments on Carlyle's On History, in Critical and Miscellaneous Essays, 4 vols. (Boston, 1838–39), 2:247. For Emerson's relation to Carlyle, see Richardson 1995. Thoreau also studied Carlyle carefully (see, e.g., Thoreau 1975a, pp. 219–67). [BACK]


16. This passage from the first version of Walden (Shanley 1957) is, as expected, a hybrid between the Journal and the final Walden:

24 years ago I was brought from the city to this very pond—through this very field— so much further into the world I had but recently entered. It is one of the most ancient scenes stamped on the tablets of my memory. That woodland vision for a long time occupied my dreams. The country then was the world—the city only a gate to it. And now tonight my flute has waked the echoes over this very water. One generation of pines has fallen and I have cooked my supper with their stumps—and a new growth of oaks and pines is rising all around the pond to greet other infants' eyes. Almost the same Johnswort springs from the same perennial root in this pasture. Even I have at length helped to clothe that fabulous landscape of my dreams, and the result of my presence and influence is seen in these bean leaves and cornblades, and potato vines.

I planted about 2 acres and a half of upland … (Pp. 177–78)

17. Robert Kuhn McGregor (1997) makes the salient and important point that Thoreau's interest in nature was quite limited—as attested by his writings—prior to the spring of 1846, almost midway in his sojourn at Walden Pond. If one surveys Thoreau's lectures and published writings from 1837 to 1849 (McGregor 1997, pp. 207–10), there is a paucity of natural history. “‘The Natural History of Massachusetts’ was the only essay Thoreau published in the first ten years of his writing career in which he directly addressed the subject of nature” (ibid., p. 54), and this was hardly characteristic of his later nature writing. Other essays, “A Walk to Wachusett” and “A Winter Walk,” are more travel essays, laden with symbolic inner examination. Nature is only “‘emblematic,’ intended only to point the way to greater spiritual achievement” (ibid., p. 55). The exuberance of Thoreau's later nature writing, characteristic of a Romantic enchantment and psychological expansion, have been interpreted by some commentators (e.g., Adams and Ross 1988) as a dramatic and sudden Romantic turn (occurring in the 1850–51 period), well after the break with Emerson. McGregor, pointing out that the sensitivity to nature reflected an earlier transformation, cites suggestive entries in the May 1846 Journal entries, which show that the Walden experiment was more than originally designed: beyond establishing a haven to find solitude to write and conduct an experiment in home economics, the grand themes that were to preoccupy Thoreau's efforts in natural history were, in a sense, thrust upon him by simply living in one of the few remaining wild acres of Concord, a wood lot left relatively immune to the voracious appetite of the lumber and fuelconsuming industry. The mature sensibility soon followed, when Thoreau, on a trip to Maine's Mount Ktaadn in September 1846, encountered the awesome grandeur and terrifying aspect of nature, a cognitive/emotional experience that jolted him into realizing that Emerson's idealism was an inappropriate means of mediating man and nature. McGregor makes the mountaintop experience a critical turning point in Thoreau's (conscious) understanding of nature. I would argue, based on Thoreau's early Journal entries, that while he certainly had an epiphany on Mount Ktaadn, this only added a dimension to a deeply committed Romantic sensibility, vividly placing nature's awesome power in balance with a more pastoral

vision. The essential aesthetic and spiritual quest remained unchanged. In other words, the structure of Thoreau's study of nature reflected a moral attitude already discernible in his earliest musings. [BACK]

18. Peck notes that “while the river distinguishes the role of the observer, it also distances him from the object of his vision and in other ways also restricts and defines his possibilities” (1990, p. 23), a point well appreciated by Thoreau himself: “To … see the earth from the water side, to stand outside of it on another element, and so get a pry on it in thought at least, that is no small advantage” (March 25, 1860,Journal, [1906] 1962, 13:226–27). [BACK]

19. Cited by Hovey (1966, pp. 62, 151) as Original Manuscript of Concord and Merrimack River in the Berg Collection at the New York Public Library, p. 6. [BACK]

20. “As yesterday and the historical ages are the past, as the work of today is present, so some flitting perspectives, and demiexperiences of the life that is in nature, are, in time veritably future, or rather outside to time, perennial, young, divine, in the wind and rain which never die” (AWeek, 1980a, p. 8). Thoreau is, of course, referring to the everpresent present. Don Gifford notes that this general tenor is central to the Romantic project:

Thoreau's longings for sustained visionary consciousness, suggest attempts to reify memory in time so that the process of memory, fully contemplated in timepast, can be reversed, anticipated as a future experience to be reentered and fully realized in an ideal timepresent. That is what I call Romantic time. (1990, p. 80)

But this “timepresent” is, of course, never fully captured or replayed, and by 1857 Thoreau was resigned to accepting the poetics of his memory—incomplete and thus, in some sense, inadequate, but at the same time the more salient and “truer” report. (March 27, 1857,Journal, [1906] 1962, 9:306; quoted in chapter 1). [BACK]

21. That man does not believe that each day contains an earlier, more sacred, and aural hour than he has yet profaned, has despaired of life, and is pursuing a descending and darkening way. After a partial cessation of his sensuous life, the soul of man, or its organs rather, are reinvigorated each day, and his genius tries again what nobel life it can make. All memorable events, I should say, transpire in the morning time and in a morning atmosphere. The Vedas say, “All intelligences awake with the morning.” Poetry and art, and the fairest and most memorable of the actions of men, date from such an hour. All poets and heroes, like Memnon, are the children of Aurora, and emit their music at sunrise. (Walden, 1971, p. 89) [BACK]

22. In our own postpositivist era, objectivity is regarded as arising from consensus, and communal standards are recognized as always changing; criteria of proof have a long history of metamorphosis; assumptions about rationality change similarly; even Truth can no longer be designated as stable. Thus objectivity, whether in the sciences, social sciences, or humanities is built from a value system, and these values are themselves constantly under scrutiny and modulated as our needs and sophistication evolve (Megill 1994). Postmodern historians have been particularly conscious of these unstable foundations (e.g., Friedlander 1992; Fay, Pomper, and Vann 1998), and their perspective enables us to see more clearly the antipositivism of Thoreau's own project. [BACK]

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