THOREAU, Henry David (1817-1862). Autograph manuscript, a 2-page leaf from the original manuscript of Walden (published Boston, 1854), n.p., n.d. [proobably 1846-1849]. 2 pages, oblong (part of a larger sheet), 115.9 x 190.5 mm, in ink on light blue paper, neatly inlaid.
A LEAF FROM THE ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT OF THOREAU'S WALDEN: ONE OF A FEW STILL IN PRIVATE OWNERSHIP
Thoreau's working methods during his nine-years laborious composition of Walden (from 1846 to 1854), are of considerable interest. "Instead of compiling a large and amorphous draft [as he did for A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849)], for Walden [Thoreau] eventually wrote a series of drafts, each one overlapping, but not duplicating, its predecessors and extending the book's dimensions...The early drafts (1846-1849) coincide with his writing of A Week; thus, some of the notebooks and lecture fragments contain interchangeable portions of the two texts..." (William L. Howarth in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, Princeton, 1971, vol. 5, p. 184). Portions of the manuscript of Walden are very rare on the market, even though Thoreau generated at least seven separate drafts, totaling 630 pages. All but a very few of these are in the Huntington Library. William L. Howarth, The Literary Manuscripts of Henry David Thoreau (1974), locates 18 leaves in permanent institutional collections. A small handful of leaves including this one were bound into sets of the Thoreau Manuscript Edition; at least half of these or better are now held in institutions. Only a tiny percentage of Walden leaves remain in private hands.
The Thoreau editors confirm that the present leaf was "probably part of one of the early drafts" of Walden. A version of the text on the recto ("It is very natural"), is also known in Thoreau's second draft at the Huntington; the text on the verso, however ("goes lumber...") IS ONLY KNOWN FROM THIS MANUSCRIPT.
This portion is an extended imaginative meditation on the nature of trade and the many commodities and tools of human commerce, including the railroads. Thoreau writes: "[Commerce is unexpectedly confident and serene, alert, adventurous, and unwearied.] It is very natural withal -- far more than many fantastic enterprises and sentimental experiments--and hence its singular success. I am refreshed and expanded when the freight train rattles past me on the rail-road and I smell the stores which go dispensing their odors all the way from Long Wharf [in Boston] & the Ashelot ["Lake Champlain" in the published book] -- reminding me of foreign parts--of coral reefs and the Indian Ocean and tropical climes & the extent of the globe. I feel more like [a citizen of the world at the sight of the palm leaf] [verso] [Here] goes lumber from the Maine woods which did not go out to sea in the last freshet, risen four dollars on the thousand because of what did go out or was split up. Maine spruce, cedar, 1st, 2nd 3rd & 4th in quality, to wave over the bear and moose and caribou. Next rolls Thomaston lime -- a prime lot which will get far among the hills before it gets slaked -- These rags in bales, of all [hues and qualities, the lowest condition to which cotton and linen descend, the final result of dress]."
Published, with some differences, in Walden, ed. J. Lyndon Shanley (Princeton: PUP, 1971), pp. 119-120. We are grateful to Elizabeth Witherall, Editor-in-Chief of The Writings of Henry D. Thoreau for assistance in the cataloguing of this lot.