Franklin County Historical Society and Thoreau Questions

On New Year’s Day, I was excited to present to the Franklin County Historical Society about Henry David Thoreau (HDT). I emphasized his importance through history in both his writing about Nature and his writings on Civil Disobedience.

This a great group–very active in preserving history and encouraging the young people in the area to learn about their heritage.  They also have an amazing pot luck!

Lately, I’ve been asked some really interesting questions about Thoreau, several coming from the Franklin County Group:

Q: If he spent so much time thinking and writing, how did he make a living?

A. He was clever with his hands and often took commissions to build small outbuildings, etc. He built a lovely dollhouse for the Emerson children, which is still in  the Emerson house today. However, the work that paid well (and allowed him to do still more of his beloved walking) was surveying.

Q: How did Thoreau, as a deep thinker and lover of Nature, feel about hunting?

A: HDT did think and write about hunting. The older he got, the more concerns he had about it, preferring to limit his participation. He went on a moose hunt with a friend that was pretty nasty–the friend shot a female moose and then did not eat the meat. She had a calf with her at the time also.

Q: Where did Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, fit into the Concord Transcendental world?

A. Eddy was certainly transcendentalism taken to the extreme degree. Bronson Alcott, who was one of the most radical of the Concord group, was interested in what she had to say and traveled to meet with her twice. In the end, however, he let the relationship drop. Too extreme for him perhaps? His family was interested in homeopathic cures (see the website Louisa May Alcott is my Passion) but they did believe in seeking cures.

Q: How did Thoreau feel about other religions?

A: More than most transcendentalists, Thoreau lived a life in Nature and saw it as metaphor. He was curious about other religions and read the Bhagavad Gita. He was very taken with it and saw himself as a “seeker”–a Yogi.




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