In this new biography, based on a reexamination of Thoreau's manuscripts and on retracing of his trips, Robert Richardson offers a view of Thoreau's life and achievement in their full nineteenth century context.
Emerson described his friend Thoreau as ``the bachelor of thought and nature,'' and in this absorbing and sparklingly fresh biography, which examines and relates the private and public contexts of Thoreau's life from 1837, when he was 20, to his death in 1862, Richardson shows him to have been as much a reader and thinker as a saunterer in the woods. We see him entering and emerging from the shadow of Emerson; delving into the Greek and Roman Stoics, ancient Hindu philosophy and contemporary German literature (particularly Goethe); siding with Darwin in the famous Agassiz-Darwin controversy over evolution; forging his philosophy of personal integrity based on his concept of nature as law. Richardson closely scrutinizes not only Walden but Thoreau's other writings, and the result of his composite portrait is that we see Thoreau perhaps more vividly than ever before, as traveler of the mind, significant thinker and likable man. Richardson teaches at the University of Denver. Reader's Subscription Book Club alternate. (September 9)