Solid Seasons: The Friendship of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson

Solid Seasons: The Friendship of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson


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A thoughtfully researched, movingly presented dual-biography of two iconic American writers, each trying to find the ideal friend with whom they could share their journey through our imperfect world.

Any biography that concentrates on either Henry David Thoreau or Ralph Waldo Emerson tends to diminish the other figure, but in Solid Seasons both men remain central and equal. Through several decades of writing, friendship remained a primary theme for them both.

Collecting extracts from the letters and journals of both men, as well as words written about them by their contemporaries, Jeffrey S. Cramer beautifully illustrates the full nature of their twenty-five-year dialogue. Biographers like to point at the crisis in their friendship, focusing particularly on Thoreau's disappointment in Emerson—rarely on Emerson's own disappointment in Thoreau—and leaving it there, a friendship ruptured. But the solid seasons remained, as is evident when, in 1878, Anne Burrows Gilchrist, the English writer and friend of Whitman, visited Emerson. She wrote that his memory was failing "as to recent names and topics but as is usual in such cases all the mental impressions that were made when he was in full vigour remain clear and strong." As they chatted, Emerson called to his wife, Lidian, in the next room, "What was the name of my best friend?"

"Henry Thoreau," she answered.

"Oh, yes," Emerson repeated. "Henry Thoreau."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781640091313
Publisher: Counterpoint Press
Publication date: 04/09/2019
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 151,455
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

JEFFREY S. CRAMER is the editor of Walden: A Fully Annotated Edition, winner of a 2004 National Outdoor Book Award, and The Quotable Thoreau, recipient of an Umhoefer Prize for Achievement in Humanities. In 2017, Cramer was the historical consultant for the Ken Burns–produced documentary Walden, created for the Walden Pond State Reservation during the Thoreau Bicentennial. Cramer is the curator of collections at Walden Woods Project’s Thoreau Institute Library. He lives in Maynard, Massachusetts.

Table of Contents

Foreword xi

Part I Solid Seasons

A Biography of the Friendship of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson 5

Part II Thoreau

Friendship: (from A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers) 107

Selected Writings on Friendship 138

Thoreau on Emerson 191

Part III Emerson

Friendship: (from Essays: First Series) 209

Selected Writings on Friendship 227

Emerson on Thoreau 247

Thoreau 292

Acknowledgments 315

A Note on the Texts 317

Abbreviations Used in the Notes 319

Notes 321

Bibliography 345

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