For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Life In The Woods

With all this talk of Rousseau and Revolution, you may think I'm going way off the walking topic. But no! As fellow blogger Loren Webster has reminded me, another literary walker was the admirable philosopher and naturalist Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), the quiet revolutionary - whose philosophy of non-violent resistance influenced Gandhi and Martin Luther King. His essay Civil Disobedience (1849) promoted the following of individual conscience over civil law; and his address Slavery in Massachusetts (1854) and essay A Plea for Captain John Brown (1860) furthered the abolitionist cause. But it's for his classic Walden; or Life in the Woods (1854) that he's perhaps most remembered today. Thoreau's meditation on a 2 year sojourn by Walden Pond, Massachusetts, in a small self-built cabin, has never been more popular - though it was little liked when first published. But nowadays it chimes in so well with our current concerns of individualism, self-reliance, nature conservation. This short extract is taken from his essay Walking (1862): Moreover, you must walk like a camel, which is said to be the only beast which ruminates when walking. When a traveller asked Wordsworth's servant to show him her master's study, she answered, Here is his library, but his study is out of doors. Great stuff!

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