It was his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson, another inveterate journal keeper, who urged Thoreau to keep a record of his thoughts and observations. Begun in 1837, "Thoreau's Journal" spans a period of twenty-five years and runs to more than two million words, coming to a halt only in 1861, shortly before the author's death. The handwritten Journal had somewhat humble origins but as it grew in scope and ambition it came to function as a record of Thoreau's interior life as well as the source for his books and essays. Indeed, it would become the central concern of the author's literary life. Critics now recognize "Thoreau's Journal" as an important artistic achievement in its own right. Making selections from the entirety of the Journal, Cramer presents all aspects of Thoreau: writer, thinker, naturalist, social reformer, neighbour, friend. No other single-volume edition offers such a full picture of Thoreau's life and work. Cramer's annotations add to the reader's enjoyment and understanding. He provides notes on the biographical, historical, and geographical contexts of Thoreau's life.
The relation between Journal passages and the texts of works published in the author's lifetime receive special emphasis. A companion to "Walden: A Fully Annotated Edition", this gift edition of the Journal will be dipped into and treasured, and it makes a welcome addition to any book lover's library.
Jeffrey S. Cramer is curator of collections at The Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods.
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