Living in the Boston suburbs is cool because I’m close to the town of Concord—location of “the shot heard round the world” in 1775—which boasts the homes and gravesites of Thoreau, Alcott, Hawthorne, and Emerson.
I plan to see all the authors’ homes while we’re here, but last weekend I visited Thoreau Farm. I had hiked around Walden Pond a couple of months ago—and visited the family gravesite last summer—so I wanted to finish the Thoreau “experience.”
Thanks to a very enthusiastic and friendly docent, I learned a lot.
Thoreau spent only eight months in the home of his birth, but Thoreau Farm is still significant because he was inspired by his mother’s stories of the place, and he returned often to walk the lands. It’s also the only Thoreau home open to the public, so there’s that. 😉
Thoreau Farm is not a typical restored homestead, but rather a place to learn more about the man, his life, his contemporaries, and why he’s important.
You might be surprised by some of the people who were inspired by Thoreau, in person or in writing, whether with regard to the environment, or transcendentalism, or his thoughts on civil disobedience.
A few names you might recognize: Mahatma (Mohandas Karamchand) Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., John Muir, and Jack Kerouac. Not a bad legacy, eh?
Some fun facts:
– Thoreau (along with his brother and two sisters) never married, though he and his brother both offered for the same woman. Her father turned them both down, deeming the family unsuitable for his daughter.
– He was born David Henry Thoreau, but switched his first and middle names after graduating from Harvard. Without a legal name change, of course.
– His careful observations about the weather and timing of various plants and crops have provided valuable historical data for the area with which to compare modern conditions.
– You can rent the upstairs room in the Thoreau house for a writing retreat.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Walden (so far). [I’m reading in e-book, so I can’t offer page numbers, but all are from “Economy.”]
– “The great part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad, and if I repent of anything, it is very likely to be my good behavior.”
– “I also have in my mind that seemingly wealthy, but most terribly impoverished class of all, who have accumulated dross, but know not how to use it, or get rid of it, and thus have forged their own golden or silver fetters.”
– “And when the farmer has got his house, he may not be the richer but the poorer for it, and it be the house that has got him.”
– “…the principal object is, not that mankind may be well and honestly clad, but, unquestionably, that corporations may be enriched.”
If you travel to Boston, be sure to step off The Freedom Trail for a day or two and make your way to the suburbs!