Synopses & Reviews
Perhaps no other natural setting has as much literary, spiritual, and environmental significance for Americans as Walden Pond. Some 700,000 people visit the pond annually, and countless others journey to Walden in their mind, to contemplate the man who lived there and what the place means to us today.
Here is the first history of the Massachusetts pond Thoreau made famous 150 years ago. W. Barksdale Maynard offers a lively and comprehensive account of Walden Pond from the early nineteenth century to the present. From Thoreau's first visit at age 4 in 1821--"That woodland vision for a long time made the drapery of my dreams"--to present day efforts both to conserve the pond and allow public access, Maynard captures Walden Pond's history and the role it has played in social, cultural, literary, and environmental movements in America. Along the way Maynard details the geography of the pond; Thoreau's and Emerson's experiences of Walden over their lifetimes; the development of the cult of Thoreau and the growth of the pond as a site of literary and spiritual pilgrimages; rock star Don Henley's Walden Woods Project and the much publicized battle to protect the pond from developers in the 1980s; and the vitally important ecological symbol Walden Pond has become today.
Exhaustively researched, vividly written, and illustrated with historical photographs and the most detailed maps of Thoreau country yet created, Walden Pond: A History reveals the many ways an ordinary pond has come to be such an extraordinarily inspiring symbol.
"Delightful and engaging.... Maynard has plumbed the record on Walden as carefully as Thoreau once sounded the depths of its waters. A clear, evenhanded rendering of a complex human drama."--Philadelphia Inquirer
"Important, illuminating, and of great narrative appeal. So read this Walden, perhaps after youve reread Thoreau's, at the shores of the pond or ocean of your choice."--Laurence A. Marschall, Natural History
"A tour de force.... I stand in awe of what Mr. Maynard has been able to do."--Edmund Schofield, Thoreau Society Bulletin
"Ambitious...A worthy book...[Maynard's] insights on the past have real merit."--Jane Holtz Kay, The Nation
"This gem is a biography of a pond made famous by Henry David Thoreau's Walden, published a century and a half ago this year.... All libraries should acquire this superbly crafted work. Summing Up: Highly recommended."--Choice
"Maynard has delivered what will be the enduring chronicle, from Thoreau's first dream to our time, of one of America's and the world's most important historical sites."--Edward O. Wilson, Harvard University
"Maynard's move to disengage Walden the idea--the shrine of the environmental movement--from Walden the place, one that 'has long been a beloved swimming hole for greater Boston,' has helped him to construct a scholarly study of an iconic, if less than idyllic place."--John Motyka, New York Times Book Review
"In the century and a half since Henry David Thoreau made it a symbol of the simpler life, Walden Pond has nearly been loved to death by trampling tourists. Rescued only recently by conservationists, the once-again sparkling waters are more alluring than ever, and this photo-filled history illustrates why."--Conde Nast Traveler
"Delightful and engaging.... A clear, evenhanded rendering of a complex human drama."--Philadelphia Inquirer
"Traces what the glacier-born lake and its environs have meant to the New England transcendentalists, to developers and environmentalists, to day-trippers and literary tourists, and not least to the residents of nearby Concord."--Chronicle of Higher Education
"Fresh and original. This book is going to be a standard work for anyone interested in the legacy of Thoreau and transcendentalism in America."--Donald Worster, author of Nature's Economy: A History of Ecological Ideas
"A painstakingly researched, reportorial history that begins with Thoreau's first glimpse of the pond in 1821 and carries through to the present day. It's a classic tale of Americans loving their national treasures to death.... This book will surely appeal to Thoreau buffs and to those concerned with natural and historic preservation. It provides a comprehensive history of the landscape that inspired one of America's most important authors."--Publishers Weekly
"An eminently readable, deeply informed account of the tangled history of one of this country's most sacred--and contested--places."--Lawrence Buell, author of Emerson
"This is a book we have long needed, and Maynard is clearly the person to have written it. Painstakingly researched, delightfully written--Maynard tells a fascinating story that's a joy to read."--Bradley P. Dean, editor of Thoreau's Faith in a Seed
"Whether Thoreau himself, his biographers, an early 1900s photographer, or dirt-on-the-hands naturalists, each such person's affinity for a special spot at Walden will resonate with Maynard's readers. The intimacy this generates in Maynard's history only strengthens its vitally important contribution to Thoreauvian studies."--Booklist
"Maynard's superb social, cultural, and environmental history of Walden Pond brings alive its history, from geological times through Thoreau's stay there to the trailer park and town dump of the present. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in Thoreau, Walden, or the American environmental movement."--Joel Myerson, editor of Transcendentalism: A Reader
"W. Barksdale Maynard picks up where Henry David Thoreau left off. In the pond that Thoreau transformed into a symbol of spirituality, the birthplace of environmentalism, and a classic of American literature, Maynard discerns a fascinating mirror of a changing American culture. Combining environmental, social, and literary history, Maynard surveys the clashing interests at the pond and plumbs the conflicts of American life. As his thorough study makes plain, lovers of Walden have at once helped to preserve and to endanger their sanctuary. If that special place is to survive for new generations, it requires sensitivity to the many purposes it has served. Walden Pond bears a complex past. Thanks to Maynard, it may continue to enjoy an inspiring future." --Robert A. Gross, University of Connecticut
"Essential for readers of Thoreau."--Kirkus Reviews
W. Barksdale Maynard is the first history of the Massachusetts pond Thoreau made famous 150 years ago.
About the Author
W. Barksdale Maynard
teaches architectural history at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Delaware and is the author of Architecture in the United States, 1800-1850
. He has served as a consultant for The Walden Woods Project and was a visiting scholar at the Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods. He lives in Newark, Delaware.