Hyde diverges from the long-standing and dubious editorial custom of separating Thoreau's politics from his interest in nature, a division that has always obscured the ways in which the two are constantly entwined.
"Natural History of Massachusetts" begins not with fish and birds but with a dismissal of the political world, and "Slavery in Massachusetts" ends with a meditation on the water lilies blooming on the Concord River.
The essay uses Thoreau’s experience of being imprisoned for one night in 1846 (during his sojourn at Walden Pond) for not paying his poll tax in protest of American policies, most importantly the U. In defending and explaining his conduct, Thoreau produces an individualistic, transcendentalist politics based on the inviolability of the individual conscience, a conscience or moral sense that potentially grants each of us access to a higher truth.
This faith in the individual’s ability to conduct himself properly through the use of an inner moral sense provides the foundation for the fundamentally anarchistic position Thoreau articulates at the beginning of the essay—“‘That government is best which governs not at all;’ and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.” Thoreau returns to his hope for a state that will all but cease to exist at the end of the essay and describes his ability and desire to escape contact with the government as much as possible, concluding his inserted history of his night in prison by recounting a huckleberry picking expedition that led him into nature where “the State was nowhere to be seen.” Yet much of the essay takes a more practical approach to the realities of the government in the antebellum U.
While many of Emerson’s essays and lectures tend to focus on abstract ideas, principles, and social positions as indicated by their very titles—“Self-Reliance,” “Compensation,” and “The Poet”—Thoreau’s writings ground themselves in specific experience and particular locales, as indicated by the two books he published during his life time: .
Also unlike Emerson, who would achieve great fame as a lecturer and essayist, Thoreau would remain relatively obscure during his lifetime, even as he circulated among the most important literary circles of his age.While Emerson’s influence can be felt in many of Thoreau’s writings, their relationship was not always easy and Thoreau departs from Emerson in significant ways.Thoreau’s time at Walden Pond and the experience he records of being jailed for not paying taxes in “Resistance to Civil Government” (“Civil Disobedience”) can be readily understood as putting Emerson’s philosophy of self-reliance into material practice.“Hyde's volume is a well-chosen, handsome collection of essays with a splendid introduction.Everyone will want to use it--it's a real contribution.” —Robert D.Richardson, author of Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind“This thoughtfully-edited gathering of Thoreau's essays will surely be of great interest both to Thoreauvians and to readers approaching his work for the first time.” —Lawrence Buell, Harvard University, author of The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing, and the Formation of American Culture“[This book is] much enhanced by Hyde's intelligent and entertaining introduction.He has collected thirteen of Thoreau's essays but has chosen to depart from the customary practice of separating 'nature' essays from 'political' essays, instead arranging them in the order of their composition.In so doing, Hyde reminds us that the two worlds were indivisible even in the mind of Thoreau.To separate what we call 'human nature' from what we call 'the natural world' has always been the work of sophistry, never a reflection of the truth.” —The Newark Star Ledger“The first fully annotated edition of Thoreau's major essays, here presented in the order Thoreau wrote them: 'Natural History of Massachusetts,' 'A Winter Walk,' 'Paradise (To Be) Regained,' 'Ktaadn,' 'Civil Disobedience,' 'Walking,' 'Slavery in Massachusetts,' 'Life without Principle,' 'Autumnal Tints,' 'The Succession of Forest Trees,' 'A Plea for Captain John Brown,' 'The La… “Hyde's volume is a well-chosen, handsome collection of essays with a splendid introduction.But as significant as that philosophical basis is to Thoreau’s activity, the material nature of his activity may be more important.For Thoreau, the material world and his interaction with it become central in a way that the world never seems to be quite so real in Emerson’s writings.