The Journal 1837–1861
by Henry David Thoreau, edited by Damion Searls, preface by John R. Stilgoe
Henry David Thoreau’s Journal was his life’s work: the daily practice of writing that accompanied his daily walks, the workshop where he developed his books and essays, and a project in its own right—one of the most intensive explorations ever made of the everyday environment, the revolving seasons, and the changing self. It is a treasure trove of some of the finest prose in English and, for those acquainted with it, its prismatic pages exercise a hypnotic fascination. Yet at roughly seven thousand pages, or two million words, it remains Thoreau’s least-known work.
This reader’s edition, the largest one-volume edition of Thoreau’s Journal ever published, is the first to capture the scope, rhythms, and variety of the work as a whole. Ranging freely over the world at large, the Journal is no less devoted to the life within. As Thoreau says, “It is in vain to write on the seasons unless you have the seasons in you.”
Reading Thoreau's Journal I discover any idea I've ever had worth its salt.
Thoreau could lift a fish out of the stream with his hands; he could charm a wild squirrel to nestle in his coat; he could sit so still that the animals went on with their play round him. [In the Journal] we have a chance of getting to know Thoreau as few people are known, even by their friends.
— Virginia Woolf
It is the unflagging beauty of the writing, day after day, that confirms its greatness among writers' journals.