The Boatman: Henry David Thoreau's River Years

The Boatman: Henry David Thoreau's River Years

by Robert M. Thorson


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As a backyard naturalist and river enthusiast, Henry David Thoreau was keenly aware of the many ways in which humans had altered the waterways and meadows of his beloved Concord River Valley. A land surveyor by trade, he recognized that he was as complicit in these transformations as the bankers, builders, and elected officials who were his clients. The Boatman reveals the depth of his knowledge about the river as it elegantly chronicles his move from anger to lament to acceptance of how humans had changed a place he cherished even more than Walden Pond.

“A scrupulous account of the environment Thoreau loved most… Thorson argues convincingly—sometimes beautifully—that Thoreau’s thinking and writing were integrally connected to paddling and sailing.”
Wall Street Journal

“An in-depth account of Thoreau’s lifelong love of boats, his skill as a navigator, his intimate knowledge of the waterways around Concord, and his extensive survey of the Concord River.”
—Robert Pogue Harrison, New York Review of Books

“An impressive feat of empirical research…an important contribution to the scholarship on Thoreau as natural scientist.”
Los Angeles Review of Books

The Boatman presents a whole new Thoreau—the river rat. This is not just groundbreaking, but fun.”
—David Gessner, author of All the Wild That Remains

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674237414
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 04/30/2019
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 738,734
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Robert M. Thorson is Professor of Geology at the University of Connecticut.

Table of Contents

List of Figures ix

Preface xi

Introduction 1

1 Moccasin Print 34

2 Colonial Village 50

3 American Canal 64

4 Transition 83

5 Poet Concord 97

6 Wild waters 113

7 River Sojourns 128

8 Consultant 146

9 Mapmaker 164

10 Genius 185

11 Saving the Meadows 201

12 Reversal of Fortune 217

Conclusion 231

Epilogue 247

Abbreviations 251

Notes 253

References 295

Acknowledgments 307

Index 309

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