Henry David Thoreau, A Life, by Laura Dassos Walls

I guess biographers’ hearts are  trained and exercised through scholarship and study, through writing, and deep sympathetic thinking along with their subjects. If a biographer is to do justice to the life she tells about, she should have a heart almost equal to her subject’s  Laura Dassos  Walls shows the wild man, Thoreau, in domestic relationships in Concord. She shows us the ambitious poet as a responsible citizen, speaking out on issues of justice. She shows us the gifted essayist, measuring his paragraphs by the pace of his steps through the woods around Walden, and in the rhythm of his canoe paddle dipping into the Sudbury River.

I think Thoreau is the father of the best part of the American character: independent, helpful, creative, neighborly, scientific, ingenious, child-like and innocent. This fine biography is a long, complex tale of one of the first and greatest Americans, told richly through the characters and intellectual society of his beloved Concord.

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