Monday, March 19, 2007


Thoreau's Journal, edited by Lawrence Stapleton in the Dover edition, begins with one of the best comments I ever read on journal-keeping:

We should not endeavor coolly to analyze our thoughts, but, keeping the pen even and parallel with the current, make an accurate transcript of them.
-March 7 1838

Other Thoreau quotes I'm compiling for use in class (from "Walking," "Life Without Principle," "Civil Disobedience"):

A town is saved, not more by the righteous men in it than by the woods and swamps that surround it.

I would not have every man nor every part of a man cultivated, any more than I would have every acre of earth cultivated.

I believe in the forest, and in the meadow, and in the night in which the corn grows.

Really to see the sun rise or go down every day, so to relate ourselves to a universal fact, would preserve us sane forever.

All good things are wild and free.

We do not live for idle amusement. I would not run round a corner to see the world blow up.

In proportion as our inward life fails, we go more constantly and desperately to the post office.

The opportunities of living are diminished in proportion as what are called the 'means' are increased.

The ways by which you may get money almost without exception lead downwards.

There is something servile in the habit of seeking after a law which we may obey.

Is democracy, such as we know it, the last improvement possible in government?

Can there not be a government in which majorities do not virtually decide right and wrong, but conscience?

Let your life be a counter friction to the machine.

And from Walden:

A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind.

I wish I'd thought to include that as an epigraph to Mythomania.

And finally:

The greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad, and if I repent of anything, it is very likely to be my good behavior.

This last is much on my mind lately, and the major theme in what it occurs to me to write in fiction and plays.

1 comment:

Edward Burne-Jones said...

Some of these Thoreau quotes remind me of Walter Pater, especially the last one.