When I think of Walden Pond, I imagine Thoreau living in splendid isolation in the middle of the woods in Massachusetts. I picture him enraptured by the beauty of the wilderness. Thoreau’s life on Walden Pond was not exactly the life of someone retreating from the hustle and bustle of life. How could it have been when the shack he lived in was barely a mile from town and he could walk out to get whatever he needed. One day when he went to town, he was arrested for failure to pay a $5.00 tax bill. Against Thoreau’s insistence that the bill not be paid, his aunt paid the bill and after doing hard time of a night in jail he ambled back to his pond. There is a story that periodically makes the rounds which states that upon Henry David Thoreau’s
departure from Walden Pond on September 6, 1847
, he moved in with Ralph Waldo Emerson and his family in Concord, Massachusetts. This strikes me as unlikely because when Thoreau did finally leave Walden Pond for good he had amassed such serious debt that would take him years to pay it off. The debt was incurred largely because Thoreau took Emerson’s suggestion that he self publish an early book bearing the title A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers
. Emerson’s publisher apparently was more than happy to publish it, particularly so because Thoreau had agreed to pay all costs involved. The publisher did little or nothing to publicize the book and, it bombed. There seemed to be a great wall of friction between the two men from that point on. It’s a nice thought that two such important figures could live together, basking in the glow of each other’s brilliance, and spend their days producing masterpieces. It seems a bit similar to the period where Jackson Pollock
and Willem DeKooning
were housemates in Bridgehampton, New York. While Thoreau did leave Walden Pond on the 6th it seems that the whole Thoreau-Emerson thing never happened. It does make a nice story though.