Listening time: under 3 minutes.

I loved this drawn out account of Thoreau’s dealings with a publisher wanting to clear out his cellar of Thoreau’s unsold books, which Thoreau had in any case had to pay for.  So he gets them sent to his house, schleps them up several flights of stairs, noting that books are heavier than fame. He then puts them on the shelves and takes great pleasure in noting that he now has a library of 900 volumes, more than 700 of which he wrote himself, and how satisfying for a writer to survey his work this way.

In fact, he concludes that this is all together a better outcome as it keeps his privacy intact and leaves him in peace, whereas too many buyers of his books might have led to pesky readers getting in touch.

Source: Henry David Thoreau, The Journal 1837-1861, Damion Searls (ed.), preface by John R. Stilgoe (New York: New York Review Books, 2009), p. 232-33

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Quotation: Thoreau - Journal

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‘For a year or two past, my publisher, falsely so called, has been writing from time to time to ask what disposition should be made of the copies of “A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers” still on hand, and at last suggesting that he had use for the room they occupied in his cellar. So I had them all sent to me here, and they have arrived to-day by express, filling the man’s wagon, – 706 copies out of an edition of 1000 which I bought of Munroe four years ago and have been ever since paying for, and have not quite paid for yet.  The wares are sent to me at last, and I have an opportunity to examine my purchase.  They are something more substantial than fame, as my back knows, which has borne them up two flights of stairs to a place similar to that to which they trace their origin. Of the remaining two hundred and ninety and odd, seventy-five were given away, the rest sold.  I have now a library of nearly nine hundred volumes, over seven hundred of which I wrote myself.  Is it not well that the author should behold the fruits of his labor?  …  Indeed, I believe that this result is more inspiring and better for me than if a thousand had bought my wares. It affects my privacy less and leaves me freer.’  28 October 1853


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