Genesis of Walden: Brief Lecture Notes
(largely from Robert Sattelmeyer)
II. Early Chapters
July 4, 1845-September 6, 1847. Thoreau lives at Walden Pond. Main draft of
Late 1848. Thoreau approaches W.D. Ticknor, a publisher, about publishing
Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers and Walden. Ticknor
agrees to publish Walden after Thoreau underwrites the publication
of A Week ($450).
November 1848-early 1849. Thoreau lectures about his experiences throughout
1849. A Week is published, with little publicity and mixed reviews.
Only 200 copies out of a thousand are sold. Thoreau postpones Walden
and does not work on it from 1850-52.
1852-4. Thoreau begins revising the manuscript in four distinct stages;
the manuscript altogether has seven partial drafts.
III. Later Drafts
Began as lecture material and show it in these ways: more hyperbolic, satiric,
confrontational, and full of invective than later chapters.
Early versions more outer-directed because of Thoreau's interest in reform
Experiment at Walden Pond a community of one.
After "The Ponds," the book is more meditative and descriptive.
Later drafts show Thoreau's expansion of the second half of the book
and his growing interest in showing the complexity of nature:
Less editorializing and fewer purely self-referential statements.
More meditative, introspective, and sympathetic than the first half.
Conscious emphasis on the rise and fall of the seasons, a major structural
device. Thoreau was interested in the seasons of his own life and used
the device for this reason.
Introduction of a second structural element, the motif of quest or journey
of the narrator toward self-knowledge.
Expansion of fall and winter chapters to provide a counterpoint for the
dominant spring imagery in the book.
Parallels between the depths of nature to be plumbed at Walden Pond and
the depths of the self.
Invocation of other texts added later; authorities engaged in both playful
and serious ways.
Revisions placed more emphasis on scientific information and description.
According to Adams and Ross in Revising Mythologies (1988), "Walden has
two major climactic sequences, framed by an introduction and a conclusion"
(178). The first culminates in "The Ponds" (chapter 9) and the second in
"Spring" (chapter 17).