“Life in the Woods” (from Youth’s Companion, 19 July 1849; p. 48)
Henry D. Thoreau of Concord, Mass., has recently been lecturing on “Life in the Woods,” in Portland and elsewhere. There is not a young man in the land—and very few old ones—who would not profit by an attentive hearing of that lecture. Mr. Thoreau is a young student, who has imbibed (or rather refused to stifle) the idea that a man’s soul is better worth living for than his body. Accordingly, he has built him a house, ten by fifteen feet, in a piece of unfrequented woods, by the side of a pleasant little lakelet, where he devotes his days to study and reflection, cultivating a small plat of ground, living frugally on vegetables, and working for the neighboring farmers, whenever he is in need of money or additional exercise. It thus costs him from six to eight weeks’ rugged labor per year to earn his food and clothes, and perhaps an hour or two per day extra to prepare his food and fuel, keep his house in order, etc. He has lived in this way for four years, and his total expenses for last year were $41 25, and his surplus earnings at the close were $13 51, which he considers a better result than almost any of the farmers of Concord could show, though they have worked all the time. By this course, Mr. Thoreau lives free from pecuniary obligation or dependence on others, except that he borrows some books, which is an equal pleasure to lender and borrower. The man on whose land he is a squatter is nowise injured or inconvenienced thereby. If all our young men would but hear this lecture, we think some among them would feel less strongly impelled either to come to New York or go to California.