Thoreau was a guest on a mid-nineteenth-century talk show:
[AB=Ainsworth Brown; HT=Henry Thoreau]
AB: Good afternoon. This is "The Ainsworth Brown Show" and I am Ainsworth Brown. We are privileged to have as our guest this afternoon Henry David Thoreau who has written a book, Walden; or, Life in the Woods. Henry, come on out . . . . [Applause from studio audience as Thoreau enters] Welcome, welcome. Glad you could come. . . . Have a seat. . . .
HT: Thank you.
AB: Henry, I have not had a chance to read your book yet but I do know that it is, in the popular parlance, "hot, hot, hot". Graham's Magazine has called it "always racy and stimulating", the product of a "powerful and accomplished mind". . . . So what's this Walden about?
HT: It's the story of the two years, two months, and two days I spent living alone in a cabin by Walden Pond, near Concord, Massachusetts.
AB: What happened?
HT: I built the cabin. That first summer I grew some beans as a cash crop. In the book I talk about the food I ate, the plants and animals I saw, and the changing of the seasons.
AB: So what did you eat?
HT: I ate wild berries and grapes. I occasionally caught some fish or a wild animal -- I once trapped and butchered a woodchuck who was bothering my bean plants -- but mostly I ate rice, bread made from rye and cornmeal with molasses as sweetening, potatoes, and peas.
AB: Frankly, Henry, except for the woodchuck, it sounds pretty boring.
HT: I can see why you might think so, Mr. Brown. But, as I contend in the book, the external circumstances in which one finds one's self are far less important than one's inner life. I wanted to simplify my material needs to a point where I could spend just a few hours each day satisfying them and have all the rest of my time free for contemplation and self-improvement. Most men are slaves to their possessions and to the jobs they are forced to perform in order to pay for them.
AB: I get it -- a Marxist/capitalist kind of thing. . . .
HT: I'm not sure I know what you mean. . . .
AB: What were the results of your contemplations?
HT: I have recorded many of my thoughts in the book, but I don't really think of contemplation as a means for book-creation, or as a means to anything at all, but rather as an end in itself.
AB: I see . . . so it's like meditation, TM, that kind of thing. . . .
HT: Yes, it is meditation.
AB: But you would meditate for like -- what -- ten hours a day?
HT: Yes, it might frequently have been that long.
AB: Wow! . . . Did you spend all your time at the pond or did you go other places too?
HT: I have always walked wherever I've wanted to. Individual men may think they own particular pieces of property but, in a truer sense, trees, mountains and animals can not be owned; they belong to Nature and to the men who would love and protect them.
AB: [Turning to the camera] So, there you have it. Henry David Thoreau, Marxist eco-warrior. He has regularly spent ten hours a day in meditation and once killed, butchered with his own hands, and ate a woodchuck who was devouring his bean plants. His book [holding a copy up to the camera] is Walden; or, Life in the Woods. Thank you, Henry. Please tune in tomorrow when my guest will be . . .
[Maxham, 1856. Daguerreotype of Henry D. Thoreau. Courtesy of The Thoreau Society]