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I to Myself: An Annotated Selection from the Journal of Henry D. Thoreau [Hardcover]

Jeffrey S Cramer


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Book Description

2 Nov 2007
It was his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson, another inveterate journal keeper, who urged Thoreau to keep a record of his thoughts and observations. Begun in 1837, Thoreau's Journal spans a period of twenty-five years and runs to more than two million words, coming to a halt only in 1861, shortly before the author's death. The handwritten Journal had somewhat humble origins, but as it grew in scope and ambition it came to function as a record of Thoreau's interior life as well as the source for his books and essays. Indeed, it would become the central concern of the author's literary life. Critics now recognize Thoreau's Journal as an important artistic achievement in its own right. Making selections from the entirety of the Journal, Cramer presents all aspects of Thoreau: writer, thinker, naturalist, social reformer, neighbour, friend. No other single-volume edition offers such a full picture of Thoreau's life and work. Cramer's annotations add to the reader's enjoyment and understanding. He provides notes on the biographical, historical, and geographical contexts of Thoreau's life. The relation between Journal passages and the texts of works published in the author's lifetime receive special emphasis. A companion to "Walden: A Fully Annotated Edition", this gift edition of the Journal will be dipped into and treasured, and it makes a welcome addition to any book lover's library.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; annotated edition edition (2 Nov 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030011172X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300111729
  • Product Dimensions: 23.7 x 20 x 3.9 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,605,497 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"A welcome and appealing work, whose chief strength lies in the range and detail of the information provided in its annotations."--David M. Robinson, author of "Natural Life: Thoreau's Worldly Transcendentalism" --David M. Robinson

About the Author

Jeffrey S. Cramer is curator of collections at The Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods. He is editor of Walden: A Fully Annotated Edition, published by Yale University Press.

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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Best of Henry Thoreau 19 Dec 2007
By Richard Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I'm not sure where to start in this review: do I talk about what a great addition it is to Thoreau scholarship? or do I slam the previous review for being so totally wrong?
Let's start with Cramer's book. In many ways this is a "Best of.." Henry Thoreau collection! Thoreau's journals run into many, many volumes and are easily over 2 million words, and few of us have read the entire thing! And, unless you're an Historian like me, you probably don't want to!
But Cramer has done everyone a service by taking the best of Henry's journals and put them into one volume. It spans his entire journal writing life, from his first entry on October 22, 1837 to his last entry on November 3, 1861-he would die less than 6 months later at the age of 44.
Everything you would want from Thoreau is in this book; his social commentary, his humor, his Natural observations, his spiritual views. But more than this, Cramer has annotated the selections in order to explain what exactly Thoreau is talking about, or what was going on in Henry's life at the time that caused him to write or think the way he did. A good example: in March of 1851 Thoreau writes a lengthy passage about slavery and the Fugitive Slave Bill. Cramer amplifies this passage by explaining the historical context behind Thoreau's rant. He then goes on to mention that this passage, and others, later appeared in Thoreau's amazing essay, "Slavery in Massachusetts."
This is the way the whole book reads. You look first at Thoreau's awe-ispiring, beautiful words. Then you read the footnotes to see why Thoreau said what he said, or to find an explanation about whom or what Thoreau is talking about. It puts Thoreau into an historical context and by reading this book you see that, while Thoreau was ahead of his time in some ways, in others he was very much a product of his era.
It's very well done, indeed. As a Thoreau Historian (and the guy who often portrays Thoreau) I have used the book a number of times for research, or to find a cool little quote to give my presentation some extra "ooomph"! I highly recommend it!
As for the other review here: the reviewer clearly doesn't know a lot about Thoreau's life. Thoreau did not go up the Connecticut River: it was the Concord and Merrimack Rivers.
"Thoreau helping Bronson Alcott build his house and living in the attic...while tutoring" the Alcott girls??? Thoreau's "mental love affair with with the pre-teen Louisa and the reason he abruptly left the Alcott household"????
Where do these ideas come from? There's a reason why they aren't in Thoreau's journals; they NEVER HAPPENED!!
Henry never lived with the Alcott family. Ever. He briefly tutored Louisa but it was not in any Alcott home. And he never helped Alcott build any house other than a summer shack they worked on together for Emerson in 1847-48.
None of the Alcott houses ever burned. And after Thoreau's death his journals were actually protected by his sister Sophia. She later gave Bronson some of them. Eventually, many years later, they wound up in the NY Public Library, where they still reside today.
"Mental love affair"? the reviewer has been reading too much crap, like "American Bloomsbury" or "Mr. Emerson's Wife". Cramer's book is REAL history, not some fictionalized account of Thoreau's life. Please forget everything you've ever read about Concord if it was written by Susan Cheever or Amy Belding Brown.
As for the "rather strange bilblical references" Cramer used as annotations, there's a reason; Thoreau's writings are filled with Biblical references!!
If you're going to review a history book, please have some historical knowledge about the subject!
In a nutshell: buy Cramer's book! Along with his recent Annotated "Walden" you will have an exquisite collection that will help you understand Thoreau, his writing process and the times he lived in.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Annotated Journals 27 Dec 2007
By J. Dunlap - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As an avid Thoreau reader, I eagerly awaited I to Myself, scholar Jeffrey Cramer's annotated selections from Thoreau's massive journals. Cramer's much-lauded edition of Walden (Yale University Press, 2004) made that seminal text both deeper and more accessible to me, and I anticipated similar erudition and illumination from this new volume.

Happily, I can report that Cramer's latest endeavor meets my fondest expectations. The copy text was culled from the fourteen volume 1906 edition, edited by Bradford Torrey and Francis Allen, with additions from a then-lost manuscript and new transcriptions. From that 2-million-word resource, Cramer judiciously presents passages and commentary "to representatively portray a Thoreau who was neither a naturalist, philosopher, environmentalist, social reformer, nor Transcendentalist, but all of these at all times." In fact, the Thoreau we find here reveals still more sides--musician, antiquarian, disappointed lover, difficult friend, to name a few--in fluid prose that must have tempted the editor to include an overwhelming amount of text. By keeping "readability" as a primary determinant in making selections, Cramer presents a coherent, 493 page argument for the journal as Thoreau's finest work.

Read I to Myself alongside Philip Gura's new American Transcendentalism or Robert Richardson's classic biography, Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind, to heighten your understanding of the historical, personal, and intellectual context of the journals. Then accept Cramer's invitation to "read or reread Thoreau's other works with a different sensitbility and a new appreciation," particularly the complete journals themselves.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An essential introduction to an American masterpiece 19 Dec 2007
By Geoff Wisner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I first read the 14 volumes of Thoreau's complete Journal more than twenty years ago, and I'm inclined to think that the Journal may be Thoreau's masterpiece. I to Myself is a deeply satisfying book on its own terms, and it should go far toward helping readers rediscover the complete Journal.

I to Myself is handsomely designed, the selections sensitively done, and the footnotes informative without being overwhelming. I was pleased to have light shed on some obscure references -- like the school for boys on Thompson Island in Boston Harbor. The book also includes passages not included in the 1906 edition, such as a long and haunting passage about hearing a boy's triphammer from miles away.

Though I to Myself includes a generous selection of the Journal, Jeffrey Cramer has sensibly omitted passages Thoreau used in other published volumes. It would be impossible to include all one's favorite passages, but the book does an admirable and even moving job of balancing the many Thoreaus: the transcendentalist, the naturalist, the crusader, and the sometimes difficult friend.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Remarkable Book in All Ways 19 Dec 2007
By Thomas B. Montgomery-fate - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I To Myself, a new annotated selection from the journals of Henry David Thoreau, accomplishes what I did not think was possible--a "comprehensive" sense of Thoreau's mind and art as revealed in the journal. The entire journal is published elsewhere in 14 volumes, yet Jeffrey Cramer, a leading Thoreau scholar and curator, somehow reveals the emotional and intellectual acuity of the work in just one.

Thankfully, the book is not organized by themes or by seasons but chronologically, giving readers what scattered excerpts don't--a sense of the the whole of Thoreau's life, of the evolution of his interests and ideas and relationships.

Finally, like the Walden text Kramer also annotated (also from Yale)--the annotations themselves are beautifully written--concise, crisp historical details and context that make the journal come alive for readers.

My only hope is that Yale will come out with both of Kramer's books soon in paperback, as it would make them a bit more affordable for my students.

Tom Montgomery-Fate's essays and reviews have appeared in The Chicago Tribune, The Boston Globe, and many other journals and magazines. He is a professor of English at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn IL.
0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great book, beautiful book - poor packaging 9 July 2013
By @finchgirl10 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book was required for a graduated school class. It was shipped quickly and the book itself was in wonderful condition. Great to work with this company. I have ordered many books from them before and am always pleased.

However, the package Better World Books shipped this in was DECIMATED and almost ripped open in the mail. It was in a plastic sealed bag that was ripped open down the side. I think the post office put rubber bands around it, but it's lucky the books weren't damaged. I'm pleased with the book but disappointed with the shipping method.
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