Cover image for My friend, my friend : the story of Thoreau's relationship with Emerson
My friend, my friend : the story of Thoreau's relationship with Emerson
Smith, Harmon L.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Amherst : University of Massachusetts Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xii, 216 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Reading Level:
1380 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3053 .S63 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



An account of the intense, shifting friendship between Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Harmon Smith emphasizes their personal bond, but also shows how the relationship affected their thought and writing, and was in turn influenced by their careers.

Author Notes

An independent scholar, Harmon Smith is actively engaged in the open space conservation movement in the Housatonic River Watershed

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

From the day they met in 1837, an intimate friendship developed between Emerson and Thoreau despite a 14-year age gap. Independent scholar Smith draws deeply on their journals and letters to chronicle the evolution of their friendship. The two drew so close, Smith maintains, that Thoreau began to "talk like Emerson and to use the same gestures," while Thoreau declared that they were "like gods to each other." From 1837 to 1847, writes Smith, this camaraderie fueled the creative and intellectual fires of both men. In spite of their closeness, however, their friendship suffered as well. Thoreau tired of Emerson's insistence on mentoring him, and Emerson grew impatient with Thoreau's contentiousness. Moreover, Emerson's low opinion of Thoreau's writing fed Thoreau's animosity. The rift was healed, though, in 1858 when Emerson experienced a serious illness and Thoreau rushed to his side. Smith's study provides an instructive glimpse into the ways that the seeds of personal relationships produce the fruits of intellectual endeavor. Recommended for large public and academic libraries.ÄHenry L. Carrigan Jr., Westerville P.L., OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Emerson and Thoreau first met in 1837. Thoreau was a Harvard scholarship student; Emerson, 14 years Thoreau's senior, was developing into the leading intellectual of the US. They began a friendship that lasted until Thoreau's death in 1862. Smith traces the friendship largely through the writers' personal journals and correspondence. Emerson believed in the younger Thoreau and was a generous mentor to him. He opened his library and his home to Thoreau. He supported Thoreau financially from time to time, allowed Thoreau to build a cabin on land he owned at Walden Pond, found him paying jobs, and introduced him to important literary figures. In time, stresses and jealousies developed--conflicting friendships and emotional commitments to others. Thoreau seems to have developed an unwanted attachment to Emerson's wife, Lidian. Finally, after the publication of Thoreau's Walden, the two men became estranged: neither was able to speak openly to the other about hurts and misunderstandings that had grown unchecked. And eventually they reconciled: Emerson was able very late in life to confess that Thoreau had been his closest friend. This examination of the degrees and modulations of the friendship between these two literary giants of transcendentalism provides an important study of both the men and friendship itself. Recommended for all undergraduate and graduate collections. P. J. Ferlazzo; Northern Arizona University

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. ix
Prefacep. xi
Introductionp. 1
1 An Extraordinary Young Manp. 5
2 A Troubled Dreamp. 25
3 The Beautiful and the Bravep. 38
4 The Womb of Zeusp. 52
5 One of the Familyp. 63
6 Into the Worldp. 80
7 A Beautiful Asylump. 95
8 At Home with Lidianp. 112
9 Separate Pathsp. 129
10 Undercurrentsp. 144
11 Between Narrow Wallsp. 158
12 The Final Yearsp. 167
Notesp. 185
Selected Bibliographyp. 201
Indexp. 213