introductory note to Thoreau’s THE MAINE WOODS

From the historic introduction:

The Maine Woods was the second volume collected from his writings after Thoreau’s death. Of the material which composed it, the first two divisions were already in print. “Ktaadn and the Maine Woods” was the title of a paper printed in 1848 in The Union Magazine, and “Chesuncook” was published in The Atlantic Monthly in 1858. The book was edited by his friend William Ellery Channing.

It was during his second summer at Walden that Thoreau made his first visit to the Maine woods. It was probably in response to a request from Horace Greeley that he wrote out the narrative from his journal, for Mr. Greeley had shown himself eager to help Thoreau in putting his wares on the market. In a letter to Emerson, January 12, 1848, Thoreau writes: “I read a part of the story of my excursion to Ktaadn to quite a large audience of men and boys, the other night, whom it interested. It contains many facts and some poetry.” He offered the paper to Greeley at the end of March, and on the 17th of April Greeley responded: “I inclose you $25 for your article on Maine scenery, as promised. I know it is worth more, though I have not yet found time to read it; but I have tried once to sell it without success. It is rather long for my columns, and too fine for the million; but I consider it a cheap bargain, and shall print it myself if I do not dispose of it to better advantage. You will not, of course, consider yourself under any sort of obligation to me, for my offer was in the way of business, and I have got more than the worth of my money.”

But this generous, high-minded friend was thinking of Thoreau’s business, not his own, for in October of the same year he writes, “I break a silence of some duration to inform you that I hope on Monday to receive payment for your glorious account of ‘Ktaadn and the Maine Woods,’ which I bought of you at a Jew’s bargain and sold to The Union Magazine. I am to get $75 for it, and as I don’t choose to exploiter you at such a rate, I shall insist on inclosing you $25 more in this letter, which will still leave me $25 to pay various charges and labors I have incurred in selling your articles and getting paid for them,—the latter by far the most difficult portion of the business.”

COPYRIGHT 1864 BY TICKNOR AND FIELDS
COPYRIGHT 1892, 1893, AND 1906 BY HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & CO.

 

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