Thoreau’s Lectures After Walden: Lecture 73



LECTURE 73

 

9 September 1860, Sunday; (Afternoon?)
Lowell, Massachusetts; Welles Hall
“LIFE MISSPENT”

 

 NARRATIVE OF EVENT: See previous entry.
 ADVERTISEMENTS, REVIEWS, AND RESPONSES: The only recovered response to Thoreau’s Lowell rendition of “Life Misspent” is the recollection of Z. E. Stone, who wrote:

 I remember very well on one occasion, some years ago, when listening to a lecture by a late Concord scholar and philosopher, to have heard a most entertaining denunciation of those who find satisfaction in reading the mere news of the day; and I was assured by the speaker, so indifferent was he to what was going on outside of himself and the things he deemed of practical value, that he would not go to the corner of the street to see the world blow up! … To be sure the Concord man was by some people called “a child of nature,” and took special delight in lying around on mother earth, indolently watching the active squirrels, the habits of fishes, and characteristics of bugs and things; and I suppose he had a right to be indifferent to what was going on in the world among his fellowmen, and to spend his time as he pleased, if he paid his taxes, but he didn’t—willingly. But the doubt his remark called up has ever since beset me.”1

 DESCRIPTION OF TOPIC: The only evidence that Thoreau read “Life Misspent” at this time in Lowell is Z. E. Stone’s allusion to a sentence Thoreau is known to have used in his early “Life Without Principle” lectures and in “Life Without Principle” itself: “I would not run round a corner to see the world blow up.”2 A resident of Lowell, Stone probably heard Thoreau lecture there, and the only time Thoreau is known to have lectured in Lowell was the morning and afternoon of 9 September 1860.



 1. Z. E. Stone. “General Jackson in Lowell,” Contributions to the Old Resident’s Historical Association of Lowell, 1 (June 1879): 105.
 2. See Dean, “Reconstructions of Thoreau’s Early ‘Life without Principle’ Lectures,” p. 347, and RP, p. 170.