Thoreau’s Lectures Before Walden: Lecture 17



3 January 1849, Wednesday; 7:00 P.M.
Concord, Massachusetts; Unitarian Church, Vestry


NARRATIVE OF EVENT: According to the records of the Concord Lyceum, “Jany 3d 1849 Lecture by D. H. Thoreau Concord. Subject: White Beans & Walden Pond” (MassLyc, p. 163). Thoreau’s lecture was the fifth in a course of nineteen, although, as Thomas Blanding has argued, Thoreau may have been “a last minute substitute.”1 The evidence for this conclusion is a journal entry by James Lorin Chapin of Lincoln, who on 3 January 1849 wrote, “I had calculated to have gone to the Lyceum but heard that the man who was expected could not come and so I did not go. Have spent most of the evening in reading, but feel so drowsy that I think I cannot sit up longer than nine o’ clock.”2 Chapin could not have meant that he had planned to go to the Lincoln Lyceum because it met only on Tuesdays and, in fact, had met the previous evening, 2 January (MassLyc, p. 218).
DESCRIPTION OF TOPIC: With the exception of a few that have been lost or scattered, the manuscript pages Thoreau read from are at CSmH (HM 924) and contain passages that he later used in the “Sounds” and “The Bean-Field” chapters of Walden. Also see entries for lecture 15 above about the three-lecture “Walden; or, Life in the Woods” course and lecture 19 below about James Lorin Chapin’s journal entry after hearing a
later delivery of this same lecture.

 1. Blanding, “Thoreau’s Local Lectures,” 23.
 2. Quoted in Blanding, “Thoreau’s Local Lectures,” 23.


Copyright © by Joel Myerson
Reprinted with permission