Thoreau’s Lectures Before Walden: Lecture 32



31 May 1851, Saturday
Worcester, Massachusetts; Parlors of H. G. O. Blake’s School


NARRATIVE OF EVENT: In his journal on Tuesday, 3 June 1851, Thoreau reported, “Lectured in Worcester last Saturday—& walked to As- or Hasnebumskit Hill in Paxton the next day. Said to be the highest land in Worcester County except Wachusett.” He added, “Met Mr. Blake—Brown—Chamberlin—Hinsdale—Miss Butman? Wyman Conant.” The Worcester account concluded, “Returned to Boston yesterday” (PEJ3, p. 241). Curiously, his entire journal entry of 31 May, the day of the lecture, reads: Pedestrium solatium in apricis locis.—nodosa” (PEJ3, p. 24l)—which we translate as “The solace of walkers in sunny places.—troublesome.” Not part of a lyceum or other series, this was a private lecture no doubt arranged by H. G. O. Blake and probably delivered in the parlors of Blake’s school.1 Details of its delivery have not surfaced. Almost six years later, on 13 February 1857, Thoreau gave a revised version of the same lecture in Worcester. In a 6 February 1857 letter to Blake, he commented, with reference to the 1851 presentation, “I should like to have it understood by those whom it concerns that I am invited to read in public (if it be so) what I have already read, in part, to a private audience” (C, p. 465). On 9 June 1851, a week after Thoreau returned from his private lecture engagement, Bronson Alcott noted in his journal, “Dined with Thoreau…. T. tells me that he read his paper on ‘Walking’ lately at Worcester. He should read this, and the ‘Walden’ also, everywhere in our towns and cities, for the soundness and rectitude of the sentiments. They would have a wholesome influence.”2
 DESCRIPTION OF TOPIC: See lecture 31 above. During the thirty-eight days since delivering what we assume was essentially this same lecture in Concord, Thoreau wrote several passages in his journal that are the sources for passages now in his essays “Walking” and “Life without Principle.” We can safely assume that he added those new passages to his lecture text during that interim and read them at this time.

 1. According to Worcester resident Annie Russell Marble, Thoreau: His Home, Friends and Books (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1902), “Mr. Blake and another friend, Mr. Theophilus Brown, arranged lectures in Worcester before small, interested audiences, generally in the parlors of Mr. Blake’s school” at 1 Warren Block on Pearl Street (p. 151).
 2. Alcott, Journals, p. 250.