Thoreau’s Journal: A Life of Listening

Read and listen to Thoreau’s personal reflections on nature, friendship, slavery, and society.

For a quarter century, American author Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862) filled notebook after notebook with his observations and reflections, strong in the belief that a closely examined life would yield infinite riches. “By some fortunate coincidence of thought or circumstance,” he wrote in 1852, “I am attuned to the universe – I am fitted to hear – my being moves in a sphere of melody.” The selections presented here provide just a glimpse into his voluminous journal. They exemplify his lifelong practice of paying close attention to the world with his heart, mind, and senses—and keeping track of it all, day by day and year by year.

Learn more
For more about Thoreau and his journal, visit the website of The Writings of Henry D. Thoreau (Princeton University Press), which is publishing the complete, accurate text of the journal for the first time. Images and transcripts of every page of Thoreau’s last sixteen journal notebooks, which have not yet appeared in the print edition, are available here. The Morgan is grateful to Dr. Elizabeth Hall Witherell, Editor-in-Chief, and the edition’s entire editorial team.

About the readers
These excerpts from Thoreau’s journal are read aloud by students in New York University’s 2015 and 2016 first-year seminar on Emerson and Thoreau, taught by Professor Philip Kunhardt, Distinguished Scholar in Residence in the Humanities and founding director of the University’s Center for the Study of Transformative Lives.

Cameron Fachman

Sabrina de Silva

Eren Uman

Kaylen Hayes

Trevor James Barker

Carson Kessler

This online exhibition was created in conjunction with the exhibition This Ever New Self: Thoreau and His Journal, on view from June 2 to September 10, 2017, at the Morgan and from September 29, 2017, to January 21, 2018, at the Concord Museum. The exhibition was organized by the Morgan Library & Museum and the Concord Museum, Concord, Massachusetts.

This Ever New Self: Thoreau and His Journal is made possible with lead funding from an anonymous donor, generous support from the Gilder Foundation, and assistance from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.

Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862). Journal for 12 January–28 March 1852. MA 1302.15. Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1909.