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Finding Walden in Emerson’s Plato

by Mark Gallagher

A previously unknown sketch resembling Thoreau’s house at Walden Pond discovered in a volume of Plato’s Works once owned by Ralph Waldo Emerson may have been drawn by Henry David Thoreau. The minimalist drawing, not unlike the many thumbnail sketches found in Thoreau’s Journal, gives some insight into both the architectural and philosophical designs of Thoreau’s Walden experiment. Consideration of the sketch in its context suggests how Thoreau saw himself as a philosopher as modeled on the ideal philosopher of Plato’s Republic, and, perhaps, offers a new glimpse into the Emerson-Thoreau relationship.


I have never got over my surprise that I should have been born into the most estimable place in all the world, and in the very nick of time, too.”


Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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