You Got Style
· Pointed Takes on Style Delineated ·
July 11, 2003
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· "This" Again — Thoreau "Revised" ·
Which comment explains why I just thought — considering Thoreau didn't have such a wife — to return to his words today. But I fear recent references, This — By Accident — July 4th and Dirty-Hand Style: Henry David Thoreau, left the mistaken impression that Thoreau's style was but a product of simple dirty-handedness. Nothing could be further from the truth. Although Thoreau tried to leave that literary impression, readers inquiring into his real work know otherwise. As an artist, he was an inveterate reviser.
Thoreau's impressive "Reading" chapter from Walden; or, Life in the Woods best makes my point. Although Thoreau lived life "in the Woods," he wrote, quite naturally, in the house. But "naturally" here is the wrong word. For Thoreau was committed himself as an artist to the "transcendence" of nature, and nowhere is his nature-to-art move better made than in his chapter Reading, in which he expressly drafts a comparison of ordinary speech to artful writing. For him, the comparison is significantly figured as a kind of heroism:
I have emphasized one sentence and one word to stress my point, namely, that Thoreau's own writing is object of such high, heroic attention. Lest we think Thoreau's writing itself exempt from any necessary revision, I would solicit reading of the very original of the passage I cited two weeks ago in Dirty-Hand Style. It's Thoreau's early journal style you should notice.
Of course, I'll let you decide which passage is better. I just wanted to "settle accounts," as Thoreau himself suggests, on his laborious work however so "husbanded."Permalink
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