The Kouroo Contexture

Page 2: Chronology

Page 3: The History of Quakerism

Page 4: Giving War a Chance

Page 5: Captain John Brown at Harpers Ferry

Page 6: The View from Greater Rhode Island

Page 7: Additional Materials

Page 9: The People of WALDEN, A WEEK, and CAPE COD

Page 10: The Orient

Page 11: The People of Concord
[Page 8: Henry Thoreau]

These Adobe Reader files which you are here perusing by way of the internet have been generated out of a computer database called the "Kouroo Contexture." They will fool you, because they are not so much written by a human, as compiled by a machine. They make use of a new technology called hypercontext. Hypercontext is to hypertext as Star Trek's transporter is to a tricycle. (Basically, in hypertext you press a button and you have gone somewhere else, creating the "Lost in Hyperspace" effect, whereas in hypercontext you press a button and you have gone nowhere, but everything around you has been rearranged into a very different configuration.) Here is a file that will provide you with an explanation of the agenda of this new hypercontext tool:

 The motivation for the creation of the Kouroo Contexture 

To show the range of information that may be computer-extrapolated from the Kouroo Contexture merely by the push of a button, here are some extrapolations about Henry David Thoreau, his life, his times, his writings, and his associates. Also, this is your chance to place on record what you consider should be of record in this context. Download the Acrobat PDF file to your home computer --annotate your copy with your freebie Acrobat Reader --and then quickly send off your annotated copy by email enclosure, please, to Your remarks will be promptly incorporated, and attributed to you.

 Henry David Thoreau's father John Thoreau, Senior  

 Henry's mother Cynthia Dunbar Thoreau  

 His relatives and ancestors

Nobody had bothered to write biographies of Henry David Thoreau's parents. -- What, were they nobodies?

 Henry David Thoreau's big brother John Thoreau, Jr.
 Henry's older sister Helen Louisa Thoreau

 Henry's younger sister Sophia Elizabeth Thoreau

Nobody had bothered to write biographies of Henry David Thoreau's brother and sisters and uncle and aunts. -- What, were they nobodies?

 Henry David Thoreau's favorite uncle, Charles Dunbar
 Henry David Thoreau's, and his Uncle Charles Dunbar's, narcolepsy

Henry had a medical condition, inherited evidently from the Jones side of his family of origin.

 Henry's Aunt MariaThoreau 
Henry's aunt, Miss Louisa Dunbar 
Henry's aunt, Sweet Moon-Faced Jane Thoreau 

        There were a number of Thoreau relatives.

 The iPod version of Thoreau's WALDEN

Recently we purchased an iPod just to be able to listen to WALDEN, and downloaded the voice file that was available on the internet. The person who had read the text didn't even know how to pronounce the  word "slough." So, we have taken on the task of creating a properly prepared script for the creation of an  iPod version of Thoreau's WALDEN, and are presently in the process of marking it up to show proper   word emphasis, proper phrasing, and proper pronunciation. Please, if you want to help, download this Adobe Acrobat file to your computer and mark it up to show how you believe that this text ought to be  read, and email it to us at Your help will be greatly appreciated!

 Places mentioned in WALDEN 

Once upon a time Henry David Thoreau commented that he "traveled much in Concord." It has turned out  to be a worthy project to catalog all the various places mentioned in WALDEN and tag their locations onto  a world map. Guess how many placenames such as "Mildam," "Long Wharf," "Cuttingsville, Vermont," "Astor Place," "Great Dismal Swamp," "Dead Sea," and "Aldebaran" occur in WALDEN: 50? --100? --200?  --300?

 Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy 

 I had heard such marvelous stories about how Thoreau influenced Tolstoy, that several years ago I began  an attempt to document that influence. Quite frankly, this little study fell by the wayside, because instead  of confirming these marvelous stories, I found that I kept coming up with evidence that disconfirmed  them. --Evidence that suggested that they amounted to a potful of pious persiflage. Recently I have been  asked to put the results of this investigation on the web -- so for what it is worth, or is not worth, here it is.

 Henry David Thoreau's favorite song

Henry David Thoreau's favorite song was "Tom Bowline," by Charles Didbin. Would you volunteer to  send us an MP3 file of you singing this song, by email to We'd put it up on the web!  Your help will be greatly appreciated!

 The Thoreau family business, the manufacture of fine pencils

Henry Thoreau's father John Thoreau had made fine pencils. Henry himself perfected, in a mill on the  Assabet River in Acton near Concord,   an "air float" grinding apparatus that freed impure local graphite ore of its grit. That was his major   accomplishment as a civil engineer, not either his writing or his public speaking (for which he was rather  poorly compensated). It was that which, despite his early death due to TB at the age of 44, allowed him to  leave his surviving sister Sophia Elizabeth Thoreau and his surviving mother Cynthia Dunbar Thoreau in  secure finances for the remainder of their lives. (If the Concord bank had not later burned to the ground, destroying all its financial records, we'd have a whole lot more chapter and verse on these dollars and cents that kept his mother and his sister afloat.)

 Thoreau and Algebra 

It is impossible for a poet to know anything about math, right? Do you suppose that Thoreau's life motto    "Simplify, simplify" might have been a generalization from the method taught in algebra class?

 What was American Transcendentalism?

When Waldo Emerson came down to Providence, Rhode Island to explain about "Transcendentalism," one of our locals assured another that what the word meant was "operations on the teeth." --So do you know what "transcendentalism"really meant in New England back then?

 The Reverend who presided at the funeral of Henry David Thoreau

Waldo Emerson requested that Henry Thoreau's funeral be staged at Concord's Unitarian Church, and presided over by the Reverend Grindall Reynolds. This wasn't such a poor choice. What sort of person, then, was the Reverend Reynolds?

 Henry David Thoreau and Education

Famously, when Henry David Thoreau was a public school teacher in Concord, the school board required that he whip his pupils. Well then, he did so with abandon and immediately resigned. Soon after this incident, he made a presentation at the town lyceum. Here I attempt to make a case that the subject of this poorly documented first lyceum lecture by Thoreau was a moral comment upon what had just gone down in the local public school, and a considered derogation of the wisdom of the town fathers who made up this local school board.

 Jones Very

Henry Thoreau's tutor at Harvard was, well, a piece of work. There was every chance that this young man's crazyness was going to discredit Transcendentalism. Everyone was on pins and needles. (It worked out OK in the end, for everyone except Jones Very that is.)

 Henry Williams 

Henry David Thoreau laid claim, in WALDEN, to having helped an escaping slave "toward the North Star" -- and yet we do not see his name listed on the lists of righteous white people who served actively on the Underground Railroad.

 Thoreau watched the great splitting between the Hicksite Quakers and the Orthodox Quakers

As we know, a great mysterious split occurred among American Friends early in the 19th Century. The followers of Friend Elias Hicks got aholt of a clerk’s table by one pair of legs, and the opponents of Friend Elias Hicks got aholt of that clerk’s table by the other pair of legs, and the unity of that table was no more.
Henry David Thoreau, in his jottings, made various invidious remarks against Quakers, but also, we discover, he worshiped with Quakers. If you check out the circumstances of this, you discover that all of Henry’s negative remarks are in regard to the Orthodox Friends, and you discover that Henry worshiped with the Hicksites. Evaluating Henry’s reaction informs us of what this great mysterious split had been all about.
The Quakers had just freed themselves from involvement in human enslavement, a blot on our national history, by manumitting their black slaves, and these people who had used to worship with their masters had set up their own churches such as the AME church. Some of the newly purified whitebread Friends, such as Friend Moses Brown, then went off on a tangent of Quietism that amounted to racial apartheid: race was an ongoing problem in America, admittedly, but for them from then on it was going to be a "not our problem" problem. "Don’t bother us, we’re worshiping God here." These were the Orthodox. After the Civil War, a whole lot of white Americans imitated them and the result was Jim Crow segregation, another blot on our national history. Meanwhile, however, other of the newly purified Friends, such as Friend Lucretia Coffin Mott, had been going off on a different tangent, one of concern and of interracial involvement, that amounted to integrationism or to what was then known as "amalgamation." These were the Hicksites. For these Hicksites, the answer to the question "Am I my brother’s keeper?" was simply "It is what it is." The two groups of Quakers, going in very opposite directions in regard to America’s number one problem, greatly got on each others nerves, and it seems to have been this that tore the Religious Society of Friends into two pieces.
Thoreau chose the Hicksites (this maybe was the right choice).

   A History of Accidents

The characteristics of an accident are that A.) it is unexpected, and that B.) the impact is not only harmful but also disproportionate. Let's take a look at some relevant historical accidents.

 Would you have drunk a beer with this man? 

Would you have drunk a beer with this man? The Reverend William Rounseville Alger, the first person to purchase a copy of Thoreau's WALDEN, didn't like the book as much as one might now have imagined.

 Charles Ephraim Burchfield 

The artist Charles Ephraim Burchfield was very much influenced by Henry David Thoreau, and was very much a predecessor of Walt Disney. May your wallpaper be so lucky!

 The Isle of Jersey in the English Channel

The Thoreaus were religious refugees, French Huguenots who fled France after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. They took refuge on the Isle of Jersey in the English Channel. Here we attempt to look at the story of the Thoreaus and a related family, the Guillets, from the perspective of and within the context of the history of the Isle of Jersey.

 Henry Thoreau and the Origins of the American Tourist Industry

Henry David Thoreau's literary career was more tied up with the early stages of the development of the American tourist industry, than one might have supposed.


We presumably have, because of the Concord habit of journalizing, more details about the life of Henry David Thoreau than we have about the life of any other single human being in the entire span of human history on this planet. Do we, then, know whether or not he had been circumcised? --No, in fact we do not, but let that not preserve us from speculation on such an intriguing topic.

 Was Henry David Thoreau in his shanty at Walden Pond because of a masturbation problem?

Professor Lawrence Buell of Harvard University has accused former Harvard College student Henry David Thoreau of having fallen victim to a certain Victorian "continence philosophy." Let us therefore explore what that certain Victorian "continence philosophy" was, to which allegedly Thoreau had fallen victim, and explore in depth whether Professor Buell's charge is merely yet another cheap shot out of the Harvard University Press, at the former Harvard student that Harvard scholars down through the decades have most loved to abuse. (During Thoreau's lifetime, the cause of the pulmonary tuberculosis from which he suffered and from which he eventually died was simply not understood. One published theory was that this TB weakness was the result of excessive, compulsive masturbation -- that this disease's many victims were doing it to themselves through lack of sexual impulse control -- and therefore that they deserved no sympathy whatever. During Thoreau's lifetime, sometimes the terms "bachelor" and "hermit" were deployed as tropes (as "cover words") when the word the Victorian speaker actually intended to suggest, the word which the Victorian audience actually received, was masturbator. Let us speculate: how many of the people of New England who were paying admission money in order to attend young man Thoreau's evening lyceum lectures about his solitary life at the pond, actually had this sort of thing going on at the back of their minds?)

 Tom Neale, a real hermit of the 20th Century 

 What in hell is a "son of Tell?"

        The legend of William Tell is alive and well.

Robert Voorhis, a real hermit of the 19th Century

One of the ways readers avoid Thoreau is by averring that he wasn't much of a hermit.
(They evade, of course, the fact that Henry declared that he was no sort of hermit, and that his shanty on Walden Pond was no sort of hermitage.) Let us consider, therefore, what areal hermit is like.

 Piles of Rocks are, After All, Just Piles of Rocks

Let us compare the pile of rocks at Henry David Thoreau’s cabin site with the piles of rocks at the graves of Edmund James Banfield, a Thoreau wannabee on the other side of the world from New England, and of Frederick Townsend Ward, a somebody wannabee who went from New England to the other side of the world.

 Thoreau reads Milton

It's a trick of the eye. When you read the poetry of John Milton through the eyes of Henry David Thoreau, his poems are just as long --of course-- but they're not nearly as boring.

 Thoreau reads the Bible

It's really amazing how many Bible references there are in Thoreau's Walden! --But you wouldn't know about that, or would you?

 Doing WALDEN into Latvian

Recently, a new contributor to a WALDEN discussion list on the internet commented: "Thoreau's writing seems to have quite a few cryptic statements. I would love to find a book that explains things like this. Maybe you say that people who can't understand things like this just should read simpler things, like maybe comic books or John Grisham. Well, what can I say: I want to read and understand WALDEN. When I was trying to understand the 'curacy'-'sinecure' passages, I looked in several annotated editions of WALDEN. That was of no help. None of them had a footnote on these passages. I also looked at little academic study guides for WALDEN published by Cliff's, Monarch and Barron. They didn't discuss the 'curacy'-'sinecure' passages either. I have looked at numerous other books and websites, and none of them discussed those pages. Of course, there are very, very many books about Thoreau and WALDEN. And I think I've looked at the most often read of these. None of them seem to really focus in on interpreting or explaining the text of WALDEN. Most the books about WALDEN seem to be more of the order of reflections on its themes and/or a discussion of some of literary/rhetorical techniques." In an attempt to be helpful, I am here putting a series of commentaries on specific sentences in WALDEN, on the Internet, in the hope that they will prove useful.I need feedback. If you find these comments to be useful, or useless, please let me know at

 Warmly remembered: Francis Henry Allen

You want to be warmly remembered? Here's a couple of pointers: edit Thoreau, do a good job.

 Friend Luke Howard, the Quaker Meteorologist

I was assisting Dr. Bradley P. Dean in a piece of routine detective work and, the day after I had emailed some further info from Rhode Island to Indiana --he not having responded to this latest email message but I not having begun to be concerned at the delay-- there came the general bulletin that he had suddenly and unexpectedly died of a heart attack. This then is a record of the point to which we had arrived at the time of his death and is dedicated to Brad's memory. He will be missed.

 Senator Charles Sumner, Henry David Thoreau, George H. Moore, and "Slavery in Massachusetts" 

Why did Henry David Thoreau choose to title a 4th-of-July oration of his with the title "Slavery in Massachusetts" -- just after Senator Charles Sumner had roundly declared there to be no such animule?

 Citizens' Professor Leon Edel (edited) 

One of the worst Thoreau derogators ever has been Citizens' Professor Leon Edel, now deceased. Edel had been in PsychOps during World War II (PsychOps having been the people who told us during the war that Adolf had only one testicle). They told us that because the Nazis were our enemy and it is good for us to think bad of our enemy.
(It is an open question, why Professor Edel then needed to go on to say such horrid things about Henry Thoreau.)

 Glass Windows

In 1845 Thoreau’s cabin had two windows. What kind of panes would they have had, would they have been small oblongs of crown glass? In 1857 Thoreau was walking through Concord's "Mildam" business district, and there he inspected a plate glass shop window. Was that a great novelty? How large could such a shop window have been in 1857 — and where was plate glass coming from?

 Thoreau of Concord and Plato of Athens

Did they have a relationship?

 Thoreau and Ethics

Some notes on Professor Philip Cafaro's understanding of Thoreau's ethical stance...

 Thoreau on the Irish

From time to time someone comes along and attempts to declare that Henry Thoreau was guilty of a prejudice against the Irish....

 Miss Timothy Tortoise and the Rev. Gilbert White of Shelburne

What influence did the most frequently reprinted coffee-table book of all time have on Henry David Thoreau?

 Thoreau as Philosopher 

Professor Pierre Hadot has identified three recent philosophers as continuing in the ancient tradition of process rather than product, forming rather than informing. The three are Rousseau for France, Goethe for Germany, and Thoreau for America.

 Thoreau opposed the "Death Penalty" 

It is not sufficiently understood that Henry Thoreau was an opponent of the death penalty. The case of Washington Goode demonstrates, however, a lack of unity on this subject within the Thoreau family of Concord.

 Just about the stupidest idea ever

Every once in awhile a publisher has an absolutely inane idea. In 1906 Thoreau's publisher had just about the most absolutely inane idea a publisher has ever had: "Let's get rid of this guy's holographic manuscript by tipping a page of it into the front of each set of books!"

 New England's annoyances

According to Henry David Thoreau's WALDEN, our forefathers did sing "we can make liquor to sweeting our lips of pumpkins and parsnips and walnut-tree chips." Huh? What was that all about?