Tuesday, November 25, 2014

In the Footsteps of Thoreau, Sort Of

In preparing for my pilgrimage to Montreal, I have been reading Thoreau’s A Week on the Concord and Merrimack River, because I plan to start my walk by following the Merrimack upstream into New Hampshire

Through the notes in my Library of America edition of A Week, I learned today that Thoreau (a) took a train trip to Montreal and (b) wrote about it. His account was first published serially in 1853 in Putnam's Monthly, as “An Excursion to Canada,” then in book form in 1866, in  A Yankee in Canada, with Anti-Slavery and Reform Papers.

The illustration here is from one of those editions, I believe. It is captioned: Cape Diamond, part of the city of Quebec. 

The opening line of “A Yankee in Canada” is unpromising:

“I fear that I have not got much to say about Canada, not having seen much; what I got by going to Canada was a cold.”

Aw pshaw, Henry. I’ve already learned a lot from your account, and I hope to follow in your footsteps, though not precisely in your trail. 

At present, I am planning to include the following major towns on my route: Lawrence and Lowell, Massachusetts; Manchester, Concord, Laconia, and Franconia, New Hampshire; St. Johnsbury, Montpelier, and Burlington, Vermont; and Plattsburgh, New York; then on north across the border to Montreal.

Thoreau boarded a train in Concord and traveled through Fitchburg, Massachusetts, to Keene, New Hampshire. From there his route ran roughly straight through Bellows Falls, Ludlow, and Rutland, Vermont, to Vergennes on Lake Champlain, then north to Burlington and across the lake to Plattsburgh.

I will write a full post on the article when I've finished reading it.

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