Note: The Antiplanner wrote the first draft of this article about the Wildness phrase before the New York Times essay mentioned below appeared. A more concise version of this article is available on The American Spectator.
Today marks the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of David Henry Thorough. At least, that’s how his family pronounced their name, though they spelled it Thoreau. While his first name was David, everyone called him Henry, and later he legally changed his name to Henry David.
To commemorate his birthday, the New York Times last week featured a lengthy essay by historian Douglas Brinkley based on a popular misinterpretation of one of Thoreau’s most famous quotes: “In Wildness is the preservation of the world.” Brinkley equates “wildness” with “wilderness,” thereby connecting Thoreau with today’s environmental movement. While that’s a mistake I once made myself, in fact that is not what Thoreau meant at all. Continue reading