WHEN THOREAU BURNED DOWN THE WOODS AND DIDN’T REGRET IT. This review by Brenda Wineapple in the Wall Street Journal (March 19) of THE ADVENTURES OF HENRY THOREAU by Michael Sims brought me the surprising information that Henry Thoreau once burned down some woods near Concord. The internet led me to this article by Rebecca Beatrice Brooks on the History of Massachusetts website. Thoreau didn’t just burn down woods. He burned down half of the Concord woods—some 300 acres— and nearly set the town of Concord on fire. The fire destroyed “some of the last remaining untouched woodland in an area that had been devastated by deforestation brought on by the industrial revolution”.
Worse, Thoreau proclaimed that except for the first few minutes of the fire, he felt no remorse. Six years after the event, he wrote: “It has never troubled me from that day to this more than if the lightning had done it…. So shortly I settled it with myself and stood to watch the approaching flames. It was a glorious spectacle and I was the only one there to enjoy it.”