Henry Salt Archive

Henry Salt (1853-1939) was the author of the Life of Henry David Thoreau, Animals Rights and A Plea for Vegetarianism which inspired Gandhi for follow a vegetarian diet.

Thoreau as a Great Writer

The Dial, September 1, 1896

Mr. H. S. Salt, who is known as an editor of a portion of Thoreau’s collected works, and as a writer about Thoreau from a very appreciative and even eulogistic point of view, has given, in his life of Thoreau for Mr. Walter Scott’s series of “Great Writers” (imported by Scribner) an abridged and revised edition of his earlier work, published in 1890. In the case of Thoreau there is less material for a biography than in that of almost any other figure in literature. His was neither a life of the family, nor of the community, nor of the nation,—nor even of the republic of letters; it had no events, no career; there was only the set inwardness of growth of a life hid with nature. So, the very little material the biographer finds must be made much of, even in so small a work as this. Still, this is a sufficiently readable and accurate account. The three last chapters discuss Thoreau as man and writer. Mr. Salt regards him as most akin to Richard Jefferies; but he is certainly wide of the mark in supposing that Thoreau could have written the sentence quoted on page 189. Thoreau never “fancied” anything; his method of expression was absolutely direct. Mr. Salt thinks the future will rank Thoreau as “no mere Emersonian disciple,” but as a “master-mind,” “by far the most inspired, stimulating, and vital personality of all the Concord group.”