Thoreau on the nineteenth century Internet (Walden 32)

“We are eager to tunnel under the Atlantic and bring the old world some weeks nearer to the new; but perchance the first news that will leak through into the broad, flapping American ear will be that the Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough.” — Henry David Thoreau, “Economy,” Walden

Thoreau is referring to the trans-Atlantic telegraph cable, which was first used successfully (though briefly) in 1858, four years after the publication of Walden. Regular communication wasn’t established till 1866, and even then transmissions were dreadfully slow — it was the dialup modem of the nineteenth century. But before then, it took at least ten days for news to cross the Atlantic by ship. Princess Adelaide, incidentally, was a member of the British royal family.

Apparently in Henry’s day Americans were still interested in the doings of the British royals. I’m sure glad we’ve gotten over that.

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

(About  “A Year in Walden”)


2 thoughts on “Thoreau on the nineteenth century Internet (Walden 32)

  1. ~ Tim King ~

    I’ve been keeping tabs on this effort over the last few weeks and thought you (and your readers) would enjoy doing the same.
    ~ Tim
    “An Epic Journey to Celebrate 150 Years of Discovery in The Maine Woods”
    “Henry David Thoreau almost singlehandedly defined Maine’s literary spirit of adventure and discovery in The Maine Woods. 150 years later we paddle those same waterways with great vigor and excitement because they remain, for the most part, unchanged. Beginning May 16, Maine Woods Discovery will retrace the final Thoreau Expedition up Moosehead Lake and through the Allagash watershed. Join us here for the whole trip or explore our site and find an Experience or Activity that speaks to your inner Thoreau.”


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