“I think that I love society as much as most, and am ready enough to fasten myself like a bloodsucker for the time to any full-blooded man that comes in my way. I am naturally no hermit, but might possibly sit out the sturdiest frequenter of the bar-room, if my business called me thither.” —Henry David Thoreau, “Visitors,” Walden
One of the most persistent myths about Thoreau is that he was a hermit who spent his life living alone in the woods. Anyone who says this has obviously not read Walden.
It’s also inaccurate to say that Thoreau didn’t like other people, or that he wasn’t interested in what they had to say. It’s true, he could be a difficult friend at times. Biographer Robert Richardson says he was “capable of a kind of tart defensive superiority which, when not laced with wit, could irritate — and continues to irritate — his detractors.” (Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind, p. 185) But Richardson also notes that “friendship was, in certain ways, vital to him.” And, for what it’s worth, local children “were so deeply impressed with his minute knowledge of everything in town they thought it was Mr. Thoreau who had made Concord.” (p. 296)
(About “A Year in Walden”)