A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849) is a book by Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862).[1] It is ostensibly the narrative of a boat trip from Concord, Massachusetts to Concord, New Hampshire, and back, that Thoreau took with his brother John in 1839. John died of tetanus in 1842 and Thoreau wrote the book, in part, as a tribute to his memory.[2]


The book's first draft was completed while Thoreau was living at Walden Pond (1845–47). He was unable to find a publisher, however, and therefore had it published at his own expense.[2] Few copies sold and he was left with several hundred extras and went into debt. A slightly revised version of A Week, based on corrections Thoreau had made himself, was published in 1868, six years after his death.


While the book may appear to be a travel journal, broken up into chapters for each day, this is deceptive. The actual trip took two weeks and while given passages are a literal description of the journey — from Concord, Massachusetts, down the Concord River to the Middlesex Canal, to the Merrimack River, up to Concord, New Hampshire, and back — much of the text is in the form of digressions by the Harvard-educated author on diverse topics such as religion, poetry, and history. Thoreau relates these topics to his own life experiences, often in the context of the rapid changes taking place in his native New England during the Industrial Revolution, changes that Thoreau often laments.



The French composer Robert Piéchaud (born 1969) wrote The River (2016), a wind quintet which freely follows Thoreau's work. An additional voice part is found in the last movement, setting All Things Are Current Found, the last poem of the book.

John McPhee recreated Thoreau's journey in a canoe starting 31 August 2003, and wrote about it in "Paddling After Henry David Thoreau" [McPhee, John (15 December 2003). "Paddling After Henry David Thoreau". The New Yorker. Retrieved 25 February 2020.].


  1. ^ Thoreau, Henry D. (1849). A Week On the Concord And Merrimack Rivers. Boston and Cambridge: James Munroe and Company. Retrieved February 1, 2018 – via Internet Archive.
  2. ^ a b "A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers". Princeton University Press. Retrieved 3 February 2011.

External links

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