TWO MYTHS AND THE TRUTH ABOUT THEM
On July 14, 1789, the people rose up and stormed the Bastille and freed all the political prisoners. This act started the French Revolution. It was a revolution where the poor rose up against their wealthy oppressors paving the way to our modern-day freedom—or so I believed.
The French monarchy had stopped keeping political prisoners, in the Bastille, years before the French Revolution. On July 14, 1789, the Bastille had only 7 prisoners: 4 fraudsters, 2 lunatics, and a nobleman accused of sex crimes. That’s it.
As for the poor rising up against the rich, it was a revolution started by wealthy nobles and professionals in meeting halls at Versailles weeks before the storming of the Bastille. The poor had a small part if any part at all.
Henry David Thoreau was born on July 12, 1817. I read his book Walden when I was a teenager and found Thoreau’s rugged individualism and self-reliance inspiring . . .
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived . . . I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like . . . ” – Thoreau
“Wow,” I thought, “what courage to go off into the woods and live in solitude and be self-sufficient!”
It turns out that Henry David Thoreau did not really go off into the woods. Walden Pond was on land owned by Thoreau’s friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson allowed Thoreau to live on his land for two years. Essentially Thoreau stayed in Emerson’s backyard.
As for solitude? Emerson and others were frequent visitors to Thoreau’s cabin. What kind of hermitage is that?
Self-sufficiency? Living “sturdily and Spartan-like”? Thoreau made trips to Emerson’s house for a home-cooked meals. He would also go into Concord and have meals with friends in exchange for odd jobs. And his mother, who lived close to Emerson’s backyard, did Thoreau’s laundry for him.
I believed that Bastille Day was the beginning of the French Revolution on which the poor set hundreds of political prisoners free. And I believed that Henry David Thoreau lived in solitude for two years near Walden Pond being totally self-sufficient. What else do I believe that is not true?
Posted on July 15, 2016, in Uncategorized and tagged bastille, bastille day, french revolution, henry david thoreau, july 14, myth, ralph waldo emerson, solitude, spartan, truth, walden. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.