Prophet in the Marketplace

Thoreau’s Development as a Professional Writer

Steven Fink

“Prophet in the Marketplace is an original, stimulating, and clear-headed study of Thoreau’s career as a writer, one that occupies a space on the small shelf of indispensable books on Thoreau.” —Robert Sattelmeyer, American Literature

“Fink’s scholarly command of the literary environment of the 1840s allows him to make consistently telling connections between Thoreau’s texts and the work of other writers, the economics of publishing and the sociology of audience appetites and tastes.” —Stephen Railton, Nineteenth-Century Literature

“The Thoreau that emerges from this book is not a hermit, not a misanthrope, not a private artist, but rather a struggling young writer attempting to forge a paying literary career. . . . Fink’s depiction of the nineteenth-century publishing scene is on target and his discussions of individual works by Thoreau informed and informative. His thesis is argued cogently and played out with restraint and conviction. This is—in the best sense of the term—a revisionist work, one of the best books on Thoreau published in the last thirty years.” —Joel Myerson, The New England Quarterly

Although Henry David Thoreau liked to be known as “the hermit of Walden Pond,” he also wanted to be a successful writer. Steven Fink traces Thoreau’s evolving sense of professionalism, demonstrating how profoundly it shaped his writings. By focusing on Thoreau’s pre-Walden years and looking carefully at the nature of publishing in 19th-Century America, Fink provides us with invaluable access to Thoreau’s relationship with the marketplace and with his audience.

Steven Fink is an associate professor of English at Ohio State University and the editor (with Susan S. Williams) of Reciprocal Influences: Literary Production, Distribution, and Consumption in America (Ohio State University Press).

Jun 1999 
American Literature/Book History
1992. 336 pp. 6 x 9

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