Cap of Woodchuck Skin

"Johnny and his Woodchuck-skin Cap" by
N.C. Wyeth, 1936. From the Collections at
the Concord Free Public Library.

"Most men appear never to have considered what a house is, and are actually, although needlessly, poor all their lives because they think that they must have such a one as their neighbors have. As if one were to wear any sort of coat which the tailor might cut out for him, or, gradually leaving off palm-leaf hat or cap of woodchuck skin, complain of hard times because he could not afford to buy himself a crown! It is possible to invent a house still more convenient and luxurious than we have, which yet all would admit that man could not afford to pay for. Shall we always study to obtain more of these things and not sometimes be content with less?"


From Walden, by Henry David Thoreau, 1854.


The painting is actually an interpretation of a journal entry of HDT's, from 1860, and is one of the only good pictures that comes up in a Google Search. I wonder if HDT is especially fond of woodchuck-skin caps, which seem here to be a very M.C./New England thing to wear, or if they were so common he couldn't NOT talk about them.

The other thing I like about this is the connection between house and clothing, both such strong parts of one's identity even today. You might recall a post about Hawthorne's House of Seven Gables, in which that other mid-19th c. Massachusetts writer also expounds about houses and suits of clothes, although he is thinking more about legacy than about contemporary appearances.

Plus, let's all be content with less. Hear more about Thoreau (whose name, since learning it is pronounced "thorough", I always spell with a ough) in a recentish episode of TTBOOK.