He [Thoreau] was at the center of two myths: one was that he had built his hut in the wilderness and escaped from the tyrannies of civilization. The other was that he went to jail to defy a form of taxation and so stood up for civil disobedience. Both myths had in them not the truths of what Thoreau did, but the wishes of most Americans at the time. When I had looked afresh at all the data, it was clear Thoreau had not moved into the wilderness. He moved one mile from his home into the woods at Walden Pond, within walking distance of the life he had always led. So it was a gesture. And his civil disobedience had been considerably rewritten, as it were, by Gandhi, and it had worked for Gandhi. I wasn’t trying to debunk the magic of Thoreau’s myths, but I saw that Thoreau himself wasn’t at all the Thoreau of legend which biographers and folklore had built up. The biographers had all told the story of how Thoreau, in a dry season, fried some fish in a tree trunk and set fire to the Concord woods. What I saw was that he had come to be hated by the townspeople, that he was a meditative narcissist with more feeling for trees and plants than for humans. I had asked myself the question: Why did he really at that moment of his life move a mile down the way to the edge of the pond? The answer was because he had become very unpopular in the town. – The Paris Review, Interviews, The Art of Biography No. 1, Leon Edel, interviewed by Jeanne McCullough