Who Said It? Thoreau, Louise Dickinson Rich, or L.L.Bean?

We’ve paired lines from two of Maine’s most quotable writers, Henry David Thoreau and Louise Dickinson Rich, with pearls from perhaps the state’s least-likely bestselling author, L.L. Bean himself. From our 100 Maine Books package.

From our June 2020 issue

HDT, LDR, or LLB? Can you guess the source of the literary quotes below?

1. There are so many, many Maines that it would take a lifetime to learn them all by heart.

State O’ Maine, by adopted Mainer Louise Dickinson Rich, is a 1964 work of pop anthropology that reads as fresh as the day it was published. Dickinson Rich writes the state’s history — natural and human — with a scholar’s insight and a lover’s fondness.

2. Wherever there is a channel for water, there is a road for the canoe.

Henry David Thoreau’s The Maine Woods recalls three wilderness excursions here, in 1846, 1853, and 1857. His essays about the trips, published in 1864, after his death, helped make his name at a time when Walden was still a flop of a book.

3. My life to the age of 40 years was mostly uneventful, with a few exceptions.

So begins My Story, a strange, dull autobiography by tycoon Leon Leonwood Bean, who dismisses the first two-thirds of his life immediately, then mostly writes about shoes. His life and love for the state are worth reading about, but the book you want is M.R. Montgomery’s 1984 In Search of L.L. Bean.

4. A pine cut down, a dead pine, 
is no more a pine than a dead human carcass is a man.

Thoreau’s reflections on his river trips are full of aphorisms and a backcountry newbie’s enthusiasm. Back home, he experienced nature as a pastoral force. Many scholars point to Maine as where his wilderness ethic developed.

5. While in some parts of the 
country, a man has to be rich or famous or both before he can afford to be eccentric, in Maine, eccentricity is a fundamental right of everyone.

Dickinson Rich had a quick, dry wit and an eye and ear for regional peculiarities. For a 56-year-old history text, State O’ Maine is still really funny.

6. To those who are making their first trip to the big woods, be sure and get a shoe that will not chafe the heel cords.

Bean wrote two books, including a sporting guide that sold well, despite his laconic prose and focus on footwear. Montgomery, who smartly analyzes the brand’s appeal to “preppies” and “yuppies,” notes that Bean is “fond of explaining the obvious” in a “creative mixture of ungrammatical but somehow accurate English.” We can’t all be Thoreau.

See more books every lover of Maine should read!

May 2024, Down East Magazine

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