The University of Wisconsin Press

Biography / Environmental Studies


The Young John Muir
An Environmental Biography
Steven J. Holmes

"A landmark in the scholarship about John Muir and the developmental power of wilderness."—John C. Elder, editor of American Nature Writers

"Exciting, original, and highly readable. . . . This is a rich, challenging, original and beautifully written account of Muir's inner development as an environmental thinker."
—John A. Tallmadge, president of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment

As a founder of the Sierra Club and promoter of the national parks, as a passionate nature writer and as a principal figure of the environmental movement, John Muir stands as a powerful symbol of connection with the natural world. But how did Muir's own relationship with nature begin? In this pioneering book, Steven J. Holmes offers a dramatically new interpretation of Muir's formative years, one that reveals the agony as well as the elation of his earliest experiences of nature.

From his childhood in Scotland and Wisconsin through his young adulthood in the Midwest and Canada, Muir struggled—often without success—to find a place for himself both in nature and in society. Far from granting comfort, the natural world confronted the young Muir with a full range of practical, emotional, and religious conflicts. Only with the help of his family, his religion, and the extraordinary power of nature itself could Muir in his late twenties find a welcoming vision of nature as home—a vision that would shape his lifelong environmental experience, most immediately in his transformative travels through the South and to the Yosemite Valley.

More than a biography, The Young John Muir is a remarkable exploration of the human relationship with wilderness. Accessible and engaging, the book will appeal to anyone interested in the individual struggle to come to terms with the power of nature.

Steven J. Holmes is lecturer in history and literature at Harvard University.

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cover of Holmes book is green and purple.  A photo of the young John Muir is seen behind some foliage.

April 1999

336 pp. 6 x 9 7 illus.

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Paper $24.95 s
ISBN 978-
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