What is the distinction Max Beerbohm makes between going out for a walk and being taken out for a walk?
The essay is called "Going Out For a Walk" by Max Beerbohm. If you search it on Google, it is the first link that appears, if you would like to reread it.
Beerbohm sees going out for a walk as his choice to do so when he has a reason to go. Being taken for a walk is when someone forces him to go for no reason other than to walk. He says the brain shuts off when one goes "walking for walking's sake". To underscore this opinion, he tells the story of the man who takes him for a walk and does nothing but read every sign and inscription they pass. His conversation amounts to totally insignificant chatter. Beerbohm points out that it's only when his walking companion is back inside that his brain begins working again. Beerbohm feels that it is the soul' s decision to walk for no reason whatsoever because it certainly couldn't be logic that would make a person go out for a walk without a purpose. At the end of his essay, however, Beerbohm admits he was on a walk when he got the idea for his essay on walking. He says he has nothing against walking for exercise as long as it's done in moderation, but he will continue his dislike for those people who walk "just to walk".
Max Beerbohm's essay "Going Out for a Walk" sounds very much like the famous essay "On Going a Journey" by William Hazlitt (1778-1830). Like Beerbohm, Hazlitt enjoyed reading, writing and thinking. Beerbohm's chief complaint against being taken out for a walk is that walking tends to make the brain shut down.
My objection to it is that it stops the brain.
He can't think of anything to say to the man who has dragged him out for a destination-less walk, and the other man has nothing to say to him but the most banal things. This seems to be why William Hazlitt, who enjoyed walking, begins his essay with one major qualification:
One of the pleasantest things in the world is going a journey; but I like to go by myself....I cannot see the wit of walking and talking at the same time.
Beerbohm seems to be saying that he occasionally enjoys going for a walk if it is his own idea and he doesn't have to put up with, or keep up with, a companion. Beerbohm doesn't believe in walking for the sake of walking. He wants to have a purpose, a destination. That probably says a lot about his character. He differs from Hazlitt in that respect--but Hazlitt lived much earlier when there was less to do. Beerbohm lived well into the age of motor-cars. In "Going Out for a Walk" he writes:
Even if you go to some definite place, for some definite purpose, the brain would rather you took a vehicle;
William Hazlitt was a good friend of William Wordsworth, the great poet who was noted for composing his verses while he was walking "o'er vales and hills." But Wordsworth would not walk with Hazlitt, or vice versa. Both of them would have found that their brains had shut off, and literature would be missing some fine pieces.
"Going Out For a Walk" by Max Beerbohm is a short humorous essay, in which Beerbohm casts himself as a typical urbanite, aesthete, and intellectual, who is dubious about the virtues of outdoor exercise.
He portrays himself as never "going out for a walk" voluntarily, of his own volition, but instead as having acquaintances he meets while visiting the country "take him out on walks", i.e. compel him to walk with them by offering invitations it would be rude to refuse. In the middle of the essay, he describes walking as an activity inimical to thought and good conversation, arguing that the brain shuts off during a walk.
In a humorous twist though, he ends the essay by mentioning that the inspiration for the essay, and much of its structure, were worked out by him as he was out walking.