Since its publication in 1962, Derleth’s Concord Rebel has appeared on numerous lists of assigned or recommended reading in high-school American literature and American history courses. Derleth was a highly successful and respected poet, historian, biographer, editor, publisher, teacher, and author of mysteries, supernatural tales, and numerous works of fiction and nonfiction written especially for young people. He was richly qualified to carry out his design of interweaving a discussion of Thoreau’s life with an explication of his philosophy and combining both with an overview of the American scene during the first half of the nineteenth century.
Derleth, who died in 1971, was thoroughly steeped in the period that he wrote about in Concord Rebel, his one hundredth published book. Concord Rebel remains the best short biography of Thoreau available, and it can be regarded as biography, history, philosophy, sociology, psychology, geography, travel, nature study, and literature. In addition to introducing the young reader to one of the great figures in world literature, the book also provides intriguing sketches of other distinguished Americans with whom Thoreau came into contact, including Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Thoreau was described by nearly everyone who knew him as cold and aloof. Derleth has performed the challenging task of making Thoreau understandable and sympathetic to young readers, who live in a world that Thoreau and his contemporaries never could have imagined.