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Henry David Thoreau Biography

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Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) was an American writer, poet, philosopher and naturalist. He is perhaps most famous for his creation of "Walden; or, Life in the Woods" (1854), which was an autobiographical collection of writings related to his two-year stay at Walden Pond. Read more about the life and works of Henry David Thoreau.

Birth:

Henry David Thoreau was born in Concord, Massachusetts on July 12, 1817. John Thoreau, his father, ran a pencil factory. Cynthia Dunbar Thoreau, his mother, named him David Henry Thoreau (though he introduced himself as Henry David, and his mother called him Henry).

Death:

Henry David Thoreau contracted tuberculosis around 1835. He suffered--off and on--from the disease for the rest of his life. Thoreau died in Concord, Massachusetts on May 6, 1862. He was buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetary.

Romance:

Henry David Thoreau was romantically inclined toward several women: Ellen Seawall and Mary Russell. Thoreau never married.

Education:

Henry David Thoreau studied at Concord Academy (1828-1833), and at Harvard University. He was also a teacher in Canton, Massachusetts and at Center School. He also ran a school with his brother, John, for three years.

Henry David Thoreau Literary Achievements:

Henry David Thoreau was not highly appreciated during his lifetime, but he is now considered one of the foremost American writers of the 19th century. Works like "Walden" and "Civil Disobedience" are often studied in classrooms.

Lines from "Walden":

"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."

"I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.

"I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion."

"As long as possible live free and uncommitted. It makes but little difference whether you are committed to a farm or the county jail."

"Our life is frittered away by detail."

"Rise free from care before the dawn, and seek adventures."

More Lines from "Walden":

"Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains."

"What is man but a mass of thawing clay?"

"Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."

Lines from "Civil Disobedience":

"Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it."

"Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison."

"Action from principle, the perception and the performance of right, changes things and relations; it is essentially revolutionary, and does not consist wholly with anything which was."

Henry David Thoreau: A Brief Biography:

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) was an American writer, poet, philosopher and naturalist. He is perhaps most famous for his creation of "Walden; or, Life in the Woods" (1854), which was an autobiographical collection of writings related to his two-year stay at Walden Pond.

Along with Emerson, Thoreau was a part of the Transcendentalist movement. He was never able to make a living with his writing, though his essays, poems and other works fill some 20 volumes.

Thoreau's works have influenced some of the greatest figures. "Civil Disobedience" influenced influenced Leo Tolstoy, Mohandas Gandhi, and Martin Luther King. But, his travel and excursion books are also notable. Because of his explorations in "The Main Woods," "A Yankee in Canada," and "Cape Cod," Thoreau has been called "the first environmentalist."

Of course, the work that is usually associated with Thoreau will probably always be "Walden." In this work, he lives apart from society to find himself in a simple existence. He wrote:

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary."

List of Works:
  • "A Week on the Concord and Merrimac Rivers" (1849)
  • "Civil Disobedience" (1849)
  • "Slavery in Massachusetts" (1854)
  • "Walden" (1854)
  • ""A Plea for Captain John Brown" (1860)
  • "Excursions" (1863)
  • "Life Without Principle"
  • "The Maine Woods" (1864)
  • "Cape Cod" (1865)
  • "Early Spring in Massachusetts" (1881)
  • "Summer" (1884)
  • "Winter" (1888)
  • "Autumn" (1892)
  • "Miscellanies" (1894)
  • "The Journal of Henry D. Thoreau" (1906)
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