Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau was an American writer, philosopher, and naturalist. Born in Concord, Massachusetts on July 12th, 1817, Thoreau was the son of a pencil maker and business man. He attended the prestigious Harvard University as a young man and taught school in Concord and Staten Island, New York. From 1841 to 1843, he lived with the American writer and philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson where he met another American transcendentalist such as the educator and philosopher Amos Broson Alcott and Margaret Fuller, the literary critic.

Two years later he moved to a crude cabin on the shores of Walden Pond, a small pond on the outskirts of Concord. He lived there until 1847 when he again moved in with Emerson. During his time at Walden Pond and elsewhere in Concord, Thoreau made his living by doing odd jobs such as gardening, carpentry, and land surveying. Most of his time was given over to the study of nature, meditating on philosophical problems, reading Greek, Latin, French and English literature and especially to long talks with his neighbors.

Of the many volumes that make up the entire works of Thoreau, only two were published in his lifetime. "A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers" in 1849 and "Walden; or Life in the Woods" in 1854. The works for the other volumes were edited posthumously by the Thoreau's friends from his journals, manuscripts, and letters.

During his time in the woods, Thoreau was arrested while on a supply trip in Concord and chose to go to jail for one day rather than pay his poll tax which he felt supported slavery and the Mexican-American war. He clarified his position on the subject in perhaps his most famous essay, "Civil Disobedience" (1849). In the essay, he talked about passive resistance, a new method of protest which later was taken up by the Indian leader Mohandas Gandhi as a tactic against the British and by civil rights activists fighting racial segregation in 1960's America.

Thoreau also wrote many non-fiction works about the natural beauty of the United States and Canada. In 1835, Thoreau contracted tuberculosis and suffered from it for several years. In 1860, he became ill with bronchitis and his health began to decline even further. Eventually, he became bedridden and spent his last years revising and editing all of his unpublished works. On May 6th, 1862, Thoreau died at the age of 44. He was buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts where he still has a grave today.

Walden and Civil Disobedience

"Walden and Civil Disobedience" is a collection that includes two of the works of the famous American writer Henry David Thoreau. "Walden", perhaps Thoreau's most famous work, was published in 1854. Originally published under the title, "Walden; or, Life in the Woods", the novel experienced some success after it's release but went out of print after five short years only having sold … [Read more...]