Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862) was an American naturalist, poet, philosopher, surveyor, and author of numerous essays, poems, and books. Thoreau’s most famous works were an essay on Civil Disobedience, and the book entitled, “Walden, Life in the Woods”. Thoreau was borne in Concord, Massachusetts, the son of an industrialist father who manufactured pencils. Thoreau had a wide range of interests as a child, including studying nature, reading, and Indian culture. As part of this culture, Thoreau read many books on the Hindu Religion, learned how to play the flute and practiced yoga. He was also fond of recreational hiking and canoeing.

As a young man, Thoreau attended Harvard College, graduating in 1837. However, he declined to pay the $5 fee for a diploma. After graduating, Thoreau divided his time between teaching, working at the pencil factory, and hobnobbing with some of Massachusetts’ literary greats, including Emerson, with whom he became close friends. It was Emerson who encouraged Thoreau’s writing, and it was Emerson’s wife who suggested that Thoreau retreat into nature to explore its simplicity and record his observations. Taking her advice, Thoreau moved into a small house Emerson had near Walden Pond, and spent two years, two months, and two days living there, giving rise to the book, “Walden, Life in the Woods.” He described this book as an exploration of natural simplicity, harmony, and beauty as models for just social and cultural conditions. At first, no publishing houses were interested in this book, so Thoreau had to pay for the printing of the first 1,000 copies. In time, though, this book caught on, and many of Thoreau’s contemporaries praised this work as one of the best American novels ever written (Robert Frost.) Thoreau continued to live and work in Massachusetts, rarely ever leaving New England. He died in 1862.

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