Henry David Thoreau
Overview
 
Henry David Thoreau was an American author, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist
Natural history
Natural history is the scientific research of plants or animals, leaning more towards observational rather than experimental methods of study, and encompasses more research published in magazines than in academic journals. Grouped among the natural sciences, natural history is the systematic study...

, tax resister
Tax resistance
Tax resistance is the refusal to pay tax because of opposition to the government that is imposing the tax or to government policy.Tax resistance is a form of civil disobedience and direct action...

, development critic
Development criticism
Development criticism refers to criticisms of technological development.-Notable development critics:*Edward Abbey*John Africa*Stafford Beer *Charles A...

, surveyor
Surveying
See Also: Public Land Survey SystemSurveying or land surveying is the technique, profession, and science of accurately determining the terrestrial or three-dimensional position of points and the distances and angles between them...

, historian, and leading transcendentalist
Transcendentalism
Transcendentalism is a philosophical movement that developed in the 1830s and 1840s in the New England region of the United States as a protest against the general state of culture and society, and in particular, the state of intellectualism at Harvard University and the doctrine of the Unitarian...

. He is best known for his book Walden
Walden
Walden is an American book written by noted Transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau...

, a reflection upon simple living
Simple living
Simple living encompasses a number of different voluntary practices to simplify one's lifestyle. These may include reducing one's possessions or increasing self-sufficiency, for example. Simple living may be characterized by individuals being satisfied with what they need rather than want...

 in natural surroundings, and his essay Civil Disobedience
Civil Disobedience (Thoreau)
Civil Disobedience is an essay by American transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau that was first published in 1849...

, an argument for individual resistance to civil government
Civil disobedience
Civil disobedience is the active, professed refusal to obey certain laws, demands, and commands of a government, or of an occupying international power. Civil disobedience is commonly, though not always, defined as being nonviolent resistance. It is one form of civil resistance...

 in moral opposition to an unjust state.

Thoreau's books, articles, essays, journals, and poetry total over 20 volumes. Among his lasting contributions were his writings on natural history
Nature writing
Nature writing is generally defined as nonfiction prose writing about the natural environment. Nature writing often draws heavily on scientific information and facts about the natural world; at the same time, it is frequently written in the first person and incorporates personal observations of and...

 and philosophy, where he anticipated the methods and findings of ecology and environmental history
Environmental history
Environmental history, a branch of historiography, is the study of human interaction with the natural world over time. In contrast to other historical disciplines, it emphasizes the active role nature plays in influencing human affairs. Environmental historians study how humans both shape their...

, two sources of modern day environmentalism
Environmentalism
Environmentalism is a broad philosophy, ideology and social movement regarding concerns for environmental conservation and improvement of the health of the environment, particularly as the measure for this health seeks to incorporate the concerns of non-human elements...

.
Quotations

But now I see I was not plucked for naught,And after in life's vaseOf glass set while I might survive,But by a kind hand broughtAliveTo a strange place.

"I am a parcel of vain strivings tied", st. 6 (1841)

Here while I lie beneath this walnut bough,What care I for the Greeks or for Troy town,If juster battles are enacted nowBetween the ants upon this hummock's crown?

The Summer Rain, st. 3

The fate of the country does not depend on how you vote at the polls — the worst man is as strong as the best at that game; it does not depend on what kind of paper you drop into the ballot-box once a year, but on what kind of man you drop from your chamber into the street every morning.

Slavery in Massachusetts

It is not enough to be industrious; so are the ants. What are you industrious about?

Letter to Harrison Blake (16 November 1857)

Encyclopedia
Henry David Thoreau was an American author, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist
Natural history
Natural history is the scientific research of plants or animals, leaning more towards observational rather than experimental methods of study, and encompasses more research published in magazines than in academic journals. Grouped among the natural sciences, natural history is the systematic study...

, tax resister
Tax resistance
Tax resistance is the refusal to pay tax because of opposition to the government that is imposing the tax or to government policy.Tax resistance is a form of civil disobedience and direct action...

, development critic
Development criticism
Development criticism refers to criticisms of technological development.-Notable development critics:*Edward Abbey*John Africa*Stafford Beer *Charles A...

, surveyor
Surveying
See Also: Public Land Survey SystemSurveying or land surveying is the technique, profession, and science of accurately determining the terrestrial or three-dimensional position of points and the distances and angles between them...

, historian, and leading transcendentalist
Transcendentalism
Transcendentalism is a philosophical movement that developed in the 1830s and 1840s in the New England region of the United States as a protest against the general state of culture and society, and in particular, the state of intellectualism at Harvard University and the doctrine of the Unitarian...

. He is best known for his book Walden
Walden
Walden is an American book written by noted Transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau...

, a reflection upon simple living
Simple living
Simple living encompasses a number of different voluntary practices to simplify one's lifestyle. These may include reducing one's possessions or increasing self-sufficiency, for example. Simple living may be characterized by individuals being satisfied with what they need rather than want...

 in natural surroundings, and his essay Civil Disobedience
Civil Disobedience (Thoreau)
Civil Disobedience is an essay by American transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau that was first published in 1849...

, an argument for individual resistance to civil government
Civil disobedience
Civil disobedience is the active, professed refusal to obey certain laws, demands, and commands of a government, or of an occupying international power. Civil disobedience is commonly, though not always, defined as being nonviolent resistance. It is one form of civil resistance...

 in moral opposition to an unjust state.

Thoreau's books, articles, essays, journals, and poetry total over 20 volumes. Among his lasting contributions were his writings on natural history
Nature writing
Nature writing is generally defined as nonfiction prose writing about the natural environment. Nature writing often draws heavily on scientific information and facts about the natural world; at the same time, it is frequently written in the first person and incorporates personal observations of and...

 and philosophy, where he anticipated the methods and findings of ecology and environmental history
Environmental history
Environmental history, a branch of historiography, is the study of human interaction with the natural world over time. In contrast to other historical disciplines, it emphasizes the active role nature plays in influencing human affairs. Environmental historians study how humans both shape their...

, two sources of modern day environmentalism
Environmentalism
Environmentalism is a broad philosophy, ideology and social movement regarding concerns for environmental conservation and improvement of the health of the environment, particularly as the measure for this health seeks to incorporate the concerns of non-human elements...

. His literary
Literary language
A literary language is a register of a language that is used in literary writing. This may also include liturgical writing. The difference between literary and non-literary forms is more marked in some languages than in others...

 style interweaves close natural observation, personal experience, pointed rhetoric, symbol
Symbol
A symbol is something which represents an idea, a physical entity or a process but is distinct from it. The purpose of a symbol is to communicate meaning. For example, a red octagon may be a symbol for "STOP". On a map, a picture of a tent might represent a campsite. Numerals are symbols for...

ic meanings, and historical lore, while displaying a poetic sensibility, philosophical austerity
Asceticism
Asceticism describes a lifestyle characterized by abstinence from various sorts of worldly pleasures often with the aim of pursuing religious and spiritual goals...

, and "Yankee" love of practical detail. He was also deeply interested in the idea of survival in the face of hostile elements, historical change, and natural decay; at the same time he advocated abandoning waste and illusion
Illusion
An illusion is a distortion of the senses, revealing how the brain normally organizes and interprets sensory stimulation. While illusions distort reality, they are generally shared by most people....

 in order to discover life's true essential needs.

He was a lifelong abolitionist
Abolitionism
Abolitionism is a movement to end slavery.In western Europe and the Americas abolitionism was a movement to end the slave trade and set slaves free. At the behest of Dominican priest Bartolomé de las Casas who was shocked at the treatment of natives in the New World, Spain enacted the first...

, delivering lectures that attacked the Fugitive Slave Law
Fugitive slave laws
The fugitive slave laws were laws passed by the United States Congress in 1793 and 1850 to provide for the return of slaves who escaped from one state into another state or territory.-Pre-colonial and Colonial eras:...

 while praising the writings of Wendell Phillips
Wendell Phillips
Wendell Phillips was an American abolitionist, advocate for Native Americans, and orator. He was an exceptional orator and agitator, advocate and lawyer, writer and debater.-Education:...

 and defending abolitionist John Brown
John Brown (abolitionist)
John Brown was an American revolutionary abolitionist, who in the 1850s advocated and practiced armed insurrection as a means to abolish slavery in the United States. He led the Pottawatomie Massacre during which five men were killed, in 1856 in Bleeding Kansas, and made his name in the...

. Thoreau's philosophy of civil disobedience
Civil disobedience
Civil disobedience is the active, professed refusal to obey certain laws, demands, and commands of a government, or of an occupying international power. Civil disobedience is commonly, though not always, defined as being nonviolent resistance. It is one form of civil resistance...

 influenced the political thoughts and actions of such later figures as Leo Tolstoy
Leo Tolstoy
Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy was a Russian writer who primarily wrote novels and short stories. Later in life, he also wrote plays and essays. His two most famous works, the novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina, are acknowledged as two of the greatest novels of all time and a pinnacle of realist...

, Mohandas Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was an American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for being an iconic figure in the advancement of civil rights in the United States and around the world, using nonviolent methods following the...



Thoreau is sometimes cited as an individualist anarchist
Individualist anarchism
Individualist anarchism refers to several traditions of thought within the anarchist movement that emphasize the individual and his or her will over external determinants such as groups, society, traditions, and ideological systems. Individualist anarchism is not a single philosophy but refers to a...

. Though Civil Disobedience seems to call for improving rather than abolishing government – "I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government" – the direction of this improvement points toward anarchism: "'That government is best which governs not at all;' and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have." Richard Drinnon partly blames Thoreau for the ambiguity, noting that Thoreau's "sly satire, his liking for wide margins for his writing, and his fondness for paradox provided ammunition for widely divergent interpretations of 'Civil Disobedience.'" He further points out that although Thoreau writes that he only wants "at once" a better government, that does not rule out the possibility that a little later he might favor no government.

Early life and education

He was born David Henry Thoreau in Concord, Massachusetts
Concord, Massachusetts
Concord is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the town population was 17,668. Although a small town, Concord is noted for its leading roles in American history and literature.-History:...

, into the "modest New England
New England
New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut...

 family" of John Thoreau (a pencil maker) and Cynthia Dunbar. His paternal grandfather was of French origin and was born in Jersey
Jersey
Jersey, officially the Bailiwick of Jersey is a British Crown Dependency off the coast of Normandy, France. As well as the island of Jersey itself, the bailiwick includes two groups of small islands that are no longer permanently inhabited, the Minquiers and Écréhous, and the Pierres de Lecq and...

. His maternal grandfather, Asa Dunbar, led Harvard's
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 1766 student "Butter Rebellion
Butter rebellion
The Great Butter Rebellion, which took place at Harvard University in 1766, was the first recorded student protest in what is now the United States...

", the first recorded student protest in the Colonies. David Henry was named after a recently deceased paternal uncle, David Thoreau. He did not become "Henry David" until after college, although he never petitioned to make a legal name change. He had two older siblings, Helen and John Jr., and a younger sister, Sophia. Thoreau's birthplace
Wheeler-Minot Farmhouse
Wheeler-Minot Farmhouse is an historic house at 341 Virginia Road in Concord, Massachusetts, USA.The house was the birthplace of the writer Henry David Thoreau. The house was built in 1730 and added to the National Historic Register in 2004....

 still exists on Virginia Road in Concord and is currently the focus of preservation efforts. The house is original, but it now stands about 100 yards away from its first site.

Amos Bronson Alcott
Amos Bronson Alcott
Amos Bronson Alcott was an American teacher, writer, philosopher, and reformer. As an educator, Alcott pioneered new ways of interacting with young students, focusing on a conversational style, and avoided traditional punishment. He hoped to perfect the human spirit and, to that end, advocated a...

 and Thoreau's aunt each wrote that "Thoreau" is pronounced like the word "thorough", whose standard American pronunciation rhymes with "furrow".
Edward Emerson wrote that the name should be pronounced "Thó-row, the h sounded, and accent on the first syllable." In appearance he was homely, with a nose that he called "my most prominent feature." Of his face, Nathaniel Hawthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne was an American novelist and short story writer.Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in 1804 in the city of Salem, Massachusetts to Nathaniel Hathorne and the former Elizabeth Clarke Manning. His ancestors include John Hathorne, a judge during the Salem Witch Trials...

 wrote: "[Thoreau] is as ugly as sin, long-nosed, queer-mouthed, and with uncouth and rustic, though courteous manners, corresponding very well with such an exterior. But his ugliness is of an honest and agreeable fashion, and becomes him much better than beauty." Thoreau also wore a neck-beard for many years, which he insisted many women found attractive. However, Louisa May Alcott
Louisa May Alcott
Louisa May Alcott was an American novelist. She is best known for the novel Little Women and its sequels Little Men and Jo's Boys. Little Women was set in the Alcott family home, Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts, and published in 1868...

 mentioned to Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet, who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century...

 that Thoreau's facial hair "will most assuredly deflect amorous advances and preserve the man's virtue in perpetuity."

Thoreau studied at Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 between 1833 and 1837. He lived in Hollis Hall and took courses in rhetoric
Rhetoric
Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western...

, classics, philosophy, mathematics, and science. A legend proposes that Thoreau refused to pay the five-dollar fee for a Harvard diploma. In fact, the master's degree he declined to purchase had no academic merit: Harvard College
Harvard College
Harvard College, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is one of two schools within Harvard University granting undergraduate degrees...

 offered it to graduates "who proved their physical worth by being alive three years after graduating, and their saving, earning, or inheriting quality or condition by having Five Dollars to give the college." His comment was: "Let every sheep keep its own skin", a reference to the tradition of diplomas being written on sheepskin
Sheepskin (material)
Sheepskin is the hide of a sheep, sometimes also called lambskin. Unlike common leather, sheepskin is tanned with the fleece intact, as in a pelt.-Uses:...

 vellum
Vellum
Vellum is mammal skin prepared for writing or printing on, to produce single pages, scrolls, codices or books. It is generally smooth and durable, although there are great variations depending on preparation, the quality of the skin and the type of animal used...

.

Return to Concord: 1837–1841

The traditional professions open to college graduates—law, the church, business, medicine—failed to interest Thoreau, so in 1835 he took a leave of absence from Harvard, during which he taught school in Canton, Massachusetts
Canton, Massachusetts
Canton is a town in Norfolk County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 21,561 at the 2010 census. Canton is part of Greater Boston, about 15 miles southwest of downtown Boston.- History :...

. After he graduated in 1837, he joined the faculty of the Concord public school, but resigned after a few weeks rather than administer corporal punishment
Corporal punishment
Corporal punishment is a form of physical punishment that involves the deliberate infliction of pain as retribution for an offence, or for the purpose of disciplining or reforming a wrongdoer, or to deter attitudes or behaviour deemed unacceptable...

. He and his brother John then opened a grammar school
Grammar school
A grammar school is one of several different types of school in the history of education in the United Kingdom and some other English-speaking countries, originally a school teaching classical languages but more recently an academically-oriented secondary school.The original purpose of mediaeval...

 in Concord in 1838 called Concord Academy. They introduced several progressive concepts, including nature walks and visits to local shops and businesses. The school ended when John became fatally ill from tetanus
Tetanus
Tetanus is a medical condition characterized by a prolonged contraction of skeletal muscle fibers. The primary symptoms are caused by tetanospasmin, a neurotoxin produced by the Gram-positive, rod-shaped, obligate anaerobic bacterium Clostridium tetani...

 in 1842 after cutting himself while shaving. He died in his brother Henry's arms.

Upon graduation Thoreau returned home to Concord, where he met Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet, who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century...

 through a mutual friend. Emerson took a paternal and at times patronizing interest in Thoreau, advising the young man and introducing him to a circle of local writers and thinkers, including Ellery Channing, Margaret Fuller
Margaret Fuller
Sarah Margaret Fuller Ossoli, commonly known as Margaret Fuller, was an American journalist, critic, and women's rights advocate associated with the American transcendentalism movement. She was the first full-time American female book reviewer in journalism...

, Bronson Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne and his son Julian Hawthorne
Julian Hawthorne
Julian Hawthorne was an American writer and journalist, the son of novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne and Sophia Peabody. He wrote numerous poems, novels, short stories, mystery/detective fiction, essays, travel books, biographies and histories...

, who was a boy at the time.

Emerson urged Thoreau to contribute essays and poems to a quarterly periodical, The Dial
The Dial
The Dial was an American magazine published intermittently from 1840 to 1929. In its first form, from 1840 to 1844, it served as the chief publication of the Transcendentalists. In the 1880s it was revived as a political magazine...

, and Emerson lobbied editor Margaret Fuller to publish those writings. Thoreau's first essay published there was Aulus Persius Flaccus
Aulus Persius Flaccus
Persius, in full Aulus Persius Flaccus , was a Roman poet and satirist of Etruscan origin. In his works, poems and satires, he shows a stoic wisdom and a strong criticism for the abuses of his contemporaries...

,
an essay on the playwright of the same name, published in The Dial in July 1840. It consisted of revised passages from his journal, which he had begun keeping at Emerson's suggestion. The first journal entry on October 22, 1837, reads, "'What are you doing now?' he asked. 'Do you keep a journal?' So I make my first entry to-day."

Thoreau was a philosopher of nature and its relation to the human condition. In his early years he followed Transcendentalism
Transcendentalism
Transcendentalism is a philosophical movement that developed in the 1830s and 1840s in the New England region of the United States as a protest against the general state of culture and society, and in particular, the state of intellectualism at Harvard University and the doctrine of the Unitarian...

, a loose and eclectic idealist
Idealism
In philosophy, idealism is the family of views which assert that reality, or reality as we can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. Epistemologically, idealism manifests as a skepticism about the possibility of knowing any mind-independent thing...

 philosophy advocated by Emerson, Fuller, and Alcott. They held that an ideal spiritual state transcends, or goes beyond, the physical and empirical, and that one achieves that insight via personal intuition rather than religious doctrine. In their view, Nature is the outward sign of inward spirit, expressing the "radical correspondence of visible things and human thoughts," as Emerson wrote in Nature (1836).

On April 18, 1841, Thoreau moved into the Emerson house
Ralph Waldo Emerson House
The Ralph Waldo Emerson House is a house museum located at 28 Cambridge Turnpike, Concord, Massachusetts, and a National Historic Landmark for its associations with American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. The museum is open mid-April to mid-October; an admission fee is charged.-History:The house...

. There, from 1841–1844, he served as the children's tutor, editorial assistant, and repair man/gardener. For a few months in 1843, he moved to the home of William Emerson on Staten Island
Staten Island
Staten Island is a borough of New York City, New York, United States, located in the southwest part of the city. Staten Island is separated from New Jersey by the Arthur Kill and the Kill Van Kull, and from the rest of New York by New York Bay...

, and tutored the family sons while seeking contacts among literary men and journalists in the city who might help publish his writings, including his future literary representative Horace Greeley
Horace Greeley
Horace Greeley was an American newspaper editor, a founder of the Liberal Republican Party, a reformer, a politician, and an outspoken opponent of slavery...

.

Thoreau returned to Concord and worked in his family's pencil
Pencil
A pencil is a writing implement or art medium usually constructed of a narrow, solid pigment core inside a protective casing. The case prevents the core from breaking, and also from marking the user’s hand during use....

 factory, which he continued to do for most of his adult life. He rediscovered the process to make a good pencil out of inferior graphite
Graphite
The mineral graphite is one of the allotropes of carbon. It was named by Abraham Gottlob Werner in 1789 from the Ancient Greek γράφω , "to draw/write", for its use in pencils, where it is commonly called lead . Unlike diamond , graphite is an electrical conductor, a semimetal...

 by using clay as the binder; this invention improved upon graphite found in New Hampshire
New Hampshire
New Hampshire is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. The state was named after the southern English county of Hampshire. It is bordered by Massachusetts to the south, Vermont to the west, Maine and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Canadian...

 and bought in 1821 by relative Charles Dunbar. (The process of mixing graphite and clay, known as the Conté process, was patented by Nicolas-Jacques Conté
Nicolas-Jacques Conté
Nicolas-Jacques Conté was a French painter, balloonist, army officer, and inventor of the modern pencil.He was born at Saint-Céneri-près-Sées in Normandy, and distinguished himself for his mechanical genius which was of great avail to the French army in Egypt...

 in 1795). His other source had been Tantiusques
Tantiusques
Tantiusques is a open space reservation and historic site registered with the National Register of Historic Places. The reservation is located in Sturbridge, Massachusetts and is owned and managed by The Trustees of Reservations; it is notable for its historic, defunct graphite mines...

, an Indian operated mine in Sturbridge, Massachusetts
Sturbridge, Massachusetts
Sturbridge is a town in Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States. It is home to Old Sturbridge Village living history museum and other sites of historical interest such as Tantiusques.The population was 9,268 at the 2010 census...

. Later, Thoreau converted the factory to produce plumbago (graphite), which was used to ink typesetting
Typesetting
Typesetting is the composition of text by means of types.Typesetting requires the prior process of designing a font and storing it in some manner...

 machines.

Once back in Concord, Thoreau went through a restless period. In April 1844 he and his friend Edward Hoar accidentally set a fire that consumed 300 acres (1.2 km²) of Walden Woods. He spoke often of finding a farm to buy or lease, which he felt would give him a means to support himself while also providing enough solitude to write his first book.

Civil Disobedience and the Walden years: 1845–1849

Thoreau needed to concentrate and get himself working more on his writing. In March 1845, Ellery Channing told Thoreau, "Go out upon that, build yourself a hut, & there begin the grand process of devouring yourself alive. I see no other alternative, no other hope for you." Two months later, Thoreau embarked on a two-year experiment in simple living
Simple living
Simple living encompasses a number of different voluntary practices to simplify one's lifestyle. These may include reducing one's possessions or increasing self-sufficiency, for example. Simple living may be characterized by individuals being satisfied with what they need rather than want...

 on July 4, 1845, when he moved to a small, self-built house on land owned by Emerson in a second-growth forest
Secondary forest
A secondary forest is a forest or woodland area which has re-grown after a major disturbance such as fire, insect infestation, timber harvest or windthrow, until a long enough period has passed so that the effects of the disturbance are no longer evident...

 around the shores of Walden Pond
Walden Pond
Walden Pond is a 31-metre-deep lake in Massachusetts . It is in area and around, located in Concord, Massachusetts, in the United States...

. The house was in "a pretty pasture and woodlot" of 14 acres (56,656 m²) that Emerson had bought, 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from his family home.

On July 24 or July 25, 1846, Thoreau ran into the local tax collector
Tax collector
A tax collector is a person who collects unpaid taxes from other people or corporations. Tax collectors are often portrayed in fiction as being evil, and in the modern world share a somewhat similar stereotype to that of lawyers....

, Sam Staples, who asked him to pay six years of delinquent poll tax
Poll tax
A poll tax is a tax of a portioned, fixed amount per individual in accordance with the census . When a corvée is commuted for cash payment, in effect it becomes a poll tax...

es. Thoreau refused because of his opposition to the Mexican-American War and slavery, and he spent a night in jail because of this refusal. (The next day Thoreau was freed, against his wishes, when his aunt paid his taxes.) The experience had a strong impact on Thoreau. In January and February 1848, he delivered lectures on "The Rights and Duties of the Individual in relation to Government" explaining his tax resistance at the Concord Lyceum. Bronson Alcott attended the lecture, writing in his journal on January 26:


Thoreau revised the lecture into an essay entitled Resistance to Civil Government
Civil Disobedience (Thoreau)
Civil Disobedience is an essay by American transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau that was first published in 1849...

(also known as Civil Disobedience). In May 1849 it was published by Elizabeth Peabody
Elizabeth Peabody
Elizabeth Palmer Peabody was an American educator who opened the first English-language kindergarten in the United States. Long before most educators, Peabody embraced the premise that children's play has intrinsic developmental and educational value.-Biography:Peabody was born in Billerica,...

 in the Aesthetic Papers. Thoreau had taken up a version of Percy Shelley's principle in the political poem The Mask of Anarchy (1819), that Shelley begins with the powerful images of the unjust forms of authority of his time – and then imagines the stirrings of a radically new form of social action.

At Walden Pond, he completed a first draft of A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers
A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers
A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers is a book by Henry David Thoreau, first published in 1849. The book is ostensibly the narrative of a boat trip from Concord, Massachusetts to Concord, New Hampshire and back Thoreau had taken with his brother John in 1839...

, an elegy
Elegy
In literature, an elegy is a mournful, melancholic or plaintive poem, especially a funeral song or a lament for the dead.-History:The Greek term elegeia originally referred to any verse written in elegiac couplets and covering a wide range of subject matter, including epitaphs for tombs...

 to his brother, John, that described their 1839 trip to the White Mountains
White Mountains (New Hampshire)
The White Mountains are a mountain range covering about a quarter of the state of New Hampshire and a small portion of western Maine in the United States. Part of the Appalachian Mountains, they are considered the most rugged mountains in New England...

. Thoreau did not find a publisher for this book and instead printed 1,000 copies at his own expense, though fewer than 300 were sold. Thoreau self-published on the advice of Emerson, using Emerson's own publisher, Munroe, who did little to publicize the book.

In August 1846, Thoreau briefly left Walden to make a trip to Mount Katahdin
Mount Katahdin
Mount Katahdin is the highest mountain in Maine at . Named Katahdin by the Penobscot Indians, the term means "The Greatest Mountain". Katahdin is the centerpiece of Baxter State Park: a steep, tall mountain formed from underground magma. The flora and fauna on the mountain are typical of those...

 in Maine
Maine
Maine is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and south, New Hampshire to the west, and the Canadian provinces of Quebec to the northwest and New Brunswick to the northeast. Maine is both the northernmost and easternmost...

, a journey later recorded in "Ktaadn," the first part of The Maine Woods.

Thoreau left Walden Pond on September 6, 1847. At Emerson's request, he immediately moved back into the Emerson house to help Lidian manage the household while her husband was on an extended trip to Europe. Over several years, he worked to pay off his debts and also continuously revised his manuscript for what, in 1854, he would publish as Walden, or Life in the Woods
Walden
Walden is an American book written by noted Transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau...

, recounting the two years, two months, and two days he had spent at Walden Pond. The book compresses that time into a single calendar year, using the passage of four seasons to symbolize human development. Part memoir
Memoir
A memoir , is a literary genre, forming a subclass of autobiography – although the terms 'memoir' and 'autobiography' are almost interchangeable. Memoir is autobiographical writing, but not all autobiographical writing follows the criteria for memoir set out below...

 and part spiritual quest, Walden at first won few admirers, but later critics have regarded it as a classic American work that explores natural simplicity, harmony, and beauty as models for just social and cultural conditions.

American poet Robert Frost
Robert Frost
Robert Lee Frost was an American poet. He is highly regarded for his realistic depictions of rural life and his command of American colloquial speech. His work frequently employed settings from rural life in New England in the early twentieth century, using them to examine complex social and...

 wrote of Thoreau, "In one book ... he surpasses everything we have had in America."

John Updike
John Updike
John Hoyer Updike was an American novelist, poet, short story writer, art critic, and literary critic....

 wrote in 2004,
Thoreau moved out of Emerson's house in July 1848 and stayed at a home on Belknap Street nearby. In 1850, he and his family moved into a home at 255 Main Street
Thoreau-Alcott House
The Thoreau-Alcott House is an historic house at 255 Main Street in Concord, Massachusetts that was home to the writers Henry David Thoreau and Louisa May Alcott at different times.-History:...

; he stayed there until his death.

Later years: 1851–1862

In 1851, Thoreau became increasingly fascinated with natural history
Natural history
Natural history is the scientific research of plants or animals, leaning more towards observational rather than experimental methods of study, and encompasses more research published in magazines than in academic journals. Grouped among the natural sciences, natural history is the systematic study...

 and travel/expedition narratives. He read avidly on botany
Botany
Botany, plant science, or plant biology is a branch of biology that involves the scientific study of plant life. Traditionally, botany also included the study of fungi, algae and viruses...

 and often wrote observations on this topic into his journal. He admired William Bartram
William Bartram
William Bartram was an American naturalist. The son of Ann and John Bartram, William Bartram and his twin sister Elizabeth were born in Kingsessing, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia. As a boy, he accompanied his father on many of his travels, to the Catskill Mountains, the New Jersey Pine Barrens,...

, and Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

's Voyage of the Beagle
The Voyage of the Beagle
The Voyage of the Beagle is a title commonly given to the book written by Charles Darwin and published in 1839 as his Journal and Remarks, bringing him considerable fame and respect...

. He kept detailed observations on Concord's nature lore, recording everything from how the fruit ripened over time to the fluctuating depths of Walden Pond and the days certain birds migrated. The point of this task was to "anticipate" the seasons of nature, in his words.

He became a land surveyor and continued to write increasingly detailed natural history observations about the 26 square miles (67.3 km²) township in his journal, a two-million word document he kept for 24 years. He also kept a series of notebooks, and these observations became the source for Thoreau's late natural history writings, such as Autumnal Tints, The Succession of Trees, and Wild Apples, an essay lamenting the destruction of indigenous and wild apple species.

Until the 1970s, literary critics dismissed Thoreau's late pursuits as amateur science and philosophy. With the rise of environmental history
Environmental history
Environmental history, a branch of historiography, is the study of human interaction with the natural world over time. In contrast to other historical disciplines, it emphasizes the active role nature plays in influencing human affairs. Environmental historians study how humans both shape their...

 and ecocriticism
Ecocriticism
Ecocriticism is the study of literature and environment from an interdisciplinary point of view where all sciences come together to analyze the environment and brainstorm possible solutions for the correction of the contemporary environmental situation...

, several new readings of this matter began to emerge, showing Thoreau to be both a philosopher and an analyst of ecological patterns in fields and woodlots. For instance, his late essay, "The Succession of Forest Trees," shows that he used experimentation and analysis to explain how forests regenerate after fire or human destruction, through dispersal by seed-bearing winds or animals.

He traveled to Quebec
Quebec
Quebec or is a province in east-central Canada. It is the only Canadian province with a predominantly French-speaking population and the only one whose sole official language is French at the provincial level....

 once, Cape Cod
Cape Cod
Cape Cod, often referred to locally as simply the Cape, is a cape in the easternmost portion of the state of Massachusetts, in the Northeastern United States...

 four times, and Maine three times; these landscapes inspired his "excursion" books, A Yankee in Canada, Cape Cod, and The Maine Woods, in which travel itineraries frame his thoughts about geography, history and philosophy. Other travels took him southwest to Philadelphia and New York City in 1854, and west across the Great Lakes region
Great Lakes region (North America)
The Great Lakes region of North America, occasionally known as the Third Coast or the Fresh Coast , includes the eight U.S. states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin as well as the Canadian province of Ontario...

 in 1861, visiting Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls
The Niagara Falls, located on the Niagara River draining Lake Erie into Lake Ontario, is the collective name for the Horseshoe Falls and the adjacent American Falls along with the comparatively small Bridal Veil Falls, which combined form the highest flow rate of any waterfalls in the world and has...

, Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Mackinac Island
Mackinac Island
Mackinac Island is an island and resort area covering in land area, part of the U.S. state of Michigan. It is located in Lake Huron, at the eastern end of the Straits of Mackinac, between the state's Upper and Lower Peninsulas. The island was home to a Native American settlement before European...

. Although provincial in his physical travels, he was extraordinarily well-read and vicariously a world traveler. He obsessively devoured all the first-hand travel accounts available in his day, at a time when the last unmapped regions of the earth were being explored. He read Magellan
Magellan
Magellan may refer to:*Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer who led part of the first expedition around the world*Magellan , a progressive rock band*Magellan , a forerunner of the Excite web portal...

 and James Cook
James Cook
Captain James Cook, FRS, RN was a British explorer, navigator and cartographer who ultimately rose to the rank of captain in the Royal Navy...

, the arctic explorers Franklin
John Franklin
Rear-Admiral Sir John Franklin KCH FRGS RN was a British Royal Navy officer and Arctic explorer. Franklin also served as governor of Tasmania for several years. In his last expedition, he disappeared while attempting to chart and navigate a section of the Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic...

, Mackenzie and Parry, David Livingstone
David Livingstone
David Livingstone was a Scottish Congregationalist pioneer medical missionary with the London Missionary Society and an explorer in Africa. His meeting with H. M. Stanley gave rise to the popular quotation, "Dr...

 and Richard Francis Burton
Richard Francis Burton
Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton KCMG FRGS was a British geographer, explorer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist, cartographer, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer and diplomat. He was known for his travels and explorations within Asia, Africa and the Americas as well as his...

 on Africa, Lewis and Clark; and hundreds of lesser-known works by explorers and literate travelers. Astonishing amounts of global reading fed his endless curiosity about the peoples, cultures, religions and natural history of the world, and left its traces as commentaries in his voluminous journals. He processed everything he read, in the local laboratory of his Concord experience. Among his famous aphorisms is his advice to "live at home like a traveler."

After John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry
John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry
John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry was an attempt by white abolitionist John Brown to start an armed slave revolt by seizing a United States Arsenal at Harpers Ferry in Virginia in 1859...

, many prominent voices in the abolitionist movement distanced themselves from Brown, or damned him with faint praise
Damn with faint praise
Damn with faint praise is an English idiom for words that effectively condemn by seeming to offer praise which is too moderate or marginal to be considered praise at all...

. Thoreau was disgusted by this, and he composed a speech—A Plea for Captain John Brown
A Plea for Captain John Brown
A Plea for Captain John Brown is an essay by Henry David Thoreau. It is based on a speech Thoreau first delivered to an audience at Concord, Massachusetts on October 30, 1859, two weeks after John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, and repeated several times before Brown’s execution on December 2, 1859...

—which was uncompromising in its defense of Brown and his actions. Thoreau's speech proved persuasive: first the abolitionist movement began to accept Brown as a martyr, and by the time of the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 entire armies of the North were literally singing Brown's praises
John Brown's Body
"John Brown's Body" is an American marching song about the abolitionist John Brown. The song was popular in the Union during the American Civil War. The tune arose out of the folk hymn tradition of the American camp meeting movement of the 19th century...

. As a contemporary biographer of John Brown put it: "If, as Alfred Kazin
Alfred Kazin
Alfred Kazin was an American writer and literary critic, many of whose writings depicted the immigrant experience in early twentieth century America....

 suggests, without John Brown there would have been no Civil War, we would add that without the Concord Transcendentalists, John Brown would have had little cultural impact."

Death

Thoreau contracted tuberculosis
Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

 in 1835 and suffered from it sporadically afterwards. In 1859, following a late night excursion to count the rings of tree stumps during a rain storm, he became ill with bronchitis
Bronchitis
Acute bronchitis is an inflammation of the large bronchi in the lungs that is usually caused by viruses or bacteria and may last several days or weeks. Characteristic symptoms include cough, sputum production, and shortness of breath and wheezing related to the obstruction of the inflamed airways...

. His health declined over three years with brief periods of remission, until he eventually became bedridden. Recognizing the terminal nature of his disease, Thoreau spent his last years revising and editing his unpublished works, particularly The Maine Woods and Excursions
Excursions (anthology)
Excursions is an anthology of several essays by American transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau. The anthology contains several essays by Thoreau, as well as an introduction entitled "Biographical Sketch" in which fellow transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson provides a description of Thoreau.The...

, and petitioning publishers to print revised editions of A Week and Walden. He also wrote letters and journal entries until he became too weak to continue. His friends were alarmed at his diminished appearance and were fascinated by his tranquil acceptance of death. When his aunt Louisa asked him in his last weeks if he had made his peace with God, Thoreau responded: "I did not know we had ever quarreled."

Aware he was dying, Thoreau's last words were "Now comes good sailing", followed by two lone words, "moose" and "Indian". He died on May 6, 1862 at age 44. Bronson Alcott planned the service and read selections from Thoreau's works, and Channing presented a hymn. Emerson wrote the eulogy spoken at his funeral. Originally buried in the Dunbar family plot, he and members of his immediate family were eventually moved to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery is a cemetery located on Bedford Street near the center of Concord, Massachusetts. The cemetery is the burial site of a number of famous Concordians, including some of the United States' greatest authors and thinkers, especially on a hill known as "Author's...

 (N42° 27' 53.7" W71° 20' 33") in Concord, Massachusetts.

Thoreau's friend Ellery Channing published his first biography, Thoreau the Poet-Naturalist, in 1873, and Channing and another friend Harrison Blake edited some poems, essays, and journal entries for posthumous publication in the 1890s. Thoreau's journals, which he often mined for his published works but which remained largely unpublished at his death, were first published in 1906 and helped to build his modern reputation. A new, expanded edition of the journals is underway, published by Princeton University Press. Today, Thoreau is regarded as one of the foremost American writers, both for the modern clarity of his prose style and the prescience of his views on nature and politics. His memory is honored by the international Thoreau Society
Thoreau Society
Established in 1941, the Thoreau Society has long contributed to the dissemination of knowledge about Henry David Thoreau by collecting books, manuscripts, and artifacts relating to Thoreau and his contemporaries, by encouraging the use of its collections, and by publishing articles in two Society...

.

Beliefs


Thoreau was an early advocate of recreational hiking and canoeing
Canoeing
Canoeing is an outdoor activity that involves a special kind of canoe.Open canoes may be 'poled' , sailed, 'lined and tracked' or even 'gunnel-bobbed'....

, of conserving natural resources on private land, and of preserving wilderness as public land. Thoreau was also one of the first American supporters of Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

's theory of evolution. He was not a strict vegetarian, though he said he preferred that diet and advocated it as a means of self-improvement. He wrote in Walden: "The practical objection to animal food in my case was its uncleanness; and besides, when I had caught and cleaned and cooked and eaten my fish, they seemed not to have fed me essentially. It was insignificant and unnecessary, and cost more than it came to. A little bread or a few potatoes would have done as well, with less trouble and filth."

Thoreau neither rejected civilization nor fully embraced wilderness. Instead he sought a middle ground, the pastoral
Pastoral
The adjective pastoral refers to the lifestyle of pastoralists, such as shepherds herding livestock around open areas of land according to seasons and the changing availability of water and pasturage. It also refers to a genre in literature, art or music that depicts such shepherd life in an...

 realm that integrates both nature and culture. His philosophy required that he be a didactic arbitration between the wilderness he based so much on and the spreading mass of North American humanity. He decried the latter endlessly but felt the teachers need to be close to those who needed to hear what he wanted to tell them. He was in many ways a 'visible saint', a point of contact with the wilds, even if the land he lived on had been given to him by Emerson and was far from cut-off. The wildness he enjoyed was the nearby swamp or forest, and he preferred "partially cultivated country." His idea of being "far in the recesses of the wilderness" of Maine was to "travel the logger's path and the Indian trail," but he also hiked on pristine untouched land. In the essay "Henry David Thoreau, Philosopher" Roderick Nash
Roderick Nash
Roderick Nash is a history and environmental studies professor at the University of California Santa Barbara. Nash is the first person to descend the Tuolumne River .- Scholarly biography :...

 writes: "Thoreau left Concord in 1846 for the first of three trips to northern Maine. His expectations were high because he hoped to find genuine, primeval America. But contact with real wilderness in Maine affected him far differently than had the idea of wilderness in Concord. Instead of coming out of the woods with a deepened appreciation of the wilds, Thoreau felt a greater respect for civilization and realized the necessity of balance."
On alcohol, Thoreau wrote: "I would fain keep sober always... I believe that water is the only drink for a wise man; wine is not so noble a liquor... Of all ebriosity, who does not prefer to be intoxicated by the air he breathes?"

Influence


Thoreau's political writings had little impact during his lifetime, as "his contemporaries did not see him as a theorist or as a radical, viewing him instead as a naturalist. They either dismissed or ignored his political essays, including Civil Disobedience. The only two books published in his lifetime, Walden and A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849), both dealt with nature, in which he loved to wander." Nevertheless, Thoreau's writings went on to influence many public figures. Political leaders and reformers like Mahatma Gandhi, President John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

, civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was an American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for being an iconic figure in the advancement of civil rights in the United States and around the world, using nonviolent methods following the...

, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas
William O. Douglas
William Orville Douglas was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. With a term lasting 36 years and 209 days, he is the longest-serving justice in the history of the Supreme Court...

, and Russian author Leo Tolstoy
Leo Tolstoy
Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy was a Russian writer who primarily wrote novels and short stories. Later in life, he also wrote plays and essays. His two most famous works, the novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina, are acknowledged as two of the greatest novels of all time and a pinnacle of realist...

 all spoke of being strongly affected by Thoreau's work, particularly Civil Disobedience, as did "right-wing
Right-wing politics
In politics, Right, right-wing and rightist generally refer to support for a hierarchical society justified on the basis of an appeal to natural law or tradition. To varying degrees, the Right rejects the egalitarian objectives of left-wing politics, claiming that the imposition of equality is...

 theorist Frank Chodorov
Frank Chodorov
Frank Chodorov was an American member of the Old Right, a group of libertarian thinkers who were non-interventionist in foreign policy and anti–New Deal...

 [who] devoted an entire issue of his monthly, Analysis, to an appreciation of Thoreau." Thoreau also influenced many artists and authors including Edward Abbey
Edward Abbey
Edward Paul Abbey was an American author and essayist noted for his advocacy of environmental issues, criticism of public land policies, and anarchist political views. His best-known works include the novel The Monkey Wrench Gang, which has been cited as an inspiration by radical environmental...

, Willa Cather
Willa Cather
Willa Seibert Cather was an American author who achieved recognition for her novels of frontier life on the Great Plains, in works such as O Pioneers!, My Ántonia, and The Song of the Lark. In 1923 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for One of Ours , a novel set during World War I...

, Marcel Proust
Marcel Proust
Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust was a French novelist, critic, and essayist best known for his monumental À la recherche du temps perdu...

, William Butler Yeats
William Butler Yeats
William Butler Yeats was an Irish poet and playwright, and one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature. A pillar of both the Irish and British literary establishments, in his later years he served as an Irish Senator for two terms...

, Sinclair Lewis
Sinclair Lewis
Harry Sinclair Lewis was an American novelist, short-story writer, and playwright. In 1930, he became the first writer from the United States to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, "for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humor, new types of...

, Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American author and journalist. His economic and understated style had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction, while his life of adventure and his public image influenced later generations. Hemingway produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the...

, Upton Sinclair
Upton Sinclair
Upton Beall Sinclair Jr. , was an American author who wrote close to one hundred books in many genres. He achieved popularity in the first half of the twentieth century, acquiring particular fame for his classic muckraking novel, The Jungle . It exposed conditions in the U.S...

, E. B. White
E. B. White
Elwyn Brooks White , usually known as E. B. White, was an American writer. A long-time contributor to The New Yorker magazine, he also wrote many famous books for both adults and children, such as the popular Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little, and co-authored a widely used writing guide, The...

, Lewis Mumford
Lewis Mumford
Lewis Mumford was an American historian, philosopher of technology, and influential literary critic. Particularly noted for his study of cities and urban architecture, he had a broad career as a writer...

,
Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright was an American architect, interior designer, writer and educator, who designed more than 1,000 structures and completed 500 works. Wright believed in designing structures which were in harmony with humanity and its environment, a philosophy he called organic architecture...

, Alexander Posey
Alexander Posey
Alexander Lawrence Posey was a Native American Muscogee Creek poet, humorist, journalist, and politician.-Early life:Alexander Posey born on August 3, 1873, near present Eufaula, Creek Nation...

 and Gustav Stickley
Gustav Stickley
Gustav Stickley was a manufacturer of furniture and the leading proselytizer for the American Arts and Crafts movement, an extension of the British Arts and Crafts movement.-Biography:...

. Thoreau also influenced naturalists like John Burroughs
John Burroughs
John Burroughs was an American naturalist and essayist important in the evolution of the U.S. conservation movement. According to biographers at the American Memory project at the Library of Congress,...

, John Muir
John Muir
John Muir was a Scottish-born American naturalist, author, and early advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States. His letters, essays, and books telling of his adventures in nature, especially in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, have been read by millions...

, E. O. Wilson
E. O. Wilson
Edward Osborne Wilson is an American biologist, researcher , theorist , naturalist and author. His biological specialty is myrmecology, the study of ants....

, Edwin Way Teale
Edwin Way Teale
Edwin Way Teale was an American naturalist, photographer, and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer. Teale's works serve as primary source material documenting environmental conditions across North America from 1930 - 1980...

, Joseph Wood Krutch
Joseph Wood Krutch
Joseph Wood Krutch was an American writer, critic, and naturalist.Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, he initially studied at the University of Tennessee and received a masters degree and Ph.D. from Columbia University. After serving in the army in 1918, he travelled in Europe for a year with friend...

, B. F. Skinner
B. F. Skinner
Burrhus Frederic Skinner was an American behaviorist, author, inventor, baseball enthusiast, social philosopher and poet...

, David Brower and Loren Eiseley
Loren Eiseley
Loren Eiseley was an American anthropologist, educator, philosopher, and natural science writer, who taught and published books from the 1950s through the 1970s. During this period he received more than 36 honorary degrees and was a fellow of many distinguished professional societies...

, whom Publishers Weekly called "the modern Thoreau." English writer Henry Stephens Salt
Henry Stephens Salt
Henry Stephens Salt was an English writer and campaigner for social reform in the fields of prisons, schools, economic institutions, and the treatment of animals. He was a noted ethical vegetarian, anti-vivisectionist, socialist, and pacifist, and was well known as a literary critic, biographer,...

 wrote a biography of Thoreau in 1890, which popularized Thoreau's
ideas in Britain: George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw was an Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics. Although his first profitable writing was music and literary criticism, in which capacity he wrote many highly articulate pieces of journalism, his main talent was for drama, and he wrote more than 60...

, Edward Carpenter
Edward Carpenter
Edward Carpenter was an English socialist poet, socialist philosopher, anthologist, and early gay activist....

 and Robert Blatchford
Robert Blatchford
Robert Peel Glanville Blatchford was a socialist campaigner, journalist and author in the United Kingdom. He was a prominent atheist and opponent of eugenics. He was also an English patriot...

 were among those who became Thoreau
enthusiasts as a result of Salt's advocacy.

Mahatma Gandhi first read Walden in 1906 while working as a civil rights activist in Johannesburg
Johannesburg
Johannesburg also known as Jozi, Jo'burg or Egoli, is the largest city in South Africa, by population. Johannesburg is the provincial capital of Gauteng, the wealthiest province in South Africa, having the largest economy of any metropolitan region in Sub-Saharan Africa...

, South Africa. He first read Civil Disobedience "while he sat in a South African prison for the crime of nonviolently protesting discrimination against the Indian population in the Transvaal. The essay galvanized Gandhi, who wrote and published a synopsis of Thoreau's argument, calling its 'incisive logic . . . unanswerable' and referring to Thoreau as 'one of the greatest and most moral men America has produced.'" He told American reporter Webb Miller
Webb Miller (journalist)
Webb Miller was an American journalist and war correspondent. He covered the Pancho Villa Expedition, World War I, the Spanish Civil War , the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, the Phoney War, and the Russo-Finnish War of 1939...

, "[Thoreau's] ideas influenced me greatly. I adopted some of them and recommended the study of Thoreau to all of my friends who were helping me in the cause of Indian Independence. Why I actually took the name of my movement from Thoreau's essay 'On the Duty of Civil Disobedience,' written about 80 years ago."

Martin Luther King, Jr. noted in his autobiography that his first encounter with the idea of non-violent resistance was reading "On Civil Disobedience" in 1944 while attending Morehouse College
Morehouse College
Morehouse College is a private, all-male, liberal arts, historically black college located in Atlanta, Georgia. Along with Hampden-Sydney College and Wabash College, Morehouse is one of three remaining traditional men's colleges in the United States....

. He wrote in his autobiography that it was
Here, in this courageous New Englander's refusal to pay his taxes and his choice of jail rather than support a war that would spread slavery's territory into Mexico, I made my first contact with the theory of nonviolent resistance. Fascinated by the idea of refusing to cooperate with an evil system, I was so deeply moved that I reread the work several times.


I became convinced that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. No other person has been more eloquent and passionate in getting this idea across than Henry David Thoreau. As a result of his writings and personal witness, we are the heirs of a legacy of creative protest. The teachings of Thoreau came alive in our civil rights movement; indeed, they are more alive than ever before. Whether expressed in a sit-in at lunch counters, a freedom ride into Mississippi, a peaceful protest in Albany, Georgia, a bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, these are outgrowths of Thoreau's insistence that evil must be resisted and that no moral man can patiently adjust to injustice.


American psychologist B. F. Skinner wrote that he carried a copy of Thoreau's Walden with him in his youth. and, in 1945, wrote Walden Two
Walden Two
Walden Two is a utopian novel written by behavioral psychologist B. F. Skinner, first published in 1948. In its time, it could have been considered to be science fiction, as the methods employed to alter people's behaviour did not yet exist....

, a fictional utopia about 1,000 members of a community living together inspired by the life of Thoreau.
Thoreau and his fellow Transcendentalists from Concord
Concord, Massachusetts
Concord is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the town population was 17,668. Although a small town, Concord is noted for its leading roles in American history and literature.-History:...

 were a major inspiration of the composer Charles Ives
Charles Ives
Charles Edward Ives was an American modernist composer. He is one of the first American composers of international renown, though Ives' music was largely ignored during his life, and many of his works went unperformed for many years. Over time, Ives came to be regarded as an "American Original"...

. The 4th movement of the Concord Sonata for piano (with a part for flute, Thoreau's instrument) is a character picture and he also set Thoreau's words.

Anarchism

Anarchism
Anarchism
Anarchism is generally defined as the political philosophy which holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful, or alternatively as opposing authority in the conduct of human relations...

 started to have an ecological point-of-view
Green anarchism
Green anarchism, or ecoanarchism, is a school of thought within anarchism which puts a particular emphasis on environmental issues. An important early influence was the thought of the American anarchist Henry David Thoreau and his book Walden...

 in the writings of Thoreau. John Zerzan
John Zerzan
John Zerzan is an American anarchist and primitivist philosopher and author. His works criticize agricultural civilization as inherently oppressive, and advocate drawing upon the ways of life of prehistoric humans as an inspiration for what a free society should look like...

 included Thoreau's text "Excursions" (1863) in his edited compilation of works in the anarcho-primitivist tradition titled Against civilization: Readings and reflections. Anarchist and feminist Emma Goldman
Emma Goldman
Emma Goldman was an anarchist known for her political activism, writing and speeches. She played a pivotal role in the development of anarchist political philosophy in North America and Europe in the first half of the twentieth century....

 also appreciated Thoreau and referred to him as "the greatest American anarchist." According to Murray Rothbard
Murray Rothbard
Murray Newton Rothbard was an American author and economist of the Austrian School who helped define capitalist libertarianism and popularized a form of free-market anarchism he termed "anarcho-capitalism." Rothbard wrote over twenty books and is considered a centrally important figure in the...

, the founder of anarcho-capitalism
Anarcho-capitalism
Anarcho-capitalism is a libertarian and individualist anarchist political philosophy that advocates the elimination of the state in favour of individual sovereignty in a free market...

, Thoreau was one of the "great intellectual heroes" of that movement.

Thoreau was an important influence on late 19th century anarchist naturism, the combination of anarchist and naturist philosophies. Mainly it had importance within individualist anarchist circles in Spain, France, and Portugal.

Critique

Thoreau's ideas were not universally applauded by some of his contemporaries in literary circles.

Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson
Robert Louis Stevenson
Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson was a Scottish novelist, poet, essayist and travel writer. His best-known books include Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde....

 judged Thoreau's endorsement of living alone in natural simplicity, apart from modern society, to be a mark of effeminacy
Effeminacy
Effeminacy describes traits in a human male, that are more often associated with traditional feminine nature, behaviour, mannerisms, style or gender roles rather than masculine nature, behaviour, mannerisms, style or roles....

:
...Thoreau's content and ecstasy in living was, we may say, like a plant that he had watered and tended with womanish solicitude; for there is apt to be something unmanly, something almost dastardly, in a life that does not move with dash and freedom, and that fears the bracing contact of the world. In one word, Thoreau was a skulker. He did not wish virtue to go out of him among his fellow-men, but slunk into a corner to hoard it for himself. He left all for the sake of certain virtuous self-indulgences.


Nathaniel Hawthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne was an American novelist and short story writer.Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in 1804 in the city of Salem, Massachusetts to Nathaniel Hathorne and the former Elizabeth Clarke Manning. His ancestors include John Hathorne, a judge during the Salem Witch Trials...

 was particularly critical of Thoreau. He wrote that Thoreau, "has repudiated all regular modes of getting a living, and seems inclined to lead a sort of Indian life among civilized men- an Indian life, I mean, as respects the absence of any systematic effort for a livelihood". He would later criticize his writing ability by saying, "There is one chance in a thousand that he might write a most excellent and readable book," but if he did it would be "a book of simple observation of nature, somewhat in the vein of White's History of Selborne
The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne
The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne, or just The Natural History of Selborne is a book by pioneering English naturalist and ornithologist Gilbert White first published in 1789...

".

Poet John Greenleaf Whittier
John Greenleaf Whittier
John Greenleaf Whittier was an influential American Quaker poet and ardent advocate of the abolition of slavery in the United States. He is usually listed as one of the Fireside Poets...

 detested what he deemed to be the message of Walden, decreeing that Thoreau wanted man to "lower himself to the level of a woodchuck and walk on four legs." He went further to castigate the work as "very wicked and heathenish", remarking "I prefer walking on two legs."

In response to such criticisms, English novelist George Eliot
George Eliot
Mary Anne Evans , better known by her pen name George Eliot, was an English novelist, journalist and translator, and one of the leading writers of the Victorian era...

, writing for the Westminster Review
Westminster Review
The Westminster Review was a quarterly British publication. Established in 1823 as the official organ of the Philosophical Radicals, it was published from 1824 to 1914. James Mill was one of the driving forces behind the liberal journal until 1828....

, characterized such critics as uninspired and narrow-minded:

People—very wise in their own eyes—who would have every man's life ordered according to a particular pattern, and who are intolerant of every existence the utility of which is not palpable to them, may pooh-pooh Mr. Thoreau and this episode in his history, as unpractical and dreamy.

Works

  • Aulus Persius Flaccus (1840)
  • The Service
    The Service
    The Service is an essay written in 1840 by Henry David Thoreau. He submitted it to The Dial for publication, but they declined to print it...

    (1840)
  • A Walk to Wachusett
    A Walk to Wachusett
    A Walk to Wachusett is an essay penned by Henry David Thoreau accounting an excursion he took with a companion, Richard Fuller, from Concord, Massachusetts to the summit of Mount Wachusett located in Princeton, Massachusetts. Their journey, by foot, began on July 19, 1842...

    (1842)
  • Paradise (to be) Regained
    Paradise (to be) Regained
    Paradise Regained is an essay written by Henry David Thoreau and published in 1843 in the United States Magazine and Democratic Review...

    (1843)
  • The Landlord (1843)
  • Sir Walter Raleigh
    Sir Walter Raleigh (essay)
    Sir Walter Raleigh is an essay by Henry David Thoreau that has been reconstructed from notes he wrote for an 1843 lecture and drafts of an article he was preparing for The Dial....

    (1844)
  • Herald of Freedom
    Herald of Freedom (essay)
    Herald of Freedom was an essay by Henry David Thoreau published in The Dial in 1844 that praised Herald of Freedom, the journal of the New Hampshire Anti-Slavery Society and its editor, Nathaniel P. Rogers...

    (1844)
  • Wendell Phillips Before the Concord Lyceum
    Wendell Phillips Before the Concord Lyceum
    Wendell Phillips Before the Concord Lyceum is an essay style letter-to-the-editor written by Henry David Thoreau and published in The Liberator in 1845 that praised the abolitionist lecturer Wendell Phillips.- On-line sources :...

    (1845)
  • Reform and the Reformers
    Reform and the Reformers
    Reform and the Reformers is an essay written by Henry David Thoreau. The essay was never published in his lifetime, and has been cobbled together from existing lecture notes that Thoreau himself picked over for his other writings, such as Walden and A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers.The...

    (1846–48)
  • Thomas Carlyle and His Works
    Thomas Carlyle and His Works
    Thomas Carlyle and His Works is an essay written by Henry David Thoreau that praises the writings of Thomas Carlyle.It demonstrates a few themes that show up elsewhere in Thoreau’s writings. First of these is Thoreau’s eagerness to find a hero...

    (1847)
  • A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers
    A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers
    A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers is a book by Henry David Thoreau, first published in 1849. The book is ostensibly the narrative of a boat trip from Concord, Massachusetts to Concord, New Hampshire and back Thoreau had taken with his brother John in 1839...

    (1849)
  • Resistance to Civil Government
    Civil Disobedience (Thoreau)
    Civil Disobedience is an essay by American transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau that was first published in 1849...

    , or Civil Disobedience (1849)
  • An Excursion to Canada (1853)
  • Slavery in Massachusetts
    Slavery in Massachusetts
    "Slavery in Massachusetts" is an 1854 essay by Henry David Thoreau based on a speech he gave at an anti-slavery rally at Framingham, Massachusetts, on July 4, 1854, after the re-enslavement in Boston, Massachusetts of fugitive slave Anthony Burns....

    (1854)
  • Walden
    Walden
    Walden is an American book written by noted Transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau...

    (1854)
  • A Plea for Captain John Brown
    A Plea for Captain John Brown
    A Plea for Captain John Brown is an essay by Henry David Thoreau. It is based on a speech Thoreau first delivered to an audience at Concord, Massachusetts on October 30, 1859, two weeks after John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, and repeated several times before Brown’s execution on December 2, 1859...

    (1859)
  • Remarks After the Hanging of John Brown
    Remarks After the Hanging of John Brown
    Remarks After the Hanging of John Brown is a speech given by Henry David Thoreau on 2 December 1859 at the time of John Brown’s execution. Thoreau gave a few brief remarks of his own, read poetry by Sir Walter Raleigh , William Collins , Friedrich Schiller ,...

    (1859)
  • The Last Days of John Brown
    The Last Days of John Brown
    The Last Days of John Brown is an essay by Henry David Thoreau written in 1860 that praised the executed abolitionist militia leader John Brown.- On-line sources :* at The Picket Line- Printed sources :...

    (1860)
  • Walking
    Walking (Thoreau)
    "Walking" is an essay written by Henry David Thoreau, . Between 1851 and 1860 Thoreau read the piece a total of ten times, more than any other of his lectures...

    (1861)
  • Autumnal Tints (1862)
  • Wild Apples: The History of the Apple Tree (1862)
  • Excursions
    Excursions (anthology)
    Excursions is an anthology of several essays by American transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau. The anthology contains several essays by Thoreau, as well as an introduction entitled "Biographical Sketch" in which fellow transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson provides a description of Thoreau.The...

    (1863)
  • Life Without Principle
    Life Without Principle
    Life Without Principle is an essay by Henry David Thoreau that offers his program for a righteous livelihood.-Themes:# Don’t cheat people by conspiring with them to protect their comfort zones....

    (1863)
  • Night and Moonlight (1863)
  • The Highland Light (1864)
  • The Maine Woods (1864)
  • Cape Cod (1865)
  • Letters to Various Persons (1865)
  • A Yankee in Canada, with Anti-Slavery and Reform Papers (1866)
  • Early Spring in Massachusetts (1881)
  • Summer (1884)
  • Winter (1888)
  • Autumn (1892)
  • Miscellanies (1894)
  • Familiar Letters of Henry David Thoreau (1894)
  • Poems of Nature (1895)
  • Some Unpublished Letters of Henry D. and Sophia E. Thoreau (1898)
  • The First and Last Journeys of Thoreau (1905)
  • Journal of Henry David Thoreau (1906)
  • The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau edited by Walter Harding and Carl Bode (Washington Square: New York University Press, 1958)

See also

  • American philosophy
    American philosophy
    American philosophy is the philosophical activity or output of Americans, both within the United States and abroad. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy notes that while American philosophy lacks a "core of defining features, American Philosophy can nevertheless be seen as both reflecting and...

  • List of American philosophers


Further reading

  • Bode, Carl. Best of Thoreau's Journals. Southern Illinois University Press. 1967
  • Botkin, Daniel. No Man's Garden
  • Dean, Bradley P. ed., Letters to a Spiritual Seeker. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2004.
  • Harding, Walter. The Days of Henry Thoreau. Princeton University Press, 1982
  • Hendrix, George. "The Influence of Thoreau's 'Civil Disobedience' on Gandhi's Satyagraha." The New England Quarterly. 1956
  • Howarth, William. The Book of Concord: Thoreau's Life as a Writer. Viking Press, 1982
  • Myerson, Joel et al. The Cambridge Companion to Henry David Thoreau. Cambridge University Press. 1995
  • Nash, Roderick. Henry David Thoreau, Philosopher
  • Parrington, Vernon. Main Current in American Thought. V 2 online. 1927
  • Petroski, Henry. "H. D. Thoreau, Engineer." American Heritage of Invention and Technology, Vol. 5, No. 2, pp. 8–16
  • Richardson, Robert D. Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind. University of California Press Berkeley and Los Angeles. 1986. ISBN 0-520-06346-5
  • Tauber, Alfred I
    Alfred I. Tauber
    Alfred I. Tauber , Zoltan Kohn Professor emeritus of Medicine and Professor emeritus of Philosophy at Boston University, is a philosopher and historian of science, who, from 1993 to 2010, served as Director of the Boston University Center for Philosophy and History of Science at Boston University...

    . Henry David Thoreau and the Moral Agency of Knowing. University of California, Berkeley. 2001. ISBN 0-520-23915-6
  • Thoreau, Henry David. Collected Essays and Poems. Elizabeth Hall Witherell, editor, Library of America
    Library of America
    The Library of America is a nonprofit publisher of classic American literature.- Overview and history :Founded in 1979 with seed money from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Ford Foundation, the LoA has published over 200 volumes by a wide range of authors from Mark Twain to Philip...

    , 2001) ISBN 978-1-883011-95-6
  • _____. I to Myself: An Annotated Selection from the Journal of Henry D. Thoreau. Jeffrey S. Cramer, editor, Yale University Press, 2007
  • _____. The Maine Woods: A Fully Annotated Edition. Jeffrey S. Cramer, editor, Yale University Press, 2009
  • _____. Walden: A Fully Annotated Edition. Jeffrey S. Cramer, editor, Yale University Press, 2004
  • _____. A Week, Walden, The Maine Woods, Cape Cod. Robert F. Sayre, editor, Library of America
    Library of America
    The Library of America is a nonprofit publisher of classic American literature.- Overview and history :Founded in 1979 with seed money from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Ford Foundation, the LoA has published over 200 volumes by a wide range of authors from Mark Twain to Philip...

    , 1985 ISBN 0-940450-27-5
  • _____. The Price of Freedom: Excerpts from Thoreau's Journals ISBN 978-1-4348-0552-2
  • Walls, Laura Dassow
    Laura Walls
    Laura Dassow Walls is an American professor of English literature and currently the William P. and Hazel B...

    . Seeing New Worlds: Henry David Thoreau and 19th Century Science. University of Wisconsin. 1995. ISBN 0-299-14744-4
  • Ridl, Jack. "Moose. Indian." Scintilla (poem on Thoreau's last words)


Historical fiction

  • Brooks, Geraldine. March: A Love Story in a Time of War
    March (novel)
    March is a novel by Geraldine Brooks. It is a parallel novel that retells Louisa May Alcott's novel Little Women from the point of view of Alcott's protagonists' absent father. Brooks has inserted the novel into the classic tale, revealing the events surrounding March's absence during the American...

    (2006)


External links


Texts

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