Henry David Thoreau, 1817 - 1862
Crayon portrait by Samuel Worcester Rouse (1854)
Born: 12 July 1817, Concord, Massachusetts
Died: 6 May 1862, Concord, Massachusetts
Thoreau, which rhymed with "thorough" or "furrow" rather than the more common "thuh ROW, was the son of a pencil maker and apparently learned the trade as he returned to it later when sales of his self-published Walden failed to cover costs. His maternal grandfather, Asa Dunbar, led the 1766 "Butter Rebellion" at Harvard, the first known student protest in North America. At birth his name was David Henry, he reversed it after his Harvard years (1833 - 1837). He taught briefly at Concord Academy but was dismissed for refusing to administer corporal punishment. He then opened a grammar school at Concord with his brother John, a project that ended when John died of tetanus in 1842. He became a friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson who encouraged him to write several essays for The Dial, a magazine Emerson founded. For several years he lived in the Emerson household, serving as editorial assistant, handyman, and tutor to the children. On Independence Day 1845 he started his experiment in simple living by moving into a log cabin he built in a remote part of the Emerson property. Opposed to the Mexican-American War, he refused to pay his poll taxes and was arrested, which led to his noted essay Resistance to Civil Government. After closely watching the changing environment during the Walden years, Thoreau continued to observe and write about natural history, not only around Concord but traveling to Cape Cod and the woods of Maine. Thoreau contracted tuberculosis shortly after college and was troubled by it only intermittently until 1859 when he came down with bronchitis, he spent the last three years of his life editing his unpublished works. When his aunt Louisa asked if he had made peace with God, he replied: "I did not know we had ever quarreled." His last complete sentence was: "Now comes good sailing."
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Henry David Thoreau quotes:
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- A friend is one who takes me for what I am. permalink
- A grain of gold will gild a great surface, but not so much as a grain of wisdom. permalink
Life Without Principle (1863)
- A gun gives you the body, not the bird. permalink
- A healthy man, indeed, is the complement of the seasons, and in winter, summer is in his heart. permalink
- A lake is the landscape's most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth's eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature. permalink
"Ponds" in Walden (1854)
- A man cannot be said to succeed in this life who does not satisfy one friend. permalink
journal entry (19 February 1857),
- A man had better starve at once than lose his innocence in the process of getting his bread. permalink
- A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone. permalink
- A perfectly healthy sentence, it is true, is extremely rare. permalink
A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849)
- A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. permalink
- A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority. There is but little virtue in the action of masses of men. permalink
- After the first blush of sin comes its indifference. permalink
On the Duty of Civil Disobedience (1849)
- Aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something. permalink
- All good things are wild, and free. permalink
- All perception of truth is the detection of an analogy; we reason from our hands to our head. permalink
journal entry (5 September 1851)
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