is a famous writer and peace advocate
of the mid nineteenth century. His published
works include Walden, or a Life in the
Woods and Civil Disobedience. Walden resulted
from Thoreau's two-year stay in a tiny
hut near Walden Pond while Civil Disobedience
advocated non-violent demonstrations,
a work that later influenced Gandhi and
Martin Luther King Jr.
David Thoreau was born on July 12, 1817
in Concord, Massachusetts under the name
David Henry. It wasn't until after his
college education that he changed it to
"Henry David". Thoreau completed
his childhood education at Concord Academy
and, although his scholastic achievements
were not exemplary, he managed to secure
a scholarship to Harvard where he began
his university education in 1833. After
graduating in 1837, Thoreau returned to
Concord to work as a school teacher for
the same Academy he had attended as a
reluctancy to administer corporal punishment,
however, cost him his job. In order to
continue teaching under his own ethics,
Thoreau and his borhter John opened their
own grammar school in 1838. It was during
this time that Thoreau befriended local
writer Ralph Waldo Emerson who took interest
in Thoreau's writing.
David Thoreau's grammar school shut down
in 1941 after his brother's death and
the young writer settled into daily life
in Concord under the watchful eyes of
Emerson. A naturalist at heart, Thoreau
was often seen wandering and studying
the ecology of his surroundings and writing
notes in a journal. These, along with
a book review, made up his first published
essay in the periodical The Dial.
was also during this time that Thoreau
moved into the Emerson household. Emerson
had taken a liking to the young man and
wanted to help support Thoreau's writing.
In exchange for tutoring his children
and helping with chores when it wouldn't
interfere with his literary work, Emerson
helped support Thoreau and kept him as
his perpetual guest. Emerson, along with
Horace Greeley, helped Thoreau write and
publish and series of essays for New York
periodicals during this time.
1844 Thoreau became restless and went
to work at his family's pencil factory.
While he was there he managed to improve
the graphite interior of the pencil and
increase production. Although he kept
busy, Thoreau was unsatisfied and, in
1845 decided to take a two-year leave
as an experiment on simplicity and nature
studies. He also hoped that a period of
solitude would give him enough time to
finish his first book.
July 4, 1845 Henry David Thoreau moved
into a tiny one-room house he built on
land owned by Emerson. The cabin, settled
next to Walden Pond, was located close
enough to town to allow him access to
both supplies and family whenever he needed.
It was, however, secluded enough to give
him the quiet atmosphere he desired. He
lived simply on his own for two years
observing nature and writing. It was also
during this time that a tax collector
sought out Thoreau for delinquent taxes
and took him to jail for two nights. Since
Thoreau did not support the Mexican-American
War or slavery, he refused to pay. Thoreau's
aunt ended up paying the taxes, at Thoreau's
protest, in order to free him from his
cell. These events made a lasting impression
on Thoreau helping him develop the idea
of non-violent protests against an unethical
government. He later expressed his beliefs
in his essay Civil Disobedience.
left Walden Pond on September 6, 1847
and began revising his written works.
Seven years later, in 1854, Thoreau published
Walden, or Life in the Woods. Although
it initially failed to gain popularity,
Walden was later seen as a great work
of literature with symbolisms between
the simplicity of nature and the human
later works consisted of environmental
essays and observations of nature in New
England. Although he considered himself
a naturalist, his writings were criticized
by scientists and ecologists of his time.
These works were later seen as foundations
to modern methods of studying ecology.
David Thoreau contracted tuberculosis
in 1835 and suffered periodically over
the years. With lungs partially damaged
from graphite inhalation at the pencil
factory in his early years, Thoreau became
seriously ill with bronchitis in 1859.
He weakened over the next few years and
his friends were impressed with Thoreau's
peaceful acceptance of death. He passed
away on May 6, 1862. He was 44 years old
and had never married.
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